Once You See It, You Can’t Unsee It? Racial Justice Activism and Articulations of Whiteness Among White Collegiate Athlete Activists

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Yannick KluchCenter for Sport Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

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Emma CalowAmerican Culture Studies, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA

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Eric M. MartinBoise State University, Boise, ID, USA

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Travis R. ScheadlerCollege of Social Work, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

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Andrew Mac IntoshRISE, New York, NY, USA

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Shannon JollyMary Frances Early College of Education, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

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The goal of this study was to examine how athletes holding privileged racial identities understand their whiteness as they engage in racial justice activism. Drawing from 12 semistructured interviews with white collegiate athletes who have engaged in activism for racial justice, we identified four higher order themes which we situate within a broader discussion of how each theme either reinforces or disrupts racial power: articulations of (a) racial consciousness, (b) white privilege, (c) white empathy, and (d) white accountability. While the white accountability theme has the potential to disrupt racial power due to its relying on rigorous self-critique, the remaining themes pointed to limited understandings of the systemic nature of racism, which can thus inadvertently (re)produce white supremacy even when engaging in activism for racial justice. Limitations, implications, and future directions for research are discussed to empower more white athletes to reflect critically on whiteness and facilitate systemic change.

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