March 2, 2000

Taboo’ is Reasonable and Well-Received

by Jon Entine

The Jewish Exponent’s article on my best-selling book, Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It, asserts that it has provoked "controversy" and "outraged blacks." That’s irresponsible. To date, there have been more than two dozen reviews and not one – not one – has been negative.

Is it racist for scientists to want to unlock human mysteries, from the genetic basis for diseases such as breast cancer and Tay-Sachs (which disproportionately affect Ashkenazi Jews) and sickle cell (which afflicts blacks) to the athletic potential of populations? Geneticists, medical researchers and exercise physiologists don’t believe so. The facts conclusively point to the scientifically uncontroversial conclusion the tens of thousands of years evolution have shaped human physiology and body types.

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan commends the book, writing that "the dialogue that [Entine] almost certainly will provoke is not the problem. It’s the solution." According to Paul Ruffins of The Washington Post, "Taboo … could well be the most intellectually demanding sports book ever written."

Taboo is being received as it was written, as a celebration of human diversity. To suggest otherwise recklessly fans the racist flames that the book takes direct aim against. Taboo debunks facile theories of race that have been used for hundreds of years to justify racism and even genocide. Most important, it shatters stereotypes that blacks or whites or any racial group are innately "superior" or "inferior." That’s its message. For the most part, it is being heard.

Most heartening is the universally warm reception of Taboo in the African-American community. The African-American magazine Emerge calls it "thoughtful, thorough and sensitive. .. Taboo is a god read for anyone interested in the history of black athletes in the United States and worldwide."

The renowned African-American scholar Earl Smith, head of the ethnic studies and sociology departments at Wake Forest University, wrote the introduction to Taboo in which he praises both its scholarship and sensitivity. In a personal note prior to publication, Dr. Smith warned me, "You will be accused of spouting old fashioned racism for even raising the issue of African-American superiority in athletics. But Taboo is a very good book. … All this beating around the bush has to stop."

Are you listening Jewish Exponent?