Racism and Intelligence

I wish that I could say that I was much surprised  by this article in the Christian Science Monitor titled The Surprising Relationship between Intelligence and Racism, but while the results of the survey mentioned were somewhat interesting, the conclusions drawn by the the author are entirely predictable. Smart people do not seem to be as overtly racist as less intelligent people, because they are better at hiding their racism.

Are smart people less racist than their less-intelligent peers?

That was the question asked in a new study that examined the relationship between verbal intelligence and attitudes on race and racial policies.

The findings may surprise some: While people who score higher on intelligence tests are less likely to hold racist stereotypes (such as imagining that people of another race are lazy or unintelligent), they’re no more likely to support government policies that aim to reduce racial inequality. For example, while 95 percent of study participants who scored higher on the intelligence test said that black and white children should attend the same schools, only 22 percent support school-busing programs.

By highlighting the disconnect between Americans’ attitudes on race and their support for policies that remediate inequality, the study, published in the Oxford University Press, may reveal how deeply entrenched certain forms of racism actually are in society.

For Lori Brown, professor of sociology at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., the findings aren’t surprising because race is a complex issue that involves more than intellect.

“Prejudice involves what we believe to be true, affective feelings [like] likes and dislikes,” and instinctive needs, whereby “some people ‘need’ to be prejudiced [because] they feel so bad about themselves it makes them feel better to hate others,” Prof. Brown explains. “So, better educated or ‘smart’ people may know facts but may still not like people who are different.”

For the study, Geoffrey Wodtke, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, examined three decades of data from the General Social Survey, which has periodically measured Americans’ attitudes on a wide range of topics since 1972. The survey includes a short vocabulary test, considered to be a good indicator of verbal intelligence. Prof. Wodtke isolated the results of some 45,000 Caucasians and compared their verbal intelligence with their attitudes on race.

He found that the group that scored higher on the test were less likely to hold racist beliefs than their lower-performing counterparts. For example, among those who did well on the verbal test, 29 percent said blacks were lazy and 13 percent said they were unintelligent. By contrast, among those who performed poorly on the intelligence test, 46 percent described blacks as lazy and 23 described them as unintelligent.

 

The conclusion that Wodtke draws is that both the high and low scorers on the tests may have racist attitudes, but the high scorers “are simply more sophisticated racists.”

Why are whites judged to be more intelligent than their peers – who research has shown, are more likely to support liberal politics and policies – no more likely to support policies designed to improve racial equality?

Racism is defined as:

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usu. involving the idea that one’s own race is superior.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based on such a doctrine.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
In other words, racism is the belief that race matters most in human affairs and that what you are, in terms of race, is more important that who you are as an individual. A person who believes that Blacks are inherently inferior in intelligence than Whites is a racist. A person who believes that Blacks should be held in an inferior place in society is a racist. However, a person who is opposed to “policies designed to improve racial equality” is not a racist just because they oppose such policies. One may agree with the idea that racism is a bad thing, but believe that policies designed to improve racial equality are not an effective means of reducing racism, and by promoting division and race consciousness, may actually make the problem worse. In any case, if the goal is to create a color blind society in which race doesn’t matter, making race matter more is a strange way to go about it
You see the rhetorical trick that is being played here. The writers are defining racism not only as an overt belief that a certain race is superior to another, but also as opposition to policies that they suppose fight racism. In this way, they do not have to defend the policies they seem to favor, but can simply label any opposition as based on racism.
The article concludes:

The findings reveal how entrenched some forms of racism and white privilege are in society, says Wodtke.

“More intelligent members of the dominant group are just better at legitimizing and protecting their privileged position than less intelligent members. In modern America, where blacks are mobilized to challenge racial inequality, this means that intelligent whites say – and may in fact truly believe – all the right things about racial equality in principle, but they just don’t actually do anything that would eliminate the privileges to which they have become accustomed,” he said in a statement.

“In many cases, they have become so accustomed to these privileges that they become ‘invisible,’ and any effort to point these privileges out or to eliminate them strikes intelligent whites as a grave injustice.”

People on the left are emotionally invested int he idea that America is an irredeemably racist country, as if they are caught in some time warp in which George Wallace is forever standing on the courthouse steps shouting, “Segregation forever!!!”. We have made considerable progress in race relations since those days. Racism of the old kind is all but extinct in our public discourse. Certainly there are prejudiced people still around, and many Blacks do not have all the opportunities they should, but the fact that we have to search for invisible White privilege says something about the vast changes in society over the last few decades. In the good old days, the privileges that Whites held over Blacks was obvious to everyone, and few believe that it should be otherwise. Liberals are always talking about having a great discussion on race, by which they mean they get to hector the rest of us and call us racists, but I think that the best thing we could do for race relations would be to stop talking about race and just try to be good to one another.  At least we should stop wasting time and money on worthless studies like this one.

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