Monday, October 31, 2005

Heresy Alert! Black Backs Run Better

From Denver Post columist Reggie Rivers:
Air Force Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry merely stated a fact, but his comments about black athletes were nonetheless controversial. Sometimes the truth hurts.

While discussing his team’s 48-10 loss to Texas Christian University last weekend, he said: “It’s very obvious that they had a lot more Afro-American players than we did and they ran a lot faster than we did. It just seems to me to be that way, that Afro-American players can run very, very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me that they run extremely well.”

Anyone who watches Division I or NFL football knows that this is true. The fastest players on the field are almost always black. On the defense, which requires more athletic ability than offense, NFL rosters are almost entirely black. For example, John Lynch is the only white starter on the Denver defense, which means the Broncos have one more white defensive starter than most NFL franchises.
Then the question has to be: why is telling the truth so controversial? Rivers then goes on to explain why he thinks it is.
There are a couple of reasons. First, although it seems clear that DeBerry was not trying to insult the TCU players, making a comment about their natural athletic ability tends to discount their work ethic, discipline, teamwork, intellect and other characteristics.
This, of course, is nonsense. The simple fact is that any athlete playing at a top collegiate level has plenty of “work ethic, discipline, teamwork [and] intellect.” For every successful Division I college player and NFL player there are probably an easy half dozen with the same native ability, but not the other virtues necessary to really make it in a tough league. And this doubtless applies to both the white and the black players.

Given the record of DeBerry’s Air Force teams, there is no reason to doubt their “work ethic, discipline, teamwork [and] intellect.” The sensible view is that TCU had all these virtues, plus more raw athleticism.

Rivers goes on to claim:
Second, even though everyone in football knows that DeBerry is right about black players being generally faster that white players, talking about it in public rips the scab off of old racial wounds. Black people know that from slave days until now, they have been valued primarily for their athleticism.
This is pure tripe. Rivers’ argument seems to be that we need some sort of wacky intellectual affirmative action program such that, to make up for past sins, we pretend that blacks aren’t any great shakes athletically.

Why this unwillingness to frankly discuss race? The reason is simple enough. If people actually entertain the idea that blacks may be superior in terms of athletic ability, people might also entertain the notion that black people are inferior intellectually.

Somehow, if we shut up discussion of racial differences in physical endowment, that is supposed to prevent people from thinking there may be racial differences in intellectual endowment.

But of course it doesn’t.

Bill Bennett, for example was attacked (after his critics had to face the full context of his comments) for “associating race and crime.”

Of course he did that. He clearly implied that blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites. And guess what? That’s absolutely true.

So who “associates race and crime?” Everybody. Literally every person in the country old enough to think about the issue. It’s often possible to shut up discussion, but it’s not possible to stop people from thinking about it.

Indeed, suppressing discussion of racial differences probably encourages racism. The notion of black racial inferiority becomes society’s dirty little secret, something that’s terribly dangerous and can’t be talked about. So it must be true. After all, if it were not true, people would not be so scared of it.

An intellectually honest approach would say, “yes, there are some racial differences, but there is no persuasive evidence that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites.”

An intellectually honest approach would say “yes, blacks are much more likely to commit crimes than whites, but if there is some sort of black ‘crime gene’ it can only account for the (minuscule) rate of crime among blacks in small towns in the 1950s and not for the level of crime among blacks in the central cities of Detroit and Newark in the 1970s.” Where crime rates vary radically among populations with the same genetic endowment, it must be environment, not genetics, that accounts for that difference.

Paul Campos observed, in the context of DeBerry’s statement:
Michael Kinsley once defined a “gaffe” as the act of a politician accidentally telling the truth. This definition applies to almost everyone when the subject is race in America.
Indeed. And until people refuse to apologize for telling the truth, honesty isn’t going to be the norm.


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