The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, February 05, 2007

Perceptual Filters and emotional convenience

White readers will probably catch, very quickly in the recent discussions of IQ, that blacks are certainly reluctant to admit the possibility of genetic IQ differences. They will rightly suppose that there are both personal and historical reasons for this. The question is: can you find the lesson for yourself and your group there? By generalizing, one can come to: "Members of a given group are loathe to admit that there are specific, painful aspects of their being or actions, currently or historically." All right, given this, can you be honest enough to see that there are plenty of whites who would be comforted by the idea that blacks are deficient in this arena? Not just "bigots", but those whose ancestors owned or trafficked in slaves, or those who believe in Conservative social economics (why spend money on expensive social programs that can't work anyway?). We are all eager to believe in things that make us look good, and loathe to believe in things that make us, our families or ancestors look bad.
After all--there are two (very broadly stated) points of view here. One that blacks are generally intellectually inferior. In which case, slavery was virtually a deliverance from their misery in Africa, and one might well believe that white America has done everything it can for us. Sniff sniff. The next is that blacks are generally equal, in which case you have to accept the possibility of a fantastic amount of damage done over 400 years, resulting in the inequal situation. I can understand how that would be hard to wrap the mind around. Another, of course, is that blacks are superior, triggering huge amounts of jealousy and fear--if we ever get a chance to catch our balance, BOY OH BOY are we ever going to even the score. And more. After all, sports performance used to be the measure of a man, and the way we kick ass disproportionate to our numbers would have to be mighty disturbing to someone who buys into genetic superiority...
No, I don't buy that, but could have great fun crafting an argument around it if I was that kind of A-hole. All I'm saying is that when you notice that black folks are reluctant to look at some things, look at it as a mirror: what are YOU missing? What do YOU believe because it is convenient or comforting? And if you think there isn't anything, boy oh boy are you in for an uncomfortable awakening one day...

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