LAWRENCE — An author who challenges the notion that sports level the racial playing field in America will discuss his new book, “Ballers of the New School: Race and Sports in America,” on Oct. 24 at the University of Kansas.
In his book, Thabiti Lewis asks readers to consider the role of race in the sweaty as well as the sweat-free zones of sport. He argues that American sport culture performs and propagates rituals, symbols and expressions of fear and difference that sustain racism and notions of racial supremacy. He explains that the continuation of these symbols and notions blocks bridges to racial progress.
Lewis will make two presentations Oct. 24 at KU. First, he will discuss his book in an informal panel with KU professors Ann Cudd and Derrick Darby from noon to 1:15 p.m. at Alderson Auditorium. Cudd is an associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of philosophy. Darby is an associate professor of philosophy who also teaches in KU’s School of Law.
Later, Lewis will give a lecture at 7 p.m. at the Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium. His lecture, “Can Michael Vick Be Forgiven? Race, Gender and Mythologies in American Sports Culture,” will explore topics on contemporary athletes and the public response to them. The lecture will be followed by a book signing and reception in the Lobby of the Kansas Union.
Lewis’ lecture references Michael Vick, who is as well-known for his actions on the field as a professional football player as he is for his actions off the field, namely an illegal dog-fighting ring that resulted in a federal conviction. Vick served a sentence and paid penalties for the crime, but he still faces frequent criticism four years later.
Lewis said he wrote his book for the casual fan, the hardcore fan, athletes and those in the sports business. The text encourages a restructuring of the power of the racial subtexts thrust into sporting arenas, upon the bodies of athletes of color, and into the mind and hearts of spectators via the racial contract. Lewis wants readers to emerge with more truthful narratives, more honest dialogues, better American values, better social relations, and, he hopes, using this new vision of sports culture as a model, real change.
He is currently an associate professor of English at Washington State University, Vancouver. He has published widely in the areas of African-American literature, African-American studies, and sport and race. His areas of teaching are 20th century American literature, African-American literature, race and cultural studies. He has worked as a journalist, talk radio host and editor.
Lewis’ visit to KU is presented by the Project on the History of Black Writing. The event is also sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Equity, Kansas Athletics, the School of Journalism, KU Libraries, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and its Departments of English, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.