If you have a hidden belief in Black inferiority

Most racism in the United States is perpetrated by people who don’t admit their racism. Because they don’t admit their racism, the reasons for their views are not discussed; if they do discuss their reasons they are dismissed as immoral.  The problem with that dismissal is that it leaves their reasoning in place. I think that doing so is a bad idea. 

I assume you’ve read or heard that biologists think that race is a biologically useless concept. Races don’t have clean boundaries and belonging to a given race isn’t biologically predictive of much; in fact, height produces more biological differences than race does. So racism makes no sense, right?

Except. Any observer can tell you that the Black population of the United States is doing less well on average than nearly any other American ethnic population. Not only are they doing less well but most immigrant populations that arrive poor and uneducated catch up to American averages within about two generations. The Black population hasn’t. And Black African countries in general aren’t doing as well as European and Asian countries. And then there’s that IQ study.

Granted: on average, the Black population isn’t doing as well as other populations. Why not? Are we talking about something environmental or genetic? The answer to this question is extremely important because that answer suggests what actions it makes sense to take.

What got me to understanding how to approach this came from a school assembly I attended in suburban NY in late 1969 or early 1970. The school I attended at the time as a little over half Jewish and 12-13% Black. In that community, the color line and the wealth line were in almost exactly the same place: the school was primarily made up of middle class Whites and poor Blacks. The assembly had been taken over by the students who were now speaking to the student population in turn. At one point a Jewish girl in my grade, I no longer remember her name, said something like this to the Blacks in the room:

My grandparents came over with nothing and made something of themselves. Why didn’t you?

It would be decades before I revisited that question and what I found surprised me. To answer that question I had to examine what made the Jewish immigrant population successful in the long run. I broke it down into five factors that supported Jewish success in America:

  1. Family. One person would come over, sponsor the next, put up family in their apartment while they looked for jobs and housing. This is what my grandfather did.
  2. Religion. Not only did religion give spiritual/moral support, but a religious community really helped integration.

  3. Education. Jews have always put a premium value on education – Torah scholarship is high status, so it comes out of religion.

  4. Networking. If others wouldn’t do business with us, we did business with each other, and we helped each other in business.

  5. Keeping a low profile. A population that resents you is a population that’s dangerous.

How does that compare to the Black immigration experience?

  1. Families deliberately broken up.
  • Religion pretty much eradicated. Slaves were monitored that closely.

  • it was illegal in many states to teach slaves to read and write.

  • Networking is difficult if you can’t travel.

  • Keeping a low profile is difficult when you have the functional equivalent to having a yellow star sewn to your forehead.

  • Every leg that Jews built on, Blacks had sawed off. It’s a wonder they got anywhere. Most immigrant groups used at least some of these.

    And, of course, once slavery ended, the Black population still experienced and continue to experience more discrimination and sheer abuse than any other ethnic group with the possible exception of Native Americans, where the discrimination and abuse were and are also on a huge scale but different in nature.

    I can’t outline the discrimination and abuse here. It’s way too extensive for a post. It goes from being murdered by assorted Whites to having neighborhoods destroyed – to make room for interstates in major cities or by pogrom in Tulsa – to walking into a classroom where the teacher assumes you’re lazy, stupid, and dangerous at first glance and always interacts with you based on that assumption to a Black male entering an elevator with a White woman who clutches her purse more tightly upon seeing him. If you are interested in learning about this, there are plenty of sources. I would just advise you to choose your sources wisely – people who have too little exposure to the Black population to have a clue what they go through and who have a vested interested in trivializing and belittling what Black people experience do not make good sources, any more than politicians make better sources about infectious diseases than doctors do.

    One good thing that has recently helped the cause of the majority of the public getting better information about what Black people have experienced is that the majority of America’s White people, even conservative White people, have recently figured out that Black people were not lying or exaggerating about their treatment by the police. Having the Black community finally be believed about their own experiences is a significant step in the right direction. The fact that this took so long illustrates just how pervasive racism is.

    Another aspect of this abuse is Black people being blamed for the obvious consequences of that abuse, compounding it. Let me give you an example: Schools in the United States are mostly locally funded, which means that poor school districts have bad schools. If you live in a neighborhood where the education isn’t good, the job opportunities are too few and those that exist don’t pay much, what do you do? You see some people in the neighborhood with wealth but they have one thing in common: they earn their money illegally. If making money illegally is the only available way to make a decent living that’s what people will do, but if we structure our schools and our economy in such a way that the only readily available decent living is illegal then it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to blame a population for reacting to the incentive system that we made inevitable. But we do. The consequences of driving a population into illegal ways of making a living include a great deal of Black on Black murder, which is largely due to turf battles over illegal markets.

    However, though we can establish that the Black population experiences more abuse than most other populations, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this abuse causes their lower average results, because correlation does not mean causation. The fact that these two things happen to the same people doesn’t mean one causes the other, sort of like childhood vaccines and the onset of autism happen at around the same time but don’t have anything to do with each other. How do we figure out if abuse is responsible for this?

    To express the question slightly differently: Are the differences in median metrics between the Black and White populations attributable to environmental factors or genetic factors?

    The scientific way to do that is to use a control group, a group of Black people in America who haven’t gone through several generations of being treated like absolute garbage.  Fortunately, we have one: more recent Black immigrants from the West Indies, immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti, etc. How do they do on the comparative metrics? Quite well, it turns out. This population has higher median education level than American median, higher median income than American median, and lower crime rate than American median. In other words, they’re a Model Minority, like Jews and Asians. This population is every bit as African racially as the American slave-descended population if not more so. The big difference between the two populations is how much abuse they’ve taken. The difference between how successful the Black population and White population tend to be in the US can’t be due to genetics because when we subtract extreme abuse the difference disappears or even reverses.

    What about African countries? The main answer there in recent history centers on colonization. Not only were the countries run by oppressive outsiders but when the colonizing countries left they left the national borders based on colonies, not on ethnic boundaries. That left enormous political messes. The same thing was done to the Middle East and the result there is economic growth slower than Africa’s.

    Lastly we come to the IQ question. The answer to this comes in two parts.

    The first is that the research in question is either impossible to do with any validity or proves exactly what it’s meant not to prove. The IQ argument is a genetic one. However, in order to do valid genetic research, we need genetic definitions of our populations. From a genetic standpoint, our populations are heavily mixed. How do we allow for that? With detailed genetic profiles of our participants? That would be enormously expensive, and it assumes that the participants all asked their grandparents enough questions to be able to provide detailed answers. We can safely assume the researchers didn’t have detailed genetic profiles if they even sought them, which is also doubtful. What did they do?

    There are two possible ways to define these populations conveniently. One is by making the populations self-select and the other is by physical observation. The most reliable information to be gotten from either method is how the participants were treated, meaning in this case how much abuse they are likely to have been subjected to. A study looking to prove a genetic point instead makes an environmental point – that IQ scores can be affected by multigenerational abuse. (I haven’t seen the study. It could be too flawed to make any point.) Instead of proving that racism is justified, the study would prove that racism has even more horrendous consequences than we already knew.

    The second part of the answer involves, for the sake of analysis, assuming the impossible: that the IQ study was valid. Where racism becomes most obvious and most scientifically unjustifiable is in interpreting the results. The general off-the-cuff lay interpretation is that Whites are smarter than Blacks. But that’s not what such a study would prove at all, even if valid. The result would be two bell curves barely offset such that the area they share utterly dwarfs the area they don’t. In practical terms, this means that if you have a randomly selected Black subject and a randomly selected White subject, odds are nearly even that the IQ of the Black subject is higher than that of the White subject. The odds are close enough to even that median IQ of the relative populations is not a useful variable. There are so many more useful variables when it comes to predicting aptitude or success in any given venture that relying on this one is scientifically nonsensical. The only feasible cause for relying on this variable isn’t science but bigotry. This amounts to taking science that was bad to begin with and bastardizing the results.

    Conclusions positing racial inferiority are not rational because the arguments in favor of racial inferiority aren’t valid, even the arguments no one talks about in public. If you believe in racial inferiority, what you’re seeing is not caused by what you think.




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