Lifestyle | January 15th, 2022

‘You’re Tall and Black, You Must Play Basketball’

By: Zion Lampley
‘You’re Tall and Black, You Must Play Basketball’

Dating back to slavery, white men have capitalized off of the black male body.Centuries later, Black men, specifically in the world of sports, are still being exploited by white men for financial and recreational comfort. Black men plagued by the stereotypes that they are only valuable for their athletic physique and abilities are voicing that they can explore more than arenas.

“A lot of Black men can draw, write, have entrepreneurial aspirations and I know how to code. We are molding ourselves into academic moguls,” said Malachi White. Malachi, a third-year computer information systems student at Florida A&M University, is 6-foot-3 and often feels that Black men are ignored within their academic pursuits. Despite the smaller numbers for Black male undergraduates in comparison to their white counterparts, statistics show that the racial gap in college education will soon close.

“A cashier looked me up and down one day, asked me if I played basketball…”

Jared Donald, a 6-foot-2 third-year health care management student at FAMU, also understands how the stigma of being looked at as an athlete in a racially plagued environment has become indicative of a tall Black man’s future. “A cashier looked me up and down one day, asked me if I played basketball, and mentioned that I was built for it,” he said. “In day-to-day encounters, including workspaces, classrooms, and other professional settings, someone still manages to ask ‘Do you play basketball?’”

Tall Black men shouldn’t have to rely on sports to make something of themselves considering the already vast representation of Black men in professional sports. According to statistics in 2020, 74.2 percent of players in the NBA were Black and 16.9 were White.

“Walking into a room, eyes will be put on you, and it’s your job to prove their expectations of you wrong.”

As it relates to Black men, questioning traits of intelligence and diligence comes after one’s observation of strength, speed and athleticism. Culturally, Black men are pushed to pursue sports, and not engulf classrooms. “Walking into a room, eyes will be put on you, and it’s your job to prove their expectations of you wrong,” said Donald. 

The media also plays a major role in the way Black men are viewed in society.  In movies such as Ron Shelton’s “White Men Can’t Jump,” Michael Lewis’ “Blindside” and a plethora of comedy skits, Black men are praised for their athleticism and carry the weight of unbearable stereotypes.

 For Black men, not excelling in sports is seen as a flaw, as success in athletics appears to be  the only feasible way to find validation throughout life. “Being the tallest in my age group as a high school freshman, coaches and college scouts put a stigma on me and I was expected to perform highly, I was always put in the spotlight.” said Jordan Presley, a 6-foot-4 third-year construction engineer technology student at FAMU.

For Jared, Jordan, and Malachi, putting in years of effort into their academics and careers after college should be recognized.