I’LL SAY IT: Kenyans Are Faster — Does that Make Me Racist?

Written by Steve Pauwels on April 22, 2017

So a Kenyan won this year’s Boston Marathon; and a lady from that nation took the top spot in the womens’ leg of same.


What did provide a bit of eyebrow-arching is American runners’ impressive showings: second place for three-time U.S. Olympian Galen Rupp and stateside gals snagging two of the top four women’s finishes.

That aside, is it racist to acknowledge a certain subset of Africans enjoy a competitive long-distance-running advantage? “Kenya had won either the men’s or women’s race every year since 1991 [excepting 2014 and 2016] … Kenya had taken both titles six times since 2000” (USA TODAY).

If not, is it therefore a-okay to recognize other, arguably physiologically based racial distinctions? That certain ethnic categories might come inherently equippped with superior physical aptitudes — speed, strength, agility – and/or assorted other capabilities? To at least allow a discussion over the subject?

Over two decades ago Charles Murray discovered the unceremonious answer: Nope. Even academic back-and-forth on the subject is forbidden. With his Bell Curve‘s 1994 release, he suggested, with purposeful caution and qualifiers, that inherited factors might play some role in IQ levels among specific people groups. The political scientist forthwith landed in the decent-people-don’t-talk-about-such-things soup; with a humongous, politically incorrect splash. A tiresomely predicable firestorm erupted, occasionally flaring up even lately. Murray continues to pay a public relations price for merely having presented his twenty-plus-year-old thesis (see Middlebury College, March, 2017).

Apparently, studies hinting that perhaps — perhaps — inborn elements contribute to Asians’ generally possessing stronger cognitive abilities than Western European Caucasians who, in turn, broadly possess higher IQ levels than typical Black Africans — such studies cannot even be mentioned in polite company.

Meanwhile, giving a nod to the obvious advantages blacks enjoy in certain physical activities — e.g., running events, basketball, football – is to note the obvious. Melanin-deficient athletes? They tend to excel in other pursuits: swimming, power lifting, golf (Tiger Woods notwithstanding). African-Americans and Latinos, on the other hand, capture the brass ring more commonly in the boxing game, soccer, MMA. Safe to say, cultural (i.e., environmental) variables account for some of these realities. Could heritable explanations also play their part? Even a teeny-tiny bit? Thoughtful observers pose the question at their decided peril. < /div>

What’s the big deal? Don’t individual human beings en masse – regardless of ancestry — regularly arrive on planet earth with specific strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and potencies?

It’s undeniable that easily identifiable, relatively non-controversial external differences distinguish particular nationalities: sundry hair types, skin coloration, eye shape and hue, other stereotypical facial structures, et. al.

Isn’t it self-evident that really brainy moms and dads are more likely to multiply offspring that follow suit? That a bloodline of tall types will reliably pass along that trait to their progeny? A tribe thick with left-handers dependably propagate that attribute? If yes, it’s hardly inconceivable that cycle might extend to wider ethnic “families” — i.e., to racial groups.

What none of the above means: that all blacks are “stupid”; all Asians will be “geniuses”. To rebuff the former speciousness, I submit: Walter Williams, Alan Keyes, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Condoleeza Rice, Clarence Thomas — I could cite innumerable more. Plainly, there are legions of African-Americans who are anything but intellectually lacking. Conversely, poke around a bit and you’ll doubtless find your share of Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese men and women who aren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. (I’ll decline offering examples; that’d be mean.)

This whole kerfuffle goes to the complicated nature of human beings – better understood as poetry than a math equation. Spiritually, biologically, emotionally, cerebrally we’re a multi-faceted, knotty, sometimes downright labyrinthian species. What Mother Nature packs into us from conception, what we observe growing up, how circumstances squeeze and mold us — all seem to contribute to the recipe resulting in the final product; a process that relentlessly keeps at it until each of our last breaths.

I’m reminded of the deathless “What causes someone to be homosexual?” debate. Is it flatly a matter of “born gay”? At some juncture, do “gay” individuals consciously opt to be so? My considered opinion is it’s likely a bedeviling and subtle combination of either determinant. Human sexuality, after all, is a tangled, flummoxing phenomenon, subject to innumerable, often vague and subliminal influences from day one of a person’s existence. Congenital factors? Inherited personality types? Intrinsic proclivities, inclinations? Maybe; why not? Alternatively: elements connected to upbringing? Interpersonal relationships? Hurts, healings? Cultural input? Just as plausibly, they’re pieces of the libidinous puzzle, as well. At minimum, persons choose to pursue whatever lifestyle and behaviors come to epitomize them — “same-sex” or “straight”.

It’s ironic that for all the squalling over scholars like Murray who whisper race might partially shape an individual’s mental capacity, it is the secularist/materialist — usually Leftist — worldview that decocts human beings down to mere meat-and-chemical machines. Fated by remorselessly deterministic biological variables, people are programmed from the womb to think, feel, react, have sex, live in an ineluctably pre-programmed manner. Homosexual? Transgender? Settled in utero. Teenager sexual mania? Glandularly irresistible – condoms, the only hope! Faithful, lifelong marital monogamy? Most folks aren’t wired that way. Alcoholism, drug dependency, addictive personality? Simple self-control can’t cut it there, either.

The biblically-based survey of things, meantime, argues mankind sits atop God’s created order; fashioned in His image; Imago Dei. Every man and woman is, thus, valuable; to be accorded some basic level of esteem. That’s the starting point.

Despite the deficiencies a little fellow is dealt chromosomally (or circumstantially) he possesses the wherewithal to confront those challenges. Whatever the natural gifts bequeathed a baby girl, she’s expected to eventually invest and develop them so something meaningful can come forth. The Creator lays a daunting responsibility on every person — whatever his geographical origin, her race, his aptitudes, her debilities.

It’s what’s in a person’s heart, how he’s conducting himself, that matters. His background, her DNA, on some level, is rattlingly irrelevant. The key question is not where did he come from or what are the specifics of her birth, but how’s he living? What’s she doing with what she has? Ultimately, individuals are to be evaluated as individuals.

Right there is the workable solution to bigotry. Some nitwits might use research adduced by authors like Charles Murray to automatically demean someone hailing from a particular biological pedigree, but that’s probably not the fault of Murray and Co. Race-baiters don’t grasp: whatever the details and implications of a person’s roots, he remains a human being, fragmentarily reflecting his Maker. Strong or weak, fast or slow, tall or diminutive, genius or struggling – he has innate worth.

Rejecting your fellowman because he possesses a certain skin-color or she speaks with an accent? Now, that way of thinking — inborn or learned — is genuinely stupid.

Image: Screen Shot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXed5LStFto

Share if you agree every person — no matter his background — ought to be seen as made in God’s image.

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.