Speaking the Unspeakable
International recording artist, Kanye West has become a cultural pariah recently after he pointed out that there were a lot of Jewish people in power positions in Hollywood and the financial industry. And pointing out that fact is considered antisemitic, so West subsequently lost many business relationships and over one billion dollars of net worth. Comedian Dave Chappelle, in his SNL monologue last week, defended Kanye when he said, “if they are black, it’s a gang; if they are Italian, it’s a mob; if they are Jewish, it’s a coincidence and you should never speak about it.” People claimed that his monologue normalized antisemitism. Why? Noticing the fact that Jewish people comprise less than 3% of the population but are disproportionately represented in those industries. I say, ‘so what’. If they reached their positions based on merit, then it doesn’t matter what is the race or religion of the person who is president of a bank or a movie studio or is the director of a movie.
It seems strange that there was so much backlash about noticing people’s race in the entertainment industry, because Hollywood recently implemented a diversity rule which is designed to notice people’s race. Starting in 2024, a film cannot be considered for a Best Picture Oscar unless it meets a set of diversity targets – checking at least two of these boxes. The movie represents 21st-century American diversity in its casting; it has two minorities or women as heads of departments; it uses affirmative action in the marketing and distribution departments. So, in essence, the best picture produced will not get the award for Best Picture if it has not met this diversity quotas, and a lesser picture will get the award if it has. So, it’s okay to notice that there is a disproportionate number of white men in Hollywood but evil if you notice there is a disproportionate number of Jewish people in Hollywood. No wonder the quality of movies produced by Hollywood has dramatically declined. Oscar winning director, Quentin Tarantino recently lamented that current movies are so bad that in his mind, movies today don't "even exist."
Is it racist to point that 70% of NFL players are black? Is it racist to point that 80% of NBA players are black? If everybody who is in the NFL and NBA are there due to merit, it should not matter what the race of the players is. The best players should play, always, regardless of race. But in MLB, it does matter what the race of the players is. The 2022 World Series marked the first World Series since the 1950’s where neither team had a US born black player on their rosters.
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum said, “It is somewhat startling that two cities that have high African American populations, there’s not a single black player… It lets us know there’s obviously a lot of work to be done to create opportunities for black kids to pursue their dream at the highest level.” Why is there “work to be done”? No one is saying that there is “work to be done” to increase the number of white players in the NBA, or Asian players or Jewish players or Hispanic players in the NFL. Didn’t the baseball teams in this year’s World Series select their players based on merit?
In response to the news that there were no black players on the World Series rosters, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker said, “That’s terrible for the state of the game. Wow! Terrible. I’m ashamed of the game. Quote me. I am ashamed of the game.’’ Why is he ashamed of the game? Didn’t these two teams do the best job of selecting the best players this season? They made it to the World Series. And Baker’s team was one of the teams that did not have a black player on its roster. Did he exclude black players from his roster based on their race? Are we to assume that the NBA and the NFL select their players based on merit, but MLB doesn’t? Is MLB purposely excluding qualified black players and at the same time it is bringing in scores of players from Dominican Republic and other Central American countries?
So, we are not allowed to notice the extreme racial disparity of the players in the NFL – 13% of the population making up 70% of the rosters, but we are not only supposed to notice but are obligated to fix the racial disparity in of NFL head coaches. Leslie Frazier, defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, accused NFL owners of being racists in their hiring practices when he said, “What’s the criteria [to be a head coach]? Sometimes it’s because he’s ‘a great leader.’ Sometimes it’s because he ‘came up the same way I came up.’ But the common theme … is [an owner is going] to hire someone that looks like that owner.” That is an unabashed charge of racism against the NFL owners that the statistics do not support. This season, there are 5 Black head coaches in the NFL out of 32 which is 15% which mirrors the percentage of black population in society 13%. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is that too little or too much? Neither, if every person who holds a head coaching job was hired based on merit, then the number is neither good nor bad; too much nor too few.
20 years ago, the NFL implemented the “Rooney Rule” which requires an NFL team who is hiring a new Head Coach to interview a black person before hiring someone for that position. And the NFL recently expanded on that rule by rewarding teams with extra draft picks if they hire black assistant coaches and executives. Currently, twenty-three NFL franchises now have a “DEI leader” — a staffer tasked with “fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.” With all these rules and incentives in place, are NFL black coaches and executives being hired based on their ability or based on their skin color? Are we allowed to ask that question?
Former NFL assistant coach, Terry Robiskie, believed that when the Raiders made Art Shell the first black head coach of the modern era in 1989, it “would open up the floodgates [for black coaches]… Before long, 50 percent of the head coaches in the National Football League are going to be black.” Why would 50% of the head coaches be black when only 13% of the population is black? Why? Because 70% of the NFL players are black? The skills needed to be an NFL player (size, speed, strength, athleticism, explosiveness, physical toughness) are diametrically opposed to the skills needed to be a successful head coach (intelligence, studiousness, creativity, organization, public speaking, etc.), so the claim that the percentage of coaches should mirror that of the players does not add up.
It doesn’t matter if 50% or 60% or 100% of the head coach of the NFL are black or white, just as long as each one of those hires is based on merit. Allowing race to influence these decisions is called racism. They can claim that it is encouraging the hiring of black coaches but in the process, it is discouraging the hiring of white coaches. Isn’t that racist? The fact that 70% of the players in the NFL are black proves that the league is not racist, and the decision makers are choosing the people who help the team win games based on merit. The same people who are deciding which players make the roster are also choosing who the head coach is. Why would the decision makers choose the players based on merit regardless of race, and then turn around and choose the person to coach those players based on race? It doesn’t make any sense. Is that an acknowledgement that coaching doesn’t play a role in the success of the team? If so, why are head coaches fired when the team performs poorly, and rewarded handsomely when the team excels?
If these forms of racial preferences were confined solely to Hollywood and professional sports, the negative impact on society would be limited, but it is slowly seeping into vital institutions in our country. Elite medical schools are now factoring in race and not solely merit when determining who they admit to their institutions. Dr. Lee Jones, dean for medical education at Georgetown University School of Medicine, wrote, “the consideration of race as one of many elements in the admissions process is not only appropriate but essential… I often hear people ask, ‘Is the admissions process about merit or is it about diversity?’ It is about both; they are not mutually exclusive.” And that’s the lie they tell themselves. Very rarely are they not mutually exclusive. If it were truly a meritocracy, where the best was admitted, then they could not include race. As soon as race is factored in, merit is compromised because race does not equal merit.
This form of racism will create racism where racism currently does not exist. Right now, it does not matter to me the race of the doctor who is treating me. I assume that the doctor was admitted to medical school and graduated based on merit, so the doctor is qualified regardless of race. Some will argue that even if the doctor was let into medical school not based solely on merit, he still had to graduate. But if the standards of admission were lowered, how do we know that the standards of achievement in the classroom required to graduate were not also lowered. The medical school would be embarrassed if a disproportionate number of students of color failed to graduate, after factoring in their race as a criterion for admission.
So, some people would naturally and understandably be skeptical of a black doctor who graduated from Georgetown medical school now. Would you want to have a doctor perform life-saving surgery on you who may or may not have been an affirmative action hire? It creates a natural unintended bias. The bias is not against the race specifically, the bias is against the original bias of people like Dr. Lee Jones. If Georgetown medical school said they were going to make a push to admit more left-handed students because they arbitrarily decided it was important to have 20% of the doctors left-handed even though only 10% of the population is left-handed, patients would naturally be skeptical of a left-handed doctor who showed up to perform their surgery. Race or any other non-relative characteristic should never be considered, and if it is considered as part of the criteria then it only makes sense that some people will use that same criterion to not choose them to be their physician.
In our country, if black people overwhelmingly succeed in an industry, that is called meritocracy; if white people overwhelmingly succeed in an industry, that is called systemic racism – even if that success mirrors the racial breakdown of society. Making that distinction is on its face racist. Merit, ability, aptitude for the profession should be the only criteria used when deciding who is the CEO of a bank, the director of a movie, the head coach of a pro sports team, who is admitted into medical school, or any profession. If a person can prove that they were racially discriminated against, then that must be addressed and rectified. But merely counting numbers and pointing out racial disparities is not proof of racial discrimination, and when it is, the only way to rectify the situation is to inject racial discrimination into the process which only creates more racism because racism feeds off itself.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.