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Saturday, January 03, 2009

RadioLab on Race & Races

My favorite podcast in the world is WNYC's RadioLab. It's a regularly broadcast show available on many public radio stations, but it probably works even better as a podcast. If you've never heard it (and you probably haven't), try it. It kicks This American Life's ass. But you absolutely must listen to it carefully and uninterrupted. It's great long-run fodder.

Two weeks ago their program dealt with race and its scientific aspects (or rather lack thereof). We as track fans get more than our share of race crap, what with various Let's Run idiots and Jon Entine's Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It (which, incidentally, is wrong in both parts of the statement) and endless other stuff. It's been done to death and we'd be loathe to discuss it even if it weren't the touchiest of subjects in modern polite American discourse. This is where RadioLab comes in.

After discussing the idea of race as a provable biological falsehood (but geographic area of ancestry, in the broadest terms, as a measurable genetic truth) hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich talk to Malcolm Gladwell. If that name seems familiar, it should. He's the author of such deep-thought books as The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, all of which discuss how relatively mundane things can make huge differences in the lives of individuals and societies.

What you may not know about Gladwell is that he was one of the best age-group milers in Canada in his early teen years, at times beating future two-time national champ Dave Reid. Being of Jamaican origin, he knows a thing or two about race as it applies to athletics. His view? Typically, both mundane and profound. No spoilers here, you'll have to listen yourself.

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