ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Full version of ‘E-race-ing Stereotypes’


Jonnathon Robinson, senior and track athlete, takes part in his track practice. Robinson said sometimes stereotypes set him up for failure.


Editor’s Note: A shortened version of this article appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of the HiLite due to spacing concerns. Here is the full version.

When Jonnathan Robinson, track athlete and senior, prepares afterschool for practice, he’s in the minority, as an African-American playing a sport in a predominantly white school. Living in Carmel his whole life, he always has been the minority due to his race.Carmel Consensus
According to, in the 2010 census Carmel was 85.4 percent white, and only 3.0 percent African-American.

As such, Robinson, who performs the long jump and the 400-meter dash, said that there are certain stereotypes revolving around his athletic performance.

“There’s (the stereotype of African-Americans) running really fast, and there’s the jumping really high, which I do long jump so it’s not always incorrect, but it’s still a stereotype…it kind of belittles your ability sometimes when someone’s like, ‘Oh, you’re five six but you can touch rim. Well, you’re black,’ and then they’re just kind of like, ‘That just makes total sense, put two and two together,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, ok.’ But that’s a thing. So there’s like the general just more athletic (stereotype) put on black people,” Robinson said.

However, he said the stereotypes sometimes set him up for failure “because if I know I’m not gonna win a race or something like that then it’s not a good feeling to know I’m held up to such high expectations just because I’m black.”

Tyron Dixson, varsity football assistant coach, men’s track and field assistant coach and credit recovery instructor said there are certain so-called “black positions” in football. He mentioned that, at the profession level, there are not many Caucasian players in the secondary on defense.

Racism By The Numbers “Those skilled positions are at times kind of deemed, you know, black positions, you know, there is still the, at times the whole concept of ‘can an African-American play quarterback?’ you know things of that nature because that’s supposed to be (a position with) more of a cerebral connotation,” Dixson said.
He said, however, that the quarterback viewpoint may be changing, as he cited the national championship game in college where the starting quarterbacks were Hawaiian and African-American.

As far as racism is concerned, Robinson said he could never think of a specific race-related incident with his involvement in sports. He said that Carmel’s general mindset is that every kind of student and player will be helped if he or she is willing to put in the effort, regardless of race.
David J. Leonard, associate professor and chair, Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University, said via email that racism still remains in sports.

“I think racism is most prevalent within the power structure and institutions. The focus on locker rooms is a way to misdirect the conversation away from systemic racism, the impact of history, laws, and institutional racism, and instead focus on prejudice,” Leonard said. “It is way to turn attention outward rather than put a mirror onto the face of sports and society as a whole.”

Dixson said he has heard coaches from other schools say they will plan man-coverage, a defensive scheme in football, because “it’s easier for” him (the African-American football player in question) instead of trying to learn zone concepts.”

“Well, that leads you to ask questions, is it the player or is it the player’s ethnicity?” Dixson said.

Dixson said that statements like these are not said at Carmel but by other coaches.

“You hear it all the time, ‘just get him the ball and let him go.’…it’s not outright racism but when people say things like that it makes you have to ask questions on what is it you really mean when you say things like that,” Dixson said.

Leonard said, “Sports mirror the rest of society and its institutions so race matters. You cannot talk about sports as if it exists apart from prejudice and institutional racism, both of which remain part of American life in the twenty-first century. For example, if you look at the number of high school sports teams offered in suburban communities, which are disproportionately white, you often see twenty-plus sports. Compare that to urban schools that overwhelming black and Latino. There might be three or four sports. This impact can be seen on several levels but yes think how this will impact athletic scholarships. Race matters.”

Dixson echoed the fact that exposure to less sports has an impact on the “your Warren Centrals and your Pikes and the (Lawrence Centrals) of the world” where there is a significantly larger African-American population than Carmel.

“Though I think there is still some racism involved, I think it’s more about opportunities and lack of opportunities and exposure and lack of exposure in certain situations,” Dixson said.

Though Robinson’s teammates may be predominantly white, Kenneth Browner, men’s track and field head coach and history teacher, is also African American.
Robinson said, “(It’s like an) unspoken relationship in a sense just like being of the same ethnicity…it’s a good view of a role model too as well like a good coach and he’s always pushing you for your best.”

Dixson, who graduated from Warren Central in 2004, came to Carmel in 2010. When he got here, he said he was the first African-American varsity assistant that Carmel ever had in football.
“That may seem mind-blowing with everything we have going on, but I took that as a challenge not to tear down walls or anything like that but just to be myself and just have someday that our African-American players can associate with like ‘Hey, there’s a guy who looks like me,’” Dixson said.
He said that no matter what the ethnicity of the minority, it can be hard to find someone to relate to.
“(I try to) be a voice and an ear of relatability. If anybody ever hears me pull up to practice, I’m bumpin’ my Drake or Jay-Z or whoever and I think that what that does it that creates a level playing field for, you know, one, kids have to be able to trust you to make them play for you and there’s gotta be a respect level there but there also has to be a level of relatability and when kids feel like they can relate to you, and sometimes, unfortunately, you know just the color of your skin gives you a little extra push in that direction, but I try to be somebody kids can talk to because a lot of people are not on the other side of the coin,” Dixson said.

Robinson said, “Just like the awareness like Black History Month does like puts an awareness on the contributions that African-Americans have contributed to America and if more people are aware of that as well as other minorities but as long as other people are aware of that they can just see how everyone’s on the same playing field and how everyone’s contributing to our society.”
Dixson spoke similarly.
“The most important thing about Carmel athletics is winning. I don’t care if you’ve got eight purple people out there. If the purple people are gonna get you wins on the board, and do it the right way, (then they’ll play.) I tell people all the time when college recruiters come in to recruit our kids, regardless of race, that Carmel kids are great kids and they’re gonna play football the right way. And so I think that’s a great representation of America, the microcosm that we’re supposed to be this great county where everybody, regardless of fill in the blank has an opportunity to do better for themselves and so I see that embodied here at Carmel, I really do. By Matthew Del Busto