Jared Taylor, VDARE, June 24, 2008
A note from Jared Taylor:
In a July 5 article at National Review, the black writer John McWhorter asks that we “stop obsessing over race and IQ” because “it serves no purpose.” He concedes that there is such a thing as race, that IQ tests measure something real, and that blacks score lower on them whites. He even concedes that there are serious scholars — not “mere cranks” — who have concluded that the racial IQ gap is caused, at least in part, by genetic differences. He hopes the gap is due entirely to environment but leaves open the possibility that future research could prove him wrong.
Prof. McWhorter then makes the astonishing assertion that even if genes do account for part or even all of the racial gap, it makes no difference. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to puzzle out his reasoning.
Needless to say, it makes a huge difference whether the gap has a genetic component, and that is why there is such hysterical opposition to anyone who says so. If blacks can be shown to have achieved a level of success consistent with their abilities, it destroys the entire edifice of racism-oppression-white privilege. It ends the demonization of and endless exactions from whites. It blows up the oldest and most poisonous of the egalitarian dogmas that distort nearly every aspect of our lives. Prof. McWhorter must be deliberately blind not to see this.
In the following essay, which was first published at VDARE.com in 2008, I elaborate on why the question of race and IQ is essential to a correct understanding of race relations, not just in the United States but around the world.
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“Let us hope that it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.” Such is reported to have been a Victorian lady’s reply on first being told of Darwin’s theory of evolution. I am reminded of that lady whenever I hear people who know the truth about race and IQ but who think it should never be discussed openly. Some suggest that official endorsement of racial equality is a “necessary noble fiction.”
This is utterly wrongheaded. I don’t think there is a single truth it should be our government’s job to suppress, and it is precisely because the question of race is so vexed that we need candor rather than evasions. Those who insist that all races are equal in every way may be well meaning, but the “noble fiction” does not smooth race relations; it poisons them.
I think a substantial genetic contribution to racial differences in average IQ is about as close to proven as anything ever is in the social sciences. Some day, the gene variants that raise and lower intelligence will be identified, and the question of whether they are equally distributed among all groups will be laid to merciful rest. I would bet the next 20 house payments that some races got more of them than others, and we should be preparing for what is almost certain to be true, rather than clinging to something almost certain to be false.
Here are the arguments for suppressing the truth:
- Any discussion of IQ is a crushing insult to blacks, and if differences were widely acknowledged it would drive them to despair or even violence.
- Mean-spirited whites will use IQ data as an excuse to hurt blacks.
- Racial differences have no legitimate implications for public policy, so there is no point even thinking about them.
Wrong on all counts.
Let’s look at (1). Surely blacks will be furious if we talk about race differences, won’t they? All whites think so, so they never talk to blacks about IQ — and so they don’t know the answer to that question. They just think they do.
I will never forget the first time I gave a lecture on race and IQ to an audience that included blacks. I looked out over the crowd and I wasn’t sure my legs would carry me to the podium. My heart sank to think how wounded the blacks would be by what I was about to say. I swallowed hard and gave my talk.
When I finished, a black man shot up, shouted about “racism,” and stormed out. Another did the same. The rest of the blacks kept me on my feet for an hour answering questions. The whites asked technical questions about intelligence testing, but the blacks asked meaty questions about what IQ means for people and for society
Afterwards, at least half a dozen blacks came up to speak to me. They smiled, complimented me on my talk, shook my hand warmly, and wanted to talk for as long as I was willing. The same pattern repeated itself on other occasions: an outburst or two followed by keen interest and genuine cordiality.
After several lectures, I figured out what was happening. First, the subject of race and IQ is taboo, and blacks are just as curious about taboos as whites. I know a lot about the subject, and do not patronize people. I give a rattling good talk about race and IQ, and people appreciate a good talk.
Second, blacks are not stupid. They see the miserable state of Africa and Haiti — and their own neighborhoods. They see how so many blacks fail despite the opportunities given them. Racial differences in intelligence are as plausible to them as to anyone else as an explanation for the world as it is.
But what about the warmth and cordiality? I believe it was because many of those blacks felt that for the first time in their lives they had had a totally honest conversation about race with a white man. Maybe it was their first totally honest conversation about anything with a white man. I think they deeply appreciated being spoken to like adults rather than children.
I suspect most blacks are no more afraid of race differences in IQ than whites are afraid of the possibility that Chinese and Japanese are smarter than they are. For years, at heavily-Asian schools such as Berkeley and UCLA, the rule for whites has been to skip any science or math class that has too many Asians in it. Who needs the competition? Does the possibility that Asians are smarter than they are reduce whites to desperation and misery? Not at all, though it sometimes reduces them to psychology or English.
Let us not forget that until perhaps 60 years ago, almost all Americans took it for granted that blacks were not as smart as whites. Did blacks take drugs, kill people, get each other pregnant, or riot as a result? No. Many lived more stable and wholesome lives than they do today. Whites are patronizing blacks disgracefully when they assume — without evidence, I might add — that blacks can’t handle the truth.
What about (2) — the claim that whites might use IQ data as an excuse to mistreat blacks, either individually or as a group?
First, it is worth recalling that the whites who freed the slaves were all, by today’s standards, foaming-at-the-mouth white supremacists. Whatever whites have historically thought of blacks, there has never been a time when anyone seriously proposed internment or extermination or whatever other lurid fantasies today’s enemies of candor may have.
Second, the tiny number of whites who do deliberately hurt blacks don’t do it for abstract reasons. When John King dragged James Byrd to death behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, he didn’t have Raven’s Progressive Matrices on his mind. I suspect he was thinking about the blacks who gang-buggered him in prison.
There will always be a few sadists and psychopaths in any population. If some of them decide to hate blacks (or whites or women or homosexuals) it will have nothing to do with IQ. No one is going to read Arthur Jensen’s The g Factor and then go out and burn a cross.
Human beings have a knack for hating. In Sri Lanka, Tamils and Sinhalese slit each others’ throats; in Iraq, Shiites and Sunnis blow each other up. Yes, they would probably tell you their enemies are stupid. But they have a hundred other primitive, tribal, and far more visceral reasons for killing each other. People do not hate each other because of overlapping bell curves.
As for (3) — implications for public policy — the obscurantists are right when it comes to individuals. There are smart people in all races, even though the percentage of smart people varies a great deal from race to race. As a practical matter, if the black candidate is the best qualified, then let him run General Motors — or be President, for that matter. If we must have a multi-racial society, common sense about race and IQ need not be a barrier to any individual getting ahead.
The dogma of equality still makes terrible policy mischief because it requires identical group outcomes. The notorious No Child Left Behind Act brands schools as failures if they cannot close the achievement gap between blacks (and Hispanics) and whites (and Asians). Because not one of the approximately 98,000 public schools in the country has managed to do this, every “diverse” school in America would be declared a failure if the government followed its own rules.
The requirements keep being loosened to avoid this absurd outcome. But that did not keep 4,000 teachers, administrators, and snake-oil salesmen from attending an “Achievement Gap Summit” in Sacramento last November. No fewer than 125 different panels were devoted to various forms of hand-wringing over the fact that no one, anywhere, no matter how hard he tries, can get Mexican-Americans to read or do math as well as Chinese-Americans.
“Closing the gap” is a national priority; it is also a futile and dangerous priority. After all, there is a different achievement gap that is far larger but gets no attention at all: the gap between the top ten percent and the bottom ten percent of white students. It is a yawning gap. Shouldn’t we be fretting about closing it? Why does no one care?
Because everyone knows that some children are just plain smarter than others. Everyone knows it would be crazy to spend millions of dollars trying to make all white students get the same grades. A few people even know that every child does better school work if he gets instruction specifically tailored to his level of ability — but that this makes the gap between the top and bottom scores grow even wider. Everyone’s performance rises with optimal, individualized teaching, but the scores of the brightest children rise more than the scores of the dim children. The gap gets larger.
Just imagine what perverse incentives would be built into a school system that was under terrible pressure to make sure all the white children got exactly the same grades. Is it possible that in their zeal to pull up the low scores, some teachers might skimp on their efforts to teach the high flyers? Gifted classes are being cut back all around the country. No one admits this is the reason, but whenever a school stops offering special classes for bright students — who are overwhelmingly white and Asian — the effect is to narrow the racial achievement gap.
Narrowing this gap should not be a goal. The goal should be the best possible performance for everyone, gap be damned.
If all students of every race were getting the best possible education, everyone would learn more but the racial gap would grow. So what? We shouldn’t give the racial gap any more thought than we do the gap between the top and bottom white scores. It is egalitarian dogma that has sent the country on this fool’s errand of gap-closing.
But there is much worse. The “noble fiction” of racial equality does terrible damage to race relations. According to the fiction, blacks, Hispanics, whites, and Asians are all equally smart and hard-working. Even the slightest deviation in outcomes has only one cause: white racism, past and present. (The fact that Asians do better than whites is conveniently omitted from this argument.)
This means we are constantly telling blacks that white people are cheating them. If blacks are not as rich as whites, if they are more likely than whites to be in jail or on drugs or have AIDS or be on welfare or get shot or knocked up, it is because vicious, systematic racism did it to them. They are responsible for none of it.
For all of us, a basic stage in growing up is the realization that if you lose a race, it is because you didn’t run fast enough, not because you were cheated. Sooner or later, all of us come to terms with the fact that we are not the smartest, best-looking, most musical person on earth (Bill Clinton may be an exception). We accept our limitations, and make the most of what we have.
But according to the “noble fiction,” blacks are never allowed to grow up. If they lost the race it was only because they were cheated. We tell them that if they are behind as a group, it is never their own fault. It is because — and only because — whitey hates them and holds them down. If our goal were to teach blacks to hate white people, it would be hard to think of a better way to do it (along, of course, with constant reminders of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow).
According to the “noble fiction,” the measure of black failure is the precise measure of white viciousness, and that gives blacks an inexhaustible reservoir of bitterness. No wonder Jeremiah Wright preached the sermons he did, and no wonder his congregation danced in their pews. No wonder rap lyrics are so full of anti-white vitriol. No wonder any given black is 40 times more likely to do violence to a white than the other way around.
Race relations in this country would improve dramatically if blacks got an entirely different message: that they sink or swim according to their own efforts and abilities, that they are not the puppets of white people, that they are adults who must be responsible for their own lives rather than children at the mercy of vicious, omnipotent strangers.
Recognizing the likelihood of racial differences in IQ is an important part of this.
Race denial is not a “noble fiction.” It is a noxious poison.