As Tyga performed at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, I just sat back and laughed. I was sitting amongst friends and mentors as we all observed the crowd. Most audience members were stunned, few were clapping, some were celebratory, about 11 or so were twerking on the tennis court. One person was doing a version of the twist at the top of the StubHub center stadium. At that moment, I felt the pressure to tweet something, anything:
@web: Since I am one of @CrossFit’s 22 black guys, everyone has begun asking my opinion. May hold a BET press conference.
Two months and a blog later, there is the propaganda blog — Stuff Black People Don’t Like: CrossFit. Except, this time, I can’t just laugh this one off. Don’t get me wrong, it was so off-base that I actually laughed throughout the blog. But this time, it set up a great opportunity to have a much needed dialogue.
Clearly, the author of the SBPDL blog does not prefer black people. This fact is communicated by his liberal yet strategic packaging of truths with baseless stereotypes and inferences. Yet and still, I am not upset with the author. Beyond the many fallacies in his blog lies an opportunity to address the blog’s genesis.
Often enough, I joke about being “one of CrossFit’s 22 black guys”. My friend Johnathan Haynes takes a similar tone.There are two approaches in times like these: race card dissension or understanding. I tend to think that it is more productive to take the latter approach.
Yes, CrossFit is an incredibly white community. Yes, African-American CrossFitters are a rare sight. Yes, I do have a hard time envisioning a black male CrossFit Games champion. Yes, the Tyga concert was of the most uncomfortable moments of my CrossFit experience (and that’s saying a lot). I could go on.
But notice, I didn’t mention any disqualifying factors. Why? Those figures don’t matter, that much. There are only a few variables that matter in CrossFit— the willingness to improve: one’s fitness, body, mind, one’s circumstances. I’d bet that most anyone in CrossFit would bend over backwards for a person that wants to make something of themselves.
This means that the following statistical markers are irrelevant: race, ethnicity, body type, economic status, profession, sexuality, politics, religion, health, and so on. Instead, what we tend to see measured beyond fitness: will, heart, resolve, and consistency. When trained, these possessions become powerful tools.
I’d wager that the whitest affiliate on earth would welcome the most unprepared black kid off of the streets if an affiliate owner saw a scrappy, self-motivated attitude in his eyes. Some will say, “CrossFit isn’t in the business of welfare.” Correct,we are in the business of self-improvement. CrossFit is in the business of investing in the capability of others. There is generally a worthwhile return on investment.
When I found CrossFit, I was looking for strength and not just the physical kind. Plain and simple, I was tired. But I knew that if I had strength, I’d find opportunity. A college senior in 2008, I had: a newborn, a wife, bills, loan payments, and no money to pay $200/month for CrossFit. Like every other (non-affluent) CrossFitter that falls into that category, I lived on makeshift equipment and CrossFit.com.
A funny thing happened, the more dedicated that I became to training — the more opportunity I encountered.
Months into CrossFit, I bumped into two gentlemen — an Austin, Texas affiliate owner and an HQ employee. Shortly after, CrossFit became more than a training solution — it become an engine. CrossFit was a catalyst for me and I will always appreciate it for that reason.
True, there are not very many African-Americans in CrossFit. But the reasons aren’t sickle cell anemia, a love of body building, a lacking work ethic, politics, or a disdain for Rich Froning.
There are troves of qualified and esteemed black professionals who’d be die hard affiliate supporters. These are highly qualified, well-to-do doctors, lawyers, teacher, police officers, military leaders, and so on. They can afford it, they’d love it, and they’d contribute to our great community. There are also many young minorities out there who may not yet fit the typical client profile. They are worth the time.
In the end, I believe that CrossFit is a community of creators, inspired workers, and public servants. These descriptions are not limited to one race or ethnicity. The more yet-to-be-CrossFitters see folks like them being represented over CrossFit’s powerful channels, the more comfortable they’ll be with walking through the doors of an affiliate.
More imagery of Chuck, Eric, Elisabeth, Neal, Alex, Haynes, Syn, Deborah, and other African-American leaders can be a powerful tool for bridging an all-too-obvious gap. This means more business for everyone. And more importantly, more great minds and contributors in the CrossFit community. That type of outreach is a worthwhile solution. You may even save a few dollars on booking Tyga.