At a gathering in Harlem last week at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, several African-American women came together for a forum during which they accused the federal Title IX law of discriminating against black women.
Women of all ages and backgrounds were at the meeting, from an 88-year-old grandmother to a 21-year-old recent college graduate, from executives at sports foundations to several recently retired athletes, but theyall shared one common goal: To widen sports opportunities for black women.
Forty years ago President Richard M. Nixon signed the statute known today as Title IX, which declared, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The legislation only talked about gender inequality in sports, but failed to address racial inequality. It opened many doors for white female athletes, but for black female athletes the benefits are yet to be seen, the women claimed.
“If we don’t advocate for black women, who will we have to be the first to advocate for ourselves? We have to be the first ones at the table,” said Tina Sloan Green, the co-founder and president of the Black Women in Sport Foundation in Philadelphia. “We’ve got to take charge of our agenda.”
The Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program also held a meeting in Washington that discussed a similar topic. They addressed the gap of opportunity between white female athletes and all female athletes of color, not just African Americans.
The group in Washington believed that the gap in opportunity wasn’t necessarily intentional; the group of women who met in Harlem, on the other hand, begs to differ.
“These white women don’t want us to compete with them. They want their kids to get the scholarships,” Green said. “They give us all kinds of awards, but when it comes to distributing money, it’s a whole other story.”
According to a 2007 report by the United States Department of Education, white girls had a 51 percent participation rate in sports among high school sophomores. For black girls, the participation rate dropped to 40 percent. The percentages dropped lower for Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, whose participation rate was 34 percent and 32 percent, respectively.
According to the New York Times, Title IX has also decreased the number of female coaches by allowing more men to coach female sports teams, especially in basketball and soccer.