Black lawmakers almost killed Title IX

Landmark bill caught in race vs. gender  equity wrangling

Long before Title IX, Black females have been participants in sport.

“There [always] has been a strong African American women presence in sport,” notes Ohio State Sport Humanities Associate Professor Sarah Fields, author of “Race v. Gender: How Constructions of Title IX Have Failed Women of Color.”

Blacks and other female athletes of color in action scenes were included in racially motivated “endangered exhibits” at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. “In the 1930s…there were strong [women] basketball leagues in some Black colleges, and they played against each other,” continues the professor. However, “By the 1940s, the leadership at these African American schools began to be concerned that they were promoting too much competition [between the females].”

These chauvinistic thoughts were shared by administrators at predominately White colleges and universities who then suggested “that it would be better for all women [not to] play organized sport,” adds Fields. “Some of the Black colleges began to drop their [women’s] basketball programs in the ’40s.”

Yet as we still celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, did you know that it almost didn’t become law simply because Black legislators opposed it? The late Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress, voted against it. The late Charles Diggs, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, also voted no.

University of Michigan Sport Management Professor
Ketra Armstrong

The primary reason why Chisholm, Diggs, and other Black congressional members voted against Title IX is not because they were against equal access for women, but because it would kill a bill to fund court-approved school busing.

“It was a huge [anti-racial discrimination] bill” that also included funding for bilingual education programs, recalls Fields. “Civil rights leaders came to [Congress] and said, ‘If you put gender in this racial law, it will weaken the law.”  But Title IX “sneaked in [the bill], and nobody noticed it. [But] that became a deal-breaker and it shut down funding for federal busing,” the professor points out, and as a result all the Black congress members voted against it.

“There was a racial divide,” Fields adds. “There was bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition, and the opposition from people of color.”

Eventually both sides found a compromise and Title IX became a “slide-through” piece of legislation signed into law by President Richard Nixon, states the professor.

Fields unveiled her historical nugget during a national Title IX conference this past May at the University of Michigan, and found it while doing research on the Internet. “It was absolutely shocking,” she admits. “I had no idea that this had happened. I [also] was a little surprised at the bipartisan support, opposition, and compromise of that bill, compared to what we see today, 40 years later. Now all bills seem to be pretty much along party lines.”

Black females’ contributions to Title IX have been glossed over during its 40-year birthday recognition — maybe it is a backhanded payback by those who knew how much Blacks almost killed the landmark law.

Ohio State Sport Humanities
Associate Professor Sarah Fields
Photos by Charles Hallman

University of Michigan Sport Management Professor Ketra Armstrong points out, “When we talk about Title IX, which is an outstanding law, it has done a lot, even for women of color. But we [also] have to understand the racializing of gender. I can’t just enter with my gender and check my race at the door. If one part of you is visible and the other part of you is invisible, how can you be whole?

“They come in simultaneously,” she proudly declares.

Did you know…?

Besides her initial opposition to the landmark Title IX law, Shirley Chisholm also has another place in history. Name what it is. (Answer in next week’s “View.”)

Answer to last week’s question: Forbes recently released its top-100 richest sports teams list. Name which team ranks the highest on this list among Twin Cities-based professional teams — the Minnesota Vikings is 41st on a list of not just the richest sports teams in America, but worldwide.

Diversity watch

Sophomore Rachel Banham and junior Micaella Riche were announced last week as co-captains of the 2012-13 Minnesota women’s basketball team. Coach Pam Borton said in a press release that the two players “will provide the leadership necessary for success…and [are] committed to moving our team forward.”

Banham was a first-year starter last season, won Big Ten Freshman of the Year and made second team All-Big Ten. Riche became a starter later in the season with the team’s final seven games and was named to the Big Ten All-Academic Team.

The two underclassmen replace the three graduated senior captains from last season’s squad.

W’s post-season begins

Minnesota officially begins its defense of its 2011 WNBA championship as they host Seattle Friday in the best-of-three first round of this year’s playoffs. Los Angeles and San Antonio are the other West semifinals match-ups.

New York-Connecticut and Atlanta-Indiana are the two East semifinals contests.