Before I get started, I want to say that honesty and open discussion are mandatory for making any sort of headway in racial reconciliation. What I'm about to say will almost certainly generate controversy and will undoubtedly offend some people, but it needs to be said in order for any sort of real progress to be made.
Unfortunately, it's sometimes necessary to reopen old wounds so that healing can occur properly. If I believed that one should sacrifice things like truth and honesty for the sake of being popular and "politically correct," I'd be studying for a career in politics instead of in science.
That said, I think that the road to racial understanding should begin with a look at some common stereotypes that exist regarding racial differences and see what, if any, truth exists behind them. By far, the deepest fissure that exists in the U.S. is between whites and blacks. Some common stereotypes about blacks by whites are that blacks are, in general, more prone to crime, more violent, and less intelligent than whites. Obviously, if these stereotypes aren't true, then all of us have a moral obligation to speak out whenever we hear these stereotypes voiced, and should work hard to eliminate them entirely. For example, if blacks and whites commit crime at equal rates, then we should outlaw racial profiling not just because it's unfair, but also because it wouldn't help reduce crime.
Unfortunately, as much as some of us would want to believe otherwise, each and every one of the above stereotypes has some truth to it. A well-researched study released just last year has found that blacks are 50 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than whites are to commit a violent crime against blacks. You can review the data yourself at www.amren.com/colrcrim.html.
As far as intelligence is concerned, Dr. Arthur Jensen, Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology at the University of California-Berkeley, has devoted much of his 40 year tenure at Berkeley to the study of general intelligence, or g. His work has made him one of the most frequently cited figures in contemporary psychology. Jensen believes that g is up to 80 percent heritable in adults, meaning that variations in intelligence between adults are due 80 percent to genes and 20 percent to environment, within human populations, i.e.: within "races."
In his book The g Factor, Jensen also deals with the differences in g that exist between human racial populations. General intelligence correlates highly with creativity, socioeconomic status, educational attainment and a slew of other variables. As far as whites and blacks are concerned, he notes that the mean black IQ is 15 points lower than the mean white IQ, even after taking extensive measures to eliminate test bias. In the book, he proposes a theory, which he calls "the default hypothesis," which holds that "the proximal causes of both individual differences and population differences in heritable psychological traits are essentially the same, and are continuous variables."
A questionnaire survey presented elsewhere in the book shows that Jensen is not alone in his beliefs. Of 661 experts in the fields of differential psychology, psychometrics, and behavioral genetics, 45 percent were of the opinion that the black-white difference in IQ "is a product of both genetic and environmental variation," and only 15 percent felt that the difference is due to environment alone. So, it is indeed possible that truth exists behind the "racist" claim that blacks are inherently less intelligent. How do we deal with this possibility?
Not through censorship.
Dr. Jensen's work is a prime example of how political correctness can endanger academic freedom. In the past, left-wing radicals physically assaulted him during one of his talks at the University of Minnesota, and the university did nothing to punish the assailants. I wonder what would happen if he came to Emory? Would he be arrested by the Emory Police Department for committing a so-called "act of intolerance" if he were to give a talk in which he mentioned that class and race differences in intelligence were primarily the result of genetic differences?
What we need here is open discussion. Like all scientific work, Dr. Jensen's theories are subject to refutation through empirical evidence. So far, I've read plenty of attacks on Jensen's motives, but I have yet to find any scientific articles that show any major flaws in his data or his conclusions. So, I guess I'd have to agree with him and say that genes (and not racism, past inequalities, or anything else) are primarily responsible for blacks' lower status on the socioeconomic ladder in the U.S.
Should I, or anyone else, feel somehow guilty for even daring to consider the possibility that races differ by more than just skin color? Should scientists not perform research that might threaten commonly held beliefs about race? Are the social pressures forbidding the open discussion of "racist" ideas the same type of social pressures Galileo faced for daring to question the belief that the earth is the center of the solar system, or Darwin for daring to question the Bible's version of creation? Why was I always told in school and through the media growing up that all races are inherently equal in intelligence, when in actuality the debate still rages on within scientific circles?
I'm not saying Jensen's explanation is necessarily right, just that alternative explanations are possibly wrong, and that we'll never know for sure until his theories can be openly discussed and debated and more research is done. It's people like those who attacked Dr. Jensen who are the true close-minded ones. They can't comprehend that if he is right, then it does us no good to pretend that compensatory programs like Affirmative Action and Head Start will eventually put blacks on an equal footing with whites. On the other hand, if he's wrong, then we have a responsibility to help blacks achieve their potential, and rid the world of racism. But we need open discussion before any of this can happen.
Michael Polignano is a College junior from Adamstown, Maryland.