Can A Coach Say Blacks Can Run Fast?

Writing in the Rocky Mountain News, Paul Campos observes that when the subject is race saying the obvious always such an obviously good idea:

Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry apologized Wednesday for making the following statement at an earlier press conference: “Afro-American kids can run very, very well,” DeBerry said. “That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me they run extremely well.”

“What, exactly, was DeBerry’s sin” Campos asks. Good question.

Say What? (36)

  1. actus October 29, 2005 at 2:29 pm | | Reply

    ‘”What, exactly, was DeBerry’s sin” Campos asks. Good question’

    This is the discriminations blog and you can’t figure this out?

  2. Michelle Dulak Thomson October 29, 2005 at 3:17 pm | | Reply

    actus,

    You will, I’m afraid, have to spell it out to me at least, because I can’t see how DeBerry was discriminating against anyone, unless your fear is that he would discriminate in favor of African-American men.

    Suppose you’re given a list of runners in a marathon, all completely unknown to you, and forced to bet on one of them to win. Are you a racist if you pick a name that looks ethnically Kenyan?

  3. Nels Nelson October 29, 2005 at 3:45 pm | | Reply

    The coach was asked why his team had just lost a game. His response was that the other team had more black players than his, that blacks are generally faster than those of other races, that the Air Force Academy has trouble recruiting blacks, and that increasing the enrollment of black athletes would improve his team.

    He should have just said that his team is slow and that he needs faster players. Why was it necessary for him to bring race into the explanation?

  4. actus October 29, 2005 at 4:57 pm | | Reply

    “Suppose you’re given a list of runners in a marathon, all completely unknown to you, and forced to bet on one of them to win. Are you a racist if you pick a name that looks ethnically Kenyan?”

    Oh. The coach was talking about kenyan ‘african americans.’ Because of hte renown kenyan-african prowess at running. I see. It looked more like crude stereotyping to me.

  5. Cobra October 29, 2005 at 5:14 pm | | Reply

    Nels writes:

    >>>”His response was that the other team had more black players than his, that blacks are generally faster than those of other races, that the Air Force Academy has trouble recruiting blacks, and that increasing the enrollment of black athletes would improve his team.”

    I agree with your conclusions. This is even more compounded by the fact that most head coaches at Division I Football programs are in CHARGE of the recruitment efforts. He’s essentially complaining about something he’s ultimately responsible for.

    Second, this dips into the backhanded statement that always occurs when stereotypes about black physical prowess comes up. The other side almost invariably is about intelligence.

    Michelle writes:

    >>>”Suppose you’re given a list of runners in a marathon, all completely unknown to you, and forced to bet on one of them to win. Are you a racist if you pick a name that looks ethnically Kenyan?”

    If you were given the same list, and forced to bet on which runner has the best college GPA, what criteria would you use to select a name?

    –Cobra

  6. Dom October 29, 2005 at 5:17 pm | | Reply

    “He should have just said that his team is slow and that he needs faster players.”

    No. That’s what you should have said. It wasn’t what he meant, so he shouldn’t have said it. He said exactly what he meant. And you can hear it from any african american you meet at a gym.

    I sat through a program on the history of Jazz in which every african american was quoted as saying that blacks have a special talent for music that whites do not have. A commercial on the air at this moment shows white kids bumblinig about on a basketball court until a black player shows the others how to play. No one, black, white, whatever, is really surprised to hear this.

    Dom

  7. Dom October 29, 2005 at 8:25 pm | | Reply

    “If you were given the same list, and forced to bet on which runner has the best college GPA, what criteria would you use to select a name?”

    DeBerry said nothing about GPA. Why is he responsible for that?

    Dom

  8. Dom October 29, 2005 at 8:29 pm | | Reply

    “If you were given the same list, and forced to bet on which runner has the best college GPA, what criteria would you use to select a name?”

    And if you were given the same list, which criteria would you use for accepting a student into the university?

    Dom

  9. Cobra October 29, 2005 at 10:11 pm | | Reply

    Dom,

    I was answering Michelle’s hypothetical question on marathon running.

    Now, back to the Football coach. If a football coach sets the recruitment policy, how can he turn around and complain about the deficiencies of the recruits?

    —Cobra

  10. Laura October 29, 2005 at 11:20 pm | | Reply

    I thought the article made several excellent points.

    I read an article today that my child must write a critical review. The article was about okra and it said, among other things, that okra is for black people and that white people turn their noses up at it. My daughter and I both love okra. How the heck is she supposed to wrap her head around this stupid article, let alone write an essay about it? (other than “this is a dumba$$ article”, which her teacher will not appreciate).

    Then for this guy to have to apologize because he said the best runners are black, which anybody with half a brain can see. Beam me up Scotty.

  11. Laura October 29, 2005 at 11:21 pm | | Reply

    that’s “review of”, which I know ends a sentence with a preposition; shoot me.

  12. GB October 30, 2005 at 8:01 am | | Reply

    The real sin:

    I think it was not so much his inartifully put praise of black runners. I suspect it was more the subtext: WHY doesn

  13. Hube October 30, 2005 at 8:37 am | | Reply

    The real “sin” it seems is just being “insensitive” in an increasingly [overly] sensitive world.

    Any cursory view of the summer Olympics proves the “case”: the vast majority of the fastest runners are black, whether from the Americas or the African continent.

    And as another commenter pointed out, there doesn’t seem to be much restraint among blacks themselves in pointing out certain racial differences, sports prowess included. Heck, in education we hear about group “learning style” differences and group “attitude” differences (many, if not most, by black educators); above we heard about musical aptitude differences.

    I was a track man in HS and then coached it for 9 years later on. My senior year in HS, I was the only white guy in the 400 meter state final. The other seven [black] finalists were ribbing me (facetiously) before the race about “How in the world did a white guy get in here?” I thought it was funny too, ’cause it was indeed unusual to see such! I’ve seen other such “humor” on black TV shows, and remember one distict episode on “A Different World” where Dwayne and co. were razzing a couple of white guys (who turned out to be quite bigoted, but that’s another matter) at a football game about superior black athletic ability.

    I dunno — is this another instance where it’s acceptable for blacks themselves to engage in such talk, similar to using derogative racial epithets among one another?

    (Oh yeah — I managed to finish 7th out of the 8 in that 400 meter final. I never found out if the one [black] guy I beat was mortified or not. ;-)

  14. what if? October 30, 2005 at 8:40 am | | Reply

    Speech Muzzle

    Our nation’s tragic history of slavery and Jim Crow has led to a curious phenomenon. Much speech about race – even if true – is verboten. In an excellent column earlier this week, Shelby Steele deals with this and other

  15. actus October 30, 2005 at 10:28 am | | Reply

    “The real sin:”

    Affirmative Action for athletes, which allow one’s physical abilities to overcome lower mental ones?

  16. superdestroyer October 30, 2005 at 1:02 pm | | Reply

    Cobra,

    During a television special about race and sports, Kenny Anderson, who played in the NBA, stated that he had never met a white player who he thought was as good as he was. Now if I went to the Science and Technology magnet high school, how many Asian kids could I find who will say, off the record, that they have never met a black student who is as smart as they are.

    Why is it that society does not consider Kenny Anderson a racist but would consider the Asian kids racist. They are both making their statements based upon first hand experience.

  17. Laura October 30, 2005 at 1:38 pm | | Reply

    How can physical abilities overcome lower mental abilities. If you can’t solve a quadratic equation, you can run real fast and overcome that?

  18. Dom October 30, 2005 at 2:02 pm | | Reply

    “Affirmative Action for athletes …”

    ???

    Is there anyone who wants proportional representation of the races in the NBA? Is there anyone who thinks we need a football field that looks like America?

    Dom

  19. bob October 30, 2005 at 2:18 pm | | Reply

    The guy should lose his job. Remember when Dusty Baker made disparaging remarks about the inability of white players to perform as well in the heat as black and latino players? Remember how he was forced into giving a heart-felt apology and how he was canned? Oh wait a second, he didn’t and he wasn’t.

  20. actus October 30, 2005 at 2:44 pm | | Reply

    “Is there anyone who wants proportional representation of the races in the NBA? Is there anyone who thinks we need a football field that looks like America?”

    I was referring to colleges that admit otherwise unqualified people because they are good athletes.

  21. Cobra October 30, 2005 at 4:17 pm | | Reply

    Dom writes:

    >>>”Is there anyone who wants proportional representation of the races in the NBA? Is there anyone who thinks we need a football field that looks like America?

    Dom”

    Here we go again. You want to talk NBA? Please explain to me how come there were more whites and Asians on the Houston Rockets basketball team…

    http://aol.nba.com/rockets/roster/

    …than there were African Americans on the Houston Astros World Series Roster?

    http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory?id=1249923

    Keep using these bogus sports analogies, Dom. I’ll bring up Hockey and NASCAR next.

    –Cobra

  22. Nels Nelson October 30, 2005 at 4:17 pm | | Reply

    I don’t quite follow some of the comments that the primary issue was whether or not the coach disparaged blacks. Yes, positive stereotypes can be hurtful, I suppose, to those who don’t live up to them, but more harmful are negative stereotypes.

    As the president of the Colorado Springs Urban League said: “Talent is based on many different things, so to attribute somebody’s athletic talent to their race is ridiculous. I think you send a message to our many aspiring athletes that, in essence, what he said, if you’re not black, you don’t stand a chance and you’re going to be an inferior athlete.”

    This coach is a public employee with considerable power and money for scouting, recruiting, and giving playing time to athletes. He said that the reason his team had lost a game was that the other team had more black players than his. Apparently some of his players are failures on account of their race. Regardless of the statistics – and there are always exceptions to them, such as the top two finishers in the 400m at last year’s World Track and Field Championships being white – DeBerry cannot use them in his job. His bringing them up in this public way, and his saying that his team would be better if only it had more black players on it, calls into question his ability to make unbiased decisions. If he heard about two high school cornerbacks, Deshawn Jones and Yasuto Tanaka, would they receive equal consideration and treatment during the entire process?

  23. Dom October 30, 2005 at 4:18 pm | | Reply

    “I was referring to colleges that admit otherwise unqualified people because they are good athletes.”

    I don’t want to push it, but didn’t you just admit that AA is defined as “admitting otherwise unqualified people because” of their race?

    Dom

  24. actus October 30, 2005 at 4:52 pm | | Reply

    “I don’t want to push it, but didn’t you just admit that AA is defined as “admitting otherwise unqualified people because” of their race?”

    It could be.

  25. Dom October 30, 2005 at 5:09 pm | | Reply

    “Keep using these bogus sports analogies, Dom. I’ll bring up Hockey and NASCAR next.”

    Actually, I find this interesting, and I didn’t know about the Houston Teams. But I think you got the point wrong. The NBA is mostly black because blacks ARE better at basketball, or they have a stronger interest in it, or its the chosen sport of childhood, whatever. People try out for a sport, and those who win get on the team. And hockey is mostly white for similar reasons.

    The problem only arises when we assume that the lack of proportional representation is necessarily the result of rascism and that a government program is needed to rectify it.

    The Dad Vale regatta is an example.

    Dom

  26. Cobra October 30, 2005 at 5:38 pm | | Reply

    Dom writes:

    >>>”The NBA is mostly black because blacks ARE better at basketball, or they have a stronger interest in it, or its the chosen sport of childhood, whatever.”

    You see, there is a marked difference between your first option and the latter two. The first re-enforces a stereotype, that is consistantly disproven. Take a look at the past Olympics. That’s why it’s very important what is said by people in the position of authority.

    –Cobra

  27. Michelle Dulak Thomson October 30, 2005 at 7:07 pm | | Reply

    Cobra,

    Who exactly counts as an “African American” for you? I mean, seriously, have you a definition or something? Because I’ve seen Ezequiel Astacio and Jose Viscaino and Willy Taveras, and I guarantee you that if they got pulled over at night it would not be for “driving while having been born in the Dominican Republic.”

  28. Michelle Dulak Thomson October 30, 2005 at 7:29 pm | | Reply

    actus,

    Oh. The coach was talking about kenyan ‘african americans.’ Because of hte renown kenyan-african prowess at running. I see. It looked more like crude stereotyping to me.

    No, actus; I neither said that nor implied it. FWIW, American Blacks are mostly of West African ancestry, and IIRC so are most record-holding sprinters. It is people of East African ancestry that win most of the marathons.

    Is this “stereotyping”? I don’t see how, any more than noticing that most of the students in a UC/Berkeley engineering class are of Asian origin is stereotyping. If noticing this is itself racist or discriminatory, I’d like to know how you propose to remedy it. I suppose athletes can compete in hoods, gloves, and costumes that otherwise conceal their skin; and college students can come to class in the unisex equivalent of burqas. And the college orchestra can always perform behind a scrim, so that no one can see its racial breakdown.

  29. actus October 30, 2005 at 7:41 pm | | Reply

    “I don’t see how, any more than noticing that most of the students in a UC/Berkeley engineering class are of Asian origin is stereotyping.”

    You don’t see the difference between noticing, and saying ‘we need more asians, they’re smart’ ?

  30. Michelle Dulak Thomson October 30, 2005 at 8:37 pm | | Reply

    actus,

    The article John linked to didn’t say that DeBerry claimed he lost because the other team had more black players. If that’s in fact what he did say, it’s obviously a different story. The statement the article claims DeBerry apologized for is basically that African-American athletes tend to be the top sprinters, which might be imprudent to say but does have the virtue of being, well, more or less true.

    I can’t imagine a coach today being racially prejudiced to a degree that he wouldn’t put the best players he could get on the team. One of the nice things about sports is that there are objective tests of prowess. Do you really think this dude would keep a great player off the team because he was insufficiantly Black? It’s not plausible.

  31. actus October 31, 2005 at 7:58 am | | Reply

    “The statement the article claims DeBerry apologized for is basically that African-American athletes tend to be the top sprinters, which might be imprudent to say but does have the virtue of being, well, more or less true.”

    And it has the vice of being crude stereotyping.

  32. Dom October 31, 2005 at 10:45 am | | Reply

    “And it has the vice of being crude stereotyping.”

    This is what I don’t understand. The “crude stereotyping” is done by african americans virtually throughout the country. You can hear it repeated in any locker-room and even on televised interviews.

    When it is said by whites, it is either neutral or complementary; when said by blacks, it is almost always an insult. But only whites are asked to apologize.

    No one ever asked for an apology for this, and it was much worse just last week:

    http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/2005/10/simple-sambo-wants-to-move-to-big.html

    Dom

  33. actus October 31, 2005 at 11:31 am | | Reply

    “This is what I don’t understand. The “crude stereotyping” is done by african americans virtually throughout the country. You can hear it repeated in any locker-room and even on televised interviews.”

    The fact that african americans, or whites, engage in it does not make it any less crude.

  34. Michelle Dulak Thomson October 31, 2005 at 11:33 am | | Reply

    actus,

    And it [DeBerry's comment] has the vice of being crude stereotyping.

    If it were in a sociological journal, would you say so? I should like to know, personally, whether the primary problem is that it suggests a racial divide in ability to sprint, or that it’s untrue. I know which of the alternatives would exercise me more; I’m keen to know which would more exercise you.

  35. actus October 31, 2005 at 12:57 pm | | Reply

    “I should like to know, personally, whether the primary problem is that it suggests a racial divide in ability to sprint, or that it’s untrue.”

    I have no idea whether its true or not. For you its not just true, but that is its virtue. I have no idea how you know its true. I do think it is crude stereotyping to say one needs more blacks in order to have better athletes.

  36. leo cruz November 2, 2005 at 2:19 am | | Reply

    Folks,

    Fisher De Berry’s comment about blacks might find resonance in a comment made by Pete Carrill, the longtime basketball coach of Princeton. Carrill lamented that the white athletic middle class recruits at PRinceton were simply not as good as the kids who came out of the housing projects. He probably meant the black kids. In other words he meant that the athletic preferences used by Princeton in its admissions policies was not of much help to Princeton in guaranteeing it basketball victories. Now do I think Carrill is a racist? No, certainly not. This discussion that we are having here is more symptomatic to me of the reluctance of people to discuss human physiological differences.

    Is there something wrong if blacks have more fast switching muscle fibers than whites? Why do Kenyan blacks excel in the marathon but are lousy in sprints? Why are West African blacks from Gabon and SEnegal good in sprints but lousy in the marathon? ARe we really reluctant to discuss the evolutionary imperatives that could have brought about such diverse results? 70k years ago, in the flat grassy plains of East Africa you could see for miles around, and could see incoming predators even from a long distance. I am suggesting that it is possible that this gave the ancestors of the Kenyans an evolutionary headstart to

    develop the stamina for long distance running . The environment of West Africa was totally different, it was a tropical humid forest. A lion or a leopard could be hiding behind a tree and you could see little of what is ahead of you. In this kind of a situation you probably would need very fast reflexes, something that would be useful in the sprints. In other words what I am saying is that there is an evolutionary imperative for survival to account for the physiological differences. If NOrthern Europeans did not develop a more hirsute body compared to their counterparts in the southern hemisphere then they probably would not have survived.

Say What?