University of Houston professor visits UK to discuss racism, sports in America

Kendell Hutchison

UK’s recently founded Social Theory Program was created to unite different disciplines of science and form a community that emphasizes social issues and encourages discussion about them.

Part of that mission is the Distinguished Speaker Series, which invites distinguished individuals to share with the UK community their knowledge on current social issues and topics.

University of Houston professor Billy Hawkins is a scholar of sociology of sport and cultural studies, sport management, and sport for development.

Hawkins opened his discussion by acknowledging that he is “a work in progress.” He said he is always furthering his research and continues to grow each day.

He then discussed the presence of racism in America. With racism’s roots visible to him from a young age, Hawkins said he remembers not being allowed to eat in the cafeteria of the construction company where he and his father worked.

He said that white privilege has been prevalent within the U.S. government since its formation and continues even today. He acknowledged the government’s effect on all people of color, not just African-Americans. He noted President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the removal of DACA, the SUCCEED Act, and lack of support for Puerto Rico in their time of need as examples.

Hawkins argued that America’s issue of racism has never fully been addressed and steps have not been made to put an end to it, which furthers the racial divide throughout our entire society.

As a scholar of black athletes and sports, Hawkins addressed the NFL protest movement of the National Anthem. Hawkins said that he is always asked, “Is this really a protest?” and his answer remains “Yes.”

The acknowledgment of racial issues and the action taken upon them is important at any level, despite counterarguments saying these protests are unpatriotic, Hawkins said. These protests are necessary, and America will triumph, furthering the progress already made, he said.

“I’m putting America on trial,” Hawkins said to conclude his discussion.

He encouraged his audience to stick to the values and principles our country was founded on, and to peacefully protest to create positive change surrounding racism in the U.S.

Hawkins has written countless articles and books about racism involving sports and athletes in America. He is the author of “The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions” and co-author of “Sport, Race, Activism, and Social Change: The Impact of Dr. Harry Edwards’ Scholarship and Service”, “The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past, Present, and Persistence”, and “Critical Race Theory: Black Athletic Sporting Experiences in the United States.”