Responding to a question about why the NBA doesn’t “look” like the rest of America in his “Ask the White Guy” column, DiversityInc Partner and Cofounder Luke Visconti prompted a flurry of reader responses with their own takes on the issue.
Here’s just a sampling of the responses DiversityInc received regarding blacks’ apparent dominance in the sporting arena:
I think that Luke hits the majority of the nail right on the head in his response to the question: “Why Doesn’t the NBA Look Like America?” In large part, it is about “channeling” … a very pervasive, yet subtle form of societal pressure that encourages/supports/forces members of groups to pursue the avenues which society is most accustomed to/comfortable with seeing them in.
This channeling influences ALL groups within our society … not just the black and the brown. In some cases, however, this channeling is less detrimental to the individual or group than in other cases.
The other smidgen of the head of the nail that I think needs to be addressed is the channeling pressure from WITHIN a group of people. Group identity and group membership is often determined by one’s adherence to the expectations of the group (which, in many cases, have come to align themselves with the general societal expectations … no matter how limiting or narrow).
Interesting question, but great answer by Mr. Visconti. I agree that whenever anyone concentrates on a particular niche, s/he is going to excel in that area—especially if they believe this is their only opportunity to not be denied their part of the American Dream.
Interesting and informative! The same argument could be made for the American Baseball Leagues and Hispanic players/coaches/managers. To determine someone’s abilities—be they athletic, intellectual, artistic, whatever—by their racial makeup is ludicrous. If we in America don’t learn to embrace each other, then we can’t grow. We will no longer be the strong country the rest of the world thinks we are.
You offer a good answer, but I think it is overly generalized—too many leaps of logic. As for the NBA, Bill Russell offered another viewpoint in his first book, Go Up For Glory. First, blacks were excluded on racist terms only. Then, the only blacks allowed into the NBA were the “very best.” It was unacceptable for a black player to be paid to “sit on the bench.” So, the natural-selection process was artificially channeled until it appeared that black athletes were naturally better than whites. Now, the commitment to become the very best starts at a young age among blacks because it is seen as one of only a few options to excel.
Regarding your Chinese example, you are correct—only the very best Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Russian, and even Africans get to come to the USA. This is regardless of their pursuit. The only question is who controls the filter, and what is their motivation.
And here’s a question a reader submitted asking for a follow-up from the White Guy, plus his response:
So let me get this straight. Only the brightest Asians came to America? Doesn’t the culture of hard work and studying play the biggest role (i.e. the more you practice something, the better you get)?
I’m not sure measuring a student’s potential for learning can be tied to the school’s budget. Don’t we spend more per pupil in Washington, D.C., than almost any other school district? (And I don’t think the students in D.C. are ranked very well.)
Answer (From The White Guy):
Asian immigrants are indeed much better educated than immigrants from other areas. According to the conservative NationalCenter for Policy Analysis, “Almost 40 percent of those from Latin America have less than nine years schooling—compared to 20 percent of Europeans and Canadians, and 15 percent of Asians.”
Educated people tend to raise children who become educated. If you start off with that culture, then you are very likely to do well.
If you start off with more than 200 years of experience that you are not welcome at school and that hard work is not compensated equitably (slavery and Jim Crow), then it is logically more of a struggle to develop a culture when those circumstances are partially lifted. This does not change the basic talent that people are born with. Because our society created the differences, and because it is in our best economic interest to make sure the playing field is level, it is up to our society to change the circumstances to create an even outcome.
Very recently in our history, in some areas, we’ve begun to equalize the funding between predominantly white school districts and those who serve black and brown students. Nowhere that I know of are the levels of funding adequate to compensate for past inequities.
Outcome differences force a person to confront a profound question: Do you think all people are created equal?
If you don’t, you’re a bigot and that’s fine—you are free in this country to be one. However, if you think all people are created equal, then it is our collective best economic interest to investigate and eradicate the conditions and circumstances where results have differed by race. Unlocking potential is best for the economy and our society.
My beliefs are shaped by people like Benjamin Franklin, Sojourner Truth and Dr. Martin Luther King who communicated the need to raise the circumstances of formerly oppressed people via education, housing and sustenance as a compelling responsibility of a just society.