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Racial and Ethnic Inequality in the Movie “Race” Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Oct 22nd, 2020


The theme of the paper is racial and ethnic inequality in sports on the example of the movie Race (2016). Racial inequality is a concept that emphasizes existing discrimination that interferes with the individuals’ ability to have socioeconomic advancement or obtain access to goods and services (US Legal, 2017). The topic is the existing discriminatory approach toward black athletes in the sport that is supported at the state and individual levels. As Harrison (2013) points out, some forms of sports (e.g., skiing) show resistance in accepting black athletes because of social, economic, and cultural factors that make these types of sports more accessible to white citizens and thus associated with Whiteness. Although sport is partially presented as a factor that mitigates racial inequality among individuals by focusing on the support provided to Owens by colleagues, the movie Race (2016) emphasizes the predominant discriminatory approach to black athletes that is shown by official representatives, foreign politicians, and white citizens.

Everyday Support and Discrimination

Social isolation and discrimination are issues that black athletes have to face when working with or in Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) (Cooper, 2012). Some black athletes are perceived as physically superior but less cognitively developed (Cooper, 2012). Although the prevalence of racist stereotypes is decreasing and the support from the white population grows, black athletes continue to face discrimination in educational, sports, and other institutions. In the movie, support for the black athlete is expressed by several individuals, e.g., his coach Larry Snyder, some representatives of the U.S. Olympic Committee (although not all of them), the German athlete Luz Long and the German director Leni Riefenstahl. Although the support provided to Jesse Owens by his non-black colleagues helps him counter discrimination and strive for set goals, it does not prevent him from facing and being affected by racism both on everyday and official levels.

African-American and black students tend to be affected by prejudice and discrimination expressed by individuals who support conservative American culture. Social status and relationships in the group partly correlate with students’ academic and sports performance (Reynolds et al., 2012). If the issues on campus remain unaddressed or unidentified, it can negatively affect athletes’ academic performance, self-perception, and identity (Reynolds et al., 2012). As shown in the movie, Jesse Owens and his friend are discriminated against by white athletes at the University, who make derogatory comments about them and their race (Hopkins, 2016). As seen later in Owens’ with his friend, they cannot respond to the comments as they might be expelled from the university, despite the fact that it is not them who start the fight.

Official Representatives and Race

The inclusion of the official representatives in the issue of race is discussed by Mikoulou et al. (2017), who points out that during World War II and segregation racist views were not only common for the American army but also among civil populations because they were supported by the white offices and the Government. The institutional approach to racism is, in this case, is focused on “white American authorities, because they are aware of Whites’ brutality on their black counterparts, but they do nothing to solve this situation” (Mikoulou et al., 2017, p. 1408).

The Government’s inability or unwillingness to work on the issue of discrimination and racism and ensure that black citizens are seen as equal to white citizens is another factor that further deepens the problem of discrimination in institutions. In the movie Race (2016), it is shown using the example of the U.S. Olympic Committee, namely, it’s representative Avery Brundage who is unwilling to boycott the games because of “rumors”, as he calls them, using the German brochure dedicated to the Jews. Hawkins (2016) demonstrates the viewer that Brundage is unwilling to risk relationships between the national Olympics committees of the two countries despite the radical propaganda in Germany. Thus, the involvement of government officials and other institutions is weak since they are either unable or unwilling to address the problem of the race due to their own interests.

Foreign Politicians and Black Athletes

The international and multicultural work on the issue of racism exists but is not as effective as it could be, despite the fact that active implementation of various acts regarding the rights of ethnic minorities began in the 1960s and the 1970s in such countries as Canada, the UK, and the USA (Clément, 2012). Despite the overall recognition of the issue and calls for action, discrimination against black athletes (and black citizens in general) remains unaddressed (Harrison, 2013). The prevailing culture of whiteness and “white privilege” results in a perception of black athletes as “others” that do not fit into the existing cultural paradigm (Harrison, 2013). In the movie Race, such an approach is shown in two characters, Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler, who both refuse to see Owens as an athlete or even a human being. The movie’s example is an extreme form of discrimination that was prevalent at the beginning and in the middle of the 20th century, but its consequences are seen today as black athletes are still seen as the exception to the rule in some types of sports (e.g., golf, skiing).


As shown in the movie Race, the discrimination against black athletes is an issue that often remains unaddressed both by citizens and state officials or institutions. The current state of affairs is better than that shown in the movie. To avoid further exclusion of black athletes, institutional changes, and policies together with an overall awareness of the issue are necessary to reduce the impact of discrimination.


Clément, D. (2012). Human rights in Canadian domestic and foreign politics: From” niggardly acceptance” to enthusiastic embrace. Human Rights Quarterly, 34(3), 751-778.

Cooper, J. N. (2012). Personal troubles and public issues: A sociological imagination of Black athletes’ experiences at predominantly White institutions in the United States. Sociology Mind, 2(03), 261-271.

Harrison, A. K. (2013). Black skiing, everyday racism, and the racial spatiality of whiteness. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 37(4), 315-339.

Hopkins, S. (2016). Race [Motion picture]. Unites States: Focus Features.

Mikoulou, D. N., Evayoulou, B., & Mboungou, Z. (2016). Black Americans’ segregation and discrimination reconstructed: A study of Alex Haley’s Mama Flora’s Family. Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, 3(1), 1407-1414.

Reynolds, L., Fisher, D., & Cavil, J. K. (2012). Impact of demographic variables on African-American student athletes’ academic performance. The Journal of Educational Foundations, 26(3/4), 93-111.

US Legal. (2017). . Web.

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