World-class athletes have many things in common: dedication, an extreme desire to win, unbreakable work ethic, and talent. But according to track and field legend Michael Johnson, many of the world’s top athletes also have another competitive edge: being descendants of slaves.
Recently, Johnson told Sally Beck of the Daily Mail that some of the kudos for his gold medal-winning ways deserves to go to his ancestors.
“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,” Johnson explained. “Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me. I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”
Although Johnson’s comments are controversial, they aren’t new. Many have attempted to find a correlation between slavery, when only the strongest Africans survived due to the harsh conditions, to the seemingly superior athletic ability of their descendants. So far, no such link has been made and many see these types of comments as playing to racial stereotypes. But that hasn’t stopped Johnson, an Olympic analyst for the BBC, from sharing his views.
“Over the last few years, athletes of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American descent have dominated athletics finals. 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?”