- Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora
Ben Carrington challenges readers in Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora to consider expanding the comprehension of race in sport in general and the black athlete in particular. Examining current scholarship focused on the formulation of the racial Other, Carrington interprets sociological, historical, and anthropological sport studies in order to delve deeper into the black sporting diaspora. Carrington places in context the current “disparate discussions so that we might be able, productively, to see how such accounts speak to one another and in the process deepen our understanding of racial identity, political mobilization, and social change in the context of popular culture and everyday life” (p. 17). Carrington firmly asserts racial barriers evident in sport are not static, which is why the focus of intellectual scrutiny of sport moving forward requires the examination of sport and racial identities.
Carrington shapes the formation of the racial Other within sport by contextualizing seminal moments in sport history. For instance, Carrington breaks down Jack Johnson’s athletic success as a formal threat to white supremacy against contemporary racial identification epitomized through the comparison of Mike Tyson against Frank Bruno. Carrington traverses theories of the white colonial frame, sporting racial projects, the sporting black Atlantic, and others to frame the perception of sport and race over time and space. Acknowledging the works of previous scholars, such as C.L.R. James, Allen Guttmann, W.E.B DuBois, David Wiggins, and Patrick Miller, Carrington establishes a framework for current scholarship on social, racial, and political identity within the sporting landscape. Invoking the works of other intellectuals in the field of sport studies, Carrington aids his motif to progress the dialogue further and expand the black sporting diaspora.
Outlining early forms of racial constructs, Carrington traces the path of sport and race relations from colonial times to contemporary society. Carrington asserts the formation of the racial Other gains prominence during colonial imperialism and opines that “[s]porting modernity becomes reliant upon a notion of ‘tradition’ in order to produce itself . . . the primitive and feminine always appear in modernity’s narratives as the negative to modernity’s positives” (p. 45). Ultimately, Carrington constructs a binary where negative racial identity was shaped through sport in which black athletes were associated with savagery while white athletes were associated with positive qualities of leadership and intellectual capacity, establishing a cultural hierarchy. This theme was reinforced with Carrington’s interpretation of sport as a redemptive avenue for black athletes.
According to Carrington sport becomes an essential space for challenging racial assumptions and provides a means to redefine the Other. However, Carrington acknowledges that although sport does provide a defined space for Others to challenge white hegemony it in turn allows for the gaze of the black body as an object of desire and contrast for whites. While the gaze holds true for some time, Carrington identifies a shift following World War II. He concludes that because of the disdain for eugenics and an [End Page 500] eventual repudiation of racially-biased scientific research black athletes gain commercial appeal. Carrington acknowledges this slow transformation led advertisers to correlate black athletic success with strength and power. However, the black athlete kept the assigned stigma of being aggressive. Through the commercial success of sport, and consequently the black athlete, Carrington concludes that “it has taken contemporary commodification of blackness to teach the world that this perceived threat, whether real or symbolic, can be diffused by a process of fetishization” (p. 105). The fetishizaton of whites with black athletic performance, and thus their bodies, is an important cause of the sporting negritude that Carrington uses to establish his analysis of multiculturalism in modern sport. Carrington’s illustration of London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympics highlights the multicultural essence of sport prevalent in today’s culture.
Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora convincingly maneuvers through significant social, historical, and anthropological theories to emphasize the cultural influence sport maintains. Carrington’s analysis of the Other’s creation, beginning in colonial times...