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Racial preferences and quotas — euphemistically called affirmative
action, diversity and multiculturalism — have seen their day. Through
several state referenda and public-opinion polls, Americans are showing
increasing intolerance for racial preferences. Courts have increasingly
ruled against racial set-asides and racial preferences in employment and
college admissions.

What’s the civil rights establishment’s typical response to the new
political environment? They fight rearguard actions like mau-mauing
corporate executives and calling for boycotts against companies they see
as not hiring the “right” number of blacks. Since racial quotas for
college admissions are in both legal and political hot water,
civil-rights activists seek ways around court decisions such as calling
for guaranteed admission for any high-school student placing in the top
10 percent of his class. That criteria for college admission ignores the
fact that being in the top 10 percent at one school may be equivalent to
being in the bottom 10 percent at another.

Let’s face it. By any measure of academic achievement — whether it’s
performance on tests to get into college, grade point average while in
college, graduation rate or performance on tests after college for
admission to law or medical schools — blacks lag far behind the general
population. The civil-rights establishment’s response to this on-going
education tragedy is to claim that the tests are racist or culturally
biased.

What has been tried in black education for decades has revealed
itself as a dismal failure. I say it’s time we explore other approaches.
One approach is suggested by sports. Blacks excel, perhaps dominate is a
better word, in sports like basketball, football, baseball and boxing.
Blacks excel so much so that 80 percent of professional basketball
players, 66 percent of professional football players and 20 percent of
professional baseball players are black. In most professional boxing
categories, the top boxers are black.

These statistics aren’t motivated by racial jingoism; instead, they
are to raise the question: in sports, when have you heard a coach excuse
poor performance by alluding to a “legacy of slavery,” or being raised
in a single-parent household, or call sports standards racist and
culturally biased? I have yet to hear of such excuses in sports.

In fact, the standards of performance in sports are just about the
most ruthless anywhere. Excuses are not tolerated. Think about it. What
happens to a player, black or white, who doesn’t come up to a college
basketball or football team’s standards? He’s off the team. Players know
this, and they make every effort to excel every day. They do so even
more, and even play while they’re injured, if they have aspirations to
be on a professional team.

Blacks thrive in an environment of ruthless competition and demanding
standards. There may be some gains from applying a similar environment
in the academic arena. Maybe we ought to have demanding schools where
youngsters are loaded up with lots of homework, frequent tests and
top-notch teachers. In such schools, there would be no excuses for
anything. Youngsters cut the mustard or they’re kicked out and put into
some other school. I’m betting that a large number of black youngsters
would prosper in such an environment, just as they prosper in the tough
sports environment.

There’s something else about the excellence and disproportionate
representation of blacks in basketball, football and baseball. Who
complains? Nobody white or black is bothered by the disproportionate
number of blacks and the high income they earn. You go to a football,
baseball or basketball game, most of the patrons are white and they
cheer like hell for black players. That ought to tell us something: If
there’s meritocracy, who cares about race?

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