The Village Voice Calls Me A Conservative (Right) And A Racist (Wrong).

I supposed I should know better, but the Village voice is attacking me, and every other ‘right wing blogger’ for defending John Derbyshire.

Curt Doolittle  … allowed as how “racism is just plain stupidity.” Nonetheless he explained that “African Americans FACTUALLY demonstrate African American distributions of IQ are FACTUALLY almost a full standard deviation lower than that of their white counterparts,” and that “whites used to be racist but the wars ended their comfort with self confidence. Blacks are racist at the bottom.”

Doolittle also noted that black people are disproportionately represented in crime statistics. He did not consider their disproportionate representation in poverty statistics to be connected — that sort of thinking, we suppose, would conflict with the Austrian Libertarian tradition — but suggested that “aberrant behavior among minorities” in the U.S. is “tolerated under the principle of diversity and freedom of self expression.”  — The Village Voice

To which I replied:

Thank you for quoting me on this issue.  I was pretty reluctant to write about it.  It strikes me as odd that if I write something on fashion or gender relations, or racism, that it gets a lot of attention — my most popular article was when I stated that tattoos had gone out of style in the middle class.  But if I write something meaningful about political theory you can hear crickets.  So, I guess this kind of thing goes with the territory.

But I have a few nits with your quote:

1) Racism is just plain stupid. One cannot judge an individual by the properties of his class. Although one can judge a class by the properties of its individuals.

2) Denying that we in the states have a racial issue is not stupid. It’s obvious, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I’lll avoid the detail of why we have a greater problem with race than our English and Canadian counterparts, but the fact that we do, is indicative of the problem. They can enforce behavioral norms, and our society has forbidden such pressure to conformity as the French impose.

3) Denying that poverty is a symptom is not stupid either. You imply that I do not seem to appreciate this issue.  Acknowledging that the reason for poverty is not racism but IQ is not stupid either. It’s just what it is.  Acknowledging that the distribution of IQ varies among groups isn’t stupid either.

5) I’m not advocating racism – that is an emotional construct. I”m saying that the suite of policy solutions that seek to solve the problem through educational commingling, and treating racial groups as homogenous in ability is simply HARMFUL to those at the bottom,  40% of whom are black. Even the genders are not homogenous. If we look at the data we should not start boys in school for a year after we start girls, and perhaps two years. That’s just one aspect of the Finnish model.  Instead, those troubled demographics need special attention. I’m appealing for special attention — ie: schools designed to teach something other than middle class whites and asians.  I can forgive you for not knowing my broader political position, and leaping to the conclusion you did. I’m just not sure I want to let the error go unanswered. And a look at the complexion of my family, which is a rainbow, should be enough to convince anyone of my personal disposition.

6) Derbyshire was fired for speaking the truth in order to draw attention to the problem.  I”m not sure I think his argument is particularly useful. I am sure I don’t agree with his reasons or his solutions. But he was speaking the truth. If you are one of the deniers that thinks human IQ distributions are environmental rather than genetic, then you can get together with climate deniers and have a celebration.  But the matter is settled in the data. It’s settled in the profession.  And the dirty secret of the Human Genome project: we now know why. Social classes are genetically determined too. And capitalism’s fast meritocratic rotation makes these differences rapidly visible.

So lets move beyond name calling and solve this problem.  We can solve it by throwing welfare money at it, or do what we’re doing and continue to see little progress, or we can understand that a very different school system is needed with far more support for a demographic that needs special care in order to fit successfully into society.  Because what we’re doing isn’t working.

The race and class warfare prevents us from “Getting To Denmark” and building an egalitarian society. I don’t believe that society can be created with a 300M+ population like it can in a 5M population if  we have to rely on a government where consensus of belief is needed and where  the winner takes all.  And reorganizing our political institutions to accomodate for our impossibly complex diversity of opinion, desire, visions AND abilities, is what I work on full time.

I don’t expect thanks for it. On the other hand, I have many faults, but I don’t think the one you’re attributing to me is one of them.  🙂


Curt Doolittle

4 responses to “The Village Voice Calls Me A Conservative (Right) And A Racist (Wrong).”

  1. “So lets move beyond name calling and solve this problem.”

    recall your own assertion that the liberal narrative is the feminine narrative. Pointing to facts doesn’t help. If it did the non-debatable fact of free market exchange leading to the greatest uplift of living standards in all of human history would end the argument outright. That the liberal narrative consistently ignores this fact tells us that the debate over helping the downtrodden isn’t really about the outcomes for the downtrodden.

    pretty much all of Robin Hanson’s posts along these lines are applicable:

    • Naz,

      Thanks for your comment, support, and advice.
      Yes, you’re correct, of course. It just never ceases to amaze me. Comprehension is not the same as internalization. 🙂
      Thanks for the pointer to Hanson.


  2. RE: “Acknowledging that the reason for poverty is not racism but IQ is not stupid either. It’s just what it is. Acknowledging that the distribution of IQ varies among groups isn’t stupid either.”

    It’s not stupid but perhaps a little uninformed and not based in common sense. The IQ test is inherently skewed to measure the cultural experiences and intelligence values of whites and people who value white culture, learning, etc. This would explain the Asian results, for they value things middle and upper class White people value (education, success, language, the arts, European history and music, etc). A couple of anecdotes to support this hypothesis: when I spent a summer in Europe touring the great art museums, I saw droves and droves of Asians, and when I lived in Boston and spent a lot of time on MIT’s campus, I saw droves of Asians there to visit and help move their children in; but hardly any African Americans (by the way who aside from Asians ever goes on a tour of a university when in another country? I love that!!) I took this to be more about priority, opportunity, and socio-economic access than IQ. This was confirmed when I became a wedding photographer. There is a lot of pressure on Asian children to become doctors and lawyers and other high-ranking professions in our country. There is also an in-group social behavior among Asians that further assists Asian families in being able to provide for their children (that whites and blacks don’t do) and protect from life’s vicissitudes. This is the red envelope financial gift that the newlywed family receives from all sponsors, aunts, uncles, and cousins, etc. Oftentimes these envelopes contain upwards of $1000 to $2000. Each person at the wedding is expected to give, in this amount, and in return when they get married, or their children get married, everyone else is expected to contribute back to them. A newlywed couple can walk away from their wedding with $50,000 – $150,000 dollars to start their new life together. Not bad! It is in effect a community funding source (i.e. zero interest loans) for setting up the home, buying the home, buying the car, paying down the student loan debt, enabling the couple to establish themselves in a financially secure way, to enable one spouse to stay home to raise the children, whatever. I cannot underscore how different this is from every other cultural and ethnic group that I have encountered when photographing weddings. I live and work in San Diego and have worked with people from every habitable continent, over 25 countries, and from every major religious tradition. In no other large group culture did I see anything like this. This almost certainly has to contribute toward explaining the differences in Asian IQ scores.

    The IQ tests reference various things that people in white and Asian communities take for granted, including speaking mannerisms, spelling, and common references, history, culture, etc. The IQ test has an inherent bias toward rewarding only one kind of intelligence, plus it was created by a white man (I assume, I actually haven’t checked this but knowing the history of psychology and science in general, I’m 99.99% sure I’m right with this assumption – and even if I’m wrong, then it was certainly created by a white woman) with his assumption of ‘norms’ and references to history, etc so it’s not surprising to me that different groups score differently. If all things were equal, including parenting styles, family structures, access to things like quality child care, time to read to your children, the prioritization of reading to one’s children every night, going to the zoo, even the way parents talk to their children informs how their minds develop (see more on child language acquisition regarding differences between cultures and different language structures), having two parents at home, financial security, etc. then the differences would be minimal or non existent.

    I find the discussion of IQ differences between racial groups (which is a non-scientific way of grouping ourselves by the way) to be very mind-limiting and class perpetuating, and even class oppressive. I personally suspect it relates to the way conservatives value the care/harm and other values differently than liberals do. According to Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind “conservative caring is somewhat different–it is aimed not at animals or at people in other countries but at those who’ve sacrificed for the group. It is not universalist; it is more local, and blended with loyalty.”

    What this tells me is that the argument over IQ is based in our particular morals. Conservatives are more likely to believe that the small group they belong to is more or less high scoring in IQ because of how they care for people and how they value equality, opportunity, and therefore things like education, etc. Whereas liberals, who value opportunity, equality, and care universally, are more likely to understand IQ as something to do with culture, the human condition, opportunity, environment, etc. Our elephants are pointing us to our own particular interpretation of the “IQ scores” but in conservative’s case the direction the elephant is pointing is leaving out a lot of cultural and social context that is very important to understanding the development of the human mind, intelligence, and learning.

    An interesting test for IQ would be to compare African IQ scores to African-American IQ scores. Has this ever been done? That would get to this underlying, perceived ‘racist’ belief that people with African ancestry are just more likely to be worse at IQ tests than people with Caucasoid or Asian ancestry. And it might also point out what I have said above, that IQ tests are culture specific. I doubt that people in Africa would score as high as say, African Americans living in Pittsburgh.

    As a way to test my hypothesis above regarding Asian IQ test and the impact of these in-group cultural traditions on IQ scores, one could also test Jewish IQ scores in the US and compare them to Asian scores. I bet they would be similar. In attending and documenting many Jewish weddings I saw a striking similarity of focus and group and family support and priorities for education, achievement, and financial success. Have these questions ever been asked or addressed?

  3. PS Facts are nothing without context when it comes to people because people aren’t constants like the speed of light and we certainly don’t exist in a vacuum. Our context is everything 🙂 Jonathan Haidt spends a lot of time discussing this when talking about the differences in moral values between cultures, within cultures, and between classes both within and across cultures. You can’t ignore this important guiding principle when talking about something like IQ, which is NOT a constant of intelligence in the same way that physical constants are universal across nature and time.

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