Exploring Korean Americans’ Interracial Contact Experiences During Recreational Sport Activities
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Some scholars argue that organized sport is a viable context for different ethnic and racial groups to learn about one another and experience positive intergroup contact. Other scholars insist that hierarchical arrangements and competitive natures may actually exacerbate existing tensions among ethnic and racial groups. Less is known about whether or not recreational sport settings can facilitate positive intergroup contact. These contexts are often free of hierarchical arrangement and competition among participants, which potentially secure the equality of participants and facilitate positive interracial contact. The purpose of this study was to gain richer insights into the phenomenon of interracial contact that Korean Americans experience in recreational sport settings. This study was guided by three research questions: (1) Do Korean Americans perceive the presence of contact hypothesis' optimal conditions in recreational sport settings? (2) What factors influence Korean Americans' perception toward the presence or absence of optimal conditions? (3) Can participating in serious leisure activity with different racial groups contribute to interracial harmony? This study adopted qualitative research methods with a phenomenological approach. Face-to-face, in-depth, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 Korean American males who participated or have been participating in recreational sports with racially mixed teams. The interviews were conducted in August and September, 2008, in two southern cities. Four findings are articulated. First, informants held variable perceptions toward the presence of contact hypothesis' optimal conditions. Second, informants supported the existence of friendship opportunities. This study identified six key factors that play a critical role in formulation of informants' perceptions toward the existence of each optimal condition. They were: (1) skill level, (2) racial stereotypes, (3) physical attributes of recreational sport participants, (4) language proficiency, (5) atmosphere or culture within different recreational sport contexts, and (6) longevity of contact. Finally, informants felt that participating in recreational sports with different racial groups contributes to harmonious interracial relations. The findings showed that it is problematic to a priori assume that recreational sports satisfy the optimal conditions of contact situations. Moreover, findings suggest that satisfaction of optimal conditions in recreational sport contexts may not be necessary for positive interracial contact to occur.
Lee, Kang Jae (2009). Exploring Korean Americans’ Interracial Contact Experiences During Recreational Sport Activities. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from