Advanced Search

Is it racist to believe that African Americans are less intelligent than Caucasians on the whole since scientific studies show that African Americans have lower IQs? Does not being racist presuppose the hypothesis that cultural biases predispose African Americans to have lower IQs? I mean do you have to believe that IQ differences are due to cultural differences to not be racist? Supposing that differences in IQ were due to biological differences would it be racist to suppose that African American tend to be less intelligent or would that assessment be unwarranted without an understanding of the relationship between intelligence and IQ? I mean you can be intelligent in ways that aren't measurable by IQ can't you? But if IQ differences are in fact biological what is the difference between being racist and scientific? Isn't the idea that some groups are statistically more likely to produce people who are less intelligent than another group one way which racism is defined? Or is that an incorrect definition...

There are a lot of complicated issues here! But let me just address one. Let's suppose it true that black Americans do, as a whole, have lower scores on IQ tests than do white Americans. To suggest that there might be a biological explanation for this fact is to suppose that African Americans are, as a group, (i) biologically different from white folks and (ii) in some relevant respect, biologically similar to each other. That is, there has to be some relevant biological feature that black people generally have that white people generally do not. That is not itself a racist idea, but it is, so far as anyone can tell, just plain false. Black people have various genetic features that causes them to have dark skin, but these genetic features are not significantly correlated with very much else. And, indeed, I recall reading a year or so ago a study someone did that suggested that the skin tone of the early migrants to Europe changed within a couple dozen generations. Now, as I said, the idea...

Why is it that when a white person says a racial slur, such as "nigger" it is thought to be the most heinous crime. However, when a non-white, in particular blacks call whites "crackers" it is dismissed as nothing. Why is there such a double standard in American society? Why is reverse racism rampant more than ever? Whites have to fear of being shunned for voicing their injustices, because if they do, they will be called a racist. If a white is mistreated due to race in the work place nothing occurs. On the other hand, if it happens to a black it gets mass media coverage. The politics are backwards, the NAACP, pushes racial equality for blacks, yet they are immersed with racism towards whites; not all are but it has been displayed. If a white were to make an Organization for the advancement of their race it would be an outcry for its dismantle. Shouldn't all race Organizations be abolished since we're under the same umbrella, the Human race? I too often experienced this firsthand, being of black decent. I...

The questioner makes a number of factual claims which seem to me to need rather a lot of support. In fact, I'm not sure that any of the factual claims the questioner makes are correct. Who is it that dismisses racially charged remarks by blacks as "nothing"? What examples of workplace mistreatment due to whiteness does the questioner have in mind? Which of the NAACP's leaders are racially biased, and what is the evidence of that bias? Where is the evidence that "reverse racism" is rampant? Are whites being randomly stopped by black police when driving through black neighborhoods? Are whites suddenly more likely to receive jail time for drug crimes? or to receive the death penalty for capital crimes? Have dozens of studies shown that a job applicant whose details (e.g., name) make it clear that he is white is less likely to be interviewed than one who is clearly black, even if all relevant details of the CVs are otherwise identical? Have similar studies shown the same thing about...

Abraham Lincoln once made this argument that white people have no right to enslave black people: "You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own." If I understand Lincoln correctly, he is arguing that because some white people have darker skin than other white people, skin color is not sufficient justification for slavery. Isn't this a fallacious conceptual slippery slope argument? Let's say we have three men. The first has only a few dollars, the second is a multi-millionaire, and the third is a billionaire. The third one is richer than the second. But that does not change the fact the the first and second are both rich and the first is not. In the same way, it might be true that some white people have darker skin than others. But this doesn't change the fact that there are white people and black people (as well as borderline cases.) ...

First, I need to applaud your engagement with this argument. Many people would hesitate to criticize, simply because they agree with Lincoln's conclusion. But, as you implicitly note, whether we agree with the conclusion is quite independent of whether the argument is any good. The question worth asking, I take it, is why Lincoln thinks the justification for slavery rests upon the claim that "the lighter [have] the right to enslave the darker". Certainly you are right that this does not, and need not, follow from the thought that whites have the right to enslave blacks. But, on the other hand, it is so obvious that it doesn't follow that it seems uncharitable to Lincoln to suppose he thought it did---which is not, of course, to say he didn't think it did. What it means is that we ought now to search for some other reason he might have thought that the justification involved "lightness" rather than whiteness. That's an historical question, and I'm in no position to answer it. But here's one...

On the subject of race. Why is there a tacit assumption that all persons are white unless identified as some different race? Example: Maybe a guy is lost from his group at a big convention or something and he tells someone that he is looking for "these three guys... one of them is black, and one of them has a big nose ring?" Like black-ness is an unusual trait to be used to pick somebody out of a crowd or a police line up, like a scar or a tattoo. I hope this made at least some sense.

I'm sure there are more and less worrisome ways of answering this question, and I'd never wish to downplay the reality of racism. But, in some such cases, there is a fairly simple answer: Black-ness may be an unusual trait in certain circumstances, in the sense that there are relatively few black folks in the relevant group. If so, then mentioning that someone is black may contribute rather a lot to the effort to identify or individuate them. It's easy enough to imagine circumstances in which that would not be so. Maybe one is at the NAACP convention. Then one would be rather less likely, I'd think, to say, "I'm looking for my friend. He's black...." It is also, sadly, easy enough to imagine that racism infects the use of this method of identifying people: Some or even many people may be inclined to suppose that the relative number of black people in a certain population is lower than it actually is. So someone might say, "the black congressman" or "the black professor", thinking those...

If people of different "races" can have clear physical difference (appearance, or even immunities to certain diseases), could this not also mean there could be differences in ability to learn, or mental differences altogether?

Of course there could be all kinds of differences between races, including differences in native intelligence, ability to learn, and so forth. The only significant question is whether there are such differences, and there has never been any decent reason to believe that there are. Part of the problem here is that people often speak as if "race" is a well-defined notion, perhaps even a notion with biological significance. But it is not.