On this difference between the races thing

I know, I know, we\’re not really supposed to mention these things, are we?

It\’s just about acceptable to point out that those of West African descent have a higher liklihood of sickle cell anaemia but carry on and point out that almost all modern sprinters share such ancestry and almost no modern competitive swimmers do and you\’re getting close to saying unfashionable things.

But this is a point that rather made me sit up straight:

But the record books suggest ethnicity is far from superfluous. The subject may be taboo, but the fact remains that the last white man to win an Olympic 100m final was Scotsman Allan Wells in Moscow in 1980.

Even more astonishingly, in the seven Olympic Games since, not a single white athlete has reached the eight-man final. In Beijing in 2008, no white sprinter made it past the second round.

I think the use of the word \”white\” there isn\’t quite right, for it\’s obviously being used as the antonym for \”black\”, which isn\’t right really. I\’m pretty sure it should be \”West African descent\”, not skin colour, which is the point.

In much the same way, it\’s not \”blacks\” which dominate (to a lesser extent) long distance running, rather East and North Africans, isn\’t it?

16 comments on “On this difference between the races thing

  1. It’s just another manifestation of leftist wishful thinking that insists we’re all exactly the same, even when nature points out were not..

    CF the Harvard dean who made observations about the real world differences between the sexes and was promptly hounded out of his job….

  2. The only problem about looking at the results of sports is that in the early 1980′s you might have thought that blacks have some inante advantage over other races at test cricket.
    But in the 1990′s until 2003 you might have thought that Australians do.

    It could be that in the future other races will dominate at running.

  3. There’s also the interesting comparison between running and swimming.

    There have been spectacularly few succesful black swimmers. As far as I am aware there have only ever been two black medal winners in Olympic swimming (Antony Nesty and Enith Brigitha).

    There are undoubtedly some cultural and social factors behind this but there is also likely to be a physical factor (which is apparently to do with a measurable difference in bouyancy – black swimmers have to apply more of their power in keeping themselves afloat and so have less power to apply to their speed).

    There clearly are real differences between people. Just look at the physiology of Nepalese sherpas that allows them to live comfortably at high altitude. Describing these differences as ‘racial’ differences by reference to skin tone is unhelpful and inaccurate – there are as clear differences between East African athletes and West African athletes as there are between West African athletes and White European athletes.

    But denying that any differences exist and it is all down to social and cultural factors in plain silly. I challenge any politically correct difference-denier to go on a 1o mile fast hike in the Himalayas with a sherpa.

  4. Mr Blair,

    Your argument may hold true, but there is an alternative scenario that might explain the demise of West Indian cricket:

    All the genetically gifted chaps who would once have donned the maroon cap are now being poached by high paying baseball teams from the states.

  5. Leftists tend to deny that there is such a thing as human nature, albeit with some genetic variants. But if there is no such as thing as human nature, then human beings are indefinitely plastic and can adapt to (or be made to adapt to) any circumstance. In which case the leftists’ demands for social change are pointless, because they are simply unnecessary as we could adapt to any circumstance.

    Any view of what constitutes human thriving, whether on the right or the left, is incoherent if it it doesn’t assume that there is a human nature.

  6. I suspect that most people are racist – some admit it, some don’t. That is to say, most people (I suspect) behave as if they believe that there are discernible varieties of man having different distributions of sundry characteristics. They often assume that these differences are, at least in part, heritable – “genetic” if you like. If you tell me that there are people who say they believe that lactose intolerance is just a social construct, then I’d reply that there are people who say that they believe in Thor.

    All this is relevant to some aspects of life, irrelevant to others. I find it fascinating – I follow, for example, Diogenes blog – but not exciting. People who have found that claims of racism can be exploited to extort race privileges may well find it exciting but not fascinating. It takes all sorts.

  7. A Dutch colleague claims that the relative tallness of her people (compared to the English) derives not from something esoteric like drinking more milk, but from the obvious evolutionary advantage bestowed by being tall in a low lying country prone to floods.

    With that levity in mind, we merely require to identify the relevant environmental factors in East Africa bestowing an advantage to the fleet of foot.

    Lions? Arab Slavers?

  8. Actually, the Dutch one is interesting. It’s all happened in just a couple of generations (I have read). What on earth caused that?

  9. To me this is a fascinating topic. The 100m has been run in under ten seconds over 300 times, but never (possibly that new young French guy?) by a white man – not even with the aid of the East German drug programme. I’ve heard both sides of the argument. Matthew Syed for the Liberal Intelligensia and Gabriel Marcotti and Luca Vialli for the opposition in their book comparing British and Italian professional football. Each is equally convincing to me at the time.

  10. Shot-putters, discus, javelin and hammer throwers – ever seen a top rate African or “Afro-American” one?

  11. dearieme – “I suspect that most people are racist – some admit it, some don’t….. If you tell me that there are people who say they believe that lactose intolerance is just a social construct, then I’d reply that there are people who say that they believe in Thor.”

    I come from a strong Social Sciences orthodox background. I grew up denying any and all racial differences. I am not so sure these days although cultural causes tend to be the first thing I reach for. However I am perfectly happy to consider racially-based differences and even for people to think I am a racist. As I get older, I am more willing to think IQ may be genetically determined for instance.

    I am still inclined to think lactose intolerance is a cultural thing, not a racial one.

    I am agnostic on the subject of Thor.

  12. “Actually, the Dutch one is interesting. It’s all happened in just a couple of generations (I have read). What on earth caused that?”

    Good nutrition for mothers during childhood allows their reproductive organs to develop fully – leading to bigger babies and a taller generation.

    Study was done some years ago – can’t remember full details but it was well argued – comparing Netherlands and USA.

  13. “I am still inclined to think lactose intolerance is a cultural thing, not a racial one”: is that an argument that lactase is a social construct? Golly.

  14. When I said “Diogenes blog” I of course meant Dienekes Blog. Dear Thor! My IQ must be dwindling: too much milk, I suppose.

  15. The height has nothing to do with nutrition,more with the growth hormones injected in almost all foods.

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