The Future of Tennis (and the World)
Last weekend’s women’s tennis final at the US Open was fated to be unprecedented no matter the outcome. The finalists were two teenagers who were ranked 73rd and 150th in the world prior to the event. Teenagers, such as Serena Williams in 1999, had been in the Open’s final before but never two such low ranked players. But the two teenagers, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez and Britain’s Emma Raducanu, earned their way into the finals by soundly defeating higher ranked opponents such as 3rd ranked Naomi Osaka and 2nd ranked Aryna Sabalenka. But as astounding as their feats on the tennis courts have been, there was something else about these girls that struck me. Fernandez’ mother is Filipina, and her father is Ecuadorian. Raducanu’s parents are Romanian and Chinese. And don’t forget Osaka, her mother is Japanese, and her father is Haitian.
These young tennis players are representative of a growing trend in America and around the world. None of these tennis stars are Americans but they are in the same mold as golfers Tiger Woods (American and Thai) and Xander Schauffele (German father and Taiwanese mother). Even Joanna Gaines, an Americana fashion icon from Waco, Texas, has a Korean mother. Kansas City Chiefs’ Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is considered a person of color even though his father was half black and half white and his mother was white. Racial and ethnic differences arose from geographic isolation that no longer exists in the modern world. When I go to the supermarket, I see mixed raced couples and their kids down about every aisle.
The US Census Bureau has been considering dropping race and ethnic identification from the census as these categories are becoming less and less meaningful with each passing year. People of different races, ethnicities and cultures are meeting and intermarrying. Asians represent about seven percent of the US population and this percentage is growing rapidly. But Asians make up about 60% of the global population and there is a big difference between Asians of Chinese descent and Asians of Indian descent. Lumping them all together may not make sense anymore.
Ibram X. Kendi may see a sharp racial divide here in America, but his antiracist rhetoric is being blunted by the increasing integration of the American people. All the differing colors and shades are mixing together. I am pretty white but my extended family is being extended even further with Indian and Central American ancestries. Younger kids these days are practically oblivious to racial and ethnic differences.
Kendi’s perceived racial conflict is actually a cultural conflict. From a white perspective, blacks have made tremendous gains. Civil rights legislation has eliminated official discrimination against blacks and has gone a long way to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment although disparities continue to exist. Middle class blacks face many challenges that are often identified as racial discrimination, but everybody faces challenges in life and not just because of racial animosity. There are people out there who like to push other peoples’ buttons and racial discrimination is just one of many of those buttons.
Hoover Institute fellow Thomas Sowell, a black economist, and other black professionals such as Walter Williams and Bob Woodward (see Old Black Men, February 3, 2021), grew up in an era when government power enforced racial discrimination through Jim Crow laws and blatant racism existed across America, yet they were able to succeed in America. They succeeded by looking past the failure of America to live up to its ideals and principles, to what those principles truly meant. These were the principles that also inspired Martin Luther King. Living by those American principles helped Sowell and others to overcome discrimination and racial animosity that was not in keeping with those principles.
The antiracist movement and the progressive left have tried to label enlightenment ideals and principles as tools used to implement white supremacist power over oppressed minorities. The National Museum of African American History and Culture published a pamphlet on the White Culture in the United States, identifying core ideals and principles such as hard work and delayed gratification as aspects of white culture and not universal principles. But those principles have helped many blacks as well as immigrants and people from other minorities to achieve the American Dream.
In case you are wondering. Emma Raducanu won the US Open in straight sets. In fact, she did not lose a set in the entire tournament.
But we are not here to discuss Raducanu’s tremendous victory. We are here to discuss a changing world and trying to figure how to live in it. Western civilization, led by the United States, appears to be having an identity crisis. Everyone from Marxist academics, antifa street thugs, Progressive politicians, Black Lives Matter activists along with radical Islamists and Chinese trolls are pushing a narrative that America and the West is in decline and needs to be replaced with a radical new egalitarian idealism.
They claim that Enlightenment ideals and principles are nothing more than a sham to cover raw white supremacist oppression. They claim that white people are fragile and should feel guilty about the crimes committed by their ancestors. They attempt to indoctrinate us and our children with diversity, equity and inclusion training and claim that any opposition to their programs can only be based on racism.
But the identity and diversity they are promoting lacks substance. Great nations and civilizations have a dominant culture that unifies the people. In a dominant culture people know how to act and also how to expect others to act within that culture, as noted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book Morality, Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. This shared cultural knowledge builds trust among people. Many great civilizations were not very nice civilizations. The Roman Empire was built on slavery and military conquest. The spread of Islam was based on forced conversion or death. The Aztec civilization was based on ritual warfare to provide a continual supply of human sacrifices to their gods. But at least the people in those societies knew what to expect from their fellow citizens. This shared knowledge within a common culture is essential to build the trust among citizens necessary for living together in a modern society. The identity politics and cultural relativism being promoted by the opponents of Western Civilization undermine the development of this shared knowledge so that no one can understand what is expected of their fellow citizens. Division, distrust and violence can be the only outcome.
As our understanding of Western civilization and America’s role in it is being attacked, citizens are being forced to confront not only their history but also the underpinnings of our society. They are not liking what the Enlightenment critics are offering. Beyond the wanton spending plans and high taxes of the progressive left, they are beginning to understand that cradle to grave dependency comes at a cost of freedom. They are realizing that they are not so fragile and that they shouldn’t feel guilty about the past acts of their ancestors. Everybody has bad ancestors along with the good. And people are beginning to stand up against progressive school boards, fighting DEI training, defying cancel culture and voting down politicians that want to defund the police.
Not every American needs to read John Locke and Adam Smith to understand Enlightenment ideals and principles. Not every American needs to memorize the US Constitution and the Gettysburg Address to know what America stands for. We have lived these ideals and values as did our parents and grandparents. We have overcome great peril as we did in two world wars. We have overcome our own baser instincts as we fought a great Civil War to end the scourge of slavery. And we are coming to realize that despite missteps and setbacks we are moving in a good direction and that we can prevail over the doubters and cynics.
The concept of race is heading toward the dustbin of history. Our young tennis stars, and many others of their generation, are the vanguard of a future where people are judged by who they are and not by the color of their skin. If there ever was a biological justification for the concept of race, the communication and transportation of modern world is reversing the geographic isolation that created superficial differences. What remains is culture. Our Enlightenment based culture has given us this modern world we live in and has done a pretty good job of making life better for billions of people. It is a better alternative than what its opponents are offering.