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Old School vs. New School The Treatment of African American Athletes before and after Racial Segregation

 

In my mini ethnography I decided that I was going to look into the treatment of African American football players now versus treatment before segregation.  I wanted to discover if African American males were treated differently in high school football before segregation, then they are now.  While being an African American high school football player, I did not recognize much difference between the ways I was treated compared to the other players on the team.  There were however, some noticeable differences.  The hypothesis states that African American football players of today’s age will be treated differently than they were before segregation.  To conduct my work I will be making observations of the J.H. Rose Rampants Varsity Football team.  J.H. Rose is located at 600 West Arlington Boulevard Greenville NC, 27834.

There were things that needed to be accomplished prior to beginning my fieldwork.  First, I needed to go to the principal of the school and explain to him what I was hoping to learn by observing students.  I did not want him to view me as an intruder roaming around the school grounds.   I met with the principal in his office and informed him of my plans, and that anything I wrote about the school if it were to be published would go to him first to review it.  After about 30 minutes of convincing, he agreed to let me observe the team and would be fine with my fieldwork studies. He was worried about the well being of his school, which is why it took time to convince him.  He wanted to make sure that nothing would be publicly published that would damage the reputation of the school, J.H. Rose.  It was necessary that I convinced him that there would be no publicized slandering of the school as a result of the observations of my study.  Next, I needed to run the methods and purpose of the fieldwork study by Coach Lipe, the football coach.  We settled on the days that I could observe the team and to be sure not to interfere. I proceeded to the Coach’s office and further explained what I had previously told the principal.  I also added that I did not really want to be noticed by the players.  In order to get the quality results for my fieldwork study I wanted, I did not want the players to be aware of my presence.  It was preferred that the team acted as if I wasn’t there so that I could get as close to accurate results as I possibly could.  I informed the coach that I would be changing my behavior to fit the norm so that my own behavior would not affect the results and I would be respectful of his coaching techniques and stay under the radar from the players.  The coach agreed and promised me that his own behavior would not be changing because of my presence. After leaving his office I made a promise to myself that I would record my observations as accurately as possible without corrupt data. By making this promise I would be more able to get the proper results for my findings.

While I was in high school, my family lived in one of the richest, most diverse areas in the nation. I was able to experience interaction with other cultures and receive things that children in less fortunate areas may not.  This does not mean that I did not miss out on the teachings of the basics of football.  I was taught as an equal of other kids in the program.  I learned great leadership and made friends that I will have throughout my lifetime; which are things that can be viewed at J.H. Rose High School.  J.H. Rose is not exactly what one would think it would be when I was in high school I attended the biggest high school in the state of Virginia with about 4,000 students.  When I pulled up to J.H. Rose I was shocked as I was walking through it I asked my tour guide how many students attended here and he said “about 1,200” but the school was about as big as my high school.  The size of the school was very intriguing to me as I was from much the largest high school in the state of Virginia.  It also seemed like a fairly new school by the condition of the floors, walls, and furniture. It looked like the school had been remodeled within about the last 3 years. The lockers looked like they were in great condition, the classrooms seemed to be newly renovated, and the classroom supplies looked as if they were up to date. I was very impressed with the appeal the school presented.  This was surprising to me because I did not expect such a nicely conditioned school.

Even though I was raised in private school setting up until my freshman year of high school, I was not out of the loop of public schools.  When I was younger I played sports through the county so most of the kids on my team attended public schools.  I was able to befriend many of them early on in my childhood.  These friendships helped me learn and develop behavior.  This would have benefitted me if I was to interact with a player on the Rampants team.

Football has always been a huge part of my life.  As a high school student I was a highly competitive player.  I thought by studying this subculture it would be a good way to get reconnected with the sport that I loved.  I knew that this field study assignment would be fairly easy for me because I spent much of my childhood and adolescence participating in it.  Although being very knowledgeable in the sport, I knew there would also be some difficulty in this field working activity.  Since most high school athletes are very confident and boastful, I knew that if they were aware that I was watching them that they mostly would try and show off for me instead of undergoing their normal behavior.  I wondered to myself if certain athletes would try to out shine other athletes just because I was watching?  Or would certain athletes become lacsidaisical because other were performing at a higher level.  I knew that if I were to be noticed by the players, it would make my results skewed and even more difficult to get.  I tried to make myself as non-noticeable as possible.  In order to be sure of this, I would stand in spots that would not be so noticeable to the players and coaches.  I also did not reveal to the coaches which practices or games that I would be attending.  At the end of the field study, I conducted an interview with the head coach questioned him on what he thought of the treatment of African American athletes compared to Caucasian athletes.

With the completion of this project, I hoped that I would be able to attribute to my personal opinions and learn from the players and coaches.  My goal in this project was to see if the racial treatment of the athletes was the same.  I arrived at the Joyner Library at East Carolina University, conducted an interview of the head coach, and made observations of the Varsity football team at J.H. Rose High School.  I was very interested to jump into this project.  I viewed it to as a very interesting assignment that I could relate and compare to my own life.

When I first visited the school to reveal my project, I took mental notes of what the school looked like from the outside and what I thought of it. This would allow me to have a comparison of my thoughts prior to my study to my observation notes taken through out my fieldwork.  This gave me an outsider’s opinions of the school.  I did not want my notes to be biased in any way, and having a comparison allowed me to reduce this bias.

When I first arrived at J.H. Rose High School, I was very shocked to find several kids in trouble at the principal’s office.  There were four African American children in trouble and one Caucasian child.  I was surprised to find this but as I was waiting to meet with the principal there were children that just kept coming and they all had done something that broke the rules.  After a few minutes, the quarterback came in.  He was an African American and seemed like all his fellow peers idolized him.  The way he was treated when he walked in the office, and how he was talked about shortly after he left gave me an idea of how African Americans Athletes were viewed at the school.  They were viewed as gods at this school.  I made sure that this early observation did not affect the rest of my observations that began when I attended my first Rampants football practice.  This one observation would not sway my opinion of all other African American Athletes on and off the field.

While observing the football practice on Thursday, September 30, 2010 I witnessed some jokes being exchanged between Coach Jamison, the linebacker coach, a rather built man, that was about six feet and three inches with an African American player that was in his group on the outskirts of the practice. While this was going on, there was a strange man that seemed out of place and had a very large Afro walking by.  I noticed that this man walked by the team’s practice almost everyday that I had attended. The coach turned to the player and said to him “What’s your pops doing walking around?”  The player responded to the coach by looking him and saying “haha, you’re so funny and he must be your brother in law!”  The statement was followed by the coach’s laughter and that was the end of that conversation. This observing contributed to my views that African Americans are now treated equally to Caucasians. This proved my hypothesis true that African Americans are treated much differently then they were before segregation.  It was obvious that there was a strong relationship formed between the coaches and their African American student athletes. As I stated above in my research, I interviewed the head coach of the Rampant’s football team, Todd Lipe, and asked him the question of “What he thought about the treatment of African Americans before and after segregation?”  His reply to this was that he feels that the treatment of his African American students compared to his Caucasian students has been drastically changed. The treatment has become fairer between the two groups. There is more equity shown between all players on the Rampants football team at J.H. Rose High School.  While researching in the library I came across an article in the research database titled Blinded by history it talks about African American athletes before segregation and after segregation, and the major difference between the two and how it has changed for the better.

After doing this project I found out I was correct in what I stated in my hypothesis that the treatment of African American Athletes has changed over the years from worse to better.  I myself learned things about how athletes are treated that I did not notice while being a player.  If I could go back and change something I would like to have more time to observe the team, to see if there were anything other big interactions I would see.  Like the one between the coach and his player.  I really did enjoy having the freedom to somewhat be on my own on this project instead of usually having someone hold my hand through it.  In the end this project was a great learning experience for me and I am glad I was able to be a part of it.

 

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