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Academic Ideas a Pillar of Racist Thought

Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center (Winter 1999)

What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of 'phasing out' of such peoples. If the world is to evolve more better humans, then obviously someone has to make way for them ... To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.

Richard Lynn, professor of psychology,
University of Ulster-Coleraine, Northern Ireland

By Barry Mehler

Not since the days of Jim Crow has academia been so much at the forefront of the white supremacist movement in the United States. Positions once thought to be the kiss of death for an academic reputation are today vigorously defended in the name of intellectual honesty. In the first 60 years of this century, such thinking led to the sterilization of more than 100,000 Americans, and in Germany it resulted in death camps for the 'genetically inferior.' Today, it is legitimizing the white supremacist movement.

The nature vs. nurture debate has raged throughout the 20th century -- and indeed, it remains a contentious issue that will likely never be resolved. What is clear is that the academics who see inherent IQ differences between racial groups have lent support -- unwittingly or not -- to overt white supremacists. In some cases, this support has gone so far as to become an unapologetic academic embrace of professional racists.

Consider the case of professor Glayde Whitney. A psychology professor at Florida State University and the past president of the Behavior Genetics Association, Whitney boldly goes where few academics have gone before. As the author of an introduction to David Duke's new autobiography, Whitney describes the former Klansman's 717-page tome as 'a painstakingly documented, academically excellent work of socio-biological-political history that has the potential to ... change the very course of history.'

In much of academia, a pillar of the racist argument has become the accepted view. Polling a large sample of mainly academic experts anonymously for a 1988 book, Mark Snyderman and Stanley Rothman found that 53 percent believed IQ differences between blacks and whites have a genetic component. Only 17 percent thought the differences between the racial groups' scores on intelligence tests were strictly environmental in origin. Another 28 percent thought that there was insufficient data available to make a judgment.

In 1994, Science magazine, the world's most prestigious journal of science, devoted an entire issue to the nature vs. nurture debate. 'How much of our fate is in fact written in the DNA inside our cells?' the magazine asked. 'And how much freedom do we have to reach our full potential as human beings through our education and experience?'

Brain surgeons and janitors

Increasingly, the answer given to the latter question is not much. Genes, the argument goes, code for intelligence, character, personality, even political orientation. Furthermore -- and this is the critical point for overt racists -- races differ significantly in all these characteristics.

For many, the 'hereditarian' position boils down to this:

There are racial differences, the argument goes, and they are not just skin deep. Americans of African descent score, on average, one standard deviation below whites on tests of 'intelligence' -- meaning they have an average IQ of 85. Only 16 percent of African-Americans, the new generation of race scientists argue, have IQs over 100, and fewer than 3 percent score above 115. Certainly, a few blacks are brilliant -- but science 'proves' that most of them are not. Everyone should be judged on their own merits, of course, but affirmative action flies in the face of inalterable reality. Blacks, on average, just don't have what it takes, the hereditarians maintain.

Most of the academics whose work has supported such a view either deny that they are racists or remain blind to their work's implications. But not all. British psychologist Christopher Brand candidly agreed with the idea that he was a 'scientific racist.' The day after Brand accepted that label while promoting a new book carrying the imprint of a major academic publisher, the publisher abruptly canceled a planned American edition.

Other cases have been somewhat murkier.

'Breeding for brain size'

In 1997, the American Psychological Association (APA) chose Raymond B. Cattell, for its 'Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Science of Psychology.' Cattell, who worked for decades on intelligence testing, once wrote that 'much of mankind is obsolete' and that to continue 'the past course of evolution from Australopithecus to Cro-Magnon we need to go beyond ourselves.' Cattell maintained that the 'only real advance [in humankind] is going to occur through breeding for brain size.'

Before the award ceremony, critics accused Cattell of being aligned with fascist ideas, and in early 1998 the APA decided to appoint a five-person, blue-ribbon committee to investigate the entire affair. Before the committee completed its work, Cattell died. No final report was ever issued. Shortly before his death at the age of 92, Cattell issued a letter withdrawing his name from consideration for the award, saying he 'abhor[red]' racism and only supported 'voluntary eugenics.' Cattell's daughter, Heather, a California psychologist, told a reporter later that her father 'did write some pretty terrible stuff' before World War II, but that he had modified his views later in life.

Like Richard Lynn, Cattell hoped for the 'phasing out' of lesser cultures. He spoke of 'voluntary self-genocide' and recommended, in a 1972 book, that developed countries allow underdeveloped countries to 'go to the wall,' rather than helping these nations when they face famine, genocide or other natural and manmade disasters.

Race, IQ and the death camps

Many of today's race scientists have reduced exceedingly complex questions about the nature of IQ and moral character to genetic coding -- while downplaying experience, Harvard genetics authority Richard Lewontin has written, 'can easily be changed by environmental manipulation.' Jerry Hirsch, one of the world's leading experts on behavior genetics, says that any set of genes can express a wide range of developmental outcomes.

In contrast to most of those who are pushing the idea of important racial IQ differences, critics of this view are generally far more steeped in laboratory work involving genetics. According to Jonathan Beckwith, a professor of molecular genetics at Harvard University School of Medicine, 'If you ask people in the mainstream genetics community, you are not going to find much support for this work.'

'The myth of the all-powerful gene,' adds Harvard biologist and ethicist Ruth Hubbard, 'is based on flawed science that discounts the environmental context in which we and our genes exist.'

Ultimately, the arguments of race scientists lead to the edge of a slippery slope toward eugenics -- the 'improvement' of a race by controlled breeding. In the 1930s and 1940s, Hitler's scientists fully realized this concept, establishing human breeding farms for 'Aryans,' sterilization and euthanasia for the mentally and physically disabled, and death camps for those deemed genetically inferior. In the United States, officials often acting with court sanction sterilized the 'retarded.' While most Americans now see such actions as atrocities, the ideas that underlay them have a long history here.

Slavery, segregation and science

Revolutionary thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, seeking to justify their exploitation of other human beings, tried to explain their role as slavemasters in scientific terms. While 'all men are created equal,' later 19th-century academics argued, black Africans were not really men at all. They were smaller-brained -- an assertion that Glayde Whitney repeats today -- and endowed with larger genitals. By the 1830s, American race scientists had developed a full-blown defense of slavery based on this kind of alleged African inferiority.

Even the abolitionist movement was not free from racism. Often, Republicans of the period opposed the extension of slavery simply because they did not want blacks in the new territories. Emancipation, in fact, did not become a war aim until the end of 1862. Thus, it is little wonder that after the Civil War a second system of white supremacy -- codified in Jim Crow laws -- would emerge. White supremacy was the consensus nationwide.

After World War II and the experience of Nazi eugenics, ideological ascendancy passed to egalitarian thinkers. With the coming of the civil rights movement, from 1954 to 1968, America's second system of white supremacy collapsed -- and with it, widespread support for the race scientists and eugenicists who had provided its ideological underpinning. But even during the height of the egalitarian period, a core group of academic racists continued to argue for the importance of race-based IQ differences and even eugenic solutions -- and to train a new generation of race scientists to carry on the torch of scientific racialism.

In 1954, for instance, a key witness defending segregation in court was Henry E. Garrett, who was probably the most influential psychologist of his time, chairman of Columbia University's psychology department and a one-time president of the American Psychological Association. Had his view prevailed in the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, black Americans might still be attending 'separate but equal' schools.

Black history as a 'blank'

In the 1950s and '60s, the so-called White Citizens Councils -- which today have been reincarnated as the Council of Conservative Citizens -- used the work of Garrett and other race scientists to legitimize their views. Garrett, for one, was happy to lend his prestige to the white supremacist cause.

In a 1968 article in the White Citizens Council's official publication, Garrett put it plainly enough: 'Despite glamorized accounts to the contrary, the history of Black Africa over the past 5,000 years is largely a blank.' He added, 'The crime record of the Negro in the United States is little short of scandalous.' Of the Supreme Court's Brown decision, Garrett said, 'Should school desegregation become complete either North or South, we can expect total demoralization and then disorganization in that order.'

By the 1980s, a full-blown culture war was under way. Liberals were accused of controlling the mind and media of the nation, with any dissent from the egalitarian position bringing immediate retribution. Liberals were inquisitors happy to suppress the truth, the scheming architects of 'the closing of the American mind.' The conservatives saw themselves as battling the 'political correctness' of truth-denying liberals.

Today, as underlined by the Snyderman/Rothman study, the views of those who look to race as a key component of intelligence are dominant within the IQ testing community -- even though the same study found that a 47 percent plurality of magazine and newspaper editors believe that any racial IQ differences are caused entirely by environmental factors. And this ascendancy of race science in academia seems to be leaking increasingly into relatively mainstream forums, with more overt racists using it to legitimize their ideology.

American Renaissance magazine is an example of an organization that presents itself as scientific but actually promotes some of the more virulent racial views. It is led by Jared Taylor, author of a controversial book on race, who last fall argued that for whites, multiculturalism is 'nothing more than unilateral disarmament in a dangerous world.' Speakers at the American Renaissance gathering last fall where Taylor spoke included Glayde Whitney, who described blacks as 'bigger in bone, smaller in brain,' biologically specialized 'primitives' wont to mating with whites.

Cash and the colonies

Behind the ideas of race scientists for the past half-century, there has been money -- and lots of it.

If you scratch the surface of almost any of the prominent race scientists of recent decades, you will find the same well-endowed institution: the Pioneer Fund. Established in 1937 to 'improve the character of the American people' by promoting the study of eugenics and the procreation of descendants of the original white colonial stock, Pioneer has funded many of the leading Anglo-American race scientists of the last several decades. These grant recipients have included William Shockley, Hans J. Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Roger Pearson, Richard Lynn, J. Philippe Rushton, R. Travis Osborne, Linda Gottfredson, Robert A. Gordon, Daniel R. Vining Jr., Michael Levin and Seymour Itzkoff.

The Pioneer Fund's original endowment came from Wickliffe Draper, scion of old-stock Protestant gentry. Living in what one historian described as a 'quasi-feudal manor house,' Draper grew up in Hopedale, Mass., a company town built by his family. After losing a four-month union battle with the left-wing International Workers of the World, Draper became a man obsessively seeking a way to restore the old order.

Abandoned by the political mainstream after World War II, Draper turned more and more to those academics who were still dedicated to race science and eugenics -- most prominently, in the early years, Henry Garrett. During the 1950s and '60s, Garrett helped distribute Pioneer grants and was one of the founders of the International Association for the Advancement of Eugenics and Ethnology (IAAEE) in 1959. The IAAEE brought together academic defenders of segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa. The Pioneer Fund also supported a variety of institutions working to legitimize race science, including the IAAEE and the journal, Mankind Quarterly.

The scientists

A look at Pioneer grantees is instructive.

Nobel Laureate William Shockley (1910-89), a physicist at Stanford best known for his 'voluntary sterilization plan,' received $188,710 between 1971 and 1978. Arthur Jensen, an educational psychologist focusing on race since 1966, got more than $1 million in Pioneer grants over three decades. In his famous 1969 attack on Head Start -- the early education program that aims to help poor children -- Jensen wrote in the prestigious Harvard Education Review that the problem with black children was that they had an average IQ of only 85. No amount of social engineering could improve that performance, he claimed, adding that 'eugenic foresight' was the only solution.

Roger Pearson, whose Institute for the Study of Man has been one of the top Pioneer Fund beneficiaries over the past 20 years ($870,000 from 1981 to 1996), provides the clearest indication of the extremists supported by the Fund.

Pearson came to the United States in the mid-'60s to join Willis Carto, founder of the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby. In 1965, he became editor of Western Destiny, a magazine established by Carto and dedicated to spreading far-right ideology. Using the pseudonym Stephan Langton, he then became editor of The New Patriot, a short-lived magazine published in 1966 and 1967 to conduct 'a responsible but penetrating inquiry into every aspect of the Jewish Question.' Its articles carried such titles as 'Zionists and the Plot Against South Africa,' 'Early Jews and the Rise of Jewish Money Power' and 'Swindlers of the Crematoria.'

Pioneer support for all the groups linked to Pearson between 1975 and 1996 amounted to more than $1 million -- nearly 10% of total Pioneer grants in that period.

In more recent decades, University of Western Ontario psychology professor J. Philippe Rushton has replaced Jensen as the top individual beneficiary of Pioneer largesse, receiving more than $1 million since 1981. Rushton argues that behavioral differences among blacks, whites and Asians are the result of evolutionary variations in their reproductive strategies. Blacks are at one extreme, he claims, because they produce large numbers of offspring but offer them little care; at the other extreme are Asians, who have fewer children but indulge them. Whites lie somewhere in between.

Despite Rushton's controversial theories -- including positing an inverse relationship between brain and penis size -- he has been embraced by the scientific mainstream. He has been made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is a member of the American, British and Canadian psychological associations.

Ideas have consequences

The world of the Pioneer Fund goes beyond pure science. For example, Pioneer leaders Harry Weyher and Thomas F. Ellis have been part of an interlocking set of directorates and associations linking the Fund to groups connected to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), according to The Washington Post. While a Pioneer director, Ellis served as chairman of both the National Congressional Club and the Coalition for Freedom, and co-founder of Fairness in Media -- all organizations linked to Helms. In the 1980s, Weyher, the longtime president of the Fund, was simultaneously lead counsel for Fairness in Media.

In recent years, Weyher has said that the Fund is spending down its capital and 'once it's gone, we'll just quit.' As a result of this policy, by the end of 1996 the Fund's assets had declined in real terms to less than 40 percent of their 1986 level.

With or without the Pioneer Fund, the debate over genetic racial differences is sure to occupy scholars and others for a long time to come. And this is not a mere ivory tower squabble of little concern to Americans outside academia. Race science has potentially frightening consequences, as is evident not only from the horrors of Nazi Germany, but also from the troubled racial history of the United States.

If white supremacist groups had their way, the United States would return to its dark days. In publication after publication, hate groups are using this 'science' to legitimize racial hatred.

In Calling Our Nation, the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations publishes a piece by a New York psychologist surveying the work of Jensen, Garrett and numerous others. National Vanguard, the publication of former physics professor William Pierce and his neo-Nazi National Alliance, runs a similar piece that concludes that 'it is the Negro's deficiency ... which kept him in a state of savagery in his African environment and is now undermining the civilization of a racially mixed America.' Ed Fields, a longtime, virulent racist, uses a review of Charles Murray's highly controversial book on IQ, The Bell Curve, to conclude that 'over 50% of all Blacks test in the dull to retarded range.'

But it may be David Duke who sums it up best. 'No subject is more controversial than the nature versus nurture debate, and no subject has more direct consequences on society,' he writes. 'If heredity is shown to [be] the primary influence on intelligence rather than environment, then racial equality will crumble as a viable concept...'

-Barry Mehler, associate professor of history at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., is a leading authority on the modern eugenics movement and executive director of the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism.

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