Jewish World Review Feb 23, 2012/ 30 Shevat, 5772
Jeremy Lin: Achievement trumps identity politics
By Victor Davis Hanson
Despite his crassness, Mayweather may be on to something, but not in the simplistic fashion he thinks. In Lin's storybook saga, it is hard to sort out all the racial-stereotyping and affirmative-action undertones, but I think it goes something like this: Lin was probably not given earlier opportunities commensurate with his proven talents, given that both
Yet, once the
But that's not quite the end of the irony. Mayweather claims that Lin is still getting excessive attention based on his race, as if racism were at work in winning him inordinate praise for the same sort of skills that the African-American majority in the
Again, Mayweather is both right and wrong. True, it is Lin's unusual background that makes him a minority within his field and thus warrants unusual recognition beyond his resonance in the Asian community. But that fact is not due to Lin being Asian per se. Were Lin a native Amazonian or from the
In that regard, I am sure in the last 50 years that there have been all sorts of Harvard Law Review editors who had far more articles published during their tenure than did
In other words, what is not the norm always garners undue 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 otherwise 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
Yet, in a mixed-up America, we still like to think that achievement eventually trumps identity politics. Whether it's
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Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
© 2012, TMS