In 21st century America, institutional racism and sexism remain great twin evils to be eradicated on our long journey to the wonderful world where, at last, all are equal.
What are we to make, then, of a profession that rewards workers with fame and fortune, yet discriminates ruthlessly against women; an institution where Hispanics and Asians, 20 percent of the U.S. population, are neither sought after nor widely seen.
In this profession, white males, a third of the population, retain a third of the jobs. But black males, 6.5 percent of the U.S. population, have 67 percent of the coveted positions -- 10 times their fair share.
We are talking of the NFL.
In figures reported by columnist Walter Williams, not only are black males 77 percent of the National Basketball Association, they are 67 percent of the players in the NFL.
Yet no one objects that women are not permitted to compete in the NFL. Nor do many object to the paucity of Asian and Mexicans, or the over-representation of blacks, even as white males dominate the National Hockey League and the PGA.
When it comes to sports -- high school, collegiate or professional -- Americans are intolerant of lectures about diversity and inclusiveness. They want the best -- the best in the NFL, the best in the NBA, the best at Augusta, the best at Wimbledon, the best in the Olympics, the best in the All-Star Game, the World Series, the Super Bowl.
When it comes to artistic ability, musical ability, acting ability, athletic ability, Americans accept the reality of inequality. We are not all born equal, other than in our God-given and constitutional rights.
We are not all equally gifted. There are prodigies like pianist Van Cliburn, chess wizard Bobby Fischer, actress Shirley Temple. Every kid halfway through first grade knows who can spell and sing and who cannot, and who is bright and talented and athletic, and who is not.
What most Americans seek is a level playing field on which all compete equally, for what we ultimately seek is excellence, not equality.
Why, then, cannot our elites accept that, be it by nature, nurture, attitude or aptitude, we are not all equal in academic ability?
What raises this issue is the anguish evident in New York over the latest state test scores of public school students, which reveal that the ballyhooed progress in closing the racial achievement gap never happened.
That gap approached closure only by lowering the pass-fail score and by using similar tests, year-after-year, so teachers could prepare the kids to take them.