Wednesday, April 21, 2010

IQ and Racism

The discussion came up at work again - I didn't enter it - about how there must be something wrong with IQ tests, or their interpretation, or bad schools, or whatever, because African-Americans score lower on them. Folks were also quick to say that they were only a few points lower, which would seem to make the energy they devote to declaring them unimportant a little ridiculous. If the white average were 100 and the AA average 97, who would care, really?

So they have heard that the difference is in fact much larger, but don't want to say that out loud. Or something.

More fascinating to me (I will have to pipe down and just smile during controversial discussions more often) was letting the topic go where it would and noting the implications of what people were saying. There was some talk about poor whites also scoring lower, and political stereotypes about how they vote and their attitudes, and what could be done to teach them about such things as health care so they wouldn't believe these myths.

I first noticed wryly that they were not worried about teaching the African-Americans anything, presumably because they already voted the right way. But that led to a rather alarming thought, which I have have entertained the rest of the day, wondering if I have understood rightly. They believe that smarter people have some inherent right to rule those less intelligent. If this were brought out in the open, I think most people would recognise it for the racist, classist garbage that it is and claim not to believe it.

But I think they do, and mean themselves, mostly. Yet they are worried that the wrong sort of white people are going to rule black people just like in the bad old days, so they have to maintain that at the low end of the scale, there's little difference. So that the wrong white people don't get uppity.

Here's a novel thought for their consideration: Even if it were absolutely true and worse than it appears, and some groups really are less intelligent, it would still not give other groups the right to rule them. I am more fit to rule in my persona of Assistant Village Idiot than my real-life self is. Cut-throat competition and meritocracy, even if some were sure to fail, would be less racist and less damaging to minority groups than the current method of giving a few of the favorites a place at the table and letting them speak for the others. The buried, unacknowledged idea is far more dangerous than the mere suspicion and contempt for out-groups common across human history.

Also, I want to be on record saying this as a defense against the possible race of enhanced humans we will build over the next generations. You have no right to rule us, even if you are smarter.

5 comments:

MMR said...

I think you've correctly identified the "elephant in the room". Perhaps more basic though, is the premise that "I am smarter than you" usually phrased as "We are smarter than THEM".

The implied "right" or even worst, sense of responsibility to "take care of" or "direct" or "control" is offensive and disrespectful.

Social justice groups, Aid organizations, NGOs are filled with folks who suffer from this malady.

Jonathan said...

Now you've offended our new super-human overlords!

I for one welcome our new overlords, and would like to point out that I would be very useful in overseeing my recalcitrant family members.

terri said...

Also, I want to be on record saying this as a defense against the possible race of enhanced humans we will build over the next generations. You have no right to rule us, even if you are smarter.

LOL!

Crap...now what am I going to do with all those superhuman, engineered soldiers I just ordered!?

Gringo said...

Perhaps the key here is "consent of the governed." Certainly, over the long run, the brighter people are going to have the greater chance of having their ideas followed. Consider the case of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln succeeded, not because he was brighter than most, but because he was able to persuade others to buy into his vision of the war. Or because he had the perceptiveness to tap into the visions that others had of the war, articulating the unexpressed thoughts of others.

It does seem to me that libs revert more to the idea that there is an elite that should be doing the ruling. Best and brightest, we are brighter and better educated than the wingnuts, what have you. Of course we have the best ideas for governing. I recall getting an e-mail after the 2008 election saying that the "elite cadre" would once more be in charge- which the sender considered a good thing.

It also appears to me that libs are more concerned with groups than wingnuts are. We are brighter, better educated, less bigoted than you etc. This must be VERY important for a lot of libs, as it keeps popping up.Whereas my point of view is that there is always someone more bigoted and someone less bigoted than I- on both sides of the aisle. Ditto on other attributes. Perhaps because I had to deal with being a member of a disparged, stereotyped group as an adolescent ("dumb farmer" stereotype at a regional high school), I prefer to define my identity as an individual and not as a member of a group.

That libs often appear more willing to deal with persons as members of groups instead of as individuals, compared to wingnuts, also goes against one of the lib talking points: that libs are more "nuanced" than the simplistic wingnuts.

The recent passage of the "health care deformed" bill showed that the Demos were willing to pass a bill which polls showed was not supported by a majority of the public. The best and the brightest know best for the masses, even if we haven't read the bill we voted for.

I got the impression that a lot of the Demos were offended that the public would have the effrontery to question parts of the bill. Of course it's best for you! Well no, I haven't actually read it, but I just KNOW it's best for you.

While on one level libs are unhappy with the group differences in IQ, on another level they are pleased, because it means that they need to create reams of pages of government programs to take care of the "less capable" group. I am somewhat skeptical of of IQ tests, recalling that about 100 years ago , jewish people were regarded as having "defective intelligence." I am also skeptical about IQ tests because of my time as a former teacher. My take on a lot of low performing individuals I have seen is : we have no idea how they can actually perform at school because they have never really bought into working hard at school. I have also seen occasional flashes of brilliance from some students,all the more brilliant for being so unexpected.
(That being the case, I would not encourage anyone getting 400 on the math portion of the SAT to become a scientist, mathematician, or engineer.)

Any given person can be sliced and diced as belonging to any number of groups, all of which can be given average IQ scores to compare with other groups. In the final analysis, what the Sam Hill does it matter?

Anonymous said...

There are Americans today who think that their race is superior to all others, but this is nothing when compared to the Asians who do not think any such thing —they are convinced of it. And if we cannot tear ourselves apart over the issue of race, then we can always fall back on ethnicity, religion, or gender. After awhile, people no longer know the difference between race and ethnicity —but maybe it isn’t even important. What is important is that there remain plenty of opportunities to use racial epithets and slurs and thereby prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are a nation of morons. Why should anyone work toward strengthening our nation when it is greater sport to tear it apart?

There was a time when I believed in such things as “consent of the governed.” Then I became aware that over many years, the governed have relinquished their cherished duty to smooth talking snake oil salesmen. The press is no longer the guardian of the American people, but rather it has become an advocate for socialist ideology. And all of us have become the de facto destroyers of a once great republic because we elect liars, thieves, and rapists to govern us.

It isn’t about race or IQ … it is, rather, apathy and resignation. We have adopted the mantra of Bill Murray in one of his earlier films: It just doesn’t matter.

Sam