He was certainly right about who's commanding the sport in the 2012 Olympics (and just about every prior Olympics as well), but then Johnson went on to add that, "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, Michael might not be aware of the can of worms such a discussion would open. There are a couple of reasons why the dominance of athletes with West African ancestry is not often mentioned, at least not above a whisper, in the United States.
If Johnson is correct - and it seems to me as obvious as the noon day sun that he is - that the disproportionate success of black athletes is due to a genetic advantage enjoyed by the descendents of slaves, then the logical implication is that the disproportionate success in other areas of life enjoyed by other groups must also be largely due to their gene pools. The further unfortunate implication is that other disproportions, for example the disproportionate numbers of blacks who commit violent crimes, might also have a genetic basis.
These conclusions are certainly impolitic in contemporary American society, and no one wants to call attention to them on pain of being called a racist. Yet if athletic ability is genetic why not regard intellectual ability or a proclivity to violence as genetic? And if we should talk, as Johnson wants us to do, about the genetic gifts of Olympic sprinters, should we not also discuss genetic liabilities as well?
This gets very dicey. If over-representation is an indication of genetic inheritance then does that mean that under-representation in fields requiring, say, analytical and mathematical abilities, fields in which participants of African descent are sparse, indicate that people of African descent are genetically disadvantaged?
Are Asians and Jews, two groups which are probably over-represented in intellectual disciplines like science, genetically superior to those groups which are under-represented?
You can see the treacherous ground onto which such questions would lead us and why there's reluctance for people to mention out loud that the dominance of American and Caribbean blacks in certain sports must be genetic.
Of course, one reason why no one wants to talk about this is because, it's feared, it'll play into the hands of racists, but I don't know why it should be allowed to do so.
In any family there are diverse gifts and aptitudes. The expectations and hopes we have for one child aren't the same as we have for another. A child born with a hearing disability may not be as strong a musician as her older sibling. A successful athlete may not do as well in the classroom as the less athletic sibling. Children are often born with different intellectual and physical aptitudes and abilities. That doesn't mean that any of these children are more valuable and more loved than the others. If Asians aren't particularly good sprinters but often excel at intellectual challenges they shouldn't be deemed less valuable for that and neither should those who have amazing athletic ability but are not the equal to Asians in the classroom.
In fact, it's the refusal to recognize differences that leads to racial animosities. If blacks are underrepresented in a particular field, the assumption is that it must be white racial prejudice that has excluded them, whether it is or not, and thus the remedy must be quotas, affirmative action, race-norming, and equal representation. These solutions, however, not only create mistrust between groups, but they also breed resentments among those who get to where they are because they have the ability to do it.
It also hampers and frustrates those who lack a physical or intellectual ability because they can't meet society's expectations for them.
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.You may be right Michael, but you're raising an issue that our society is simply not mature enough to handle.