Liberal news outlets in America experienced the most awkward of moments as they watched Trump seats stack up on election night. Lead polling organizations had predicted that the chances of a Clinton Presidency were up to 80% and hosts of liberal news outlets seemed 100% sure they were right. People on the ground during election night however, reported that the voters they saw were divided. Journalists standing at polling stations across the country reported that for every Clinton voter, they found a Trump voter. The media was wrong. They were so wrong, that when the numbers came down, the world saw the collective “well this is awkward” moment on the faces of liberal hosts and commentators everywhere, live on television.
This is an edited version of a blog posted by a white start-up CTO. It was intended to explain the blogger’s confusion and subsequent enlightenment on a particular racial stereotype – that Black Americans are better athletes because of slave breeding. Quincy privately thought that this might be true. What blocked his half-interested pursuit of the answer was what Trump supporters today might call “the liberal media machine” a title which major news outlets have been invited to reflect on following the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Lester Holt of NBC expressed his shock at the incorrect polls as the map suddenly flooded in red Trump states by saying “in a way, we’ve been on the ballot as much as anyone else”. He admitted that major media had ignored almost half of the electorate by neglecting to address their concerns in the news. At the same time, the problem was exacerbated by excessive coverage of candidate Trump. For more on that, click here.
Here’s where Quincy comes in. He describes the honest, white, non-racist sentiments of a spectator with an unanswered question: are Black Americans more athletic because they were bred that way? Quincy’s motivation is pure: “racism requires heaping doses of idiocy and dishonesty, and I didn’t want to be an idiot or dishonest”. So he waited. Twenty-three years passed before he stumbled on the answer to his question. During this period, Quincy’s default answer rested in the hands of racist pseudo-science and, like during the 2016 election, one man with a very silly name.
Back when I was 16 a famous CBS sports commentator, Jimmy the Greek (aka Jimmy Snyder) destroyed his lifelong career with the following comment:
“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way — because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner — the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”
Everyone got very angry, screamed that his statement was racist and deeply ignorant. But despite all the television and print coverage of the issue no one seemed to actually discuss what he had said, no one would actually explain to me or anyone else what the factual errors were in his statement. Did slavery (by way of selective pressure in intake, purchase, transportation, or breeding) make African Americans better athletes? The question was so offensive that it didn’t apparently deserve an answer. Everyone seemed to already know why it was racist and deeply ignorant, and if you didn’t know, then you were probably racist and deeply ignorant, too. And that was a horrible thought since racism requires heaping doses of idiocy and dishonesty, and I didn’t want to be an idiot or dishonest.
Just to be clear, I’ve never claimed that slavery contributed to the superiority of African Americans in sport. I have (I think) always admitted that I have no definite answers, but that it seemed plausible to believe that the slave trade could have altered genetics and unless someone told me why that couldn’t be, then I’d continue suspecting it might be. But suspecting something might be true is not an actionable position. Still, I’m presented with a very interesting riddle and the only solution to the riddle that anyone will openly share is Jimmy the Greek’s.
Nobody else is saying anything, nobody else is saying what specifically is wrong with his solution to that riddle. I tried to talk to people about it at the time but the universal response I got was that everyone seemed to feel my even bringing up the topic hinted of racism.
So yesterday, after 23 long years I finally found the answer I had been looking for. And surprisingly, after the excitement of having a definite answer, I had to admit I was feeling pretty angry that nobody told me sooner. I don’t like being actively denied answers to questions. I don’t like being encouraged to remain ignorant and discouraged from trying to get answers.
And, now that I know what seems very likely the correct answer, I’m also pretty pissed because I suspect the vast majority of the people unkindly refusing to enlighten me had no idea what the answer really was. They were refusing to tell me because they didn’t know the answer, and were simply satisfied repeating what they knew society wanted to be the proxy answer.
Finally, some poor fool asked the question I could easily have asked, and he received profoundly thoughtful answers.
Here is the answer I finally found…
- Selection in Africa was largely the result of tribal conflicts and war. Those who became slaves were not selected for strength but were merely the survivors of conflict. Even if the people choosing who became a slave was selecting for apparent strength/health the basis of that strength/health was NOT genetic but was environmental/opportunistic, that person just happened to not be suffering from randomly acting disease/injury/malnutrition.
- Survival on the way to the slave markets was similarly not genetic but had to do with the slave’s health at the beginning of the trip and specific events (disease exposure/nutrition/etc.) during the trip.
- Traders in markets in Africa may have selected for perceived strength/health, but again the basis for this selection was not primarily genetic, it had more to do with the “luck” of the slave to that point.
- Transportation to the New World was like the previous transportation, survival was primarily controlled by the environment and initial health conditions of the slave
- And while some slave masters did engage in eugenics their efforts were ineffectively crude, being incredibly limited in scale and inexactly uncontrolled. Further, even with a more controlled and widespread eugenics program, 250 years would not have been enough time for major genetic differences to emerge.
I do appreciate, to the degree anyone can when an issue does not directly effect their identity, that the suggestion of a genetic advantage for African American athletes could be driven by a racist attempt to deny African Americans their achievements, that it could be driven by a racist attempt to suggest slavery was a “positive” for African Americans, that it could be driven by a set of racist assumptions that African American achievements in sports are related to strength and not intelligence, but in this case, I did not create the question. I only asked for it to be answered, because other people claimed they knew the “right” answer.
Why can’t we expect all of our ignorances to be similarly corrected with alternative information, without being made to feel stupid for asking the question, without being made to feel stupid for wrongly believing – or suspecting – something else was true?