A particular act or policy might not have a discriminatory intent, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. If it has a disproportionately negative impact on so-called protected classes, it is said to have a disparate impact and risks being prohibited by law. The uninformed assumption made by judges, lawyers and academics is that but for the fact of racial and sex discrimination, we all would be distributed across occupations, educational backgrounds and other socio-economic characteristics according to our percentages in the population. Such a vision is absolute nonsense. There is no evidence, anywhere, at any time, that but for the fact of discrimination, there would be proportional representation among various socio-economic characteristics. Let’s look at some disproportionalities, with an eye toward discovering the causes and then deciding what to do about them.
If one were to list the world’s top 30 violinists of the 20th century, at least 25 of them would be of Jewish ancestry. Another disparity is that despite the fact that Jews are less than 3 percent of the U.S. population and a mere 0.2 percent of the world’s population, during the 20th century, Jews were 35 percent of American and 22 percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners. Are Jews taking violin excellence and Nobel Prizes that belong to other ethnicities? If America’s diversity worshippers see underrepresentation as probative of racial discrimination, what do they propose be done about overrepresentation?
Overrepresentation may be seen as denial of opportunity. For example, blacks are 13 percent of our population but about 80 percent of professional basketball players and 65 percent of professional football players and among the highest-paid players in both sports. By stark contrast, blacks are only 2 percent of the NHL’s professional ice hockey players. Basketball, football and ice hockey represent gross racial disparities and as such come nowhere close to “looking like America.” Do these statistics mean that the owners of multibillion-dollar basketball and football operations are nice guys and ice hockey owners are racists? By the way, just because blacks are 65 percent of professional football players, let’s not lull ourselves into complacency.
When’s the last time you saw a black NFL kicker or punter?
There are even geographical disparities. Not a single player in the NHL’s history can boast of having been born and raised in Hawaii, Louisiana or Mississippi. Geographical disparities are not only limited to ice hockey. The population statistics for North and South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1 percent of their population is black. In states such as Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, blacks are overrepresented. When such racial disparities were found in schooling, the remedy was busing. I’ll tell you one thing; I’m not moving to Montana. It’s too cold.
Geographical disparities don’t only apply to the U.S. Historically, none of the world’s greatest seamen has been born and raised in a Himalayan nation, such as Nepal and Bhutan, or a sub-Saharan nation of Africa. They mostly have been from Scandinavia, other parts of Europe, East Asia or the South Pacific.
Being a man, I find another disproportionality particularly disturbing. According to a recent study conducted by Bond University in Australia, sharks are nine times likelier to attack and kill men than they are women. Such a disproportionality leads to only one conclusion: Sharks are sexist. Another disturbing sex disparity is that despite the fact that men are 50 percent of the population and so are women, men are struck by lightning six times as often as women. Of those killed by lightning, 82 percent are men. I wonder what whoever is in charge of lightning has against men.
Differences are seen by many as signs of inequality. Nobel laureate Milton Friedman put it best: “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” Equality in conjunction with the general rules of law is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty that can be secured without destroying liberty.
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Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.