Black Women Underrepresented in Soccer – Threat to Diversity?

On August 30, I noted here that Title IX Has A Disparate Impact–for Black Women.
The occasion for that piece was an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Narrowing the Gap, that fawningly reported the dramatic findings of a new book by Deborah Brake, a law professor at Temple, lamenting the lack of “diversity” in the sports black women play. “Nine out of 10 black women who play college,” the author lamented, “compete in either basketball or track….”
If I had done my homework I would have mentioned that this “underrepresentation” of black women in such sports as soccer, lacrosse, and rowing — a gap that has not only persisted but increased under Title IX — is not new. In fact, it is not even new to the Chronicle, which reported almost exactly the same thing over four years ago, based on an earlier study of the same dispiriting disparities. “While the enactment of a federal gender-equity law 35 years ago has spurred significant growth in women’s intercollegiate athletics,” Black Female Participation Languishes Outside Basketball and Track begins, “certain racial disparities persist. Chief among them: Few black women participate in sports other than basketball and track.”

Since Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 became law, black female participation has soared 955 percent. The growth, however, has been confined to basketball and track and field. In fact, nine of every 10 black female college athletes participate in one of those sports.
In recent years, the racial gap has widened. Between 1999 and 2005, the number of black women participating in collegiate sports increased by only 336, compared with 2,666 for white women. International athletes even surpassed black women, gaining nearly 1,000 spots.


The article, naturally, goes on to ask “What’s to blame” for these disparities and offers up the usual suspects: lack of money, lack of “inclusiveness” (“On largely white teams, many black women complain about not fitting in or not feeling like part of the team…”), etc., as well as the usual solutions such as race and sex conscious summer sports camps and race and sex targeted assistance from professional sports teams and star athletes.
In fact, I shouldn’t have had to do any homework to recall the Chronicle‘s earlier warning about the black girl jock gap. I should have remembered what I wrote about it at the time in Glaring Lack Of “Diversity” in Women’s Sports:

Of course, it’s also at least remotely possible that black women are heavily involved in basketball and track because, well, they like and are good at basketball and track.
Whatever the cause, however this shocking lack of diversity in women’s sports cannot be allowed to continue. Perhaps Title IX should be amended. Since it is based on the theory that “equity” will be present only when the participation of women in sports reflects their proportion the the student body, it would be a short step for federal regulators to demand that the participation rate of black women in sports, all sports, must reflect their proportion of the student body as well. And while they’re at it perhaps they could also do something about the appalling paucity of Asian women in college basketball.
That requirement, plus financial aid to K-12 black girls who participate in approved sports and heavy affirmative action recruiting of them by coaches, might just do the trick.
And if it doesn’t? Just assign students to teams by race, not the outmoded, un-diversity producing method of individual choice. After all, if racial assignment of students to schools is a compelling national interest [as was argued in the Louisville and Seattle school assignment cases], how much less important is “diversity” on the playing field? How else would that field ever be made level?

As I noted in my last piece, an effort is afoot to use Title IX to force an increase in the number of women in STEM fields. But will those who believe “equity” requires proportional representation be satisfied, say, with more women physicists if there is not a concomitant increase in the number of black women physicists?

John S. Rosenberg

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.