Notre Dame students discuss stereotyping on campus
Mary Steurer | Friday, January 25, 2019
Members of the Notre Dame community came together to discuss the stereotyping of African-American students in a panel discussion titled “What Sport Do You Play?” in Visitation Hall. A part of Walk the Walk Week, the event was sponsored by student government, the Alliance for Catholic Education and several other campus organizations.
Panelists included senior Trebor Goodall, president of the Notre Dame Black Student Association and Notre Dame football players senior Khalid Kareem and junior Jalen Elliott.
The panel was moderated by Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion.
Love began the discussion by asking the panelists to think of a moment when others have made assumptions about them.
Goodall recalled the first time he met his freshman year roommate.
“His parents asked me, ‘Just curious, are you on scholarship or are you a student athlete here?’ And I was like, ‘No, I just came here to do school,’” he said.
Kareem said he had a similar experience when he was approached by a stranger in public.
“This guy — I don’t believe it — he walks up to me and he says, ‘Me and my manager were trying to figure out what sport you play. Where are you at school?’” he said. “I was like, ‘I play football, I go to Notre Dame, but what made you think I play sports?’”
Elliott said these judgements extend into the classroom, where his peers often underestimate student-athletes’ academic ability.
“I definitely think that you do hear those — ‘Oh the curve’s going to be great, I heard the curve is good,’ and it’s kind of like, ‘Why is the curve going to be good?’” he said. “But I think it gives us a certain drive to kind of go and seek the help we have.”
Elliott does not define himself as a football player, but rather as someone who strives for success in all areas of his life, he added.
“Yes, it is because of football that I got here, but now that I’m here, I want to excel in everything I do,” he said. “And so, once I got here, it was important to me to work as hard as possible — not just in football, but academically as well.”
Kareem called on the Notre Dame community to be more empathetic towards student-athletes and mindful of the pressures their work puts on them.
“At times it feels like the student body kind of goes against you, but when we’re good, everybody’s crazy — just keep it consistent,” he said.
A Gates Millennium scholar and a student manager for the Notre Dame athletics department, Goodall said he actively works to combat assumptions made about African-American students.
“Just me constantly being involved on campus and letting them know that black men are more than just what we can contribute physically, I think I’ve been doing a great job at that,” he said.
Elliott said that encouraging conversation between student-athletes and non-athletes will help combat these stereotypes.
“I think the biggest thing on just on both sides is just being there to talk to one another,” Elliot said. “ … Just because you never know if someone really might want to get to know you as a person.”
Being inclusive towards students-athletes is another way to bridge the divide, Goodall said.
“One of the things that I’ve tried to stay consistent in doing these four years is not assuming that the athletes don’t have time to come to stuff,” he said. “… Don’t be afraid to invite them to things, don’t be afraid to talk to them.”
“[There’s] more to us than just football,” Kareem echoed. “We have so much more to offer besides that if you take the time to get to know us.”