This subject can be a little touchy for some and may be one of my most controversial posts.
If any of you did not know, I am a Black/African-American Male. I did not grow up in an affluent neighborhood. These two facts about me are why I get asked “what sport do you play?”.
Okay, maybe not. I am a stocky guy for my height and weight, so I could easily be mistaken for a football player, but I am far from one. I did play sports when I was younger, but they did not appeal to me. I do miss baseball, but that is not something that I would have liked to pursue professionally or in college.
The reason I bring this up is because of the question that some Black males (and possibly some Black females) get asked when they are on a campus such as UCLA. It is obvious that football and basketball are predominantly Black males and are often commended for their athleticism. For some, that athleticism was their ticket to top schools or the cherry on top of their application. For me, and some others, sports never played a role in our admission.
With Black athletes being venerated as some of the greatest players of all time in many sports, the stereotype exists that Blacks are naturally athletic. Maybe we are, but to impose that stereotype on all is wrong.
On campuses such as UCLA, Blacks are a minority. As of Fall Quarter of 2014, Black/African Americans made up about 4.0% of the campus. There just so happens to be a prototype for Black males to play a sport, which developed into a stereotype. Looking at a Black male on campus can immediately spark the idea that they are here for a sport. Some people are bold enough to ask us: “What sport do you play?”.
Depending on the person, the answer can vary. I personally tell them that I do not play a sport. Some answer with disdain, sarcasm, or ignore the question. This question is more than curiosity. This is a question based on an assumption. To be frank: It is the same as asking a fat woman if they are pregnant. These are mistakes you don’t want to make. Here is an interaction on twitter among friends about the topic:
I am not going to blame everyone on campus and other non-Blacks because this same act is committed among Blacks. Back in my hometown where I grew up, people ask me: “What sport do you play?”. I do not blame them for assuming that I play a sport. Why? Like before, Black athleticism has been ingrained in their head. For them, the ticket to admission to a school like that is sports. This comes from the young and old. I can tell you: this past week, I have had four conversations that asked if I played a sport. They were from the young and the old. At this point, I am not bothered by the question.
My whole goal here is to strip the stereotype that playing a sport is the key to admission to a school like UCLA. These seemingly small questions are microaggressions. In a way, they are slight insults and stereotypes towards a group of people. I would not say it is completely racist, sexist, or ableist, but they hurt whether intentional or not.
To end this, just be wary of what you say and how you say it. Not everyone will be as sarcastic as my friend aforementioned.