TABOO: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It

by Jon Entine
PublicAffairs, January 2000
$25.00, ISBN 1-891-62039-8

October 31, 2000

REVIEW by Fred Lindsey

At one time black athletes couldn't be good enough. Now it appears that we're too good. Blacks are good at basketball, football, and track and field because these sports are accessible. Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters are good at their crafts because of early exposure. However, Entine, a white journalist, claims that "biology and ancestry--race and genetics are significant components to the stunning ascension of the black athlete and that's why blacks dominate sports."

While Entine's statements have raised eyebrows in many circles, it may be tempting to agree with him amid the evidence of a black majority in the NBA,WNBA, NFL, and track and field. But one needs only a quick reminder of the historic ramifications of race classifications and what can happen when systemsm divide human beings to popularize certain beliefs. The idea of one race dominating another is not biologically based, but a cultural grasping at straws.

So, too, it would seem that Taboo is just another attempt to appease white intolerance, but readers may find that it offers much more. Entine presents a great deal of sports history and, aside from the domination theory, he chronicles the black athlete with uncommon expertise. However, because of the controversy engendered, the dialogue he wanted to create may only be discussed with reservation as it is an inevitably short walk from athleticism to intelligence--brawn versus brains--a topic which has historically has led us nowhere.

Although Entine speaks passionately of his admiration for the black athlete, he says little about access. His argument, like many of those posed throughout the book, lacks a critical analysis of the true nature of the accessibility of a few select professional team sports. So long as blacks remain in their place as players, and content to leave the business end of sports to others, it appears that in the eyes of Entine and his ilk our so-called dominance is assured.

Fred Lindsey is an assistant professor of cultural studies at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, CA..

COPYRIGHT 2000 Cox, Matthews & Associates