2015 marks the 44th year I’ve been following social science statistics, going back to the summer of 1972 after I graduated from elementary school when I started researching the upcoming national high school debate topic on education policy. That’s a pretty decent sample size for judging trends.
But it’s not very common to publicly notice the passing of the years when thinking about social phenomenon. Instead, if anybody notices that the years since 1969 (which can serve well enough as our Year Zero of contemporary identity politics: with women’s lib and gay lib both dating to that year) are piling up, it’s to then assert that, well, that just proves how insidious and systemic Cisgendered Straight White Male Privilege is. Comrades, the fact that we’ve been running things for 46 years just proves how many wreckers there are in our midst who must be liquidated!
Consider the minor question of black quarterbacks in the NFL.
Quarterbacks of diverse ethnic backgrounds were not uncommon in West Coast football when I was young: Part-Mexican Joe Kapp at Cal, part-Mexican, part-American Indian Jim Plunkett at Stanford, Cherokee Sonny Sixkiller at the U. of Washington, and the Throwin’ Samoan Jack Thompson at Washington St. USC had a black quarterback, Jimmy Jones, way back in 1969. (And the Los Angeles Rams had the half-Filipino Roman Gabriel as their starting quarterback in the 1960s and then in 1974 famously traded the reigning NFL MVP John Hadl in mid-season to start a black QB James Harris.)
On the other hand, after Warren Moon led Washington to an upset of mighty Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl, he wasn’t drafted by the NFL. He was then phenomenally successful in the Canadian Football League, then came down to the States and had a long and highly productive NFL career from 1984-2000 finally retiring at 44. So, the Moon case is a plausible example of prejudice against blacks at quarterback in the NFL as late as 37 years ago.
But 37 years ago was 37 years ago. Now, I’m sure you could find more recent examples, but still …
But to the conventional sportswriter, the longer we get from the era when blacks were discriminated against as quarterback, the closer that receding age is in the mind’s eye. Real Soon Now, blacks will break through White Privilege and take over the NFL quarterback job. For example, from The New Yorker eleven months ago:
JANUARY 29, 2014
The masterful satirist Richard Pryor, during a skit on his television variety show, in 1977, played a black president holding a press conference. Subdued in tone, clad in a gray suit, Pryor as chief executive tries to field all the questions without losing his composure. He answers the journalists’ queries about tensions in the Middle East, the neutron bomb, and the unemployment rate. Then, about four minutes along, a reporter wearing the beret and fatigue jacket of the Black Panthers and identifying himself as Brother Bell, of Ebony magazine, stands up to say, “I want to know what you gonna do about having more black brothers as quarterbacks in the National Football Honky League. Right on!”
Pryor responds, his voice gradually rising: “I plan not only to have lots of black quarterbacks, but we gonna have black coaches and black owners of teams. As long as there gonna be football, gonna be some black in it somewhere!” By now, he is jabbing the air with his hand and widening his eyes. “I’m tired of this mess that’s been goin’ down,” he shouts. “Ever since the Rams got rid of James Harris, that’s what my job been about.”
The raucous applause that ensues from the studio audience attests to Pryor’s laser aim. As an astute commentator on the American dilemma of race, he understood thirty-six years ago something that the nation as a whole is still grasping: the plight of black quarterbacks, so often denied the starting positions they deserved, has always been about much more than football. …
During Donovan McNabb’s stellar career with the Eagles, Rush Limbaugh declared that the quarterback was overrated because he was black.
The Limbaugh firing was back early in the 2003 season (here’s my VDARE article at the time). Since then we’ve had twelve more seasons of statistics to disprove Limbaugh’s Heresy. And football statistics have improved dramatically since then in quality. (Here are 2014?s best NFL quarterbacks using two different state of the art methodologies.)
Yet what do we find? That 2003 was perhaps the high point for black quarterbacks in the NFL.
For example, ESPN has calculated their QBR system back for nine seasons through 2006. Just glancing at the top ten all around NFL quarterbacks over the last nine seasons, by this metric 10 of the 90 spots have been filled by blacks.
Since 2003's apogee, blacks have been represented at QB in the NFL roughly in proportion to their share of the population. But that’s not enough for the Freedmans of the sporting press. It’s not about equality or proportionate representation, it’s about Who? Whom?