The Race


I was asked to help out at a school sports day not long ago. Just to help hold the ribbon at the crossing line at the end of the running track. I rather enjoyed myself. It was a sunny day and people seemed to be enjoying themselves too.

I shall not forget the Under 16 Girls’ 100 Metres. I cannot remember who won the race but I shall never forget Diane who came last by a good ten seconds. The poor girl was clearly not born for sprinting – she was heavier than her school mates and, when she could see she was losing, she burst into floods of tears at about the fifty-metre mark, screaming at the top of her voice about how the other competitors were racists and cheats who had an unfair advantage.

The other pupils and even some of the teachers seemed to laugh at Diane. I felt pity for her. So I passed my ribbon-holding duties over to a parent, introduced myself and sat with Diane, handing her a tissue, so she could wipe away her tears.

I asked Diane to explain to me why she thought that the other competitors had cheated.

“Can’t you see that they are racists?” Diane replied with discernible anger in her eyes. “The race should be staggered so that girls like me from ethnic minorities even stand a chance.”

Just as the words “ethnic minorities” exited Diane’s lips, a black boy won the Under 16 400 metres right in front of us. So, I immediately asked Diane if this lad’s race had been run with a staggered start.

“No, of course not,” replied Diane, “because he’s a boy. And he doesn’t have these breasts to deal with when he is running,” Diane laughed. “Although maybe he should have something of a head start, as prostate cancer is nearly twice as common among black men as it is among whites. He’s disadvantaged too, you know.”

I happened to have seen the school’s basketball team in action earlier on in the year and noticed that the team was all black even though the school’s pupils were predominantly white. So, I asked Diane if she felt that the white and asian pupils at the school should be given ladders to get nearer to the hoop or be forced into the basketball team via quotas.

“Of course not. You’re just another racist, sir, if you think that,” she replied. “How can you even suggest that in 2017?”

Diane seemed to have swiftly got over the (faux?) emotions of her running disaster and so I probed further:

“Ah, but the NBA is 17 percent white and consists of 80 percent black players. And if that disparity doesn’t worry you, then Asians only represent one percent. What would you do about that, Diane?”

Diane pondered for a moment. Then came her answer:

“Vietnamese American girls have a cervical cancer rate five times higher than that of Caucasian women. Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean and Vietnamese populations are two to eleven times more likely to get liver cancer.  So, you can see now that racial segregation lives on for blacks and asians. Civil rights goals have not been accomplished. This country has been going backwards towards greater segregation for decades.”

Diane had failed to answer my question.

“Asians routinely get the highest scores in maths while blacks get the lowest,” I pointed out, hoping to break through to grey matter.

“Ah, but that’s a cultural issue,” Diane responded, “as you well know, the Chinese invented the abacus. Three hundred billion Chinese can’t be all wrong!”

“So, what about Jews, Diane?” I questioned – ignoring both Diane’s poor maths and the Babylonian abacus. “They are merely one percent of the world’s population and yet they are twenty percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners. Are the Nobel Prize judges discriminating in favour of Jews? Just as the Oscar committee allegedly discriminates in favour of whites and against blacks?”

Diane grew increasingly angry and appeared to burst into tears again. “The Jews? The Jews? You, sir, are a racist.” She then called over to a long-haired, whiskered fellow in the scruffiest games kit I’ve ever seen who I had witnessed losing the 1500 metres by over a lap earlier on. “Jeremy, this man is a racist. He’s being racist towards me.”

“Shame on you. You should know better at your age. We don’t like racists round here,” Jeremy chided me in a Dutch Passion skunk-affected voice akin to Neil off the Young Ones. “You know, we’re all free to oppose injustice and abuse wherever we find it,” he continued, his specious patter reminding me of someone also whiskery but I couldn’t think who.

Meanwhile, Diane had managed to rustle up a few other protesters dressed in sports kit and lycra. Suddenly, I felt I was in a scene from Fame. Then the headmaster noticed the kerfuffle, came over and had a gentle word in my ear. “Perhaps you should leave now? We don’t want to cause a scene. These children are very sensitive, you know. We’ve had some walk-outs recently and we are desperately trying to appease them. Thanks for your help with the races. Much appreciated.”

So, I started walking towards the school gates. There is little point arguing with absurdity (let alone student appeasers).

It was then that the boy who had won the Under 16 400 metres walked over to me and introduced himself as James. I shook his hand.

“I overheard your conversation with Diane,” said James, “and I just wanted to say that in my opinion it’s people like her who bring up difference all day long who are the racists. Just because she can’t win in life doesn’t mean that she should take away the spoils of the winners or smear them because they hammer her with sense. It’s covetous people like her who make me doubt my own dreams sometimes.”

“Thank you, James,” I replied. “You speak very cleverly.” And I wished him the best of luck for the future. Then I walked over to my car and left.

“There is no evidence from anywhere on earth or any time in the history of humankind which shows that but for discrimination there would be proportional representation and absence of gross statistical disparities by race, sex, nationality, or any other human characteristic.”

(W.E Williams)

Disparities require less highlighting. Less attention from the courts. Statistical disparities between races and sexes rarely if ever prove discrimination. So, damn the privilege checkers, the racists and the covetous. Inspire meritocracy, whatever colour, creed or race you find yourself plonked in by the lottery of birth.

*Author’s Note: this sports day and Diane are purely fictitious and merely designed to illustrate some points the author deems important.