recent, Social Science

How Real Is Systemic Racism Today?

Racist attitudes of whites towards blacks have long become socially unacceptable in America, although the reverse, racism of a minority directed at the white majority, is still tolerated or even encouraged. However, statistical racial disparities persist. African Americans, as a population, continue to suffer income, crime and incarceration rate, health, housing and family-structure deficits by comparison with the white population.

These disparities cannot easily be attributed to racist behavior by whites. The disparities have either increased or remained the same while individual racist behavior has declined. What then is the cause of these disparities? There are two possibilities: causes within individuals, what I have elsewhere called endogenous causes; or external, exogenous causes.

Endogenous Causes of Black-White Disparities

Endogenous causes were in fact the first ones to be studied, with unfortunate results. Bigots stigmatized the entire “black race” as inferior because of lower average scores on, for example, IQ tests. Blacks’ under-performance in terms of status, health, incomes, etc. was then comfortably attributed to their alleged built-in inadequacy.

The usual presumption was that IQ is fixed at birth, that it is the most important factor in life success and that it cannot be altered by later experience. None of these is true; although the fixity-of-IQ view seemed to be supported by several studies showing relatively high (statistical) heritability for IQ. But heritable is not the same as fixed: high statistical heritability for a behavioral trait does not imply that it is fixed at birth and independent of the rearing environment. Language is the most obvious counter-example. It is a learned behavior that also has high heritability. Language is 100 percent learned and 100 percent heritable—kids learn the language of their parents.

The only reason we know that language is not a sort of instinct is the “natural experiments” provided by adoption. Despite the high heritability of language, adopted infants learn the language of their adoptive, not biological, parents. It follows that high heritability does not mean genetic determinism. Statistical heritability depends on rearing environment as well as genetics.

What kind of experiment would be needed to prove that intelligence, which is also (statistically) heritable, is in fact genetically determined? What would it take to show that there are irreducible average-IQ differences between races: that no matter how rich the environment, blacks and whites would still have differing average IQ, leaving genes as the only cause? Only a very elaborate, unethical, and in practice un-doable, experiment could do it.

We lack now, and for the foreseeable future, a detailed understanding of how the human genotype produces the human brain. Nor do we know exactly how the brain works to produce the human mind and behavior. We cannot therefore map out step-by-step, in detail, how genes-build-the-brain-makes-behavior. To understand the genetic determination of IQ we would be forced to resort to experiments with whole human infants. To address the black-white issue in a completely rigorous way, we would need to begin with two fetal genotypes, one “black” and one “white.” Next, we would need an indefinite number of identical copies, clones, of each genotype. Then, each clone would be exposed to a different rearing environment. (Have we tried out the full range—all relevant environments? How would we know?) Then, perhaps 16 years later, we would give IQ tests to each child. We would get a distribution of IQs for each genotype. We could then ask: how do these distributions differ? Are their means the same or different? Which is higher? Is one distribution more variable than the other?

Suppose we find a mean difference. Does that settle the issue? Well, no, not yet. We are talking about race differences here, not differences between individual genotypes. A race is a set, a range, of genotypes. So, we need to repeat this impossible process with an indefinitely large sample of “white” and “black” genotypes (there would, of course, be debate about which genotypes should go into which group). Only after we had this two-dimensional array of genotypes vs. IQ could we compare them and come up with a valid conclusion about race difference in IQ.

An elaborate study of this sort is of course impossible. But what about adoption? Adopted children learn the language of their adoptive parents. Do adopted children acquire the IQ of their adoptive parents? There have been several studies along these lines. A landmark 1997 study (Plomin et al.) looked at 245 adoptions within a mostly white population. Their conclusion was unequivocal:

Children increasingly resemble their parents in cognitive abilities from infancy through adolescence. Results obtained from a 20-year longitudinal adoption study of 245 adopted children and their biological and adoptive parents, as well as 245 matched nonadoptive (control) parents and offspring, show that this increasing resemblance is due to genetic factors. Adopted children resemble their adoptive parents slightly in early childhood but not at all in middle childhood or adolescence.1

The convergence of IQ between biological parents and adopted children as the children age is also true of siblings, who grow more similar to their parents in many psychological measures well into adulthood: the (statistical) heritability of IQ increases substantially with age. These results are discouraging for advocates of “nurture” as the exclusive source of racial IQ differences.

Plomin et al.’s study did not compare white and black kids. It is quite possible, therefore, that black kids will show less influence of parental IQ than white kids do. In which case trans-racial adoptions, black kids adopted by white parents, might well show more similarities with their adoptive parents than Plomin’s white kids did. In a delicately worded sentence, the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study follow-up concludes: “Putative genetic racial differences do not account for a major portion of the IQ performance difference between racial groups.” Or, stated more directly: racial differences account for less than half the black-white IQ difference. Clearly the role of genetics on IQ is not negligible, as it seems to be for language learning; but neither is it the dominant factor.

The complicating issue is that statistical heritability depends on the environment. In a “rich” environment, one which allows every genotype its full expression, differences that remain will tend to reflect genetic rather than environmental effects. This may be the reason that heritability increases with age. In an impoverished environment, on the other hand, individual development will be stunted, and individual differences will likely more reflect chance. An infant raised without ever hearing speech will not learn to speak—even though, under normal conditions, language is almost 100 percent heritable.

We don’t understand how genes affect the development of the individual brain and we cannot do the kind of experiments necessary to get a definitive answer to the genetic black-white-IQ-difference question. Adoption “natural experiments” are necessarily flawed: neither adoptees nor adoptive parents are randomly selected; age at adoption cannot be controlled—some children are adopted as infants, others as pre-teens or older. The impossibility of scientific proof has left the question wide open to other influences, as we will see.

It is unfortunate that the political climate in the US has for many years been strongly opposed to even the possibility that behavioral traits are in any way pre-determined. Best-sellers like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers (2008) claimed that persistent hard work—the “10,000-hour rule”—will propel anyone to success, with the implication that there is no such thing as natural talent. We could all compose like Mozart if we just practiced long enough.2

The playing field of the nature-nurture debate has not been, and is not now, level. Honest writers on this topic have been attacked and their employment threatened by unfair attacks on their purely academic, non-ideological writing. Moderate, evidence-based views—IQ is a product of nature as much as nurture, “racial” groups differ in IQ—are caricatured as racist extremes. The view that IQ is genetically fixed—like an instinct—is in fact held by none of the leading researchers in this field. Yet it has been used to stigmatize distinguished scholars such as Linda Gottfredsen and Charles Murray.

Philosopher Michael Levin was called an unabashed white supremacist following the publication of his 1997 book Why Race Matters.3 His crime was to take too seriously the fact that blacks and whites as groups differ in terms of IQ and possibly other socially relevant psychological measures and that these differences should be taken into account in evaluating racial disparities. Lurid links were concocted by well-known opinion writers between those who dared to discuss the heritability of IQ and coercive eugenics laws, not to mention ‘white supremacy’ and Nazi genocide. Data and arguments were buried under a hailstorm of ad hominem attacks.

Fear of treatment like this from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and similar groups with a political agenda and no interest in understanding the complex issues involved has, in effect, shut down research on endogenous racial differences as a cause of racial disparities. We still do not understand the causes of individual differences in IQ and other racially differentiated personality characteristics. What is the role of rearing environment and social context? Of genetical endowment? How do these individual differences interact with the social environment to bring about the disparities that so dismay many social scientists?

There is an average-IQ difference between white and black Americans. But research has not yet established this IQ difference as a cause, or even a partial cause, for real-world black-white disparities. Nor will it, given the rancor and disinformation that surrounds the question.

Exogenous Causes of Racial Disparities

With endogenous causes rendered taboo, all that is left to account for racial disparities is exogenous causes, especially racial discrimination. But everyone admits that discrimination by individuals has decreased in recent decades. The picture below shows the results of a University of Illinois survey which concluded that, “One of the most substantial changes in white racial attitudes has been the movement from very substantial opposition to the principle of racial equality to one of almost universal support.”

The absence of discriminatory attitudes doesn’t mean the playing field has been completely leveled, of course. A past bias, once justified, may persist long after the world has changed. Robert Moses’s racist-inspired building practices in New York leave their mark today. It’s not hard to point to lingering effects of past racism on parents, children, and neighborhoods.

These effects act in complex ways. Proving their existence, much less measuring them with precision, is almost impossible. Many effects are delayed, different individuals vary in their reactions, and allegedly discriminatory actions are often unintentional.

The problem is that these complex and little-understood effects have been bundled together into one toxic package, labeled “systemic racism” (the terms institutional and structural racism are also used).

The word racism is thrown around a lot these days, but a precise definition is hard to find. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy passes. Wikipedia comes up with: “Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another…”

Other definitions add reasons for racism. Particularly popular is the idea that “inferior” races have unchangeable (“genetically determined”) attributes that render them less able than the favored (usually white) race. But a definition of racism doesn’t have to make reference to the cause. Basically, racism is intentional discrimination against a race for no reason at all: You just think white people are better than black people and so whites and blacks should be treated differently. Preference by itself—you prefer to spend time with members of your own race, say—is not ipso facto racist. Only if you think that a person should be treated differently just because of her race, does it qualify as racist.

By none of these definitions can the complex, lagged effects of past discrimination be termed (systemically) racist. The effects I will discuss are not intentional—if they were, they would be individual racism, not systemic. They are not based directly on race, for the most part. If a black child fails to get into a good college because she scored poorly on the SAT, she fails because of her score not her race—even if her low score might be traced to poor rearing conditions that are a legacy of segregation or past discrimination.

Effects like this are, possibly, effects of racism in the past. They are not racism now, systemic or otherwise, by any reasonable definition. Failure to acknowledge this distinction has unjustly stigmatized white people and is a cause of needless conflict. Let me give some examples of the problems with this pernicious concept.

A 2017 review paper in the respected medical journal The Lancet, authored by several public health researchers, looks at the health implications of what they term “structural racism.” They refer to the “rich social science literature conceptualizing structural racism” emphasizing that the idea goes beyond “unfair treatment as experienced by individuals.” Yet in the next paragraph they say, “Any account of structural racism within the USA must start with the experiences of black people…” This inconsistency is never resolved: are the individual experiences of racism by African Americans relevant or not? Apparently not, as the paper goes on to discuss racial disparities as evidence of structural racism.

One example is this: “The legacy of these [ostensibly race-neutral] policies is that the annual rate of incarceration of black men is 3.8–10.5 times greater than that of white men, across all age groups…” which is obviously unfair, hence racist. Unfair—unless the rate of offending is also skewed. Men notoriously commit more crimes, especially violent crimes, than women. We do not cry “sexism” when more males than females wind up in prison. Is disparity in incarceration rates between black and white men another example of racism? Or do black men in fact commit proportionately more crimes than white?

The SPLC has weighed in on this issue, citing a relevant report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, “Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-15.” They headline the report: “White supremacists’ favorite myths about black crime rates take another hit from BJS study: Vast majority of most crimes are committed by a person of the same race as the victim, Bureau of Justice Statistics reports.” It goes on to say that “White supremacists… claim that … African-Americans, are far more crime-prone and the source of most violent crime against whites.”

Either willfully or because the writer doesn’t understand the issue, the headline misses the point of the BJS report. First, the U.S. population is 65 percent white and 12 percent black. It is likely, therefore, that more crimes can be attributed to whites than to blacks. No surprise there. And it has been known for many years that most violent crimes are intra, not inter-racial. Blacks are the victims largely of black criminals, whites of white.

The real issue is “crime-proneness,” which depends both on the number of black and white perpetrators and on the sizes of the black and white populations. Population size is not mentioned in the SPLC article. There are fewer blacks than whites in the U.S., therefore we can expect fewer black than white perpetrators. But how much fewer? Well, if we include population figures (which also appear in the BJS report), we see that there are 5.3 times as many whites as blacks in the US. So, the real question is, are there 5.3 times as many white as black criminals? Well, no. From Table 1 in the BJS report, 43.8 percent of perpetrators are white and 22.7 percent are black, so the ratio of white to black criminals is just 1.93. In other words, blacks are 5.3/1.93 = 2.79 times as likely to be perpetrators as whites. A disparity in criminality may have something to do with the incarceration disparity, although it may not be the whole story. But the differential incarceration rate by itself proves nothing.

Again, these data need to be unpacked to understand what is really going on. Young males are more likely to act violently than older ones. The black population tends to be younger than the white. Does controlling for age reduce the black-white disparity? No doubt other relevant variables should be examined. The point is that the incarceration disparity may have a non-racial cause. Absent a lot more research, it should not be blamed immediately on racism. Which is not to take away from cogent criticisms of the excessive US incarceration rate in general. The point is that incarceration-rate disparities are not necessarily evidence of racism. This is an example of what Quillette contributor Coleman Hughes calls the disparity fallacy, which “holds that unequal outcomes between two groups must be caused primarily by discrimination…” Indeed, I will argue the opposite: that a charge of “racial discrimination” can be justified only when other possible causes of disparities have been eliminated.

The BJS report deals with all violent crime, a measure that is imprecise for several reasons. The definition of “violent” varies from one person to another, there may be differences in reporting between black and white communities—blacks may be more (or less) reluctant to report crimes than whites, for example. Murder statistics are necessarily more certain than reports of non-lethal crimes. Here, the data are unequivocal. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a 2017 report concludes: “the homicide rate among African-Americans is nearly quadruple that of the national average” and some eight times the rate for whites.

So, there is some non-racial basis for the apparently “racist” fact that blacks are incarcerated at a higher proportion than whites. Blacks are also more likely to commit violent crimes, and much more likely to commit murder, than whites. Of course, the details of the causality—in particular, the possible links between black criminality and racism suffered in the past—are not at all understood. But what should be understood is that this disparity is not necessarily evidence for contemporary racism. Much the same argument applies to racial profiling: racial disparities in police “stop-and-search,” for example.

Incarceration rate is a clear case where a racial disparity can be traced to a non-racial cause. The Lancet article goes on to list other examples of systemic/structural racism:

One key example, with ongoing intergenerational effects, is the historic Social Security Act of 1935, which created an important system of employment-based old-age insurance and unemployment compensation. The Act also, however, deliberately excluded agricultural workers and domestic servants—occupations largely held by black men and women.

The authors attribute the act to an attempt “to secure the votes of Democrats in the South.” Redistricting to restrict black voter participation aka “racial gerrymandering,” is often cited as another example of systemic racism. But in both these cases the aim is to secure votes not exclude black people because they are black. If the African-American population changed its preferences from Democrat to Republican, no doubt gerrymandering practices would adapt accordingly. The point is that these practices are not aimed at black people because they are black, but because of the way they vote. Gerrymandering is sleazy, but it is not racist—systemic or otherwise.

Another example that seems clearly racist is hiring by private companies. The Lancet article quotes “one study that used identical résumés, which differed only in the name of the applicant, hiring managers called back those with traditionally white names (eg, Brad or Emily) 50% more often than those with traditionally black names (eg, Jamal or Lakisha).” Is this racism? We don’t know the hirer’s previous experience. Perhaps she is racist; but in any case, this is individual not systemic racism.

This kind of muddle infuses the Lancet article and many others like it. But the fact remains that there are certainly lingering effects of past racism. How should they be understood? Labeling them as systemic racism is not helpful, because it suggests a single cause for what are in fact multiple interacting causes, most of them non-racial.

One solution has been to invoke systems theory as a way to model a complex situation. Systems theory cannot be accused of excessive precision. A system is “an organized entity made up of interrelated and interdependent parts.” The basic idea is that no part can be considered in isolation because all are connected. An action on one part will have effects on many others. Systems thinking has been successfully applied to collective phenomena such as flocking in birds, schooling in fish and the building of termite mounds, explaining coordinated behavior by leaderless groups in terms of simple rules followed by each individual group member. In this case the emergent, coordinated behavior can be measured precisely, and hypothetical rules can be rigorously tested by computer simulation.

But systems theory has been invoked much more widely, in areas from political economy to social work. A sociology review paper begins with this: “An example of an emergent property is wetness. Neither hydrogen nor oxygen alone has or can produce wetness; wetness occurs only in a chemical system that includes both hydrogen and oxygen in the correct proportions.” The problem is that the sociological equivalents of the elements hydrogen and oxygen can neither be accurately identified nor independently manipulated.

A paper that seems to have influenced contemporary thinking in sociology is Thomas Schelling’s 1971 “Dynamic Models of Segregation,” which has as one conclusion: “In some cases small incentives, almost imperceptible differentials, can lead to strikingly polarized results.” This is an early version of the “tipping point.” This is an idea that appeals to students of racism because it allows the possibility that even small vestiges of racism may be amplified by “race discrimination system” interactions to produce what Barbara Reskin has called über racism. It’s certainly possible: chaos theory has given us the butterfly effect, after all. But large effects from small causes, or even from large but mostly unrelated, non-racial, causes, are the exception rather than rule. Über racism requires much more convincing proof than the kind of qualitative, even impressionistic, accounts offered by researchers in this area.

There are two other problems with this approach. The first afflicts all of sociology. There is much discussion of “causal models.” But since experiment is generally impossible, all that is available are correlations. If these correlations are sufficiently compelling, perhaps causality can be inferred, but in fact they rarely are. The second problem is that in the racism area there are almost no quantitative correlations at all. What is offered are not so much models as visual metaphors. The picture above, labelled “The race discrimination system and emergent discrimination,” is a case in point. No doubt other researchers have other diagrams. This diagram paints a plausible but completely untestable, hence unscientific, “proof” of how historical racism and its contemporary after-effects might work together to produce disparate racial outcomes. Yet it is used to justify the concept of systemic racism. 

Systemic racism is a poor concept. First, it is almost impossible to prove, because racism is discrimination without any reason other than race. To prove discrimination, all other possible reasons—reasons like differential ability, interests, criminality, etc., as in the examples I gave earlier—must be eliminated. Does the tech industry discriminate against women? Does the nursing profession discriminate against men? To show racism, which is differential treatment for no reason other than race, alternative explanations for disparities must be eliminated. But in practice not only are they not eliminated, efforts to explore these other causes are actively suppressed.

So, the second, and perhaps most important, problem with the charge of systemic discrimination is that it deflects attention from the proximal causes, endogenous as well as exogenous, of the racial disparities that led to its invention. Disparities—racial, ethnic, or gender-based—are not proof of anything. Disparities raise questions about their cause. Absent further information, a racial disparity does not favor one answer over others. To say, as some academic critics have, that “When I See Racial Disparities, I See Racism” is simply wrong. If only things were that simple!

The beauty of “systemic racism” is its air of permanence. It is here forever, and its victims must be compensated in perpetuity. It has become the elusive and inexpugnable cause of all the ills of people of color. And it provides an endless supply of ammunition for those whose careers depend on the persistence of racism. It has become a cause of racial division rather than part of the cure. It should be abandoned.


John Staddon is a James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Professor of Biology, Emeritus, at Duke University.


Robert Plomin, David W. Fulker, Robin Corley and John C. DeFries (1997) Nature, Nurture, and Cognitive Development from 1 to 16 Years: A Parent-Offspring Adoption Study. Psychological Science, Vol. 8, No. 6 (Nov., 1997), pp. 442-447
2 No, actually: Mosing, M. et al. (2014) Practice does not make perfect: no causal effect of music practice on music ability. Psychological Science, 25(9) 1795-1803.

3 The initial print run for the book was small and soon sold out. The author was savagely criticized, so the publisher apparently declined to print any more. The book was re-published in 2005 by a company that has itself been attacked as racist, rendering the project tainted.

Feature photo by John Gomez / Shutterstock.


  1. GregS says

    I have no knowledge or even opinion on whether there are or are not racial, gender or ethnic disparities in the distribution of intelligence – but it seems to me that all too many people are heavily invested in the issue. It would be great if intelligence were doled out independent of race, gender or ethnicity. My only thought though is – why would we expect nature to be that kind?

    • You’re right Greg, Yuval Harari on this: scholars know of no large society that has been able to dispense with discrimination altogether! Time and again…….blacks and whites…patricians and plebeians…brahmins and shudras, rich and poor…… etc etc, nothing new under the sun, nature? nurture? does it matter?

      • david of Kirkland says

        True, but the USA (and most other western cultures) touts equal protection under the law and E Pluribus Unum, so it pays to remove systemic bias (bias built into the system — the laws) and call out personal biases.
        But it’s so overblown now, with everyone a victim, including now MAGA hat wearers and white men in general, that it’s pure irony.

  2. Ask any pedagogical knowledgable person about this, and you will know. The downgrading attitude from low (historically, cultural,in rank or statue or otherwise) to high is accepted, the reverse not. In dramaturgy, this is also well known. Adults hit by their kids(as long as toddlers), OK, but not the reverse.

  3. “Language is the most obvious counter-example. It is a learned behavior that also has high heritability. Language is 100 percent learned and 100 percent heritable—kids learn the language of their parents.”

    Can someone explain this for me?

    The ability to learn the language one is immersed in as an infant appears to be near universal but I never heard anyone, except for this author, suggest that the specific native language of one’s birth parents is something that could be inherited in the case where the child had no exposure to its birth parents.

    • andrewilliamson says

      “Language is 100 percent learned and 100 percent heritable—kids learn the language of their parents.” My understanding is that kids learn the language of their peers more than the language of their parents.

    • James David Banker says

      As I can tell, he means “heritable” in the sense that children inherit property from their parents, not in the biological sense of a heritable trait. A point of confusion is that the author uses ‘language’ to mean any particular language (e.g., Japanese or Russian). I assume this is how it was used when the author wrote, “we know that language is not a sort of instinct.” For biologists, linguists, etc., ‘language’ generally refers to linguistic capacity which is largely innate and is why, for instance, Steven Pinker wrote a book titled ‘the Language Instinct.’

    • Richard says

      I was kind of confused by this, too. This struck me as using an inconsistent definition of “heritability”, or at least an ambiguous one. Does he mean the ability to learn language is 100% heritable? Is it meant to be an example of problems with using statistical correlation (in a very naive manner) to determine heritability? Given the context, I think that is probably the intended meaning: high correlation between behavior of parent and child cannot naively be assumed to be due to biological causes. It’s not a terrible example to use, but I don’t think it was communicated especially clearly. Particularly the “100 percent heritable” statement.

      • This is Chomsky’s study field, I remember the 1970 fierce discussions on the issue of this language heritability issue. The blank slate idea undermined.

    • David says

      I believe he is referring to the fact that children learn language. Then those children that have parents with high test scores of verbal measures, also test well. But this is based on inference.

    • Larry says

      I’m pretty sure he’s made a mistake here. To put it in Chomskyan terms, we innately possess a universal grammar that makes it possible to learn a spoken language. It does not determine the specific spoken language that one will acquire.

      So first thing one needs to do is distinguish between the specific language one speaks and the underlying ability (universal grammar) that makes the learning of that specific language possible.

      Next, one needs to be careful with the use of terms like innate, heritable, etc. Heritability has a specific meaning that many people get wrong. It is not about the determinants of a trait in any one individual. It is about the variability in a trait across individuals. Look at it this way. Are the properties of a cake determined by its recipe (genes) or by the baker, ingredients, oven, etc. (environment)? Hopefully you recognize that this is an ill-formed question. The cake is determined by both and trying to tease out the numerical contribution of either is a fools errand. But now consider 100 cakes. Obviously they won’t all be identical. The question is what cause the DIFFERENCES between these cakes — differences in their recipes (genes) or differences in everything else (environment). Now we have a meaningful question that we can give a numerical answer to. If the cakes were all made following the exact same recipe, then obviously the environment accounts for 100% of the differences. But does that mean that the recipe had no influence on the cakes characteristics? (The initial question). No. The recipes still matter even though they couldn’t possibly account for the differences between the cakes. Well, that’s what heritability means — what proportion of the observed differences (in this population of cakes / individuals) can be accounted for by genetic differences.

      So let’s return to language. To the best our knowledge, there are no genes for specific languages. One doesn’t learn English because one has English genes. The heritability of English (as opposed to Japanese) is therefore 0. Genetic differences are not responsible for the observed variation in the specific language that a person speaks.

      But what about universal grammar? Well, you say, it’s innate according to Chomsky. It’s part of an evolved instinct according to Pinker. So clearly it’s heritability must be close to 100. Not so fast. If that’s what you think then you are falling back on the misunderstanding noted above. In asking about the heritability of universal grammar you are asking about variability in universal grammar. So why do some people possess universal grammar and other people do not? Although it is a “universal” evolved instinct, it doesn’t mean that absolutely everyone possesses universal grammar. There could be genetic mutations, there could be brain damage, etc. A good starting assumption though is that nearly everyone will share the same genes if the trait has been favored by natural selection, because that’s just what natural selection does, select for the best variant of a gene / trait (ignoring frequency dependent selection which is likely not operative in this case). So given that we’re purportedly talking about an evolved trait (spoken language, not written language), almost everyone would be expected to share the same genes. That means that observed differences (between those who can learn a language and those who can’t — not between those who learn English and those who learn Japanese) are mostly likely due to environmental causes — e.g., the developing fetus was exposed to too much carbon monoxide in the blood. So even universal grammar likely has a heritability close to 0. However, while there are no genes specifically for English, as opposed to Japanese, there are undoubtedly genes for universal grammar. Moveover, framed differently the heritability of universal grammar is close to 100%. Don’t forget that heritability is a measure relative to a particular population. So now rather than considering 100 humans, we consider 100 human infants and 100 puppies. Both the infants and the puppies grow up in the same home, so they are exposed to the same spoken language. Suppose both are born and come home to the same household the same day. Three years later the infants are speaking a language and the puppies are not. Why is that? The infants have the genes for universal grammar and the puppies do not. The heritability for universal grammar in this population is close to 100%

      Anyway, the short of it is that I think the author is a little confused / confusing on this point.

  4. Heike says

    The most towering achievement that Quillette has done has been to make it OK and normal to have conversations like this. The mob can’t shout it down like is their usual habit. These are important things that need to be said.

  5. Ian from Toronto says

    This attempt at an unbiased look at the topic of racial disparities feels to me more like an attempt to apologize for those who just don’t like black people, or want to feel justified in being wary of their the new black family that moved in next door.

    While some good points are raised, the author spends more words on the impossibility of getting good data, as if to suggest that trying to tease the truth out of data is laughable. How about using data from outside of the USA? While I do not have JSTOR access to the Plomin et. al study referenced to look at their data sources, the race/IQ studies I have heard about use American data exclusively.

    For example, Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve primarily uses US data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. No one ever seems to question the data. The same patterns could be seen among Canadian First Nations populations that American investigators find among Black Americans.

    My Canadian perspective gets me out of the American bubble enough to see how poorly non-whites are treated in your country. We do the same to our First Nations peoples and see the exact same increase in violence and breakdown of the family in their communities that are mentioned in discussions of race in America. It seems more likely to me that Americans are unable to understand the echos of the incredible fuck up of slavery and racist policies in place even in to the 1960s than the idea that these differences could be genetic.

    What if it takes 3-4 generations of relatively stress-free child rearing to overcome the hundreds of years of genetic echos of slavery? Statistically significant populations of Black Americans who are 3-4 generations removed from systemic discrimination do won’t exist until the 2030s – 2050s.

    Understanding the disparities between black and white people in the US is important, and I feel that this article is more concerned with that it gives me a headache to think of how easily it discredits the rest of the Quillette project.

    I give this criticism as someone who wants better answers.

    • Ian from Toronto says

      Edit: …and I feel that this article is more concerned with discrediting the idea that racism might still be with us that it gives me a headache to think of how easily it discredits the rest of the Quillette project.

      • El Uro says

        To say that a race can correlate with IQ is not racism. These are just scientific hypotheses. It may be wrong or right, I don’t care. When scientists discovered that children prefer to play with children of the same color, should we blame them for racism?
        Let’s put aside the emotions and try to determine what really should be called racism, because I do not think that the human being is measured by IQ – this is a very primitive criterion. A society where everyone is Einstein would instantly collapse.
        PS. I personally believe that the current problems of the African-American community are more related to slavery – slavery leaves a deep imprint on any social group, forming an ethic of irresponsibility and hopelessness, and IQ is an infinitesimal cause. But if I’m right, we are waiting for a much more difficult job. Society is not a car, where we can fix a flat tire with a repair kit.

    • A Smith says

      Ian, I feel you did not explain how being canadian gives you a better perspective on this issue. We too have a complicated (and constantly mis-represented) history with Native Americans and their modern sociologic issues, so I am unsure how that lends you any unique insight.

      I also believe that you have missed the entire point of this article. This article is a refuttation of the emerging consensus ringing in academics ears that systemic racism is the hierarchical structure ruling our entire nation, while, in-fact, there is not evidence to support it. That does not mean that there is not systemic racism (as the author pointed out). That just means the evidence is not at all what many pretend it to be, so the realm for debate should be open on both the complicated causes for the disparity and what can be done to correct them.

      Canada appears to be a bit of a lost cause on this issue (my unique american perspective for you), so that is likely why this article is U.S. centric. Its written by an American trying to turn the tide on the utter destruction of honest social science in several fields.

    • Richard says

      Can you expound on your use of the phrase “genetic echos”?

    • Lucas says

      Genetic evolution does not occur that fast… If there are any genetic differences they would have existed long before the Europeans came to the Americas.

      The first point the author made was that even if there are systemic disadvantages against african-americans, many of the policies are not necessarily racist when going by the common definition of racism. That is not to diminish the impact these policies may have had, but merely to illustrate that the policies were not enacted due to racism per se. This is mostly a game of semantics, but is interesting nonetheless.

      The main point of this article however, is that it is nearly impossible to create sociological and/or psychological explanations (e.g systemic racism or complete genetic determinism) that explain with 100% certainty, why disparate outcomes between races in society exist. In order for one of the previous two explanations to be unequivocally true, we would have to completely disprove the other. Which, as the author points out, will be rather difficult. The following read from Karl Popper expresses the same sentiment, but is aimed at grand narratives from the sociology and psychology fields. (Only need to read first six pages or so)

      Although, aside from the far left who believes the only differences are due to racism, or the far right who would like to believe the only differences are genetic, it seems quite plausible that in fact — as most reasonable people do — it is a combination of both factors. I guess the next question that arises is to what extent do each of these explanations account for disparate societal outcomes? And to answer, we arrive back at the author’s main point; to conduct sufficient experimentation and ascertain evidence to such questions would not be feasible or possible in any moderate time-frame. So, I suppose, the moral of the story is: we should all show some more epistemic humility.

      • Lucas:

        Please name one scholar on the far right who claims that racial disparities are entirely due to genetic differences. Jensen never said that, Murray never said that, Steve Sailer never said that. I believe it is a lie.

          • Gringo says

            Recall the treatment that Charles Murray got at Middlebury. The “progressive” left will attack anyone who believes that genetics have SOMETHING to do with intelligence.

    • TarsTarkas says

      I doubt if it would take that long. Caribbean-descended blacks whose ancestors arguably endured far more horrible conditions and deprivations than most US slaves seem to have no trouble improving their IQ’s and becoming culturally normed. Now they may be a subset of those with the get up and go to get out of the still arguably bad cultures of their home nations, but even so it proves culture is not genetically inherited. See Colin Powell and Malcolm Gladwell. The disparities between US blacks and whites as opposed to foreign born or descended blacks versus whites is more easily explained by intentional refusal by the ghetto subculture and black leaders to merge with the dominant culture of the country.

      • Lucas says

        There is no evidence that their IQ’s were improved. Like you said, the ones who immigrate to America are likely already better off (they had the financial wherewithal, intelligence and know-how, that enabled them to immigrate). Furthermore, the notion of immigrating to America presupposes that they believe America will be better for themselves and/or their offspring, most likely stemming from them already having a mind oriented towards American culture.

        “more easily explained” in what sense? It is simply more appealing to your biases, just as the “systemic racism” narrative is more appealing to those on the far left. While I largely agree with what you are saying, this not the sole explanation nor can it ever definitively be proved so.

      • El Uro says

        Let me add two of my cents: IQ is not the reason for the success of any nation, community, group, etc. As a former citizen of the USSR, I know how easy it is to traumatize society.
        Look at all post-communist countries, they all suffer from the same diseases.
        Poverty is the only product that Africa can export now in unlimited quantities.
        Should we blame the IQ? I don’t think so.

      • Optional says

        I have more evidence to confirm your hypothesis that this issue is one of culture and not skin color.
        Ghanian-Americans and Nigerian-Americans have higher average salaries than Americans.
        They also have higher average salaries than Dutch-Americans and French-Americans (their white skinned immigrant counterparts).

        This suggests that systemic racism does not exist in the USA today.
        That skin color has no bearing on your success, and that cultural upbringing is what really matters. Which, actually, is mind-numbingly obvious right from the start.

        If African-Americans want to succeed they simply have to behave like all the other black people who come to this country and succeed.
        But nobody can do that for them.
        And no amount of free-bees from Democrats will do it either.

        • It is doubtful that, along any given trait, the distributions of the Ghanaians and Nigerians that migrate to the US are, as a group, identical in all respects to those of their former countrymen. It could be, for example, that those with the opportunity to migrate are those with more resources, who may also be more intelligent. I also do not understand why it is ‘mind-numbingly obvious’ that all groups must be the same but for culture and ‘skin’.

    • Sydney says

      @Ian from Toronto

      “We do the same to our First Nations peoples…”

      Paternalistic (and encouraging victimhood mentality) much, Ian?

      FN people are not ‘yours’ in any sense, and your grammatical usage (hey, feel free to call it a ‘slip’ or an ‘error’ if you prefer…) says more than anything else in your comment. You might not be in the American bubble, but you’re in a far-left Canadian bubble instead.

      And who is “we,” exactly? Speak for yourself, not for 35 million other Canadians. I have done nothing to a FN person that I need to atone for.

      Every minority group has suffered. But successful individuals from those groups are constantly trying to raise the bar for the rest. They say outright that the key to success is personal responsibility. In terms of black Americans, you need to read or watch Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, and others like them. Read or watch Larry Elder on so-called ‘systemic racism’.

      Please speak to some successful FN individuals in Canada who have developed beyond FN groupthink and victimhood (I have known people in Alberta and in NWT) and come back with a victim-free, three-dimensional, human account.

    • On the contrary, I thought this was full of decent answers and applaud Quillette for running it.

      America it seems will never leave slavery in the rear view. Maybe we shouldn’t, but slavery wasn’t and isn’t even remotely unique to America. Some credit for progress should be acknowledged.

      The point of the article was to tease out the difference between racism and systemic racism. That racism exists in America is not in question, unfortunately it still does, but that it’s not built into the system anymore in an official way.

      There is simply no way any official policy at any level of government would discriminate based on dark skin. It’s almost as unlikely in corporate America as well. Does that mean that individuals within government and business don’t posses in their heart racist thoughts and tendencies? No. If those individuals act on what’s in their hate-filled hearts that isn’t official and it isn’t systemic.

    • david of Kirkland says

      The USA motto is E Pluribus Unum. Famous expressions like “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” suggest most people want outsiders to adopt the customs and culture of the local area. This isn’t racism or hatred of other cultures. Any foreign group that comes to the USA and then adopts the customs and culture of the USA — while still being able to maintain their own “previous” culture in festivals, foods, dances, language and the like — tend to do well. If you fight the culture, fight/blame/hate the majority, maybe not so much…

    • Gringo says

      <blockquote.We do the same to our First Nations peoples and see the exact same increase in violence and breakdown of the family in their communities that are mentioned in discussions of race in America. It seems more likely to me that Americans are unable to understand the echos of the incredible fuck up of slavery and racist policies in place even in to the 1960s..

      In the 1960s, black families were more intact than they are today. Offhand, I would say that that percent of black children born out of wedlock increased from about 25% in the 1960s to about 70% today. As such, it is absurd to blame “breakdown of the family” on “racist policies in place even in to the 1960s.” Rather, policies instituted in the 1960s- such as more welfare and not paying welfare if a male adult was in the household- contributed to the breakdown of the black family. Good intentions, such as increased welfare, do not always have good results.

    • Dave_WI says

      I appreciate your views but why in the USA does the Left do very little to improve education in the cities and safe communities so those people can thrive to their highest abilities. They would rather ignore all that and just concentrate on passing laws to make everyone equal/the same outcome. I think the Left is convinced that ‘the Black man in fundamentally inferior to the White man’; not the Right.

    • Dave_WI says

      Ian, I appreciate your views but why in the USA does the Left do very little to improve education in the cities and safe communities so those people can thrive to their highest abilities. They would rather ignore all that and just concentrate on passing laws to make everyone equal/the same outcome. I think the Left is convinced that ‘the Black man in fundamentally inferior to the White man’; not the Right.

    • Skept-O-Punk says

      “My Canadian perspective gets me out of the American bubble enough to see how poorly non-whites are treated in your country. We do the same to our First Nations peoples and see the exact same increase in violence and breakdown of the family in their communities …”

      If this is true, then explain why Asian Americans — who are also “non-white” outperform whites in almost every category related to success. Also, why haven’t successful blacks been held down?

      Frankly your bias is apparent throughout your comment. You accuse the author of being an apologist for racists. This is the same tired rhetoric that we see from far-left activists and a large part of those involved in the academy today. You pretend to be open to ideas (or likely what you tell yourself) … but in truth you see anyone who shares views you don’t accept as a bad-actor trying to make cover for other bad-actors. Everything is a “dog-whistle”.

      Your comment also smells of that tired trope of Canadians Progressive Enlightened; Americans Stunted Inbreds.

    • Lert345 says

      Ian from Toronto

      When Moynihan wrote his famous report about black family breakdown decades ago, most black children were growing up with two married parents. Now the statistics have reversed, with most black children lacking two married parents. No one can say that racism is worse today. Whatever the cause of family breakdown in that community, it isn’t slavery or racism.

      Having had a relative who worked in the penal system, I recall his observation that most inmates grew up fatherless. Take it from there.

      We do not see such abysmal statistics with Caribbean immigrants, whose ancestors also came from slavery.

    • I would like to add to this discussion the fact that Candice Owens sites statistics that the percentage of one parent families in the Black community was 20% in 1960. That percentage is now at around 72%. Statistics show that children from one parent families do much poorer in life skills and experiences in over 50 different categories. According to Owens there is a direct correlation to the Lyndon Johnson “Great Society” welfare policies of offering assistance to single parent families at that time. In other words, women were given free government “assistance” if there was no man in the house. Owens claims that the fatherlessness of black children are a major factor in the inability of said black children to have “successful” lives. So I would forward that there are more factors involved with the issues of race and “racism” than initially meet the eye.

  6. jakesbrain says

    The beauty of “systemic racism” is its air of permanence. It is here forever, and its victims must be compensated in perpetuity. It has become the elusive and inexpugnable cause of all the ills of people of color. And it provides an endless supply of ammunition for those whose careers depend on the persistence of racism. It has become a cause of racial division rather than part of the cure. It should be abandoned.

    That’s the whole point. Ultimately it’s a thin veneer of moral outrage over absolute petty resentment, and its whole raison d’etre is as a power play. This is why they are faithless to reason and logic; reason and logic are only useful to them when it can help them defeat their enemies. They use a tactic, then cast it aside and use a contradictory tactic whenever it suits their purpose — and the purpose is always power.

    They see life as nothing but a power struggle under a polite smokescreen of rationality, unchangeably oppressor-versus-oppressed, and so they approach life in that manner. Gauge every single thing these people do as a power play, designed to shore up their own defenses or attack their ideological opponents, and their irrational and hypocritical behavior begins to make much more sense.

    • peanut gallery says

      It is religion thinking, unbound by any moral code. We can make all the well-crafted arguments in the world, but it will make no difference to Party members. They are power hungry. Once they have it, they will use it and abuse it. Pick a safe country to flee to. Or don’t. I’m not your dad.

      • Stephanie says

        @peanut gallery: what country would you consider still safe? Europe is out of the question, Canada is circling the drain, and the US is clearly heavily infiltrated. Australia seems only a couple decades behind the rest.

        • What? Apparently you’re not from Australia? They are very much in the midst of a cultural war with the so-called “Progressives” winning just as they are in the USA. The Aussie “Ocker” is a dying breed that is learning to keep his mouth shut.

        • Dan Love says


          I hate to break it to you, but Australia is atrocious with regard to this stuff.

          My retreat is Hungary, for now. Prosperous parts of Asia seem good too.

  7. El Uro says

    I do not deny that race may correlate with IQ. But if it would have been possible to measure average IQ of a German peasant during German Peasants’ War in the 16th century, I’m afraid that you would have been shocked by the results. They all were whites, BTW.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Don’t have to go that far back in time. theodore Dalrymple has discussed the white ghettos of Birmingham England and elsewhere in the Isles. I doubt if you gave his case examples that they would do very well on IQ tests either.

      • david of Kirkland says

        You can compare whites in the south to whites in the north of the USA (before the migration after slavery ended).

    • Gringo says

      From Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals

      As late as the First World War, white soldiers from Georgia,Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania.119 At higher levels of achievement, the contrast between the South and other regions was even more stark. A study of leading American figures in the arts and sciences in the first half of the nineteenth century found most clustered in the Northeast, while vast regions of the South—Virginia alone excepted—were without a single one. 120

      The kinds of statistical disparities found between Southern whites and Northern whites in the past are today often taken as evidence or proof of racial discrimination when such disparities are found between the black and white populations of the country as a whole, while others have taken such disparities as signs of genetic deficiencies.Yet clearly neither racial discrimination nor racial inferiority can explain similar differences between whites in the North and the South in earlier centuries.121 This should at least raise questions about such explanations when applied to blacks of a later era who inherited the culture of white Southerners

      Footnote 119: H.J. Butcher, Human Intelligence: Its Nature and Assessment (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 252. In 1968, blacks from Rhode Island and Wisconsin scored higher on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test than whites from Tennessee and Kentucky. Arthur R. Jensen, Educability and Group Differences (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), pp. 63-64. For a critique of the World War I data, see Audrey M. Shuey, The Testing of Negro Intelligence 2nd edition (New York: Social Science Press, 1966), pp. 310-311.

  8. peanutgallery says

    White skin emanates ORs (Oppression Rays) that cause minorities harm. The only solution is to grind non-Party whites down. They must have voting rights removed and be allowed only one child. Perhaps a period of servitude would also suffice. It’s a difficult problem to deal with. Fortunately, there are plenty of us Allies to help point out the “nails sticking up” as it were.

  9. People have long acknowledged the power of witches to sicken cattle and crops with evil hexes, and even kill or maim people with the evil eye.

    The idea that white devils, through their malign gazes and smirks, or through the evil magic that mutates from the darkness of their hearts, can’t cause another group of people to have dramatically lower test scores or commit higher levels of street crime is no more absurd or ridiculous than witchcraft or belief in divination, which were commonly accepted well into the modern era in Westernized countries, and are still accepted in many parts of the world.

    The reality is all people can understand magical explanations of problems, and only a small minority can understand scientific explanations of problems, and regarding the latter, most of the small minority won’t even do that if they economically or politically benefit from not understanding and/or are threatened with social ostracism if they admit that the emperor is nude.

  10. While it is true that blaming one groups failings on another group, if unjustified, is what is known as racially motivated scapegoating and one of the primary motivators of genocide, which I am told anti-racists regard as bad, at least when white people engage in it.

    But not only is racial scapegoating bad to the “other”, it prevents constructive social interventions to combat the actual exogenous factors which lead to social disparities. There is a lot of yammering about systematic racism, but no discussion of single-motherhood which correlates to a host of social pathologies. There is no consideration of the role what Professor Wax termed “bourgeois values” in positive life outcomes, or that cultural glorification of casual sexual, drugs, easy money, violence and crime leads to bad life outcomes.

    In other words, racial scapegoating takes up all the oxygen, so there is no time to consider the way that the marketing and normalizing of social deviance by the cultural industry to children has consistently undermined our ability to make progress in closing racial disparities, as well as contributing to the slide of the American working and middle classes into opioid dependency and suicide. It almost seems intentional.

    • peanut gallery says

      @KD, I don’t think it’s intentional, but focusing on inflaming race-relations helps the elite classes from divert attention from themselves. The way the student debt system works now is evidence enough of the Matrix-inspired way they are helping to keep Americans in debt forever. The collusion between government (elected and unelected) and large corporate interests to fleece and otherwise turn Americans into batteries should be enough for all common people to start passing out the pitchforks and torches. As far as I’m concerned, the Occupy Wallstreet and Tea Party protestors from the Recession should have had babies. It’s clear that career politicians have no interest in helping anyone but themselves. They are safe, but the common man suffers. If enough of us common men of all colors united, they might be in trouble.

  11. Richard says

    Great Article, I agree with it. I think the more we talk about racism, racial differences, racial disparities, ad infinitum the worse race relations become. Content of Character – not Color of Skin! Follow the golden rule. So what we are different, duh. We are all unique individuals. The individual is what matters, they are sovereign over their own destiny.

  12. Erica from Minnesota says

    IQ (Higher or Lower than norms) does not discriminate.

    Studies released by the Minnesota State Department of Education in the early 2000’s tried to shine new light on an old wive’s tail; that race and income were the reasons inner city minorities were laggards when it came to public school outcomes.

    In those studies (since buried next to Al Capone), the researchers showed that 97% of the gap was DIRECTLY correlated to the presence of a single parent or multiple parents in the household, with only a marginal gap due to income differences…and ZERO gap for racial differences.

    In other words, if you’re white kid with a single parent, your odds of failing or succeeding are the same as they are for black kid, brown kid, yellow kid or any other kid with just one parent in the household.

    Likewise, if someone has two parents (4 eyes watching a roaming teenager), kids had the same chances of success or failure with ZERO impact from race.

    So while I concur there are some IQ challenges (which can be managed with more VoTech), the real challenges are cultural with Democrat politicians running most of these cities not willing to touch the cultural challenges with a 10′ pole.

    Which does explain why George Bush was big on providing federal support to faith based institutions in the inner cities. These ministers and pastors are watching the demise of their communities before their very eyes and see the youth wasting away..and are not afraid to poke the bear of P.C. attitudes if it actually improves the lives of these people. Democrats…have killed most of the funding for these programs in favor of funding nutrition and financial support for single mothers.

    Let that sink in for a moment….

    There are problems that can be solved by all of us together, but with a problem like this…it’s on the Democrats to try to solve in in a way that’s not just another give-a-way without strings attached and defined metrics that tell us if it worked or not.

    • @Erica
      I’m sitting in the cold MN tundra as we speak. I remember that study and that it didn’t sit well with native do-gooders up here. Funny that Minneapolis schools to this day have the lowest graduation rates for minorities in the nation but the spigot for direct aide to single mothers is still turned on high. This does nothing but discourage in-tact families and allow for absentee fathers which is sky high among urban blacks. Fatherlessness is likely the number one reason minority children suffer the indignities of poverty.

      If there is systemic racism coming out of official places it is exactly this – government subsidies of fatherless households. However any attempt to address this soft racism is met with cries of – racism!!!

    • Could you please link these Minnesota studies that show the number of parents in the household is all that is important for the IQ gap? I imagine it might make some difference, but I’m sceptical that it could make the predictive power of race vanish entirely.

  13. The article is interesting and is perhaps needed (to refute the idea of systemic racism), however…

    1) I’d like to see the evidence that shows definitively that IQ correlates with success. Furthermore, I’d like to know how success is defined in these studies and how that correlates to happiness, if at all. I realize it’s anecdotal, but I have seen many not so bright people who work hard, have loving relationships and seem happy. Is that not success?

    2) I get so tired of hearing about racism day in and day out. There was likely far more racism and fewer interracial marriages in the 70s, but I don’t recall hearing about racism non stop. I may be projecting but I would imagine many blacks feel the same. It’s just a bore.

    • I think the reason we hear racism every day is simply the media narrative du jour. Right now they are rabidly anti-Trump and are using “racism” as the dogwhistle to sell advertising space. They want clicks, and the anti-Trump hysterics spend hours and hours online feeding their hysterics addiction. The advertising sales-based media seeks to attract those clicks so that they can monetize the hysterics.

      Add to that you have Reality-TV wannabes who have learned that the quickest way to fame is to allege to be a victim. Look at the numerous cases since Nov 2016 where someone reported being the victim of a racist attack which has sense proved to be false be it attacks on the street, or KKK-esque writing on campus and in dorm rooms.

    • david of Kirkland says

      You didn’t hear about racism in the 60s-70s? Where did you live?

        • You have to read “The Bell Curve.” Murray’s chief data sources are the IQ tests that were administered on induction into the US armed forces from 1917-72 and the IQ tests that were routinely administered in US schools between the 3-10th grades after 1930.

          All IQ tests measure is how quickly and individual can learn and apply certain kinds of tasks.

          In the old conscript armies the US fielded from 1917-72 your assigned job, MOS, accurately reflected your best scores on the several sub-tests most relevant to you military occupational specialty.

          For example, if you ran into a spec. 4 draftee intelligence specialist who been to the Monterey Language school for 18 weeks and who was monitoring the tactical net on the DMZ you could be very sure he had verbal IQ scores in the 130 range. I knew a couple of them.

          • Good old ASVAB if memory serves. Your scores from that determined where you’d go. I scored well for cryptography before I even knew what that was. Was given in school at around the same time the toxic masculinity non-genders had to register with selective service.

    • Anon55344 says

      I do not have the links here but high IQ scores correlate with doing well in school. Doing well in school correlates with getting a high paying job. Getting a high paying job correlates with putting in a lot of hours at work
      It has been noting higher income people spend more time at work than lower income people. And lower income people spend more time with family and friends than higher income people.
      When unions were stronger lower income people could get high wages by being part of a union. So, it is possible to design an economy where people who score low on IQ tests still do well financially.

  14. Sean S says

    If all the leftists die today, or rather their crazy thoughts if you have any, the world would be beautiful please. This is from a former far far left.

  15. David of Kirkland says

    “Bigots stigmatized the entire “black race” as inferior because of lower average scores on, for example, IQ tests.”
    My guess is you’re already a racial bigot if such information leads you to that conclusion.

    Traits belong to individuals when used to judge a person. There are smart and dumb members of all “sectionalities,” just as there are mean and nice members.

    And the law ought to treat all equally, regardless of variation among the population. What more “system” is there than the law? It seems that such racism has been removed. That said, of course, racists still exist and will always exist (it’s a form of jealousy and a form of group/self-preservation). So if you live in a white-dominant culture/economy, being non-white is harder; same sorts of results occur if you live in a black-dominate culture/economy and are non-black, or an Asian-dominated culture/economy while being non-Asian.

  16. Walter says

    This article has a complete misrepresentation of Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. As Gladwell himself explains, “Practice isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I’ll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.”

    Natural ability is a prerequisite. But a Mozart who never plays music is a regular schmuck. A Mozart who puts in a modest amount of time is a talented player. Mozart became Mozart because of immense amounts of time spent on music.

    I urge the author to read Gladwell’s original essay, which clearly makes that point.

    • Hear, hear! Vastly important point for those not familiar with Gladwell’s work. But Gladwell would be a significantly better chess player after some practice than when he started, until he plateaued out at the limit of his natural ability for chess.

    • Saw file says

      I was thinking of the chess analogy too

      I am currently teaching chess, to a bright person.
      I already know that they will never king me.
      I also know how they would slay me at Go.

  17. E. Olson says

    The author is correct that doing research on the causes of racial disparities is problematic from a practical, ethical, and political point of view, but seems to promote the strawman belief that people either believe racial disparities are caused by 100% IQ (nature) or 100% environment (nurture). While controlled experiments would likely provide the most certain results, other methods consistently show racial disparities in IQ that have persisted over relatively long periods of time despite substantial efforts to reduce them, and also that genetic factors are the dominant but not sole source of IQ differences. Attempts to promote the idea that the poor economic and social performance of US blacks is due to systematic racism or lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow, which has provided poor “nurture” and consequent lower IQs to black populations can largely be refuted by other historic evidence. For example, many early white and Asian immigrants to the US were indentured servants or otherwise provided with severely restricted economic, political, and physical freedom while also experiencing strong racial and ethnic discrimination not much different from slavery/Jim Crow experiences of blacks, and yet blacks have most dismally failed to “close the gap”. In fact, there are no black majority countries in the world that have a history of political, cultural, or economic success relative to white or many Asian majority countries, and in fact most black majority countries suffer from very high criminality, violence, corruption, and lagging economic development. Unlike whites, Asians, and Jews who have become successful as racial minorities in countries with a different racial majority, there are few if any examples where black minorities as a group have risen to prominent positions in non-athletic endeavors such as politics, academia, science, or business (although there have certainly been successful individuals). In fact, the very success of Jews and many Asian groups in the US and other supposedly “racist” white majority countries should make any rational promoter of the racism explanation for disparities to seriously question why white racists seem to single out only blacks (and to a lessor extent Hispanics and Arabs/Muslims) in their discrimination, but allow Jews and Asians to earn higher than white salaries and dominate high status institutions and professions, and also to pay millions to talented black athletes and entertainers. The only reasonable answer to this “racist” disparity is that there are indeed genetic and cultural factors that create outcome disparities in the modern world that increasingly values intelligence and “positive” productivity. Unfortunately, there is zero evidence that any public policies that have attempted to reduce these disparities do anything but make them worse, while reducing the overall productivity of the economy by putting “fairness” ahead of talent, ability, skill, and hard work to the detriment of everyone.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @E. Olson

      The shallowness of the ‘systemic racism’ excuse for black failures has been shown over and over again. No one in history, broadly speaking, has ever been discriminated against more than the Jews, but unless you kill them dead, they will rise to prominence wherever they are. They don’t care if you hurt their feelings, they don’t care about Kike jokes, they neither get nor want affirmative action. Race is now proven to be 80% responsible for IQ and IQ remains the single most reliable predictor of success. It’s time to just say it. I’ve seen data to the effect that there are countries in Africa where the average IQ is below 60, that’s clinical mental impairment.

    • Anon55344 says

      ” Unfortunately, there is zero evidence that any public policies that have attempted to reduce these disparities do anything but make them worse, while reducing the overall productivity of the economy by putting “fairness” ahead of talent, ability, skill, and hard work to the detriment of everyone.” You need to start reading Tucker Carlson.

      Question: What does an IQ test measure?
      Question 2: What does an unbiased IQ test measure?

      • E. Olson says

        Anon – To answer Q1: IQ measures the ability and speed of learning and using knowledge. High IQ people see “the answer” more quickly than lower (average) IQ people, while very low IQ people may never see “the answer” to more complicated questions.

        To answer Q2: IQ tests have been developed in many forms including those that are visual puzzle based and require no language abilities, but the results from different IQ tests correlate very highly with each other. The SAT and Wonderlic tests are not formal IQ tests, but also correlated very highly with IQ. In fact, there are no measures in psychology that have been validated as extensively as IQ, and IQ has been demonstrated over many decades to be the strongest single psychological predictor of life success in terms of educational attainment and success, occupational attainment and success, and income. IQ is also the strongest single indicator of life failure in terms of school drop-outs, long-term unemployment, single parenthood, drug abuse, and criminality and prison, in part because higher IQ people learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, while low IQ are less likely to do the same.

    • Skept-O-Punk says

      As a business owner and someone involved in business for decades, I can say that neither am I a genius nor have many successful business owners I have know been geniuses either. (In fact, we’ve all hired — and sometimes fired — people who are much, much smarter than us.) The whole emphasis on IQ for success in overblown. Sure, if you want to be in the tech arena (or similar) this may clearly be a strong characteristic for success, but neither the economy as a whole nor is an individual’s success dependent upon this.

      I would say the racial income gap can simply be explained by attitude for the most part. There are plenty of highly “educated” people who would prove themselves quite useless in a company due to their attitude. And someone try to explain to me how a single mother (of any color) with a three children by the time she is 18 and who left HS half way through her sophomore year could actually raise a child that could be successful in our world today? Especially if she has been indoctrinated with the idea that the country she lives in was engineered to keep her and her children down (by whites, of course). Her attitude & world-view as a victim is the key factor that her children with be instilled with that will virtually guarantee them never reaching their potential.

      Of course a willingness to work hard helps as well, but frankly “working hard” is not as critical as working smart. I guy digging a ditch with a shovel is “working hard” — damn hard. But a “lazy guy” sitting on a back-hoe digging a ditch will be much more productive and successful. I have met single-mother waitresses working three jobs to support their kids. This is truly admirable. However, they will never get out of the financial hole they’re in. That said, if her kids grow up watching their mother take responsibility for the situation she’s in, they will have a much better likelihood of ending the chain of poverty they’re in. (Once again, this is due to attitude, not IQ.)

      Bottom Line, unless your IQ is so low you’re well below average norms, it will not really have much impact on your ability to live a middle to upper middle class lifestyle in the USA. However, your attitude and acceptance of being a “victim” will be the essential key factor for you not achieving this.

      • E. Olson says

        SOP – You don’t have to be a genius to be successful, but most successful business owners do have above average IQs and a very good work ethic. Successful people tend to be hard workers in the sense that they are constantly thinking and trying to find new ways to work smarter, and higher IQ people tend to see these productivity enhancing business opportunities faster than lower IQ people. A smart guy with a shovel is going to more quickly think about moving to a bigger shovel or backhoe than a low IQ guy, and a lazy guy with a backhoe is not going to dig a ditch as efficiently as a smart guy with a backhoe, and hence is going to have more jobs and earn more money for the backhoe owner. I agree with you 100% that telling someone of any IQ that they are a “victim” is the most efficient way to reduce the positive effects of IQ and work ethic in almost everyone, which is why most welfare programs are ineffective in moving people up and out of welfare.

  18. I agree with much of E. Olson’s comment. I would just point out that leaving aside completely any consideration of differential average intelligence between human populations, culture provides a compelling explanation for variant group outcomes.

    Orientals were the subject of vicious discrimination, race riots and murders in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the Second World War thousands of Japanese citizens were interned and their property confiscated. Chinese men were not allowed to even bring their families to Canada until the mid 1960s.

    But orientals are highly successful in North America. They actually make more money on average than whites in the US. Their children are vastly over-represented in universities.

    Contrast the values of the confucian culture of east asia relating to family, respect for authority and education with that of the inner-city ghettos.

    Confucian culture strongly emphasizes the cohesion of the family unit. The other does not and results in about three-quarters of black children being raised by single mothers. Research shows that children raised by two biological parents do better in many respects, including the income they ultimately earn, even controlling for the parents’ income level.

    Confucian culture inculcates respect for authority and law-abiding behaviour. Blacks have the highest crime rate of all racial groups in the US. While other factors are obviously involved, the glorification of violence and crime in “gangsta” rap clearly doesn’t help in inducing law-abiding behaviour.

    Confucian culture places enormous emphasis on education. The other is aggressively anti-intellectual. A black student who works hard in school is shunned for “acting white”. (It doesn’t help that liberal educators consider it racist to teach black children correct english, further handicapping their ability to obtain better paying employment or advance in university.)

    I suggest that a comparison of the experience of orientals and blacks in North America undercuts the whole leftist doctrine of white racism as the sole cause of blacks’ problems.

  19. Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

    I must say the author has me baffled with the comparison of intelligence and language. They are not comparable.

  20. I distrust any and all measurements of intelligence. They tell us more about how the one doing the measuring perceives intelligence than about the subject measured.

  21. Winston Smith says

    Let’s examine a recent case study of an “exogenous cause.” When Michigan governor Rick Snyder decided to change the water supply of (mostly African-American) Flint, Michigan, a large African-American community was poisoned with lead. When Governor Synder realized that this water was so toxic it was corroding the auto parts at the GM plant, he immediately had the water supply fixed –for the plant. The rest of Flint was allowed to continue to be poisoned. This created an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease. Exposure to lead poisoning also decreases IQ and damages DNA. This is something that will effect generations of people in Flint including many of African-Americans.

    Would something like this ever happen in a mostly white municipality? I think not. And while it’s nice that prevalence of “Principals of Equality” have increased over time, it only takes one Rick Synder to poison a whole city full of blacks. Yes, the article makes some good points. We cannot blame all of the problems faced by African-Americans on racism, but neither can we underestimate it.

    It may be true that blacks on average have lower IQs than whites. I honestly do not know. For the sake of argument, let’s say it is. What’s the benefit of dissemination that information? And if there are benefits, do they outweigh the negative consequences? Surely the dissemination of such information would give the Rick Synders of the world a justification for treating blacks as less than human.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Winston Smith

      “What’s the benefit of dissemination that information?”

      It is made necessary by the incessant lie that every shortfall of blacks is someone else’s fault.

      “Surely the dissemination of such information would give the Rick Synders of the world a justification for treating blacks as less than human.”

      Would it give such a justification? In who’s opinion? Class? Anyone? Communities that are largely black may be lead-poisoned? Yes? Oh, and what about the poor whites who were also poisoned with admirable Equity? Let me offer you an alternative story: the people of Flint are largely very poor. The proportion who are poor exceeds the proportion who are black and I humbly submit that that is a better Victimography.

      I saw a documentary on the Flint disaster. In fact all simple Victimographies are a bit too simple. The big problem is that Flint is broke. Throw in some incompetent bureaucrats, a bit of lousy luck, some unforeseen delays, and … a lot of poor people got poisoned. Apparently it’s happening all over the country, actually, it just doesn’t usually make the news.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Winston Smith

      “It may be true that blacks on average have lower IQs than whites. I honestly do not know. For the sake of argument, let’s say it is. What’s the benefit of dissemination [of] that information?

      Who would benefit from keeping it secret?

      • Defenstrator says

        Anyone who doesn’t want racists to have a ready means to dismiss an entire group of people as inherently inferior. I thought that fear was obvious and why these subjects are never talked about.

    • Winston smith, what’s interesting about your argument is that, while Flint’s awful lead levels have been widely reported, Trenton’s has not. Trenton actually has *higher* levels of lead than Flint. But no one picks up on it. Why not? Because Trenton is almost entirely African American and is run by African Americans. So it doesn’t fit the narrative of black victimhood by whites. Your question – would this happen in any white place? – is wrong on two levels. First, it *does* happen in white areas. Poor ones. There are multiple areas in the country where the water is poisoned and undrinkable. You don’t know about it because the media just doesn’t hammer it out since – again – it doesn’t fit the Victimhood narrative that Whites cause suffering in Blacks. And that brings me to my second point. Trenton is ignored (other than locally) because the narrative would have to include self-victimization. This again is not the narrative.

      What’s wrong with the Victimhood narrative is not merely its fallacy but its harm of enabling helplessness amongst blacks . The narrative states that blacks are perpetual helpless victims of whites; any data to the contrary is literally ignored; data which seems to prove villainousness is underscored even if the situation is more complex—all so that blacks see themselves as incapable of self-empowerment, so they must rely on the government – specifically mostly white, very wealthy, gated Democrats who would literally never set foot in their city or home – to rescue them. The reason Jews and Asians are successful, IQs aside, is precisely because they do *not* lean on government and instead rely on their families and communities. Blacks do this too but when they do, the media ignores it. It’s in their interest to have a permanent victim class in a state of permanent fear. This buys votes and clicks.

  22. quidnunc says

    This is setting up a selective, caricatured opposition. The mantra in comparative politics is “interests, identities, institutions”, applied to all actors. Now consider the strategic rhetoric and self protective reasoning that other groups engage in.

    • quidnunc says

      was responding to “jakesbrain”. For whatever reason it didn’t show up below the parent

  23. A fine article. Alas, sound analyses of this sort will have no effect on the Left’s use of “racism”, systemic or otherwise, as a cudgel with which to beat opponents.

    The word “racist” as used by the Left has ceased to be English and become what I call “real-world Newspeak”, part of a language which destroys the meanings of words in the service of a political cause, not as Orwell predicted by rationally narrowing their meaning until only meanings approved by the Party can be expressed, but by attaching a myriad of meanings to words on the basis of emotive content. In the lexicon of the Left, “racist” can mean the dictionary definition adopted in this article, or a person who opposes any policy the Left fancies benefits racial or ethnic minorities. It can mean someone who truthfully reports aspects of Islamic doctrine or jurisprudence which sound unflattering or harsh to the ears of Western leftists, or it can mean simply a white person — the notion “all whites are racists” has been a staple in the feverswamps of academe since at least the mid-1980’s. The word can shift between these meanings between the time it is uttered or written and the time it is discussed after the fact, if doing so serves the interests of the Left, but it always carries with it the connotation of the moral indignation that is generally felt against persons whose views make them fit the standard English definition. Thus in Newspeak this entire article was “racist” because it critiqued the policy of seeking out and suppressing “systemic racism”, which the left fancies will benefit racial and ethnic minorities.

    (Another example of real-world Newspeak is “health care”, which can mean the services provided by physicians and allied health professionals, health insurance, or government specified and mandated health insurance, again shifting meaning as needed to serve the Left, and always carring the positive connotation of the first meaning. Thus any change to Obamacare is called “taking away people’s health care”, which is supposed to create the same indignation that blocking people from going to their doctor would produce, even if the change might arguable make doing that easier.)

  24. Bill Conlon says

    Will this gentleman keep his job after this piece I wonder.

    • William Drayton says

      To Bill Conlon: please take note that the author’s byline contains the word “Emeritus”.

      I seriously doubt an active professor at Duke or any other prestigious University would have the audacity to raise this topic.

  25. Daniel says

    In his book, Roll, Jordan, Roll, Eugene Genovese identifies two factors that allowed antebellum slavery to thrive. The first is racism, which should be no surprise to anyone. The second was its fraternal twin, paternalism. Any attempted appeal to morality, any real movement for reform, was answered with paternalism. The pro-slavery pundits sometimes acknowledged that slavery wasn’t a perfect institution, but when it worked, it was a force for good for the poor, incapable Negros. After all, they could never stand on their own two feet.

    I see the level of racism in America steadily decreasing. Not so with paternalism. I see the ugly shadow of the pro-slavery mindset behind the social programs that have devastated the Black family. Bush is credited with the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations”, but that phrase itself isn’t strong enough. Paternalism is just as much a tool of evil as racism.

  26. Wil E Coyote says

    When Portuguese explorers and traders began working their way around Africa in the mid 1400’s, after they got south of Arabic Morocco, they found a Negroid people who had no stone buildings, no written language, no wheeled vehicles. The Aztecs did not have the wheel but they had stone cities bigger than those in Europe,a 365 day calendar more accurate than the European one and a written language.

    Before Julius Caesar invader Celtic Britain, the natives were wearing animal skins and painting their faces blue while the Chinese of the same time period were wearing silk and making exquisite objects from bronze and ceramics.

    This is an IQ test by observation, who independently developed a more advance civilization? The recent history of the City of Detroit does not give encouragement about the future and who is the smarter race.

    • I’m again and again stupefied by commenters here, thinking that building in stone, clothing in silk, carrying things on carts and other technology, in short, civilisation, has anything to do with IQ. I would say, if you really are smart and intelligent, a philosopher, going for abstract thought, you won’t even be interested in such practical things. Please, read Rousseau about it. Why, do you think, is the US the superpower right now, and the example for all other nations (in the practical, technological way, I mean of course), and not Afghanistan , Beluchistan or Tadshikistan? Is there any person with any IQ level really thinking that it is because of IQ levels?

  27. TheSnark says

    The article is overly academic and misses the real problem, but several commentators have identified it. The problem is not individual or racial, it is cultural.

    Jew and Chinese do well because their culture values families and education; Chinese moms are notorious for sitting their kids around the table and doing all their homework with them. And it works. In the US Chinese and Jews were discriminated against for a long time, but are now doing better than most European whites.

    But the black culture in this country does not value families or education. I read once that the black ghetto culture came from the ex-slaves taking the worst aspects of their African background (such as the lack of interest in education) and mixing it with the worst aspects of their slave-owner class (such as their macho, never-take-an-insult dueling culture). The results are what we see today.

    The American blacks that have escaped that culture have generally done well, just like the Chinese and Jews did. Far too many have not been able to escape the ghetto mentality.

    Cultures can change, and in the American ghetto culture must change must change. But that requires leadership, and the black leadership has failed its community in a spectacular fashion. Instead of focusing on the families and education, it aims at securing more handouts. Instead of being indignant that 20 or 30 young black men are killed by other young black men, it is indignant about the one young black man killed by the police. Instead of trying to fix the toxic ghetto culture, they reinforce it.

  28. ABMale says

    *Facepalm* Why do we look at statistics and suddenly imply causation but not simple representation? Also, why do we always assume movement towards success as default, not remaining in poverty considering historically that has always been the case? What kind of power and resources do we possess that we believe a goverment of some kind can lead all of us to prosperity? I am from an african country, their is a clear and stark differences between tribal groups where their was never a subordination of one group by the other. These are very complicated circumstances where their is no correct answers but their are many confirmed and proved wrong answers. Challenges are something inherent in life, not some sort of bias or whatever nonsense we ascribe to certain race, gender or sexual orientation. We can see disparities because certain traits must be correlated with others but not neccessary causal or deterministic.

    • Whereever groups or tribes live together, AB, there is subordination and animosity, especially where one group is doing better than the other, just look only at Rwanda. However, equality in chances and wellbeing is now mostly in the heads of all individuals (only shortly, because even slavery , until say 100 yrs,was not felt as something needing change and adaptation in many African nations), many frictions and even civil wars are the logical result.

  29. thefrankest says

    As a cultural anthropoligist I often wonder why the problem is not conceptualized in terms of culture conflict. Perhaps because cultural anthropologists stopped trying to understand culture and intercultural dynamics and instead embraced the post-modernist calling of “story telling”. I hope my undying disgust with the post-modernist takeover of cultural anthropology is obvious or as I should state “reflexively”– I just hate them all passionately and what they did to end the “science” of culture. That said, I don’t need to resort to immutable differences in populations like IQ score to understand the dynamics going on here. African Americans who talk white, act white, think white and become for all intent and purposes “culturally” white can gain acceptance in the dominant culture and prosper by it. I am not saying that racial bias is inoperant or not still a problem for these once called by their peers “Oreo-cookies” (black on the outside and white on the inside). However, those who resist joining the dominant culture and persist in maintaining their separate cultural identity will suffer for that resistance. I am not saying they do not have the right to object to joining the dominant culture that once enslaved them and has historically violated their civil rights and attacked their cultural identity. What I am saying is that the dynamic of cultural dominance and cultural resistance seems not to be part of the discussion. I would also just throw out there that from a theoretical perspective the most resistant to joining the dominant culture are going to be the very poorest and disadvantaged in the group. To the best of my knowledge these ideas are not novel or original and should be seem as rather obvious.

    • codadmin says

      They want to act completely different, but be treated exactly the same.

    • TheSnark says

      @thefrankest: I must add a wrinkle to your observations. The wrinkle is that the “dominant culture” is often dominant for a reason; it has certain cultural values that prepare its members for success in the technical/economic reality it lives in.

      For example, a culture that encourages its kids to get a good education will do well in a modern post-industrial society. But a culture that puts little value on education, while it might work fine in a pre-industrial agricultural society, will do a poor job preparing its members for today’s world.

      The difficulty is that a culture will also have characteristics that make little or no difference in success per se (such as speech patterns) but are associated with that culture. As a result, someone talking “White” comes across as more educated that someone talking “Black”, whatever their actual levels of education. That is hardly fair, but it is reality.

      That leaves blacks in the US with two choices: either “act white” and adopt the white culture, or change the black culture to include the values, such as education, that will make it economically successful. But be aware that the second option will require 2 or 3 generations; witness how long it took the Jews to move from impoverished immigrants to over-achievers, while maintaining much of their old culture.

    • thefrankest writes:

      “I would also just throw out there that from a theoretical perspective the most resistant to joining the dominant culture are going to be the very poorest and disadvantaged in the group.”

      Not sure what evidence there is for that contention. Behind every political movement is usually at least one high-IQ middle class person pushing the intellectual formation. The Black American Middle Class is more radical and politicized than the working classes and the underclass, and that probably has everything to do with jobs in the government and the nonprofit sector which depend on maintaining a social narrative of racial difference and racial oppression.

      My experience with the “very poorest and disadvantaged” is that they lack the mental resources to conceptualize themselves within some kind of political or historical narrative, and are beset with problems related to low impulse control, interpersonal violence and substance abuse. This does put them outside of bourgeois society and norms, but it is a mistake to interpret behavioral limitations as some kind of articulate identity. [Are “white trash” folks consciously rejecting the norms of “white society” or are they simply incapable of rising to those norms?] Of course, if they are ethnic minorities, they learn pretty quickly how to pull the race card, but it is purely strategic and instrumental, its no more a political act than shoplifting beer represents a rejection of private property.

      • Not sure you should be racializing behavior patterns. Given that East Asians as a group tend to be better scholars, and commit less crimes then Europeans, why don’t we say whites are acting “Asian” if they do well in school and don’t lose their virginity by 12? To put it differently, where does West Virginia end, and “authentic” Black culture begin? Can you really reify a dysfunctional community on the basis of their race and attribute it to racially-held norms, or are you just dealing with different dysfunctional communities?

        • thefrankest says

          African Americans disparage others who act whte by calling them Oreo cookies, or at least they used to. Similarly Native Americans disparaged others who they see as selling out to white culture as Apples- Native American in looks but white sell outs. The point is, this is evidence of resistance to joining the dominant culture– which I argue is a neglected part of the dialogue on race relations in these current times. Honestly I am not sure what your point is but I suspect you did have one.

  30. Anon55344 says

    ” Bigots stigmatized the entire “black race” as inferior because of lower average scores on, for example, IQ tests….His crime was to take too seriously the fact that blacks and whites as groups differ in terms of IQ . ”

    I think there is a big difference between having a low IQ test score, and having a low IQ.

  31. I think you are very right there, nr55344, I know of the IQ tests as concocyed in the NL, that quite some questions have been adapted ,direction language intelligence, so that also women would score higher on the test. Why not do the same thing by adapting the test for blacks? Questions on social intelligence, less abstract questions, or whatever, so that both groups score about even (as is happening now by making sure the sex gap in the scoring disappears, and everybody can be happy and satisfied again?)

  32. Anon55344 says

    The author assumes a high score on an IQ test is desirable. However, given the obesity epidemic in the USA maybe high schools should require students to shoot a 3 pointer before graduating, instead of learning algebra.

  33. tommy mc donnell says

    there is nothing reverse about the racism you are talking about. the democrat party has been practicing racism against american citizens to achieve political power for over 150 years. for the first hundred years their racism was practiced against black people. segregation, jim crow, the solid south was how the democrat party achieved political power before the passage of the civil rights act of 1965. since the passage of the civil rights the democrat party has achieved political power by racially oppressing white people thru affirmative laws. if you have a 14th amendment that requires the laws to apply equally to all people, how can your simultaneously have a law that prohibits racial discrimination, the civil rights act, at the same time you have a laws that require you to discriminate against white people. this has occurred because white are too afraid to stand up for their rights against the democrat party like black people did

  34. Matthew Pemble says

    “A sociology review paper begins with this: “An example of an emergent property is wetness. Neither hydrogen nor oxygen alone has or can produce wetness; wetness occurs only in a chemical system that includes both hydrogen and oxygen in the correct proportions.”

    This, of course, is simply not true. For a start, there are a number liquids that wet you, many better than water. Alcohol (carbon, hydrogen and oxygen), as an example (as well as its other uses!) But having the right amounts of hydrogen and oxygen (by mass? by volume?) is not useful, unless they are combined to form water. And, even then, you can still have incorrect amounts of either element – oxygen is soluble in water to a degree or you could add weak organic acids to bias the proportion of hydrogen up.

    In fact, it is such a poor analogy, unsurprising from a sociologist, that it probably qualifies for the derisive physics appellation of “not even wrong”.

    • Asenath Waite says

      @Mattew Pemble

      All the quote says is the two elements can’t produce wetness alone. How can hydrogen or oxygen alone produce wetness? I guess if they were cooled to extremely low temperatures so that they liquify, but I imagine the quote is assuming normal Earth conditions. Also, I think the statement that “wetness only occurs” is referring to the wetness of water specifically, and is not discounting the fact that other substances can be wet (plus, as you note, alcohol contains hydrogen and oxygen, too. The quote doesn’t say there can’t be other elements involved). Anyway, this seems like pointless nitpicking, in addition to being invalid.

  35. ccscientist says

    Thomas Sowell documents that before the Great Society welfare state, blacks had high rates of marriage (same as whites), low unemployment and low incarceration. What changed was incentives caused by welfare that broke up families (if a man in the house, no AFDC benefits). Broken families increase criminality of boys especially and reduce incentives for men to behave or have a job. So this is causal but is due to society trying to “help”. You also get high criminality in multi-generation white welfare families in the US and UK, so not just racism.

    As to “african names”, I have seen a report that more african names are chosen by parents who subscribe more to separatist (black pride) philosophies–such a cultural difference could mean that people with such names have an attitude that makes them poor employees. This would then be a rational reaction of HR departments.

    The cycle of crime is also detrimental. After spending time in jail, many jobs are off-limits, as are loans and even school. Boom boom.

  36. ccscientist says

    It has been noted that originally the Irish (among others) were stigmatized and unwanted immigrants. They were stereotyped as ignorant, lazy drunks. In NYC they were not even allowed in schools so the Catholic Church set up their parochial school system in response. It took over 70 years for them to overcome this and blend in, with some prejudice still existing (see the memes about redheads having no soul and the drunk Paddy on st patricks day). Why should blacks be able to overcome their disadvantages faster than the Irish? And do keep in mind that the black middle class has been constantly growing.

  37. It may be interesting to mention that two quintessentially American musical forms – Jazz and Hip-Hop – were the product of oppressed black community and the Ghetto culture. Wondering how they managed to do that after being handicapped genetically in the IQ department.

    • And in the 1920’s when Jazz was developing, the Illinois Supreme Court, in their genetically superior IQ-induced wisdom, upheld a ruling shutting down a dance hall that featured jazz music. The court stated that the music “is not only disagreeable but it also wears upon the nervous system and produces that feeling which we call “tired.” That the subjection of a human being to a continued hearing of loud noises tends to shorten life . . . is beyond all doubt.”

  38. Dlish says

    An interesting article to say the least, merging social science epistemology with what could almost be considered an apologist piece instead of the laying out of a philosophical debate. While the idea of allowing social scientists full range to conduct “pure” experiments (aka RCTs) on everything under the ethical or unethical sun seems the only way to understand truth or reliable evidence; I think the scientific community should not ignore the power of quasi-experimental methods and the culmination of population statistics.

    When considering IQ tests and measurements of any kind, it should be considered that many tests were created from a specific perspective often times, white, male, and educated. Given this fact it should be no surprise that indeed we see differences on tests of IQ between people who do not fall into the previous grouping. Some circles would even say that IQ tests (i.e., SAT, GRE) skew in the benefit of white culture, and indeed evidence does exist to support this point. On top of that fact, measures of IQ do not fully measure the human potential for intelligence (e.g., emotional intelligence or kinetic intelligence), so first clearly laying out a definition of IQ and intelligence to be considered would have been appreciated along side the definition of systemic racism.

    On the defining of systemic racism and historical trauma, I believe the author did not fully address true examples of what would be considered systemic racism that are commonly touted as root causes to current economic and educational disparity between the races today:

    1. Legal redlining that occurred after WWII that blocked many black families from moving into middle class (aka primarily white) neighborhoods. This practice was finally made illegal in 1966, but not after blocking many would-be black families from gaining a good cost property (i.e., a house) which is a common stepping stone for increased financial mobility. Here the system in question being housing which is tied to ones ability for generational upward mobility, safety, security, and a host of positive psychological benefits.

    2. The war on drugs which continues to this day in much the same forms where black communities and neighborhoods are over-policed for the same crimes that happen in primarily white neighborhoods. See issues around differential punishments and mandatory minimum sentences for crack vs cocaine, which is chemically the same drug, whereas black culture used/ sold more crack and white culture used/ sold more cocaine. See also the many issues that came out of the NYC practice of stop-and-frisk which disproportionately affected people of color. When looking at crime statistics and who is more or less likely to commit a crime, it’s very important to first look at where the resources are spent because crimes are primarily recorded as arrests, which require police presence and a crime being committed. See also legal research, while few and far between, that looks at the trends in sentencing for black and white defendants, where stricter sentences are more often given to black defendants than white, regardless of similar criminal records. Here the criminal system is called into question for breaking up the family unit, removing opportunity for a quality education (or access to FAFSA), in some cases restricting the right to vote, and making it difficult to participate in the main stream economy because who wants to hire a felon?

    The point I’d like to make is that when people use the term systemic or institutional racism we shouldn’t play a semantic game of whether laws and systems are intentionally or unintentionally being created to oppress a person based on their skin, sex, or culture. We should consider the story of a person’s live and the opportunities, or lack thereof, they had for success because it is correct to say that every child can learn the language of their parents, but they never learn to speak if they don’t have the opportunity to hear or learn language.

    I’d also like to suggest that IQ is more closely tied to your parents education and SES, than their race or ethnicity, and that maybe, just maybe, too much focus is on determining if a phenomenon is attributable to one thing or another, while ignoring the phenomenon that is driving the country apart.

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