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News Article

Systemic racism stops African Americans participating in recreational activities

Author examines underrepresentation in arts & culture

A new book recently released by a professor of sociology at the University of Vermont examines why African Americans are so underrepresented in a range of recreational activities from ballet dancing, to golf to representation in the arts and classical music.

The book is the first to show with statistical rigor how deep and extensive the underrepresentation is in the arts, sports, culture and entertainment sectors and to demonstrate its root cause: systemic racism.

The book examines African American participation in nine activities across the United states: golf, hiking, hunting and fishing, water activities, cold-weather recreation (such as skiing and snowboarding), classical music, painting and sculpture, ballet dancing and theatre.

The author carefully examines to well-known surveys about cultural activities and sports from the National Forest Service and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The author’s statistical analysis shows that in a variety of recreational activities black African American participation was much lower than participation of white Americans.

The book included examples such as golf, at 17% for whites, 6% for Blacks; hiking, at 38% vs. 13%; downhill skiing at 7% vs. 2%; attending classical music concerts at 11% vs. 4%; and visiting art museums at 24% vs. 12%.

Not only are black people unrepresented in arts and culture, they also face many barriers to other leisure and recreational activities. The author wished to highlight that the recreational examples he has picked to examine are not better than African American culture and recreation nor does emphasise that black people should being doing them instead, only that African Americans should have the same opportunity as white people to participate.

"Socioeconomic factors like low income, geographical barriers such as living far from natural areas or cultural centers, or preferences are often cited as the reasons African Americans don't engage in these activities at the rates whites do," said Daniel Krymkowski, a professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont and author of the new book, The Color of Culture (Lexington Books, January 2021).

"Social scientists often talk about economic inequality," Krymkowski said. "This is cultural inequality. Whites can be cultural omnivores in ways African Americans can't. That's important because these activities contribute to health and well-being and, especially in the arts, a sense of being fully human."

The book concludes with a declaration of the right of all people to experience all forms of culture. "Each one of the pursuits examined in this book is its own unique aesthetic experience," he writes. "As human beings, such experiences are an integral part of our existence, and all people should be entirely free to choose the cultural forms with which they would like to engage. Being a full citizen in the Marshallian sense requires nothing less."


Dan Krymkowski, a professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont and author of the new book, The Color of Culture (Lexington Books, January 2021).

Further reading:

Surprising Findings in Three New NEA Reports on the Arts NORC- University of Chicago

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Jesslyn Thay
  • Date
  • 26 January 2021
  • Source
  • University of Vermont
  • Subject(s)
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • General Leisure and Recreation