Achievement Trumps Identity Politics
Jeremy Lin’s accolades are mostly due to his talents.

Floyd Mayweather in 2009


Victor Davis Hanson

In other words, what is not the norm always garners extra attention, sometimes warranted by actual performance, sometimes not. This is a fact that transcends race.

There are a few final politically correct paradoxes on display here. We are conditioned to think that diversity and race-based proportionality are mandatory goals in American government, the public workplace, and the highly prized professions. If so, why not in the most high-profile and most highly compensated jobs in our society, such as those in professional basketball and football, where African-Americans are represented at rates seven to eight times greater than their percentage of the general population?

Mayweather has no problem with the fact that African-Americans are vastly over-represented (if such an objectionable term means in comparison to relative percentages of the general population) in high-profile, merit-based sports –especially boxing, basketball, and football. Indeed, he seems to wrongly denigrate Lin as a sort of affirmative-action player whose identity trumps his talent in earning him a stature that would be impossible without race-based considerations. But that is precisely the line of argument, fairly or not, that others have made against affirmative action in general. In other words, how can one be for racial-diversity considerations in the police or fire department, but not in the NBA or NFL?

Yet, in a mixed-up America, we still like to think that achievement eventually trumps identity politics. Whether it’s Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, or Jeremy Lin, their accolades will depend mostly on how well they perform.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


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