The Evolution of Racial Differences in Morality
The Evolution of Racial
Differences in Morality
Races appear to have evolved
different levels of morality;
this has important social consequences.
by Michael Levin
Readers of AR will be aware of the well-documented race differences in intelligence and temperament. The mean black score on valid IQ tests is 85, while the white mean is 100 (and some Asian groups outscore whites). Black children adopted into upper-middle class white families fail to attain IQs much above 85, which implicates genes as the cause of this difference. Twin studies and cross-cultural comparisons implicate genes in the greater levels of impulsiveness and aggression also found in blacks.
A less frequently noted point is that these psychological differences suggest race differences in morality. Part of the difference may be due simply to different levels of intelligence. The mean IQ of incarcerated felons is about 90, and Lawrence Kohlberg's extensive research on children found that IQ is correlated with moral development. It should not be surprising that mental ability is linked to moral character, since the latter requires grasping rules and thinking through the consequences of one's actions.
However, different levels of intelligence are not likely to be the sole cause of racial differences in morality. Data reported in The Bell Curve (and noted in the February issue of AR) show that black and white populations differ in crime and illegitimacy rates even when IQ is held constant. Thus, in one large-scale study, blacks in general were 6.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, but when the comparison was restricted to blacks and whites with IQs of 100, blacks were still 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated.
Temperament therefore appears to have an effect on behavior that is independent of intelligence. This is intuitively obvious, as aggression easily becomes heedlessness of the rights of others; we should therefore expect black and white standards of behavior to differ.
"Dissing" is a practice that indicates disregard for the golden rule.
Examples of this difference abound. "Trash talk," the stream of arrogant banter with which black basketball players seek to intimidate and humiliate opponents, is alien to white ideals of sportsmanship. Likewise, Montel Williams, the host of a television talk show, claimed to have discovered racial bias in a question on an IQ test that asked children what they would do if they threw a baseball through a neighbor's window. The answer scored as correct was offering to pay for the window, but Mr. Williams, who is black, objected that in his old neighborhood a "Sorry, man" would have sufficed. No doubt, Mr. Williams was right that blacks do attach less urgency than whites to compensating damage.
Numerous fights among blacks result from "dissing"-males seeking dominance over each other by shows of disrespect â" a practice that indicates disregard for the golden rule. Moreover, it is hard to imagine a more blatant violation of the golden rule than the constant demand for royalties by Martin Luther King's estate whenever his speeches are published â" especially when his own plagiarism is justified as "voice merging."
What Morality Is
Evolutionary biology suggests an explanation for race differences in moral values. But first, to begin with a definition: An individual's "morality" is the rules he wants everyone to follow, and that he wants everyone to want everyone to follow. Honesty is a moral value for him if he tries to be honest, tries to make his children honest, hopes others will be honest, and encourages others to reinforce honesty. A group's morality is the moral rules its members share.
The clause about "wanting everyone to want everyone" is needed to distinguish moral questions, like honesty, from other "universal" concerns. If you are like most people, you think others ought to be honest. But you may also think everyone should exercise, without considering exercise a "moral" value. The difference between the two is not in their usefulness, since both are useful: jogging is healthful, and honesty facilitates such profitable activities as trade. But honesty, unlike exercise, is advantageous only if everyone else is honest. Jogging strengthens my heart whether or not you jog, whereas being honest helps me only insofar as it induces others to reciprocate, allowing me to rely on their words. This is also why it is smart to be honest even when tempted to lie â" if you are found out, others will feel no obligation to be honest with you.
On the other hand, if everyone else is a liar, honesty only lets others take advantage of you. Therefore, since honesty, self-restraint, and other moral virtues are good ideas only when everyone thinks they are good ideas, you not only want everyone else to be honest, you want everyone to encourage others to be honest, and to ensure that honesty is widespread.
The advantages of honesty and other virtues have a biological dimension. Since moral individuals in a moral community do better than scoundrels, they live longer and have more children. Obeying and reinforcing moral rules is adaptive. If there is any genetic tendency to obey and reinforce moral rules, a tendency to obey and reinforce them and to be susceptible to reinforcement will be passed on to offspring.
However, selection for morality need not have been uniform, since honesty, cooperation, and the other virtues need not have been equally important in all environments. Cooperativeness (like intelligence) was probably more adaptive in the colder, harsher, Eurasian environment in which whites and Asians evolved than in sub-Saharan Africa. Food grows year-round in a warm climate. There is little danger of freezing to death, so it is not necessary to work together to build large shelters. Sexual patterns are also influenced by environment: Since a woman abandoned by her mate has a better chance of supporting herself and her children in a benign environment, there is less pressure on women to evolve a demand for male fidelity, or for males to evolve a strong sense of attachment.
The situation was otherwise in Eurasia, where large game was a dietary staple. Bringing down a cornered mastodon takes cooperation, with each man in his assigned position, ready to respond to shouted instructions. There must be jointly acceptable rules for dividing the kill. And, since females depend on male hunters for their own survival and that of their children, an advantage would accrue to females who chose mates likely to support them for a lifetime. Sexual selection would then mold males more inclined to satisfy the female demand for fidelity.
Environment does not consist merely of natural factors like climate. Since morality is advantageous only when others are moral, a major determinant of the fitness of an individual's "gene for morality" is the character of those with whom he interacts. As Robert Axelrod and William Hamilton put it in their classic study, "The Evolution of Cooperation" (Science 1981), "there is no single best strategy regardless of the behavior of others in the population." In fact, seemingly irrational levels of mistrust can become locked into a group. Suppose a mild physical environment has selected for weak cooperative tendencies. A worsening of the environment might make greater cooperation in everyone's interest, but not necessarily more fitness-enhancing, for any honest, helpful mutants who appear will simply be exploited until they die without issue. It is perfectly rational to be indifferent to others when they are indifferent to you.
In short, observed race differences in honesty, sexual self-restraint, and cooperativeness may be due to the fact that these traits did not have the same evolutionary value in Africa that they did in Eurasia. Indeed, since universality and reciprocity are built into the very concept of morals, it is incorrect to talk of "different moralities." It is more accurate to say that individuals of Eurasian descent tend to be more moral than individuals of African descent.
Nobody can go back in time to verify whether the races really developed in the way outlined. Still, the hypothesis sketched above is plausible enough, and it may be useful to note some of its implications.
1) Black behavior that is unacceptable by white standards â" theft, drug use, preoccupation with sex â" is not "sick." It is how traits that were once adaptive in Africa express themselves in Western urban society. This may be part of the reason blacks seem not to experience white laws and standards of personal responsibility as binding, and why black spokesmen are so curiously unapologetic about black crime. They will caution black males that crime is "stupid" (i.e. apt to lead to punishment), and a Jesse Jackson may denounce black-on-black crime as harmful to blacks, but they do not say that crime, particularly black-on-white crime, is intrinsically bad.
In one remarkable incident, Edmund Perry, a Harlem teenager recruited on full scholarship to the prestigious boarding school of Exeter, was killed a few weeks after graduation when he attempted to mug a plainclothes policeman. Angry demonstrations ensued, in which blacks complained of Perry's alienation at Exeter. Far from expressing regret over Perry's actions, blacks blamed white society for them. In fact, the difficulties blacks experience in conforming to American society cannot really be blamed on black attitudes or white norms, but on the mismatch between the two.
2) Black children cannot be expected to respond as white children do to externally imposed white socialization. If the races evolved different values, black and white children will be receptive to different sorts of training and exhortation, a point with important practical consequences. It is often suggested, for instance, that black children would do better in school if told, as white and Asian children are, that school is important. But black children will not care about grades and the esteem of teachers, no matter how much they are told to, if valuing knowledge is a more weakly evolved norm among blacks. Since black societies never evolved formal education, it would make no sense for black children to be ready to internalize praise of education. 3) Violence will skyrocket when a group acquires a killing technology it did not develop. Groups that have invented such things as firearms without killing themselves off must also have developed sufficient inhibitions about using them. Groups that acquire weapons from outside sources are less likely to have evolved the same level of self-restraint, just as groups that do not discover fermentation are unlikely to develop a tolerance for alcohol, and often fall prey to drinking problems when alcohol is introduced from outside. Blacks may have been unprepared for access to the firearms developed in Western society.
Consider the remarkable increase in gunshot homicides among black men in the last half-century. In 1943 there were 44 handgun homicides in New York City; in 1992, 1,500 black males died of gunshot wounds inflicted by other black males. Since 92 percent of the 2,200 murders recorded in New York that year were committed by blacks, black males must have also killed several hundred non-blacks with firearms as well. The parallel increase in gunshot homicides nationally over the same period is essentially an increase among blacks.
Now, the sheer availability of guns does not automatically mean murder. Guns have been available for centuries to the whites who invented and manufacture them. Every adult male Swiss citizen owns a gun, yet the annual homicide rate in Switzerland is one two-hundredth that of Washington, D.C. or Harlem. The immediate cause of the rise in homicide has been the sudden availability of guns to blacks, who seem ready to resort to firearms in disputes that whites would regard as trivial. (Gunfights over calls in pick-up basketball games are not uncommon in New York City.) It may well be that blacks lack the restraints that would have evolved during the march to the invention of firearms â" a possibility that should be considered in any discussion of gun control. If the "gun problem" is really the problem of black access to firearms, forbidding whites to have guns is pointless and unjust.
4) Moral signals may become confused when divergent groups interact. To explain the point with a crude example, suppose that blacks, being less empathetic than whites, must use stronger signals to rouse each others' solicitude. It takes angry shouting to get another black to notice an injury that a white can be induced to attend to by less strident means. Likewise, a white will take an angry shout as expressing a more serious injury. If these signal patterns have themselves become innate in the two populations, whites will interpret the signals of blacks as if they were coming from other whites, and consistently overestimate the seriousness of injuries claimed by blacks.
The tendency of whites to interpret the angrier manner of blacks as if blacks were other whites leads whites to respond to black complaints with inappropriate generosity, thereby reinforcing black anger by teaching blacks that anger is rewarded. The result is intensified demands and further white confusion â" a dynamic that may explain the puzzling phenomenon of white guilt, and the indulgence of many whites toward even the most unreasonable black demands.
Neither is Better
The idea that blacks and whites evolved different systems of values says nothing about which values are "better," and each group can be expected to think its values best.
Whites will continue to consider blacks "irresponsible" and blacks will, more openly, continue to call whites "up tight." But the practical decisions of life require the adoption of some standards, and a group can use only those standards evolution has given it.
Black children cannot be expected to respond as white children do to externally imposed white socialization.
What by white standards is a black deficiency in morality â" defined as conformity to the golden rule â" explains the persistent unwillingness of the races to associate with each other. People almost by definition prefer the company of those who share their values, so it is no wonder that whites feel more comfortable with whites. Indeed, while blacks â" even including Malcolm X â" prefer to send their children to white schools and to use the other amenities of white society, blacks nevertheless prefer the company of blacks. The conventional idea is that these preferences are entirely due to "prejudice" that can and should be extirpated by education (i.e. propaganda). But if preference for one's own kind is due to deep-seated differences in values, there seems nothing wrong with it, and there certainly seems no reason for it to be illegal.
Moreover, from their own point of view, whites are right to prefer their own company. By white standards, adherence to the golden rule and norms associated with it are the chief criteria of personal merit. Since blacks are on average less likely than whites to adhere to the golden rule â" less cooperative, more aggressive, less respectful of property and persons â" the average black is, by white standards, not as good a person as the average white. This is perhaps the least politically correct statement it is possible to make, but it is true and must be made. And, put in non-racial terms, it is one that even liberal egalitarians would assent to. Even they would admit to preferring the company of people who are less apt to steal, kill, lie, cheat, and shout them down in a debate.
It is possible to argue on purely philosophical grounds that people should be able to associate with whomever they please. This right, after all, can be enjoyed by everyone, and is itself in conformity with the golden rule. And this right, which implies that whites can "discriminate" in favor of other whites in housing, employment, and the schools to which they send their children, has been contravened by civil rights laws. This was allowed to happen because Americans, who respect freedom but also like to see that freedom is not abused, became convinced by the 1960s that use of the freedom of association to avoid blacks was entirely arbitrary. They became convinced that it could be motivated only by ignorance and hatred, and saw no reason not to forbid actions so maliciously based. Race differences in moral outlook, which people have long sensed, are perfectly good, non-arbitrary reasons for whites to wish to avoid blacks. Perhaps when this is more widely realized whites will once again permit themselves this liberty.
Professor Michael Levin teaches philosophy at City College of New York. This article is adapted from his book, Why Race Matters, for which he is still seeking a publisher.
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Sociobiology, the discipline named after E. O. Wilson's 1975 book of that name, claims that evolution can explain not only human biology but human behavior. It was a decisive departure from the view that has dominated social science for most of this century: that there is essentially no such thing as "human nature," and that behavior is determined by environment.
B O O K R E V I E W
Not in our Stars
but in our Genes
Morality may be nothing more than
an evolutionary strategy.
reviewed by Thomas Jackson
The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life
1994, 466 pp.
A view so utterly and obviously wrong prevailed only with the help of radical egalitarianism. Since sociobiology was an open attack on the foundations of egalitarianism, it had to be driven underground amidst accusations of racism and sexism. Happily, as Robert Wright explains in The Moral Animal, it has been quietly thriving even while its practitioners cover their tracks by calling themselves evolutionary psychologists or Darwinian anthropologists rather than sociobiologists. Mr. Wright's book is an illuminating survey of recent work in the field, with a particular concentration on theories about the origin of moral values.
The Primacy of Evolution
"If psychologists want to understand the processes that shape the human mind, they must understand the process that shaped the human species," writes Mr. Wright. This restatement of the premise of sociobiology â" that behavior has genetic and evolutionary origins â" has received strong confirmation in recent studies described in these pages (see, especially, Aug., 1993 and Dec., 1994). Behavior, just like physiology, appears to be the result of millions of years of random experiments, in which only the useful results were kept.
Evolution can be most easily understood at the level of the gene, not the group or the individual. A tree or a man or a virus can then be seen as a vehicle for carrying genetic information into the next generation. It is only genetic information that is potentially immortal; evolution operates for its benefit, and only indirectly for that of the organisms that carry it. The entire living universe can therefore be understood as a vast battlefield, in which organisms engage in constant struggle in the service of the genes they carry. A gene that confers a physical or behavioral advantage that helps its carriers survive and reproduce ensures the gene's survival; one that confers no advantage comes to a dead end when its carrier dies or fails to reproduce.
As Mr. Wright explains, it is evolution that has done most of the "thinking" in nature. Bees do not build combs of hexagonal cells because every bee determines for itself that this is a good idea. Evolutionary theory holds that building honey combs is something that bees stumbled upon only after endless generations of trial and error. The mutation that produced this useful behavior spread through the population because it helped its carriers survive and reproduce.
All animal behavior can be explained this way. Squirrels store nuts for the winter because genes that make squirrels store nuts help squirrels survive. Evolution has done the "thinking;" squirrels just store the nuts.
Though many people refuse even to consider the possibility, human behavior is likewise the result of countless generations of trial and error that have produced very sophisticated strategies for keeping genes in circulation. Although humans are self-conscious in a way that no other animal is, they are often no more aware than bees or squirrels of the evolutionary "thinking" that underlies their behavior.
For example, men think they "want" children, but, as Mr. Wright explains, evolution designed the process for the benefit of genes, not men. Men have sex because they are driven by their genes to do so. Most of the time they are not thinking about children at all; they just want sex. They then find that they love the little bundle that appears nine months later. Both the sex-seeking and the carrier's love for its children are powerful strategies the genes have designed to ensure that new copies of themselves are first made, and then loved and looked after until the new carrier can make yet more copies.
Whether the carrier is happy or sad about any of this is of no concern to the genes, which, of course, have no consciousness whatever. The entire process is the result of an infinite number of accidents, in which survival is the final criterion â" not because survival itself is in any sense good, but only because it is the criterion that keeps genes, and therefore behavior, in circulation.
The Battle of the Sexes
Sociobiological analysis particularly illuminates human sexual behavior. Although both sexes can be seen as packages of genes looking for opportunities to make more packages of themselves, biological differences between men and women ensure that they view sex in radically different ways. In Mr. Wright's view, they might as well be two different species that view the other merely as sources of reproductive resources.
For men, every act of copulation, including rape, is one more chance for their genes to be reproduced. Sex has virtually no debilitating or time-consuming consequences, so men can be expected to have evolved an omnivorous interest in copulating with any and every fertile woman. (They can also be expected to have little interest in having sex with old, infertile women, since that is a reproductive waste of time.)
For women, sex is a much more serious undertaking. While the number of children a promiscuous man can have is practically unlimited, a woman can usually have no more than a dozen. Reproduction also ties her down to a brood of very demanding young in a process that is much more likely to be successful if she can persuade a man to stick around and help. Women have therefore evolved to be much more choosy about sex partners. Their instincts are to seek commitment rather than recreational sex, because in the environment in which they evolved, sex without a man's commitment could leave them all alone with small mouths to feed. Ancient proto-human females that were casual about sex partners probably froze or starved to death along with their children â" which snuffed out the casualness along with the genes that caused it.
Mr. Wright reports that someone has bothered to test the obvious: When an attractive woman approached men on a college campus and offered to have immediate sex, three fourths of her prospects agreed. Not one woman agreed to a similar offer from an attractive man.
Consciously or not, men cloak their short-term sexual interests in the appearance of long-term attachment. As Mr. Wright puts it, "natural selection may favor males that are good at deceiving females about their future devotion and favor females that are good at spotting deception."
Infidelity has different genetic consequences for men and women. From an evolutionary point of view, there is no greater fool than the cuckold, who lavishes paternal care on a little package of genes not his own. This accounts for the great ferocity with which men punish female infidelity; they have a deep, evolutionary revulsion for it.
Women can be expected to have a somewhat greater tolerance for male philandering because it can never leave them looking after a child they think is their own but is not. Women are much more threatened by the prospect of mates deserting them and caring for babies they may have with other women.
From an evolutionary point of view, there is no greater fool than the cuckold, who lavishes paternal care on a little package of genes not his own.
It is probably male revulsion for the consequences of cuckoldry that explains why, in every society, women who are sexually loose are alluring short-term prospects but not thought to be good marriage material. Mr. Wright explains that the "Madonna-whore" message encoded in male genes may be something like this:
"If you find a woman who appears genetically suitable for investment, start spending lots of time with her. If she seems quite taken by you, and yet remains sexually aloof, stick with her. If, on the other hand, she seems eager for sex right away, then by all means oblige her. But if the sex does come that easily, you might want to shift from investment mode into exploitation mode. Her eagerness could mean she'll always be an easy seduction â" not a desirable quality in a wife."
Feminists and liberals are likely to say that contraception has changed all this, and, of course, it can change the consequences of sex. However, the instincts that drive men and women are, in the short term, immutable. Any attempt to build society on assumptions that ignore them will only sow confusion and misery.
The Moral Animal
Mr. Wright casts evolutionary light on a great many interesting questions â" who benefits from monogamy, why people make friends, the purpose of righteous indignation, why hierarchy is inevitable â" but perhaps the most interesting question is why people sometimes behave morally.
When animals sacrifice their own interests for those of others biologists call it altruism. The sacrifice of parents for children is easily explained: it promotes the parents' genes. There is even genetic utility in dying for one's kin, if this saves enough lives and enough copies of shared genes.
Humans may have made a fetish out of what appears to be altruism but is really just another self-serving genetic strategy.
But what about altruism directed towards non-kin? As Mr. Wright explains, for some time evolutionists thought in terms of group selection. When there was a battle between bands of hunter-gatherers, the group that had members willing to take risks to save the group was more likely to rout a band whose members operated every-man-for-himself. Lately, the more common view is that stranger altruism probably evolved like virtually all other behavior: in the service of the individual and his genes. Sacrifice and cooperation that arose for the benefit of kin groups slowly broadened to include non-kin.
The reason is that for almost all individuals, cooperation is more beneficial than constant competition and exploitation because cooperation so often leaves both parties better off than they were before. A job that is impossible for one man is often easy for two or three; all are better off in a system based on seeking and returning favors.
In Mr. Wright's view, what passes for morality is still very much in the service of the genes. From an evolutionary point of view, helpfulness to others is a kind of bargain-hunting, in which a man's willingness to cooperate is instinctively calibrated to the likelihood and usefulness of the pay-back. As Mr. Wright points out, people tend to be indulgent towards those who are in positions to help us and more demanding of those who are not.
Even feelings of guilt are evolutionarily useful. They remind us that we owe favors that could be profitably returned. Guilt is also the prompting that keeps us doing the things that maintain our reputation. Reputation affects status, which translates into ability to secure mates and provide for children.
Mr. Wright points out that stranger altruism is different from kin altruism in a very important way. Kin altruism must be real sacrifice in order to benefit the right genes, but the mere appearance of stranger altruism may be enough to elicit favors in return. For example, it does little genetic good to pretend to have made great sacrifices for one's own children if they died anyway. However, a carefully constructed â" though false-reputation for helping neighbors can be very useful. Thus, human beings probably have an instinctive desire to keep their reputations clean and they are often willing to make real sacrifices to do it. It would appear, therefore, that man is by nature cooperative but only when there is something in it for him. He is also entirely capable of theft and double-cross when he thinks he can get away with it.
Although Mr. Wright only hints at this, as the different human groups evolved they probably developed different instinctual levels of cooperation. As Prof. Levin explains elsewhere in this issue, tropical Africa was probably not an environment in which cooperation was as crucial to survival as it was in colder climates. When groups that appear to have different levels of cooperation come into contact, friction is inevitable.
That morality may be instinctual has other provocative implications. It may be that the sense of mutual obligation that all men feel, and to which many transcendental moralists appeal as proof of the existence of God or of objective morality, is just one more gene-propagating device like lust and hunger. Mr. Wright suggests that humans may have made a fetish out of what appears to be altruism but is really just another self-serving genetic strategy. If bees had a religion they might worship the hexagon, believing that an evolutionary accident had mystical powers.
Mr. Wright makes a strong case for his view. After all, one of the functions of the human mind is to devise rationalizations that throw a moral cover over selfish behavior. Once humans gained a certain level of self-consciousness, it became useful to encourage others to believe in a transcendent moral authority that had the power to punish sinners who were beyond the reach of human retribution. If everyone believed in it, everyone benefited from the moral behavior that ensued. Even non-believers had reason to encourage others to believe, since they benefited from society's standards but could violate them privately.
If genes are at the root of behavior that has always been thought to be in the service of a higher power, eliminating the higher power eliminates free will. If man is a mere product of evolution just as animals are, the only sources of all his actions must be genes and environment. The illusion of free will arises from the fact that men are often no more able than bees or squirrels to fathom their own genetic predispositions, and from the diffuse and subtle way environment and the memory of past environments act upon the mind.
As Mr. Wright points out, if all human actions are the inevitable products of heredity and environment, neither blame nor praise are justified, because men are no more capable than animals of choosing vice or virtue. Paradoxically, punishment and praise are still vital parts of the environment because they are essential for training humans just as they are for training animals.
Since Mr. Wright is a senior editor of The New Republic, his environment probably conspired with his genes to reduce him, in the end, to advocating a morality of universal brotherhood that he admits runs directly counter to everything he says about human nature. He says that even if there is no transcendent power that directs us to do so, we should try to love all humans, no matter how alien, just as we love ourselves. Along with a breezy, gee-whiz style and some unnecessary digressions into the private life of Charles Darwin, this sudden retreat into the arms of universalism detracts from an otherwise absorbing book.
Mr. Wright rejects out of hand the obvious form of conscious morality that can be derived from the trial-and-error morality that evolution appears to have produced. Until welfare threw the process into reverse, evolution had a clear, upward direction. A firm believer in evolution like Mr. Wright should have no trouble embracing a morality that directs our species towards ever-greater achievements, variety, and capabilities. As he points out, it has taken only about 5,000 generations of dogs to breed Saint Bernards and Chihuahuas from the ancestral wolf. Social policies are breeding policies, and evolutionists have few excuses for pretending otherwise.
The Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin understood this more than 40 years ago:
"So far we have certainly allowed our race to develop at random, and we have given too little thought to the question of what medical and moral factors must replace the crude forces of natural selection should we suppress them. In the course of the coming centuries it is indisputable that a nobly human form of eugenics, on a standard worthy of our personalities, should be discovered and developed [emphasis in the original]."
A few generations later...
The great, self-destructive irony is that in the very era when the evolutionary process that formed our species is more widely studied and accepted than ever before, governments are sabotaging that process. Mr. Wright's book is a fascinating summary of current thinking in sociobiology but his conclusions are part of the intellectual atmosphere that drove it underground.
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A R T I C L E
Is Affirmative Action
Whites are taking the first, tentative step
towards racial consciousness.
by Marian Evans
The poor bloody white man has finally decided to do something about legal, anti-white discrimination. A movement that began in California may be building up enough momentum actually to abolish affirmative action.
The spark was lit by Thomas Wood and Glynn Custred, organizers of the California voter initiative to prohibit race and sex discrimination by the state. The measure, which should go on the ballot next year, is enormously popular and should win easily. Now that whites are finally taking their outrage to the polls, our "leaders," are trimming their sails. The past few weeks have seen an almost comical stampede by politicians to establish themselves on what they now think will be the winning side.
Governor Pete Wilson of California backs the civil rights initiative, and has promised to try to abolish racial preferences even before the initiative is voted. Senator Robert Dole of Kansas has ordered the Congressional Research Service to make a list of every law that includes racial preferences (the job took months), and Senator Phil Gramm, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has promised that his first act in office would be to abolish set-asides. Republican congressmen now say that an assault on affirmative action will be top priority after the "Contract for America" has been passed.
Even President Bill Clinton put his finger to the wind and ordered an "intense, urgent review" of government affirmative action. According to his spokesmen, he will not abandon the "principle" of racial preferences, but will keep programs that "work," whatever that means. A new day is dawning.
How are blacks reacting? A few know the difference between affirmative action and equal opportunity. Ward Connerly, married to a white woman, and a member of the University of California Board of Regents, says he wants blacks judged by ability, not race. "Affirmative action is dead," he says; "We are negotiating the burial rites."
Mr. Connerly's is a lonely voice. Shelby Steele, also married to a white, has been a hero to "conservatives" because he thinks blacks bear some responsibility for their own failures. He concedes that affirmative action has gone too far and that it should be abolished. However, in order to keep "racism" in check, it must be made a criminal offense. [Shelby Steele, Affirmative Action Must Go, NYT, 3/1/95.] Here fly Mr. Steele's true colors. "Racism" could presumably be "proven" with statistics just as it is today, and whites would presumably be the only ones who go to jail.
Many blacks are simply dumbfounded to find that their across-the-board preferences are under attack. Columnist Carl Rowan recently denounced the California Civil Rights Initiative along with the just-passed Proposition 187 that was to deny social services to illegal immigrants:
"There seems to be no way to stop the internal destruction of America by people driven to madness over such issues as illegal immigration and affirmative action . . . . California is determined to drag us all into a new civil war fired up by insane emotions over 'reverse discrimination,' [and] the rights of 'angry white men'. . . . [The initiative's supporters] exploit shrewdly every bit of white male paranoia, every notion of white superiority, every greed ever embraced by the privileged classes . . . ." [Carl T. Rowan, Embers of new civil war are smoldering, Chicago Sun Times, 12/28/94.]
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting congressional delegate from the District of Columbia, says that the California initiative will lead to race war. Jesse Jackson says that by opposing affirmative action, Gov. Wilson of California has become a segregationist like Lester Maddox or George Wallace.
Barbara Reynolds, who writes some of the most breathtakingly stupid things to be found on any Op-Ed page, says that whites should support affirmative action out of pure self-interest. White America, she says, reaps exploitative benefits from black labor. The more affirmative action, the more black labor, and the more white wealth. Q.E.D. Astonished readers will find her column, "Affirmative Action Curbs Will Hurt White Males, Too," in the March 3 issue of USA Today.
Ralph Neas of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights lives in a similar fantasy land. He plans to mount a large-scale public education campaign to rehabilitate affirmative action. "What we have to make sure of is that everyone has all the facts: to explain why affirmative action is needed, how well it has worked, and how it has benefited all Americans."
Can the debate skirt the IQ question? So far, a few blacks have cited poverty and unemployment rates as proof that affirmative action is still needed, but no defender of racial preferences has yet framed the question correctly: "Blacks are worse off than whites in every respect. Preferences are necessary to counter the effects of today's racism because what but racism could possibly account for black failure?" Perhaps they are afraid of the answer.
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