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.

Cliven Bundy

I haven’t written anything about the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his standoff with federal agents because I really don’t know much about the situation and have not been interested enough to do the necessary research to learn more. As far as I can tell, both sides are at least partly in the wrong. Mr. Bundy has been grazing his cattle on federally owned land but has refused to pay the required fees since 1993, when the rules for grazing on public land were changed. It may well be that the rules were changed in such a way as to make grazing on public lands unprofitable, but Bundy simply does not have the legal option to refuse to pay the fees any more than I can legally refuse to pay taxes even if I disapprove of how the government is spending the money. Mr. Bundy also cannot simply refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government. It is their land that is in question and rightly or wrongly, they set the rules. Bundy has taken the matter to court and has lost, twice. He cannot simply ignore the rulings of a court just because they are not in his favor. The political system that Cliven Bundy and supporters appear to advocate is not libertarianism, ordered liberty under the rule of law, but anarchism where everyone can live under their own rules.

Having said all of that, I do not believe that the actions of the federal government come out all that well in this matter. I have to wonder why they decided to act right now after ignoring the problem for twenty years. I also have to wonder why they had to act in such an aggressive matter. Didn’t anyone consider that sending in armed agents to seize the man’s cattle could not possibly go well? There is simply no way this wasn’t going to look like jack booted thugs stealing a man’s property. Were they trying to provoke a confrontation?

Statements by Senator Harry Reid suggest that someone wanted a fight.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says “something is going to happen” to get Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to stop letting his cattle graze on federal land.

“It’s obvious that you can’t just walk away from this. And we can speculate all we want to speculate to what’s going to happen next,” Reid told KSNV-TV. “But I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen. We are a nation of laws, not of men and women.”

Reid called militias staying at Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch “domestic violent terrorist-wannabes.”

Is Harry Reid a ranking member of a distinguished legislative body of the greatest nation on Earth or a Mafia enforcer? Why does he feel the need to butt into an already tense situation with threatening and inflammatory comments? I would think that Senator Reid is the last person to start talking about the rule of law. I think it would be best if all the political figures in Nevada and elsewhere, whatever their sympathies might be, kept their mouths shut and let this situation be resolved without bloodshed.

Now it appears that Cliven Bundy has contracted a nasty case of foot in mouth disease from his cattle.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Naturally the progressives are filled with glee over this heaven sent opportunity to muddy the waters. Now the debate won’t be over the proper role of the federal government in managing its extensive properties out west but over the racism of Cliven Bundy. There is the usual double standard here. Conservatives are expected to immediately denounce and disassociate themselves from Mr. Bundy. Somehow, Democrats are never required to denounce any fellow progressive no matter how hate filled and obnoxious their comments might be. You can be a notorious race baiter or even an Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan but if you have the right party affiliation, all is forgiven.

The relevant question that really needs to be asked about Mr. Bundy’s comments is not whether they are racist or offensive but whether they are true. Calling these comments racist is simply a matter of evading the question of whether or not he actually has a point. Bundy’s comments are certainly not cowardly and I can only wonder that Attorney General Eric Holder is not flying out to Nevada this minute to have that long awaited discussion on race.

I think I know what Cliven Bundy was trying to say, though he picked the worst possible way to say it. I would not go so far as to say that African-Americans were better off as slaves, freedom is obviously preferable to slavery, but I have wondered whether the Civil Rights Movement has really been an unmixed blessing for the Black community. Gaining legal and political equality with Whites is a great gain and many Blacks have benefited from the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans have infinitely more opportunities to get ahead than before and can be found at the highest levels of our society, even the presidency. Yet, in all too many cases, the African-American community seems to have lost something, a certain knack for overcoming obstacles or prevailing despite facing the discrimination of  the past. Perhaps too many Blacks have come to believe the progressives when they say that they cannot succeed in a racist America without being dependent on the government. I wonder if they haven’t internalized this message and simply given up.

Maybe instead of automatically condemning Bundy’s comments as racist, we should use them as a starting point for a discussion on how to improve the prospects of those African-Americans who have somehow been left behind by the great progress we have made over the past decades. Of course, this is the discussion Eric Holder, Barack Obama, and other progressives don’t want to have. We can’t have the Darkies thinking for themselves and wandering off the plantation.

Well, for a subject I don’t know  much about, I sure have written a lot about it. Perhaps too much.

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Martin Luther King Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day dedicated to the man I believe is the most overrated individual in American History. I don’t wish to criticize King in this post, though he did have some failings, as do we all, nor do I wish to diminish King’s real contributions. I do want to point out that while Martin Luther King‘s birthday has become a national holiday, Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays have become conflated into President’s Day. Whatever King’s accomplishments, I cannot believe he was more important than Washington or Lincoln. I would also like to point out that there were a great many people involved in the Civil Rights movement, both Black and White and I think that too much emphasis on King often devalues their contributions.


English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...
He was a great orator though.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Polski: Thurgood Marshall
Polski: Thurgood Marshall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


One person, in particular, who deserves far more attention than he has gotten would be Thurgood Marshall. He is best known today as being the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, but he had a long and distinguished career as a lawyer and civil rights advocate. Marshall was the chief counsel for the NAACP and won a number of civil rights cases, most notably Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education. President Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1967 where he served until his retirement in 1991.


In her book Demonic, Ann Coulter argued that Marshall played a far more effective role than King in securing civil rights for Blacks and she dismisses King as being a rabble-rouser and a leader of mobs. I wouldn’t go as far as Coulter and it should be kept in mind that she often makes controversial statements just for the sake of stirring people up. Still, I think that she is largely correct in her assertion. Thurgood Marshall worked within the system by taking segregation to court and showing its basic incompatibility with American legal and moral traditions. Martin Luther King did much the same with his speeches and protests except that to some extent he was outside the system. I think that in the end Marshall’s methods provided for more lasting change.




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