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
Diversity Before Diversity

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS
In Gore Vidal’s historical novel Empire, President Theodore Roosevelt exclaims in 1907 about the new state of Oklahoma and its two new Democratic senators:

“They have also, in their infinite Western wisdom, sent us a blind boy for one senator, and an Indian — an Indian! — for another.”

The blind senator, Thomas Gore, was Vidal’s maternal grandfather (but only a distant relation of Al Gore). Senator Gore had gone blind in a couple of childhood accidents. 

My general impression is that the number of blind people is declining. When I was young, blind musicians were prominent (e.g., Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano, and Ronnie Milsap were all famous around 1970), but that seems to be less true these days. The Lt. Governor of New York recently was blind, but he ran into trouble when he moved up to the top job after Gov. Spitzer’s resignation. It’s hard being blind. 

The other 1907 Oklahoma senator, Robert L. Owen, is identified on the Cherokee rolls as 1/16th Cherokee, although that might have been an exaggeration. 

Still, he appears to have inherited some good hair genes from his Indian ancestor. Wikipedia reports: “He was a tall man of erect bearing, who kept a full head of hair to the end of his life.” He looked like the kind of slightly Indian guy whom 1930s Hollywood directors would have been happy to cast as an Indian chief.

He publicly identified as part-Cherokee and was thus employed in various Indian affairs for years in the late 19th century. From 1900 to 1906 he represented the Eastern Cherokee in their famous case over having their lands stolen from them by Andrew Jackson, winning almost $5 million in a 1906 Supreme Court decision.

As Thomas Babington Macaulay pointed out in regards to English attitudes toward Scottish Highlanders, fear and loathing rapidly changed to thinking Scots were glamorous once they were subdued and longer likely to go on the warpath. So, by early 20th Century, being a little bit Indian was cool.

This was very different from the attitudes toward blacks in the U.S. in 1907. Latins who were somewhat black like the Dumas novelists, father and son, were okay as long as there wasn’t much talk about it (e.g., some partly black Cubans broke the major league baseball color line playing for the Washington Senators in the late 1930s and early 1940s long before Jackie Robinson, but almost nobody mentioned it, so it wasn’t a Thing). A few politicians were a little bit black (various Southern legislatures drawing up Jim Crow laws in the late 19th Century avoided “one drop” definitions to not disqualify some of their members). But it wasn’t to be talked about, while Senator Owen or Vice President Charles Curtis being partly Indian was celebrated.

The causal mechanism was the reverse of what we are supposed to believe now. We are always being told that white bigotry against blacks was driven by “hate,” but 19th Century whites had hated Indians far more than they had hated blacks. Just about everybody who contact with Indians on the frontier hated them, with only a few exceptions (e.g., Sam Houston), while most whites who came into contact with black slaves liked them. Mark Twain is extremely representative: compare Jim in Huckleberry Finn to Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer.

Both senators were highly successful, Owen serving straight through from 1907 until 1925 (he co-sponsored the Glass-Owen act setting up the Federal Reserve system in 1913), while Gore was in and out of the Senate until 1937.
🔊 Listen RSS
Bebe gets a hand from Dick

This 1970 Life Magazine cover story “Bebe Rebozo: President Nixon’s best friend” demonstrates the hatred and discrimination suffered by any and all Hispanics back in the bad old days before the Nixon Administration created the Hispanic category of affirmative action beneficiaries.

We must pass the Schumer-Rubio bill and then elect Marco Rubio President as apology and reparation for what his people, the Rebozos of the world, suffered at the hands of American racism.

🔊 Listen RSS
Prince Charles in a kilt

One of the themes of my “Diversity before Diversity” series is that it’s simplistic to assume that white attitudes toward blacks in the past also applied to white attitudes toward other races. The reality is much more complex. Attitudes varied both by race and by time and place. 

American Indians, for example, tended to inspire in whites both more fear and loathing and more admiration than did blacks. 

For example, consider the two best-known novels by the major American novelist of the 19th Century, Mark Twain. In Huckleberry Finn, Jim, the runaway slave, is portrayed with affection. In Tom Sawyer, however, the villain Injun Joe, a half Indian-half white, is portrayed as frightening and evil. Twain, being a Westerner, knew Indians and did not like them. 

In contrast, James Fenimore Cooper, born in Cooperstown, New York, wrote The Last of the Mohicans in New York City.

The general pattern was that the more distant a white American was in location and time from large numbers of Indians, the more he admired them. Over time, the Romantic view of Native Americans became predominant in white America as the threat posed by Indians evaporated.

This pattern was not unique to white-Indian interactions. It had previously been observed in attitudes of the English and English-speaking Lowland Scots toward the Highland Scots. 

In 1855, Thomas Babington Macaulay, the British politician and poet, published the third volume of his History of England. It includes a portrait of the Scottish Highlands, home of his ancestors, and of the changing opinions toward Highlanders of the English and the Lowland Scots (collectively, “the Saxons”) that is perhaps the most brilliant lengthy passage in the intellectual history of diversity (emphasis on lengthy).

It is not easy for a modern Englishman, who can pass in a day from his club in St. James’s Street to his shooting box among the Grampians, and who finds in his shooting box all the comforts and luxuries of his club, to believe that, in the time of his greatgrandfathers, St. James’s Street had as little connection with the Grampians as with the Andes. Yet so it was. In the south of our island scarcely any thing was known about the Celtic part of Scotland; and what was known excited no feeling but contempt and loathing. The crags and the glens, the woods and the waters, were indeed the same that now swarm every autumn with admiring gazers and stretchers. … Yet none of these sights had power, till a recent period, to attract a single poet or painter from more opulent and more tranquil regions. Indeed, law and police, trade and industry, have done far more than people of romantic dispositions will readily admit, to develope in our minds a sense of the wilder beauties of nature. A traveller must be freed from all apprehension of being murdered or starved before he can be charmed by the bold outlines and rich tints of the hills. He is not likely to be thrown into ecstasies by the abruptness of a precipice from which he is in imminent danger of falling two thousand feet perpendicular; by the boiling waves of a torrent which suddenly whirls away his baggage and forces him to run for his life; by the gloomy grandeur of a pass where he finds a corpse which marauders have just stripped and mangled; or by the screams of those eagles whose next meal may probably be on his own eyes. … 

[The poet Oliver] Goldsmith was one of the very few Saxons who, more than a century ago, ventured to explore the Highlands. He was disgusted by the hideous wilderness, and declared that he greatly preferred the charming country round Leyden, the vast expanse of verdant meadow, and the villas with their statues and grottoes, trim flower beds, and rectilinear avenues. Yet it is difficult to believe that the author of the Traveller and of the Deserted Village was naturally inferior in taste and sensibility to the thousands of clerks and milliners who are now thrown into raptures by the sight of Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond. 

His feelings may easily be explained. It was not till roads had been cut out of the rocks, till bridges had been flung over the courses of the rivulets, till inns had succeeded to dens of robbers, till there was as little danger of being slain or plundered in the wildest defile of Badenoch or Lochaber as in Cornhill, that strangers could be enchanted by the blue dimples of the lakes and by the rainbows which overhung the waterfalls, and could derive a solemn pleasure even from the clouds and tempests which lowered on the mountain tops. 

The change in the feeling with which the Lowlanders regarded the highland scenery was closely connected with a change not less remarkable in the feeling with which they regarded the Highland race. It is not strange that the Wild Scotch, as they were sometimes called, should, in the seventeenth century, have been considered by the Saxons as mere savages. But it is surely strange that, considered as savages, they should not have been objects of interest and curiosity. The English were then abundantly inquisitive about the manners of rude nations separated from our island by great continents and oceans. Numerous books were printed describing the laws, the superstitions, the cabins, the repasts, the dresses, the marriages, the funerals of Laplanders and Hottentots, Mohawks and Malays. The plays and poems of that age are full of allusions to the usages of the black men of Africa and of the red men of America. The only barbarian about whom there was no wish to have any information was the Highlander. … 

In the reign of George the First, a work was published which professed to give a most exact account of Scotland; and in this work, consisting of more than three hundred pages, two contemptuous paragraphs were thought sufficient for the Highlands and the Highlanders. We may well doubt whether, in 1689, one in twenty of the well read gentlemen who assembled at Will’s coffeehouse knew that, within the four seas, and at the distance of less than five hundred miles from London, were many miniature courts, in each of which a petty prince, attended by guards, by armour bearers, by musicians, by a hereditary orator, by a hereditary poet laureate, kept a rude state, dispensed a rude justice, waged wars, and concluded treaties. While the old Gaelic institutions were in full vigour, no account of them was given by any observer, qualified to judge of them fairly. 

Had such an observer studied the character of the Highlanders, he would doubtless have found in it closely intermingled the good and the bad qualities of an uncivilised nation. He would have found that the people had no love for their country or for their king; that they had no attachment to any
commonwealth larger than the clan, or to any magistrate superior to the chief. He would have found that life was governed by a code of morality and honour widely different from that which is established in peaceful and prosperous societies. He would have learned that a stab in the back, or a shot from behind a fragment of rock, were approved modes of taking satisfaction for insults. He would have heard men relate boastfully how they or their fathers had wreaked on hereditary enemies in a neighbouring valley such vengeance as would have made old soldiers of the Thirty Years’ War shudder. He would have found that robbery was held to be a calling, not merely innocent, but honourable. He would have seen, wherever he turned, that dislike of steady industry, and that disposition to throw on the weaker sex the heaviest part of manual labour, which are characteristic of savages. He would have been struck by the spectacle of athletic men basking in the sun, angling for salmon, or taking aim at grouse, while their aged mothers, their pregnant wives, their tender daughters, were reaping the scanty harvest of oats. Nor did the women repine at their hard lot. In their view it was quite fit that a man, especially if he assumed the aristocratic title of Duinhe Wassel and adorned his bonnet with the eagle’s feather, should take his ease, except when he was fighting, hunting, or marauding. To mention the name of such a man in connection with commerce or with any mechanical art was an insult. Agriculture was indeed less despised. Yet a highborn warrior was much more becomingly employed in plundering the land of others than in tilling his own. 

The religion of the greater part of the Highlands was a rude mixture of Popery and Paganism. The symbol of redemption was associated with heathen sacrifices and incantations. Baptized men poured libations of ale to one Daemon, and set out drink offerings of milk for another. Seers wrapped themselves up in bulls’ hides, and awaited, in that vesture, the inspiration which was to reveal the future. Even among those minstrels and genealogists whose hereditary vocation was to preserve the memory of past events, an enquirer would have found very few who could read. In truth, he might easily have journeyed from sea to sea without discovering a page of Gaelic printed or written. The price which he would have had to pay for his knowledge of the country would have been heavy. He would have had to endure hardships as great as if he had sojourned among the Esquimaux or the Samoyeds. Here and there, indeed, at the castle of some great lord who had a seat in the Parliament and Privy Council, and who was accustomed to pass a large part of his life in the cities of the South, might have been found wigs and embroidered coats, plate and fine linen, lace and jewels, French dishes and French wines. But, in general, the traveller would have been forced to content himself with very different quarters. In many dwellings the furniture, the food, the clothing, nay the very hair and skin of his hosts, would have put his philosophy to the proof. His lodging would sometimes have been in a hut of which every nook would have swarmed with vermin. He would have inhaled an atmosphere thick with peat smoke, and foul with a hundred noisome exhalations. At supper grain fit only for horses would have been set before him, accompanied by a cake of blood drawn from living cows. Some of the company with which he would have feasted would have been covered with cutaneous eruptions, and others would have been smeared with tar like sheep. His couch would have been the bare earth, dry or wet as the weather might be; and from that couch he would have risen half poisoned with stench, half blind with the reek of turf, and half mad with the itch.

This is not an attractive picture. And yet an enlightened and dispassionate observer would have found in the character and manners of this rude people something which might well excite admiration and a good hope. Their courage was what great exploits achieved in all the four quarters of the globe have since proved it to be. Their intense attachment to their own tribe and to their own patriarch, though politically a great evil, partook of the nature of virtue. The sentiment was misdirected and ill regulated; but still it was heroic. There must be some elevation of soul in a man who loves the society of which he is a member and the leader whom he follows with a love stronger than the love of life. It was true that the Highlander had few scruples about shedding the blood of an enemy: but it was not less true that he had high notions of the duty of observing faith to allies and hospitality to guests. It was true that his predatory habits were most pernicious to the commonwealth. Yet those erred greatly who imagined that he bore any resemblance to villains who, in rich and well governed communities, live by stealing. When he drove before him the herds of Lowland farmers up the pass which led to his native glen, he no more considered himself as a thief than the Raleighs and Drakes considered themselves as thieves when they divided the cargoes of Spanish galleons. He was a warrior seizing lawful prize of war, of war never once intermitted during the thirty-five generations which had passed away since the Teutonic invaders had driven the children of the soil to the mountains. That, if he was caught robbing on such principles, he should, for the protection of peaceful industry, be punished with the utmost rigour of the law was perfectly just. But it was not just to class him morally with the pickpockets who infested Drury Lane Theatre, or the highwaymen who stopped coaches on Blackheath. His inordinate pride of birth and his contempt for labour and trade were indeed great weaknesses, and had done far more than the inclemency of the air and the sterility of the soil to keep his country poor and rude. Yet even here there was some compensation. It must in fairness be acknowledged that the patrician virtues were not less widely diffused among the population of the Highlands than the patrician vices. As there was no other part of the island where men, sordidly clothed, lodged, and fed, indulged themselves to such a degree in the idle sauntering habits of an aristocracy, so there was no other part of the island where such men had in such a degree the better qualities of an aristocracy, grace and dignity of manner, self respect, and that noble sensibility which makes dishonour more terrible than death. A gentleman of this sort, whose clothes were begrimed with the accumulated filth of years, and whose hovel smelt worse than an English hogstye, would often do the honours of that hovel with a lofty courtesy worthy of the splendid circle of Versailles.  

Though he had as little booklearning as the most stupid ploughboys of England, it would have been a great error to put him in the same intellectual rank with such ploughboys. It is indeed only by reading that men can become profoundly acquainted with any science. But the arts of poetry and rhetoric may be carried near to absolute perfection, and may exercise a mighty influence on the public mind, in an age in which books are wholly or almost wholly unknown. … 

There was therefore even then evidence sufficient to justify the belief that no natural inferiority had kept the Celt far behind the Saxon. It might safely have been predicted that, if ever an efficient police should make it impossible for the Highlander to avenge his wrongs by violence and to supply his wants by rapine, if ever his faculties should be developed by the civilising influence of the Protestant religion and of the English language, if ever he should transfer to his country and to her lawful magistrates the affection and respect with which he had been taught to regard his own petty community and his own petty prince, the kingdom would obtain an immense accession of strength for all the purposes both of pea
ce and of war. 

Such would doubtless have been the decision of a well informed and impartial judge. But no such judge was then to be found. The Saxons who dwelt far from the Gaelic provinces could not be well informed. The Saxons who dwelt near those provinces could not be impartial. National enmities have always been fiercest among borderers; and the enmity between the Highland borderer and the Lowland borderer along the whole frontier was the growth of ages, and was kept fresh by constant injuries. One day many square miles of pasture land were swept bare by armed plunderers from the hills. Another day a score of plaids dangled in a row on the gallows of Crieff or Stirling. Fairs were indeed held on the debatable land for the necessary interchange of commodities. But to those fairs both parties came prepared for battle; and the day often ended in bloodshed. Thus the Highlander was an object of hatred to his Saxon neighbours; and from his Saxon neighbours those Saxons who dwelt far from him learned the very little that they cared to know about his habits. When the English condescended to think of him at all,—and it was seldom that they did so,—they considered him as a filthy abject savage, a slave, a Papist, a cutthroat, and a thief.

This contemptuous loathing lasted till the year 1745 [when Bonnie Prince Charlie, Pretender to the throne lost by the Stuarts in 1688, led an invading Highland army to within 100 miles of London], and was then for a moment succeeded by intense fear and rage. England, thoroughly alarmed, put forth her whole strength. The Highlands were subjugated rapidly, completely, and for ever. During a short time the English nation, still heated by the recent conflict, breathed nothing but vengeance. The slaughter on the field of battle and on the scaffold was not sufficient to slake the public thirst for blood. The sight of the tartan inflamed the populace of London with hatred, which showed itself by unmanly outrages to defenceless captives. A political and social revolution took place through the whole Celtic region. The power of the chiefs was destroyed: the people were disarmed: the use of the old national garb was interdicted: the old predatory habits were effectually broken; and scarcely had this change been accomplished when a strange reflux of public feeling began. 

Pity succeeded to aversion. The nation execrated the cruelties which had been committed on the Highlanders, and forgot that for those cruelties it was itself answerable. Those very Londoners, who, while the memory of the march to Derby was still fresh, had thronged to hoot and pelt the rebel prisoners, now fastened on the prince who had put down the rebellion the nickname of Butcher. Those barbarous institutions and usages, which, while they were in full force, no Saxon had thought worthy of serious examination, or had mentioned except with contempt, had no sooner ceased to exist than they became objects of curiosity, of interest, even of admiration. Scarcely had the chiefs been turned into mere landlords, when it became the fashion to draw invidious comparisons between the rapacity of the landlord and the indulgence of the chief. Men seemed to have forgotten that the ancient Gaelic polity had been found to be incompatible with the authority of law, had obstructed the progress of civilisation, had more than once brought on the empire the curse of civil war. As they had formerly seen only the odious side of that polity, they could now see only the pleasing side. The old tie, they said, had been parental: the new tie was purely commercial. What could be more lamentable than that the head of a tribe should eject, for a paltry arrear of rent, tenants who were his own flesh and blood, tenants whose forefathers had often with their bodies covered his forefathers on the field of battle? 

As long as there were Gaelic marauders, they had been regarded by the Saxon population as hateful vermin who ought to be exterminated without mercy. As soon as the extermination had been accomplished, as soon as cattle were as safe in the Perthshire passes as in Smithfield market, the freebooter was exalted into a hero of romance. As long as the Gaelic dress was worn, the Saxons had pronounced it hideous, ridiculous, nay, grossly indecent. Soon after it had been prohibited, they discovered that it was the most graceful drapery in Europe. The Gaelic monuments, the Gaelic usages, the Gaelic superstitions, the Gaelic verses, disdainfully neglected during many ages, began to attract the attention of the learned from the moment at which the peculiarities of the Gaelic race began to disappear. 

So strong was this impulse that, where the Highlands were concerned, men of sense gave ready credence to stories without evidence, and men of taste gave rapturous applause to compositions without merit. Epic poems, which any skilful and dispassionate critic would at a glance have perceived to be almost entirely modern, and which, if they had been published as modern, would have instantly found their proper place in company with Blackmore’s Alfred and Wilkie’s Epigoniad, were pronounced to be fifteen hundred years old, and were gravely classed with the Iliad [e.g., James MacPherson's hoax epic Ossian, published around 1760]. Writers of a very different order from the impostor who fabricated these forgeries saw how striking an effect might be produced by skilful pictures of the old Highland life [e.g., Sir Walter Scott]. Whatever was repulsive was softened down: whatever was graceful and noble was brought prominently forward. Some of these works were executed with such admirable art that, like the historical plays of Shakspeare, they superseded history. The visions of the poet were realities to his readers. The places which he described became holy ground, and were visited by thousands of pilgrims. 

Soon the vulgar imagination was so completely occupied by plaids, targets, and claymores, that, by most Englishmen, Scotchman and Highlander were regarded as synonymous words. Few people seemed to be aware that, at no remote period, a Macdonald or a Macgregor in his tartan was to a citizen of Edinburgh or Glasgow what an Indian hunter in his war paint is to an inhabitant of Philadelphia or Boston. Artists and actors represented Bruce and Douglas in striped petticoats. They might as well have represented Washington brandishing a tomahawk, and girt with a string of scalps. At length this fashion reached a point beyond which it was not easy to proceed. The last British King who held a court in Holyrood thought that he could not give a more striking proof of his respect for the usages which had prevailed in Scotland before the Union, than by disguising himself in what, before the Union, was considered by nine Scotchmen out of ten as the dress of a thief.

And yet, while Macaulay’s portrait of changing Saxon views of Highlanders brilliantly anticipated changing white views of Native Americans, the accomplishments of the Indians themselves did not follow the trajectory of Highlanders, who rapidly became among the most successful ethnicities in the Anglosphere. A group’s history is not just a product of the views of others, but also of their own performance.

🔊 Listen RSS
Skipping over to Britain, an Indian-born Parsi named Dadabhai Naoroji was elected to the British House of Commons in 1892 in the Liberal interest, serving until 1895. As a Zoroastrian priest, he took the oath of office on his copy of the Kordeh Avesta.

When the Tories swept in in 1895, another Parsi, Sir Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownagree, won a seat representing Bethnal Green, and served in the House of Commons until the Liberal triumph of 1906. (For more on Parsis, see my 2002 article.)

We shouldn’t generalize from the British experience to the American, though. I doubt if a South Asian Zoroastrian could have gotten elected in 1890s America. The two Parsis’ success in British electoral politics came at the high tide of imperialist ideology in Britain, which is usually denounced for racism; but imperialism also tends to lead to cosmopolitanism, as in ancient Rome. The American equivalent might have been the Cold War. The 1965 immigration act was pushed in the name of fighting the Cold War by treating nicer all those people from strategically crucial developing countries. 

The first South Asian to be elected to Congress was California Democrat Dalip Singh Saund, a Sikh, in 1956, who went on to serve three terms.

🔊 Listen RSS
One of the most glamorous and castigated characters of 20th Century American history was the CIA’s head of counter-intelligence from 1954-1975, James Jesus Angleton

He was, as his famous middle name suggests, half-Mexican. His father was an officer in Pershing’s army that invaded Mexico in 1916, his mother was a young Mexican society beauty.

There have long been connections between espionage and literature, with several famous writers having served in intelligence agencies (e.g., Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, William F. Buckley, John Le Carre). Angleton has fascinated writers because he was a man of letters who became a major intelligence operative.

A poet and literary critic, editor of the poetry journal Furioso, he borrowed his friend T.S. Eliot’s image in Gerontion of “a wilderness of mirrors” to describe the problems he confronted in trying to figure out which purported Soviet defectors were credible and which were plants when they arrived bearing tales of traitors in British and American intelligence. 

When Angleton’s life was finally depicted in a big budget movie, 2006′s The Good Shepherd, director Robert de Niro and screenwriter Eric Roth chose to make Matt Damon’s fictionalized version of Angleton not more fascinating than even the real man was (in the reasonable tradition of biopics), but vastly duller in order, apparently, to make the point that WASPs are boring. 

The whole Mexican mother thing was dropped, of course, as too interesting and too confusing for modern audiences.

🔊 Listen RSS
Exactly a century ago, Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968) became a celebrated Olympic swimmer and the single most important individual ever in surfing. From a history of surfing:

In 1912, Hawaiian beach boy Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was already famous as a surfer and swimmer. He was credited with developing the flutter kick to replace the scissor kick in freestyle swimming [he may have picked it up from visiting Australians] and was the three-time world record holder in the 100-meter freestyle. As a surfer, Duke was one of Hawai’i’s best ocean watermen, a beach boy and one of the founders of the Hui Nalu Club. Duke was a fine figure of a Polynesian, slim and muscular and built for speed, blessed with extraordinarily long hands and feet. 

In 1912, Duke passed through southern California en route to the summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. His surfing demonstrations at Corona del Mar and Santa Monica caused a sensation much greater than Freeth’s. Duke became world famous by winning an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle in Stockholm and again in Antwerp in 1920. Touted as the fastest swimmer alive, Duke was on the road constantly, giving swimming exhibitions around Europe, the United States and the world. He also became a favorite of Hollywood casting directors, playing Aztec chiefs, Hindu thiefs and Arab princes. On weekends he would take his Hollywood friends surfing, and everywhere he could, Duke used his fame to introduce the world to the sport of surfing.

Most notably, he galvanized Australia with a visit in 1914, launching that country’s great tradition of surfing. 

Other trivia: He won a silver medal at his third Olympics in 1924, losing to Johnny Weismuller (who went on to play Tarzan), while his brother won bronze. Then he played on the U.S. water polo team at the 1932 L.A. Olympics. His 1925 rescue using his surfboard of eight drowning men from a ship sinking off Newport Beach, CA was big news nationally. 

“Duke” was his given name, not his feudal title, although his parents were from well-known (but not royal) Native Hawaiian families.

One of the points I’m trying to make with this Diversity Before Diversity series is that when thinking about the past, we shouldn’t project how African-Americans were treated to other minorities. It’s not accurate, and it’s not fair to blacks. 

Here are some Long Beach, CA newspaper accounts from 99 years ago, which I doubt would have been written in the same tone about a black sportsman:

1913 July 11. Long Beach Press 


Duke Kahanamoku, the wonderful Hawaiian swimmer, who equaled the world’s record for swimming fifty yards at the Los Angeles Athletic Club last night enjoyed luncheon at the Hotel Virginia, spent the day in Long Beach and was shown about the city by Lorne Middough and other members of the Poly High Water Polo team. 

… He is a remarkable athlete and called forth the admiration of a large audience when he tied the world’s fifty-yard mark last night. 

1913 July 12. Daily Telegram 


The great Hawaiian swimmer and six members of the Hawaiian team spent several hours in Long Beach yesterday. They came upon the invitation of Pete Lenz. They couldn’t resist the surf and the Duke gave a thrilling exhibition of surfboard riding. Thousands of people enjoyed watching him. Many people here have expressed a wish that the Bath House company would present frequent surfboard riding exhibitions such as was offered yesterday. It is believed they would prove a big card. 

1913 January 29. Long Beach Press 


As a result of a battle to the death with a ten-foot eel, the largest ever seen here. Duke Kahanamoku, who won the world’s championship at Stockholm, is today minus the index finger on his right hand and his swimming prowess may be permanently impaired. 

The swimmer encountered the eel while practicing for the Australian swimming championships off here, and after a fight lasting several minutes, choked it to death. He was exhausted when he reached the shore, with the eel’s body in tow.

I suspect, now that I think about it, that Kahanamoku played a role in the slow change in racial attitudes in Southern California, which became more Hawaiian over the course of the 20th Century. Northeastern Yankee adventurers had married into Hawaiian aristocratic families, which created a ruling class that was part mixed race. (For example, George Clooney’s character in The Descendants is 1/32nd Hawaiian.) To water-oriented young Southern California fellows like the Poly High water polo team, Kahanamoku — swimmer, surfer, and eel-battler extraordinaire — must have seemed like the coolest guy in the whole world. (What did California proto-surfers in 1913 say instead of “the coolest?” The keenest? The 23-Skidooest?)

By the way, a key figure in the revival of the old Hawaiian sport, who paved the way for Kahanamoku’s exhibitions, was the great writer Jack London (Call of the Wild). London wrote extensively about surfing from 1907 to 1911 (here’s an extract), creating global excitement.

Mark Twain had tried surfing in Hawaii decades before, but immediately wiped out. His short description of the sport in Roughing It did not generate much intrigue, although this picture from the first edition of Twain’s book has a fairly contemporary-sounding caption:

In one place we came upon a large company of naked natives, of both sexes and all ages, amusing themselves with the national pastime of surf- bathing. Each heathen would paddle three or four hundred yards out to sea (taking a short board with him), then face the shore and wait for a particularly prodigious billow to come along; at the right moment he would fling his board upon its foamy crest and himself upon the board, and here he would come whizzing by like a bombshell
! It did not seem that a lightning express-train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed. I tried surf-bathing once, subsequently, but made a failure of it. I got the board placed right, and at the right moment, too; but missed the connection myself. The board struck the shore in three-quarters of a second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom about the same time, with a couple of barrels of water in me. None but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing thoroughly.

🔊 Listen RSS
Apollo 11 Launch Control, July 1969

One goal of my Diversity Before Diversity series on popular American celebrities of the past who were considered non-white then or would be today (e.g., Jim Thorpe or Pancho Gonzales) or (as in the case of pugilistic superstar John L. Sullivan) have been retconned by today’s mythology into supposedly having been viewed as nonwhite back then is to point out that the color line discrimination against blacks was both quantitatively and qualitatively more severe than the discrimination suffered by other groups. 

On the other hand, it’s also worth pointing out how many great achievements in American (and human) history were accomplished by what would now be considered shamefully non-diverse collections of white men. Here, for instance, is a picture of the Launch Control team that controlled Apollo 11′s Saturn V rocket to the Moon 43 years ago. (Click here for a slow-loading large version.)

I can see a young woman in the third row, and the man standing behind her might have dark skin. (Looking at the larger version, I’d lean away from him being nonwhite, but I spotted two more women, far right side of fourth row, one with a beehive hairdo.)

Yeah, but, still …

However, some organizations are still considered by the federal government to be so crucial that they are apparently exempt from the diversity imperative, such as this one.

🔊 Listen RSS
In the 1928 election, Herbert Hoover’s running mate was Charles Curtis, the Senate Majority Leader (R-KS), who had been one of his rivals for the nomination. Curtis was famous for being part American Indian, although how much he was Indian by nature appears vague to the casual researcher. Wikipedia implies his mother was 3/4ths Indian, making him 3/8th, while USA Today quotes a boilerplate part of his speeches as proclaiming himself “one-eighth Kaw Indian and 100% Republican.” 

By nurture, he had been surprisingly Indian: he could speak Kaw before he could speak English and spent a number of his formative years on a reservation.

In general, his Indian ties added a bit of glamor to his image with the public. Also, other politicians tended to defer to his judgment on Indian policy questions.

🔊 Listen RSS
Maria Tallchief (b. 1925), whose father was a chief of the Osage Nation of American Indians in Oklahoma and whose mother was Scots Irish, was perhaps the most famous ballet dancer in mid-20th Century America. She married her choreographer George Ballanchine in 1946. He developed some of his most famous works for her. She was the prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet from 1947-1960. Dancing the sugar plum fairy in the nation’s leading annual mounting of The Nutcracker, she was the foremost idol of little girls who dreamed of becoming a ballerina.

One seldom-remarked trend has been the apparent physical decline of part-American Indians since the era when Jim Thorpe was widely considered to be the greatest American athlete. Major league ballplayers who were part American Indian, such as Hall of Famers Chief Bender and Zack Wheat, were common before 1947, but have dropped off by perhaps an order of magnitude since then.

🔊 Listen RSS
Everybody knows these days that the 35 million or so people in the country of Mexican descent are making “extraordinary contributions”, as President Obama explained last week in his amnesty speech. Granted, he did not name any making extraordinary contributions. And, indeed, the number of American-raised high achievers of Mexican descent appears to be remarkably low at present relative to their numbers.

For example, economist Bryan Caplan is highly excited by the Time cover story by Jose Antonio Vargas entitled “We Are Americans: Just Not Legally,” calling Vargas “the Rosa Parks of U.S. immigration law.” Being 100% irony-free, Caplan doesn’t notice that the media, in their endless search for a glib Spanish-surnamed mouthpiece for Mexican illegal immigrants has, after all these years of looking, only managed to come up with a Filipino! (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the media’s choice for the voice of Mexican undocumented workers is not just Asian, but gay, too.)

But, as all East Coast academics and pundits would reply if this line of unsettling thought ever occurred to them, the shortage of high-achieving Mexican-Americans is because Mexicans just arrived here in the United States.

What’s that you say, that there were millions of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest a generation or more ago?

Well, yes, but they were so virulently discriminated against until recently that none of them could ever accomplish anything in life.

What’s that you say, that high achieving, popular Mexican-American celebrities were hardly unknown a generation ago?

Well, then … shut up.

So, let me continue with another intermittent installment of my series on popular Mexican-American stars of my youth, such as Pancho Gonzales, Lee Trevino, Nancy Lopez, Anthony Quinn, and Anthony Munoz.

When I was at Notre Dame H.S. in Sherman Oaks, CA from 1972-1976, the comedy records of Cheech and Chong were hugely popular, as they were across the country. But there was a particular appeal at Notre Dame because Cheech Marin (1946-) was, just like us, a Catholic middle-class Valley Dude.

Cheech’s dad was an LAPD cop, his mom a secretary, and he graduated in the early 1960s from our rival Bishop Alemany H.S. in Mission Hills, about 15 minutes up the San Diego Freeway from Notre Dame. Cheech went to Cal State Northridge (I think it was then called San Fernando Valley State), where he was a Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity boy, and graduated with a degree in English. He got into drugs and comedy, made some movies with Chong like “Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke” (by including their names in the title of their movies, that relieved their fans of having to remember the name of their latest flick, which kept them from wandering into the wrong film at the multiplex) and on his own like “Born in East L.A.” and has since been a steady presence on-screen as an affable and amusing character actor.

🔊 Listen RSS
A running theme at iSteve over the years has been to question the conventional wisdom that white racism long completely prevented the efflorescence of talent among the diverse and thus, under our more enlightened system of today, various diverse superstars in numerous fields will be arriving Real Soon Now. 

Yet, in quite a few fields, I can recall various non-whites of the past who accomplished more than their more numerous and more accepted co-ethnics today. For instance, Pancho Gonzales, a cholo from East L.A., was among the the top American tennis players from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, while there are no Mexican-American touring pros today.

With the French Open tennis tournament going on currently, I’m reminded that Australian Aboriginal-surnamed Evonne Goolagong won the French Open in 1971, 41 years ago, following up with a Wimbledon triumph later that year. You can’t get much more diverse than Australian Aborigine. During this peak era in the popularity of tennis in general and women’s tennis in particular, Goolagong (after her marriage, Goolagong-Cawley) won 7 Grand Slam individual titles from 1971-1980. She was well-liked by the public; not as pretty as Chris Evert, but cuter than Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. 

One question is how Aboriginal she is. There was never any doubt in the public’s mind about her surname: Goolagong is an obviously Aboriginal sounding word, similar to “billabong,” which is famous from the opening line of Australia’s unofficial national anthem “Waltzing Matilda:” “Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong.”

On the other hand, Aboriginal looks seem to be somewhat recessive. If she weren’t named “Goolagong,” it’s not clear if non-Australians would have immediately guessed she was part-Aboriginal. This was an era of fashionable tanning and tennis players then tended to be well-tanned. Also, the most prominent Aboriginal facial feature, the heavy brow ridge, is less noticeable among female Aborigines.

Both her parents identified as mixed-race Aborigines who were assimilated into rural Australian working class culture. They were as beige-skinned as her, but some of her seven siblings ranged from brown to black. The Goolagongs were poor but not impoverished. They were the only Aboriginal family in a small town, and the Goolagong kids went to school with the white kids. Her father Kenny Goolagong was an itinerant sheep-shearer, but also the town’s golf champion. In the British commonwealth, golf is a less elitist sport than in America. And, Australia is possibly the most sports-oriented culture on earth.

🔊 Listen RSS
It’s universally assumed that as the Mexican-American population increases, integration and assimilation will ensue. Yet, I keep recalling great Mexican-American athletes of the past, such as Pancho Gonzales, Lee Trevino, and Nancy Lopez, who lack contemporary counterparts. 

Recently, an ESPN article “NFL Draft Lacks Latinos” predicted that few Hispanics would be drafted. Indeed, through the first three rounds or 96 picks, there was only one Spanish surname called, and Kendall Reyes is definitely not Mexican.

And this reminded me of a Mexican-American guy of my age from Ontario, California (Inland Empire) who ranks right at the top of offensive linemen in the history of the NFL, Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz. I’m not a football expert, but I typed into Google “greatest offensive linemen” and one article from 2010 concluded its top ten list with:

#1 Greatest NFL Offensive Lineman of All Time: Anthony Muñoz 

Anthony Muñoz is the greatest offensive lineman of all time. At left tackle, Muñoz was the total package of size, strength, athleticism, and technique. In the passing game, Muñoz routinely shut down the game’s best defensive ends and outside linebackers. In the running game, Muñoz could wall off his man for two counts, throw him onto the ground, and rumble downfield to wreak havoc on pesky linebackers and defensive backs. As a receiver, Muñoz also hauled in four touchdowns on tackle-eligible plays during his 13-year career as a Cincinnati Bengal. Anthony Muñoz mastered, perfected, and dominated his position as well as any man that has ever played any sport. Anthony Muñoz—the Gold Standard franchise left tackle.

A lot of top ten lists on the Internet are content farm produce. There aren’t many statistics on offensive linemen, so there’s no way to conclude the argument over who was the greatest ever. But Muñoz is definitely in the argument, and might well be the favorite.

This is kind of weird when you stop and think about it. Because of the huge increase in population, there ought to be more famous Mexican-Americans today in more different fields than there were in the past, but it doesn’t really look like that, does it?

🔊 Listen RSS
All the talk about Steve Jobs got me interested in a similarity between him and zillionaire investor Warren Buffett. 
When Jobs was 27, he started an affair with Joan Baez, then 41. Baez had been extremely famous in the 1960s, although you didn’t hear her songs much on the radio because she seldom had a hit single. She finally had a hit in 1975 with Diamonds and Rust (which Judas Priest has been covering in concert for decades), a song she wrote in the style of her old boyfriend Bob Dylan about her old boyfriend Bob Dylan calling her up for the first time in years. It’s about my third favorite Bob Dylan song and he didn’t even write it. Jobs was a huge Dylan fan (which sounds a little creepy: “Okay, Steve, uhhhmm, can we not talk about Bob anymore? Can we talk about me?”)
Baez wasn’t particularly rich, but Jobs never seemed able to grasp that. Having a fine sense of style, he spent a lot of time pointing out to her in the windows of expensive stores dresses she should wear, but would never buy her anything. He’d go into the store and buy himself some shirts, then be amazed that she hadn’t bought that perfect red dress he’d picked out for her. He did give her free computers, though. He liked to tell her that in The Future, we’d all have computers that could make music so there’d be no need anymore for singers. He seemed puzzled that she wasn’t excited about his vision of the future.
Getting further off topic … Joan Baez’s father, Albert Vincinio Baez (1912-1907), was an interesting fellow: a top-notch Mexican-American physicist, one who had been around in the proto-Silicon Valley era. He was born in Puebla, Mexico. His father (Joan’s grandfather) converted from Catholicism to Methodism and the family moved to Brooklyn around 1914. Albert married the daughter of an Episcopalian minister, and they became Quakers. His Wikipedia  page says:

In 1948, along with Stanford University professor Paul Kirkpatrick (1894–1992), Baez developed the X-ray reflection microscope for examination of living cells. This microscope is still used today in medicine. Baez received his PhD in physics from Stanford in 1950. … As the Cold War arose in the 1950s, Baez’s talents were in high demand for the developing arms race. However, influenced by his family’s pacifist beliefs, he refused lucrative war industry jobs, preferring instead to devote his career to education and humanitarianism.

I recently read Michael Frayn’s famous play Copenhagen, about the difficult meeting between old friends Bohr and Heisenberg in 1941. That’s only the most famous of a huge literature about physicists talking afterwards about how they had had deep ethical conflicts over building weapons of mass destruction. But, as Frayn has Heisenberg point out, at the time most of the famous physicists, no matter how exquisitely they discussed their ethical dilemmas in later years, did indeed sign up. Albert Baez is an example of a lesser physicist who simply sat it out due to his Quaker pacisfism.
To get even farther off topic, Joan Baez’s technical ancestry is oddly reminiscent of that of another part-Mexican-American pretty hippie chick singer of a few years later, Linda Rondstadt, who was probably the top selling female singer of the 1970s:

Linda Ronstadt’s great grandfather, graduate engineer Friedrich August Ronstadt (who went by the name Federico Augusto Ronstadt) immigrated to the West (then a part of Mexico) in the 1840s from Hanover, Germany, and married a Mexican citizen, and eventually settled in Tucson.

This is a reminder of that weird phenomenon I’ve pointed out a number of times: back when there were about an order of magnitude fewer Mexican-Americans, there were about as many famous Mexican-Americans (Pancho Gonzalez, Lee Trevino, Nancy Lopez, Anthony Quinn, etc.) as there are today. The conventional wisdom says there should now be two orders of magnitude more high achieving Mexican-Americans today, because of Discrimination and Prejudice in the past, but it doesn’t actually seem to work that way. 
Anyway, back to the odd affairs of tycoons …
The zillionaire investor Warren Buffett has been famous for a long time, and he’s always enjoyed superb press, even when he ought to be questioned more toughly — for example, he owns 20% of Moody’s, which was one of the ratings firms that failed so badly in the mortgage bubble. 
Part of the reason for his loving press coverage was that he made so many correct investment decisions (Americans love a winner), partly because he’s an excellent prose stylist, and partly because he was sleeping with the owner of the Washington Post and NewsweekKatharine Graham. I’d heard that mentioned in passing quite a few years ago, but Buffett confirmed it in 2008: He started having an affair with Graham, one of the most famous women in America, when he was 46 and she was 59. This apparently led to Buffett’s wife moving to San Francisco with her tennis pro. (I know that sounds like a Joe Esterhazy screenplay, but I’ve actually seen the rich man’s neglected wife takes up with the tennis pro thing happen in real life, so there’s good reason why it’s a movie cliche).
That got me wondering whether there was any connection between Katharine Graham’s late husband Phil Graham, the manic-depressive publisher of the Washington Post who killed himself in 1963, and Buffet’s mentor, the Columbia finance professor and inventor of “value inventing,” Ben Graham. It’s all the Lattice of Coincidence, right?
In this case, nah. It turns out Ben Graham was born in London and was Jewish. Paul Graham was born in South Dakota and was not. Instead, Paul Graham was the older half-brother of Bob Graham, who was governor or senator of Florida for 26 years. 
🔊 Listen RSS
 Inductivist notes a striking change from General Social Survey data:
To some extent, this reflects a real change: recent Mexican immigrants tend to be more Indian (darker and relatively shorter) than Mexican immigrants of generations past, who tended to come from northern Mexico. But, mostly, it reflects a change in incentives and prestige in American society. 
In turn, I think this partly explains the remarkable lack of high individual accomplishment by Mexican Americans over the last couple of decades. Consider the country club sports, tennis and golf, in which three Mexican-American all-time greats emerged in the 1940s through 1970s, Pancho Gonzales, Lee Trevino, and Nancy Lopez, but none since then despite vast increases in numbers.

It would appear that contrary to contemporary thinking, Mexican-Americans performed better relative to their numbers when they felt challenged to prove themselves than in recent decades when society has bent over backwards to make all young minorities feel “comfortable” about themselves. In general, and in particular for Mexican Americans, a lack of challenge leads to complacency.

🔊 Listen RSS
Reading about the lady (below) who decided to apply contemporary upper middle class methods of improvement to her marriage got me to wondering about whether all the private tutoring and summer skill-building camps that 21st Century upper middle class people subject their kids to actually work at all.

Compare the engulfing level of instruction that young tennis players, for example, are given these days to the casual upbringing of tennis players of the past. When Pancho Gonzales was 12 in 1940 in East LA, he wanted a bicycle for his birthday, but his parents couldn’t afford one so they gave him a tennis racket instead. That, as far as I can tell, was the full extent of his parents’ contribution to his tennis career. Little Pancho wandered over to the public courts next to the LA Coliseum and started playing tennis. He never took a lesson, but was the number one pro in the world in the second half of the 1950s and was a major force in tennis from the 1940s into the 1970s.

In contrast, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, grew up in Compton, not far from East LA, but their hyperambitious father moved them to West Palm Beach so they could attend a famous tennis academy. (When the Williams sisters started on the pro circuit, their favorite music was Alternative Rock because that’s what the rich white kids at their tennis academy listened to.)

But it’s hard to tell how much better are today’s star tennis players, who are largely raised at tennis academies, than Pancho Gonzales was. As 1920s golfer Bobby Jones told a fan in the 1940s who was raving to him about how Ben Hogan was the best golfer ever, “All you can be is the best of your time.”

There are probably fewer Mexican-American star athletes today than in the days of Gonzales and Lee Trevino, which suggests that the contemporary white intensive parenting style is paying off, but that’s awfully circumstantial evidence.

I have found one fairly objective metric: NFL field goal kicking percentages. Back in the old days, football coaches would ask for volunteers for placekicker, see who looked best, give him a few tips, and maybe lend him a couple of extra footballs to practice with.

Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, NFL teams hired soccer players from all over the world like Garo Yepremian (who, why am I surprised? has a motivational speaking business). But, since then, the job has almost 100% been monopolized by white middle class Americans, typically ones who played AYSO soccer. These days, ambitious parents send their sons to placekicking camps or hire prominent kicking tutors such as Chris Sailer to give their sons private instruction.

Are football kickers still getting better in the Age of Sailer (Chris, not Steve)? Does this modern parenting system of chauffeuring and expensive tutelage actually work?

Yes, at least in this case, it appears it does. Contemporary NFL field goal kickers are much better than old ones.

Here are field goal percentages in the NFL every tenth year from 1958 through 2008, according to

FG Made % Chg Missed % Chg
1958 46.9% 53.1%
1968 55.6% 18.6% 44.4% -16.4%
1978 63.1% 13.5% 36.9% -16.9%
1988 71.7% 13.6% 28.3% -23.3%
1998 79.6% 11.0% 20.4% -27.9%
2008 84.5% 6.2% 15.5% -24.0%

At first glance, it looks like the rate of improvement is slowing down, but that’s mostly because the field goal percentage was so high by 2008 (84.5%) that kickers were running into diminishing returns on improvement. If you flip the calculation upside down and focus on decrease in percentage missed, 1999-2008 was the second best decade ever in terms of relative improvement, behind only the previous decade.

From 50 yards or farther, 28 NFL teams made 28 out of 70 attempts in 1988. Two decades later, 32 NFL teams made 66 out of 104 fifty+ yard attempts. (Long field goals are dangerous to attempt because they can be run back, and the field goal kicking unit is heavier and slower than the kicking off unit, so a field goal that comes up short can turn into a back-breaking 109 yard field goal return for a touchdown.)

For a test of pure technique, not a test of strength, NFL kickers missed only 0.5% of Points-After-Touchdown (19 yard kicks) in 2008, versus 1.7% in 1998, and about 5% several decades ago.

So, yes, in this example, at least, the white middle class method of intensive/expensive childrearing seems to be resulting in better performance.

By the way, isn’t it about time that the NFL made kicking a field goal more of an accomplishment? What these guys are doing 84.5% of the time is pretty amazing — go out and stand on a high school football field 40 yards from the goal posts and notice how few degrees of your horizon they take up. Then realize that high school goal posts are 23’4″ wide, while college and NFL goal posts are only 18’6″ wide.

Right now, though, being an NFL kicker is a terrible job, like being a long-snapper, because you only get noticed when you mess up. Unless there’s a foot of snow on the field, nobody is going to remember the name of the guy who makes the game winning 40 yard field goal, because it’s so expected these days. But they will remember the bum who missed.

The NFL could either make the goal posts even narrower, or it could jus
t move them back behind the back line of the end zone a few yards to make each field goal attempt longer. For example, they could just rotate the existing goal posts 180 degrees so that the offset is pointing in the other direction, adding about four yards to the distance.

🔊 Listen RSS
African-American sports history (e.g., Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe winning the U.S. tennis title in 1968, etc.) is so heavily publicized that it’s striking to notice how little attention is paid to Mexican-American sports history.

For example, when Tiger Woods won the Masters golf tournament to become the first (part) black to win a major championship, it was widely announced that this was a historic breakthrough for minorities in the previous lily white game of golf that would get minorities interested in the sport for the first time, etc etc. This struck me as a bit odd considering that Lee Trevino, a Mexican-American driving range pro from a dirt poor background in El Paso, had won the U.S. Open 29 years before and had gone on to win six major championships in all, in four of which the great Jack Nicklaus, who intimidated everybody except Trevino, was the runner-up. Trevino was also the likely the funniest golfer of his era — he told the reporters after his Open win in 1968, “When I get enough money I’m going to become a Spaniard instead of a Mexican” — and one of the biggest draws.

Similarly, Nancy Lopez, a Mexican-American from New Mexico who debuted in 1979, was likely the most popular woman golfer of all time.

A reader wrote in recently to mention a name I hadn’t heard in years, even though I live in his hometown: Pancho Gonzales, who was probably the most famous tennis player in America when I was a little kid. The son of Mexican immigrants, Gonzales was born in Los Angeles in 1928, and grew up on the streets, spending a year in juvenile hall. His mom gave him a tennis racket for his 12th birthday, but he never had a lesson. He grew to be well over 6 feet tall and was considered the best athlete in tennis.

The tennis powers-that-be in LA didn’t want him around but after he got out of the Navy in 1946, he got so good that they started to help him. In 1948 and 1949 he won the American leg of the Grand Slam at Forest Hills. He went pro in 1950, and was #1 from 1954-1960,Back then, the Grand Slam tournaments were reserved for amateurs (unlike golf, which had Open championships for pros and amateurs alike since the 19th century), so when he went pro in 1950, and was #1 from 1954-1960, but he was locked out of the Grand Slams until they went open in 1968. At age 41 in 1969, he won the longest Wimbledon match ever, over Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9. That year, he was the leading American money winner, and remained highly competitive and a major draw for several more years. I would imagine he was the best over-40 player ever.

Gonzales was a mean son of a gun with a Ty Cobb-size competitive streak. He was a chain smoker, even on the court, dying of cancer in 1995. He had five wives (marrying one of them twice). His last wife, whom he married when he was 55 in 1984, was Andre Aggasi’s sister Rita. Pancho’s new father-in-law, Andre’s dad, an ex-boxer from Iran, was so mad, he thought about having him rubbed out. Pancho died broke and Andre paid for his funeral.

It’s a helluva story, but that kind of thing just isn’t very interesting to the modern sporting press. Gonzales (who looks in pictures like a mestizo weighted more toward the European than Indian side) had to deal with discrimination, but compared to what blacks had to put up with, it was kind of vague. Also, perhaps because Jackie Robinson came up with the Dodgers of Brooklyn, the black cause in sports got imprinted emotionally on a lot of young Jewish boys in Brooklyn, who went on to have a huge influence on the media. Mexicans never interested Jewish sportswriters very much. Finally, this history never really went anywhere. Today, there are 30 million Mexican-Americans, but there don’t seem to be many more Mexican-American sports stars (outside of the fading sport of boxing, which Oscar de la Hoya is sacrificing his body to keep alive) than in the days of Pancho Gonzales and Lee Trevino.

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 “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
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?