Embracing Race, Just don’t call it racism
“Intellectuals who made genetic determinism the overriding explanation of intergroup differences in outcomes in the early twentieth century, and discrimination the overriding explanation of these differences in the latter part of the twentieth century, have in both cases made the prevailing belief of the day obligatory for anyone who wanted to be taken seriously, or even to avoid being stigmatized as a shallow “sentimentalist” in the early part of the century, or despised as a “racist” in the latter part. In both eras, intellectuals claimed the moral high ground, as saviours of their race during the era of genetic determinism and as moral crusaders against racial injustice in the era of the prevalence of discrimination theories. Nor were the intelligentsia in either era much open to the other explanations of intergroup differences, which could undermine or devastate their flattering vision of themselves.” – Thomas Sowell, “Intellectuals and Race”, 2013, pp. 125
These words in that order form something quite grand. A paragraph that, one wills with all their might, may one day guide our species into prosperity as that much better at living together. One of the enduring problems we face, my friends, is that of living together as different races of the same species. Our racial differences have been the backdrops of both war and peace since time in memoriam. Race is, of course, and yet not the point, not the only differential trait that confounds people across civilizations in its divisive nature. But I’m sure, even if you think me a racist before I have attested my own point of view, that you are a person who can appreciate the concept of the individual. We are all different somehow, though arguably not anyhow; this, in fact, is my very point.
I’ll clear things up a bit. Field Ruwe is what I would call a contemporary black African intellectual, and a conformist of the intelligentsia that Thomas Sowell so decisively categorises in the above quote. Some (i.e. not the majority) of Mr Ruwe’s work is quite well written, and though I cast my literary unrest in snide disapproval of his position as an African academic perpetuating negative feelings between black and white people in Africa from some perch outside Africa (from America, in fact,) I still respect any person enough to face their ideas on their own merit. He is, however, verily still more of that character which I despise mightily: Mr Ruwe represents today’s most popular and ultimately most useless theory on racial differences: that there are none but that which are purely imagined, primarily by white people and usually in the service of diabolical ends. Any deviations which shed one race in a poorly contrasted light against another, regardless of the category, are solely the responsibility (and often folly) of any race but the race in that light. These are empirical questions and are bound to have answers that stand to scientific scrutiny.
The problem is that not enough scientists want to deal with race, and even less non-scientists want to hear about it. It’s as if a middle ground in perspective between today’s warring factions of “race deniers” and “race realists” can not be tolerated, let alone developed by having the science of race taboo lifted. But, I put it to you, would honest study and open enquiry not be preferable to today’s idealogical climate, where it is socially acceptable, across the globe, to demonize certain races as aversive racists whose sole goal in life has always been to disenfranchise other races by means ranging from the outlandish to the imperceptibly subtle? Many black people claim this behaviour of white people in particular, as if white people could so successfully juggle such priorities with the kind of daily lives they can have in common with anybody else. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than “black” and “white” people when it comes to race (quite a bit more, in fact.) However, this is as much about what race actually is as much as it is about how people think about race, including their own. And, as a result, how much these two realities converge in the substance of our ideas and tendency of our behaviours. Even acknowledging such a faculty as racial type has itself been disenfranchised for a long time now with the prevalent adoption of phrases like “we are all created equal,” “colour blindness” and “no race but the human race” throughout post-modernist societies. But, in reality, these phrases and other common misconceptions about what race is have become but mere chiming patterns of indoctrination that serve no real goal but, to my mind, the festering of further racial insecurities and societal tensions in our daily lives.
If one would care to pay any attention to the bumper sticker quotations above, they’d notice the humanitarian artefacts that date such ideas back to their first utterances by the West’s founding idealogical ancestors, who were appalled by slavery and human bondage in a time when no other leaders (nor societies,) anywhere else in the world, were. To that end, they are beautiful poems. But, to another end, our understanding of who we are needs to grow up a bit more in the face of media moguls like Field Ruwe having their way with the minds of the young, the angry, and the impressionable. Slavery in the West is long dead, and most of us quite rightly know by now that racial differences are often superfluous beyond aesthetics. But they do exist. To me, this is a wonderful thing. Why on earth would we wish to imagine our species to be made up of such static and indistinct organisms? For me, the fact that there are races of humans is fascinating, far less boring a world to live in, and, in actuality, quite alright. This is one reason why I embrace race; just as I embrace gender and people who are attracted to the same sex. Why should this worry us beyond the superficial fear of being compared against and obliged to compete with our fellow human beings? Even when homo sapiens, at the dawn of their evolution, were all of the same race and numbered only in the thousands, were these worries no less present. And, frankly, if people have come to love their similarities then they have come to love their differences as well, for you will easily find examples of both with a sober study of history.
Let us delve deeper with the kind of statement, from one side, that vexes the other side as well as the masses. It is, in fact, merely an admission of what limited scientific findings there are so far. Today, lighter skinned races have, on average, a higher IQ than darker skinned races. We haven’t even thought about the culprit, or what the finding does not entail, or whether it has always been this way, or will always be this way, or to the same degree, before you’ve thought such people who say such things as racist. But don’t be so hasty. Today, asians have, on average, a higher IQ than whites. I am not the least bit bothered by this as a white person. Firstly, this observation is not an answer to any follow up question in itself. If I was a genetic determinist then I would tell you, so please do pay attention to the actual propositions being made, if you can. Furthermore, we are talking about averages. Let me assure you I can reiterate the first half of this paragraph and in the same breath be equally confident that, today, no white man of average intelligence can walk into a bar in New York city, that’s full of black Americans, and have any assurance of whether or not he’ll not have the lowest IQ in the room. But put that same man in a bar in a Zambian shanty town full of black African locals, or an Asian in a block of South London council flats full of white English locals, and rest assured you can be sure he won’t have the lowest IQ in most any given room.
I refer those who wish to research racial and cultural differences further to the academic Thomas Sowell, a black economist and historian, whose painstaking study has revealed (among other things) IQ and economic disparities between racial groups that have, in many cases, rendered differences between whites and blacks, at least outside the poorest regions of Africa, as completely trivial. Even when compared with two racial groups of similar aesthetic qualities who have lived together on the same land for centuries. Differences between racial groups do have a culprit, and it’s not race according to Sowell, but culture. But, we must ponder, is culture a product of society anymore than the colour of our skin is?
Does culture exist completely independent of race? Does culture have an effect, whether mild or not, on genetics, for whatever racial population we’re referring to in wherever region, in the long run? We certainly mustn’t pretend that evolution no longer functions just because it may be an uncomfortable prospect when applied to human brains and the cultural adaptations that subsequently transpire, compete and survive. Might even our racial type, to this end, be merely a general indicator of cultural ancestry and the genetic tendencies this has selected for? If so, can race indicate averages and likelihoods about people’s behaviours and abilities? Much evidence already suggest it can and does, without suggesting certainties can be made for individuals on such a basis (particularly since the last century of globalization and all the cultural and genetic dissemination, assimilation, and adaptation – across countless borders – that has entailed.) In fact, science has shown that genetic tendencies are, at least in some cases, quite easily undone relative to their impact on human intellect and behaviours. A Sudanese child raised in a Japanese home will be highly susceptible to these new cultural influences and develop accordingly, but has this actually cancelled out the entire phenotype of an individual coming from a certain genetic, ethnic heritage? And if it has, does this in fact mean that race is a false distinction because our IQ, skills, and behaviours can be wholly manipulated or re-written? Only further science, if tolerated, will tell. Though we know enough now, at least, to seriously doubt that such things can be wholly manipulated by the environment of one lifetime alone.
Even if we’re only talking about the smallest of differences, we should embrace knowledge over ignorance. And one should most certainly not feel inferior in the face of understanding genetic differences, for genes are not stagnant, non-reactive things in the face of environmental pressures. It is a dear shame to be so afraid of being different in a racial sense in a world where no one, regardless of their race or genetic communality, can help but be different anyway. Whatever service such a better understanding of this phenomenon will offer can only be realised in the wake of it, but not before, and so rushing to the paranoia that all humanity will embrace eugenics and slay his brother upon a deeper understanding of racial differences, relative to the nature of genetics and environmental factors, is neither necessary nor intellectually honest. Talking of rigorous, intellectually honest science, that is; as opposed to incomplete theories of race, manipulable by those lacking in any moral fibre whatsoever. Furthermore, man’s current lack of understanding about himself, (whatever separates him from another both as an individual and a racial type,) has not produced much peace between racial groups anyway. I think once those who make the biggest fuss about race accept this; embrace further science and open enquiry; and shy not from the charge that we are groups of the same species descended from varying ethnic ancestries, they will see the other side (genetic determinists, eugenicists, race supremacists) also adapting their beliefs as the emotional interregnum is shortened.
Of course, the lines are blurred today. But they have always been blurred, if we are to accept that race goes beyond mere aesthetics. IQ studies, for example, deal with populations of hundreds, sometimes thousands. They reveal important observations that can lead to further science (if we’d only embrace it) on how intelligence evolves for specific populations of people living similar lifestyles as defined by cultural adaptations in terms of their environment, (and the effect, however significant or insignificant, that has on genetics over subsequent generations,) alongside whatever bottomless wealth of societal pressures are on offer in any given geographic space; as indicated (though not solely) by racial groupings. But do not think me to believe that all whites are “smarter” than all blacks unless I say it myself. I wouldn’t be the least bit discouraged if Field Ruwe’s IQ far exceeded my own. In fact it most likely does, for mine floundered in the low 90s as a teenager, and IQs have been shown to not expand more than approximately 5-10 points for an individual in their lifetime, no matter how vigorous their study or how you tweak the test to minimise variables such as how the race of the tester, or the comfort level of the study, affects performance. I am, in fact, below the average IQ expected of my racial group relative to my corner of the globe and cultural ancestry. But I am joined by hundreds of thousands of whites on my small island and tens of millions from other ethnic groups the world over in my coming-up-short. I’ll stress it at least once more then – I really don’t mind that the average white person has a higher IQ than me, let alone the average asian. But the fact remains that the average asian is more likely to have a higher IQ than me than the average caucasian is, and this we can accurately suppose from the racial indicator before we even consider that to be a cause, let alone true in the individual case. So then we must ask ourselves, what really makes up a race? Apart from the climatological impacts that affect anatomy and skin tone, perhaps it is also the culmination of cultural practises, ideologies, and behavioural tendencies that have adapted in response to aspects of our society over countless generations, (and other environmental pressures; relative to both anatomically and geographically separate groups.) The accuracy of race as an indicator may shrink, however, the more our cultural boundaries are crossed via both integration and interracial breeding (an unflattering term, I admit, but “mixing” seemed too vague.) This does not suppose that race will come to represent nothing but aesthetics one day; only that races are, and always have been, evolving by merging (in terms of both culture and biology.) Perhaps we can fathom, until the science arrives, that racial aesthetics have been evolving right along with not just geographical redistributions, but changing cultural behaviours and idealogical awakenings as well. As such, race, however blurred the line may be, may always be an indicator of something, unless homo sapiens end up evolving into a new species of genetically identical individuals, that is.
This does not presuppose genetically deterministic explanations in the least; we are talking about the facts, or lack thereof, for now; and, again, the science on how our race may or may not define us has yet to be satisfied. Why is this so hard to communicate to the likes of Field Ruwe and others who positively adore labelling people they don’t agree with as racists? Perhaps it is the fact that – among other things – IQ, (not the last word on smartness by any measure, but a solid chapter at the very least,) has been correlated time and time again with the behaviours and performances of those groups that have been studied and quantified (by race or otherwise;) which seems to confound their senses as much as their sensibilities. Of course, correlation may not be causation in all such cases, but we still don’t know enough to know when and where it is and isn’t. Perhaps people are just too squeamish to even be paying attention to the debate of whether or not this should even be a debate. But they really should be paying it, because where there are differences between racial groups in a certain society, be it in IQ, crime rates, saving, representation in the employment sector, performance in and attitudes towards education, family planning, healthcare, etc, is where we have a moral obligation to take racial indicators seriously (if the science demonstrates this to be the case,) and then research, discuss and address the causes thereafter; ignoring initiatives and ideas that flail in the face of the facts and serve nothing but social tension, continued racism, a sense of victimhood, irresponsibility, and other purely political motives.
I entered the race debate somewhat hot-headedly by attacking Field Ruwe with a rebuttal of an essay of his. I called it “Field Ruwe and the white racist.” (You can find the link to his original piece and my rebuttal in the footnotes.) He refused a rebuttal to any of my points in his own rebuttal, choosing instead to appeal to the argument from authority; a logical fallacy and an utter disappointment for me. I am bewildered that such a penetrating principle of rhetoric, one that has survived unchallenged since its epistemological inception by the ancient greek eruditions, has not even made it into the ear of many of today’s intellectual bloodhounds. However, Mr Ruwe was quite right, though (still) utterly evasive of the debate, when demonstrating that my use of citations was poor in that same rebuttal of his. In fact, my use was dreadful. I included a selection of books and links at the end of my essay as references, but they were not genuine references in the strictest sense, they were some suggested reading (though the links lead to verification of my more concrete claims if one would but engage them more than half-heartedly.) You’ll notice, however, that Mr Ruwe never even offers up a form of argumentation in his own writings, let alone a selection of suggested reading in the footnote. The truth is, as with most non-scholar, public-focused authors such as Mr Ruwe and myself, that our arguments are primarily formed of biased conjecture. Almost meaningless, really. I do feel I did not pretend this to be otherwise in the meat of my rebuttal itself. The most important thing, for me, is that whenever I did choose to expound upon the idea of another, I accredited them forthrightly. Thomas Sowell, come to think of it, was the only culprit. A genius of a man, an African-American, black as night and stringent as anything. One of the few people capable of evoking principles like intellectual honesty and bravery from his fellow human being, whatever their IQ.
Does any one of us, and especially media moguls (hopefully honest ones,) care now to deal with the meat of racial issues rather than the pitter patter that frames the only matter of interest to be had for those readers whom we should be ever grateful are making themselves attentive to the squabbling of young bloods and old hacks such as ourselves? Or, as one commentator graciously put it to me in the comments section of my previous piece, do they outrightly ignore what the other side is arguing and regard that which they do not even attempt to meet square on as a “load of bull”?
Well, as long as you don’t call it racist, you may suit yourself.
Original article: http://www.lusakavoice.com/2014/04/07/field-ruwe-and-the-white-racist/
By Howard Bland