I was minding my own business on Twitter yesterday when I saw a tweet from one of my favorite political writers and fellow Wahoo Alumni Jamelle Bouie. Apparently, Andrew Sullivan, conservative blogger over at The Dish, had again dipped his toes into the fetid pool that is the “Race and Intelligence” debate thinking full well that pretty words and subtle comments would cover his tracks.
Sullivan waxes poetic about the fact that Black folks just might be naturally stupid and there’s nothing we can really do about it. We: meaning supposedly thoughtful white political observers who ‘wrestle’ with this notion that maybe the Bell Curve was right and if so African Americans (and of course Latinos, too) are just never going to be able to collectively fit into the beautiful open ended society we all call America.
I have no desire to re-live the 1990’s (my occasional marathons on Centric notwithstanding) so I’m not going to do a piece by piece break-down of why the Bell Curve was garbage, and why silver tongued racists like Sullivan are always keen to use pop science to justify what they already believe. Many people much more versed in biology and psychology than myself have done that over the last 15 years. I won’t even engage in a discussion of the grotesque hypocrisy of a man with Sullivan’s demographic profile (Openly Gay, HIV positive) being an advocate for pop eugenics. I will simply share a holiday story.
Point of full disclosure: Sometimes I’m a very petty uncle. I played Connect Four with my favorite niece Antonia every year on Thanksgiving from when she was the tender age of 4 to the ripe old age of 8. I’m not the kind of guy who believes in sheltering kids so I had no ethical qualms about the fact that I beat her, every game, every time for four straight years. She would complain and stamp her feet but kept trying to beat me, but she never had a chance. I had a fool-proof strategy for Connect Four and she could never figure it out. No matter how many times she pointed out that she could beat me in Hungry Hungry Hippos or Chutes and Ladders I insisted that Connect Four was the only game that counted since that was the one I always won at (I know, shameful).
Then one Thanksgiving a couple of years ago she finally beat me, and she savored that victory in the way that only 8 years olds can. Meaning, running around the house, doing off rhythm victory dances in my face and showing off the winning game board to every other family member. Needless to say we haven’t played Connect Four since. Because as the petty uncle who hates to lose I decided to change the game up the moment I wasn’t guaranteed to win.
Now, you can change my name to The MAN, or Mr. Charlie or whatever you’d like but let’s be honest: The larger European and American scientific community is NEVER going to develop an intelligence test where they don’t come out on top.
Even when Asians test higher on IQ there’s always some cultural argument thrown into the analysis to make sure that Whites stay on top of the pecking order (i.e., They’re smart all right but they’re just not as creative as white people!). Why do you think there is never any major American coverage of intelligence tests developed by the African or Asian scientific communities? Because everyone’s work proves that their people are the smartest. In fact, even when Roland Fryer, a brilliant academic at Harvard showed what a farce IQ tests are, his work was largely ignored. Less than 4 years ago Dr. Fryer’s research showed that IQ levels, which are supposed to be immutable, are equal for African American and White children but differences only show up on tests once they’ve been in public schools for 2 years proving that the impact of racism and schooling is muting IQ scores more than actually assessing them.
Of course, his research was largely ignored by the press and pundit mags because it didn’t support the sexy self-aggrandizing narrative that people like Andrew Sullivan live by: Whites are smarter than Blacks, but it is their extreme benevolence that leads them to allow us to play house in the societies ‘they’ve’ created.
I’m glad Sullivan feels that way and makes that point so clearly in his work, at least he’s honest about it. However, I offer him a simple challenge. Next time he feels saddled down with the weight of carrying all of us slow witted Nlacks and Latinos around I invite him to come over to my family’s house for Thanksgiving. I’ll encourage him to play my niece in a friendly game of Connect Four. Seems she’s become quite the expert and hasn’t lost a game in years. Even though she’s guaranteed to win, I’m pretty sure she’ll let him stay around for a few matches.