We often see Black History Month as a time where we celebrate the people who have overcome odds to gain equality for Black people (i.e. activists like Claudette Colvin), firsts (i.e. Obama) or high achievers (artists, business people).
Perhaps sometimes its prudent to think about and celebrate those barriers which have not just been broken by Black people, but that have been set by Black people. To flip history on its head and acknowledge that when something that was extraordinary and awe-inspiring, ceases to be dominated or controlled by Black people, the fact that it was, is something important in itself. Take the ancient Empire of Mali for example.
The 10 second barrier was first broken in 1968 by Jim Hines, and has since been broken by 92 different athletes, some of which have done it multiple times. Out of all of these athletes, only one has been a White man.
Christophe Lemaitre (9th July 2010 – 9.98 secs)
Of course, it was my goal to break it (the 10-second barrier). One has to run under 10 seconds in order to be part of the world’s best. I will be recognised as the first white man to do so, but today’s achievement is mainly about making history for myself!…It is not about the color (of one’s skin), it is about hard work.
Here’s the video.
Lemaitre proved to the rest of the world who may have given up hope since 1968, that it was possible. You’d have to go back to 2007 to find another White man in a World Championship 100m final let alone win it, or 1980 in an Olympic final, when British athlete Allen Wells won it. It must be noted that those Olympics were boycotted by nations like the US and Canada. As for running sub 10 seconds, 4 years later and Lemaitre remains the only White man to do it.
I was waiting for Lemaitre to tear off some Eddie Murphy esque make-up, and for a brother to be looking into the camera like:
Plus, Lemaitres achievement, meant that theories about Black athletes being genetically superior could be somewhat dampened. While the idea of slave breeding being the cause behind so many dominant Black athletes may never truly go away, now other arguments can hold more weight. Socio-economics (its cheaper to run than to play golf) play a major role too.
At the end of the day, all Black history is, is the role that Black people have played in world history. Lemaitres achievement highlights the achievements of all of the other 91 Black athletes. It’s not really about Lemaitre; it’s about those brothers who showed the world how to run a sub 10 seconds for 42 years, and those who will continue to do so.