Mount Olympus

The myth of meritocracy

The YouTube recommendation engines have discovered that I like watching track and field. I get some sort of a thrill knowing that the winners of the 100 m races are always the ones with most beautiful natural running strides. Carl Lewis was our champion growing up. I was 8 when he won four gold metals in the '84 Olympics. I remember winning four blue ribbons in our elementary school track and field competition. But what always stood out to me was Carl Lewis' high kneed running stride which struck me as a naturally gifted runner, not overly focused on the training techniques of the coaches with their analytics. Florence Griffith Joyner, the world record holder to this day, also had a beautiful running style. Now, watching the men's and women's 100m, where essentially all of the competitors are of African decent, and somehow the Black Americans and Jamaicans who consistently beat the Nigerians and Ivoirians, seem to always emerge on top, I begin to wonder exactly how natural this whole thing is. Are Africans from the Western Hemisphere superior athletes? Is there some sort of Genetic predisposition to speed and athletic excellence? Today, we have answered this question with a resounding yes. It is the natural superiority of the black race, say the blacks; the fast twitch musculature based on DNA, say the whites. The superior training resources, say the Africans. But it dawned on me, does track and field competition saying anything at all? How much is sprinting the 100 m like real life? Is lining up at a starting line, each respectful of the rules, careful not to false start and to stay in their lanes, all focused on a common definition of success, is this similar to real life? Of course not. A more accurate, if absurdist image of real life would be for the starting blocks to be staggered. For some, the starting block would be 100 meters in the opposite direction, others would have their starting blocks at 25 meters toward the finish, and finally, some would essentially start at the finish line. Olympic competition is built upon an ideal of fairness, but, true to the name, it is a Myth. Fair competition is a myth just as much as mount Olympus. In real life, people don't start from the same starting line. People don't stay in their lanes, and they do throw elbows. So it is appropriate, in this Western Hemisphere, where in real life Blacks compete from starting blocks which are 2 km back from the starting line, where the starting gun is aimed at them and sometimes hits, where cheating and unfair advantage is rampant and impartial refereeing is the absent, that they have found a place where they can excel, where they can indeed compete with the best in the world, and where they can achieve glory, respect and global recognition. They take the olympic stage, and other games of fairly arbiter competition as their opportunity. Its a place where they can show their true excellence. Unfortunately, and why decades now of continued athletic success has not translated into real life success for the majority of Blacks in this hemisphere, it is based on a Greek myth of Olympic proportions.