Racial numbers game a shame

(Jessica Corry in the Colorado Daily, Aug. 25) Maybe I was offered this newspaper column because I’m a conservative. Maybe it was because of my gender or because of my race. I guess I never asked why I was hired. I was just happy to get the job. Maybe I should have asked. According to the Urban League, America’s media establishment is racist. In its recent well-publicized report, titled “Sunday Morning Apartheid,” the League laments “under-representation” of black panelists on the nation’s top five Sunday morning political talk shows.

The facts are these - according to the League’s own research: only eight percent of Sunday morning political talk show guests are black, compared to their 12 percent representation in the U.S. as a whole.

Yes, you’ve got that right: the League believes that 4 percent under-representation equals Apartheid.

There is a touch of irony in the League’s insistence on this race-conscious analysis. It was, after all, under Apartheid in South Africa that racial distinctions were institutionalized into national law there. In 1950, the Population Registration Act required that all South Africans be racially classified into one of the three categories: white, black, or colored (mixed race).

It’s little wonder what those South Africans who actually suffered under Apartheid would think of the study. Where’s the discrimination, they’d likely ask.

The League’s report opens by noting that “these (television) programs consistently lack any African American participation in the discussion . . . from the war in Iraq to the economy to the electoral politics to Social Security to judicial nominations - leaving the impression that interest in and analysis of these topics are ‘for whites only.’”

Such a bogus analysis, of course, would never be suggested for other high-profile career fields dominated by blacks in America. Any study asserting that the NBA is “for blacks only” would be considered racist, and rightly so.

When I watch a basketball game on TV, I don’t turn the channel because there aren’t enough white players on the court. And as the saying goes, if my house were burning down, I wouldn’t care about the skin color of the firefighters who came to save it. Firefighters and athletes are as important to our society as any political talking head.

The Urban League is not the only institution for which “under-representation” has become the rallying cry. Such is the case for universities across the country. Take Stanford, where after years of lamenting “under-representation” of certain racial groups, the undergraduate population now boasts of a “minority-majority” of 54 percent.

At the University of New Hampshire in the late ’90s, administrators complained that minorities were “under-represented” as just 3.2 percent of the student body and 5 percent of the faculty, with one administrator saying “something had to be done about this disturbing imbalance.” This call came despite the fact that across the entire state of New Hampshire, one of the whitest states in the country, just 2.6 percent of residents were non-white, and less than one percent were black.

So, where was the “under-representation?” Clearly, there was none - at least if we’re tying representation to reality - the population from which universities can select students.

All of this raises interesting questions for the University of Colorado and other large state schools. According to CU’s web site, 14 percent of its student population is non-white, while the U.S. Census lists Colorado’s statewide minority population, as of 2003, at 17 percent.

How is this “under-representation” of 3 percent to be dealt with, and is it considered solved upon a 3 percent rise in non-white student enrollment? Similarly, will the Urban League be happy if Sunday morning talk shows increase the number of blacks on the shows by 5 percent?

What about Stanford or the University of New Hampshire -- should these institutions be worried that whites are now “under-represented”?

When race and gender become a statistical game, the game can’t be won. As the examples above prove, the invention of “under-representation” by professional activists is simply a distraction from larger issues facing the noble effort to fight real discrimination in society.