October 20, 2007
Can We Please Define 'Racism'?
James Watson, the geneticist who helped unravel the structure of DNA, came under fire for saying that Africans are not as intelligent as Westerners. Aside from his remarks being deemed baseless and unscientific, he has quite predictably been labeled "racist." Why, some thought police even want him charged under Britain's Orwellian "racial hatred laws" (Watson is conducting a speaking tour in Britain presently). He has apologized, and averred, “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said."
In light of this tendency to apply the "R-word," one that claims as victims late sportscaster Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, manager of the Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker, former baseball commissioner Al Campanis, late NFL player Reggie White and many others, I have a question.
What is "racism"?
Is it simply voicing beliefs about differences among races? Am I a racist if I say that blacks have darker skin and frizzier hair? No, I suppose not. What about if I point out that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime and that 70 percent of black children are born out-of-wedlock, versus 27 percent for whites? Well, in our culture that is borderline. But why? On what basis should we determine what is "racist"?
One might think that pointing out negative characteristic qualities or the weaknesses of a race makes a person a racist, but even this cannot be so. After all, we take pains to emphasize that sickle cell anemia is unique to blacks and that they are more likely to develop heart disease. Then there is the fact that Tay-Sachs Disease is found only among certain distinct groups, mainly Jews. In fact, were we to claim that these crosses are borne equally by all, we would be labeled "racist" for ignoring what ails minorities. It would be said that we really didn't care if they lived or died. This gets confusing, though; on the one hand we're castigated for pointing out differences, on the other we're complimented for doing so.
It might seem that we mustn't bring to light differences when doing so can lead to discrimination, but not so fast. When we emphasize the fact that only certain groups suffer from certain diseases, they receive attention and funding that others will not. Moreover, showcasing disparities in performance among the races has long been used to justify quotas and set-asides.
So, this is where one must start to think that there is more here -- or less -- than meets the eye. Is it that we cannot point out differences which, when brought to light, can lead to discrimination that doesn't benefit politically-favored groups? Ah, now we're getting somewhere. That certainly is part of the equation.
What, though, should be our standard? Well, it cannot be discovered by analyzing what has been said about Dr. Watson but, rather, by what is usually left unsaid. As was the case with the reception given to The Bell Curve, critics tend to take the position that the issue should not be raised, much less debated.
And that brings us to the crux of the matter. All intellectual inquiry, be it scientific or philosophical, should be a search for Truth. This search must be sincere and remain unfettered by agendas or dogmas, and we do otherwise at our own peril.
This is why the politically correct thought police are so destructive. When they criticize a man like Watson, not only do they rarely say his statements are untrue, but the Truth of the matter doesn't even seem to enter their minds. No, it doesn't because they are blinded by their agenda.
Oh, having an agenda or hypothesis doesn't make them unusual, but an intellectually honest seeker of knowledge will alter his hypothesis when the data contradicts it. To these folks, however, their agenda is deified and takes precedence over Truth; thus, when the Truth contradicts their agenda, instead of altering the latter, they simply suppress or rationalize away the Truth. Or, that is, anything they may fear is Truth.
It's ironic, too, because these leftists are the same people who usually condemn Christianity for stifling scientific enterprise (a false claim). How many times have we heard about Galileo (his story has been mischaracterized)? But who is stifling scientific inquiry and open debate now? Even more egregiously, these modern-day inquisitors would imprison those who violate their dogma. They have become guilty of what they decry.
The Truth is that the outrage here isn't Dr. Watson's remarks; they're either true or not. What's outrageous is that we're suffering under the yoke of those to whom Truth means nothing -- the practitioners of a dark faith. They don't care if a statement is correct, only whether it's politically correct. They hate the Truth when it contradicts their agenda, and they'll stop at nothing to still the tongues of those who would dare voice it. Racists? These miscreants are infinitely worse. They are Truthists.
And what is the Truth about racial differences? For one thing, is it logical and rational to claim that, except for appearance and a few diseases and conditions of the body, every group is the same in every way?
This is the left's implication, and it's absurd. It seems especially odd when you consider that most of these inquisitors are secularists who subscribe to the theory of evolution. Yet, despite their belief that different groups "evolved" in completely different parts of the world, operating in different environments and subject to different stresses, they would have us believe that all groups are identical in terms of the multitude of man's talents and in every single measure of mental capacity. Why, miracle of miracles, all these two-legged cosmic accidents, the product of a billions-of-years journey from the primordial soup to primacy among creatures, whose evolution was influenced by perhaps millions of factors, wound up being precisely the same. It's really the best argument for God I've ever heard, as such a statistical impossibility could only exist if it was ordained by the one with whom all things are possible.
Lastly, if we really care about a race's welfare, shouldn't we "diagnose" its condition -- whatever that condition may be -- properly so that its gifts may be best utilized, its inherent weaknesses best mitigated and its problems best remedied? If this makes sense with physical crosses such as sickle-cell anemia and heart disease, it makes sense for all crosses, be they spiritual, social or, dare I say, intellectual. Stating this isn't wrong or racist, and it shouldn't be repressed. And as Dr. Watson might say, that's something you don't have to be a Sherlock to understand.