Academia at Forefront of Racist Ideals, White Supremacy

Academic ideas a pillar of racist thought

What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of "phasing out" of such peoples. If the world is to evolve more better humans, then obviously someone has to make way for them. ... To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.

— Richard Lynn, professor of psychology, University of Ulster-Coleraine, Northern Ireland

Not since the days of Jim Crow has academia been so much at the forefront of the white supremacist movement in the United States. Positions once thought to be the kiss of death for an academic reputation are today vigorously defended in the name of intellectual honesty.

In the first 60 years of this century, such thinking led to the sterilization of more than 100,000 Americans, and in Germany it resulted in death camps for the "genetically inferior." Today, it is legitimizing the white supremacist movement.

The nature vs. nurture debate has raged throughout the 20th century — and indeed, it remains a contentious issue that will likely never be resolved.

What is clear is that the academics who see inherent IQ differences between racial groups have lent support — unwittingly or not — to overt white supremacists. In some cases, this support has gone so far as to become an unapologetic academic embrace of professional racists.

Consider the case of professor Glayde Whitney. A psychology professor at Florida State University and the past president of the Behavior Genetics Association, Whitney boldly goes where few academics have gone before.

As the author of an introduction to David Duke's new autobiography, Whitney describes the former Klansman's 717-page tome as "a painstakingly documented, academically excellent work of socio-biological-political history that has the potential to ... change the very course of history."

In much of academia, a pillar of the racist argument has become the accepted view. Polling a large sample of mainly academic experts anonymously for a 1988 book, Mark Snyderman and Stanley Rothman found that 53 percent believed IQ differences between blacks and whites have a genetic component.

Only 17 percent thought the differences between the racial groups' scores on intelligence tests were strictly environmental in origin. Another 28 percent thought that there was insufficient data available to make a judgment.

In 1994, Science magazine, the world's most prestigious journal of science, devoted an entire issue to the nature vs. nurture debate. "How much of our fate is in fact written in the DNA inside our cells?" the magazine asked. "And how much freedom do we have to reach our full potential as human beings through our education and experience?"

Brain Surgeons and Janitors
Increasingly, the answer given to the latter question is not much. Genes, the argument goes, code for intelligence, character, personality, even political orientation. Furthermore — and this is the critical point for overt racists — races differ significantly in all these characteristics.

For many, the "hereditarian" position boils down to this:

There are racial differences, the argument goes, and they are not just skin deep. Americans of African descent score, on average, one standard deviation below whites on tests of "intelligence" — meaning they have an average IQ of 85.

Only 16 percent of African-Americans, the new generation of race scientists argue, have IQs over 100, and fewer than 3 percent score above 115. Certainly, a few blacks are brilliant — but science "proves" that most of them are not.

Everyone should be judged on their own merits, of course, but affirmative action flies in the face of inalterable reality. Blacks, on average, just don't have what it takes, the hereditarians maintain.

Most of the academics whose work has supported such a view either deny that they are racists or remain blind to their work's implications. But not all. British psychologist Christopher Brand candidly agreed with the idea that he was a "scientific racist."

The day after Brand accepted that label while promoting a new book carrying the imprint of a major academic publisher, the publisher abruptly canceled a planned American edition.

Other cases have been somewhat murkier.

'Breeding for Brain Size'
In 1997, the American Psychological Association (APA) chose Raymond B. Cattell, for its "Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Science of Psychology."

Cattell, who worked for decades on intelligence testing, once wrote that "much of mankind is obsolete" and that to continue "the past course of evolution from Australopithecus to Cro-Magnon we need to go beyond ourselves." Cattell maintained that the "only real advance [in humankind] is going to occur through breeding for brain size."

Before the award ceremony, critics accused Cattell of being aligned with fascist ideas, and in early 1998 the APA decided to appoint a five-person, blue-ribbon committee to investigate the entire affair. Before the committee completed its work, Cattell died. No final report was ever issued.

Shortly before his death at the age of 92, Cattell issued a letter withdrawing his name from consideration for the award, saying he "abhor[red]" racism and only supported "voluntary eugenics." Cattell's daughter, Heather, a California psychologist, told a reporter later that her father "did write some pretty terrible stuff" before World War II, but that he had modified his views later in life.

Like Richard Lynn, Cattell hoped for the "phasing out" of lesser cultures. He spoke of "voluntary self-genocide" and recommended, in a 1972 book, that developed countries allow underdeveloped countries to "go to the wall," rather than helping these nations when they face famine, genocide or other natural and manmade disasters.