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Pet Sins January 2011

I repeatedly try to prove that the Other group is genetically inferior, but btw I believe that prejudice is wrong

White supremacists who rant angrily about the allegedly inferior professional and academic performance of non-whites in general, seizing upon each publicized 'failure' from any non-white entity, be it a government or an individual, as further proof that entire groups of people are genetically determined to fail and should 'die' or 'disappear', are hardly surprising. It is human nature to perceive more acutely the negative qualities of people we don't like, be they groups or individuals, while we pay less attention to the same flaws in ourselves or people we identify with.

We're rot at all implying that such attitudes are acceptable just because of their commonplace nature or long history. But at least white supremacists generally do not try to hide their prejudices behind pretty words or 'moderate' rhetoric, nor do they for one second pretend to have good intentions towards the groups they criticize. At least some of them are honest about their motivations and intentions, harmful as those goals may be.

That is more than you can say for G, a seemingly devout Buddhist who devotes countless hours to reading religious literature, attending meditation retreats, and trying to 'spread love and rationality' by gifting Buddhist books about love for others and personal responsibility to those he considers as his less-enlightened friends. These books, written by Western Buddhist teachers, talk about loving everyone as if they are our own children, because, in the framework of reincarnation, any other human being may have indeed been our child in past lives.

G claims to be against prejudice. He also happens to be an avid reader of literature from right-wing think tanks. One of his favorite topics is the 'proven inferior intellectual capacity' of non-white groups that he does not belong to or identify with, in particular blacks, based on 'scientific data' like test scores. The question is not so much whether some non-white groups have lower IQ scores but why they do. Some like G believe that 'racial IQ' exists (i.e. test score differences are due mostly to genetic rather than social factors) while others like economist Thomas Sorell point out that white ethnic groups have had a similar or even much worse history of performance with respect to crime and education in the past, but things have changed over time.

The fairness and soundness (or lack of) of the right-wingers' science and selective focus (white ethnic groups with simiilar statistical trends are conveniently not mentioned) have been debated on other forums and in various books that interested readers can look up on their own, so we will not devote space to that debate in this article.

The issue of interest here is with G's contradiction of his own stated values, based perhaps on his 'hidden' motivations - motivations that may be hidden from himself.

G loves debating, both online with strangers, and in person with acquaintances, about his pet topic of 'chronic global IQ test underperformance by black and brown populations,' which to him, is a 'proof of their racial genetic inferiority'. He criticizes those who don't agree with him as 'unscientific, ideologically motivated, PC left wingers,' while conveniently ignoring the effect of environment, e.g. how would a child who intellect was affected by being malnourished during critical development years, whose school performance is negatively affected by the physical pain caused by parasites do when sitting down for a test, compared to his/her identical twin, who is raised in an environment with good access to food, healthcare and clean water?

[To provide another pov, T.Y., one of our contributors, claimed to have performed quite differently on IQ tests taken at different times, depending on how much food was in his stomach ;-) Low blood sugar was a detriment to performance, for him at least. Repeatedly taking different IQ tests also improved his IQ score over a matter of weeks by as much as 30 points. Obviously that 30 point gain isn't due to changing genes ;-). In other words, environment and training matter to a good degree. ]

But to the fair, it is possible that G, our Buddhist friend, might be right in his belief that some 'races' have a lower mean IQ, and IQ is largely controlled by genes, and maybe the genes that determine intelligence are also linked with the genes that determine 'racial' physical appearance. The problem is, we won't be able to prove that hypothesis until we have equalized the odds for all nations and races.

Until the day that the entire world has equal access to clean water, education and healthcare, and no one has to grow up with their self-perception or their teachers and testers' expectations shaped by stereotypes about their natural intellect; we won't be able to conduct that kind of fair, scientific experiment that G claims that his beliefs are based on.

The question is what exactly does G hope to accomplish with winning his arguments about other races' genetically determined inferiority?

Let's say someone who used to believe that all races have equal intellectual potential changes his/her mind at G's prompting and accepts his view that some races are intellectually inferior.

This may be one more teacher who lowers expectations for students of a certain demographic, doesn't push them as hard, or shunts them off to special ed more quickly than s/he would for a student of another race who performs similarly?

Or one more employer who becomes subconsciously turned off to candidates from a certain demographic, more likely to interpret underperformance in an employee of a certain race as 'unfixable' when a person of a different race may not be judged as harshly?

Or one less person ready to take a chance with, extend a hand to, accept as daughter-in-law/son-in-law a person of a particular group. Because we've been told what to look for in certain people, we look harder for those traits in a particular group than in others. Because we've been told over and over again by the millions of 'well-meaning' Gs of the world in direct and indirect ways that some groups of people are just inferior.

G is someone who likes to argue and win. Perhaps there is nothing more than that to his enthusiasm for 'proving' other people's inferiority to his race. So in the hypothetical situation that he wins his arguments in every forum and gains converts to his views, we ask, at what price?

At the price of the person who loses faith in the equal potential of all human beings and subconsciously closes the door in the face of others? At the price of the child who has heard G's opinion of her/his kind's inferiority from so many sources, subtle or not so subtle, so often that s/he stops believing in his/her own potential and doesn't even try to succeed? The people whom he has converted to his pov will likely go around spreading it, and the cycle goes on. (G's typical tactic would be to blame someone else - "It's not my fault that people are influenced by my opinions. They chose to be influenced. That's their problem.")

For the satisfaction of 'winning', he is perfectly happy to ignore the impact of his words and further erode the quality of life of Other people (while blaming the marginalized and only the marginalized - never himself and those he identifies with - for their predicament).

But when G was finally questioned on what he was actually trying to accomplish by 'proving' the genetic inferiority of certain races, he claimed that it was because, with 'scientific knowledge unfettered by PCness' we can craft public policies that are actually effective in helping bridge the achievement gap of black and brown Americans. It is worth noting that this person, who is usually so opinionated on politics and government affairs, did NOT ever show an interest in bridging the achievement gap before; he was perfectly content with occupying his conversations with 'proof' of other people's inferiority, without giving a single suggestion on how to improve their performance.

G seems to devote much more energy trying to convince others of the genetic inferiority of assorted groups of fellow humans, than to actually doing anything to equalize the odds for all humans. So much for his universal 'Buddhist' love. Sure, we can argue that he isn't necessarily obligated to spend his time and energy helping random people. But if that is the case, he should refrain from putting stumbling blocks in their path. He can choose the path of non-interference, but that means, not interfering in other people's lives for good or for ill.

G claims, "I believe that prejudice is wrong, but we have to face the scientific facts". As we said before, that debate on 'scientific facts' can be followed elsewhere, but that's not the point of this post. The question is about the intentions of this person who claims to be fair to all humans and who claims to be seeking enlightenment.

For the purposes of argument, let's assume that G is right about some entire group's limited genetic potential and re-visit the parent-child analogy used in the Buddhist books he reads:

Imagine that you have two children A and B, full siblings. A is 'genetically inferior' to B when it comes to innate intelligence and does less well in school. Do you go around obsessively telling your friends and neighbors "My child B is genetically inferior to my child A. His/her IQ scores prove it." ?

And when your neighbor says, "I'm not sure about A being genetically inferior. I think A can achieve as much as B. A just needs the right guidance and environment," you argue vehemently with your neighbor, insisting that your child A is definitely, provably genetically inferior to his/her sibling B. You return to the topic of your child's genetic inferiority over and over with your neighbor on separate occasions; even when the neighbor does not bring it up, you find a way to slip it into the conversation, so you can 'work' further on your neighbor to convince him to your point of view that your child B is naturally stupider than his/her sibling.

It would seem to a third party that it is very important to you that your neighbor shares your view on your child's genetic inferiority.

Does that sound like something a sane, fair, loving parent would do? A truly well-intentioned parent won't obsess about proving the genetic inferiority of B to others, even if s/he knows that for a fact one of her children is less gifted than the other. Instead, her energies would be focused on pushing both children to succeed.

In other words, G's attitudes towards the Other groups he claims to harbor no prejudice and ill will towards does not seem to be the love of a parent, the kind of love recommended by the Buddhist books he wants his less enlightened friends to read. In fact, there does not seem to be any kind of love involved at all.

He gives so much hype to living a 'conscious' life of self-awareness and positivity, but he either does not know his own motivations towards those he considers as Other (and inferior), or he does indeed have conscious negative intentions towards black and brown people.

We would like to give someone like G the benefit of the doubt and assume that he does have good conscious intentions, and if he was aware of his subconscious prejudices, he would choose to speak and act differently, and change the focus of his energies. The question to all your Gs out there, is, are you willing to even try to live up to your own hype, and to the values of your own faith? Or do you only pick the parts that are convenient to you and don't challenge the racial status quo that you have become emotionally invested in? Are you willing to love the rest of us as you love yourself and your own children?