The Right Coast

October 27, 2005
Anatomy of offensiveness
By Tom Smith

Am I the only person wondering how exactly Coach DeBerry's remarks are "hurtful" and "offensive"? I don't deny that they are, since as I have proven in the past, I have no huge insight into what offends other people. DeBerry reportedly remarked:

On Tuesday, in discussing last weekend's 48-10 loss to TCU, DeBerry said it was clear TCU "had a lot more Afro-American players than we did and they ran a lot faster than we did."

"It just seems to me to be that way," he said. "Afro-American kids can run very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me that they run extremely well."

DeBerry appears to be saying that African-American athletes are predictably better, or at least faster, than those of other races. Or perhaps rather that a school that has trouble attracting African-American athletes is going to have trouble competing with schools that do not. Is that a false statement? Or true, but not mentionable in polite company? If an NBA team found itself in a city that was inhospitable to African-Americans, and so had trouble signing them, would it be surprizing, or just not discussable, that for that reason they lost most of their games? If anything, DeBerry seemed to be trying to put pressure, in his ham handed way, on the Air Force Academy administration to do a better job recruiting minorities. Does he need to apologize for that?

Or maybe it is everybody who is not African-American who should be offended? I'm really not sure. Is the idea that any racial stereotype, even a positive one, is not permitted? If I were to say, he was brilliant and hard working, as so many Jews are, do I owe Jews an apology, or all non Jews? There is something here I am not getting. Beautiful Philippina women, humorous Irish men, delightful Italians, trustworthy English . . . are all these just wrong? Does saying such things imply all other women are ugly or men dour? Or is it that I am somehow thought to be implying people with some virtues must not have any others? I say they are a handsome people, therefore I must be implying they are stupid? I am not, but is that what it is feared I am implying?

I am all for sensitivity. Some topics merit and demand it. But sometimes political correctness seems to demand a narrowness of vision that doesn't allow us to enjoy diversity, only to insist upon it.