Race, Intellect, & Genetics

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at Princeton.EDU
Wed Mar 8 18:57:48 PST 2000

>. Since
>the term race is routinely used, not least by
>minorities, with no ill intent, how can it be

>A discussion of race & intelligence can clearly
>have vicious underpinnings, and it might be
>irrational, but it seems like you'd have to
>be a mind-reader to know the difference. If
>the point is such a discussion always has
>harmful effects, which is plausible, then
>I'd say le mot juste lies elsewhere.

Max, there are fine grained distinctions to be made here: you are not being pedantic enough. Or you're trying to mind read when you need to (or help me) think the matter through philosophically.

All this is vicious when "race" is invoked to estimate the putatively heritable aspect of "racial" differences in test scores. Now this is not even to say that that there is no biological basis at all to racial or group differences among human beings: eliminativism of biological race is not implied by rejection of plausbility of race as a mechanism for the heritability of cognitive difference, such as that is.

So note that this specific racial rejection does not then imply that any estimate of the heritable part of the variation in human "intelligence" even within groups can indeed be reasonably offered despite results of twin studies and the like.

And this racial rejctionism does not imply that intelligence is anything more than a reification of factor analysis, arbitrarily used.

All the categories in the eugenicist discourse are suspect: race, heritability and intelligence.

It has taken pages and pages however to demonstrate this.

Of course this specific racial rejectionism does not to imply, as you seem to think, that race as racism (a basis of which is indeed some heritable variation in obvious, physical traits) or even self-imposed caste-like behavior among 'colonized' minorities(the John Ogbu and Claud Steele findings) may not account for some of the variation in test scores, in particular any 'racial' gap in test scores.

After all, things perceived as real can be real in their consequences.

Yet can the data can justifiably be broken down in terms of race categories in the first place?

For example, if the occurence of HIV infections has nothing to do with the number of racialized minorities in this country but rather with the addition of new hard core drug addicts, then why should we keep an account of each "race's" percentage of HIV contraction? Even if hard core drug addicts are disproportionately concentrated among racialized minorities--well only in certain, not all minority, neighborhoods--that still doesn't make race causally relevant to the contraction of the HIV virus.

It seems that the real story about new HIV contraction has been for some time (and I am just speaking from newspaper impressions) the increasing importance of dirty needle usage in transmission. An old UC Berkeley fellow graduate student Rickey Bluthenthal (he was Nathan's fellow sociologist) seems to have organized in brave defiance of the law the dissemination of clean needles among addicts.

But with the racialization of the data, there are then racists who think all blacks are somehow prone to be infected since the black minority seems yet to be the majority of HIV+ people (therefore all blacks are more likely to carry the virus--the same kind of non sequitur Sleeper performed), and there are blacks (including even Bill Cosby) who looking at the high percentage of HIV+ people who are black conclude that there must be a government conspiracy to wipe out the entire black race with the white race (sans homosexuals) as silent accomplices.

For reasons like this, American 'race relations' are poisoned beyond comprehension, and it is only reasonable to expect the auto destruction of American society.

Yours, Rakesh

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