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David Leonard on “playing while white”: intersection of race and athletics in America

David Leonard

Dr. David Leonard, an author and associate professor in comparative ethnic studies at Washington State University, spoke about the intersection of race and narratives about athletes Monday, March 26. This is a topic which he wrote about in his most recent book, “Playing While White: Privilege and Power On and Off the Field.” This event was a part of the Sawyer Seminar Series, sponsored by the Penn State African American Studies department.

Leonard began the talk by explaining how he came to write “Playing While White,” which he said he “really started in 2012.” He said that he had been a writer for online publications, and noticed that he had written articles in three main fields: The intersection of whiteness and mass shootings, police shootings, and the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically, “black bodies being criminalized.” Considering this narrative combined with athletics led him to ask, “what sort of profiling is happening in our sports world?”

One central concept Leonard talked about is how white athletes are “routinely forgiven,” or “being afforded the opportunity of second, third and fourth chances.” White athletes, he said, are imagined as the underdog, and that translates to terms used to describe them, such as “grit, hard work, determination, perseverance.” He said that this profiling also, by extension, comments on blackness at the same time. “Playing while white means being described as the leader, being described as intelligent,” Leonard said, and that these aforementioned types of positive framing are not used to describe black athletes.

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The Underground

New book claims video games ‘perpetuate injustice’

David Leonard
David Leonard

Two professors are warning in a forthcoming anthology that video games and gaming culture “perpetuate injustice” and hurt “marginalized bodies.”

“Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Justice” is edited by Kishonna Gray, a professor at Arizona State University, and David J. Leonard, who teaches classes on social justice and black studies at Washington State University.

“From #GamerGate to the 2016 election, to the daily experiences of marginalized perspectives, the ways gaming is entangled with mainstream cultures of systematic exploitation and oppression is clear,” Gray and Leonard write in the book description.

“Video games perpetuate injustice and [mirror] those inequities and violence that permeate society,” they continue, explaining that “video games encode the injustices that pervade society as a whole.”

However, while the book is premised on the contention that video games reinforce racism and sexism, it ultimately seeks to shed light on gamers’ strategies for breaking this paradigm.

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Campus Reform

WSU-led cultural preservation initiative wins award

The Society of American Archivists has presented its Council Exemplary Service Award to the Sustainable Heritage Network, a project led by Washington State University for digital preservation of cultural heritage.

Kim Christen
Christen

The SHN is managed by the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC) at WSU and works in partnership with the Association for Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums to complement the work of indigenous peoples globally to preserve, share and manage cultural heritage and knowledge. Kim Christen, associate professor of English and director of the Sustainable Heritage Network (SHN) and the CDSC, accepted the award at the archivist society’s annual meeting, July 26, in Portland, Oregon.

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WSU News

Why blackface and making fun of a minority is not okay (in case you really needed some explaining)

So what’s wrong with putting on blackface and mocking an ethnic minority’s food, you might ask?

David Leonard
Leonard

David Leonard from WSU’s Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies explains, “Blackface is never a neutral form of entertainment, but an incredibly loaded site for the production of damaging stereotypes… the same stereotypes that undergird individual and state violence, American racism, and a century’s worth of injustice.”

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Buro

Team names under fire

Richard King
King

The Cleveland Indians is just one of many sports teams with controversial names.

Richard King, WSU professor of critical culture, gender, and race studies, commented on the issue, which is a focus of his ongoing research. “It’s something that most people haven’t thought about,” he said.

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The National