What would you say if I told you that Jews are better than average with money because during the Holocaust they had to hide their money and valuables from German Nazi soldiers? Or maybe that Asians are so smart due to the historical wide-spread usage of Asian sweatshop-labor practices to mass produce the latest technological advances. What if I told you that descendants of the victims of these horrifying events and practices have their tribulations to thank for successes in their stereotyped professions (the Jewish being stereotyped as selfishly wealthy, and Asians stereotyped as math dominant super geniuses)? What would response be if I said that descendants of the 9/11 survivors who inhaled smoke and debris following the attacks would dominate the 2024 Olympic Swimming events due to increased lung capacity genes passed on to them? Some of you may now know where I am going with this.
Recently, the 4-time Olympic gold medalist, Michael Johnson made some “taboo” comments that have sparked a seemingly long awaited debate. He is the subject of a British documentary entitled “Michael Johnson: Survival of the Fastest,” a film that analyzes the biological reasoning behind African-American and Afro-Caribbean athletic success. He has boldly started the conversation that many have been waiting for, yet too fearful of political-correctism to begin themselves. He is quoted saying the following:
“All my life I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations. Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me — I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”
What has Johnson done here? Well, he has looked in the face of every Black athlete on the planet, both young and old, and said that their hard work and determination was for not. He has told Lebron James that he has his ancestors’ slave master’s whip cracking and torment to thank for that first ring. He just informed Thomas Robinson that it’s not the spirits of his late Mother, Grandmother, and Grandfather fueling his on court determination; but instead it’s the determination of his ancestors to flee oppression through the cotton patch and jump high over the fence while clinching their children in their arms. Johnson has strangely discredited his own hard work to get into peak physical shape needed to accomplish a goal which for some is only a dream. He has consented to the role as the “Black friend” that makes it ok for people to use the infamous n-word and now the stage is set for our athletic accomplishments to be questioned.
While I refuse to use this as a forum to insult my brother, I will say that he has literally set us back about 227 years. I am referring to the year that Thomas Jefferson penned his Notes on the State of Virginia (available for free download from google http://goo.gl/kuXw5). In this historic document, the great founding father whom we partially celebrated on this past July 4th, Jefferson, writes on the nature and status of his budding society. In the chapter entitled “Laws,” Jefferson says:
“I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”
Attitudes such as these were once used to legitimate slavery and the oppressive treatment of Blacks in society. It was once believed that, if created by the same God, Blacks were created as biologically inferior beings, therefore meant for exploitation by the superior race of the Earth. Yes, this was the popular belief at the time. Jefferson’s comments make the implication that there is a biological and inherent explanation for the lesser status of Blacks in society. So then isn’t it arguable that this same logic, though obviously for different purposes, is being employed by Johnson? To use this nonsense to justify his case, he has essentially made it fair game for it to be used to employ beliefs like that of Jefferson.
Whereas Jefferson wished to use scientific reasoning to discredit the abilities of Blacks, Johnson is trying to use it to corroborate them. Unfortunately, though he may not have had negative intentions for his comments, I think he has missed the fact that his sincere ignorance and lack of understanding of genetics has made him the perfect scape goat for certain racism. The topic of discussion is one than can finally discredit the hard-work and determination of the Black man and woman in the US. We must not be hard-working individuals, but a race of Super-Black-Folk with genes adapted from turmoil, like a phoenix reborn from the ashes. It is as if the stage is being set for us to thank whites for the generations of slavery instead of asking for reparations. If it wasn’t for their whip-cracking, religion stealing, kidnapping, raping of our men and women, and dehumanization, we wouldn’t be able to jump so high, run so fast, and dunk that ball so explosively.
Let’s ignore the countless hours, innumerable tears, buckets of sweat, and years of dreaming that it took to get Black athletes where they are today. Let’s give those peers of mine in college more reason to infer that I must play a sport to go to school there due to the A-T’s and C-G’s that combine in my genetic code to form the golden “athletic gene.” As Rob Parker in ESPN’s First Take noted in Thursday’s show, “I didn’t get it, I can’t run fast…” Being that I, along with I believe most other Black people in America, am a descendent of the same slaves as Michael Johnson… Where’s my medal? Shouldn’t I have received this gene? If it was indeed a result of the harsh conditions that all slaves went through, shouldn’t it have been selected for? Did I somehow receive the recessive allele for the gene along with every other non-athlete?
I GOT IT! Here I was thinking my ancestors were From The Field; perhaps they were From The House and I need to change the name of this blog. If we allow “researchers” and “studies” to legitimate their claims using a Black face to mask the inherent racist implications of such statements, what will be next? Will that actually become their explanation of me? Will they next try to argue that I am a descendent of a house slave that was taught to read by his oh so generous slavemaster’s mistress. Am I next supposed to believe that the “smart gene” was passed along to me and this is why I was able to make it out of my situation unlike my brothers and sisters still dead center in the struggle? Or maybe it came from my Chinese great-great-grandfather. I sound like an idiot don’t I? Please tell me I’m not alone in thinking that this sounds like a satirical Chappelle Show skit…
Now let me tell you how slavery HAS made some of us fantastic athletes. Some of us who were unable to successfully dodge the obstacles placed in front of us (unable to go to the good school in our area, pay the private school tuition, or have money loud enough to speak to college admissions offices), have had one option to turn to. Many have had to depend on their athletic prowess to live out their and their family’s dream of going to college or achieving success. These individuals work hard and put their souls into their sport in order to be noticed, all while maintaining grades good enough to qualify for scholarships. If anything, we don’t have a so-called “athletic genes,” we just have the most to gain. Take your average white kid in America and then take your average Black kid in America:
The white kid lives in a nice area, goes to a good school, and has everything he could ever need at his fingertips. His school can afford to give him as well as each of his classmates a copy of the textbook they use in the nearby college, and they offer SAT prep courses on the weekend. Colleges come to his school to recruit and his future is as if it is planned out, as long as he wants it. He has the luxury of comfort; the luxury of choice. Now let’s look as the Black kid. He lives in a not so good area. His school district is poor and his school can’t afford to buy the new books used in the college. They can’t even afford to give him a copy to take home to work on the math problems he’s been having trouble with in school. However! There is a spot on the (insert the blank) team at school and his friend just got recruited by Baylor Track & Field. He knows that recruitment is tuff so he has to work as hard as he can to become the best track star he can in order to get noticed. At this point, it isn’t about something he loves to do as much as it is his means to survive the negatives he was born into.
To bring up Thomas Robinson again, if you haven’t heard his story, this is a guy who during his sophmore year lost his mother, grandmother, and grandfather within a 3 week period and had the responsibility of his 9 year old sister bestowed upon him. The basketball he played at Kansas would soon become not only the sport he loved, but the way he would win custody of his sister and hang on the closest living family member he has left. Robinson would go from averaging 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds his sophomore year to last season averaging 17.7 and 11.8. He is now the latest draft pick of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. But you want to tell me that no, it isn’t the fact that the night after his mother died he stepped on the court with new purpose. Instead it’s the fact that he has an athletic gene… coo coo coo.
I thought I had seen it all when Tea Party groups in Tennessee demanded that textbooks “soften” their discussion of slavery. Here was a group trying to lie to the youth and hide a not-so-proud past at the expense of an entire race’s history. Now the opportunity has come to do something even better… turn slavery into a good thing. So now, let us stop complaining about our crippled educational systems and neglected communities left in the aftermath of slavery, and be thankful for the benefits it has given us *extreme sarcasm*. I close with a comment on a quote from Michael Johnson in The Daily Mail:
“It’s a fact that hasn’t been discussed openly before. It’s a taboo subject in the States but it is what it is. Why shouldn’t we discuss it?’
Well Mr. Johnson my bratha, we shouldn’t discuss it because it is irresponsible, illogical, and plain stupid. It is merely another means to use science for metaphorical penis measuring and now dude, you’ve given them the green-light. This right here… just came you From The Field n ish. Peace easy peeps.
Links to stuff mentioned:
Michael Johnson documentary synopsis: http://goo.gl/yi892
ESPN First Take discussion: http://goo.gl/EOATG
Thomas Robinson Story: http://goo.gl/X3uTy
Tea-Party and Slavery in textbooks: http://goo.gl/kHD5V