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Writing for KultureKritic.com, Dr. Boyce Watkins discusses the recent theory of Olympic Champion Michael Johnson about how African Americans may have stronger athletic ability due to the presence of a slave gene that came from hundreds of years of hard work and having the strongest slaves bred with one another. Dr. Watkins acknowledges the possibility that hundreds of years of genetic planning among African Americans may indeed play a part in the strength and speed of the modern day black athlete. Dr. Watkins does not, however, accept the notion that blacks should be glad that they were slaves or that somehow they collectively benefit from slavery.
Watkins says that slavery should be discussed, and that the effects of slavery are all around us. He also says that the things that don’t kill you only make you stronger, and that African Americans have prospered in spite of their collective challenges.
This week, former Olympic superstar Michael Johnson brought up “the S word” when referencing African American athletes. Johnson argued that slavery is one of the reasons that black athletes from the US and the Carribean are able to dominate at certain sports. Of course Johnson’s remarks raised eyebrows and got international attention, since his comments can be interpreted in a number of ways.
Possible evidence in support of Johnson’s assertion is not hard to find. The finals of the men’s 100 meter dash in the Olympics is almost always 100% black. Track and field purists know that, even though it takes a great deal of hard work to run that fast, a sprinter can’t make the Olympic finals of the 100 meters if he doesn’t the speed genes necessary to do so.