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How Title IX has unintentionally neglected racial equality

By Carley Crain

June 23, 1972 is often the date associated with Title IX. But the law’s roots originate earlier that year – Feb. 28, when senator Birch Bayh introduced Title IX to the Senate. The historic law is only 37 words: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” It does not mention race.

Because of this, the focus of Title IX has solely been on sex. February has been officially recognized as Black History Month since 1976, but the law introduced 51 years ago this month has unintentionally neglected racial equality.

Title IX from the start had good intentions, as the law aimed to increase women’s participation in sports and higher education. And from the day it passed to now, Title IX has drastically increased the landscape for women in America. In the first decade of Title IX, there was immediate growth in female sports, including a 178% increase in girls participating in high school sports during the first year Title IX was passed, according to 

However, despite that initial rapid improvement, women’s sports representation and support are still much less compared to men’s. An unintended consequence of Title IX that directly reflects this is the fact that the percentage of women coaches at the college level has dropped from 90% in 1972 to 43% today, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport. For the women who are coaches, a large majority of them are white. 

Not only is there a lack of diversity in coaching, but for NCAA athletes as a whole too. In fact, according to the New York Times, only 12% of NCAA female athletes are Black.

Even before they enter high school or college – athletes of color are at a disadvantage compared to their white counterparts, especially females. “Country club sports,” like tennis or golf, have been historically inaccessible to Black, Indigenous, People of color (BIPOC) because of racial clustering and limited resources, according to The New York Times

Jaélen Daubon is a junior on the women’s basketball team at Springfield College, and one of the few women of color on her team. Title IX has given her the opportunity to play hoops at a higher level, unlike her grandmother, who didn’t have the same opportunity. 

“I’m one of few girls in my generation of my family to pursue higher-level sports,” Daubon said. “Throughout my years of playing basketball I was able to have an experience within athletics my grandmother was never able to. Without Title IX, I would not be able to play basketball at the level I am now.”

Adaeze Alaeze-Dinma, Springfield College’s Assistant Athletic Director for Recruiting, Retention, and Student-Athlete Leadership Development, wouldn’t have been able to play collegiate basketball at the level she did without Title IX. The law provided her college team with the same rights and playing conditions as the men’s team. 

“We had a donor who wanted to give some money to the men’s basketball program but because of Title IX the money had to be split to create a basketball facility for both the men and women,” Alaeze-Dinma said. “It definitely played a really big part in my collegiate career and ensured that the women got just as much as the men.”

Title IX has opened the door in terms of opportunity, but racial equality remains the law’s biggest uphill battle. 

Photo: Springfield College Athletics 

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