“And the Nation Will Profit”: The Labors of Black and Polynesian Athletes at the Crossroads of Postcolonial Exchange

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 8:30 AM
Empire Ballroom West (Sheraton New York)
Amira Rose Davis, Penn State University
In the year following Hawai’i statehood, the University of Hawai’i -Manoa systematically recruited Black American athletes--both male and female--to run track and play football, volleyball and basketball. As they arrived at the island, Polynesian football players- mostly of Samoan and Hawaiian descent, were leaving, heading to play at mainland schools eager to capitalize on their talent and the social safety of their not-quite-blackness.This paper will examine the complexities and crossroads of these athletic exchanges. The Black and Polynesian college athletes who were recruited in the 1960s and 1970s navigated Jim Crow and settler colonialism at the ascension of U.S. global power. While these exchanges gave rise to an athletic based Afro-Asian solidarity this paper argues that it was at once hyper-visible and politically constrained. Indeed, collegiate institutions both in Hawai’i and on the mainland sought to use the athletic and symbolic labor of these racialized athletes to build their institutions, raise their national profile, and fundraise for their respective schools. The Black and Polynesian athletes caught in the crossroads of these “post”-colonial recruitments were convenient, silent symbols of athletic excellence and racial liberalism that schools capitalized on--and exploited--for their own political and economic aims.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>