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Dreams and Deception

Sports Lure, Racism, and Young Black Males' Struggles in Sports and Education


Isabel Ann Dwornik

This book helps young black males, educators, policy makers, parents, and all other interested parties to understand the importance of education alongside athletic pursuits. In the world today, many young black males view athletic participation as the way to secure a successful future. Yet for the majority of them, dreams of playing professional sports rarely pan out. Many end up returning to a life of poverty as a result of the sports lure which deceives them and entices them to focus exclusively on athletic talent at the expense of their education. This book presents a social historical and critical deconstruction introducing readers to this sports lure, revealing what makes it so powerful in the lives of these youths. As Isabel Ann Dwornik documents, centuries-worth of racism in the United States is at the core of this phenomenon, which has affected the academic identity development of black male youths and has discouraged them from taking full advantage of their schooling.

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In 2003, while an adjunct lecturer at the State University of New York at Binghamton, three black male students entered my “Politics of Education” class, sat together in the back of the room, and forever changed my life. Curiously, I asked them if they played basketball for the university. The tallest, most conspicuous student put his finger to his lips and whispered, “Shhh! We’re just regular students.” I wondered why he reacted the way he did.

Later on, I learned that he was from a middle-class, suburban, Midwestern high school, while the other two, from large urban cities at opposite ends of the country, were recruited from the same Midwestern junior college. They were in the middle of the basketball season when my course began, and despite the simultaneous demands of athletics and schooling, these Division I student athletes had nearly perfect attendance, kept me apprised of game conflicts and illnesses, always had their homework done, participated in class discussions, and were top students. One day after class, they explained to me that the reason they try to keep their athletic identities hidden is to avert differential treatment by faculty and student peers, since the anxiety it produces is wholly stressful and emotionally draining. Athletics, on the other hand, provides them with a sense of belonging, which draws them emotionally into sports and away from academics. ← xi | xii →

It disturbed me to hear that the stigma involved in athletic identity interfered with their enjoyment...

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