Sunday, 3 February 2008

INTELLECTUAL RACISM

NOTE: For other posts in this series, click ONE BLOOD on posts/pages (right)

So far we have taken a brief glimpse at the problem of racism and how it manifested in discrimination against specific racial groups. But a modern form of racism was actually fuelled by the intelligentsia.

EUGENICS

In 1883 Sir Francis Dalton coined the term eugenics. Inspired by his cousin, Charles Darwin, he set about studying the physical and mental qualities of the human race, with the aim of increasing quality of life through selective breeding.
Today, this has led to genetic screening of medical conditions, but with Dalton's identification of possible evolutionary differences in racial groups, the idea of selective breeding and purification of racial groups gathered steam.
It was to lead to Nazism, but it must be remembered that at its beginning, eugenics was taken up with gusto by the liberal establishment. People such as H G Wells were adherents of the idea.

INFERIORITY?

The intellectual problem still surfaces in modern times. For instance, in the 1970s, psychologist Hans Eysenck declared that blacks and the Irish were intellectually inferior to the English.
A similar assertion was made in 1994 in the ‘Bell Curve’ by social engineers Richard Bernstein and Charles Murray, who argued, again, that blacks are intellectually inferior.
Murray claims his work is not discriminatory. Basing his argument on the lower IQ of blacks, he says they do not, as a rule, achieve in the way whites do. Hence, blacks are more likely to form part of the Underclass - a class which Murray identified some years earlier.
However, one problem with the Underclass is that they produce more children than high achievers, resulting in a lowering of achievers and increase in lower intelligence.

A PROBLEM OF IQ

I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether this is discrimination or not. However, the simple fact is that the argument, whilst correct in the fact that blacks are more likely to under-achieve in the west, highlights not an intellectual problem, but a social one.
IQ tests were devised by Alfred Binet in 1904 at the Sorbonne, Paris, to try to identify the intelligence quotients of individuals. The principle reason was to try to identify those under-achievers who may have special needs educationally.
However, it was inevitable that the IQ test would be extended to other areas. On the one hand, organisations such as MENSA see it as a way of identifying geniuses, whilst in other ways, it has fuelled the racism controversy.
For instance, in 1913, IQ tests were used by the Americans to try and use mental inferiority as a reason to stop European immigrants entering America if they were poor. However, the results from Ellis Island in New York harbour - the main entry point - are telling.
For instance, 83% of Jews were found to be mentally deficient to an incredible degree - as were 80% of Hungarians, 79% of Italians and 87% of Russians.
These results were, of course, wrong. But, if IQ tests can be seen to be so wrong, what is going on within such tests?
An increasing body of research is coming to the conclusion that, rather than being a measure of intelligence, IQ tests measure nothing more than a talent for passing IQ tests.
This is a radically different interpretation and an interpretation that can go to the heart of intellectual racism.

CULTURAL INFLUENCE

It seems that IQ tests measure the degree of cultural response to intelligence. The results at Ellis Island were so telling because the immigrants came from a different culture, and were not attuned to the cultural requirement for intelligence in America.
For instance, van Gogh was a genius of an artist, but on a societal level he was judged insane and mentally deficient.
It seems that a culture defines certain elements of intelligence as acceptable, and others as not. Indeed, the Swann Report of 1986 pointed out that ethnic groups faced racial disadvantages in school, performing less well due to a foreign or hostile environment.
Surveys since this report have born out the evidence, showing quite clearly that up to the age of five, blacks perform academically as well as whites, but in general, their performance declines as they grow older.

ENDEMIC RACISM?

This hints that there is a degree of racism endemic in a particular culture that, rather than being overt, is unconscious in nature, defining societal standards based on possible stereotypical images that no ethnic minority can emulate for the simple fact that they look different to the stereotype.
This has led to claims of institutional racism in many of our organisations, which are predominantly white, and the dilution of white culture to try to eradicate this form of racism. But is the dilution of white culture the answer?
For instance, when an ethnic minority accepts the predominant culture he has entered, America has shown that they CAN make it to the top. Something else must be going on. For instance, we have stereotypes concerning most races.

THE STEREOTYPE

Such stereotyping is seen as racist. But in reality, many youths from a particular ethnicity purposely live up to the stereotypical image. And a person can be discriminated upon by his own race for not following the stereotype.
When someone from an ethnic minority comes to Britain it is with the dream of moving into the middleclass – if they are not already middleclass, that is. Some make it, but many do not; and their children's children seem to have given up the fight.
With Afro-Caribbeans, Reggae hero Bob Marley knew what was the cause. After fighting physical slavery, blacks had again given up the ghost and entered a frame of mind he called mental slavery.
Blacks themselves have called the attitude 'gold chains, no brains'. Should any black man move out of this attitude and succeed, such as your typical Sidney Poitier or Trevor MacDonald, then they are dismissed as conformists who are a disgrace to their culture.
Yet, in reality, much of their supposed culture is neither traditionally black, nor their own.
Rather, it is created by clever white businessmen out to make money from the black pound.
We can see here a psychological basis to the race problem of such a subtle, cultural nature that everyone in society may contribute to, based upon the stereotypical images we make and accept.
DEFINING THE PROBLEM

For instance, in speaking out AGAINST racism, non-racists bring the problem to attention, thus confirming, through media images, the difference between ethnic groups and the majority.
Perhaps the answer to the problem of racism is not to highlight differences, but to have no legal or social barriers to define, through stereotypical images, the difference. But then again, this policy was used in France, and resulted in ethnic minorities being simply ignored. Hence, the Muslim frustrations that broke out in over a week of rioting throughout France in late 2005.
There appear to be problems everywhere we look, and maybe the main problem is that the subject of racism is so emotive that only extreme stances are ever taken.
Maybe the decline of racism will come from working together to allow a predominant culture to exist, but allowing ethnic minorities to thrive whilst retaining their own sub-culture. We have actually done this throughout history with regional, or county, differences. Why is it so much more difficult when it involves different colour skin?

© Anthony North, February 2008

2 comments:

Just Jen said...

I think its a form of racism. My boys are considered special needs, so I'm taking it from that view point. My son's are considered underachievers academically on the iq test. Without the iq test and just their written work, they are ahead in all academic areas (except for language arts for my youngest because of his speech and language delay, which I know he'll catch up and surpass, just like his elder brother) They are overachievers in compassion, responsibility, dependability, loyalty etc.....a straight A student means squat if their attitude sucks. Yet we are put in that bubble of iq during our school years. Discrimination against the special needs student who will amount to nothing. Very sad. I have special needs according to my school growing up, can you tell? hehe ;~)
iq has no definition of race, culture, personality, etc....
just my humble opinion....

anthonynorth said...

Hi Just Jen,
It is terrible the way your sons are treated. I think I go into this kind of thing in my Sunday Scribblings post, which you've already commented on.