Meritocracies, Incomplete:
Exclusion and Bias Hinder True Competition

Arin N. Reeves
June 2009

In 1948, Claude Harmon won the PGA’s Masters Tournament, a major championship in professional golf. He was lauded as one of the best golfers in America. In 1948, Ted Rhodes, a black golfer who dominated the largely ignored UGA circuit, received death threats for suing the PGA for its “Caucasian only clause” that limited participation in PGA tournaments to white golfers only.

In 1948, was Claude Harmon one of the best golfers in America or was he one of the best white golfers in America? While the former indicates an achievement of individual merit, the latter reveals a meritocracy interrupted by inequality.

The PGA responded to Rhodes’ lawsuit by making the Masters Tournament a purely invitational tournament. Rhodes was no longer banned because he was black. He was also not invited to play. Is winning the Masters a meritocratic standard for golf greatness when many great golfers were not allowed to play for much of its history?

Think Smarter. Lead Better.

  • America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.

    Louis D. Brandeis
  • Honest difference of views and honest debate are not disunity.They are the vital process of policy among free men.

    Herbert Hoover
  • Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

    Stephen R. Covey
  • I not only use all the brains that I have, but all I can borrow.

    Woodrow Wilson
  • When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.

    Charles Evan Hughes
  • In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.

    Audre Lorde
  • There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.

    Michel de Montaigne
  • Honest difference of views and honest debate are not disunity. They are the vital process of policy among free men.

    Herbert Hoover
  • Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.

    James Surowiecki
  • Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.

    Isaac Asimov
  • Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike.

    Madame De Stael
  • Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

    Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation -- or a relationship.

    Deborah Tannen
  • The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

    Albert Einstein
  • Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.

    Walter Lippmann
  • Differences challenge assumptions.

    Anne Wilson Schaef
  • To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

    Tony Robbins
  • Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.

    Malcolm Forbes
  • Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs.

    Leo Tolstoy
  • Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

    Stephen R. Covey
  • Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences.

    Mikhail Gorbachev
  • The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.

    Theodore Roosevelt
  • Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation.

    Mahatma Gandhi
  • Diversity creates dimension in the world.

    Elizabeth Ann Lawless
  • It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.

    Albert Einstein
  • One must even beware of too much certainty that the answer to life's problems can only be found in one way and that all must agree to search for light in the same way and cannot find it in any other way.

    Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Difference of opinion is helpful in religion.

    Thomas Jefferson
  • Controversial' as we all know, is often a euphemism for 'interesting and intelligent.

    Kevin Smith