Back in high school, I ran track. I specialized in sprinting (100m, 200m) and the polevault. I know what you’re thinking. I’m short, white, and don’t look particularly fast. Well, those things are all pretty much true – but I wasn’t a terrble sprinter. In today’s America, we are predestined to beleive that African Americans are better sprinters. They’re faster. And history (as far back as they were allowed to compete), doesn’t really tell us any differently. Is this fact? Or Is this racist? First, I’ll tell my story.Senior year of high school, I was the best sprinter on my team. I went to a small school in the suburbs, Westchester, NY, right outside New York City. This meant that we would face schools from all around the Tr – State Area, especially in bigger meets. Being a sprinter, I understood that I wasn’t the most physically intiminating, but technique and experience many times could help to combat this shortcoming. I tried to perfect my technique, and I had sprinted since I was in 7th grade. Going to meets, I really wasn’t aware of race. Especially from my perspective, African Americans were sometimes bigger than me, but so were many white kids. I was just short. The weight room helped, though. I was able to perform pretty well for high school standards, sprinting my way into the county championships as a junior and senior.
The spring of my senior year I was racing in the Armory, a New York City venue that was used by amateurs as well as professionals. In this particular meet, I was racing against kids from all over New York and New Jersey. I had made the finals of the 100 meter dash, and I was the only white kid to do so. Running in the 3rd lane, I was surrounded by African Americans. They taunted me, asking me how I expected to compete with them. They were incessant, and hounded me about being white right up until we got up to the line. Of course, there were more than a thousand people in the venue; my opponents weren’t violent, but they were still menacing. I finished third out of the eight racers. A few seconds after crossing the finish line, I made sure to stare down those who had finished after me.
I had never experienced racism before, and never expected to. I always heard about the racism that went on toward African Americans in our society, and didn’t think I would ever be a victim. In addition, in all my years of high school track and racing against African Americans, Latinos, etc., I had never run into a conflict like this. I shrugged this instance off afterward because I knew tensions were high in a final heat of any race. But I wondered about my identity. I identified as being a sprinter. I never made the distinction of being a white sprinter vs. a black sprinter. Does society see me as a white sprinter, especially if I was up against African Americans?
This is an interesting concept that I think helps to answer the question of whether or not racism still exists in America. My response to that: Of course it does. There’s absolutely racism in America, and it exists almost everywhere in the country. However, I don’t think racism was a large factor in my story because of the historical results of sprinting. In the Olympics, the last 25 mens world record holders have been black in the 100 meter dash. According to history, my opponents were right. How could I compete with them? I told my story to explain that some conflicts between different races doesn’t involve (too much) racism. However, I do think there’s racism in America because I hear it on a near daily basis. White kids saying the “N’ word, and remarks made about black athletes are grossly racist. This country was founded when those founders owned African American slaves. America is still racist, and I’m not sure too much will change in the future.