In The New Plantation, Billy Hawkins examines the relationship between predominantly white National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institutions and black male athletes and discusses how the economic, political, social and cultural structures within colleges and athletic departments shape the experiences of these young men. Ultimately, the author’s goal is to position the experiences of black male athletes at NCAA Division I predominantly white institutions (PWIs) within the historical and social context of American capitalistic exploitation of the black body (e.g., slavery and sharecropping). Hawkins asserts that the “intercollegiate athletic industrial complex” at PWIs and the “prison industrial complex” are new plantation models that have been redesigned to exploit black bodies for economic gain (p. 83).
The book opens with a historical account of the educational experiences of black people, dating back to ancient African civilization. Hawkins states that education has been valued in the black community throughout history; however, he highlights the use of American colonialism and slavery in stripping blacks of their educational rights. Also, the book chronicles the importance of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in educating blacks since the 1800s and recognizes HBCUs as the main collegiate venues through which black athletes competed in the late 19th century. Nevertheless, Hawkins argues that HBCUs struggle to recruit high-profile athletes in the 21st century because their athletic budgets and facilities pale in comparison to predominantly white NCAA Division I institutions. Additionally, he suggests that unless HBCUs increase their “commercialization (i.e., corporate sponsorship, media rights sales…),” prominent black male athletes will continue to attend PWIs (p. 30).
Hawkins uses two concepts to illustrate the relationship between black male athletes and PWIs. First, internal colonialism, a system through which a subordinate minority group is transplanted to a foreign land and is controlled by a dominant group, is used to demonstrate the oppressive relationship between black male athletes and athletic departments at PWIs. Internal colonialism requires the colonizer (NCAA and PWIs) to be characterized as superior to the colonized (black male athletes). In addition, the colonizer believes that their elevated position is legitimate, and the colonized accept their inferior status. The author suggests that the colonizer-colonized relationship exists because athletes rely upon PWIs to increase their chances for upward social mobility (e.g., degree attainment and/or becoming a professional athlete), while the NCAA and athletic departments believe they have the right to profit from athletes’ labor.
Secondly, Hawkins compares the experiences of black male athletes to oscillating migrant laborers. As do migrant laborers, black male athletes sell their skills to buyers and leave their communities with “hopes of improving their financial conditions back at home” (p.126). In both cases, the transplanted groups are forced to adapt to a new cultural environment, which devalues their native culture. Moreover, the buyer (e.g., NCAA and athletic departments) holds the power to make decisions and profits from cheap labor. Hawkins suggests that black males freely relinquish their individual rights to predominantly white NCAA Division I institutions because many view athletics as their only way out of poverty. Similarly, Conchas (2006) found that despite high school students’ participation in a college-preparatory career academy, low-income black males continued to place a higher value on collegiate football and basketball, perceiving degree attainment as a back-up plan.
Though the book acknowledges individual racism encountered by black males at PWIs, the main focus is on the covert institutional racism that is carried out by the NCAA and athletic departments. Hawkins’ objective is to characterize the NCAA and athletic departments at Division I PWIs as racist organizations that exploit black male athletes for economic gain. This claim is supported by tables that display the large revenues reported by the top NCAA Division I football and basketball programs and data that show that black males comprise the majority of NCAA Division I basketball and football teams, the two highest revenue-generating sports. Additionally, data indicate that during the 2005-2006...