I stumbled across an…let’s say “interesting” piece of thought this week by John Derbyshire, some guy who thinks that different races are “biologically” programmed to be smarter, or dumber. He pointed this out to a group of black law students recently, at the University of Pennsylvania.
Here are a few choice snippets:
“First, the rational grounds. If a species is divided into separate populations, and those populations are left in reproductive isolation from each other for many generations, they will diverge.”
I was not aware that different ethnicities equated to different species, but apparently Derbyshire has the “science.”
“Our species separated into two parts 50, 60, or 70 thousand years ago, depending on which paleoanthropologist you ask. One part remained in Africa, the ancestral homeland. The other crossed into Southwest Asia, then split, and re-split, and re-split, until there were human populations living in near-total reproductive isolation from each other in all parts of the world. This went on for hundreds of generations, causing the divergences we see today. Different physical types, as well as differences in behavior, intelligence, and personality, are exactly what one would expect to observe when scrutinizing these divergent populations.”
I think he means to say, with no evidence, that people in Africa didn’t evolve as wonderfully as Europeans did.
“Now, the empirical grounds. We all notice the different physical specialties of the different races in the Olympic Games. There was a run of, I think, seven Olympics in which every one of the finalists in the men’s 100 meters sprint was of West African ancestry — 56 out of 56 finalists. You get less pronounced but similar patterns in other sports — East African distance runners, Northeast Asian divers, and so on. These differences even show up within sports, where a team sport calls for highly differentiated abilities in team members — football being the obvious example.”
This is great empiricism that I have never heard before: black people are good at sports = they must be dumb. I can’t even fully describe how stupid this logic is.
I’m going to divide his next paragraph into two parts so we can fully digest the awesomeness of it.
“We see the same differences in traits that we don’t think of as directly physical, what evolutionary psychologists sometimes refer to as the “BIP” traits — behavior, intelligence, and personality.”
This is where he goes full on into “black people good at sports = they must be dumb” mode. Do you see what he did here? A=B, and B=C, so A=C. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If black people are good at sports, then they must be AUTOMATICALLY biologically inferior as far as their behavioral, intelligence and personality measures. Um, didn’t we already go through this in this country? What was that guy’s name? Jim Crow or something?
Then he goes on to compare apples to oranges (remember, he was talking about Africa, not American blacks):
“Two of the hardest-to-ignore manifestations here are the extraordinary differentials in criminality between white Americans and African Americans, and the persistent gaps in scores when tests of cognitive ability are given to large population samples.”
Comparing Africans to American blacks is apples to oranges for several reasons. First, the genetic make-up is different, lest we forget that the U.S. is a “melting pot” and there was this crazy thing called “rape” that went on quite often when slavery was legal (and thereafter) in the U.S., prompting lots of blacks to be partly-white, and less often acknowledged, many whites to be partly-black (although Derbyshire doesn’t seem to think this would affect their cognitive abilities the same way it affects “full” blacks).
That’s not even to mention the hundreds of years of repression that followed the “ban” of slavery, a la, Jim Crow laws and segregation in schools and repression of the black vote. If you take a population, steal their culture and history, then you don’t let them assimilate in so many ways, you don’t let them learn to read, you won’t allow them to work, you won’t allow them to live the way you do, you don’t let them go to school and you exclude them from just about every meaningful social structure, then every time they create something for themselves you steal it, I don’t understand how it follows that those people are biologically inferior.
Furthermore, if you compare this class of people (American blacks) to an entirely other class of people (Africans) who had a completely different struggle with colonialsm and now with HIV/AIDS and poverty, and try to say that the two are the same, you’re either a complete and utter fool or you don’t really care what the empirical differences are. I would say our friend Derbyshire falls into the latter category.
To summarize, comparing American blacks to American whites and then concluding that it’s their African ancestry that makes them inferior doesn’t make any sense. You’re concluding that apples are better than oranges because bananas have more potassium.
But, Derbyshire summarizes his brilliant argument by adding a caveat, he sucks at dancing, so therefore it’s okay that blacks aren’t smart, at least they’re good at sports.
“We are all, to various degrees, aware of our own individual strengths and limitations. Certainly I am aware of mine. For example: My wife is a keen ballroom dancer. Because I love my wife, I did my best to become a ballroom dancer myself. For two years — two blessed years, ladies and gentlemen — I went along twice a week with her to the local Arthur Murray studio to take instruction. At the end of it, I still had two left feet. The instruction I received was like water poured on to a sheet of glass.”
Now I wrote Derbyshire the following email after reading his comments:
I just wanted to write you to let you know that I’m extremely
impressed by your recent speech at the Black Law Students’ Association
at UPenn for how excruciatingly and fantastically racist and ignorant
you are, even while using really big words and theories. I just had
to laugh because I didn’t know what other emotion was possible, you
sir, are AMAZING. Congratulations.
– Sara Inés Calderón”
Needless to say he was not impressed, as he wrote back:
“from: John Derbyshire <email@example.com>
Thank you, Sara.
Could you point to any particular error of fact or reasoning in my
remarks? To refresh your memory, they are here:
What did I say that is untrue?
Derbyshire seems to be the type of fellow who is stuck in his own personal hell or something-or-other because I can’t imagine why someone, who seemingly is capable of intelligent thought, would be defensive of his crazy ass eugenics-like theories that have been disproven again and again throughout history. This isn’t “A Brave New World,” dude, this is our imperfect reality where you can’t rationalize away your fears by blaming entire groups of people for being their own genetic downfall.
If you start saying it’s just black people who are genetically inferior, then what about swarthy Europeans like Italians and Greeks, who through the thousands of years must have mixed in somehow with Africans? What about Spaniards, who were subject to Moor rule for hundreds of years — wouldn’t that mean all of Latin America is also genetically inferior? Does this also apply to people of Middle Eastern ancestry? How many drops of African blood does it to take to make one genetically inferior? Who gets to decide who is biologically “worthy” and who is not? Is it Derbyshire? His friends? That is a slippery slope, indeed.