White people can’t jump!

One of the most prominent stereotypes in Track and Field labels Caucasians as not being up to par with the Black athletes.  Not just in running events, but also in jumping events as well.  Colored men and women do indeed dominate the sport.  This can be seen through examples like Usain Bolt in the 100m, Flo Jo in the 100m, and Javier Sotomayor in the High Jump.  These Colored athletes all happen to be world record holders.  Not just at the Olympic or Professional level, this stereotype also affects youth Track and Field.  Caucasians are seen as not being able to perform as well as their Black teammates, which adds to the stereotype that athletes of color dominate Track and Field.

Of course, there are standout performances by White athletes as well.  Sally Pearson in the women’s 100m hurdles, and Jesse Williams of the men’s high jump are champions in their event, and have consistently performed better than their Colored competitors.  Like these athletes, I too have won against athletes of all ethnicities.  There are definitely many colored high jumpers better than me, but in my own competitive experience there have been times where I have out-jumped them.  I like to believe this proves the stereotype that only the Black athletes can run or jump.  I only make a minimal impact as I am not a world-class athlete, but there are thousands of standout Caucasian athletes making a greater impact against this stereotype.  Throughout writing this response, I feel as if I am being oppressive towards my Colored athletes.  I just wanted to note I am in no way trying to be racist, but trying to explain my position being a Caucasian makes me worry I am being offensive!

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One Response to White people can’t jump!

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    I appreciate your concern about not being offensive. Talking about race is hard in our culture. We don’t have a very good vocabulary for it, nor much good training. One thing I would suggest for the future is to refrain from using the word “colored,” as in “colored people” or “colored athletes.” Instead, put the people first, and say “people of color” or “athletes of color.” This relates to the importance of seeing the person first, and histories behind the use of the word colored in segregation times. Learning such things is all part of the process, and as long as we are generous with each other and open to listening, we can work through these sticky issues.
    Your concern with race in track and field is echoed by many, and it is important to remember that race is a social, not a biological category. This forces us to wonder why race is such a focus of discussion in such sports. This could be a great question to consider moving forward. I would also suggest thinking of race as intersectional with gender, class, sexuality, ability, etc. In other words, when we talk about one of these things, we are often implicitly talking about these other categories as well.

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