The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On I.Q

In reaction to my expression of distrust in I.Q. as arbiter of racial tendencies, a thoughtful reader posted:

"Two of your points appear to be at least partially inconsistent. You insinuate that Caucasians developed and administered the IQ test and that it therefore is not surprising that Africans (I actually prefer the terms White and Black) come out lower than Caucasians. You also note that Asians have higher IQs than Caucasians. If Caucasians rigged the tests (deliberately or otherwise)to favor Caucasians, then why do Asians score higher than Caucasians?

Next, Asians are not at the top of the heap. That honor goes to the Ashkenazi Jews."
My comment was not to suggest that whites necessarily "rig" the tests--I have no reason to think that whites are, per capita, more dishonest than anyone else. I say that I DON'T find it surprising that a non-Caucasian group scores lower. I DO find it surprising, and interesting that Asians score higher, and have yet to really speculate on that. But you're being inconsistent here: if whites created the tests, and Ashkenazi Jews are at the top, you're saying a group of whites tested highest aren't you? You may not see it, because this is a form of info-jiggering. Ashkenazi Jews aren't a group completely separate from Caucasians. They are a SUB-SET of Caucasians. Unless you are going to break down Africans or Asians into similar sub-groups, this is a boondoggle. Africans have more genetic variance than any other group, but no one ever breaks down "blacks" into the hundreds of sub-groups that you'd have to break 'em into in order to compare Ashkenazi Jews accurately not to a meta-group like "Asians" but to the appropriate sub-groups: there are dozens within Japanese alone, let alone the vast group called "Chinese." But this is natural: you know all the names of your own children, while the kids down the block are "the Joneses."
To my knowledge, the most accurate, non-culturally biased I.Q. test has to do with a light and color switch, and the speed of recognition. Supposedly, this measures "g", the underlying quality which expresses itself as various forms of intellect, more accurately than anything else. Sounds good to me--but I've yet to meet anyone who was given such a test. I've never seen one that didn't have strongly culturally determinant aspects, even if it was only "how many times have you taken such a test before?" The filters of culture are incredibly powerful, and the only way I'd believe this absolutely is if a Martian, completely outside the system, created a test for Earthlings. Or if you took blind kids, raised them without any visual cultural referents, had them mate, gave them all identical nutrition, and then tested THEIR kids. Or if the test was created by equal numbers of experts from each major racial group.

But saying that blacks have the same range of intelligence, but a different distribution, is just a polite way of calling us niggers. That "different" range boils down to "less intelligence on the average," otherwise it wouldn't be used to explain poverty and crime and lesser income. No one ever says this meaning "there are fewer unintelligent black folks, and more smart ones, relative to whites!" All my life, some whites--always Conservatives, by the way--have invited me to separate myself from other black folks, saying that "we're not saying all black people are unintelligent! Why are you taking offense? YOU'RE perfectly smart, Steve..." God, I have heard that, and variations on it, so often I want to vomit.

So please, please, know that phrasing it this way only makes the same terrible statement more polite and socially acceptable--it doesn't change what you're saying.

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