Economist Thomas Sowell filed his last column a while back. At the age of 89, he certainly has earned his retirement. We will miss his insight, but benefit from the books and columns he has written over the years.
One of his last few columns had the engaging title “Football and Fallacies.” As is so often the case, he takes on one of the fallacies of the liberal left. He talks about the reaction from the players in the NFL when a black punter took the field. One of the defenders cried out, “Fake!” His reaction was understandable since you never see a black kicker in the NFL.
Thomas Sowell put it this way: “I have seen hundreds of black players score touchdowns, but not one kick the point afterwards. I have seen a black President of the United States before I have seen a black kicker in the NFL.”
The point he is making is that politicians and judges have always assumed that statistical differences between racial groups indicate discrimination. If so, does that mean there is discrimination among kickers in professional football? Of course, we all know the answer to that question. Owners and coaches will pick the best player regardless of their ethnic background. In fact, they will even take foreign players who cannot even speak English if they can kick a football.
The lesson here is that we have been told for decades that statistical differences are automatically a reason to suspect discrimination, whether between races or sexes. He goes on to remind us that some of the differences in wages between men and women have more to do with different career choices.
Let’s be honest. Some statistical differences do point to discrimination (either overt or subtle), but in most cases the differences are due to other factors that have nothing to do with discrimination. This is a lesson I hope politicians and judges can learn from this football story.