Montréal, 4 août 2001  /  No 86  
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Yvan Petitclerc est professeur de francais et traducteur. Il se passionne pour le sport professionnel, les relations ethniques et l'histoire americaine contemporaine. Voir sa page pour d'autres articles.
by Yvan Petitclerc
Question: What did you think of the book Taboo by Jon Entine? Are his observations accurate and relevant? 
Answer: That people of West African descent tend to do better than other people (with the possible exception of Samoans) at sports requiring explosive muscularity is completely obvious to anybody who watches sports on TV. On average, young men of West African descent in prime physical condition are simply more muscular than young men of European descent who have worked out equally hard. The largest differences are in lower body strenght which is why no one besides a West African has ever run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds.
Q: What about other distances? 
A: There are sports where West Africans are at a disadvantage. The most obvious is distance running. Racial group's success in different length events can be plotted on a graph, where they tend to come out as bell curves centering around their best distances. African Americans and other members of the West African diaspora hold the top 500 times ever in the 100 meters dash and are almost as strong in the 200m and 400m. By the 800m however they are merely competitive on the world scale. By the 1500m they only show up rarely in world-class events, and they are unknown in the 5000m. 
          In contrast Kenyans from the East African Highlands now and then win bronze medals in the 400m but have the world record holder in the 800m. Their peak event is the 3000m steeplechase. The last time I checked, they held 94 of the top 100 times. Kenyan's performances fall off the longer the race. In the marathon they are very strong but hardly dominant. Mexicans are strongest at 10 000m and the marathon and Northeast Asians only appear in the world ranking at the marathon. European and white Americans are fairly mediocre at most distances doing best in the 800m, 1500m and marathon where neither the West Africans nor the Kenyans are at their best. There is no way to explain these patterns purely using social factors. Track coaches are constantly pushing their runners to try different lengths. The Kenyan Olympic team would love to have some great sprinters and the Jamaican team some distance runners. It just doesn't happen because of psychological differences. 
Q: Why is it so difficult to discuss that objectively? 
A: Americans talk racial differences all the time in sports bars. We're not just supposed to write about them. Of course you can have a much more intelligent discussion in print. Jon Entine should be praised for writing a smart, perceptive and balanced book on this important subject. 
On patterns and sports 
Q: What pattern did you see in term of human diversity and sports achievement during the last Sydney Olympics? 
A: Racial differences are clearest in running, precisely because it's the most equal opportunity sport in the world. As equality of opportunity in track increased during the first half of the 20th century you saw the sport become more integrated, just as you would expect if social differences were much more important than biological differences. Initially only the Anglo-Saxon nations did well in track back in the first few Olympics largely because they invented modern track. By 1912 the Finns were becoming dominant because they invented the « scientific » approach to training and competing. Soon other advanced nations picked up on their techniques and gold medalists became more widely distributed. Around 1928 both African Americans and Japanese began to do well in track. By the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the 100m dash final consisted of three whites, two blacks and a East Asian. By the 1960's however as equality of opportunity continued to increase, a completely unexpected thing began to happen. Greater equality of opportunity led to more inequality of results a trend that can only be explained by biological differences. 
          Men of West African descent began to dominate the sprints. In fact in the last five Olympic 100m dash finals, all 40 of the male finalists have been black. Even more strangely, African Americans began to lose interest in sprinting during this period. I suspect a far higher percentage of the French population could name the African American who is the current record holder and gold medalist in the 100m (Maurice Green). Yet African Americans continued to win many Olympics medals in the 100m-400m range. 
          Similarly longer distances from the 3000 steeplechase through the 10 000m became dominated by East African highlanders with some competition from Northwest African Highlanders. No doubt growing up at high altitude helps, but there are ten of million of people who live at 1500m or higher in the Western US, Mexico, The Andes, Tibet, Central Asia and other highlands, yet they don't distinguish themselves in distance running. So the Olympics are the world's festival of human biodiversity. And the medalists in Sydney's 2000 Games largely followed established racial patterns. In men's track, the most universally contested, most equal opportunity sport in the world, East Africans dominated the distance races. From 800 meters through the marathon, highlanders from the adjoining countries of Kenya and Ethiopia won 12 of the 18 total medals available. The Atlas mountain countries of Northeast Africa (Morocco and Algeria) brought home five medals. 
          A German won the other medal in the white man's traditional strong suit, the 800 meters. This medium distance race falls between the sweet spots for West African-descended blacks (100 to 400m) and Ethiopians (5000 to the marathon). Whites also tend to be consistently mediocre at all distances thus often do well at 800m. 
          In the seven sprints, hurdles and relay races from 100 to 400m blacks of Western African origin won at least 18 medals led by the US with eight. European whites won one. I don't know the race of the medalists from South Africa and Saudi Arabia – the Arabs import a lot of Africans to bolster their Olympic squads. 
Q: What was the situation in all sports overall? 
A: Across all sports in the national medal totals the US came in first. Russia despite all the chaos at home was an impressive second. For third place the Chinese edged out the Australians who benefitted from the home field advantage as well as many of the finest ex-Eastern Bloc athletes that money could buy, and the Germans. The Chinese though « failed to make any impact beyond the sports they traditionally dominate in the words of Scott McDonald of Reuters. » Six sports in which China has been traditionally strong such as table tennis, diving, badminton and the new women's weightlifting competition provided 23 of their gold. Only one medal, a gold in the women's 20 km walk came from athletics. 
On Race and Immigration 
Q: Are Latinos in the US mostly classified as white, black or Latino? Does it make sense to mix a linguistic category with some racial ones in a census? 
     « The way minority pressure politics work in the US is that small tightly focused immigrant groups like the Cuban refugees are better able to exert influence on American foreign policy, but large vaguely defined groups like "Hispanics" or "Latinos" are more influential in the domestic race rackets. »
A: The US census categories don't make much sense at all. Anybody can declare themselves anything they want on either race or « ethnicity ». Nobody is exactly sure what the term ethnicity means in theory, but in practice it means having some sort of connection by descent with either Latin-America or the Spanish Speaking word or something like that – the various official definitions disagree and nobody is certain whether say Brazilians or Spaniards or non Spanish-speaking Indians qualify. 
          The way minority pressure politics work in the US is that small tightly focused immigrant groups like the Cuban refugees are better able to exert influence on American foreign policy, but large vaguely defined groups like « Hispanics » or « Latinos » are more influential in the domestic race rackets. Thus a wealthy Miami resident might be a « Cuban » when he's lobbying his Congressman to keep the embargo on Castro, but he's a poor victimized « Hispanic » when his son is trying to get into Harvard on a quota set aside for Hispanics. Why exactly the US provides job and college preferences to immigrants who chose to come to America over native born-Americans who didn't chose to be born here is such a mystery that is almost never discussed in the american press. 
Q: How has the US immigration policy evolved in the last 30 years or so? 
A: It hasn't evolved. The basic policies put in place by Congress in 1965 with little debate or analysis remain largely intact. Nobody will defend them in detail but it has become almost taboo to criticize them. Immigration today is dominated by the policy of « family reunion » which means that once an extended family gets one member into the US, the entire family could eventually become eligible to become permanent resident whether or not they have skills that would make them a net benefit to current citizens. Our immigration policy is essentially nepotistic. 
Q: Is there a future for « affirmative action » policies in the US? 
A: Affirmative action has a wonderful future in America. Affirmative action advocates now justify it not as a means to benefit blacks, but as a benefit to whites. « Diversity » we are told makes whites live better in some ill-defined sense. This is a brilliant marketing ploy because it justifies racial quotas favoring immigrant groups and there's no time limit to. 
Q: What is the current Bush administration position on the subject? 
A: The new Bush administration has shown no desire to attack racial/ethnic preferences, because Hispanics benefit from them and Bush number one priority is to woo the rapidly growing Hispanic population. 
Q: Aren't the Asian Americans more or less ambivalent about all that affirmative action debate? 
A: Sure, in general the immigrants groups from Northeast Asian and South Asia who enjoy average IQ's over 100 are penalized by these policies overall, but their politicians benefit from them personally so most Asian-American activists are staunchly in favor of the racial spoils system.  
          Journalist Arthur Hu says that Asian Americans tend to be slightly more conservative than their neighbors, but because they mostly live in California, New York and a few other big states, their white neighbors tend to be quite leftists. Gore carried a solid majority of Asian American in 2000. Because Bush has chosen to pursue Hispanics rather than Asians who would certainly be a more natural fit in the Republican party due to their greater affluence. I suspect Asians will continue their drift toward the Democratic Party. 
On voting patterns and the future 
Q: What are the most important voting patterns in the US? Is there for example a future for the Republican party outside the traditional white men electorate? 
A: Over 90% of Bush's votes came from whites as compared to about 70% of Gore's. Bush did a little worse than the average Republican Presidential candidate among blacks, winning around 9% of their vote. He did a little above average among Hispanics winning 35% and did much worse than typical among Asians gaining only around 42% of their vote. The Bush strategy for 2004 is to increase their share of the Hispanic vote to around 38-40% by opening the floodgates to even more immigrants from Mexico. Because nobody imagines that Hispanics will ever vote 50% for Republicans, Bush is following a classic après moi le déluge plan. Fortunately for the Bush dynasty they are priming the President's half-Mexican nephew young Georges P. Bush to be the third generation Bush candidate for President.  
Q: What are the logical consequences of those policies in the long term? 
A: In the long run, immigration leaves the Republican Party with four options: First, it can become the permanent losing party again, as it was for much of the 20th century. Second, it can theoretically move so far to the left that it picks up much higher percentages of minorities. This seems unfeasible though because the Democrats have a longer history of pandering to racial pressures groups and would probably win any such arms race. 
          Third, it can decide during the next recession to cut back on immigration. This would alienate Hispanics and Asians who already are alienated from the Republican Party, but it would quickly swing the country in a more conservative direction. Right now politicians assume that racial quotas, bilingual education, multiculturalism and a host of other leftists policies are inevitable because of the inexorably rising tide of immigrants. Shut off that influx and suddenly the medium political balance will appear to change dramatically. 
          Fourth, the Republicans can do a better job at winning white votes. Bush lost a full 46% of white votes in 2000 and even 40% of white males. In contrast Gore lost only about 5% of black females. Bush however swept the heavily black Southern States by winning about two thirds of the white vote there. Currently Bush is trying to move to the left on racial issues to appeal to minorities, while he's moving to the right on whites' pet leftists issues like the environment. This makes almost no sense. Whites are going to cast almost 80% of the votes in 2004. Alienating upper middle class whites, the Republicans' natural voter base, by pushing policies they see as anti-environmental is self-destructive. 
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