The Exponent is continuing our interview series by featuring the 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. This was a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices unanimously ruled that the racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. It was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement, helping to abolish the precedent of “separate but equal.”
Dr. Frank King is an assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. In his courses he focuses on the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and religion. His areas of specialization include Hip Hop pedagogy, the prison-industrial complex, Afrocentric philosophy and African American history. King attended and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in education at Eastern Washington University in 2006. In 2013, he received his Ph.D. in American studies.
Would you like to comment on the current protests in athletics?
Sports and politics have always been connected, which makes the argument for athletes to “shut up and play” ridiculous. I recommend people read the work of Dave Zirin, who is an expert on the intersections of race and sports. Athletes are people and they have points of views too. Fans are upset because their entertainment is disrupted by someone kneeling. People make up reasons like “it’s unpatriotic or not the right time or place”. But the U.S. was built on protest, and protest is a key aspect of our democracy. I guarantee most people have no idea why some athletes protest, they only know that they hate it.
Historically, are there any protests that can be connected to these?
Some early protests were about women and people of color being denied access to sports. Their bodies were tools of protest. Sports have always been a major platform to get a point across. Millions of people see Tommy Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in defiance of racial segregation. It becomes embarrassing to many U.S. citizens who believe nothing is wrong. Muhammad Ali protesting the Vietnam War, even willing to give up his title. Bill Russell and other Black Boston Celtics in 1961 boycotted a game in Kentucky because they were denied service. Officials tried to tackle Katherine Switzer for running in the Boston Marathon.
Do you know of any similar protests that have occurred on college campuses?
I’m not sure of any specific. But college campuses around the world have always been the hub for protest. From sit-ins boycotting administrative policies to protesting wars to critiquing higher tuition costs. You have Take Back the Night rallies against sexual violence and there are marches for racial equality. The energy of the 18 to 21-year-old college student, who has been enlightened with a new worldview, is a powerful force.