Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The idiocy of demographic representivity

Jack Bloom critiques the mindless pursuit of racial proportionality

I sometimes wonder why the fervent advocates of 50/50 gender representivity don't criticise the gender segregation in sports.

It's not even a matter of a token woman in a football, rugby or cricket team. They are altogether forbidden, unless they play in all-women teams.

A ridiculous thought, you might say, when physical differences are obvious, even though blurred in cases of manly-looking women.

But is it evidence of discrimination if all sports teams do not reflect exactly the demographics of society?

For whatever reason, different groups have different interests in sports. At my English-speaking high school, boys generally wanted to play soccer, and regarded rugby as forced upon them because it was the Afrikaner game of choice.

Rugby teams to this day have fewer English-speaking whites than warranted by population size, but nobody regards this as discrimination.

A glance at top class world 100 metre races shows overwhelming dominance of black men.

Is there any purpose in bleating about the relative shortage of white, Indian or Chinese sprinters?

Something similar can be said about various sectors of the economy.

American scholar Thomas Sowell finds it strange that anyone should expect that identifiable groups would ever be proportionately represented in every occupation even in the absence of discrimination.

He gives many examples of the persistence of cultural differences. For instance, in Tsarist Russia, ethnic Germans were only about one percent of the population, but were 40% of the Russian army's high command in the 1880s.

German generals were prominent in the Roman legions, and generals of German ancestry led the American armies in both world wars of the 20th century, and in the Iraq wars as well.

Societies benefit from the dynamism of creative minorities like Jews, the Parsis in India (founders of Tata), and overseas Chinese, who are all "over-represented" in certain key areas.

Yet. Jimmy Manyi, outgoing chairman of the Employment Equity Commission, believes in absolute demographic representivity at all levels.

Asked whether 87% of chartered accountants should be black, he says yes.

Academic and activist Mamphele Ramphele has remarked on the idiocy of chasing away the skills of white men, however acquired as a legacy of history, instead of retaining them as strategic assets to build up the country for the benefit of everyone.

We should obviously try to provide equal opportunity for all, starting with good basic education, but this is not likely to result in the demographic representivity sought by racial nationalists like Manyi.

There are just too many other factors involved, including culture and all the varying motivations and aspirations of individuals.

Why have Chinese and Koreans done so well in America after arriving as penniless immigrants?

In some American schools there is "white flight" because they can't compete with Orientals who go for extra lessons after school instead of playing sports.

The irony is that women now outnumber men in American colleges, comprising close to 60% of all graduates.

A 50/50 requirement there would discriminate against women in favour of men who according to research, study less and socialize more than their female classmates.

Instead of mindless quotas, we should focus more on the factors that make for individual success, so that we can all develop to our fullest in whatever direction we choose.

Jack Bloom is a Democratic Alliance Member of the Gauteng Legislature. This article first appeared in The Citizen.

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