Implications of the “non-athlete” shirt
C. David Jones | Friday, March 4, 2011
I agree with both of your viewpoints (“Non-athlete shirts a reminder,” Mar. 1) and (“Prejudice runs deeper,” Mar. 2). The isolation and pain that stirs inside of you when people assume you are at Notre Dame only because you are an athlete is something that you do not share alone. It is a terrible feeling and it disrespects both your intelligence and hard work. Alex, you make a great point noting that most of our society is not accustomed to seeing African-Americans as intelligent. Looking at the media and in the news, most positive images of African-Americans are either of those in sports or entertainment.
However, I disagree with both of you on what the “Non-Athlete” shirt means. As a member of the Notre Dame Athletic Department, I was greatly disappointed with the shirt and its meaning. While its intention is to show that African-American students do not have to be athletes to be here on campus, it cannibalizes the African-American athlete and all of their daily struggles in order to exceed both in the classroom and in their sport or athletic event.
As an African-American athlete here on campus, not only do you have to navigate the social generalizations and stereotypes that people assume about you, but you also have to try to balance both an academic and social life and if there is any extra time, a social life as well.
Now I am not saying this is the life of all African-American athletes on campus or that we have it any harder than regular African-American students, but creating a shirt whose meaning is, “I am black at Notre Dame and not an athlete” does nothing to solve the problem. Instead of segmenting a portion of the community, integrate them by asking for more input. It is only when different spectrums and voices join together that change can truly occur. My mother always taught me that the color of your skin does not matter, but your character does. If Notre Dame wants to move towards a more integrated campus, then we need to have respect for all, even amongst our own cultures.
C. David Jones