- Historic Sites
The End Of Racism?
February/March 1996 | Volume 47, Issue 1
I would reconcile those two points by saying that the danger as I see it is that the older generation is poisoning the younger generation. You have an older generation, characterized by people like the liberal intellectuals Andrew Hacker and Derrick Bell, who are still mired in old battles. So, for example, if I said that private discrimination should be legal, they would regard me as indistinguishable from Bull Connor. They would argue that I want the old regime back. But it’s precisely because I realize that the old regime is dead that I can make this kind of bold proposal. I would never make it in 1940. I’m making it today because I realize that the world has changed.
If there is a racial crisis now, how would you define it precisely? What does it consist of?
It essentially consists of three things. The racial crisis arises out of the fallacy of the civil rights movement, which assumed that because all groups are basically equal in ability, equality of rights for individuals should produce equality of results for groups. The problem is this: If you administer a test, virtually any test, in virtually any subject, to a randomly selected group of blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, in any part of the country, at virtually any age, you seem to get the same result. Asians and whites at the top, Hispanics in the middle, blacks at the bottom. This is confirmed by countless measures of academic and economic performance—by everything from the test given to seven-year-olds to the Scholastic Assessment Test and the firefighter’s test and the police test. It’s conceivable that one or another of those tests might be flawed or biased, but it seems unbelievable that every one of them could be.
What accounts for the gap then?
What accounts for the gap is that groups do not bring the same set of cultural orientations and skills to the race. Specifically, American blacks have developed a culture that was long adaptive to historical circumstances, including historical oppression, but that is in concrete ways dysfunctional today.
You say there are three possible causes for the blackwhite gap: biological, cultural, and discrimination, or racism. I just want to walk through those one by one. Do you believe there are any biologically derived differences between the races?
There certainly are physical differences between the races. Whether there are intellectual differences between the races, I don’t know. I suspect that there are not. I think that the main reason for black failure in America today is not genes, and is not discrimination, but is rather cultural dysfunctionalities in the black community.
Let’s say Charles Murray comes up to you and says, “How can you dispute what I say in The Bell Curve ? I’m right.” What’s your comeback to him?
My comeback would be on several fronts. One would be that there have been studies of groups that are comparable in IQ at an early age but then in later years have substantial differences in their test scores. One reason for this is that some groups study harder than others. A lot of Asian and white kids test the same at a young age, but then Asians do better in school later. I think this is because of tighter family structures, doing more homework, attaching a greater importance to getting into Berkeley, things like that—cultural factors. Second, the real problem faced by blacks today is not that there are not enough black computer scientists or astrophysicists. It’s that there has been a civilizational breakdown in the black community, characterized by high rates of crime, extremely high rates of illegitimacy, and the breakdown of community. That is a recent phenomenon. It’s a product of the last generation. It’s manifestly not the product of genes, or racism, because the gene pool has remained roughly constant, and racism used to be far worse.
Another place where I detect you being on both sides at once is on the question of whether The Bell Curve is a threat. You say at one point that Charles Murray is waiting in the wings. But also you seem very angry at people who have attacked The Bell Curve . Is the book a useful addition to the debate or not?
I have a weird reaction to The Bell Curve . I hate The Bell Curve ’s conclusions. They offend me morally. And yet it’s a serious book with a lot of evidence. The arguments against it have been for the most part weak. They have been straw-man arguments. It’s a serious book, and it’s a dangerous book because it challenges the notion that we can live in a pluralistic and inclusive society rather than a racial-caste society. I don’t want to live in a racial-caste society, so I would like to prove The Bell Curve false. I can’t do it. I think the strongest argument for The Bell Curve , and it has remained essentially unanswered, is this: The black-white IQ gap of fifteen points has remained roughly constant for almost a century.