Andrew Sullivan and Ta-Nehisi Coates on Black IQ
Ta-Nehisi Coates starts a series of posts in response to Andrew Sullivan’s banging the race-IQ drum (Sullivan has responded to TNC here):
Andrew asserts that “pc egalitarianism” is strangling research into IQ. To buttress this observation he points to a piece in Alternet that basically asserts the same. The piece contains no numbers to back up the claim, and quotes only one scientist to evidence this scourge of manners. I’ve received a few inquiries asking for my response to this in particular, and to Andrew’s obsession with race and IQ in general.
My response is that I know very little about the field, and would struggle to even define a phrase like “standard deviation.” I don’t avoid race and IQ out of politeness to Andrew; I avoid it because I have a bias toward knowing what I’m talking about.
So Coates knows almost nothing about statistics and distributions but he continues to discuss a hypothesis that is rooted in statistics and differences in distributions. Which means that TNC’s side of the discussion will have nothing to do with the merits of the data behind the IQ difference hypotheses but instead with modern-day race-realists’ bedfellows from a bygone era – slave traders, eugenicists, and overt racists.
Advocates of the “p.c. egalitarianism” theory, such as Andrew, evidently believe that the notion that black people are dumber than whites is a cutting edge theory, as opposed to a long-held tenet of slave-holders and white supremacists. They present themselves as bold-truth tellers who will not bow to “liberal creationists.
” In fact they are espousing firmly established views that date back to the very founding of this country.
But one thing has changed over the course of time. When slave traders and overt racists from centuries back observed less intelligent blacks they took that to mean that those people were less human than themselves. But the modern discussion of race differences in IQ holds a fundamentally different starting point: differences in human groups’ IQ does not diminish the humanity of any group. The mere fact that science has been added to the discussion – that it is a scientific discussion that aims to compare apples-to-apples, humans-to-humans – shows that we are having a very different discussion today but one that is still held back by the non-scientific baggage from decades and centuries past. The entire reason the discussion is now being held is that the very same “p.c. egalitarians” that Andrew Sullivan describes are using the legacy of the revocation of black humans’ negative rights – the rights to life and liberty – as an excuse to push forward the positive rights of blacks – the rights to a certain quota of jobs.
But where “p.c. egalitarianism” presents itself the most – in polite society or popular culture – there tends to be the the greatest backlash among people who are interested in racial IQ differences. When certain differences in outcomes are observed – education outcomes or imprisonment rates, for example – one very plausible explanation is completely taken off the table. And since innate group differences in ability aren’t a feasible argument, according to “p.c. egalitarians”, we must spin our wheels trying to make other explanations work.