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The Myths and Stereotypes of Blacks in Sports

The issue of race and sport is a very significant point for those interested in explaining social relationships. There seems to be no compelling reason to argue that all manifestations of sport are closely connected with race and ethnicity. It is considered that ethnicity and race influence the range and speed the athletes run, the height they jump, and the positions they hold in team sports. Although people usually do not notice it, racism in sports occurs everywhere. The paper explores the stereotypes that produce various racial myths. Moreover, the analysis of the most remarkable racism incidents are provided and explained. This paper claims that racism myths, usually vague and based on arbitrary sources, could be both to the advantage and disadvantage of sports, especially professional, while they influence sportsmen’s performance.

Black athletes fall under the influence of race myths eminently. The available evidence suggests that more than a half of world record holders in the men’s 100-meter sprints are the black athletes (Rowan, 2010). The latter hold the world records in the men’s 100-meter sprints since 1968 (Rowan, 2010).

According to the investigations, the principal factor that matters black athletes’ success is the difference in body types between whites and blacks. Despite the fact that there are some white athletes among the best runners, the majority of the most successful sprinters are considered Western Africans. When the International Association of Athletics Federations began to track the record holders, black athletes held 28 out of 38 titles (Rowan, 2010).

The scientists pay extra attention to the body makeup. Adrian Bejan, an engineering professor at Duke University, claims that black people are considered to “have longer limbs with smaller circumferences, meaning that their centers of gravity are higher compared to whites of the same height” (Rowan, 2010). Since whites and Asians have longer torsos, their center of gravity is lower. These differences affect the speed of the feet moving as they hit the ground.

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The data received from a thorough analysis of the sources argue that among whites and blacks of the same height, the torsos of whites are longer while blacks have longer legs. This physical difference gives blacks significant advantage as the runners with longer legs and shorter torsos win the sprint. This phenomenon can be easily explained as the body’s torso increases the weight that the legs bear. On the other hand, longer torso gives whites superiority in swimming since it allows to enhance the speed.

As Jon Entine (2000) in his Taboo: Why black athletes dominate sports and why we are afraid to talk about it mentions, it is not just “being black that matters.” The origin of the ancestors in Africa plays a very significant role and makes a huge difference. Black people from the tropical areas of Africa have dense skeletons and low body fat level that give them a very obvious advantage in sprinting, football and basketball. East Africans surpass others in long distance running due to the lack of fully developed lower calf muscle.

Excluding the issue of racism as a stereotypical factor there exists the issue of racism as a discriminative one. Such type of racism as opposed to the former can be extremely dangerous and harmful. The only black manager in the Premier League, the Queens Park Rangers’ boss, Chris Ramsey, claims that racism as a social problem still exists on the streets of the United Kingdom. Moreover, he anticipates that the discrimination and racism will increase and spread even more as it becomes extremely difficult to eradicate them.

It is universally acknowledged that whites have better job opportunities than people of other races. Black people are to perform better and work harder if they want to achieve success in their lives. Unfortunately, the world divides people into those who are worth better life and those who do not depend on people’s race and ethnicity. While sport is one of the aspects of life black people can achieve success at, they seize each chance to work hard enough to obtain the first place (Smith, 1995).

Furthermore, more distinctive feature between black and white people is the mentality. While blacks are great at sports, whites are considered to be the hustlers and are regarded as the ones with brains (Smith, 1995). However, these considerations are controversial as both white and blacks are people who inherently have the brain. The point that makes them different is the way of thinking and the way of programming actions.

While the blacks dominate all speed sports, white people dominate those kinds that suppose expensive inventory, such as hockey, sailing, golf, etc. There exists a myth claiming that as “white men can’t jump, black men can’t swim”. Nevertheless, the race differences can change under the influence of culture and environment. Jon Entine (2000) claims that cultural conditions can intensify fractional performance differences related to heredity. On the other hand, physiological differences will be useless if they are not trained and developed properly.

The question concerning the physical superiority of black people is a controversial topic for discussion (Smith, 1995). It is a fact that blacks and whites have dissimilar body makeup. However, scientists claim that it is not the body that makes black people take first places in athletics but their wish to win. Consequently, the question concerning the difference between whites’ and blacks’ strive to win arises. If the reason black people win is their extreme wish, the question about the reason white people do not take first places in athletics emerges. It can be explained by a stereotypical concept that blacks are mentally inferior. In order to compensate their stereotypical mental inferiority, they do their best to achieve physical superiority (Smith, 1995).

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In order to reveal difference of the mentality in blacks and whites, an experiment in which both black and white people took part was conducted (“Race & Sex What We Think But Don’t Say”). During the experiment, the subjects were asked questions and expected to answer them correctly. The results were astonishing. When black people were informed that the survey was conducted to estimate their physical aspect, the results were better than when they were expected their mental abilities to be estimated. Concerning the whites, the results were better for the estimation of mental abilities. The point that struck the most was that the questions were the same for both aspects. Thus, the research demonstrates that stereotypes have programmed people’s minds to the extent that they start to act according to the prejudice applied to them.

Despite the fact that racism accompanies people throughout the life and becomes so normal that people do not usually notice it, the issue of racism in professional sports can be easily eliminated thus influencing the overall fight against it. The reason racism can be easily eliminated in professional sports is that sport is in the spotlight as everyone watches it, and nothing can go unnoticed. When incidents of discrimination or racism against the players occur, the news spread very fast, and the whole country notices it. Lately, a European soccer has undergone a very controversial and unacceptable incident concerning the race discrimination. Luis Suarez of Liverpool racially abused Patrice Evra of Manchester United during the match between these teams in October, 2011 (Carrington, 2012). Consequently, Suarez received a fine and was suspended from playing eight games.

The most horrible fact concerning sports stereotypes and racism is that it influences children that absorb everything they hear or see and apply to their own behavior or way of acting in particular situations. Moreover, children have role samples who are professional athletes. Furthermore, if a child observes racist or discrimination actions against other races, he/she will consider these actions as something acceptable in everyday life. When the racism or discrimination concepts become ingrained in people’s brains, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. However, if people try to eliminate these concepts from generation, there are very promising chances that the prejudices and stereotypes concerning race will be reduced to a minimum.

One of the most effective solutions is to give a good example to the kids, as they are the future of the world. If children are brought up with high moral principles ingrained in their mind, the issues such as racial discrimination will never occur. However, parents cannot influence every aspect of their child’s life. Nowadays, media being one of the most influential aspects can change the moral principles of the properly brought-up child. Accordingly, media should carefully choose the information and the ways to present it.

Finally, in order to eradicate racism in sports, people should root it out in everyday life. They should remember that regardless of the color of skin, nationality or gender, they are all humans. All of them have a pair of eyes, legs and arms, and everything else does not matter. The point that makes a person different is whether he/she has a soul or not. As soon as people realize that appearance is only a shell created to carry something beautiful, problems will disappear.

The data in this paper provide convincing evidence that racism grasps all aspects of people’s lives, especially sports. While African Americans are highly represented in such sports as football, athletics, basketball, and baseball, there are very few representatives of this nationality in such sports as swimming, tennis, golf, and sailing. Many reasons explain this phenomenon; for example, biological and intellectual differences. Thus, sport has become more important to African American children rather than to whites, as it is sometimes the only way for them to express their personalities. Sports can be compared to life: when one considers it the entertainment, another one treats it as if every step is a matter of life or death.

The issue is that if people expect African Americans to be physically superior but intellectually limited, individuals acquire the expected behavioral model. Although the biological hypothesis is not scientifically proved, it is a self-fulfilling divination. As soon as people refuse to accept the beliefs and stereotypes established by the collective unconsciousness, the pattern will be broken.

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Concerning the beliefs of blacks that all the stereotypes and myths about their abilities and skills are not a myth, it is important to consider whether it is to advantage or disadvantage of the sports. From all the evidence above, it is obvious that black athletes perform better because they believe in what others think about them. In order to justify others’ beliefs and expectations, they have no other choice but to do their best in sports.

However, black sportsmen are not strong at sports that need expensive equipment, such as golf, sailing or tennis. Such a poor performance could also be the consequence of stereotypes and myths. If blacks stick to the stereotypes, their performance depends on whether the stereotype or myth anticipates poor or good performance.

In conclusion, a closer look at the data indicates that the only possible way to get rid of race stereotypes in sports is to establish and practice severe punishment and fines. Moreover, this idea should be accepted by all kinds of sport; otherwise, there will be no result. Regardless of whether it is athletics, box, football or tennis, if sportsmen discriminate others because of their race, they should be fined, suspended or even fired.

Having analyzed different aspects of sports racism, it can be claimed that racism stereotypes are mostly myths as they are subjective, being based on person’s personal preferences and opinions. Moreover, such stereotypes can be very harmful to the society since they teach intolerance and immoral things. Thus, depending on whether the sports stereotypes forecast poor- or high-performance quality, it can be either to advantage or disadvantage of sports.