If race-consciousness becomes an Olympic sport, and who can say it won’t, the United States will have a lock on the gold medal. Silver and bronze, too. There’s no escaping race obsession that thrives in every crevice, cleft, nook and cranny in America. A body can step on it unaware everywhere.
Eric Holder, who was Barack Obama’s attorney general, once said that what America needs is a conversation about race. Mr. Holder, who is thinking about running for president, had apparently been living on Planet Pluto. Race is all America talks about now.
The 23rd Olympic Winter Games opened in the remote South Korean village of Pyeongchang last week, and the hand-wringing began at once. The run-up to the games seemed promising, even if deceptively so. Kim Jong-un, the Great/Dear/Happy leader of North Korea, even sent his sister to Pyeongchang as an official guest of South Korea, perhaps as a model for how to go along to get along. Her presence might guarantee that war on the peninsula won’t break out over the next fortnight, though no one can be sure. Rocket Man has a penchant for dispatching rivals to the next world in imaginative ways, even rivals within his own family.
But the greatest concern of the bean counters on the left in America is not so much whether Team USA will be represented by the country’s best skiers and skaters on slope and ice, or even by how many gold, silver and bronze medals they will bring home, but whether there’s sufficient diversity on the U.S. Olympic team. Just 4 percent of the team is black — African-American or “people of color” — and another 4 percent is Asian-American. There are just 10 from each of these ethnic groups among the 243 athletes on the American squad.
Some others might be getting short shrift, too. It’s not clear what percentage, if any, of the cross-country and freestyle skiers who use the best ski gloves, figure skaters, speed skaters, bobsledders, hockey players, and curlers are Hispanic, Native-American, Aleut, Guamanian, or of a category we’ve overlooked, but we can be sure someone is keeping an expanded scorecard.
“We’re not quite where we want to be,” laments Jason Thompson, who is something called the U.S. Olympics Committee’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion. “I think full-on inclusion has always been a priority of Team USA. I think everybody’s always felt it should represent every American.”
That’s clearly not quite so, but it is so that the Olympics, particularly the summer games, were open to diversity and inclusion before other team sports in America. That’s all changed now, and all to the good. What Americans want now is a team of the best athletes, regardless of race, color and ethnicity. The Olympic medals are gold, silver and bronze, not white, black, brown, red or yellow, and the color of those who bring the medals home doesn’t matter.
Trying to make Team USA “look like America,” as liberals characterize their efforts, is silly and short-sighted. America doesn’t need a team of athletes who look like overweight old guys and gals with sagging bodies and thinning hair who couldn’t win a race to the refrigerator, however much they might be typical Americans.
If Team USA in the Winter Games is comprised mostly of “people of color” because the best alpine skiers, figure skaters and bobsledders are “people of color,” that’s the way it should be. That might not satisfy those obsessed with quotas, set-asides and other measures of artificial diversity. No one complained, nor should they have, because the U.S. team at the summer games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 was 23 percent black.
Once the bad old days retreated into the history books, sports have been measured by reality — either a player can hit the ball, run for a touchdown, outrun the others for a hundred yards, or a player can’t. Affirmative action, quotas and set-asides have no place in competitive sports, in the Olympics or anywhere else.
ESPN, the sports television network, reports that in the 2015-16 season, 82 percent of the players in the National Basketball Association were “people of color.” Only 18 percent were white, down 5 points from the year before. In the National Football League, 73 percent of the players were “people of color,” and 28 percent were white.
In sports it’s all about who can run faster, hit harder and swim or skate faster, and do it more gracefully. It’s only the scoreboard that’s unforgiving. The focus should be on athletic excellence. Melanin shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
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