The Corner

Chris Rock and Jimmy The Greek

I watched the Chris Rock special on HBO this weekend. Very coarse of course. But my beat is affirmative action, not general cultural decline, so let’s go there.

Rock acknowledges that he would not give a preference to a less qualified applicant over a better qualified one because of race; he says that he supports affirmative action only as a tiebreaker. In the real world, that’s a significant limitation, since it is very rare that two candidates for a job, a contract, or a college slot are going to finish in a dead heat.

He justifies the use of race because of the still-felt effects of slavery–which is probably the most popular justification but, it must be said, is one that is legally a nonstarter since the Supreme Court has rejected it.

And what are the still-felt effects of slavery? This is where it gets really interesting. Rock gives two examples.

The first is that slavery explains black dominance in athletics. Slave owners bred their strong black men with their strong black women to create “superslaves” (I think that was his term), and that’s why today blacks are “10 percent of the population and 90 percent of the Final Four.”

Sound familiar? Here’s what “Jimmy the Greek” Snyder said in January 1988: ”The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred that way, because of his high thighs that go up into his back. And they can run faster and jump higher because of their bigger thighs.” He added: ”This all goes back to the Civil War, when, during the slave trading, the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so they could have a big black kid. That’s where it all started.” Snyder was fired for this. (Also, this is obviously no justification for affirmative action, since it would be an advantage, not a disadvantage.)

The other example Rock gives of a lingering effect of slavery is even more startling. Just as strong blacks were singled out for breeding, smart blacks were singled out for being killed. Rock then goes off on a riff about how, in those days, blacks would be selling printed pages–forbidden to slaves–rather than crack. But if he had completed this thought, it would have been … what? That blacks are now less intelligent because of selective breeding? I haven’t heard even David Duke make that argument.

I know, I know. Chris Rock is a comedian, not a social scientist. Still, it’s interesting and telling that he would make such a limited and unserious defense of racial preferences.


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