Books: Taboo – Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports…

…and Why We’re Afraid To Talk About It
By Jon Entine

When it was decided that we would proceed with this project this book was recommended as a must read. (Thanks Carl) It is a fascinating read of that there is no doubt; however I must admit when it started delving into the scientific side of genetics I became a little bogged down. Science was never my strong suit, and I gave up Biology when I was 13!

Saying that, I did understand the basis of what was being discussed even if I did not grasp the scientific depth of it.

Jon Entine was brave to take on such a book, as he too could have been accused of being racist simply by writing it. However as one reads it, one soon realizes that it is the scientists who have contributed a great deal to the racial arguments. It is these scientists who want to fathom out what it is and why athletes from certain countries can do things that races from other continents can’t. As one scientist asks why have they never done studies into why white people dominate certain sports? This book does touch on this very issue.

I learned a great deal from this book. For a start did anyone reading this now that the only genetic pool of man that we know was completely destroyed were the original inhabitants of Tasmania?

The book discusses African Americans, as well as African athletes and tries to understand why those of West African descent are better sprinters and explosive athletes and why those from East Africa, and in particular the Rift Valley are great long distance runners.

It looks at why certain races are better at certain sports than others. It also informs the reader of some pretty bizarre “Scientific theories.” Such as if you had brains you had a smaller penis than if you were a great athlete and not quite so academic! Then there was Dutch anatomist Petrus Camper’s “Facial indexing,” where he believed the flatter the face the more advanced the being. Incredibly be believed that Europeans had the flattest faces, (funny that isn’t it?) and the woodcock having the most protruding, being the bottom of the food chain.

It also looks at how Black athletes were very much second class citizens to start with, and the ‘Black Power’ movement at the ’68 Olympic games; although the telling of the story and Australian Peter Norman’s involvement is very different to the excellent book and film on this issue “Salute.”

One of the stats in the book that was astounding was when he looks at the ability to leap vertically, from a standing jump, the Sargent test. The Utah Jazz’ s Darrell Griffith (aka Mr Dunkstein) jumped 48 inches which is 63% of his 6ft 4in height. While Atlanta Hawk guard Spud Webb, once jumped 42 inches. The difference being Spud was only 5ft 7ins, so this was 66% of his height. Now that is seriously impressive.

It also looks at how the success of Black Athletes was one of the driving forces behind the Eastern Bloc’s use of steroids.

Amazingly through all of the enhanced performances the feats of black athletes remained consistent, especially in women’s sprinting.

I will not spoil the conclusion of the book as it would be like telling you ET does get home. This book though will stand the test of time and is a great chronicle of the rise of the black athlete and the hurdles placed in their way, and the racism they have had to suffer, and for what?

A great athlete is a great athlete, and to be honest if you love sport do you really care where they come from, or the colour of their skin? Don’t you just stand and applaud their performance and admire their ability?

A very bold book to write and an extremely interesting read.

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