How Much Can Racism Explain?

The affirmative action vision asserts that if people are not proportionately represented, roughly equivalent to their numbers in the population, there must be discrimination that should be eliminated by goals, timetables and preferential treatment - in a word: quotas.

I've watched professional basketball for years and have yet to see either a Japanese or Chinese-American player. Anti-Asian racism doesn't stop with the NBA. Top college teams don't have Asian players either. They barely have white players. Blacks are a minority in the population but they are a majority in basketball and it's just the opposite for whites. It's not just basketball teams who discriminate against Asians; it's football too. When's the last time you saw a Japanese defensive lineman or a Chinese running back? If basketball, football, and not to mention heavy weight boxing, are to look more like America the U.S. Justice Department has to get busy.

You say, "Williams, you must be a lunatic! There are good reasons why Asian-Americans are underrepresented in basketball, football and boxing. They just don't have what it takes." You're right. Non-discriminatory reasons can explain racial differences across many activities.

According to a Washington Post wire service story (2/5/95), the results of the Scholastic Assessment Test showed that more Washington, D.C. public high school students "scored an average of 300 on each part of the test than there were schools where they scored an average of 400. Not one school had a 500, which is the national average." The story went on to add "that D.C. schools continue to graduate hundreds of students who cannot read or count well enough to get jobs." The same story can be told about most other predominantly black public school systems.

Students graduate and can't get a job or gain entry to college. What kind of policy will help these students and those that follow them? If you asked a black politician or civil rights leader, they'd argue that these high school graduates aren't getting jobs or into college because of employer or college racism. To these people it's evidence of a crying need for affirmative action. But racism doesn't explain the plight of these youngsters. They've simply received grossly fraudulent education. "Williams," you say, "but racism explains the fraudulent education." You're wrong; I think. Washington's mayor is black as are: most of its city council, superintendent of schools, most principals and teachers. The only way we can chalk education fraud up to racism is if Washington's officials are handmaidens of the Ku Klux Klan.

Those who use racial discrimination to explain the plight of these and other black students do a great disservice. By focusing energies on supposed discrimination by colleges and employers, they give public schools carte blanche to continue destroying the career chances of black students. If nothing is done to improve black academic achievement, lowering job and college entry standards through affirmative action will become a permanent necessity for many blacks.

There is no good reason why black students must be permanently consigned to mediocrity. But so long as so many black parents don't take an interest in their children's education, schools don't demand academic excellence from black children, kids remain hostile and alien to the education process there is nothing that can be done to make things better. Even more money won't help. D.C. schools are already near the top in terms of per pupil expenditures and just about the bottom in student performance.

Walter E. Williams
March 2, 1995
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