Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Racism, Charles Murray, and Free Speech

Charles Murray is best known as the co-author of a tract called "The Bell Curve." It attempted to establish that "blacks" are intellectually inferior to "whites," because of their genetic make-up. It then went on to state that being the case, society as a whole (namely "white" society) shouldn't spend any money on trying to improve the lives of "blacks" in any way.

Murray frequently gets campus speaking engagements, usually arranged by rightist organizations like the American Enterprise Institute Club. Murray was recently invited to speak at Middlebury College, a liberal arts institution set in the verdant Green Mountains of Vermont. (As a child, I spent a bit of time there, for my mother, who later became a translator of Russian music books, was studying the language there in a summer program.) There was an intense demonstration by a large number of students, and he never did get to speak. We shall get to the "free speech" issue at the end of this column, but first let's consider what Murray is about.

In my book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, currently being serialized on OpEdNews and several other webmagazines, I wrote an extensive Appendix (No. VI) about Murray and his collaborator at the time, one Richard Herrnstein. This column consists in part of an abridged version of that Appendix.

In 1994 Murray and Herrnstein published The Bell Curve (New York: The Free Press). They attempted to prove that the lower "Intelligence Quotient" levels (IQ) found by some researchers among "blacks" as compared with "whites" were produced by genetic differences between the two groups (Browne, M.W., "What Is Intelligence, and Who Has It?" [a review of The Bell Curve along with two other racist books], The New York Times Book Review, October 16, 1994, (p.3).

Then, making the leap that IQ differentials established genetic differentials between various groups of people, they went on to argue that since "blacks" were genetically inferior to "whites," it didn't make any sense for the latter to spend any money trying to bring the former up to either educational or economic speed. Acknowledging the racist content of their analysis, they called it "scientific racism," as if that somehow would clean it up.

One detail always ignored by racists, whether of the scientific or non-scientific variety, was exactly how skin color can be used to define anyone into groups. First of all, it was a given that there was a very wide range of skin color in any of the "races" as the racists defined them. Some "blacks" have lighter skin tones than some "whites." But that makes no difference to the racists' group assignments. Furthermore, in any one individual whether "white" or "black," skin tone often changes over time in response to such factors as sun exposure, weathering, or aging.

More importantly, however, is the fact that in the United States there are rarely any persons who are purely "black" in skin color, like native Africans are. Virtually all African-Americans are the product of, over the centuries, African women whose ancestors had been brought to North America as slaves, being impregnated by white men, most often involuntarily. This practice continued down through the Jim-Crow era. If African-Americans are indeed "intellectually inferior" due to their gene pool, this must mean that the countless white men who forcibly or otherwise impregnated formerly African women over the centuries were intellectually inferior too. However, this is a detail which seems to have slipped past the "intellectually superior" minds of Murray and Herrnstein as well as those of all the countless other U.S. racists down through the centuries, indeed to the present time. Indeed, as has so often been the case, such facts always fail to confuse the analysis of any dedicated racist, whether of the scientific or the non-scientific variety.

"Scientific" racism had a long history in the white Western world, linked with the names of such discredited "scientists" as Jensen and Shockley, Galton and Pearson, Osborn and Davenport. Its "scientific" base had been on more than one occasion shown to be patently false, as for example in the lengthy book by Allan Chase entitled The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism (Knopf, 1977).

Chase summarized the general theory of "scientific" racism well in the Preface to his book (p.xv): "'Scientific racism' is, essentially, the perversion of scientific and historical facts to create the myth of two distinct races of humankind. The first of these 'races' is, in all countries, a small elite whose members are healthy, wealthy (generally by inheritance), and educable. The other 'race' consists of the far larger populations of the world who are vulnerable, poor or non-wealthy, and allegedly not capable of being educated by virtue of hereditarily inferior brains. 

Click here for the full article. 


No comments: