Not Guilty

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Here’s another example of (1) how stupid some people are and (2) how the media can turn an anthill into a Himalayan mountain.

Fisher DeBerry, the longtime football coach at the Air Force Academy, remarked after losing a game recently that they (the Academy) needed to recruit more minorities. This was in the context of discussing a game with Texas Christian University in which he remarked at how fast the TCU players were.

Asked the next day to elaborate, DeBerry said the following: "It just seems … that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me they run extremely well."

"Racist, racist, pants on fire" went the cry, and the news media treated it as if it were important.

Since when is it racist to remark on a demonstrable fact? I’m not an avid sports fan, but casual observation seems to verify the truth of his remark. We can assume that track-and-field events, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League do not impose any racial quotas, yet African-Americans are prominent in those sports far beyond their proportion of the population.

Offhand, I can’t think of an outstanding running back or receiver who isn’t black. I’m sure there are some. I can’t recall any outstanding performers in track and field who aren’t African-American. Again, there might be some, but African-Americans seem to dominate those sports. If you watch Southeastern Conference football, you will notice that even many of the teams in the Old South are predominantly made up of African-American athletes.

There are some physiological differences among the different races. We can dismiss them all as superficial, and certainly none of them would justify any kind of discrimination, but why is it considered a sin to even mention them? I don’t know why they exist and don’t care. Why are there no redheaded Chinese? Why are there so many blondes in Norway? Why do so many African-American kids seem to be able to run very, very well? Who knows and who cares? They just do.

I suppose if you gathered all of the African-American 18-year-olds and all of the Caucasian 18-year-olds and had them run in a timed race, you might discover that on the whole the differences in speed were measured in seconds. In sports, seconds can make the difference between winning and losing.

By all accounts, the Air Force Academy coach is a decent man without a racist bone in his body. Since when, by the way, is it racist for a man to say his university needs to recruit more minorities? A decent man should not be subjected to the media grinder over a perfectly innocent remark. This was a nonevent, a non-news story made into one only because of the stupidity of the reporters who thought what he was saying was racist.

Besides lawyers, we have way too many radio and TV talk-show hosts who will seize on any piece of trivia to give themselves an excuse to flap their jaws. Too many of them have diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain. It was apparently the host of some dumb sports show who started this flap. Political correctness, as practiced in this country, is akin to insanity, a flat-out denial of reality. It deserves zero tolerance.

I was born and reared in the Deep South, and I know what a racist is. This poor coach doesn’t even come close. He is as innocent as a baby angel. As a man involved in sports all of his life, he remarked on what seems to him (and to most people, I would guess) an obvious fact. There was no malice, no put-down, no ridicule — nothing except an observation on what he perceived as an athletic virtue among African-American kids. Even if he were wrong, it wouldn’t be racist.

Perhaps the people in Colorado, which doesn’t have many African-Americans living there, are just too inexperienced to recognize real racism. Their racist experience seems to be confined to American Indians and Hispanics.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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