Local professor challenges notions of progress
Thabiti Lewis, associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts at Washington State University Vancouver, has published a book challenging the notion that sports culture is a pioneer for racial progress.
“Ballers of the New School: Race and Sports in America” is a
thought-provoking analysis of minorities in the sports industry that critically re-examines the mythologies and social uplift narratives that dominate our culture.
Sports are often hailed as a way for minority athletes to achieve fame and wealth. In his
book, Lewis deconstructs the Cinderella story of scoring big in the major leagues and asks why there is little minority representation at the corporate level.
Lewis contends that American sports have not contributed to racial progress as much as our culture has been led to believe.
“This is more media spin than truth. It’s a figment of imagination aided by modern technology armed with 24-hour sports reporting, unlimited sports television channels and a culture that cultivates anti-intellectualism,” said Lewis.
“Ballers of the New School: Race and Sports in America” begins with a “Letter to My Cousin,” which serves as a guidance letter to Lewis’s own cousin as well as to any young person who aspires to a career in professional sports. He goes on to explain how a majority of black collegiate athletes are exploited by the sports industry with little compensation and often without the education promised with their scholarships. Lewis then challenges readers to view the sports industry with a keen eye on hiring opportunities and racial equality on and off the playing field.
“I am challenging people of all ages, races and ethnicity to be what I call a ‘true baller’ or ‘Baller of the New School,’ which is intellectual, critical, innovative and unafraid to challenge the flawed affirmative action, and post race narratives we are bombarded with daily. Through essays, my book examines how racist sports media coverage perpetuates, rather than alleviates, racial tensions in our society. I want readers to understand that the icons they see are not the norm and do not reflect the dire social, educational and economic status of many people of color in America,” said Lewis.
Lewis lectures widely on topics such as hip-hop, film, black masculinity, race and sports in America. He has been a columnist and freelance writer for The Source, the St. Louis American and News One. His work has appeared in several book anthologies and in publications such as Mosaic Literary Magazine, Oregon Humanities, Crisis Magazine, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and AmeriQuests.
Lewis’s book tour includes stops in Philadelphia, Seattle, Iowa City, Iowa, and Kansas City, Mo. He will discuss his work and sign copies of his book at 12 p.m. March 1 in the WSU Vancouver library.
“Ballers of the New School: Race and Sports in America” is available through The Bookie, Borders, Powell’s Books, Third World Press, Amazon and his website, ThabitiLewis.com.