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Using sports for social change | Andrew Billings | TEDxBirminghamSalon

Using sports for social change | Andrew Billings | TEDxBirminghamSalon


Translator: Maia Cotelo
Reviewer: Ariana Bleau Lugo When I was 21 years old, my father
passed away early in the morning after a very brief illness. I spent that day in shock,
but I spent that evening watching my Green Bay Packers
win a football game. At halftime,
I ate for the first time all day. And I know, sports should not have
mattered on a day like that day, but they did. Twenty years later,
I continue to work to try and advance the core lesson of that day. Sports have power,
therefore we need to teach sports. Not how to play them,
I think we have that covered. But how to consume them, how to understand them,
how to talk about them. Because when we teach sports, we often teach those larger issues
as well: gender, domestic violence,
religion, identity. Two-thirds of Americans
don’t own a passport, but over 95% report consuming
some form of international sports media. Our world gets wider
when sports enter the equation. Sports provide teachable moments for some of our most difficult
conversations, such as that taboo topic of race. For instance, a quick glance at
a swimming competition could lead someone to falsely believe that blacks simply cannot swim
as well as others. However,
there’s far more to the story than that. In the American South, part of that story
involves generations of black Americans not being permitted
at pools, lakes, or beaches. Mom and dad can’t go to the pool.
They don’t learn to swim. They don’t encourage
their children to swim, because they don’t feel
they can teach them, or save them. Generations go by, the cycle continues. Even today, US rates of drowning
are triple for blacks than whites. So we need to teach and advance causes such as USA’s Swimming’s Make A Splash
initiative that teaches minorities to swim or we can simply relegate all blacks
as simply bad swimmers. Teach the former. Reject the latter. But it’s not just our sports history that
needs teaching, it’s also the language. Let’s take a sport we are quite familiar
with in Alabama, football. Most recent studies would tell you
that media stereotypes surrounding black quarterbacks
being inferior no longer exist. However, more covert forms of stereotypes
still remain. Such as when a commentator
references a white wide receiver who is… deceptively quick. Or a black quarterback who is stubbornly
committed to being a pocket passer. These linguistic choices imply
that certain races have certain limitations
in certain areas. So, by teaching the flaws
in these presumed limitations, we cannot only
increase sports participation, but participation in diverse majors,
careers, and cultural experiences. See, whether you believe
that wins and losses are all that matter, or that you believe that sports
are far too elevated in our society, you’re still arguing the same core belief. Sports wield power. So let’s use that power
to have conversations about segregation, xenophobia,
homophobia, and much, much more. Thank you. (Applause)

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