Monday, November 19, 2018

A Brief Discussion of the Ibo

The Ibo, or Igbo , are one of the Big Three major tribes in Nigeria, the other two being the Yoruba and Hausa. Small tribes tend to associate themselves with one of the Big Three. The relationship among the three has been fractious and violent. Yet as that is the case everywhere, it does not much come into this discussion.  One of the key bits to remember is that the Ibo were from the Bight of Benin in West Africa, and were among the most common slaves brought to the New World.  Different slavers had different preferences, and the Ibo were very common in Jamaica, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago.  In America, they were brought to Virginia and Maryland.  Perhaps 30% of the slaves in those colonies were Ibo. A large percentage of Nigerian immigrants to America now are Ibo as well.
You have heard about them more than you realize. Whenever you read an article about a black hisghschooler accepted at seven Ivy League colleges, or an ultra-exclusive program for gifted students, or winning a state science fair, burrow a little into the background, and you will nearly always find that the person is Ibo.  Though Africans in general score well below world averages on IQ tests, including far below American blacks, this is not true of the Ibo. That immigrants to the UK and the US might be among the brightest from their homelands is true of many nations, so the measurements may give an inflated view, but it seems that the Ibo average is equal to or above the American general population. They are known as "The Jews of West Africa" because of their trade networks between regions and diverse peoples, and like the Jews, they are resented by groups not as adept and prosperous. They are of great interest to the HBD crowd, that much-maligned group that sees genetic underpinning for many traits.

There are articles around purporting to show that the Ibo IQ scores are evidence that genetics are not so determinate of group ability.  Most of these include an essay by Chanda Chisela and commentary on it.  Many conclude that Chisela has it exactly backwards.  Far from undermining hereditarianism, the existence of the Ibo is strong evidence for it. 

Thus when Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons were laughingly discussing the Nigerian basketball team, and the related topic of world-class athletes marrying each other and having children, they were still on safe ground.  When the topic of mating a highest-talent person with a scrappy and determined one of slightly less ability came up they both instinctively shied away, as this was no longer about purely athletic ability, but personality traits.  Danger, Will Robinson! Gladwell also told the anecdote about his childhood and his father, a mathematics professor, inviting foreign graduate students over for dinner. Having fun with this, Malcolm noted that they were all Indian and Nigerian, so he grew up thinking there must be something a bit slow about white people.  A fun tweak of Caucasians on his part and I don't fault it. But he again veered into dangerous ground.  He is not aware of it, but all those hated Charles Murrays and Greg Cochrans and James Thompsons and Nicholas Wades and Steve Sailers are looking carefully for new information about the Ibo, and not just how well their descendants play basketball. Discussion of them is already frowned upon in some academic circles, and data explained away very unconvincingly. They may soon become a name which cannot be spoken of, and people will retroactively go after Gladwell for wrongthink.  I am pleased that at present he seems ready not to care.


Texan99 said...

They say that animals with either language or manipulable appendages tend to get smart, which is why we have apes, dolphins, and octopuses. I've often wondered what socio-environmental triggers lead to unusually bright human groups. Development of trading networks seems like a good guess.

Sam L. said...

Trading takes intelligence, acceptance of cultural diversity, initiative, and persistence.