Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, says “The Bell Curve” (1994) by Charles Murray and fellow Harvard professor Richard J Herrnstein, is “an utterly racist book”. He does not make the charge lightly.
America was founded on the strange idea that even though people are plainly unequal in all sorts of ways – like beauty, wealth and intelligence – morally and in the eyes of the law they should be regarded as equal. This has not always been achieved in practice, but the country has made solid progress in that direction.
The civil rights reforms of the 1960s are a clear example. It was more than just a change of law: it was a change of heart. For the first time ever most white Americans saw blacks as a part of the American family, as a true part of the country. We sink or swim together. We.
“The Bell Curve” would turn the country back from that. It says that blacks and poor whites are born with low IQs and so the country should wall them off and protect itself from their troubles as best it can.
In fact, if you follow the argument all the way, the country should sterilize them so they stop having all those hopeless, low-IQ babies. But Murray and Herrnstein do not have the courage to say that.
The trouble here is not that blacks have low IQs but that Murray and Herrnstein do not see them as a true part of the country. How do we know? Because there are plenty of people with low IQs that they never pick on or see as a threat. Like white Southerners. Or old people. Or poor but beautiful white women who marry high-IQ men.
Or their own grandparents.
Their grandparents did at least as badly on IQ tests as present-day blacks (if you take into account the Flynn Effect where IQs are slowly going up), But in that case, suddenly, Murray and Herrnstein no longer think the IQ tests are trustworthy, that their grandparents were just as intelligent as they are. How odd.
For some reason, low IQ scores only count for those from another class or race. Thus the racism.
The book does present opposing arguments and studies, but that is pretty much all it does: present them. It carries on and believes whatever it wants to believe. There is no intellectual honesty.
The book says nothing new, nothing that Arthur Jensen did not say in the 1970s. It just says it in a worse way:
One longs for the straightforward doggedness, robust scholarship, and honest stance of an Arthur Jensen. It embarrasses me that a Harvard man, whom I knew well and once respected, could engage in such a cowardly discourse.
Unfortunately, white liberals and black thinkers are not much better: they do not want the low black IQs to be genetic – but neither do they want it to be cultural, as in caused by black culture. You cannot have it both ways.