Take the racial intelligence test!

Richard Parncutt

August 2016

Have you even taken one of those intelligence tests with their long strings of tricky questions? How about this one:

Which number comes next? 1 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 8 - 13 - ?

After decades of research, there is still doubt in the psychological research literature about what such tests measure, exactly. I happen to know the answer to the above question, because I've heard of the Fibonacci sequence. If you know that too, this question is merely testing your general knowledge. If you are smart you might also happen on the right answer with no prior knowledge. But that is just one of many different kinds of smartness.

As a child, I went to a special tutor who trained me to get good grades in intelligence tests. That helped me get a scholarship for a posh private school. I don't believe that the tutor improved my intelligence, but I sure got better at doing intelligence tests.

Idea of the day: Why not replace those long, dreary intelligence tests, with all their tricky questions, by a single question? Here it is:

Are black people inherently more violent than white people?

If you answer "no", you get a hundred points. You have normal intelligence. If you answer "yes", you get zero. You are very stupid.

That may seem a bit drastic. But intelligence is often defined as the ability to solve problems. The world's biggest problems - the ones that are risking the largest numbers of human lives - are linked to racism, because if there was no racism, we would have been taking them more seriously for a long time, and they would no longer be the world's biggest problems.

We would for example have done much more about saving the lives of those ten million people, mainly children, who die unnecessarily every year from hunger, disease and violence. Our complacency is in part because we know that most of those people are black. In our racist hearts, we know that black lives don't matter. It has always been that way.

The same applies to global warming. We tacitly assume that most of the people who will die later this century as a result of global warming will be black. And we are right. As the many bad effects of global warming start to kick in, most victims really will be black. Hundreds of millions will die as a result of our failure to cut emissions. We express our racism by doing nothing about this problem and pretending to be innocent.

One reason why racism is still so prevalent is that a lot of people still believe that blacks are inherently more violent than whites. When a black person walks past, they still instinctively guard their wallets and their children. Why? Well, it's easy to answer that. All over the world, black people are, in fact, more likely than whites to be either victims or perpetrators of violence. The statistics don't lie, and we can't deny that they exist.

For racists, these gruesome statistics are convincing evidence that their working hypothesis is correct: that blacks are inherently more violent. But as I mentioned, racists are stupid. Whether they were born stupid or became stupid, I don't know. But there is no more scientific evidence for blacks being inherently more violent than there is for the existence of guardian angels. Neither black cats nor black people bring you bad luck, nor do vacchines cause autism. Biologically, skin color has a lot to do with climate and nothing to do with violence.

Some well educated folks still don't believe this. They point out that black and white people were geographically separated for such a long time that we would expect other differences beyond skin color. That is possible. But why ask if blacks are inherently more violent than whites? Given what we know about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, in which tens of millions were enslaved and millions killed over a period of several centuries, it would be more logical to ask if whites are inherently more violent than blacks. The normal procedure in science is not to go fishing for effects of any kind in any direction, but instead to start with a hypothesis or prediction that is based on other observations or a coherent theory. After that you have to deal with statistical variations within the groups being compared. If there are both very tall (Ethiopian?) and very short (pygmy?) groups of people with black skin, and there are also taller (Swedish?) and shorter (central European?) white people, it will be hard to demonstrate a difference in height between black and white people. Be that as it may, there is plenty of scientific literature on so-called racial differences that you can consult. The consensus is that there are no inherent behavioral differences between black and white people at all - which makes you wonder why so many people spent so much time and effort looking for such differences. Were they disappointed when they found nothing?

One thing is for sure: whites are causing much more trouble in the world than blacks. I am not only talking about the slave trade. Still today, the biggest crimes of all are deliberate actions that indirectly cause the deaths of thousands or millions of people. These include the illegal financial deals that triggered the global financial crisis in 2008. They include the climate denial that is slowing progress toward climate change mitigation. They include everyday centre-right attempts to cut finance for social welfare, medical care and international aid, and instead finance the military. That's what centre right political parties do in their everyday work - they indirectly cause death. Think about it! And lest I forget - the list includes the condom ban of the Catholic church, without which millions of AIDS victims would still be alive today. On the whole, these massive crimes are the work of whites, and most of the victims are black.

The last paragraph comes as a surprise to many people. That in itself is evidence for racism. We are biased toward noticing bad things about black people and ignoring bad things about white people. Conversely,
we are biased toward noticing good things about white people and ignoring good things about black people. If we can become aware of this kind of bias and start to control it, we will be on the way to overcoming our own racism.

But I digress. We were doing an intelligence test, right? I admit, a test with just one question is not a very good test. So let's add some more. Here is the next question:

2. Read the previous paragraph about the financial crisis, climate denial and so on, and answer the following question. Why are whites doing these terrible things to blacks? Are whites (a) inherently more evil, or do they (b) have more money and power?

I hope that I don't have to explain that one. Do I? "Evilness" does not depend on skin color! Ok? Let's just proceed to the next question.

3. On average, blacks get worse results than whites on intelligence tests. Does that mean they are less intelligent?
a) Yes. There is a biological connection between skin color and brain function.
b) No. The parents of black children on average have less money, so on average the children get worse education.
c) No. The questions on intelligence tests are racially biased.

You guessed it: the correct answer is (b), although (c) is an interesting possibility and is probably true in some cases. The next question is a big one:

4. Why are are black people more likely to get involved in violence, either as perpetrators or as victims? Answer using just one word. Tip: If you get this one right you are up there with Einstein. Don't blow it!

You guessed it. That one word is "racism", and it's everywhere. In most societies, including African countries, black people who are in regular contact with whites or other non-blacks experience racial discrimination every day. In extreme cases, they are abused or killed. More often, they are merely not treated with normal respect. They are patronised or quietly ignored. They are expected to do work that whites would not do, or get paid less for the same work. Opportunities that are normally available to whites mysteriously fail to materialize. A landlord tells you a flat is no longer available, but gladly shows it to the next enquirer. A job is not offered to the candidate with the best qualifications corresponding to the advertisement.

Discrimination makes you angry. And desperate. It's obvious, isn't it? If stuff like this was happening to me, I would be livid. So it is no surprise that black people are more likely to get involved in violence. In saying that I am not condoning violence - quite the contrary, I am generally opposed to violence in any form and one of the main aims of this text (and my other political texts) is to reduce the amount of violence in the world.

There are many reasons for the difference in levels of violence between black and white people. Poverty alone can explain it. Everywhere you go, black people are more likely to live in poverty, or merely to have less money. Why? If you have read this far and passed the intelligence tests, you will be able to generate a list of reasons.

The solution to all these problems is to address the ultimate cause of the problem, which is racism. The interesting question for a real intelligence test - one that is oriented toward solving big problems, corresponding to accepted definitions of intelligence - becomes this:

5. How can we sustainably alleviate racism? What actions will bring long-term progress? Write your answers legibly in the booklet provided. 

This is not easy. It really separates the smart from the dumb. There are many possible strategies, and the best solution is a combination. Anti-racist activism is not only about showing the good sides of black culture, although that is an important aspect. Having black friends is also good, but again not enough. We have to understand how racism works from the perspective of those who suffer from it, and somehow get others to understand that, too. We have to understand how racism reinforces itself, for example when stupid whites blame blacks for black violence. As whites, we have to realise that we are the ultimate cause of this problem, and if we have passed the intelligence test, we will realise that there cannot be any other cause. That makes us guilty, and the honest first step is to admit our guilt and realise that it implies a moral obligation to contribute actively and creatively to solutions.

We should at the very least soundly reject anything that smacks of racism. Even if we don't try to make up for our past wrongdoings, or for our collective wrongdoings as white people, we can at least decide that from now on we will recognize and actively oppose racism whenever we are confronted with it.

Stopping racism by understanding its origin
January 2018

Racism is surely one of the world’s biggest problems. Without it we wouldn’t have the far right, Trump, Brexit, Bolsonaro, and all the rest. These irrational developments are threatening the survival of all humans regardless of skin color. Attempts to increase national security by keeping out foreigners actually undermine it. The most important security issue today is climate change but the far right is pretending it doesn’t exist or is not caused by humans.

How can racism be reduced? One approach is to explain clearly and simply where it comes from, focusing on the main points and leaving out the detail. Perhaps people will then realize that the racist theories inside their heads are incorrect.

The surprising thing is that we don’t understand very well where racism comes from. Some things are clear and some are not. It’s clear from evolutionary psychology that people need and want to belong to groups and therefore tend "naturally" to discriminate against people who are perceived to belong to a different group. It is also clear why skin color plays such an important role: it is clearly visible, just as language and accent are clearly audible. But the exact reason why whites are the winners and blacks are the losers is surprisingly unclear. Why is it not the other way around? Why aren't blacks the winners and whites the losers? There are theories, of course, but to my knowledge there is no consensus which is the most important one.

The leading book on this subject appears to be “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond --
still after many years. The wikipedia page is brilliant. 

For the average reader this is a complex book (although many academic commentators have complained that it oversimplifies things). We can’t expect far-right voters to read and understand it. What we need to undermine everyday racism is a simple theory that is basically correct, addressing the main points and neglecting the rest. Here is an attempt:

Why is Europe rich and Africa poor?

The main reasons can be found in the history of slavery and economic exploitation. A kind of slavery still exists in the form of massive differences in wages. Exploitation continues in the form of extraction and export of natural resources that should be benefiting the local people or staying in the ground.

Where did this imbalance come from originally? The most obvious natural difference between Africa and Europe is temperature. The temperature difference had a series of consequences, any of all of which might account for European technological superiority. That in turn accounts for the superiority of European weapons in the past few centuries, which in turn enabled the European colonization of Africa. Conclusion: it’s not the people; it’s the temperature.

Here are some candidate explanations:

1. In the past few thousand years, Europeans developed technology faster than Africans because they needed it to survive frozen winters. Agriculture, food storage, solid buildings, and heating were more important for survival in Europe than in Africa.

2. Climates with cold winters and warm summers produce plants with large edible seeds. These seeds enabled Europeans to get a headstart in agriculture. The Neolithic founder crops included wheat, barley, lentil, pea, and chickpea.

3. European animals inhabited confined spaces in the winter, which made them more social (less wild) and easier to domesticate. Think horses and dogs versus lions and zebras. Domesticated animals helped Europeans travel and produce food.

4. Europeans that lived in close proximity to animals contracted new fatal diseases, to which they the developed immunity. When Europeans colonized other continents, these diseases (smallpox, measles, flu and so on) killed many of the original inhabitants.

Which of these points is correct? Of those, which is the most important? It is surely an important task of anti-racism research to clarify these questions for the general public.

From a biological viewpoint, it is clear why some people have dark skin and others have light skin. It’s a simple consequence of the temperature difference between Africa and Europe, more precisely: the amount of sunshine and the UV intensity. White skin is an adaptation that allows the body to generate more vitamin D. Dark skin is an adaptation that protects against ultraviolet radiation.

In the past few centuries, skin color clearly distinguished master from slave. You can’t miss skin color — it’s the first thing we see when we see another person. For that reason, many people jump to the conclusion that skin color has something to do with character. That false conclusion allows racism to continue today. Many still think Africans are somehow naturally lazy whereas Europeans are somehow naturally diligent. Or is it the other way around? I don't see many Europeans walking for hours every day, carrying water on their heads;-) Of course there are genetic differences, but not of this kind. In any case, genetic variation within Africa and Europe (e.g. tall Ethiopians and Swedes versus short Pygmies and Southern Europeans) is greater than between the two continents (skin color is only skin deep). One way to undermine racist theories is to insist on such simple explanations based on the intercontinental temperature difference even if history is obviously more complicated.

The wealth gap between North and South is an existential problem. It is threatening humanity’s future, along with climate change and nuclear weapons. The population of Africa is still growing fast; if we ignore African poverty, the problem can only get worse -- for people on both sides of the Mediterranean. Perhaps the main solution is to identify unfair aspects of international trade and undermine them. This applies in particular to exploitation of natural resources by multinationals. Europe should also be investing more in developmental cooperation, securing food and water supplies, adapting to climate change, promoting education (especially for girls), and reducing corruption to improve governance and democracy. In short, supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, which is the best insurance against war and instability in the future. The old agreement to spend 0.7% of GDP on developmental cooperation should finally been realised; most rich countries urgently need to stop dragging their feet. Private economic collaboration between African and European business is a welcome solution if it is based on fair bilateral trading relationships and the activities are environmentally sustainable. Unfortunately neither of these conditions may be fulfilled.

Building a wall around a European fortress is not a sustainable solution. Instead, it should be reasonably possible for Africans fleeing persecution to apply for asylum without risking their life trying to cross the Mediterranean illegally; otherwise, international asylum law is meaningless. If we want our children and grandchildren to live in peace, we have to promote peace now.

The opinions expressed on this page are the authors' personal opinions.
Suggestions for improving or extending the content are welcome at parncutt@gmx.at.
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