Racial Justice Bulletin – 20 November

This week’s feature is Professor Kevin Hylton’s Inaugural Lecture: ‘What is critical race theory and what is it doing in a nice field like sport and leisure?’In this lecture, Professor Kevin Hylton from the Research Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure drew on his ground-breaking work on Critical Race Theory (CRT) to unpack and explore its relevance to sport and leisure theory, policy and practice.

View our email  version of the bulletin here

 

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JUST’S Pick of the Week:

The first of London School of Economics’ ‘Debating Law’  public lecture series invited speakers to debate the question ‘Is Rape Different?’.  Our pick of the week is the response issued by the editorial team at the journal feminists@law denouncing the event  and the creation of platforms like this as problematic and dangerous.

Read the piece here : A Response to the LSE Event “Is Rape Different?”

Feature: 

Professor Kevin Hylton’s Inaugural Lecture:


JUST West Yorkshire were proud to attend the Inaugural lecture of JUST board member, Professor Kevin Hylton – the first black professor of Leeds Metropolitan University’s Carnegie Faculty in over 75 years. In his lecture Professor Hylton offers an accessible introduction to some of the developments and key ideas of Critical Race Theory and explores how these concepts can provide a valuable lens through which to engage with ‘race’ in the field of sports and leisure. Below is a series of excerpts from the lecture. 

Hello my name is Kevin Hylton and I am a Professor…It’s been 30 years since I entered the academy and in that time I have changed my outlook on the everyday, though when I’m beyond the world of the academy the everyday hasn’t necessarily changed its outlook on me and others like me.The term ‘race’ is significant for me not just as a concept which is clearly problematic, which is why I often use it in scare quotes but as a lived reality. What that does do is to signpost that it should not be read uncritically. We must understand that ‘race’ is a paradox; I recognise the dilemma of ‘destabilising the notion of race theoretically’ while recognising ‘the lived presence of ‘race’.In a racialised society to reduce ‘race’ to an objective condition (fact) or to an ideological construct (concept) denies our lived realities which has become the basis for most of the research that I have conducted since I began my tenure in Leeds in 1998.Dominant ideas in sport and leisure theory, policy and practice are very powerful and yet it is important to ask whose story it is?For example, one story of ‘race’ and sport can be very liberating. One that would state that “sport is a colourblind, equal opportunities site of social relations where diversity can meet and, possibly for the first time, begin to accept each other for who we are. Playing together integrating cohering in fact sport becomes this ‘cultural glue’ that binds us within and across groups. Prejudices dissipate, community is strengthened and society functions more smoothly. This is a dominant story of sport and its benefits which most of us may have agreed to at some stage.

Another story could be that “through sport our social divisions are reinforced as hierarchies are maintained, remain monocultural and assumptions about the ‘other’ are left unchallenged. Post ‘race’ arguments of meritocracy obscure the racial processes that emerge and aggregate.”

In my teaching over the years around sociology and community, consider how questions/issues raised around ‘race’ have to be carefully constructed for the predominantly white students so as not to draw questions about my motives for discussing issues relating to ‘race’ and social inequalities. Thus Denying my Standing on these issues.

The notion of ‘Denied Standing’ was the idea of Derrick Bell. It denotes how suspicion follows black people about their motives where matters of ‘race’ and racism are concerned. For example, Denied standing can be seen to operate when the notion of a ‘Race Card’ is deployed to describe someone trying to steal an unfair advantage over others because of ethnicity. However, the idea of the Race Card invalidates experiences of racism as trivial (something to be used strategically). ‘Playing’ the ‘Race Card’ suggests that the structural obstacles and everyday micro-aggressions people say are occurring, are being used as excuses by ne’er do wells to get something they don’t deserve!

To those people I say this, I remember speaking with Kim Crenshaw, a black academic and a central figure in Critical Race Theory, who said that sometimes she leaves work and finds that she is exhausted not just from her work but also the performance of what scholars describe as whiteness. Dan Burdsey and Colin King refer to this phenomenon in football as Asian and African Caribbean players and coaches learn the dominant discourses and behaviours that enable them to fit in at the expense of diluting their own heritage and identities. This performance can be wearisome.

In relation to Gloria Ladson Billing’s paper ‘Just what is Critical Race Theory and what is it doing in a nice field like education?’ I recount her paper as significant as it was one of my early readings of a black academic recounting the same everyday/mundane tensions that I have had to manage over the years. In particular when she reflected upon this story

One of the nice perks that comes with these lecture “gigs” is a decent hotel. This one was no exception. My accommodations were on the hotel’s VIP floor-equipped with special elevator access key and private lounge on the top floor overlooking the city. As I stepped off of the the elevator I decided to go into the VIP lounge read the newspaper, and have a drink. I arrived early, just before the happy hour, and no one else was in the lounge. I took a seat on one of the couches and began catching up on the day’s news. Shortly after I sat down comfortably with my newspaper, a white man peeked his head into the lounge, looked at me sitting there in my best (and conservative) “dress for success” outfit, high heels and all-and with a pronounced Southern accent asked, “what time are y’all gonna be servin’? 

Gloria Ladson-Billings is clear that ‘race’ matters. And ‘race’ matters in sport and leisure. Gloria Ladson-Billings later describes the regular inevitability of these events as ‘waiting for the call’ in the same way that Oprah Winfrey ‘heard the call’ when she was reduced to an essentialised black woman when wanting to look at an expensive bag in Switzerland and as Barack Obama was racialised throughout his run to presidency and subsequent terms. No matter how high Ladson-Billings, Oprah, Barack or I rise, the notion of ‘waiting for the call’ in our professional or personal lives in sport, or at leisure remains a reality.

The reality of ‘waiting for the call’ for leisure managers in my early research occurred when they took into account their dislocation in their local authorities. Their reminderscame in the form of being ‘the race person’, the only black person on their grade, and isolation in terms of networks. In some cases these senior managers were in more demand outside of their organisations than in their own, as they had a higher status and were seen as more expert elsewhere.

For me one of the most intriguing ideas that has emerged from CRT is Derrick Bell’s the Rules of Racial Standing that critically illustrates the ambiguous and strategic nature of Racism. [Please see the video for  an overview of CRT] I explain Bell’s 5 rules here in relation to recent controversies in UK football.

We recommend playing from 37:00min Professor Kevin Hylton’s lecture for a fuller understanding of the following. 

Rule 1) Denied Standing
Black people denied standing when they discuss their negative experience of racism.

Rule 2) Diminished Standing
Black witnesses to racism less effective than those implicated in reinforcing racism. Consider what Ian Wright says in this CNN footage about Kevin Prince Boateng’s ‘walk-off’ the pitch for Milan in relation to his own denied and diminished standing.

Rule 3) Enhanced Standing
Black people are less likely to have diminished racial standing where they criticise others acting to disparage/upset powerful elites. Consider Ashley Cole’s defence of John Terry when he was accused of racism on the pitch.

Rule 4) Super Standing
Where a black person acts in a controversial way against a dominant group they will actively recruit influential black others willing to refute the statement or condemn the action. Here is a video example of how Super Standing can work. [37:00]

So the four Rules of Racial Standing so far are Denied Standing, Diminished Standing, Enhanced Standing and Super Standing.

Rule 5) The fifth rule is this:

Awareness of Rules enables recognition of recurring incidents – the price is frustration and a critical edge.

Once you get a sense of these racialised dynamics, you see them occurring, everywhere and with alarming regularity – this is the frustration. What this can do is give you – for academics, practitioners, schoolboys and school girls – a critical political edge, and the hope that you can do something about these particular positions whether in sport, leisure, education or other social domains.

Thank you.

Professor Kevin Hylton
Research Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure