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UAA Conversations About Race and Racism: Abayomi Awoyomi

UAA Conversations About Race and Racism: Abayomi Awoyomi

Abayomi Awoyomi is a sophomore jumper in the Washington University’s track and field program. The chemistry major competed in the indoor season as a freshman before the outdoor season was canceled due to COVID-19.

The UAA “Conversations About Race and Racism” series seeks to lift the voices of people of color and recognize the challenges faced in both athletics and academics at the collegiate level. By sharing personal stories, we hope to elevate the conversation about race to raise awareness and bring about change.

Academic and Athletic Stereotypes

“I have always been an overachiever. My parents pushed me to excel academically. I was at the top of my class and always got great grades from kindergarten to eighth grade at a public charter, even skipping the sixth grade,” Awoyomi recalled. “Then I got to private high school, which was very white, and you could count the number of Black people on one hand. A lot of people assumed I didn’t have the grades and I was twice falsely accused of plagiarism. I look back now and laugh. In that moment, I wasn’t giving any thought to race. I never thought people would question my ability and integrity.”

He didn’t let those questions detract him. “It only made me push harder. I didn’t want to stop,” remarked Awoyomi, who competed in soccer and track in high school. “The coaches were cool, but there was an older athletic trainer who said, ‘Everyone thinks they will be great, especially the Black kids.’ This is someone I would have to go to if I was injured so I just went to my own doctor to avoid interacting with her. A lot of my teammates would say racist things without warning. I was very close to quitting, but I wanted to persevere. It resonates with me when people say they won’t back down.”

Being a chemistry major in college, he has suffered direct and indirect microaggressions. “Sometimes it’s a subtle question like, ‘What’s your major again?’ but other times it is more overt like ‘What are you doing here?’ Often, our intellect as Black people doesn’t get recognized,” Awoyomi commented. “That is just how people have been taught to think about non-whites. I have had a couple professors say they weren’t expecting me to take such a liking to their class. It is not acceptable, but something I have to bear.”

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UAA Conversations About Race and Racism: Abayomi Awoyomi