Stubborn Ignorance


Academic intelligentsia, their media, government and corporate enthusiasts worship at the altar of diversity. Despite budget squeezes, universities have created diversity positions, such as director of diversity and inclusion, manager of diversity recruitment, associate dean for diversity, vice president of diversity and perhaps minister of diversity. This is all part of a quest to get college campuses, corporate offices and government agencies to “look like America.”

For them, part of looking like America means race proportionality. For example, if blacks are 13 percent of the population, they should be 13 percent of college students and professors, corporate managers and government employees. Law professors, courts and social scientists have long held that gross statistical disparities are evidence of a pattern and practice of discrimination. Behind this vision is the stupid notion that but for the fact of discrimination, we’d be distributed proportionately by race across incomes, education, occupations and other outcomes. There’s no evidence from anywhere on earth or any time in human history that shows that but for discrimination, there would be proportional representation and an absence of gross statistical disparities, by race, sex, height or any other human characteristic. Nonetheless, much of our thinking, legislation and public policy is based upon proportionality being the norm. Let’s run a few gross disparities by you, and you decide whether they represent what the courts call a pattern and practice of discrimination and, if so, what corrective action you would propose.

Jews are not even 1 percent of the world’s population and only 3 percent of the U.S. population, but they are 20 percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners and 39 percent of U.S. Nobel laureates. That’s a gross statistical disparity, but are the Nobel committees discriminating against the rest of us? By the way, in the Weimar Republic, Jews were only 1 percent of the German population, but they were 10 percent of the country’s doctors and dentists, 17 percent of its lawyers and a large percentage of its scientific community. Jews won 27 percent of Nobel Prizes won by Germans.

Nearly 80 percent of the players in the National Basketball Association in 2011 were black, and 17 percent were white, but if that disparity is disconcerting, Asians were only 1 percent. Compounding the racial disparity, the highest-paid NBA players are black. That gross disparity works the other way in the National Hockey League, in which less than 3 percent of the players are black. Blacks are 66 percent of NFL and AFL professional football players, but among the 34 percent of other players, there’s not a single Japanese player. Though the percentage of black professional baseball players has fallen to 9 percent, there are gross disparities in achievement. Four out of the five highest career home run hitters were black, and of the eight times more than 100 bases were stolen in a season, all were by blacks.

How does one explain these gross sports disparities? Might it be that the owners of these multibillion-dollar professional basketball, football and baseball teams are pro-black and that those of the NHL and major industries are racists?

There are some other disparities that might bother the diversity people. Asians routinely get the highest scores on the math portion of the SAT, whereas blacks get the lowest. Men are about 50 percent of the population, and so are women, but there’s the gross injustice that men are struck by lightning six times as often as women. The population statistics for South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1 percent of their population is black. On the other hand, in states such as Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, blacks are overrepresented.

Finally, there’s a disparity that might figure heavily in the upcoming presidential election. Twenty-four out of the 43 U.S. presidents have been 5 feet 11 inches or taller, above our population’s average height. That is not an outcome that would be expected if there were not voter discrimination based upon height. Mitt Romney is 6 feet 2 inches tall, and Barack Obama is 6 feet 1 inch.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

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