Posted by: constantinakatsari | December 7, 2012

From slavery to sporting heroes

Does your genetics account for your sporting ability?
Since the 2012 Olympics has just passed and it proved to be such a success and momentous occasion for Britain, during the Olympics many controversial issues were being discussed and I have chosen to discuss the comment made by Michael Johnston on this idea that genetic make-up accounted for the success of many Afro Caribbean athletes. Aside from that, I also intend to look into the rise of status of many African Americans and Afro Caribbean’s from indentured slave labourers to prominent positions within society.
It has been over a hundred years since the emancipation of slavery in the United States of America and since this momentous occasion this has seen a long walk to freedom for many ethnic minorities, particularly those of the African American race. The antebellum south saw the welcoming of many slaves from African continent who were made to work on the plantations and suffer the brutality of their masters as result of the racial inferiority, genetic deficiencies, primal instinct that was instilled into American society it managed to convince society that it was acceptable to treat African Americans as property. Throughout, the century, there have been several movements in attempts to try and win political rights for black people and as result of this, it resulted in more prominent figures arising within history. From Thurgood Marshall to Barack Obama to Muhammad Ali to Oprah Winfrey the maltreatment of our ancestors has given rise to such figures today and even the best sporting elite.
In recent discoveries, Michael Johnson, the athlete who won gold in the 200m and 400m 1996 Olympics has explored the possibility that selection process of the slaves has suggested that athletes descend from slaves. In this documentary, he explored how the “brutality of slavery determined the genetic make-up of elite black athletes.” Furthermore, throughout his research and travels Johnson found though speaking to scientist that “during the Atlantic crossings, which had a mortality rate of between 50 and 96 per cent, those with higher testosterone, thicker skin and better muscles were more likely to endure six months of beatings, low oxygen levels and lying in bodily fluids.” It was found that due to the genetic changes over this period and the sustaining of such harsh treatment that slaves endured meant that many African American and Afro Caribbean have dominated the athletic scene. As Johnson stated “I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”
However, in retaliation to this comment, commentators have stated that that it not because of the genetic structure but ones determination. In additions, critics go onto say why are some black people fast runners and some not? The only answer is through “hard work and determination, this is the only way.”
Throughout the course of history, African Americans and Afro Caribbean people have succeeded further in life than most would have thought a century ago. From sitting at the back of the bus and working in plantations to becoming head of state and the fastest man on earth, black people have managed to progress onwards, something which was a far distant dream in the 1800s. Furthermore, in relation to Johnson’s idea of that the brutality of slavery is the reasons for the fastest people in the world. Although, research show that at the 2008 Olympics, every man in the 100 m final was a descendant of the slave trade, this does not equate for everyone, therefore, it is very hard to determine whether this statement was right or wrong.

Rhondda Ramdin


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