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Mandatory Mizzou “diversity training”: $145 million Serena Williams is a victim of racism

February 5, 2016

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

You’re supposed to say “race” is the reason Sharapova earns more than Williams

But there could be another reason for the dropoff in Mizzou applications: the dull, hectoring and all-around excruciating  “mandatory diversity training” sessions that began this January for all incoming students, faculty, and staff in the wake of the protests.

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But this New York Times report on diversity training at Mizzou strikes a creepier note:

“Scott N. Brooks, draped in a dapper shawl-collar sweater, looked out on the auditorium of mostly white students in puffy coats and sweats as they silently squirmed at his question. Why, he had asked, does Maria Sharapova, a white Russian tennis player, earn nearly twice as much in endorsements as Serena Williams, an African-American with a much better win-loss record?

“’We like to think it’s all about merit,’ said Dr. Brooks, a sociology professor at the University of Missouri, speaking in the casual cadence of his days as a nightclub D.J. ‘It’s sport. Simply, the best should earn the most money.’

“Maybe tennis is not as popular here as overseas, one student offered. Dr. Brooks countered: Ms. Williams is a global figure. As the room fell silent, the elephant settled in. Most sat still, eyes transfixed on the stage. None of the participants — roughly 70 students new to the University of Missouri — dared to offer the reason for the disparity that seemed most obvious. Race.

“The new frontier in the university’s eternal struggle with race starts here, with blunt conversations that seek to bridge a stark campus divide. Yet what was evident in this pregnant moment during a new diversity session that the university is requiring of all new students was this: People just don’t want to discuss it….

“[Brooks] offered a gentle explanation of the Williams/Sharapova discrepancy: ‘Maria is considered a beauty queen, but by what standards of beauty? Some people might just say, “Oh, well, she’s just prettier” Well, according to whom? This spells out how we see beauty in terms of race, this idea of femininity. Serena is often spoofed for her big butt. She’s seen as too muscular.'”

I’m leaving aside the fact that Serena Williams pulls in almost twice as much income as Maria Sharapova from playing tennis: $69.7 million in prize money compared with Sharapova’s $34.9 million. Serena Williams is, in fact, the highest-paid tennis player in the world. The lanky, supermodel-esque Sharapova may earn more in product endorsements–but that’s because people like to look at lanky, supermodel-esque women more than they like to look  at “too muscular” women like Serena Williams. Believe me, if Rihanna were a tennis player, she’d have no trouble pulling down product endorsements either.

What’s at issue here is that those Mizzou students who “silently squirmed” or “sat still” in their seats were obviously feeling cowed. They knew that they weren’t sitting there to have “blunt conversations about race” but, rather, to arrive at the politically correct conclusion: that it was “obvious” that the Williams-Sharapova product-endorsement disparity was all about “race.” Why bother having a “conversation” when its outcome is a foregone conclusion?

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen
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