you even taken
one of those intelligence tests with their long strings of
tricky questions? How about this one:
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.
On average, blacks get worse results than whites on intelligence tests.
Does that mean they are less intelligent?
Yes. There is a biological connection between skin color and brain
No. The parents of black children on average have less money, so on
average the children get worse education.
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:
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
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:
How can we sustainably alleviate racism? What actions will bring
long-term progress? Write your answers legibly in the
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
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
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.
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