I recently posted here regarding the continuing prevalence of racial preferences for "minorities" in America, and the tendency of white Americans either to deliberately ignore, minimize, or dispute the significance of the problem. Incidents illustrating this phenomenon are so commonplace as to desensitize even the vigilant few, but a spate of stories concerning a purported "shortage" of black players in Major League Baseball (MLB) provides such a piquant example of America's distorted perspective and premises on racial matters as to warrant closer examination.
The percentage of African-American (A-A) players in MLB is now about 8.5%, whereas it once was as high as 19% in 1995. This 8.5% figure has induced vapors among MLB executives who obsess about such things as well as among commentators of similar hypersensitivity whenever any form of "underrepresentation" of blacks – as opposed to "underrepresentation" of any other race – is concerned. Moreover, the recent release of a major movie about the illustrious Jackie Robinson has only intensified the pandering instincts of guilt-obsessed liberals in the media, academia, officialdom, and professional sports management.
It is important to stress that these wailings about the percentage of A-A ballplayers are not based upon any claim or evidence that MBL is discriminating against such players. Any such contention would be absurd. MLB, like the other pro sports leagues, practically trips over itself in its efforts to demonstrate its sensitivity to the concerns and preferences of the black community. Indeed, an organization called the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport has "once again" awarded MLB a grade of A for racial hiring practices in its 2012 Racial Report Card.
It is also noteworthy, moreover, that the 8.5% figure for A-A players is actually quite misleading with regard to the actual racial composition of MLB rosters, and the source of the distortion provides further negation of any suggestion that discrimination is at work. Over 27% of MLB rosters consists of Latino players, and anyone who watches baseball knows that a sizeable percentage of the Latino players are black or partially black (like, say, Barack Obama). When the 2% of players that are Asian are included, at least 38% of MLB players are "minorities" or "persons of color."
In this regard, the resort to distortion and misrepresentation to fabricate this contrived crisis is remarkable. One recent report concerning the issue asserted that the San Francisco Giants were "one of several clubs with zero black players." This is pure nonsense. In about two minutes on a sports website, I was able to identify at least three distinctly black Giant players, albeit with Hispanic surnames – third basemen Joaquin Arias and Pablo Sandoval and pitcher Santiago Casilla. The writer did not identify the other clubs purportedly lacking black players, but there can be little doubt that they were no more lacking in actual black players than the Giants proved to be.
The fact is that MLB is a model of reasonable diversity, particularly considering that the pool of players is genuinely international. The only figure that seems a bit on the low side is the 2% for Asians, although that might be partially explained by the reluctance of some Japanese players to leave the security of the excellent Japanese league for the alien ways of a distant America. In any case, inasmuch as MLB has obviously opened its arms to hosts of foreign Black-Hispanic players, it would be absurd to contend that it would then turn around and discriminate against its own American Blacks.
Rather than raising discrimination issues, the complaint seems to be that there must be some irreducible minimum of American black players in MLB, apparently something like the 19% peak in 1995; and that MLB, and perhaps other organizations or interests, have an obligation to take "affirmative action" to assure that that level of representation is maintained. Put bluntly – and, of course, the complainers in question generally put things deceptively rather than bluntly – they are indirectly advocating efforts to maintain a minimum floor or quota of American black representation in MLB. Such an undertaking would plainly violate numerous federal and state anti-discrimination statutes, and if the federal or state government were behind the effort, it would also violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. While the courts have vacillated on other aspects of affirmative action and racial preferences, they have been emphatic in condemning outright racial quotas as unlawful and unconstitutional.
Yet none of this makes a dent on the odd minds of those who refuse to come to grips with the fact that the days of Jackie Robinson's travails are more than half a century behind us. Blacks constitute some 13% of the U.S. population, so proportional representation purists reflexively jump to the conclusion that their 8.5% share of MLB rosters constitutes significant underrepresentation and demonstrates that something is wrong. But even if proportional representation were a valid standard, the proper population denominator for purposes of comparison is not the U.S. alone, but the much larger pool of countries from which MLB draws players, including much of South and Central America and the Caribbean, not to mention Japan and Korea. Viewed from that more accurate perspective, the 8.5% figure for A-A's is not at all disproportionately low, and undoubtedly exceeds their percentage representation in that expanded international player pool.
Nonetheless, the advocates and commentators lamenting this state of affairs argue that the cards are somehow stacked against aspiring black baseball prospects, and that something must be done to rectify the supposed problem. They argue for concerted institutional efforts to recruit and encourage young blacks to pursue a baseball career, and to assist them in doing so, as though a modest decline from prior optimum levels of black representation in MLB was a matter of major national concern demanding yet more affirmative action. For starters, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has just announced the formation of a 17-member committee to investigate and address the contrived shortfall.
A more ridiculous and unwarranted campaign would be difficult to imagine. To anyone with the slightest knowledge of America's major sports the explanation for the reduced percentage of blacks in MLB is so elemental that even Dr. Watson would quickly deduce it. While bemoaning a purported shortfall in black baseball professionals, the racial bean-counters studiously ignore the extremely dominant representation of blacks in America's two other major pro sports leagues. Blacks constitute about 67% of NFL players and a remarkable 78% of NBA players. It is obvious that basketball and football are far more appealing to the general pool of American black athletes, and that many of those who might previously have pursued a career in baseball now choose to concentrate on football or basketball instead. If Jackie Robinson were a young man today, he might well be pursuing a career in the NFL rather than in MLB. The reduced percentage of American blacks in MLB is simply a matter of self-selection, and reflects nothing more than the tendency of young black males to pursue sports they find more enjoyable, compatible, and more likely to lead to professional riches.
The contrived controversy concerning fewer American blacks in baseball tells us more about the distorted perspective of those who promote it than about any shortcomings in MLB's player selection processes -- which are ruthlessly focused on obtaining the best players and patently nondiscriminatory. The same commentators who profess to be shocked about a relatively modest shortfall in the representation of black American baseball players -- even while the number of black and non-black Latino players proliferates -- are wholly oblivious to the far more extreme underrepresentation of whites in both the NFL and the NBA. The fact that only 17% of NBA players, and only 31% of NFL players are white, in a nation that is still over 70% white, is remarkably disproportionate, even if it is unrelated to any discrimination.
Even assuming no discrimination is involved – and the single-minded focus of pro sports on getting the best players strongly supports such an assumption – the almost complete absence of any interest or concern on this extreme disparity of representation is altogether strange. Careers in the NFL and the NBA are highly lucrative, prestigious, and often provide an avenue to further rewarding careers in coaching or broadcasting. In most desirable fields of endeavor, the extreme underrepresentation of the youth of a nation's majority race would at least elicit interest, examination, and reasonable measures to improve the level of participation. And one might expect that signs of increased participation by the underrepresented race would be applauded, as a welcome sign of genuine diversity.
Not so, however, in the case of white participation in pro basketball and football careers. On the contrary, when an unusually high number of talented white players recently earned spots as starters on the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves team, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a critical article entitled "Timberwolves: Pale in Comparison to the Rest of the NBA," indicating that the team was not black enough. The unusual appearance of a majority of white players on this one NBA squad was bitterly criticized by "local black leaders," and one Minneapolis "civil rights advocate" incredibly condemned the situation as "a nullification of diversity."
In a league where 78% of all players are black, and where on many, if not most teams, all five starters are black, the condemnation of some actual diversity appearing on one of the 30 NBA teams as somehow constituting a "nullification of diversity" perfectly illustrates the kind of perverse, upside-down reasoning that permeates the consideration of racial issues in America.
In George Orwell's "Animal Farm," the porcine totalitarians adroitly changed their rallying cry from "Four legs good, two legs bad" to "Four legs good, two legs better" when it suited their political purposes to change gears. For decades, civil rights advocates have enthusiastically invoked the rallying cry of racial diversity as a justification for institutionalized preferences for favored groups, especially blacks, Hispanics, and in some cases females. But now, in the spirit of "Animal Farm," diversity suddenly is not really diversity, or not really desirable, when the groups whose increased inclusion will produce it are not the correct or favored groups. As Orwell's porcine politburo would have put it, where diversity is concerned, "All groups are equal, but some are more equal than others."