Ever heard the classic breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me”?
That, in a nutshell, is the thesis of the book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal by Mark Krikorian, who heads the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates sharply reducing immigration. Krikorian argues that, while the immigrants coming here now are similar to those that arrived a century ago, the United States has undergone profound changes that make it much less able to absorb newcomers.
But at a recent discussion of Krikorian’s book that aired on C-SPAN, a young academic offered a different twist on Krikorian’s argument — one that’s far more appealing to white nationalists. Jason Richwine, a doctoral student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, essentially asserted, “It’s partly me, but there’s no question it’s you, too.”
Or, as he actually said: “The argument that immigrants themselves are no different from the ones that came 100 years ago I think is quite wrong, and I think that the major difference here is ethnicity — or race, if you will.” Not only do people of the same race tend to stick together, Richwine said, but “races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ.”
Not surprisingly, Richwine’s remarks were warmly received on white nationalist blogs. “Definitely someone we want to keep our eye on,” wrote Marcus Epstein on the blog of the anti-immigration hate site VDARE.com.
“[His] name sounds Jewish, which makes what follows even more remarkable,” crowed Larry Auster, who runs the blog View from the Right.
Richwine joined Krikorian and Fred Siegal, a professor at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, for the July 1 discussion at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an influential, conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. Richwine, who is completing a dissertation on immigration and IQ, is a National Research Initiative fellow at AEI and will remain there after finishing his degree this fall. He joins AEI-sponsored scholar Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, the highly controversial 1994 book that argues that blacks and Latinos have lower IQs than whites and that most social welfare and affirmative action programs are doomed to failure as a result.
For those who thought that ranking immigrant groups based on IQ was a relic of the early 20th century, Richwine’s remarks were instructive. He said that in America there’s an IQ hierarchy, with Jews at the top, followed in descending order by East Asians, non-Jewish whites, Hispanics and blacks. “Group differences in ability, combined with a natural tribal disposition, is going to create, usually, parallel cultures within a multiracial society rather than an assimilated culture,” he said. “I think that is a major, major obstacle to the assimilation of today’s immigrants, because they are not from Europe which is, I think, a major difference.”
Never mind that East Asians, a so-called high IQ group, aren’t European, or that many Latinos trace their ancestry to the European country of Spain. Richwine said it doesn’t matter that some immigrant groups not considered white when they came to the United States are considered white today, such as the Irish and Sicilians. Just because some groups that were thought unable to assimilate defied expectations doesn’t mean that’ll be true of all groups, he said.
To bolster his case, he named three groups that have been in the United States a long time — blacks, American Indians and early Mexican Americans — and “have not assimilated to the cultural mainstream as typified by white Americans.” He failed to mention that those groups were subject to decades of institutionalized prejudice that European immigrants did not face to the same degree when they arrived in the United States. Nor did he address the fact that, unlike European immigrants, the groups he cited were either conquered on North American soil or brought unwillingly here from Africa. And he did not discuss any research on how well contemporary immigrants are assimilating; if he had, listeners might have learned about a recent Manhattan Institute study that found that today’s newcomers, while currently less assimilated than their counterparts of 100 years ago, are in fact assimilating at a faster rate than those earlier immigrants.
Richwine declined to answer a detailed list of questions E-mailed him by the Hatewatch, saying he didn’t think that the Southern Poverty Law Center would give him “a fair hearing.”
Concern about the intelligence of newcomers to this country is nothing new. The discriminatory immigration quotas adopted in 1924 were aimed at excluding immigrant groups that had supposedly scored low on IQ tests: Italians, Poles, Jews and Russians. (Richwine said he does not support a race-based immigration policy.)
But the “research” on IQs of early 20th century immigrants has not held up — and the racial IQ differences that Richwine posits are likewise disputed. The prominent social scientist James Flynn, who debated Murray in 2006 at AEI, believes that the cause of the black-white IQ gap is environmental, rather than genetic, and can be further reduced by improving the conditions in which black children grow up.
“First, traits other than IQ are very significant to achievement,” he told Hatewatch in an E-mailed response to Richwine’s remarks. “Second, there is no convincing evidence that IQ differences are not environmentally caused. Third, are Hispanics non-European? In any event, they are doing quite well in America compared to many earlier immigrant groups.”