What is Intelligence?

Just read a great review of a review of James Flynn’s What is Intelligence?. Over at Offsprung. Amanda Marcotte goes on to describe some of the best ways to use the long-used I.Q. test to refute racism rather than (supposedly) bolster it.

Basically, the Flynn effect of I.Q. scores (that each generation is testing better than the last), causes test makers to recalibrate the test every so often, throwing a wrench in the old racist stand-by. If the I.Q. test is constantly changing, then how can any of the racial-gap data be accurate?

Of course racists assume an I.Q. test is an unbiased tool to measure intelligence, so that any disparity from two or more arbitrarily chosen people (i.e., race categorized) must be the result of fundamental genetic racial difference on intelligence. There are so many holes in this argument, it’s amazing it keeps getting posited. And now, thanks to Flynn’s book, there’ a few more holes.

Race Is A Lie

Race is a Lie cast I apologize to my six of so readers for being MIA, but what can you do? I got a few things for you coming up.

Recently I saw a play called “Race is a Lie” by River Jackson and starring Genevieve Jessee as Black, Kevin Copps as White and Amielynn Abellera as Other. I had a limited run here in SF and it was definitely worth catching.

The basic premise is about two cops, one older, male and black and the other is younger, female and black. Their case revolves around the murder of a small homeless child and their apprehension and questioning of the child’s mother, who’s race is somewhat ambiguous.

While the characters certainly touched on all issues with race as well as gender, age and authority, they do it all in rhyming verse. The delivery is so smooth and dialog written so naturally, that you barely notice it. I wondered if this was similar to how it must have been to see a Shakespearian play — with an intimate knowledge of the language and not getting hung up on it. As you can do doubt guess, the was exceedingly complex.

That complexity made it a very enjoyable experience, but if the goal was to impart some knowledge, the message was a bit garbled and confusing. The arguments and discussions between the two cops could have represented race tensions, gender tension and personality differences. No doubt this was the intended effect since even race issues are never really black and white. However sticking with the theme of this blog, I’ve managed to tease out a few of the race related issues brought up in this play:

Mr. White was very much an empathic white man character. Knowledgeable about race, despite his whiteness and added his view of the Civil Rights Movement in a different light because he was there. He was also sort of an insensitive know-it-all. Like me!

Ms. Black played up some of the stereotypes of being black and angry and being on her period. I thought those portion were a bit weak and there wasn’t too much to contradict her stereotypes. The entitlement the character felt to have Martin Luther King Day off from work (the day the play takes place) seemed a bit trite and forced. But together with Mr. White, they were the classic good cop/bad cop, which Black being the latter.

Other was perhaps the most interesting character. Being homeless and possibly mentally ill, she was portrayed as not only racially ambiguous, but also reality ambiguous. When was she flashbacking and when was she there with the cops. Was she an idiot, or more clever than you’d think. I find it interesting that the only race she claimed was two different tribes of Native Americans, possibly since Native Americans are either all mixed up these days, or virtually fantasy due to their rarity and genocidal decimation, thus leaving the viewer to decide.

All in all, the highlights of the play were certainly the rhyming verse and the complex portrayal of race and life in modern San Francisco. However, I felt that since there was no clear message, it might not have the most broad appeal.

Ten Mistakes in Talking About Race

Heather Wood, reprinted in The Huffington Post, has a great article about the 10 Mistakes White People Make When Talking About Race. I would like to extend her list to include pretty much anyone talking about race, but unfortunately, whites tend to make the most mistakes here.

I like her number 1: Thinking It’s Not OK to Talk About It and her number 4. Thinking Race Is Only an Issue for Minorities the best.

James Watson, DNA decoder, is an idiot

James Watson, of the Watson-Crick fame, the folks known for discovery the double-helix structure of DNA, must have just joined a country club where the requirements dictate you must be white, old as dirt and racist.

I can’t believe I’m reading this, but he is quoted in the Sunday Times of London as saying Africans are genetically less intelligent than others. Watson’s apparent lack of interest in the genetic research that followed his receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1962 has cost him a lecture spot to promote his new book at the Science Museum of London.

Way to go James.

Hat-tip to RaceWire.

Colorlines tackles race science

Colorlines magazine has a great article on genetics, science and race called Genetic Drift by Ziba Kashef. Go read it now!

Not only is the article good in both accepting that biological sciences have disproved race but also drawing out those stalwarts who are still so certain of racial difference. I often do not see race policy publications tackle this tenuous subject and I applaud Colorlines for doing so. Here are a couple of my favorite bits:

On forensics use of racial markers:

Such racialized forensics presents multiple problems for people of color. It blurs the line between DNA tests that can definitively rule out suspects (as in the Innocence Project) and less certain analyses that “predict” or state the probability of a match. It gives scientific legitimacy to the widespread but still controversial notion that certain genetic differences, or markers, correlate precisely with geographic regions and modern racial categories. Further, it makes acceptable manhunts for “ancestry informative markers,” a euphemism for racial identifiers in genes despite the many pitfalls of old-fashioned racial profiling. Worse still, it creates a market for a growing list of genetic services that may, at best, be good guesses but not definitive.

On medical science’s recent trend in ignoring other environmental and biological factors:

[This] is illustrated by the controversial race drug BiDil. Developed to address the greater mortality from heart failure among African Americans, the drug has been met with both celebration and skepticism. While it is true that Blacks ages 45 to 64 are more than twice as likely to die from heart failure than whites, Duster points out that the disparity narrows after age 65. The disparity may have less to do with biology and race than other documented factors in heart disease, such as diet, stress and lifestyle. Evidence outside of the U.S. also undermines the rationale for a race-based approach to the condition. Citing the data of epidemiologist Richard S. Cooper, who compared hypertension rates worldwide, Duster explains, “Germany has the highest rate of hypertension, and Nigeria has the lowest rate. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in epidemiology to figure out what might be the issue there. It can’t be race and genetics.”

A lot of the issues touched on in this article, I plan to expose at greater length in this blog. Namely, an explanation of what “race” markers are and how they are abused. And as an extension, an attack on those ancestry websites that collect your DNA and spit back at you a neat little pie chart of your racial make-up. Stay tuned…

Caucasian is a Dirty Word.

I read it on forms. I hear it conversation. And most annoying of all, people refer to me as such. I’m talking about the word Caucasian.

Sure we’re all trying to be PC when we invoke the formal racial title for a group of people we absolutely must designate. African American for blacks, Asian American for Asians, etc. But a history of struggle and racism called for such designators and more importantly, such designators as chosen by the people in question. It only follows that when making racial proclamations where you wish to include white folks, your brain will pause a moment to search for the nice formal self-designated word for whitey. Unfortunately, the word that comes up is Caucasian.

But where did that word come from and how did it rise to the lofty position of designated the white race as a whole? Some might be surprised to know, that like most racial designators, the history of the word Caucasian is racist, inaccurate and flawed. I’m writing this in order to bring light to this dirty word and hopefully work to remove it from our politically correct vocabulary. Continue reading