By David A. Love
Published by The Black Commentator
November 1, 2007
When Nobel Prize laureate James Watson, the founder of DNA, announced that Black people are genetically inferior, I was angered, though not necessarily surprised.
And I believe that a substantial number of Americans agree with him.
Watson, upon his sudden retirement, has provided a public service by reminding us of the most pernicious and insidious forms of racism. The racism in high places, the type practiced by scholars and lawmakers, can be subtle, yet far more dangerous than the kind practiced by the lowly skinhead or neo-Nazi. And the actions and statements of the former tend to inform the misdeeds of the latter. In the end, the “expert” racist influences public policy and the promulgation of unjust laws, and encourages the proliferation of hate crimes. This always was the case.
Scientific racism began with French aristocrat Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882) and his book, The Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, in which he established a theory of the superiority of the Aryan race, and asserted that race is the most important factor in human history. Social Darwinism, the adaptation of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest” into the social realm, was used to justify imperialism, segregation and the exclusion of immigrants from “undesirable” parts of the world. This mentality gave birth to the IQ test, the ancestor of today’s standardized testocracy. Sham pseudo-scientific studies by scientists in the U.S., Nazi Germany and elsewhere, complete with cranial and other physical measurements, were designed to prove the inferiority of people of color, Jews, and European ethic groups that were not yet considered White. Under the Third Reich, scientific racism led to the Nuremberg laws, Jim Crow-style policies which stripped Jews of their rights, their livelihood and their identity, and culminated in genocide.
Systems of oppression do not necessarily need a scientific basis for remaining in power and maintaining their legitimacy—sometimes a raw power grab will suffice— but it certainly helps. “If we can show that these people are inferior by birth,” the logic goes, “there is no use in helping them, as any attempts will prove futile.”
In more recent years, American conservative philanthropy supported studies such as the 1994 book, The Bell Curve, by Harvard professor Richard J. Hernstein and Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute. The authors argued that differences in intelligence are better predictors of anti-social behavior, criminality, unwed pregnancy, and financial success than are socio-economic status or level of education. Not surprisingly, they found that Blacks had lower IQs than Whites or Asians, the people with the worst social behaviors have the lowest IQs, and concluded that affirmative action and social programs for the disadvantaged should be eliminated.
Now, the enemies of diversity have their sights on law students of color, who they believe cannot cut it and should be rejected from admission. For example, Richard Sander, a UCLA law professor, suggests that elite law firms do themselves a disservice by hiring unqualified lawyers of color who have lower grades. People who embrace Sander’s flawed study rely on deeply-ingrained assumptions about Black intellectual inferiority. For example, the regressive members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who subscribe to Sander’s point of view, are railing against so-called racial preferences and a gap between White and Black law student academic performance, and the American Bar Association’s commitment to diversity in law school admissions. Meanwhile, the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and Columbia University note that while African American and Mexican-American students have been applying to law school in constant numbers over the past 15 years—and these students are doing better than ever academically–their enrollment has been declining since 1992, even with larger class sizes.
America’s conservative movement, the opponents of civil rights, is a proxy for racism. Since the debut of the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Southern segregationist Democrats completed their exodus to the GOP—same people, different party. Just as Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi (where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964) in support of states’ rights (a wink and a nod to Southern racists), today’s GOP presidential candidates scurry to kiss the brass ring of Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University. Until very recently, BJU enforced a campus-wide ban on interracial dating. In the end, Mitt Romney, presidential contender and empty suit, won the endorsement of that “Christian” university’s bigoted leadership.
As the now-deceased Republican strategist Lee Atwater said in 1981, “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger. By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
And today, the Republicans—with their bashing and deportation of Latino immigrants, hatred of Arabs and Muslims and assaults on affirmative action—are selling themselves as the party of White nationalism because that is their only remaining selling point. After all, they cannot boast about a sound economic and fiscal policy, or tout a successful foreign policy. This selling point, that people of color are inferior and undeserving and must be kept down, has been tested since the Civil War. Wealthy landowners convinced poor Whites to fight to preserve a system of Black enslavement, which made White labor superfluous, but at least kept them one step above colored folk.
The self-described “party of Lincoln” is living on borrowed time and the memory of a president who died nearly a century and a half ago. They are unsuccessfully fighting back the tide of color in this country, and like their Jim Crow predecessors, seek to suppress the voting rights of Black and Brown people. (After all, John Tanner, the chief of the Justice Department’s voting rights division, recently argued that while voter ID laws hurt the elderly, they aren't a problem for minorities because they die before old age.) While common sense would dictate that such a strategy is doomed to failure, no one ever said that racism is rational.
The bright spot is that we will likely see fewer Black gospel minstrel shows at future GOP conventions, such as the performance by Donnie McClurkin in 2004. While former representative J.C. Watts, an African American, bemoans the GOP’s stance towards diversity, oddly he didn’t seem to object when he served as waterboy for their atrocious policies in Congress.
And people in high places—eager to deflect attention from a failed war and a disastrous economy—have created a harsh racial climate in which people of color, scapegoated, are fair game. It is no accident that as the Right makes people of color the bogeyman and enacts harsh laws against them, people of color increasingly are the victims of hate crimes and frivolous, unwarranted, race-based prosecutions. Look at the case of Megan Williams, 20, a Black West Virginia woman who was kidnapped by White supremacists, tortured for a week, beaten and sexually assaulted, and forced to eat rat droppings. In light of Williams’ plight, and the rise in the hanging of nooses, racial attacks and intimidation of African Americans around the country, Black Lawyers For Justice organized a November 3 National March Against Hate Crimes in Charleston, West Virginia. The group demands Congressional hearings on hate crimes.
Meanwhile, as prosecutors refuse to act against hate crimes, they are eager to make a football player public enemy number over dog fighting (Michael Vick), or send Black boys to prison for 10 years for consensual sex (Genarlow Wilson in Georgia), or 20 years for a schoolyard brawl with a noose-hanging White classmate (the Jena Six in Louisiana). We have a serious race problem here.
During the civil rights movement, the influential Whites Citizens’ Council, the “white-collar Klan,” kept their hands clean while their lowly Klan brethren hung nooses, burned crosses and lynched so-called agitators. Today, scientists, law professors and policymakers create the climate that allows a new wave of hate crimes to occur. We must resist the scientific racists, and replace their politicians with righteous people who believe in equality and justice for all humanity.Copyright © 2007 by David A. Love