Racism and Affirmative Action -Reply

Willaim Thurber - PhD Student thurber at FMGMT.MGMT.UTORONTO.CA
Fri Feb 9 09:25:22 MST 1996


On Wed, 7 Feb 1996, Robert M. Neil wrote:

> Of course, the POINT of my posting was that few people would argue that the NBA
> was racist based on the overrepresentation of one particular race (African
> Americans) relative to their proportion of the population. Yet racism is
> precisely the conclusion we would reach if we were to use the trivial approach
> advocated by Dr. Thurber (and the US Justice Dept.) which simply assumes that all
> applicants to the NBA are equally qualified.

The accusation of bias needs more than a statistical study,
it needs a foundation of belief that systematic bias can exist.  There is
grounds for believing that blacks can be discriminated against,
cross validated by things like economic status, wage rates and the
like.  There is little support that there is systematic bias against
whites in the population.

According to this approach, we
> should, statistically speaking, expect to see a racial balance in the NBA roughly
> equivalent to that of the population at large. Since we do not, racial prejudice
> must be the cause!
>
> The reason the NBA case is illustrative is that each player's qualifications for
> the job are fairly easily agreed upon and measured.

The NBA example is a bit contrived, (liberal speak for "you make a
good point") only in rare circumstances do teams wish to
have less than the optimal.  However businesses often hire less than
optimal eg the phrase "you are over qualified for this job."  If firms
were intent to hire only the best, even conceeding the existance of a
perfect measure of applicants (WHICH DOES NOT EXIST) they would never
worry about over qualified applicants.

 It's clear to virtually
> anyone who follows the sport that despite the fact African Americans are vastly
> overrepresented relative to their proportion of the general population, they are
> absolutely the best qualified atheletes for the job. There is no "pro-African" or
> "anti-white" racial bias.
>
> This leaves us with the question: "if a trivial statistical approach to
> employment in the NBA is so unreliable, why is it applied to so many employment
> cases in other industries?"

I think I have answered this question, despite your "contrived" example.

--Will



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