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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

Winter Olympics won’t be #OlympicsSoWhite

More than 40 black athletes are competing at the Winter Olympics.

David Leonard
David Leonard

“It demonstrates that there is progress being made through the hard work perseverance and talents of athletes of colour who are making the US Winter Olympic team look like the United States, and that’s something we should celebrate,” said David Leonard, a professor in the Washington State University Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies.

But Leonard and others say the diversity issue is far from settled. Some winter sports, notably biathlon and speedskating, fell short of the United States Olympic Committee leadership’s 2016 diversity and inclusion scorecard benchmarks for athletes of color on U.S. national teams, the most recent data available.

The diversity goals are different for each sport and include criteria such as financial resources, staff size, and a particular sport’s NCAA pipeline.

“The fact that there’s still work to be done demonstrates that issues surrounding access, surrounding inequalities, persist,” Leonard said.

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WSU’s online bachelor’s degree program earns high ranking

Washington State University has again ranked highly in a list of the best online bachelor’s degree programs in the country. In U.S. News & World Report’s ranking, WSU came in 15th among all bachelor’s programs in the U.S. Last year, it ranked 34th.

Four of the six most popular majors for WSU online students are in the College of Arts and Sciences: social sciences, psychology, criminal justice, and political science. Last fall, more than 2,000 undergraduate students, and nearly 1,000 graduate students, were enrolled.

The university plans to add three online degrees this summer, including a bachelor of science degree in data analytics with specializations offered through CAS.

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Seattle Times

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

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