Feb 062013

On Super Bowl Sunday, I watched a short but excellent feature from Sunday NFL Countdown on Doug Williams, the first black quarterback in the Super Bowl. (ESPN has only posted the first minute, but a terrible recording of the whole thing can be found here.)

The segment was fascinating in so many ways, and I really admire Doug Williams for gracefully handling such intense pressure, particularly when injured. However, I was particularly interested in the segment from the perspective of cultural change. That Super Bowl happened just 25 years ago, in 1988. It was a big deal for the reason that’s stated at the outset of the segment:

There’s always been this idea that blacks lacked the intellectual decision-making capabilities of playing the quarterback position.

That view is just mind-bogglingly incomprehensible to me — and it’s really bizarre to think that such was only demolished by Doug Williams just 25 years ago. Sheesh, that was in my lifetime: I remember the hubbub about this Super Bowl when I was kid.

The simple fact is that, while racism and racial tensions are not wholly absent from America today, they are far, far less severe and less common than they used to be. Every American — whatever their skin color — is better off as a result.

That’s part of why I’m so glad to be living in the supposed “cesspool” of modern society. Racism is not merely one evil among many. It’s a particularly disgusting, destructive, and dishonest evil. As Ayn Rand said, “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”

(As some of you might recall, I discussed a number of positive cultural barometers in answering this question about what’s good in American culture in a December 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard that episode, check it out!)

At the end of the Sunday NFL Countdown segment, Doug Williams offered a hopeful note on today’s NFL:

You don’t read about Seattle’s quarterback, you don’t read about the Washington Redskins quarterback, being black. They just happen to be their quarterback. I think that’s the way it should be, and hopefully that’s the way that it will be from here until eternity.

Hear, hear! And thank you, Doug Williams, for helping to make that possible!

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