Trivial Thinking: How Stupid Questions Can Lead to Sensible Answers

Have you just sat down to do something stupid? Okay maybe that is too harsh. How about something trivial? A mindless pursuit. Something seemingly serious, yet not useful? It helps you know. The human mind works in funny ways and it helps if you can just exercise it; stretch it a little bit, for one practically useless purpose. Well, what got me thinking this time? Well, I wished I knew – or I won’t be writing this. I was just bored for one second, and was thinking what exact percentage of the population is the black male. Yes, that stupid question. You will think I will Google or wiki it right? But no- I knew no simple answer exists for that question. For starters, who is black? Or better still, who is blacker? The Moroccan or the Papau New Guinean? The black French or the Brazilian Negro? The Cuban of darker hue or the Ethiopian? Well, try this: the White South African or the minority Egyptian blacks unlike their Olive skin Arabian brothers?

Well, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to pursuing such data. Trying to collect such is definitely froth with a lot of bias, bad blood and worse still is politically incorrect. Some Arab Africans will cede the point they are Africans, but are quick to say they are not blacks. Others won’t. Australoids, Polynesians and blacks in the Pacific and Australian sub continent have been struggling to gain acceptance from their mainstream African and Americas counterpart, to no avail. The British Isles and part of Europe are home to quite a few immigrant blacks too. What of those darker Indian folks, well- those will never be blacks in a long shot in Jim Crow South. Which political, or anthropological researcher will collect phenotypical data anyway, and will the history of mixtures, one dropism, biracial lines and blurring descriptions that saw Indians and Chinese now officially classified as blacks by South African courts be of any help in resolving this puzzle?

Okay to resolve this puzzle, I had to first convince myself that I could do it in less than 30 minutes. Well, I tried. That is not unusual for someone this stupid to take on such a seemingly unlockable task; possible as I have explained, or one with no practical application (or so I thought). But in the end, Wikipedia held the answer to my 30 minutes challenge. I printed the population of the world- see it here– in 5 minutes. Forget the fact that estimates and rough numbers like Nigeria‘s own Iwunized population figure found their way onto it. In a quick 10 minutes exercise, I convinced myself that just from looking at the name of countries, and knowing one or more things about them I can assign a multiplication factor that will figure out a good estimate of black folks that reside there. This is of course extremely subjective, but holds the simplest practical solution to my 30 minutes challenge. Damn the political incorrectness of my factors, all I care for was the final figure.

Yes, I assigned Brazil a multiplication factor of 0.4 and gave Columbia 0.1. Who cares? I could not muster enough courage to give Morocco far beyond 0.25 but cheerfully assigned Somalia and Ethiopia, 1.0. I guess the role of Black Nationalism, media covered history of race relations did affect my factors. For example Sudan did not get much credit for this, but Niger Republic came well off. South Africa was of course downgraded with a 0.75 factor, which is by far under stating the black population I suppose. So think of this as some balance of power credit rather than absolute population factor. Only the US where some semblance of census figures exists is perhaps the only country outside the deep black Africa and Pacific Island countries with an accurate estimation of black folks. Oh well, what can a 30 minute statistician do?

After my 15 minutes exercise in futility, I started to lump these figures. Voila! I got a number after 7-10 minutes of statistical nightmare. You think I added every figure? You must have lost your mind. What happened to the concept of median, mean and mode? I had nine Wikipedia pages and nine quick exercises in Statistics 101. My figure was 953 million. Well, that figure too can be tested. The widely accepted view that Nigerians are one out of every six Blacks will do. Well, since the one out of five Africans is an oft stated statistics, and appears to be true (since we know or think we know Africa’s population and Nigeria‘s iwuru-wuru one), it figured this CW (common wisdom) must be somewhat close to truth. Well, Wiki stated Nigerians are nearly 150 million according to the UN. Taking that figure multiplied by six gives you? Guess. Guess my friend…900 million! Well, this statistician ain’t any fool. Okay, I am 53 million short- how come? My friends stop being nit picky. So is the 150 million Nigerians multiplied by five short of Africa‘s 840 million people. You think this is an easy exercise? Trivializing this academic pursuit amounts to double jeopardy, which nullifies the original sin? This means, I never sinned. Which means you are the sinner? Like that.

Okay, to confess, I was lying when I spoke of no practical application of this data. I actually was thinking of this data when trying to unravel the mystery behind the black male sexual myth. My market oriented answer to that question sought to unlock the supply and demand questions. Is the black male in high demand, because of supply constraints? Or is seemingly supply constraint teasing demand and at the same time feeding the rabid thirst for the black male? Yes ego, which assumption will actually get me thinking of this stupid submission in the first place if not because I believed the somewhat egoistic premise that is thoroughly unsubstantiated and which in itself is a trivial pursuit. Mundane? Sheesh… 450 million black males, and the world can’t even get enough of him! See how they are fusing over Mugabe! Yes, that is an assumption too. More like 49% not 50% of black folks in the world are males. Does it matter? I need to wiki that too? Forget about it- not again.

Wondering what my page to page figures look like? Well, wonder no more. Below are the page to page Wiki summary, with a brief description of number of countries per page, the median population and the modal population. Gives you an idea how it all came together.

Sensible Lessons Learned from Useless Statistics: The population of African countries is estimated to be 840 million. This means, the black race outside the Continent is nearly equal to those displaced within the continent in the 6000 (or 12 0000) years of human history. Another interesting point, countries in the first 3 pages accounted for over ninety percent of the population? Well, there were only twenty countries in those first pages. A third of which were Arab African countries- which we will assume balanced for huge black populations in Brazil, United States and Europe. Well, what are the rest 30 or more African countries doing being countries anyway? And if you notice, two trouble spots of late figured as the modal black population in the fourth and fifth pages and relatively better case studies were in page two and three respectively. Coincidence? Can someone dissolve these banana states? Kidding! See what trivial thinking can do for you?

Written by
Michael Oluwagbemi II
Join the discussion