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Little League Baseball and Discrimination

September 21, 2015 Leave a comment

I live in the Detroit area and, for as long as I have lived here, I have heard media commentators claim that we need more dialogue about racial issues. Yet when I observe such dialogue, I have often seen people talk past one another about racial matters because people often disagree about the definition of racial discrimination. A recent dispute involving Little League baseball illustrates this difference of opinion quite clearly (a news account of this sad story may be found here).

The dispute involves a baseball team from the Chicago area that competed in the competition that ultimately could lead to the team winning the Little League World Championship. The team’s players were all African American. They won the U.S. championship but did not win the world championship. The team’s achievements were praised widely and they were invited to the White House where they met the President. Recently Little League Baseball vacated all of the team’s achievements because it was found that the team’s management violated rules that dictated where the players must live if they were permitted to play on the team. A lawsuit was filed by parents of the players on the team and one parent, in a news conference that I happened to see, claimed that vacating the team’s victories was evidence of discrimination. But is this really what we mean by discrimination?

Little League officials claim that the rules regarding residency were in place before the team competed. In addition, the rule was applied to other teams, including ones who were not African American. If these claims are found in court to be true, then in my opinion, no discrimination has occurred. But what is clear by the lawsuit filed on behalf of the team, the parents think that discrimination occurs even if the rules are in place beforehand and applied to everyone. As a result, there are two definitions of discrimination at work here. What purpose will be served by more dialogue between people who believe each view of what is meant by discrimination?  Will I change my belief? No and will the others who disagree change theirs? I suspect not.

I think the reality of race relations in the U.S. is that there is a wide difference of opinion about the existence of discrimination which will make it very difficult to get past this divisive issue in politics and in everyday life.

Categories: Government

Random Thoughts After a Long Hiatus

September 21, 2015 2 comments

It has been quite a while since I last posted on this blog. I finally decided to catch up by posting a series of remarks on a number of issues that are of interest to economists and (hopefully) others.

Disparate Impact Analysis

I teach in a university economics department. If you were to attend one of our faculty meetings, you would observe that nobody in the room is a seven-foot Chinese basketball player. Does that mean the faculty in my department discriminated against the seven-foot Chinese basketball players in the world who wanted to be on our staff and attend this meeting? If you were to use a nonsensical theory known as disparate impact analysis, then if seven-foot Chinese basketball players were a politically-protected group, the answer is yes and my university could be charged with discrimination in federal court.

To say the least, disparate impact analysis ignores the scientific method which most of us learned in primary school. The fact that a person has the disease known as AIDS does not imply how the person got that disease. The reason is that medical science has determined that the disease can be contracted in more than one way. Similarly, if one group of individuals makes less money than another group, there are many reasons why this may be so.  One of those reasons could be discrimination but how do we know this to be true? Put differently, there are causal relationships in an economy and there are many random events that can make a group of individuals have the demographic characteristics that they have. Read more…

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