Title IX still a work in progress, especially for Black women

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According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, girls’ participation in high school sports from 1974, when Title IX was enacted, grew from under 300,000 to nearly 3.5 million in 2018-19, almost 43% of high school athletes.  Volleyball ranks as the most popular sport for girls in Minnesota and 11-man football for boys.

A recent Aspen/Utah State survey found that Black females in this country after age eight start playing sports a year later than Whites and play any sport three years less than Whites. Also, sport often serves as “an enticing carrot for many low-income families” hoping for a college athletic scholarship or someday even playing pro sports.

Yet, 50 years later more people must be educated about Title IX: “I first learned about Title IX probably my freshman year of high school. That was 2017,” admitted Madyson Roach, a former high school softball player in Portland, Oregon. 

Roach was part of a Title IX class action suit against her former school district for inequities in facilities—the boys’ baseball team had an on-campus field for practices and games, but the girls’ softball team had to play on a makeshift field at a nearby city park.  

Has the law really helped Blacks and other females of color? Some say this has been a mixed blessing over the years. An AP-NORC National Women’s History Museum poll in May found that only 36% of women of color, 33% of LGBTQ women, and 25% of low-income women say that there has been a great deal of progress during 50 years of Title IX, which mainly is about gender equity, not racial equity.

“I think when you really look at it,” continued Roach, “I would say Title IX has not been necessarily beneficial to women of color.”

“Title IX allowed me an opportunity to trailblaze in a sport that wasn’t normally seen as an option” for Black girls, said Briana Scurry. An Anoka High School grad, Scurry is a Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame inductee and two-time Olympic soccer gold medalist. 

Kiamsha Bynes
Courtesy of Rutgers

 “Because Title IX mandated that higher education, colleges and universities have equality in money, I had a lot of opportunity to play my sport in college and also to go to college. My parents didn’t have a lot of money to pay for me to go, so I had to get an [athletic] scholarship.”

Kiamshia Bynes is a doctoral student at Rutgers, focusing on 19th and 20th Century Black history and women’s history. “It’s easy to say Title IX has benefited me because it gave me the opportunity to attend higher education [that] offered scholarships, which allowed me to go to school for free for four years and be able to compete at the Division I level.”

Clearly, a half-century later Title IX is still a work in progress. Last month the U.S. Department of Education invited public comment on proposed changes that “will restore crucial protections for students who are victims of sexual harassment, assault, and sex-based discrimination,” said a release statement. 

As she pursues her Ph.D. hoping to one day become a history professor, Bynes said, “I realized that even when you think about the foundations of Title IX and the emphasis on gender equality, Black women seem to be overshadowed contributions to me in the Title IX era. We can’t just talk about gender, because our experiences as Black women look differently.

“I will hope that the future of Title IX will be more of a pipeline…for those who have interests to be able to coach, to be able to train, and to be able to lead,” concluded Bynes.