The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

 TeasersiSteve Blog
National Review

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

Sociobiology: The New Synthesis — 25th Anniversary Edition, by Edward O. Wilson (Harvard University Press, 697 pages, $75.00 cloth, $29.95 paper)

[This is the last of the various versions I wrote for NR. No doubt it differs in some fashion from what they actually printed. -- Steve Sailer,]

Great fiction does not grow obsolete. Nor in it’s own way does great propaganda. In contrast, truly important scientific books render themselves obsolete by opening new fields for subsequent scholars to elaborate. Edward O. Wilson’s 1975 landmark SociobiologyCover of Sociobiology, which introduced Darwinian explanations for behavior to the public–and which has now been reissued to mark its 25th anniversary–is just such a book. Vast yet coherent, Sociobiology demonstrated in rigorous detail how Darwinian selection molded the various ways in which all animals–from the lowly corals to the social insects to the highest primates–compete and cooperate with others of their own species.

Outraging the leftists who dominated academia, Wilson suggested numerous analogies between animal and human societies. While men have drawn such parallels since long before Aesop, Wilson’s command of natural history and the power of neo-Darwinian theory in unifying this vast body of knowledge lent credibility to his grand ambition to reduce social science to a branch of biology, just as, Wilson argued, biology could ultimately be reduced to chemistry and chemistry to physics. .

Tom Wolfe has lauded Wilson as “the new Darwin,” but that’s somewhat overstating the case. Wilson is more the workaholic synthesist who brought to wide awareness the insights of even more original but lesser-known sociobiologists like the manic-depressive Robert Trivers and the late English genius William D. Hamilton. It was Hamilton who launched the sociobiological era in 1964 with his theory of “kin selection,” which mathematically answered a question that had long nagged Darwin: Why do social creatures, whether ants or humans, tend to be nepotistic? Why do we sacrifice for our children and even for our more distant relatives? Hamilton showed that acting altruistically toward your kin can be in your genes’ self-interest even when it’s not in your own. Richard Dawkins, another sociobiologist inspired by Hamilton, popularized this insight in his 1976 bestseller The Selfish Gene.

Only the last of Sociobiology’s 26 chapters is devoted solely to human societies, yet it blazed a trail that many others followed. In recent years, this genre has become wildly popular with readers of serious nonfiction books. lists 416 titles under “sociobiology” and 1,218 under “human evolution.” While Wilson’s archenemy, the Marxist media hound Stephen Jay Gould, has largely been reduced to negativity and obfuscation, many others have responded gallantly to Sociobiology’s challenge. Among the most enjoyable introductions to modern Darwinism are The Third Chimpanzee by the bracing Jared Diamond and How the Mind Works by the entertaining Steven Pinker. Matt Ridley’s Thatcherite perspective adds rigor to The Red Queen and The Origin of Virtue. Robert Wright’s neoliberal The Moral Animal is a good read but sometimes tries to make Darwinism sound like a beta release of Clintonism.

Despite the success of Darwinism in answering some fundamental questions about human behavior and in attracting many of the best minds of our time, it has not been terribly popular with either left or right. Ironically, while the religious right futilely attacks Darwin’s theory of what we evolved from, the left clamps down upon Darwin’s theory of what we evolved to. The left has long denounced sociobiological research for validating what conservatives have assumed all along: that human nature–with its sex differences and its stress on individual, family, and ethnic self-interest–is an innate heritage, not a blank slate that can be wiped clean by speech codes, sensitivity workshops, and re-education camps.

Not that the left hasn’t tried: Stalin shipped his Darwinists to the Gulag. In the politically correct West, evolution-oriented scientists haven’t been murdered. Yet Wilson had a bucket of ice water poured on his head, IQ scientist Arthur Jensen needed a bodyguard, the police investigated racial difference scholar J.P. Rushton for six months, the U. of Edinburgh fired IQ researcher Chris Brand despite 26 years of tenure, and a mob of protestors beat up Hans Eysenck, Britain’s most prominent psychologist.

Wilson’s orthodox Darwinian sociobiology made it countless enemies in academia. Centrist anthropologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides accordingly re-launched sociobiology under the neutral name of “evolutionary psychology.” Pronouncing themselves the truest True Believers in equality, Tooby & Cosmides portrayed human nature as almost monolithically uniform, and proclaimed that evolutionary psychology should only study human similarities.

But while egalitarianism served as a useful cover story for infiltrating sociobiology into academia, it proved a largely useless methodology for learning about humanity. Why? Because knowledge consists of contrasts. To learn much about human nature, we need to look for patterns of similarities and differences among humans. Ironically, therefore, evolutionary psychology has become primarily the study of sex differences. Impressively — considering the stranglehold feminism has on academia — many of the leading scholars in the field are female. Evolutionary psychologists like Sarah Blaffer Hrdy often began as feminist avengers, seeking to demonstrate that the importance of females in Darwinian selection had been grossly underrated. Yet their work on how women choose and manipulate mates ultimately undermined the feminist convention of women as the powerless victims of patriarchy. They thus confirmed what conservatives, not to mention any guy struggling to get a date, had always known: women exercise enormous informal power.

The biophobia of the politically pious originates in their dread of admitting the importance of human biodiversity. Old-fashioned leftists like Karl Marx hated evolutionary logic’s implication that mankind was not perfectible. Paradoxically, new-fangled “identity politics” leftists have been driven berserk by the Darwinian research that suggests their obsession with gender and race might stem from the actual existence of innate differences between groups. However, Princeton philosopher Peter Singer has recently suggested that the left should follow evolutionary psychology by abandoning feminist resentment in favor of (limited) biological realism. In Singer’s new book A Darwinian Left, he argues that leftists could use the insights of Darwinism to “promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition.” The sophomoric Singer doesn’t grasp that sociobiological altruism is a two-edged sword: the most effective way to get males to cooperate with each other is to get them fired up about competing with somebody else. For example, black and white college football players work together far better than the other students on campus precisely because if they don’t, their opponents will crush them. Without competition to impose costs, people naturally discriminate in favor of their kin and race.

You might think that conservatives would give sociobiology a sympathetic hearing, if only because anything Steven Jay Gould abhors can’t be all bad. And, indeed, many rightwing heavyweights like James Q. Wilson (The Moral Sense), Francis Fukuyama (The Great Disruption), and Charles Murray (“Deeper into the Brain,” NR, January 24, 2000) have increasingly built their worldviews upon a Darwinian plinth. Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full is The Great Human Biodiversity Novel. Note how Wolfe carefully describes each character in terms of his muscle to fat ratio. (This is far less wacky than it sounds because testosterone levels influence both muscularity and masculine personality traits like aggressiveness.).

This is a natural evolution for American conservatism. After all, Darwin himself was crucially inspired by the free market economics of conservative icon Adam Smith. And as Pope John Paul II’s endorsement of Darwinism demonstrated, the theory of natural selection is reasonably compatible with the main creeds in the Judeo-Christian tradition, except for the kind of ultra-literalist fundamentalism that makes a fetish out of the universe being created in 4004 B.C.

Having shot itself in the foot over Galileo, the Roman Catholic has wisely learned not to bet its prestige on one side of a scientific controversy. Science works best with theories that are falsifiable, religion with beliefs that aren’t. Creationism, an extremely easily falsified theory, just makes religion in general look stupid. Similarly, when conservatives are excessively solicitous of the feelings of Creationists, they end up looking dim, too. Worse, anti-Darwinism keeps conservatives from noticing that Darwinian science is corroborating and extending much of the conservative world-view. It’s time to wake up and realize: we’re winning.

Steve Sailer ( is a columnist for and an Adjunct Fellow of the Hudson Institute.

(Republished from National Review by permission of author or representative)
While interracial marriage is increasingly accepted by whites, a surprising number of Asian men and black women are bitterly opposed. Why?
🔊 Listen RSS

JUST three decades ago, Thurgood Marshall was only months away from appointment to the Supreme Court when he suffered an indignity that today seems not just outrageous but almost incomprehensible. He and his wife had found their dream house in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., but could not lawfully live together in that state: he was black and she was East Asian. Fortunately for the Marshalls, in January 1967 the Supreme Court struck down the anti-interracial-marriage laws in Virginia and 18 other states. And in 1967 these laws were not mere leftover scraps from an extinct era. Two years before, at the crest of the civil-rights revolution, a Gallup poll found that 72 per cent of Southern whites and 42 per cent of Northern whites still wanted to ban interracial marriage.

Let’s fast-forward to the present and another black – Asian couple: retired Green Beret Lieutenant Colonel Eldrick Woods Sr. and his Thai-born wife, Kultida. They are not hounded by the police — just by journalists desperate to write more adulatory articles about how well they raised their son Tiger. The colossal popularity of young Tiger Woods and the homage paid his parents are remarkable evidence of white Americans’ change in attitude toward what they formerly denounced as “miscegenation.” In fact, Tiger’s famously mixed ancestry (besides being black and Thai, he’s also Chinese, white, and American Indian) is not merely tolerated by golf fans. More than a few seem to envision Tiger as a shining symbol of what America could become in a post-racial age.

Interracial marriage is growing steadily. From the 1960 to the 1990 Census, white – East Asian married couples increased almost tenfold, while black – white couples quadrupled. The reasons are obvious: greater integration and the decline of white racism. More subtly, interracial marriages are increasingly recognized as epitomizing what our society values most in a marriage: the triumph of true love over convenience and prudence. Nor is it surprising that white – Asian marriages outnumber black – white marriages: the social distance between whites and Asians is now far smaller than the distance between blacks and whites. What’s fascinating, however, is that in recent years a startling number of nonwhites — especially Asian men and black women — have become bitterly opposed to intermarriage.

This is a painful topic to explore honestly, so nobody does. Still, it’s important because interracial marriages are a leading indicator of what life will be like in the even more diverse and integrated twenty-first century. Intermarriages show that integration can churn up unexpected racial conflicts by spotlighting enduring differences between the races.

For example, probably the most disastrous mistake Marcia Clark made in prosecuting O. J. Simpson was to complacently allow Johnny Cochran to pack the jury with black women. As a feminist, Mrs. Clark smugly assumed that all female jurors would identify with Nicole Simpson. She ignored pretrial research indicating that black women tended to see poor Nicole as The Enemy, one of those beautiful blondes who steal successful black men from their black first wives, and deserve whatever they get.

The heart of the problem for Asian men and black women is that intermarriage does not treat every sex/race combination equally: on average, it has offered black men and Asian women new opportunities for finding mates among whites, while exposing Asian men and black women to new competition from whites.

In the 1990 Census, 72 percent of black – white couples consisted of a black husband and a white wife. In contrast, white – Asian pairs showed the reverse: 72 percent consisted of a white husband and an Asian wife.

[For 2000 Census ratios, see my 2003 article "2000 Census: Interracial Marriage Gender Gap Remains Large."]

Sexual relations outside of marriage are less fettered by issues of family approval and long-term practicality, and they appear to be even more skewed. The 1992 Sex in America study of 3,432 people, as authoritative a work as any in a field where reliable data are scarce, found that ten times more single white women than single white men reported that their most recent sex partner was black.

Few whites comprehend the growing impact on minorities of these interracial husband – wife disparities. One reason is that the effect on whites has been balanced. Although white women hunting for husbands, for example, suffer more competition from Asian women, they also enjoy increased access to black men. Further, the weight of numbers dilutes the effect on whites.

In 1990, 1.46 million Asian women were married, compared to only 1.26 million Asian men. This net drain of 0.20 million white husbands into marriages to Asian women is too small to be noticed by the 75 million white women, except in Los Angeles and a few other cities with large Asian populations and high rates of intermarriage. Yet, this 0.20 million shortage of Asian wives leaves a high proportion of frustrated Asian bachelors in its wake.

Black women’s resentment of intermarriage is now a staple of daytime talk shows, hit movies like Waiting to Exhale, and magazine articles. Black novelist Bebe Moore Campbell described her and her tablemates’ reactions upon seeing a black actor enter a restaurant with a blonde: “In unison, we moaned, we groaned, we rolled our eyes heavenward . . . Then we all shook our heads as we lamented for the 10,000th time the perfidy of black men, and cursed trespassing white women who dared to ‘take our men.”’ Like most guys, though, Asian men are reticent about admitting any frustrations in the mating game. But anger over intermarriage is visible on Internet on-line discussion groups for young Asians. The men, featuring an even-greater-than-normal-for-the-Internet concentration of cranky bachelors, accuse the women of racism for dating white guys. For example, “This [dating] disparity is a manifestation of a silent conspiracy by the racist white society and self-hating Asian [nasty word for ``women''] to effect the genocide of Asian Americans.” The women retort that the men are racist and sexist for getting sore about it. All they can agree upon is that Media Stereotypes and/or Low Self-Esteem must somehow be at fault.

LET’S review other facts about intermarriage and how they violate conventional sociological theories.

1. You would normally expect more black women than black men to marry whites because far more black women are in daily contact with whites. First, among blacks aged 20 – 39, there are about 10 per cent more women than men alive. Another tenth of the black men in these prime marrying years are literally locked out of the marriage market by being locked up in jail, and maybe twice that number are on probation or parole. So, there may be nearly 14 young black women for every 10 young black men who are alive and unentangled with the law. Further, black women are far more prevalent than black men in universities (by 80 per cent in grad schools), in corporate offices, and in other places where members of the bourgeoisie, black or white, meet their mates.

Despite these opportunities to meet white men, so many middle-class black women have trouble landing satisfactory husbands that they have made Terry (Waiting to Exhale) McMillan, author of novels specifically about and for them, into a best-selling brand name. Probably the most popular romance advice regularly offered to affluent black women of a certain age is to find true love in the brawny arms of a younger black man. Both Miss McMillan’s 1996 best-seller How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the most celebrated of all books by black women, Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, are romance novels about well-to-do older women and somewhat dangerous younger men. Of course, as Miss Hurston herself later learned at age 49, when she (briefly) married a 23-year-old gym coach, that seldom works out in real life.

2. Much more practical-sounding advice would be: Since there are so many unmarried Asian men and black women, they should find solace for their loneliness by marrying each other. Yet, when was the last time you saw an Asian man and a black woman together? Black-man/Asian-woman couples are still quite unusual, but Asian-man/black-woman pairings are incomparably more rare.

Similar patterns appear in other contexts:

3a. Within races: Black men tend to most ardently pursue lighter-skinned, longer-haired black women (e.g., Spike Lee’s School Daze). Yet black women today do not generally prefer fairer men.

3b. In other countries: In Britain, 40 per cent of black men are married to or living with a white woman, versus only 21 per cent of black women married to or living with a white man.

3c. In art: Madame Butterfly, a white-man/Asian-woman tragedy, has been packing them in for a century, recently under the name Miss Saigon. The greatest black-man/white-woman story, Othello, has been an endless hit in both Shakespeare’s and Verdi’s versions. (To update Karl Marx’s dictum: Theater always repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as opera, and finally as farce, as seen in that recent smash, O.J., The Moor of Brentwood.) Maybe Shakespeare did know a thing or two about humanity: America’s leading portrayer of Othello, James Earl Jones, has twice fallen in love with and married the white actress playing opposite him as Desdemona.

4. The civil-rights revolution left husband – wife balances among interracial couples more unequal. Back in 1960 white husbands were seen in 50 per cent of black-white couples (versus only 28 per cent in 1990), and in only 62 per cent of white – Asian couples (versus 72 per cent).

Why? Discrimination, against black men and Asian women. In the Jim Crow South black men wishing to date white women faced pressures ranging from raised eyebrows to lynch mobs. In contrast, the relatively high proportion of Asian-man/white-woman couples in 1960 was a holdover caused by anti-Asian immigration laws that had prevented women, most notably Chinese women, from joining the largely male pioneer immigrants. As late as 1930 Chinese-Americans were 80 per cent male. So, the limited number of Chinese men who found wives in the mid twentieth century included a relatively high fraction marrying white women. In other words, as legal and social discrimination have lessened, natural inequalities have asserted themselves.

5. Keeping black men and white women apart was the main purpose of Jim Crow. Gunnar Myrdal’s landmark 1944 study found that Southern whites generally grasped that keeping blacks down also retarded their own economic progress, but whites felt that was the price they had to pay to make black men less attractive to white women. To the extent that white racism persists, it should limit the proportion of black-man/white-woman couples.

SINCE these inequalities in interracial marriage are so contrary to conventional expectations, what causes them? Academia’s and the mass media’s preferred reaction has been to ignore husband – wife disproportions entirely. When the subject has raised its ugly head, though, they’ve typically tossed out arbitrary ideas to explain a single piece of the puzzle, rather than address the entire yin and yang of black – white and white – Asian marriages. For example, a Japanese-American poetry professor in Minnesota has written extensively on his sexual troubles with white women. He blames the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Presumably, the similarity of frustrations of Chinese-American men is just a coincidence caused by, say, China losing the Opium War. And the problems of Vietnamese men stem from winning the Vietnam War, etc. But piecemeal rationalizations are unappealing compared to a theory which might explain all the evidence.

The general pattern to be explained is: blacks are more in demand as husbands than as wives, and vice-versa for Asians. The question is, what accounts for it?

The usual sociological explanations for who marries whom (e.g., availability, class, and social approval) never work simultaneously for blacks and Asians. This isn’t surprising because these social-compatibility factors influence the total number of black – white or white – Asian marriages more than the husband – wife proportions within intermarriages.

By emphasizing how society encourages us to marry people like ourselves, sociologists miss half the picture: by definition, heterosexual attraction thrives on differences. Although Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering are so compatible that they break into song about it (“Why Can’t a Woman Be More like a Man?”), Higgins falls in love with Eliza Doolittle. Opposites attract. And certain race/sex pairings seem to be more opposite than others. The force driving these skewed husband – wife proportions appears to be differences in perceived sexual attractiveness. On average, black men tend to appear slightly more and Asian men slightly less masculine than white men, while Asian women are typically seen as slightly more and black women as slightly less feminine than white women.

Obviously, these are gross generalizations about the races. Nobody believes Michael Jackson could beat up kung-fu star Jackie Chan or that comedienne Margaret Cho is lovelier than Sports Illustratedswimsuit covergirl Tyra Banks. But life is a game of probabilities, not of abstract Platonic essences.

So, what makes blacks more masculine-seeming and Asians more feminine-seeming? Media stereotypes are sometimes invoked. TV constantly shows black men slam-dunking, while it seems the only way an Asian man can get some coverage is to discover a cure for AIDS. Yet try channel-surfing for minority women. You’ll see black women dancing, singing, joking, and romancing. If, however, you even see an Asian woman, she’ll probably be newscasting — not the most alluring of roles.

Conventional wisdom sometimes cites social conditioning as well. But while this is not implausible for American-born blacks, who come from a somewhat homogeneous culture, it’s insensitive to the diversity of cultures in which Asians are raised. Contrast Koreans and Filipinos and Cambodian refugees and fifth-generation Japanese-Americans. It’s not clear they have much in common culturally other than that in the West their women are more in demand as spouses than their men.

One reasonable cultural explanation for the sexual attractiveness of black men today is the hypermasculinization of black life over the last few decades. To cite a benign aspect of this trend, if you’ve followed the Olympics on TV since the 1960s you’ve seen sprinters’ victory celebrations evolve from genteel exercises in restraint into orgies of fist-pumping, trash-talking black machismo. This showy masculinization of black behavior may be in part a delayed reaction to the long campaign by Southern white males to portray themselves as “The Man” and the black man as a “boy.” But let’s not be content to stop our analysis here. Why did Jim Crow whites try so hard to demean black manhood? As we’ve seen, the chief reason was to prevent black men from impregnating white women.

So, did all racist whites a century ago make keeping minorities away from their women their highest priority? No. As noted earlier, the anti-Asian immigration laws kept Asian women out, forcing many Asian immigrant bachelors to look for white women (with mixed success). While white men were certainly not crazy about this side effect, it seemed an acceptable tradeoff, since they feared Asian immigrants more as economic than as sexual competitors. But why did whites historically dread the masculine charms of blacks more than those of Asians? Merely asking this question points out that social conditioning is ultimately a superficial explanation of the differences among peoples. Yes, society socializes individuals, but what socializes society?

There are only three fundamental causes for the myriad ways groups differ. The first is unsatisfying but no doubt important: random flukes of history. The second, the favorite of Thomas Sowell and Jared Diamond, is differences in geography and climate. The third is human biodiversity. Let’s look at three physical differences between the races. 1) Asian men tend to be shorter than white and black men. Does this matter in the mating game? One of America’s leading hands-on researchers into this question, 7’1″, 280-pound basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, reports that in his ample experience being tall and strong never hurt. Biological anthropologists confirm this, finding that taller tends to be better in the eyes of most women in just about all cultures. Like most traits, height is determined by the interaction of genetic and social factors (e.g., nutrition). For example, the L.A. Dodgers’ flamethrowing pitcher Hideo Nomo is listed as 6’2″, an almost unheard-of height for any Japanese man fifty years ago, owing to the near-starvation diets of the era. While the height gap between Japanese and whites narrowed significantly after World War II, this trend has slowed in recent years as well-fed Japanese began bumping up against genetic limits. Furthermore, it can be rather cold comfort to a 5’7″ Asian who is competing for dates with white and black guys averaging 5’11″ to hear, “Your sons will grow up on average a couple of inches taller than you, assuming, of course, that you ever meet a girl and have any kids.” In contrast, consider a 5’1″ Asian coed. Although she’d be happy with a 5’7″ boyfriend if she were in an all-Asian school, at UCLA she finds lots of boys temptingly much taller than that, but few are Asian.

2. This general principle — the more racial integration there is, the more important become physical differences among the races — can also be seen with regard to hair length. The ability to grow long hair is a useful indicator of youth and good health. (Ask anybody on chemotherapy.) Since women do not go bald and can generally grow longer hair than men, most cultures associate longer hair with femininity. Although blacks’ hair doesn’t grow as long as whites’ or Asians’ hair, that’s not a problem for black women in all-black societies. After integration, though, hair often becomes an intense concern for black women competing with longer-haired women of other races. While intellectuals in black-studies departments’ ebony towers denounce “Eurocentric standards of beauty,” most black women respond more pragmatically. They one-up white women by buying straight from the source of the longest hair: the Wall Street Journal recently reported on the booming business in furnishing African-American women with “weaves” and “extensions” harvested from the follicularly gifted women of China.

3. Muscularity may most sharply differentiate the races in terms of sexual attractiveness. Women like men who are stronger than they; men like women who are rounder and softer. The ending of segregation in sports has made racial differences in muscularity harder to ignore. Although the men’s 100-meter dash is among the world’s most widely contested events, in the last four Olympics all 32 finalists have been blacks of West African descent.

Is muscularity quantifiable? PBS fitness expert Covert Bailey finds that he needs to recommend different goals — in terms of percentage of body fat — to his clients of different races. The standard goal for adult black men is 12 per cent body fat, versus 18 per cent for Asian men. The goals for women are 7 points higher than for men of the same race.

For interracial couples, their “gender gaps” in body-fat goals correlate uncannily with their husband – wife proportions in the 1990 Census. The goal for black men (12 per cent) is 10 points lower than the goal for white women (22 per cent), while the goal for white men (15 per cent) is only 4 points lower than the goal for black women (19 per cent). This 10:4 ratio is almost identical to the 72:28 ratio seen in the Census. This correlates just as well for white – Asian couples, too. Apparently, men want women who make them feel more like men, and vice versa for women.

Understanding the impact of genetic racial differences on American life is a necessity for anybody who wants to understand our increasingly complex society. For example, the sense of betrayal felt by Asian men certainly makes sense. After all, they tend to surpass the national average in those long-term virtues — industry, self-restraint, law-abidingness — that society used to train young women to look for in a husband. Yet, now that discrimination has finally declined enough for Asian men to expect to reap the rewards for fulfilling traditional American standards of manliness, our culture has largely lost interest in indoctrinating young women to prize those qualities.

The frustrations of Asian men are a warning sign. When, in the names of freedom and feminism, young women listen less to the hard-earned wisdom of older women about how to pick Mr. Right, they listen even more to their hormones. This allows cruder measures of a man’s worth — like the size of his muscles — to return to prominence. The result is not a feminist utopia, but a society in which genetically gifted guys can more easily get away with acting like Mr. Wrong.

Amazon Honor SystemGeorge Orwell noted, “To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle.” We can no longer afford to have our public policy governed by fashionable philosophies which insists upon ignoring the obvious. The realities of interracial marriage, like those of professional sports, show that diversity and integration turn out in practice to be fatal to the reigning assumption of racial uniformity. The courageous individuals in interracial marriages have moved farthest past old hostilities. Yet, they’ve discovered not the featureless landscape of utter equality that was predicted by progressive pundits, but a landscape rich with fascinating racial patterns. Intellectuals should stop dreading the ever-increasing evidence of human biodiversity and start delighting in it.

(Republished from National Review by permission of author or representative)
🔊 Listen RSS

[This is not the exact version that National Review published. Instead, it's my final draft, so don't blame NR for my lapses in proofreading. The published version was about 20% shorter than this.]

As the competitors in the Olympics grow ever more representative of the entire globe, the more obvious becomes the kaleidoscopic variety of the human race’s gene pool. Back in the Chariots of Fire days, when entry was largely restricted to genteel North Atlantic amateurs, the games chiefly showcased the most gifted white males. Today, though, by inviting pros from 197 countries, the Olympics spotlight differences not only among individuals, but among ethnic groups. The summer Games are now the world’s festival of genetic diversity.

In Atlanta, for example, Kenyan, Ethiopians, and other elegantly slender East African men are again excelling in running races from 800 to 10,000 meters. [This draft was finished the week before the 1996 Olympics, but the predictions held up extremely well. As it turned out, East Africans won the 3000, 5000, 10,000, and Marathon.] In contrast, explosively muscular men of West African descent like America’s Michael Johnson are once more virtually monopolizing the sprints and hurdles from 100 to 400 meters. [Men of West African descent did monopolize all events of 100 to 400 meters, winning gold in all seven events.] On the basketball court, European squads’ fantasies of gold are being crushed by a U.S. Dream Team of eleven West African-Americans and a lone white. [And that's exactly what happened].

These heroic performances by blacks will come as no surprise to American sports fans. Fifty years after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, it is now clear that equality of opportunity in America’s top team sports has lead not to equality of results but to black supremacy. A random African-American is currently about 15 times more likely to reach the NFL and 28 times more likely the NBA than a random nonblack. Even in baseball, a sport with which many African-Americans have become bored, black American ballplayers have earned 11 of the last 20 Most Valuable Player awards (1987-1996).

Mentioning these tremendous accomplishments, however, inspires unease among white intellectuals. They shrink from serious analysis of modern athletics, even though its relatively level playing fields and voluminous statistics offer us simplified but brutally clear models for testing our theories of how the real world works. Numerous writers and editors believe it’s best to block average sports fans from noticing black preeminence because it threatens the orthodoxy that all groups must be equal in all ways. Specifically, if told the truth, fans might conclude that if blacks are stronger on average physically, then they might be weaker on average mentally. As well-intentioned as this journalistic cover-up may be, it suffers one shortcoming: it doesn’t work. Fans don’t have to read about black superiority, they see it for themselves round the clock on ESPN, and discuss it endlessly in every sports bar in America.

Sadly, barroom blather is a limited vehicle for advancing our understanding of race. And that’s the real problem with trying to airbrush this fascinating topic out of the press. The taboo certainly doesn’t slow down those whites who merely want to conclude that since blacks are more athletic, then whites must be more intelligent, end of story. The good news is that there’s more to the story. The bad news is it’s not getting heard.

We must finally confront the much dreaded implications of black athletic superiority. That liberals are afraid to look hard at sports and race implies that helping blacks may have become less important to them than shielding the prestige of their own investment in a theory of racial uniformity that, despite its heroic service in the 1960′s, is now running on vapors. Like generals yearning to refight the last war, for 25 years the civil rights establishment and its army of fellow travelers in the press have forced the same strategy that once won black legal equality upon the current struggle for black personal fulfillment and economic prosperity. Affirmative action, however, has proven not just futile but perverse, especially for black men, because black equality is too modest a goal. By operationally defining “economic equality” to mean scattering a representative percentage of blacks into every field — in effect, trying to turn blacks into a scale model of whites — affirmative action encourages widespread psychological frustration and long-term economic stagnation among black men.

Why? In the job market, if you are equal, you are just a commodity. How to succeed in business? Find some niche where your talents and connections aren’t merely mediocre but potentially superior, sweat to fortify these competitive advantages, then monopolize the hell out of them. Immigrant groups thrive because they understand acutely the advantages of specialization (e.g., Asian Indians, the most successful of the recent arrivals, manage about half of America’s motels). In the sports market, where affirmative action hardly exists, blacks grasp this logic equally well. Blacks don’t comprise 12.4% of NBA players, 12.4% of synchronized swimmers, 12.4% of monster truck drivers, etc. Instead, blacks concentrate overwhelmingly on games where they are most apt to possess natural edges. In turn, this narrow focus grants them sizable cultural advantages: growing up amidst a critical mass of players, coaches, and aficionados, black youths can conveniently absorb the needed expertise.

By dogmatically (and defensively) insisting that all ethnic groups must be equal in all ways, liberal fundamentalists have stymied discussion of just what competitive advantages blacks do tend to possess, and how they could get more mileage out of them in the general job market. By dismissing sports as mere feats of brawn unworthy of intelligent inquiry, liberal intellectuals ironically overlook that black sports success reflects not just physical but, as we shall see, mental superiorities — Assets that blacks could exploit in other careers, too. Asking four major questions might encourage a new, more productive way to think about America’s racial impasse.

I. Are blacks the best athletes? What do sports fans mean when they say that blacks are better athletes than whites? Well, they are not saying that Al Sharpton could outskate Wayne Gretzky, that any black can beat any white in any game. Rather, men of West African descent appear to be stronger performers on average in basketball and football. (Please keep in mind that throughout I’ll be talking about tendencies, not rules. Individuals vary enormously. Also, note that differences between people, even, say, between Carl Lewis and Ross Perot, are microscopic compared to the differences between, say, termites and people, even Mr. Perot.)

But, are basketball and football the best tests of athleticism? What about the hundreds of other sports in which blacks have not triumphed, like surfing, curling, or dog sled mushing? How can Americans so confidently assume that basketball and football are more demanding than, say, English Channel-swimming (at which walrus-shaped whites stand out)? If the greatest basketball player is automatically the greatest athlete in the world, as so many presume, why has Michael Jordan flopped at baseball and golf?

Clearly, there are many different athletic skills. So, how can we possibly claim that one man is a better athlete than another, much less that one race is more athletic than another? This is exactly analogous to a common attack on Richard Herrnstein’s and Charles Murray’s contention in The Bell Curve that Asians and whites tend to be smarter than blacks: How can just one number represent all the many kinds of mental talents?

In sports, the closest analogy to the IQ test is the decathlon. Olympic decathletes compete in 10 track and field events, but against the stopwatch and measuring tape rather than each other. Their 10 tallies are summed, and the overall highest scorer is hyped as the “world’s greatest athlete.” Similarly, IQ isn’t just a single measure as some critics claim, but a sophisticated aggregating of many skills. Of course, any scheme for weighting the components must be somewhat arbitrary. For example, just as black decathletes often excel in sprinting and whites in upper body strength events, Jews and Japanese both tend to score above average on IQ tests, but in opposite manners. Jews often display exceptional verbal logic linked with mediocre visualization skills, and vice-versa for Japanese. Who can really say in the abstract how track vs. field or verbal vs. visual scores should be weighted? 50-50? 80-20? It all depends on the task at hand.

For example, you can often make more money by perfecting a few skills and finding a role that suits them, than by being pretty good at everything. Take slugging first baseman Cecil Fielder, who is “well-rounded” only in girth, yet will rake in close to $9 million in 1996, far more than any of those ever so versatile decathletes. Tremendous strength compensates for Mr. Fielder being only slightly more mobile than a mausoleum.

Another unavoidable shortcoming of objective measurements like the decathlon and the IQ test is that so many talents useful in sports or in life in general are subjective, and thus hard to quantify with a stopwatch or a #2 pencil: e.g., faking out a tackler in football, rousing your platoon in combat, or sweet talking a customer in business. How could Magic Johnson, a basketball player with little skill at leaping or jump shooting, lead the Lakers to five titles? More valuable was his supreme faculty for anticipating what the other nine players would do. Or consider Dennis Rodman. Although “only” 6’8″, he’s made himself the greatest rebounder since 7’1″ Wilt Chamberlain. Mr. Rodman’s edge is his ability to predict, based partly on rigorous study of the NBA’s shooters and partly on a queerly artistic intuition, where a ball just leaving the shooter’s fingertips will ultimately bounce.

The IQ test was invented by a Frenchman, so it’s not surprising it’s good at gauging what the French value most: impersonal reasoning in a formal setting. It’s worth remembering, though, that since Josephine Baker, Parisians have been importing African-American artists to dazzle them with that improvisatory creativity at which the French seem so hopeless.

So, just as the decathlon is a valiant but hardly conclusive attempt to rank athletes, the use of IQ to rank thinkers, while certainly handy, has significant limits: talents differ in importance depending on the situation, and standardized objective tests can’t measure crucial subjective skills. However, most Bell Curve detractors can’t take much comfort from the validity of this critique, because this logic also undermines their own core tenet that the races must be absolutely identical. You see, the more skills there really are, the less plausible it is that all groups possess exactly equal potential on all these dimensions. The more ways people are different from each other, the less conceivable it is that one group is factually superior or inferior to another in some overall manner. And that means that the destructive debate among white supremacists, liberals, and Afrocentrists about whether in some ill-defined manner blacks are empirically inferior, equal, or superior to whites is as meaningless as arguing over whether the sky is equal to the sea. We should view every man as morally equal in the eyes of God and the law; but in terms of actual skills, the only truthful summation must be that each person and each group tend to have many relative strengths and weaknesses.

[This paragraphs was left out of the printed version.] Try merely assessing whether two men are equal just as basketball players. Take Mugsy Bogues and Manute Bol: Mugsy is 5’3″; on defense he’s tough to dribble against; and on offense a great ballhandler. Manute is 7’7″; a superb shot blocker; and offensively, … well, Manute did once kill a lion with a spear. As you can see, all we can confidently say is that Mugsy is much better than Manute in Mugsy’s proper role, and vice-versa. Now, think of the infinite uncertainties in validating the overall equality of all skills of not just two individuals in one profession, but of all the countless ethnic groups across all the jobs in the world. It can’t be done.

Does this more realistic worldview endanger America’s core belief that “all men are created equal?” More likely, by lashing Jefferson’s sacred moral faith to the leaking hulk of the anti-scientific theory that all men are created identical, liberals are threatening to end up scuttling both ideas in a sea of cynicism. In hindsight, it’s clear that America is burdened today by the naiveté of early 20th century liberals in letting white supremacists define their debate as “Are blacks inferior or equal?” That’s an argument blacks can’t win. When your enemy claims, “Apples are inferior to oranges,” there are many logical and wise ways to object. Unfortunately, replying, “Apples are absolutely equal to oranges both overall and in every particular, and anybody who dares question us on any aspect is a fruitist!” is not one of them.

A more meaningful question than “Are blacks the best athletes?” is:

II. Whether or not basketball and football are the ultimate tests of “athleticism,” what empowers blacks to dominate them? Average sports fans would suggest physical advantages in jumping and running. Yet, Sports Illustrated long denounced this as a redneck’s stereotype. Finally, SI found itself on the spot in 1995 when Dr. Roger Bannister, the first four minute miler and a distinguished medical researcher, informed a scientific gathering, “Black sprinters, and black athletes in general, all seem to have certain natural anatomical advantages.” Unable to bring themselves to slander as a racist Sir Roger (SI‘s first “Sportsman of the Year”), the editors grudgingly conceded that maybe this is an open question. In contrast, black athletes’ like the late tennis star Arthur Ashe tend to hold more urbanely realistic views: “… nature, our unique history in America, and our exclusion from other occupations have produced the psychic addiction to success in sports and entertainment. Once the momentum was established, continuing success became a matter of cultural pride. And yes, we do feel certain positions in sports belong to us. Quick, name a white halfback in the National Football League? … Fast runners are born, not made.”

There is a media stereotype that popular stereotypes are always wrong. In reality, they are urban folk wisdom, ordinarily embodying some truth. This one contains a lot. Consider the supremacy of West African sprinters and East African middle to long distance runners. Granted, social settings play a role in determining who wins in which games (polo and yachting are extreme examples). Still, as the editor of Runner’s World, Amby Burfoot, pointed out in his brave article, “White Men Can’t Run,” running is the cheapest, most equal opportunity sport. No purely cultural explanation for the distinct West and East African advantages in footspeed is plausible.

Sadly, too few whites notice that black sports success seems to also originate above the neck, in certain common black mental advantages over whites. For example, in the NFL most offensive linemen, who diligently execute the coach’s plays, are white. Most defensive linemen, who instantly devise their own responses, are black. More spectacularly, black basketball players like Elgin Baylor and Julius Erving blew wide open a stodgy game of set-piece plays. White coaches long resisted their black players’ ability to make it up as they went along. The only man to consistently hold Michael Jordan to no more than 20 points per game was Dean Smith, his college coach. Yet, “playground jungle ball” eventually routed predictable white-style basketball. Obviously, the occasional Larry Bird or John Stockton show that some whites can master the black game. Still, whites seem less often able to meet modern basketball’s demands for creative improvisation and on-the-fly interpersonal decision-making. As Thomas Sowell notes, “To be an outstanding basketball player means to out-think opponents consistently in these split-second decisions under stress.” Beyond basketball, these black cerebral superiorities in “real time” responsiveness also contribute to black dominance in jazz, running with the football, rap, dance, trash talking, preaching, and oratory. (Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, improvised the immortal conclusion to his “I Have a Dream” speech.)

A second advantage that black men enjoy over white men — in manly charisma — can be deduced by first returning to that knotty question of why do so many people think blacks are the best athletes. The usual rationalization — “We know blacks are best because they dominate basketball and football” — seems unconvincing because those sports reward raw size as much as agility or endurance. The NBA draws a large majority of its players from the less than 2% of American males who are at least 6’3″. Why assume that the world’s greatest athlete is 6’6″ Michael Jordan rather than a soccer superstar, like Diego Maradona or Romario, who must compete against athletes of almost all countries and heights? We Americans tell ourselves, in effect, “Black Americans must be the best athletes because they are the best at the sports that American blacks are best at.”

Curiously, the rest of the world is starting to agree with our logic, circular as it may be. During 1990-1995, Mr. Jordan earned over $150 million from endorsements, more than twice any other athlete on Earth, with a surprising amount coming from abroad. The worldwide marquee value of other black basketball stars like 7’1″, 300 pound Shaquille O’Neal (#2 globally with $17 million in endorsements in 1995) is mounting rapidly.

Why is the world more thrilled by a majestic black man tomahawking a dunk than by, say, a 220 pound white woman swimming the Bering Strait? Ultimately, it comes down to: What are sports for? At the sociobiological foundation, sports appear to be preparation for (or a diversion from) hunting and fighting. Pro sports make money largely by furnishing male fans with masculine role models, mighty warrior heroes with whom to identify. The world likes basketball because it loves basketball stars. Basketball is just the game where African-Americans can best strut their brand of manliness. And at least for right now, the world sees black American jocks as the epitome of masculinity. For example, among the 23 superstars who play team sports on Forbes’ 1995 list of the world’s highest paid athletes, 16 are black and seven white. The blacks now average more than twice as much each from endorsements as the whites.

III. Do these black advantages originate in culture or in biology? Or do nurture and nature interact? Who knows for sure? I don’t. And neither do all those who insist that there must only be social explanations, that to inquire with an open mind is racist.

Yet, the refusal of certain liberal white males to even consider the possibility of innate black superiority in some sports may stem less from egalitarianism than egotism. For instance, Gregg Easterbrook, one of the Atlantic Monthly’s highest IQ pundits, began his denunciation of The Bell Curve by recounting that once he’d played pickup basketball daily in a black neighborhood. Within a few weeks he’d improved so much the black guys were actually “wanting me on their team.” His feat made such an impression on himself that years later it discredits for him the evidence for genetic differences. Is Mr. Easterbrook’s reasoning driven by an idealistic (if patronizing) urge to affirm that a proper upbringing could have made a neoliberal intellectual out of, say, The Shaq? Or, is it intended to convince us (and maybe himself) that beneath his disguise as a mild-mannered reporter, the real Gregg Easterbrook is man enough to deserve his own line of Nikes?

Unfortunately for Mr. Easterbrook’s logic, if effort alone counted in sports, Mexicans would rule big league baseball. In reality, there are countless good Mexican players, but, according to the L.A. Dodger’s chief Mexican scout (who is Mexican-born himself), due to a tendency toward short-legged slowness, there are almost no great Mexican ballplayers.

What’s the harm of censoring all biology-based explanations of group differences? In fact, to a surprising extent, for each individual it wouldn’t make much practical difference whether success in a particular field is determined 100% by genetic inheritance or 100% by upbringing. Even in either extreme case, the best career advice remains: Choose your parents wisely. Failing that, Choose your field wisely.

Unfortunately, the lack of public discussion about group differences has badly retarded our thinking about what might be the most important question facing America: How can black men earn more money? In even the least slippery of situations it’s hard to grasp how the world works, but with one hand tied behind your back you’ll never get a grip on reality. By smugly tarring as a bigot anyone who even ponders whether there might be fundamental differences, the reigning orthodoxy encourages us to frivolously assume away group inequalities as arbitrary and fleeting, when all history shows that a group’s advantage in particular skills — whatever their origins — can long endure.

Why do ethnic dissimilarities tend to last? For years, academics have tirelessly lectured us that society socializes its members. True, but what socializes societies? Many differences stem from random circumstances of environment, but it also appears that cultures often emphasize and vastly magnify what their members have inborn aptitudes for. Put another way, people will work harder on what they find rewarding and walk away from what they find frustrating. It’s true that there is only a modest correlation between talent and enthusiasm when it comes to some of the fundamental pleasures of life: many folks who are embarrassingly awful at sex or golf still wade right in. But, for lesser urges, innate skills help socialize society. For instance, the white suburban culture I grew up in stressed jump shooting over slam dunking in basketball. Why? Because 99% of us white boys couldn’t jam without a ladder.

Of course, if you are raised in a segregated society, you may not notice how clumsy your performance is until newcomers show you. This helps explain the curious fact that the integration of a society frequently deepens the segregation of roles. For instance, growing up, I played a lot of badminton at family picnics, where I was the scourge of my cousins. Thus, at college I rushed to sign up for intramural badminton. In contrast to Mr. Easterbrook’s triumphs, I soon discovered to my lumbering chagrin that lithe little Indonesians and Indians play badminton at a pace that left me befuddled. I’ve rarely picked up a shuttlecock since.

Although affirmative action’s key assumption is that statistical inequality in hiring demonstrates bias, this opposite tendency for more equal opportunity to often lead to less equal allotment of jobs is visible globally. In other words, integration of a society frequently deepens the segregation of roles. In monoethnic Japan, for example, Japanese fill all the roles advanced societies seem to require, including game show host, organized crime boss, professional wrestler, barroom bouncer, repo man, crooked politician, and scary cult leader. In multiethnic America, however, Japanese-Americans find themselves confronted by an abundance of job-hunters proficient at shooting the breeze or violently intimidating people. Rather than toil to equal other Americans in these skills, Japanese-Americans instead generally converge in those fields like engineering and health where they find competition less formidable.

Similarly, a group can tire of a career or pastime even if its members tend to be better than their rivals, if they enjoy more glittering opportunities elsewhere. This helps explain the strange tale of blacks and baseball over the last few decades. Within pro baseball, integration has caused segregation by position. The Negro Leagues starred legendary pitchers like Satchel Paige and catchers like Josh Gibson, but African-American Major Leaguers now concentrate primarily in the outfield, where their edge in speed counts most.

Even more unexpectedly, after African-Americans fled Southern segregation, they began specializing in basketball and football at the expense of what had long been their favorite game. Pundits often blame a shortage of baseball diamonds in the inner city. Yet, immigrants from rural Mexico haven’t forsaken fastballs for free throws. More astute observers point to the decline of patriarchy in the black ghettos, since a love of baseball is best passed on by fathers playing catch with sons. Perhaps most important, however, is that black Americans have found baseball, with its straight-line baserunning, less suited for expressing their creativity than basketball or football.

IV. How could black males who aren’t pro athletes make more money in the 21st Century? Although I will emphasize African-Americans’ cerebral and personality advantages as one key to their future economic progress, others might very reasonably prefer to stress more universal morals. For example, the intense effort black youths put into mastering basketball shows once again the value of hard work, a lesson they could remember better in the classroom. However, the half-emptiness of African-American culture’s glass has been lamented by more eloquent voices than mine. So, I’ll discuss its half-fullness. I’ll especially focus on the better-educated black male.

Since distinctions between groups are inevitable and often long-lasting, one strategy for economic advancement is to look for new markets for a group’s traditional strengths. For instance, centuries of rabbinical disputes over the Talmud seem to have paved the way for many contemporary Jews to prosper as lawyers. Similarly, how could black men with competitive advantages in creative improvisation and manly charm better exploit them in the job market? Well, it’s easy to first identify an entire class of jobs that don’t particularly reward black men’s strong suits: paper-pushing assignments in stagnant government, corporate, charitable, and educational bureaucracies. Unfortunately, those are exactly what affirmative action programs most often proffer. Although critics often note that affirmative action does little for underclass blacks, few fully understand its ill effects on better educated blacks. The affirmative action worldview insists that blacks simply cannot get ahead the way every other community does — by mastering some well-chosen fields — and therefore the highest potential African-Americans must fritter away their strengths across the entire economy. There is astoundingly little in common between the genteel, memo-writing staff positions often filled by quotas and the rough and tumble careers where black men have most succeeded — like sports, entertainment, the Army, the numbers rackets, store front preaching, and big city politics.

This contrast is especially graphic in the not-for-profit sector. For example, few organizations are more ideologically committed to affirmative action than elite universities’ English Departments, especially those trendy ones obsessed with Deconstructionism, Gender Studies, and Queer Theory. Yet, it’s hard to imagine an employer less suited to an African-American man’s typical strengths (e.g., persuasive speech rather than jargon-drenched writing), ambitions (e.g., becoming a leader of men and making some serious money rather than burnishing one’s sense of cultural and moral superiority), and even romantic styles (e.g., watch out for sexual harassment charges!). There appears to be a Paradox of Voluntary Affirmative Action among non-profits:

1. The more feminist an institution, the more its white leaders will favor affirmative action for blacks applicants.

2. The more accurately the Verbal SAT predicts success within an institution, the more likely the high-scoring white leaders are to talk themselves into lowering test requirements for black applicants.

Therefore, the more whole-heartedly a not-for-profit pursues blacks, the more likely the black men hired will find their jobs pointless and their colleagues insufferable, and the less likely they will be to earn promotions without more quotas.

The flip side of the Paradox is also revealing. (1) The more male-chauvinistic an institution, the more black guys like it. Exhibit A is The Citadel, where the black cadets confounded Shannon Faulkner’s feminist supporters by standing firm for sex discrimination. Seldom mentioned in all the coverage was that The Citadel, which emphasizes character development and leadership training rather than scholarship, is one of the most successful integrated colleges in America at inspiring black males to achieve.

(2) The less relevant that written tests are to a particular career, the more that entrenched whites will stress exams as a way to keep black men out. For example, Irish-American firemen and cops fought for segregation for years, and have since battled for colorblind testing. Why? Because Irish-Americans and African-Americans tend to possess such similar talents (e.g., strength, size, courage, street smarts, a commanding personality, and a touch of blarney) that they’re natural rivals for fire and police jobs. One advantage the Irish possess, however, is in generally scoring higher on written exams, so they swear by testing.

Many conservatives abhor court-ordered quotas, but mildly favor or at least tolerate voluntary affirmative action, especially when it’s just intensified recruiting of blacks rather than lowered standards. Yet, in the not-for-profit sector its impact is often to seduce black men into organizations where they won’t pose much of a threat to the white leadership’s posts. In contrast, blacks are more apt to succeed in those non-profit and civic jobs where they first needed court-imposed quotas to kick in the door.

The nice liberal white who beseeches black men, “I’m your friend, be like me,” isn’t always somebody they could be like and frequently isn’t somebody they would be like, and thus can’t give them a job they’ll do themselves proud in. On the other hand, the not-so-nice white often holds the keys to what could be the right career. Another little-understood problem that will also continue to slow black male economic progress is that while Asian immigrants have flourished in part by their objective skills with numbers, blacks’ advantages are typically in working with people. Thus, blacks are more susceptible than Asians both to residual bias and to debilitating fear of bias. I don’t know of any quick solutions to either of these difficulties.

That said, what careers should black men consider more seriously in the next century? Since this type of question has been unthinkable under the reigning intellectual orthodoxy, my answers haven’t yet been adequately assayed by public debate. But somebody has to stick his neck out first. So here goes:

Conservatives often advise blacks to start their own small businesses. However, African-Americans tend to face fierce competition from immigrants who can call upon more dependable relatives for advice, loans, and labor. Thus, for those African-Americans who are the most ambitious members of their families, integrated profit-seeking companies often provide better opportunities. But which jobs within those firms? For better educated black youths, the good news is that there are some fairly lucrative corporate careers that blacks have not yet widely discovered, but that especially reward persuasiveness and masculine charisma. There is always a price to be paid for breaking into new sectors, but these might hold long-run promise: selling big ticket contracts, stock-brokering, headhunting, and motivational speaking. In a word: Sales.

Unfortunately, the media climate saps the confidence blacks need. A salesguy must overflow with the assurance that the next account will love him more than the last one did. By automatically ascribing all gaps between whites and blacks to discrimination, the press drums up the menace of racism to the point of paranoia. This saps both motivation and that virile self-confidence that inspires customers to buy. Of course, some clients are anti-black, but over time blacks can mitigate that by discovering the less-biased industries and sales territories. Anyway, unfair as it is, the relevant question for a young black career-seeker is not whether he’d get richer if he was a white salesman. No, he needs to ask himself whether he’d ultimately end up generating more money and pride as a black salesman than as quota fodder in a make-work posting like Diversity Sensitivity Liaison.

In addition, the more a black man fears discrimination by his own boss, the more he should consider sales, a field where pay and promotion depend more upon hard numbers than whether your employer likes your attitude. You can fight bigots with rhetoric but you can’t win without figures. For instance, why did baseball begin hiring black players almost two decades before the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but never employed a black manager until 1975, and didn’t make them common until the 1990′s? Unlike with players, nobody can quantify whether a baseball manager is definitely good himself or just has a good team. In illustration, Casey Stengel won 10 pennants in 12 years with the mighty Yankees, but never finished higher than fifth in any of his 13 seasons with lesser clubs. In summary, blacks fearful of bias should remember: there is safety in numbers.

Beyond sales, in the next century black men should also be able to better exploit their leadership talent. “Natural leadership” is practically synonymous with something black guys have in abundance: masculine charisma. This equation may sound unspeakably sexist, but whether it stems from The Backlash or human nature, it’s time for black men to cash in on it.

White fears that other whites wouldn’t follow black leaders slowed black advancement into leadership positions for decades. For example, no NFL team started a black at quarterback until into the 1970′s, and the first black head coach didn’t arrive until 1989. Yet, when given a chance, blacks have tended to exert impressive command charisma, even over Southern whites. The performance of black Army sergeants has been exceptionally encouraging. Their success implies that similar unscholarly black men should better be able to work their way up to comparable civilian positions in blue collar management. Unfortunately, affirmative action methodically lures many of these men into white collar careers where their scholastic shortcomings slam a “glass ceiling” down upon their need to lead.

The apathy that too often drags down black males’ job efforts stems partly from this systematic mismatching between those Big Man personalities that black America seems to specialize in (think of Charles Barkley or James Earl Jones), and the modest paper-fumbling billets that affirmative action campaigns pester black men into accepting. The U.S. Army has best exploited the African-American capacity for command, specifically because it doesn’t toss affirmative action victims in over their heads academically.

At the high end, we are likely to see blacks, especially ex-jocks (of whom Congressman J.C. Watts, former Oklahoma quarterback, is the first), furnish the Republican Party with many leaders. David Robinson — the NBA’s 1995 MVP, and a handsome 7′ tall Annapolis graduate — is only the most obvious political thoroughbred in the making. Just as politically conservative Jews, who comprise a tiny fraction of the population, supply much of the GOP’s intellectual firepower, black Republicans, no matter how few overall, will win an impressive number of elective offices within two decades.

In conclusion, we must finally take seriously the value of diversity. The first step is to drop the fashionable but Orwellian habit of saying “diversity” when we mean “sameness.” To pretend that all groups have all the same talents to all the same degree is the antithesis of truly celebrating diversity. By insisting upon “diversity” within all institutions, affirmative action tries to impose the same homogenous demographics across all institutions. This diffuses black talent thinly and impotently across the economic landscape. Rather like what Gandhi once replied when asked his opinion of Christian civilization, diversity is such a great idea that somebody ought to try it.

# # #

Steve Sailer ( is a businessman and writer. His “How Jackie Robinson Desegregated America” appeared in the 4/8/96 issue of National Review.

(Republished from National Review by permission of author or representative)
Perhaps the least-learned lesson of the saga of Jackie Robinson is that competition can transform self-interest into an engine for racial fairness
🔊 Listen RSS

FIFTY years ago, on April 18, 1946, Jackie Robinson broke organized baseball’s color barrier with a characteristic bang, homering and scoring four runs in his historic first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ top farm team. This anniversary will no doubt unleash a wave of media meditations, since it combines the two national pastimes of the American male intellectual: denouncing racism and waxing nostalgic over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Spike Lee is preparing The Jackie Robinson Saga, and I’m sure Stephen Jay Gould will favor us with his thoughts.

Yet, beyond the obvious platitudes, baseball’s long struggle over race can yield some surprising perspectives on our national predicament. The Robinson epic is generally lumped in with the 1954 Brown decision against segregated public schools and the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing job discrimination. Yet two crucial differences stand out. 1) The integration of organized baseball preceded the civil-rights revolution, and in reality baseball helped make later reforms politically feasible by giving white Americans black heroes with whom to identify. 2) Government had almost nothing to do with this triumph of the competitive market. Baseball owners finally realized that the more they cared about the color of people’s money, the less they could afford to care about the color of their skin.

It’s ironic that the hallowed civil-rights revolution owed so much to something as seemingly trivial as pro sports. Yet, without this business of producing heroes for public consumption, whites might never have cared enough about blacks to be bothered by racial injustice. It’s not the most noble trait of human nature, but we tend to be more outraged by minor slights to winners (note the endlessly recounted tales of the indignities Robinson endured) than by mass atrocities against downtrodden losers.

That competitive markets make irrational bigotry expensive — not impossible, but costly — was first formally demonstrated in 1957 by University of Chicago economist Gary Becker (the 1992 Nobel Laureate), and in the four decades since has barely gained a toehold in conventional thinking. Let me be clear: this idea does not pollyannaishly presume that white people (or any other people) are motivated by disinterested good will. It merely assumes that if forced to by competition, people will hire whoever makes them the most money. Don’t forget, though, that we humans are always conniving to exempt ourselves from competition. The more we can insulate ourselves from the open market, the more painlessly we can then discriminate for kin and countrymen and against people we don’t like. Baseball’s often ugly history shows this clearly.

Back in the 1880s, when the term “organized baseball” reflected ambition more than reality, the general anarchy let a few dozen blacks play in integrated leagues. By the turn of the century, however, blacks had been utterly banished. Although liberal demonology would assume that the owners were the villains, the prime agitators for segregation were, as economic theory would predict, the white ballplayers. Cap Anson was the best known of the many white athletes who threatened strikes or violence against black rivals. The banning of blacks came up for a vote only once, in 1887 in the International League. Following many nasty anti-black demonstrations by white players, the owners of the six all-white teams outvoted the owners of the four mixed teams. Elsewhere, blacks were driven out by “gentlemen’s agreements.”

Why did all the owners, although often after some resistance, ultimately give in to rabble-rousing white players? Easing the slide into segregation was organized baseball’s curious status as a sort of Portuguese man-of-war of economic entities — in some ways an industry of independent competitors, in others a single enterprise. Baseball teams must agree upon how they will compete, and, while they’re at it, it’s always tempting to agree upon how they won’t compete. Congress ratified organized baseball’s collusive tendency in 1920 by exempting it from the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The team owners’ ill-named “gentlemen’s agreement” to discriminate against blacks closely resembles today’s unspoken understanding among the presidents of another government-sanctioned cartel, our elite colleges, that they will all discriminate against whites and Asians. Both clubowners and college presidents chose to head off ugly incidents by pre-emptively caving in to racial activists. They then browbeat all their peers into closing ranks, lest a lone dissident spotlight their spinelessness.

When all teams colluded against blacks, each team could assure itself that it was no worse off competitively than if all hired blacks. Cartels often collapse quickly because of cheating, but it was easier to enforce a national ban on black ballplayers than on, say, black factory workers. A ballclub couldn’t hide its black workers away inside the mill, but would have had to flaunt them on the road before hostile, even murderous crowds. JACKIE ROBINSON’S vast (and deserved) fame tends to make us assume that blacks and whites never played together before April 1946. In truth, as the supply of black baseball talent exploded after World War I, the demand for it could not be contained either. There were of course the Negro Leagues. By the 1940s they were booming, and their All Star game frequently outdrew the white version. More forgotten are the many venues outside the South where blacks and whites increasingly played together. 1) Collegiate athletics had been haphazardly integrated for decades. At UCLA, for example, Robinson starred in baseball, football, basketball, track, tennis, golf, and swimming. 2) The California winter baseball league was integrated, though not its individual teams. 3) In the Caribbean winter leagues, race meant even less. Many teams had black and white American stars playing in the same lineups, with few problems. 4) In the mid Forties, a Mexican mogul raided both the Negro and the Major Leagues to stock his summer Mexican League’s integrated teams. (Among 18 big-leaguers heading south after the 1945 season was Dodger catcher Mickey Owen. Whether this increased competition for whites encouraged the Dodgers’ owner, Branch Rickey, to plunder the Negro Leagues is unknown, but it certainly didn’t hurt.) 5) Semipro ball, which was hugely popular before TV, was surprisingly integrated. For instance, in 1935, Bismarck, North Dakota, fielded an awesome team, half white, half black, lead by the fabled pitcher Satchel Paige. Soon, practically every town in the Dakotas boasted “semipros” lured from the Negro Leagues. 6) Barnstorming was the chaotic epitome of Disorganized Baseball, requiring only two teams willing to play and a crowd willing to pay. In many Midwestern villages, the annual athletic highlight was the arrival of a Negro Leagues squad to play the local semipros. 7) Each October the black Satchel Paige All Stars and the white Dizzy Dean All Stars barnstormed the nation together. (Predictably, the blacks won a sizable majority of these games.) During World War II, Paige could claim to be the highest-paid player in all of baseball.

In the liberal world-view, discrimination stems from prejudice, from ignorance of the actual talents of blacks. In organized baseball, the opposite was true. White Major Leaguers freely admitted that many blacks could have taken white players’ jobs. Yet, somehow, this enlightened perception failed to make the white pros into ardent integrationists. Meanwhile, a number of owners and managers tried to cheat on their gentlemen’s agreement. For example, many historians claim that the Washington Senators quietly broke the color barrier in the late 1930s by playing Cubans dark enough to have been banned as Negroes if they had spoken English.

There was strikingly little correlation between the rectitude of the man and his urge to integrate baseball. For example, among managers the most creative was the choleric John J. McGraw, a ferocious scrapper who won ten pennants. In 1901 he almost succeeded in smuggling a light-skinned black second baseman onto his team as a full-blooded Cherokee named “Chief Tokohama.” During World War II huckster Bill Veeck tried to buy the dreadful Philadelphia Phillies and stock them with Negro Leagues stars. Like all direct challenges, though, this was rebuffed by the autocratic Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. After the Chicago Black Sox threw the 1919 World Series, the owners had restored faith in the game by appointing Landis, who was famed for his strict moral standards — one of which was Segregation Forever. After the good Judge went to his reward in late 1944, the owners, hoping to lighten up, picked as Commissioner the Southern politician A. B. “Happy” Chandler. When Happy surprisingly indicated that he wouldn’t veto black players, Branch Rickey set his plans in motion.

“Mahatma” Rickey was as renowned as Landis for his righteousness (as Rickey tirelessly reminded his players while chiseling down their salaries). No one should look down upon Rickey, however; pursue his self-interest he certainly did, but with infinitely more intelligence and courage than his rival owners. (Today’s elite colleges, for example, have yet to produce their own Branch Rickey, a school president brave enough to dump affirmative action.) Rickey chose Robinson because they had so much in common: both were Methodists who didn’t smoke, drink, or chase women, and both were smart enough to know the historic importance of their undertaking. Most importantly, both were too competitive to back down.

Further undermining the naive presumption that breaking the color line was an act of progressive piety was the key role played by Rickey’s favorite field manager, the little ferret Leo Durocher. Bonding the Mahatma and Leo the Lip was a shared passion for victory and money. During spring training in 1947, Rickey scheduled a series between the Dodgers and Robinson’s minor-league team. He hoped that when the Dodger players saw Robinson’s talents, they would demand his promotion. Instead, fearing for their jobs or those of their friends, they said nothing. But when some Dodgers from Dixie actively protested against Robinson, Durocher deflated their mutiny: “I don’t care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f — – — zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you can’t use the money, I’ll see that you are all traded.”

WHAT lessons can we learn from this tangled tale? A few simple ones seem to leap out. The more greed and lust for victory, the less discrimination. The more competition between teams and businesses, the more cooperation between the races. In contrast, the more collusion, centralization, community standards, and concern for the feelings of people you know, the more bias. If we now look at the remarkable impact that the first few dozen blacks had on Major League baseball, we can confirm the Chicago School’s theory that competition tends to make irrational discrimination self-defeatingly expensive. The 1946 World Series looked as if it would be only the first of many between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. Led by Ted Williams, the greatest hitter since Babe Ruth, the 1946 Red Sox had won an exceptional 104 games, losing only 50. The Cardinals, meanwhile, had averaged 104 wins per season during the four seasons that the young Stan Musial had anchored their lineup. Both leftfielders would long remain superlative hitters. As late as 1957 Musial led the National League (NL) with a batting average of .351, while Williams topped even that with .388, the highest average between the Roosevelt and Carter Administrations. Yet neither man ever returned to the World Series. Why not?

Largely because of St. Louis’s and Boston’s boneheaded bigotry. With Robinson apprenticing in the minors throughout the 1946 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers finished two games behind the Cards. In 1947, Rookie of the Year Robinson made the difference, as the Dodgers edged the Cards for the pennant. Jackie instantly became the league’s biggest draw, with the Dodgers setting NL records for both home and away attendance. During each pre-season alone, Robinson earned his annual salary from the huge Southern crowds, black and white, that turned out to cheer and boo him at Dodger exhibitions. (By barnstorming through Dixie, Rickey was exposing Robinson to a real threat of assassination, as well as the insults of Jim Crow, but, hey, the money was too good to pass up.)

Rickey followed up his masterstroke by signing more Negro Leagues stars like Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe. During Robinson’s ten-year tenure, Brooklyn’s dividends for desegregating first were six NL titles, fueled by black Dodgers’ winning five Most Valuable Player awards and four Rookie of the Year awards.

In contrast, St. Louis frittered away the heart of Musial’s stupendous career by not obtaining a black regular until Curt Flood in 1958. The Cards paid a brutal price for discriminating. During the first four years they had Stan the Man (up through 1946), the Cards won almost 18 more games per year than the Dodgers. But during the Robinson era, the Cards fell to nearly 13 victories per year fewer than the Dodgers, a monumental swing of over 30 wins per 154-game season. The Cardinals stubbornly ignored blacks until Augie Busch bought the team in 1954. Fearing a black boycott of Budweiser, he immediately ordered his scouts to find black players, but by then the easy pickings were gone. Although too late for Musial, Busch’s integration move finally paid off in the 1960s, as blacks like Flood, Lou Brock, and Bob Gibson became the core of great Cardinal teams. As could be expected, the National League, which had been sorely trailing the American League (AL) in superstars since the days of Ty Cobb, more aggressively pursued black talent. By the mid Fifties all NL teams except the Cardinals and the hapless Phillies featured at least one black headed for the Hall of Fame. Between 1949 and 1962, blacks won 11 of the 14 NL MVP awards, while no black was the AL MVP until Yankee catcher Elston Howard in 1963. And the AL lacked an African-American superstar until Frank Robinson arrived via a 1966 trade and promptly showed the league what it had been missing by capturing the rare Triple Crown for batting.

Integration electrified the NL’s style of play, as blacks showed that sluggers didn’t have to be sloggers — e.g., Willie Mays led the league four times in home runs and four times in stolen bases. The balance of power shifted away from the slow, complacent American League. The AL had won 12 of the 16 All Star games played in the Thirties and Forties, but could capture only 5 of the 24 held in the Fifties and Sixties.

Where competition is not particularly intense, however, discrimination can linger. In the AL, the New York Yankees ruled, winning 29 of 44 pennants from 1921 to 1964. Not surprisingly, the Yankees saw little need to rush into integrating, especially after they signed Mickey Mantle, a white man even faster and stronger than the NL’s black stars. With most of the AL not expecting to dethrone the Yankees (indeed, some forlorn AL franchises subsisted by routinely selling their top prospects to the Yankees), most other AL teams also lagged at integrating.

The main exception was the Cleveland Indians. Under master promoter Bill Veeck, in 1948 the Tribe suddenly overtook the Red Sox as the Yankees’ chief challenger. The Indians edged out the Red Sox for the pennant that year by a single game, a difference more than accounted for by their two blacks, outfielder Larry Doby and a 42-year-old rookie phenom named Paige. As the AL’s most integrated team, from 1948 to 1956 the Tribe would average 94 wins, peaking with a 111 – 43 record in 1954, the best anywhere since 1906. In comparison, under the ownership of beloved philanthropist Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox would fade into mediocrity, wasting Williams’s bat as they refused to play a black man until 1959. Still, to be fair, the Red Sox did take only seven more years to hire a black than the Braves — the Osaka Braves, that is.

WHILE the complete integration of baseball through competition took longer than we would have liked, it’s worth contrasting baseball’s record to the civil-rights milestones dependent upon the Federal Government. For example, the vaunted 1954 Brown decision remained mostly a symbol until the Nixon Administration began broadly enforcing it 15 years later. Likewise, although the decline in job discrimination in the South in the 1960s is often attributed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, little of the now vast array of bureaucratic and legal machinery for enforcing that law existed before the end of that decade. Far more beneficial during the 1960s than pestering private companies was federal intervention freeing up the Southern economy by cracking down on state-authorized discrimination, whether imposed by legislatures or by mobs winked at by local authorities. These gains became permanent under the most wholly successful civil-rights law, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. By finally establishing a competitive market for political power, this law rapidly made hatemongering unprofitable for Southern office-seekers.

Today, conservatives tend to lionize the 1964 Civil Rights Act for embodying color-blindness. In denouncing quotas while supporting anti-discrimination laws, however, the Right shows a surprising faith in the ability of government bureaucrats and judges to decide case by case which private hiring decisions were tainted by bias. In reality, close study of possible instances of discrimination shows why the sainted 1964 act made quotas inevitable. Frequently, no outsider, and sometimes not even those involved, can know which of the many possible reasons for an employment decision was actually conclusive. For example, the Yankees first employed black minor-leaguers in 1949 but didn’t promote any to the big club until 1955. Was this long delay caused by discrimination? If you assume that any team in the early 1950s that didn’t have a few blacks must have been discriminating, it appears obvious that the Yankees were guilty. But if you reject this kind of statistical or quota-based reasoning, how do you find the smoking gun? Did the Yankees trade away their top prospect, the black Puerto Rican Vic Power, for his uppitiness (when a Southern waitress once told him, “I’m sorry, but we don’t serve Negroes here,” he blithely replied, “That’s OK, I don’t eat them”)? Or were they sincere in claiming they’d lost faith in his potential? Or both? Presumably bias played a role, since Power turned out to be a good (though not great) Major Leaguer. But who can say for sure? Ballclubs constantly make honest mistakes about minor-leaguers (in the same period, the integrated Dodgers discarded another young black Puerto Rican, the great Roberto Clemente). Did the Yankees then force their other most promising black minor-leaguer, outfielder Elston Howard, to convert to catcher in order to delay his rise to the big leagues? Possibly, but this time the Yankees proved right, as Howard became an MVP behind the plate.

This ambiguity inherent in so many hiring decisions explains why aggressive anti-discrimination laws always end up impelling employers toward quotas. Unfortunately, racial quotas have numerous side effects. While the overall impact of reverse discrimination remains harshly controversial, we can safely say that year by year quotas’ benefits to blacks diminish while quotas’ costs to blacks rise. Since strong anti-bias laws make quotas inevitable and quotas are inexorably becoming a net harm to blacks, then logic would imply that we must eventually repeal enforcement of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions against discrimination by competitive employers.

How, then would we fight racism in hiring? I suggest: in roughly the same way as we now deter its cousin, nepotism. In noncompetitive organizations like government agencies, laws often ban nepotistic hiring. On the other hand, the government allows the market to police competitive firms. If a CEO promotes Junior and he turns out to be inept, well, the firm pays the price in lost profits.

Our country is probably several years away from even beginning to grasp this logic, but in the long run it may prove compelling. Conservatives, however, can’t seize the rational high ground until they stop leaping to defend institutions they, especially, should be wary of — e.g., unions, regulated monopolies, and government agencies — against the threat of racial quotas. True, competition does restrain irrational discrimination. But where competition is lacking — such as in government monopolies like police and fire departments, or in labor unions, which exist to negate competition — then quotas can sometimes be necessary to put a price on discrimination.


Steve Sailer ( is president of the Human Biodiversity Institute.

(Republished from National Review by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Cover Story 
As the universities struggle with growing racial tensions, they ignore the lessons of the battlefield, and of their own playing fields
🔊 Listen RSS

Much ink has been spilled bemoaning the rancorous state of race relations on our nation’s elite campuses. Our colleges, however, has barely even considered any new solutions, due to the academic industry’s institutional tendencies toward timid conformity combined with myopic self-absorption. Rather than look beyond the cloisters for novel answers, administrators at our great research universities merely resort to ever greater doses of the hair of the dog that bit them — more affirmative action, more diversity workshops, more victims’ studies — with predictably dire results. Yet, during the same quarter century when colleges have managed to exacerbate racial tension among 18-24 year old students, the U.S. Army — using radically different techniques — has tremendously reduced racial strife among 18-24 year old soldiers.

Astonishingly, though, colleges have overlooked an even more obvious source of guidance on how to manage race on campus. University presidents methodically ignore the techniques for forging solidarity among their black and white students that are successfully used by their own best paid, best known employees: their football and basketball coaches.

What could colleges learn from the Army and from their own athletes about race?

(1). Selection

(1A). Specialization and Critical Mass – One little-appreciated reason for the impressive record of accomplishment by blacks in the Army (e.g., after Desert Storm there were 26 black generals) is their lack of success in the Navy (only two black admirals). Achievement in one field naturally breeds more success in that same field. Initially arbitrary variations self-perpetuate. Successful immigrant group like Asian Indians rise to affluence precisely by dominating niches of the economy like motel-keeping. As Adam Smith pointed out on P. 1 of The Wealth of Nations, specialization is the road to riches.

According to Charles Moskos of Northwestern, the leading sociologist of military life, one key to the strong performance of black Army officers has been a widespread self-help organization for black officers called Rocks. In it, senior officers mentor younger men in how to live up to the demands of being an officer and a gentleman. In the Navy, however, a lack of critical mass hampers similar efforts: if, say, you are the only African-American officer on your nuclear submarine, you can’t turn to another black man for advice for your entire cruise. Thus, it continues to makes more sense for an ambitious young black to join the Army than the Navy.

On campus, however, the automatic reaction whenever an embarrassing shortfall of blacks in any field is pointed out is another affirmative action campaign. For example, architecture schools have been attempting for years to recruit more blacks and Hispanics. Now, I commend a career in architecture to any young person with a trust fund, but the less privileged should remember that architecture pays wretchedly for the first decade or two (or three or four). Conservative critics of quotas often argue that lowering entrance standards for minorities is Bad, but that more intensely recruiting minorities is Good. Yet, seldom does any race-based recruitment campaign stem from a hardheaded analysis of what’s in the best interest of the minorities. Instead, affirmative action is an automatic response by white leaders to their discomfort over their Black Lack. African-Americans have enough problems of their own without taking on this new Black Man’s Burden of helping whites feel better about themselves.

Before affirmative action, unpopular but “unprotected” minorities tended to initially congregate at certain congenial schools: e.g., Mormons at Brigham Young, Catholic ethnics at Jesuit colleges, lesbians at Smith, or free-market economists at the University of Chicago back during the Keynesian heyday. At these havens, the minorities could be confident of ample role models, freedom from snubs, fair shots at leadership positions, courses addressing their interests, responsive audiences for their ideas, and opportunities for their future leaders to meet. The most striking example of this occurred during the Depression when the Ivy League enforced anti-Semitic quotas. So, brilliant Jews concentrated at City College of New Yorks (e.g., three Nobel Prize winners came from the class of 1937 alone). This critical mass of talent set off chain reactions that energized American intellectual life for decades.

Today, though, a black high school senior looking for universities where blacks comprise a significant fraction of the best minds on campus would end up with the same list as his grandfather: the historically black schools like Howard. In fact, these colleges still appear to produce a disproportionate share of black high achievers, despite debilitating competition from far richer colleges for the brightest black minds.

Why can’t wealthy mainstream universities afford the critical mass of top black talent that would make them nurturing environments for black students and professors? Paradoxically, the lock-step obsession of elite colleges with appearing “diverse” has scattered the finest black thinkers in a homogeneously thin and lonely diaspora across every college town in urban and rural America. Consider the career path of the outstanding scholar of African-American literature, Henry Louis Gates. A few years ago he publicly mused about going to Princeton, where he could have teamed with Nobel Laureate Toni Morison, philosopher Cornel West, and other leading black humanists. But hiring Dr. Gates is a quick (though not cheap) way for a school with few first rate black professors to advertise its Commitment to Diversity. Bidding wars have thus carried Dr. Gates instead from Yale to Cornell to Duke to Harvard.

(1B). Racial Favoritism — College sports are simply too important for racial preferences. Any college president who insisted that his football coach play a representative number of Asians or that his basketball coach recruit more Mexican-Americans would be tarred and feathered by outraged alumni. In contrast, racial favoritism in non-athletic admissions and promotions appears to be universal among elite private colleges. A striking graph in Richard Herrnstein’s and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve (p. 452) shows that for all 24 elite private colleges for which they were able to obtain data, the median black student’s SAT score was about 170 points below the average white student’s, and nowhere was the margin less than 95 points.

Is any departure from colorblind meritocracy fair? Professor Stanley Fish of Duke, a leading critic of meritocracy, asks why should we assume that a kid with a high SAT score has more “merit” than a kid with low score. From a sufficiently celestial perspective, of course, Dr. Fish might well be right. But, so what? Down here on Earth, the worst problem with quotas is that they are increasingly a net detriment to blacks.

In the event that Dr. Fish wanted to better understand the real world impact, fair or unfair, of the many and vast differences between humans, he could stroll across campus and ask Duke basketball coach Mike Kryziewski: “In what spiritual sense did Christian Laettner, your 7′ tall 1992 College Basketball Player of the Year, or Grant Hill, your 6’8″ 1994 Player of the Year, more “merit” recruitment by you than a 5’6″ player?” I suspect Coach K might reply that maybe his boys didn’t merit their heights metaphysically, but they sure used them to beat hell out of their shorter opponents physically. Similarly, Dr. Fish could ask Duke’s admissions’ department why they have striven so intently and effectively to recruit white and Asian students with higher SAT scores. The outcome in Duke’s classrooms is the same as in its fieldhouse: just as Duke’s tall, quick teams regularly humiliate their rivals, Duke’s hand-picked whites and Asians embarrass their quota-admitted classmates.

Hard data on the impact of racial preferences on “protected” minorities is scarce, since educators strive hard to keep the public and themselves ignorant on the subject. When I recently suggested to the President of a major research institution that he commission a study of the outcome of his affirmative action policies, he responded, “Well, yeah, sure, but there are so many other things to study first.” From the evidence that has leaked out, though, the impact of academic quotas on blacks appears to be unsurprisingly severe. As was first pointed out in 1969, lower admissions standards methodically mismatch blacks with schools one tier over their heads — e.g., a smart black kid who could succeed in mechanical engineering at Purdue instead gets lured to MIT where he barely scrapes by in political science.

More insidious is the damage done to black students’ motivation. Stanford social psychologist Claude Steele (Shelby Steele’s more liberal identical twin brother) has pointed out that in the Fifties and Sixties the grades of a black student at an elite college tended to rise from freshman to senior year as he became more acclimated. Today, though, Steele finds that their GPA’s typically decline. Apparently, many quota kids, who could be doing fine at less selective schools, shield their self-esteem by “disidentifying with” (i.e., downplaying) academic achievement. “To make matters worse, once disidentification occurs at a school, it can spread like a common cold… Pressure to make it a group norm can evolve quickly and become fierce.” This fear of being labeled an “oreo” or “incognegro” helps explain Steele’s disheartening finding that even blacks more qualified than the average white student on campus also tend to underachieve, with the same grade deterioration.

Quotas also damage the prestige of minority students and faculty, reinvigorating old stereotypes (although black coaches, untarnished by favoritism, have never been more popular). In contrast, since the Army allows only minimal racial bias in promotions (race can be a tie-breaker but little more), the public’s confidence in black Army officers is unquestioning. During the Gulf War Americans calmly entrusted the lives of a half million young people to a command structure where the first and third ranking generals (Colin Powell and Calvin Waller) and many other key commanders were black.

(1C). Testing and Leadership — Despite all the hosannas to “diversity,” elite academia is — and always will be — academically elitist. Since the early 1950′s the most prestigious colleges have succeeded in monopolizing an ever greater fraction of those young people with the brightest scholastic aptitudes. In fact, it’s possible that the most important service that colleges provide American business today is not in educating youth, but in using the SAT or ACT tests to sort them into rough IQ strata. Since the 1971 Supreme Court civil rights decision Griggs vs. Duke Power made it legally risky for businesses to objectively test job applicants, employers increasingly rely upon what college an applicant got into as their best clue to how smart he or she is. Griggs adds enormously to the value of possessing an elite degree, and thus to the tuition a top college can charge. These economic incentives explain the otherwise puzzling fact of why the number of schools requiring the politically unfashionable SAT has steadily risen.

While colleges discriminate ruthlessly against Asian and white applicants who score poorly on the SAT, they do find themselves troubled by the lower SAT scores achieved on average by blacks and Hispanics. So, they lower their standards for “protected minorities.” One common defense of racial preferences is that the SAT doesn’t measure all mental talents. This is certainly true in the case of black students, who tend to exhibit more leadership charisma than scholastic dexterity. Harvard interviewers, for example, routinely rate black applicants stronger than higher-testing Asians in “Leadership” (a category that, by the way, used to be labeled “Manliness” on the interview form).

Unfortunately, it doesn’t follow that this black competitive advantage in leadership therefore justifies racial favoritism in evaluating test scores. In reality, preferences nullify black leadership advantages. First, they taint the reputations of black would-be leaders. Second, to succeed as a leader, while you certainly don’t have to be smarter than all your potential followers, you do have to be smarter than some of them. Even Colin Powell’s vast talent for command would have availed him little if instead of joining the Army, he’d gone to work at Bell Labs. When an admissions office diddles with a test score so they can boast about their student body’s diversity, too often they’re starting a black youth down a path that ends up leaving a frustrated black man permanently stuck as an underling in a field too intellectually demanding for him to succeed in as a leader. This country has always wasted black leadership gifts, for centuries because of outright oppression, but in recent decades also because affirmative action systematically entices young blacks into colleges and careers over their heads.

The Army also uses extensive standardized intelligence testing, but doesn’t play so many games with the results. This frankness means that black enlistees are less likely to become avionics technicians than drill instructors. However, since since being a DI requires less of technical logic and more of those African-American competitive advantages like leadership and a commanding presence, blacks in these roles tend to earn promotions faster than they would if they had been admitted into flight avionics school under a quota.

(1D). Staff vs. Line — Beginning in Prussia two centuries ago, armies have continually experimented with how to balance staff and line jobs. The unachievable perfect solution would make each officer more rounded by thrusting him into challenging positions — where the scholarly must lead, and the warlike must research — while still somehow fully using each individual’s natural strengths.

In contrast, top American colleges largely stopped dead at experimenting with staff and line responsibilities when they adopted the German university system over a century ago. Ever since, anyone ambitious to win a line job teaching students is evaluated upon his performance in the staff functions of research and academic publishing. More sensibly, armies and teams often funnel those with the finest theoretical minds into staff roles (e.g., offensive coordinator on football teams), but those who can best translate theory into terms that young people find comprehensible and inspiring get the line jobs (e.g., head coach). The Army and sports teams work hard to make the complex simple, while the publish or perish system encourages the faculty to make the simple complex.

Further, since staff and line skills are not equally distributed among different ethnic groups, colleges set minorities up for humiliation. Berkeley is notorious for routinely hiring brilliant immigrant laboratory researchers from Confucian cultures that honor scholarship but distrust eloquence, then setting them to work delivering unintelligible lectures to hundreds of befuddled freshmen. Conversely, African-American men, raised in a culture that stresses not erudition but oratory, find their path to the lectern too often blocked by the requirement of first performing original research. My admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leapt even higher upon learning recently that when that epitome of the line leader found himself in the mid-1950′s wasting his valuable time trying to finish an interminable Ph.D. dissertation, he triumphantly shortcut the credentialization treadmill by simply plagiarizing much of his thesis.

(2). Acculturation

(2A). Being vs. Becoming — Through racial quotas, mandatory ethnic studies, minority-only orientation weeks, single-race dormitories, and relentless emphasis on the oppression of minorities, colleges today focus incoming freshmen on what each student, unalterably, is and always will be: black or white, Hispanic or Asian.

In contrast, the military stresses only what recruits can become. The Politics of Identity are of no interest to the Army, which instead tries to obliterate its inductees’ old identities. Beginning with the ritual haircut, boot camp forcibly impresses upon recruits that everything they used to be is contemptible. Their only excuse for taking up space is that they might, somehow, survive basic training and, out of the ashes of their pathetic civilian lives, begin anew as soldiers.

College coaches may face an even tougher job than drill instructors: making high school hotshots into self-sacrificing team players. How do they do it? First, by emphasizing how lucky each recruit is for the privilege of playing for this great university. That, of course, is the sheerest blarney: in contrast to the many wanna-be victims on campus, the star jocks really are cheated out of the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars per year they could make if the NCAA wage-fixing cartel didn’t force them to subsist on scholarships, room, board, and the occasional envelope stuffed with cash. Good old Coach can personally rake in half a million bucks per year by requiring his players to wear whichever shoe he endorses. Nevertheless, through sheer effrontery, the best coaches make their players forget their justifiable gripes. The coaches’ second step is to get players to forget what each was — the star of his high school team — and focus on what they can all become together: champions.

(2B). Teamwork — College-age males are at a peak of gregariousness and competitiveness. As Platoon director Oliver Stone has noted, whether they join fraternities, street gangs, rock bands, basketball teams, or military squads, 19 year old males simply like to form aggressive teams. Yet, although the typical elite college loudly bangs the drum about its “commitment to diversity,” few universities are committed enough to intelligently manipulate these youthful urges to get students to work together with people they wouldn’t naturally choose for friends. For example, undergraduate classwork is a lonely business, with few of the group projects that were the only truly valuable feature of my MBA schooling.

In comparison, American soldiers train incessantly as competitive teams. Exhaustive analysis of WWII combat by General S.L.A. Marshall validated this tradition, showing that the difference between victory and defeat in battle was often “small group cohesion.” “When a soldier is … known to the men who are around him, he … has reason to fear losing the one thing he is likely to value more highly than life — his reputation as a man among other men.”

The second arena for campus competition, social rivalries, has long been dominated by ethnically biased fraternities and sororities. And the third, campus politics (whether contending for old-fashioned student offices or for the new and lucrative handouts for ethnic studies centers, race sensitivity training contracts, etc.) is now ruled by racial blocs.

In contrast, soldiers don’t get to pick their own teammates. Training squads are assigned largely at random, and thus each demographically resembles its rivals. Blue Unit skirmishes fiercely with Red Unit, fostering within each squad friendships that sometimes last a lifetime. Yet, the antagonism between the Blues and the Reds, being wholly arbitrary and lacking any ethnic basis, evaporates as soon as the soldiers are reassigned.

Rice University in Houston imposes an effective military-style compromise between the Kafkaesque facelessness and transience of dormitories and the self-selecting Lord of the Flies tribalism of fraternities. Rice permanently assigns students at random to residence halls, which replace fraternities as the hubs of social rivalry. Within each residence hall the students come from many backgrounds, yet each hall is practically identical overall. Since the organized enmities that Rice fosters between halls are artificial, they’re forgotten upon graduation, while the memories of teamwork within halls endure. The average American college, however, is so little inclined to study new ideas that few have imitated Rice’s now 40 year old success story.

(2C). Racial Sensitivity Training — Each decade colleges spend more on professional divisiveness consultants who have a vested interest in fomenting racial strife. Guess what? Each decade colleges get even more of what they paid for.

According to Dr. Moskos, in the early 1970′s, when relations between white and black soldiers were viciously hostile, the U.S. Army also began race sensitivity training. Experts lectured recruits for 14 hours on black victimization and white guilt. Just like on campus, this only worsened white ill will. In stark contrast to academia, however, the Army then decided to try something different. Today, race-relations are taught by career soldiers deeply loyal to the best interests of the Army. Rather than expound to new recruits about their personal rights, the Army now focuses on training sergeants and officers how to pragmatically carry out their duty to the Army of getting full value from each soldier, regardless of race. Instead of wallowing in provocative but counterproductive historical discussions of who’s to blame, the new courses use role-playing to show how to find solutions: “Tomorrow, your squad goies into battle, but tonight a spat of racial name-calling has broken out. If your unite is divided, you could all get killed. How are you going to solve this problem, Sergeant?”

(3). Why the Differences? — Why do generals and coaches follow more realistic and effective policies than college presidents? Because they have to. They compete in arenas where failure can’t be glossed over. In contrast, competition among colleges is superficial and innocuous: try naming three colleges that have suffered a significant decline in the value of their degrees in recent decades. Although Stanford has become synonymous with grade inflation and Berkeley with 500 student classes harangued by teaching assistants with incomprehensible accents, do either fear bankruptcy or hostile takeover bids from institutions more effective at educating? Have either seen the number of applicants or corporate recruiters wither? Administrators are protected by the collusion among the alumni of top colleges to maintain the prestige of each other’s resumes, no matter how badly their alma maters screw up. (For example, my plug above for Rice U. was not wholly disinterested: that’s where I went.)

Strange but true, undergraduate teaching institutions compete primarily upon the research performed by their graduate schools and upon the SAT scores garnered by their students while they were in high school. True competition would require objective tests of how much value each college adds to the brainpower their students started with. Don’t hold your breath waiting for this.

Although the war among colleges is almost casualty-free, the onslaught of the academic industry upon the rest of society has inflicted substantial costs. Since WWII, the college business has grabbed a far larger cut of the national wealth (in part through shameless price-fixing, behavior that would send corporate CEOs to prison), while concurrently tightening its grip on entry into the professions and even into business. In order to persuade everybody to pursue higher education, whether they would get anything from it or not, the academic complex has undermined the status of everybody lacking in academic credentials, no matter what their other talents.

Elite colleges may ritually condemn discrimination, but they discriminate wholeheartedly against Asians and whites deficient in the scholastic forms of intelligence. With the publish or perish rule forcing professors to specialize in making the simple complex, the collegiate juggernaut has taken a particular toll on groups that at this point in time tend to be less proficient in academic styles of thinking, especially black males. Compounding this, academia’s remedy, affirmative action, is simply cruel. The beginning of a general solution to the problems of race on campus is to stope subjecting intelligent minority youth to the Peter Principal — promoting them to the level of their incompetence before they turn 20. The next step is for all of us to start taking academia and its credentialist paraphernalia a little less on faith.

# # #

Steve Sailer is a businessman and writer, whose “The Secret Zora Neale Hurston” appeared in NR on 4/3/95.

(Republished from National Review by permission of author or representative)
From "Pervert" to "Victim:" The Media's Continued One Dimensional Stereotyping of Homosexuals
🔊 Listen RSS

Published in National Review, 5/30/94

Gay Male Tendencies

Lesbian Tendencies

Comments & Examples

P icnic activity Sunbathe Play softball Softball has been the lesbian game since WWII
B ar activity Dance Shoot pool AIDS has decimated choreographers
Opinion of perfume Enjoy Resent “Scent-free zones” at lesbian-feminist venues
Interest in fashion High Low Versace, Perry Ellis, Yves Saint Laurent
Sense of humor Campy, self-deprecating, waspish Satirical, political You don’t see many lesbian drag king shows
Fantas y job Entertainer Pro athlete Lesbians about 30% of golf/tennis touring pros
Leadership drive Low High Male vs. female officer corps
by need for
Attention & adoration Leadership & domination Gay figure skaters vs. lesbian army officers
Distinctive trait Gay Resentful “We’re not gay, we’re angry!”
Sex Gay Male Tendencies Lesbian Tendencies Comments & Examples
Ravaged by AIDS Untouched by AIDS But breast cancer hits lesbians hard
Promiscuity Monogamy Lesbian bathouses in S.F. were ig flop
High sexual activity level Low sexual activity level “Lesbian Bed Death” syndrome
Fascinated by beauty Resent male fascination with beauty Death in Venice, Billy Budd and other operas by Britten
Avid for pornography Outraged by porn But verbal erotica popular with some lesbians
Often have sex in a semi-public spot Sex at home It’s dangerous to bring many strange men home
Fantasy & degradation Less adventurous Leather/S&M vs. cuddling
Gays absent from hetero porn “Lesbians” a staple of hetero porn See Penthouse
Ideal sex partner Young, thin, handsome Looks not too important See newspaper “Personal” ads
Masculine stranger Feminine friend Only narcissists want lovers like themselves
Careers Gay Male Tendencies Lesbian Tendencies Comments & Examples
Staff Line In army, gays go into medical corps
Frequently serve women Seldom serve men Gay hairdressers outnumber lesbian barbers
Like working w/women Dislike working w/men Olivia Records boycotted merely for hiring woman who used to be a man
Upscale, creative Downscale, blue-collar AIDS obituaries reveal gay job patterns
People-oriented jobs Machine-oriented jobs Gays big in PR, hiring, church, spying
Little interest in military Great interest in military 3x more lesbians than gays expelled
Gentrify risky districts Form rural communes Men can live safely where women can’t
& Culture
Gay Male Tendencies Lesbian Tendencies Comments & Examples
Cognitive orientation Visual Verbal Reflects typical orientations of male/female toddlers
Ensuing jobs Art critic Literary critic English Depts., especially 7 Sisters
Photographer Journalist Schizo fashion mags: gays’ images, feminists’ words
Antique-store owner Bookstore owner Big growth in “women’s” bookstores
Musical Wordy In UK “musical” is euphemism for “gay”
Ensuing jobs Choir director/organist Folk singer Womyn’s music favors sincere lyrics
Opera, ballet, B’way, disco Conciousness raising
Cultural tastes Arts Crafts Camille Paglia is exception proving rules
Classical & avant-garde Folksy, traditional Winckelmann, Pater, Blunt, Acton
See humans as art objects Resent objectification Greek sculpure, Wilde’s Dorian Grey
Snobbish, hierarchizing Sensitive to lesser talents Lesbians big on “Expanding the Canon”
Idolize Classical Greeks Resent dead white European males Greeks made gay traits central to Western art
Music Lyrics In UK “musical” is euphemism for “gay”
Politics Gay Male Tendencies Lesbian Tendencies Comments & Examples
Unpolitical, hedonistic Political, activistic Where is gay MLK Jr. or Malcolm X?
Don’t claim to speak for all men Claim to speak for all women Patricia Ireland, lesbian leader of NOW, titled her memoirs What Women Want
“Why I’m gay: Nature” “Why I’m a lesbian: Nurture” Feminists see orientation as a political choice
Frequently persecuted Frequently ignored Lesbianism legal in Victorian England & Nazi Germany
Estimated 1% to 6% of population Estimated 0.5% to 3% of population Lesbians maybe half as common

A warm Saturday afternoon in late May brings all of Chicago to the lakefront. In the Wrigleyville section of Lincoln Park, softball teams with names like “We Are Everywhere” and “The 10 Percenters” compete with an intensity that could shame the Cubs. Girded for battle with sliding pads, batting gloves, and taped ankles, the short-haired women slash extra-base hits, turn the double play, and hit the cutoff woman with a practiced efficiency that arouses admiring shouts from the women spectators.

Meanwhile, on a grassy lakeside bluff a few blocks to the south, the men of the New Town neighborhood bask, golden, in the sun. If ever a rogue urge to strike a ball with a stick is felt by any of the elegantly sprawled multitude, it is quickly subdued. This absence of athletic strife is certainly not the result of any lack of muscle tone: many have clearly spent the dark months in thrall to SoloFlex and StairMaster. But now, the sun is shining and the men are content for their sculpted bodies to be rather than to do.

What are we to make of all this? What does it say about human nature that so many enthusiasms of the average lesbian and the average gay man diverge so strikingly? What broader lessons about current social issues can we learn from this contrariness of their tendencies, this dissimilarity of lesbian and gay passions that has been dimly observable in many cultures and ages, but that now in the wide open, self-fulfillment obsessed America of the 1990s is unmistakable? Well, apparently, we’d be best off not thinking too much about this fact. Better yet, we should avoid even noticing any of these curious details.

At least, that’s been the implicit message of most of the recent news coverage of homosexuals, an outspilling enormous in extent, but peculiarly limited in analytical depth to endless rehashes of: “Gays: Sinners Against God or Victims of Society?” The ongoing media hubbub may actually be clouding the public’s understanding: so many of today’s auto-pilot articles and paint-by-the-numbers newscasts depict homosexuals as merely one dimensional martyrs to prejudice. There are of course obvious political advantages to blandly glossing over just how heterogeneous are homosexuals. Yet, this media stereotyping probably stems more from the natural urge of journalists to reduce complex and unsettling questions about human nature to just another fable starring good guys/gals we all can identify with (in this case, “gays”), who are discriminated against by bad guys (“homophobes”) we all can feel good about looking down upon. Whether portraying homosexuals as perverts in the past or as victims today, the press has always found it less taxing to preach morality rather than to try to understand reality.

As with any other large collection of people, numerous fault lines divide homosexuals, but the most remarkable is the one separating gay men from lesbians. (I use “gay” to refer only to male homosexuals. The media’s habit of applying the word to female homosexuals is male chauvinism at its most blatant: “gay” is just about the last term lesbians would have invented to describe themselves. As one lesbian activist succinctly put it, “We’re not gay, we’re angry!”) The current fashion of lumping together as “gays” everybody from Liberacé to Martina Navratilova does something less than justice to the individuals so categorized, to one’s own intellectual curiosity, and to the productiveness of public discourse.

This handy table of tendencies will of course be denounced as reflecting stereotypes. In the through the looking glass world of contemporary social comment, the more true a statement, the more meticulous its delineation, the more people from the more societies who have observed it to be a fact, then the more automatic the cries of “Stereotype!” Many journalists today write as if they are unable to distinguish between perceptive observations about the average traits of a group and blanket assertions about each and every group member. Thus, even carefully worded summations of the obvious like, “Men tend to be more aggressive than women,” are triumphantly refuted with, “So, you think Mister Rogers is more aggressive than Mrs. Thatcher? Huh? Huh?”

Conspicuously missing from current debates is that most useful of all conceptual tools for thinking about both the similarity and the diversity of human beings: the probability distribution (more roughly known as the bell-shaped curve). Rather than help educate the public to think in terms of bell-shaped curves and individual variances, the press instead warns us to abstain altogether from noticing average differences between groups. Such knowledge, according to the media’s theory, might bias our treatment of individuals. Of course, these proponents of unsullied individualism are so often the same people who, for their own professional or political ends, rhetorically clump humans into the grossest possible stereotypical categories (e.g., Gays, People of Color, Minorities, Third Worlders, Anglos, Homophobes, the Marginalized, the White Male Power Structure, etcetera etcetera). Worse, this taboo endorses ignorance. Now, benightedness certainly makes life more surprising (in the words of Homer Simpson, “Life is just a bunch of things that happen”), but know-nothingness does have its drawbacks, as has been pointed out on various occasions stretching back to the Ice Ages. Of course, few “social critics” actually try to practice this idealistic ignorance in their private lives. They merely publicly urge it on others.

Since the media spend so much time telling us to be oblivious to facts, it’s not surprising that they themselves are suckers for frauds, like that long-lasting media cliche, “10% of all men and women are homosexual.” This canard has been based on little more than gay erotic daydreams. One defender of the 10% number, the gay critic Bruce Bawer, has written of how he can know from momentary eye contact that a young father pushing a baby carriage past him on the street is “living a lie.” If the 10% concoction were true, there would be four to five times as many homosexuals as Jews!

Are homosexuals fairly common, like, say, tax-cheaters, lefthanders, or tithe-givers? Or are they fairly rare, like prison inmates, identical twins, or clergy? This is certainly an interesting topic, but why this purely empirical question is thought to possess such moral consequence that many people feel compelled to lie about it is beyond me. Of course, there is much in modern media morals that I am not sensitive enough to understand. On the other hand, the fact that there are relatively few homosexuals answers a common type of objection to my table of tendencies: e.g., “You claim lesbians like softball, but most of the women softball players I know are straight.” In response, let’s assume lesbians are, say, ten times as likely as heterosexual women to play in an all-woman adult softball league. If 10% of the population was actually lesbian, then a majority of the players would be lesbians. More realistically, however, if only 2.5% of women were lesbians, then straight softball players would outnumber lesbians about 4 to 1.

One of the cruelest effects of ignorance about homosexuals’ propensities is the heartbreak it causes both a homosexual and his or her parents when the adult child finally reveals the Surprising Truth. We are told that if only the parents hadn’t been socialized to hold outdated prejudices, the surprise would not be disappointing. Disappointment, however, is inevitable: the desire to pass on your genes to grandchildren is bedrock human nature. What is far more avoidable, though, is the surprise. A more worldly awareness of those enduring likes and dislikes that tend to correlate with sexual orientation, and which so often manifest themselves early in childhood, could quite frequently allow the parents of children who turn out to be homosexual to have already spent years slowly getting used to the likelihood that this child won’t ever make them grandparents, but can still make them proud and happy in many other ways.

It’s important to note that the different inclinations of gays and lesbians do not follow easily predicted lines. In roughly half the traits, homosexuals tend to more resemble the opposite sex than they do the rest of their own sex. For example, many heterosexual men and lesbian women are enthusiasts for golf, as well as other hit-a-ball-with-a-stick games like softball and pool. Lesbian-feminist sportswriter Mariah Burton Nelson recently estimated, not implausibly, that 30% of the Ladies Professional Golf Association women touring pros were lesbians. While such estimates are hard to verify, it’s clear that the marketers at the LPGA desperately wish they had more mothers-of-three like Nancy Lopez, the most popular woman golfer ever: i.e., a victorious yet still feminine champion with whom other heterosexual women enjoy identifying.

In contrast, pre-menopausal straight women and gay men typically find golf pointless. For example, despite incessant socialization toward golf, only one out of nine wives of PGA touring pros plays golf herself! And gay male golf fanatics are so rare that it’s difficult to even come up with an exception that proves this rule (which might explain why golfers wear those god-awful pants).

Yet, for many other traits, homosexuals exhibit their own sex’s tendencies to a heightened degree. For instance, all great classical composers have been male. At least since Tchaikovsky, though, an impressive number of leading composers have been gay or bisexual (e.g., Britten, Copland, Barber, Poulenc, Corigliano, and Bernstein). In comparison, although “Women’s Music” festivals play an important role in lesbian culture, their audiences distrust dazzling exhibitions of musical virtuosity, instead preferring simple folk songs with sincere lyrics. Overall, lesbian culture is intensely verbal, a bias that seems to stem from the verbal superiority of women in general, that general feminine superiority with words that is measurable as far back as toddlerhood.

Has anyone yet deciphered a Unified Field Theory that would explain all of these complex patterns? Not that I’m aware of, but we can’t begin to look for one without laying out all the facts first.

The best criticism of this article’s gay vs. lesbian dichotomy would be that it doesn’t go far enough. For example, people raised in Latin countries might think it peculiar that Americans insist on labeling as “gay” both Truman Capote and that exemplar of murderous masculine charisma, Alexander the Great. Latins are inclined to care less than Americans about whom a man goes to bed with and more about what he does there. Although this dominant vs. submissive distinction has evaporated from America’s polite discourse, it remains the main theme of our impolite discourse (as any male motorist can testify who has ever triggered the obscene wrath of an NYC cabbie).

Gay vs. lesbian distinctions are also important for thinking about public policies. Homosexual-related issues like gays in the military, AIDS, and same-sex marriages cannot be discussed realistically without acknowledging the wide differences on average between gays and lesbians. For example, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and the newsweeklies have been trumpeting, despite the highly preliminary nature of the findings, evidence that homosexuality has biological roots. Generally overlooked, however, is that most of the research was performed on gay male subjects by gay male scientists and then hyped by gay male publicists. Going largely unreported is the lesbian population’s profound ambivalence about this half-scientific, half-political crusade. (For example, an attack on the theory that lesbianism has biological causes is one of the main themes of Lillian Faderman’s fine history of American lesbians, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers.) This media reticence is noteworthy, considering that the press otherwise so assiduously keeps us informed of the views of the lesbian-dominated National Organization for Women’s on child-rearing, marriage, beauty, men and, of course, What the Women of America Want — subjects upon which lesbians might be presumed to have rather less expertise to offer than on the question of why they are lesbians.

Many lesbian-feminists deny that their sexual orientation is biologically rooted, attributing it instead to what they perceive as our culture’s decision to socialize males to be domineering. They may claim this simply to avoid contradicting feminist theory, which is, well, “biophobic.” (Yes, I know that this trendy practice of insinuating that those who disagree with you politically must suffer from a mental disorder is reminiscent of the imprisoning of Soviet dissidents in psychiatric hospitals, but, hey, once you get the hang of it, it’s kind of fun.) On the other hand, the lesbian-feminists might be right and the gay researcher/activists wrong about the nature of homosexuality. Or, homosexuality might not have a single nature: at minimum, there could be a fundamental difference between lesbians and gays.

We would all profit from hearing this question openly hashed out. The ensuing brouhaha could help unshackle American intellectual discussion from the polite fictions about human nature that currently suffocate it. Although the prestige press devotes more than a little ink to scientific discoveries about human nature, it carefully avoids mentioning the political implications of these findings (except, of course, in the case of gays). When discussing all other social controversies, the serious media instead pay mindful lip service to the dogma that socialization is the root of all differences between people. (Fortunately, though, the unserious media like the Fox Network, Dave Barry, and stand-up comedians blithely carry on the court jester’s job of telling irreverent truths about humanity.)

While emotionally comforting to many, this faith in the omnipotence of nurture remains unproved, to say the least. By now, it seems inevitable that this strict constructionist creed eventually must be washed away by the ever-growing torrent of scientific evidence to the contrary (of which the research on the possible genetic causes of male homosexuality is the merest and least certain rivulet). Yet, the single event most likely to speed the day when it is politically and socially acceptable to openly discuss the broad relevance of this fast-solidifying scientific consensus that biology plays an important role in human behavior would be a public donnybrook between gay men and lesbian-feminists over nature vs. nurture.

Beyond homosexual-related issues, this gay vs. lesbian dichotomy can cast new light on many social questions. Fundamentally, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, almost all American social controversies rest on conflicting assumptions about human nature. Is it infinitely malleable? If not, what are its constraints? Whatever other purposes there are for our existence, we know evolution has shaped human nature to promote reproduction. To study reproduction is to study sex and sexuality. To understand heterosexual men and women is difficult without studying homosexual men and women as a frame of reference.

For instance, honest discussion of the differences between lesbians and gays would also generate fresh insights into what feminists imperialistically call “women’s” issues. While feminist theory is largely immune from radical questioning in most of the prestige media, few people actually take it seriously . . . especially feminists. They seldom pay their own theory the respect of treating it like a scientific theory and testing it against the evidence. If feminist theory is truly an attempt to make accurate predictions about reality, rather than simply an elaborate rationalization for blaming your troubles on somebody else, then feminists should welcome a frank appraisal of the contrasting longings and ambitions of gays and lesbians, since this offers fascinating new perspectives from which to assay feminist hypotheses.

For example, feminists tirelessly denounce the fashion and beauty industry for brainwashing American men into craving skin-deep feminine beauty. But which is truly the cause and which is the effect? Luckily, the curious analyst can study people who have rejected heterosexual socialization: among homosexuals, the distinctiveness of men’s and women’s basic sexual urges is especially vivid. Since “Women Seeking Women” don’t need to entice men’s visually-focused desires, their newspaper personal ads tend toward wistful vagueness: Attractive SWF, bi, seeking SF, feminine & discreet, any race, for friendship and possible rltnshp. In contrast, the “Men Seeking Men” classifieds bristle with statistics quantifying appearance: John Wayne-type (41, 6’3″ 210#, C 46″ W 35″, brn/grn) seeks Steve Garvey-type (muscular, str8-acting, 20-30, under 6′ & 185#, blu eyes a +).

Even more egregiously swept under the rug by feminists like Naomi Wolf (author of The Beauty Myth) is the central creative role of gay men in the fashion business. Thus, feminist pundits routinely portray the current fad in haute couture for “waif” models (young girls lacking in the more popular secondary sexual characteristics) as a conspiracy against women hatched by . . . yes, you guessed it, The Male Power Structure. This accusation always conjures up for me a vision of Alan Greenspan, Bill Gates, and Colin Powell resolving in secret conclave to put uppity women back in their place by ordering Vogue to print a lot of pictures of girls who look like boys.

Feminists’ widespread (though hushed-up) exasperation with gay men probably originates in the perennial struggle of the “women’s movement” to enlist enough Indians for its ample supply of chiefs. In this battle for the hearts and minds of the female masses, it is the gay imagination that so often crystalizes the misty yearnings of femininity into those beguiling baubles and alluring images that help seduce heterosexual women away from the stern precepts of feminism. Would bridal magazines be 800 pages long without the endlessly creative genius of gay men who make their livings subverting and sabotaging feminism’s war on femininity.

The second helpful table summarizes the contemporary issues that the media insist on stereotyping in “victim” vs. “oppressor” terms, but where a frank exploration of the differences between gay men and lesbians offers new angles from which to slice through the cant.

We can never eliminate stereotypes. Instead, we should constantly search for more and better stereotypes, ones that more narrowly and accurately describe reality. The alternative is not some utopia without stereotypes, but our current intellectual dystopia, where the broadest, stupidest, and most dishonest stereotypes reign.

(Republished from National Review by permission of author or representative)
No Items Found
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?