Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why Aren't There More Black Cheerleaders?

Over the years I've heard many discussions about race and sports. A common observation is the fact that black males are extremely over-represented in many popular sports such as football and basketball. Of all of the observations I've heard voiced and questions asked, there is one aspect of this that I have never heard voiced. Why is there not more black cheerleaders?

If it is commonly accepted that black males excel at sports, then why wouldn't it be safe to assume that black females would excel in cheerleading considering that cheerleading requires some athletic ability and coordination. Why then are there not more black females in cheerleading? Is it because black females are not interested in cheerleading? I find this hard to believe.

In our society, athletes and cheerleaders are often presented as being the cream of the crop. It seems increasingly that at a young age, children are exposed to idea of a "social ladder" and in high schools the top of that ladder is athletes for males and cheerleaders for females. Considering this, it seems far-fetched to assume that black females would not want to be at the top of the ladder.

So why then is this happening? I've been aware of this situation for quite some time and it always seemed to me that there must be some form of discrimination going on. I've never been able to put my finger on exactly how it is occurring though.

Recently I had a conversation with someone that exposed what I always suspected. Apparently it is common practice in schools to allow male students to join the football or basketball team for free, but female students are charged $500-600 to become a cheerleader! Of course the obvious outcome is that for the most part, only white females can afford to join.

I wonder if the black community is aware of this and if so why hasn't anything been done, or at the very least this topic been discussed? Considering that the argument has been made that there are "too many white officials" in sports even though white males are under-represented in the sports themselves would seem to give the impression that the black community is VERY aware of racial representaion in sports if it is dealing with black MEN, but could not be bothered if it is dealing with black WOMEN.

This is unfortunate, because not only are many disadvantaged black females barred from ever even attempting their dreams, the continued under-representation of black females in cheerleading sends the message that black women are not "cream of the crop" material. This trend of black male over-representation in sports and white female over-representation in cheerleading further reinforces the race/gender ideals promoted in Hollywood and further reinforces the stereotype that black= masculine and white = feminine.

23 comments:

Miriam said...

I have a suspicion. I suspect that part of the whole cheerleading discrimination may be (1) bw feelings of low self esteem (i.e. what? I should cheer for someone? Will that encourage them to see me jumping and being happy for them??)

or (2) the strong black woman doctrine rearing itself. (i.e. I ain't gonna act a fool...!)

or (3) ww feeling this is their niche, their last island that no one else can enter, and they probably guard it with great subtle messages and or treatment

Anonymous said...

Miriam evading the issue as usual.

Amazing said...

Welcome!

Honestly, I don't know how many Black Women actually aspire to be a cheeleader. If it was a problem that Black Women felt strongly about, I'm sure they would have complained by now. Just recently, there was an article in the newspapers about famous Black models who came together to protest the lack of Black Models in high fashion.

There may be a shortage of Black cheerleaders, but I don't think this is a plight Black Women will take on anytime soon.

Continue to blog!

Check out my blog as well
curiositykilledthatcat@blogspot.com

Sangraneth said...

"Honestly, I don't know how many Black Women actually aspire to be a cheeleader. If it was a problem that Black Women felt strongly about, I'm sure they would have complained by now."

Perhaps, and perhaps not. It doesn't affect black MALES negatively, only black FEMALES. AND at the black communities track record of protecting black males and IGNORING black women. Look how bad the single rate had to get before black women began to stand up and take stock of their situation.

If it is indeed true that black women simply do not WANT to be cheerleaders, that is very unfortunate. Cheerleaders are often depicted and seen by many as being attractive and socially desirable. And it's no secret that cheerleaders have a tremendous amount of options and social leverage when it comes to dating.

Considering the problem that black women face in America with being taken for granted, under-valued and being portrayed as unnattractive by the media, cheerleading would seem to be a perfect outlet to prove those stereotypes wrong.

Unfortunately, I think there probably ARE many black women who WOULD like to be a cheerleader, and COULD be a cheerleader but are not allowed because of the ridiculous entry fee.

flowergirl said...

Personally, young black women can do far better things than cheering on a bunch of guys and shaking their butts, being tossed in the air in those ridiculous short skirts or whatever it is they do. I heckled cheerleaders when I was in school, I found them to be always pretty, and always dumb.

I also lump that activity along with the whole pagent thing; sexualization and exploitation of women, all the while creating a stressful environment of unhealthy competition, favoritism and low self-esteem. Why not do something else? Study classical or ethnic dance? Study art, language, music, creative writing, spirtuality, volunteer, women's issues, environmentalism or mentor/tutor underprivileged kids? Do something positive and give back to the community? Why do we ALWAYS have to be the race that entertains people?

Young black women really need to focus on education, and their own well-being. The black community needs more doctors, lawyers and educators, and the like. We have enough ball players and entertainers, so we can do well without the representation in cheerleading.

Sangraneth said...

"I also lump that activity along with the whole pagent thing; sexualization and exploitation of women, all the while creating a stressful environment of unhealthy competition, favoritism and low self-esteem"

I don't like it any more than you do. But, unfortunately, competition and self-esteem issues are the world we are living in. You don't have to play the game, but like it or not, you are in it.

Don't you think black women have enough self-esteem issues as it is? Don't you think black female beauty is under-represented, if not completely UNrepresented in the media as it is?

By not even attempting to increase black female representation in "feminine" or attractive, desirable roles such as cheerleading, black women are giving up the chance to REPRESENT themselves as attractive and desirable.

Simply put, if bw aren't even willing to portray themselves as feminine and attractive, how can they complain if the media and society does not see them as feminine and attractive?

"We have enough ball players and entertainers, so we can do well without the representation in cheerleading."

Most of which is black MALE representation. You're right, there is enough black MALE representation in sports and entertainment. However, black FEMALE representation is severely lacking. Don't you think black women would benefit from more positive portrayals? Don't you think the self-esteem of black women would be higher if more attractive, desirable roles went to black women? Don't you think black women would feel better about their own NATURAL features if those features were seen on more beauty pageant contestants, cheerleaders, and other representatives of female attractiveness?

Halima said...

By not even attempting to increase black female representation in "feminine" or attractive, desirable roles such as cheerleading, black women are giving up the chance to REPRESENT themselves as attractive and desirable.

Simply put, if bw aren't even willing to portray themselves as feminine and attractive, how can they complain if the media and society does not see them as feminine and attractive?


sangraneth, i think this article and response has hit on one key complication with bw and a reason why we dont seem to be getting anywhere fast. there is this amazing internal battle going on inside our heads and you have to fight bw every inch of the way in these issues.

bw constantly need to be 'good', do the right thing, and make the 'moral' choice, it really comes in the way of straight forward thinking!

like you said there is a game going on, and bw dont seem to want to play it by the current rules while hoping and working towards the rules being changed and more progressive in the future.

in another post, i likened it to a house scheduled for demolition. all the ww are in it enjoying the amenitites and taking advantage of it at the present point, while bw are outside saying they dont want 'in' because the house is 'wrong' and needs to be pulled down pronto. Meanwhile ww are enjoying the comforts and getting along in life by using the current structures and working it in their favour!

what is it that keeps bw out? Mostly their own moral notions, they'd rather play 'miss goody two shoes'.

like you said again, there are present day avenues and structures that are used to guage attractiveness and reinforce the idea that a particular type of woman is attractive. do bw want to get in on it? No they's rather look down their nose at it all, take the moral highground and give the good and moral bw spiel!

well i guess we will be at this same point again next year complaining of bw under representation in mainstream"

Supposing I wanted to Date a White Guy...?

Sangraneth said...

"in another post, i likened it to a house scheduled for demolition. all the ww are in it enjoying the amenitites and taking advantage of it at the present point, while bw are outside saying they dont want 'in' because the house is 'wrong' and needs to be pulled down pronto. Meanwhile ww are enjoying the comforts and getting along in life by using the current structures and working it in their favour!"

Halima, I think you just managed to articulate in one paragraph what I was trying to say in a whole post. LOL!

Miriam said...

how am I evading the issue, again? And why say this under the cloak of anonymity.

Well, congratulations Sang, is this your first troll? lol

Onyx feather said...

ha! Same reason there are so few Black Sports Illustrated cover models.

foreverloyal said...

May I salute you. This is an original topic in the IR blog genre. :)

foreverloyal said...

This post made me remember something. My high school was big enough to have 2 cheerleading squads: varsity and junior varsity. A good portion, maybe 40-60% (higher some years) of the jv squad was black. But the varsity squad was 90-100% white. (sometimes they had an asian girl). My senior year there were suddenly black varsity cheerleaders.
Apparently the cheering advisor was actively preventing black girls from joining the varsity squad. Some parent or group of parents made a stink, apparently, so she had to shape up.

classical one said...

It is a shame that there are not more black cheerleaders. The ones that I have seen, especially in the NFL are surely among the most beautiful women I have ever seen.

roslynholcomb said...

I can tell you from experience that there's wholesale discriminiation against black female cheerleaders. And why wouldn't there be? This is one of the penultimate indicators of white femininity. Cheerleading is a major industry here in the south. Most of those girls start out in elementary school and have to take camps and very expensive tumbling classes. They always mark the black girls down on tumbling because most of them can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on tumbling classes. My sister, however, was an elite gymnast and a fabulous tumbler, yet despite her best efforts still couldn't make cheerleader. At that time it was chosen by the student body and you can imagine how a black girl would fare in that competition.

In many schools the cheerleading squad is chosen by the coach or sponsor who is typically a white woman. Black girls are at a disadvantage because it's not in white women's best interest to put a black woman in a position to be found attractive.

luvlybrowngirl said...

I WAS a cheerleader at two different high schools.

First, I have to say that I was not anything like the cheerleaders that Flowergirl describes. I was an honors student and was very involved in other organizations on campus. I wasn't a floozy either. In fact, I didn't have a boyfriend until the end of my senior year.

At one school, I was one of two Black girls (out of 10 or 12) on the Junior Varsity squad. There were maybe four out of twelve on Varsity. Our cheerleading sponsor was Black.

At the other school, I was one of SIX Black girls (out of 12) on the Varsity
squad. The sponsor was White (but very liberal).

I am now a teacher. The first two years of my career, I coached/sponsored JV cheerleading. I made sure the squad was diverse. The Varsity coach (a White woman who was dating and later married a Black man) made sure that squad was diverse.

Now, both squads are coached by White women and on both squads Black girls are grossly underrepresented . I'm sure it is due, in large part, to these women's discouragement of Black girls from trying out. One of the girls that made Varsity told me that she and others had been told that, if anything, they should try out for JV to increase their chances of making it, but even that didn't guarantee a spot. There are a ridiculous number of Varsity cheerleaders: something like 20. But, only TWO are Black!
So, sponsors are one issue.

However, I think another issue is self- confidence/self-image. A lot of Black girls don't think they fit the mold. They know they aren't considered "the type" and they just rather not humiliate themselves by trying out. They try out for the step team (all minorities) or for sports, which in most regards are considered masculine.

Unfortunately, I have to concur with Sangraneth. We will continue to be seen as masculine/undesirable if we are unable to break into some of these stereotypical girlie positions.
By the way, three of the six of us Black cheerleaders (myself included) were on homecoming court, that year and one of us actually became Homecoming Queen! This was at a predominately White school. So, these positions can change the way we are perceived.

Anonymous said...

The idea that Black women are not interested in being cheerleaders is preposterous. The movie Bring it On, which featured a squadron of Black cheerleaders opposite White cheerleaders, did quite well among young black women, so there! Also, back in my college days, I met a great many black women would have LOVED to be cheerleaders.

Sangraneth said...

"The idea that Black women are not interested in being cheerleaders is preposterous. The movie Bring it On, which featured a squadron of Black cheerleaders opposite White cheerleaders, did quite well among young black women, so there! Also, back in my college days, I met a great many black women would have LOVED to be cheerleaders."

Well good, I'm glad to hear it. Then that means the obvious reason there aren't more black cheerleaders is because of discrimination. If indeed there are many black women who would love to be cheerleaders, then shouldn't they bring awareness to this discrimination that is taking place? Spread awareness through the black community and ultimately make it known to formal organizations such as the NAACP and others like it that this discrimination is taking place.

If these organizations do something about it, then it is a victory for black women. If they do not, then it is a very big slap in the face to black women. If you think about it, this might be the slap in the face needed to wake many black women up about who really has their best interest in mind. Either way it is a win win situation for black women.

Kityglitr said...

Okay, I went to a predominately black high school (60% black, 30% white, 10% other) and we had a mainly black varsity cheer squad. It just came down to numbers. But when you look at sports, the guys are actively recruited right out of high school. Professional cheerleaders, OTOH, are often girls who attend cheer camps and do not cheer for H.S. squads (that's not where the money or acclaim in cheerleading as sport comes from). Cheerleading as a sport itself is often very expensive to get into and is almost exclusively extra-curricular (or privatized). There are black cheerleaders for college and professional teams, but not nearly as many as the white girls. This makes sense when you think that the black girls who would be cheering for a major college team decided to go to a predominately black college, which often do not have such highly seeded sports teams (funny, right?).

Ms Phe said...

Hi!

I have a different perspective on this issue. I was a baton twirler in high school, a dancer in college, a dance instructor, a professional cheerleader, and an assistant director for a professional cheerleading team in my adult years.

I don't think the lack of black cheerleaders has anything to do with black females having low self-esteem. Girls that have low self-esteem don't even consider trying to be a cheerleader. I think that for some black females, there is a lack of interest.

Granted I do think money plays an issue with activities such as dance and cheerleading. Yes, it is very expensive. I think some black parents choose to not pay for something that is kind of trivial in high school and middle school, where as a lot of white families will mortgage their homes or go into debt so that their little girls can be popular and live out the dreams the parents have always had for themselves. I have seen it first hand.

So when you look at the money aspect, take a different view and see which family is in debt over cheerleading/dancing and who is not.

I do think some girls face some adversity when they go to an all white school, but my high school and college were majority black and all of the cheerleaders were black and the cost is the same regardless of race or school. I do know that a lot of girls are interested in cheerleading and there are quite a few black girls in the sport. I guess you just need to know where to look.

As far as professional cheerleaders... it all comes down to audience appeal, how pretty you are, and quotas. There are quotas for a lot of teams for the number of blondes, brunettes, redheads, asians, blacks, and hispanics. Who ever gets to be in the majority on the team depends on where and who is the audience. If you notice, professional teams in Atlanta and Jacksonville are majority black where as teams in Southern California are majority white (tons of blondes) and a few brown spots here and there.

I know a lot of dancers and the majority of them are white, but I live in Southern California, where as when I was in Atlanta, the majority of my dancer friends were black. So, there are a lot of black females interested. Sometimes it comes down to talent and of course LOOKS!

Being black on some teams is an advantage because you add a different flavor to a team. To be honest, I got more love from the white managers/coaches/fans, than from a lot of black people. In the end, they want pretty girls who can dance and most black girls that audition for these types of things are pretty, so judges default to talent, big boobs, long hair, nice butt, prettiest smile, exotic flavor, nice body, thin enough, potential weight problems, too plae,... blah, blah, blah... you get the picture.

Just a different view.

Sangraneth said...

Ms Phe said: "ranted I do think money plays an issue with activities such as dance and cheerleading. Yes, it is very expensive. I think some black parents choose to not pay for something that is kind of trivial in high school and middle school, where as a lot of white families will mortgage their homes or go into debt so that their little girls can be popular and live out the dreams the parents have always had for themselves. I have seen it first hand."

That kind of supports my point. White girls generally are far more likely to have parents who can afford to pay for it than black girls. Black parents generally have no problems with allowing their black boys to pursue their dreams, but black girls are not afforded the same consideration because cheerleading is too expensive, and "trivial". As a result, black boys can pursue their dreams with no restrictions, while many if not most black girls will never get to. If cheerleading was not so expensive, this injustice would not exist. And when you think about it, there is far more equipment involved in football than there is in cheerleading, so there really is no reason why football should be free while cheerleading should be so expensive, if not for the sole reason of providing a loop-hole to exclude more non-white girls without the threat of being called out on their racism.

Ms Phe said...

In the end, it seems like you are saying that black people are poor. There are plenty of black cheerleaders out there. Not all have to pay money... and most do fundraisers to participate. So, I don't think there is an "injustice." Not being a cheerleader is not the end of the universe.

Sangraneth said...

Ms Phe said: "In the end, it seems like you are saying that black people are poor."

Well, I'm not saying that black people are poor, but it's no secret that at the lower end of the income spectrum, black people are over-represented. Therefore, when something affects poor people, black people are impacted more so than white people.

Ms. Phe said: "Not being a cheerleader is not the end of the universe."

No, it's not, but when one group is excluded from positions that can improve the overall image of that group, that group suffers socially. And it's exactly that ho-hum "whatever" attitude that many black women have in regards to representation in cheerleading, beauty pageants and other "feminine" entertainment positions that are the reason black women haven't made greater social advances.

Anonymous said...

My motto is that the small solutions are the most effective for the biggest problems, I love that a good small solution was presented.. Now I know that black women need to pursue more career in the entertainment sector..Too bad I'm interested in politics.