Let us address straightforwardly a question that is more privately discussed than publicly acknowledged:
As a matter of logic, blacks either (a) are, or (b) are not, as intelligent as whites. For evident reasons, though not necessarily good reasons, people evade the question in public speech. But this is like not telling the doctor about the lump growing somewhere on one’s person: current ease of mind exacts the price of later disaster.
The measured disparity in measured IQ between the races is about fifteen points. If the inequality accurately reflects a real difference in intellectual ability, the consequences will be enormous, for reasons growing out of the overlap of bell-shaped curves. The mathematics is not easily conveyed in a newspaper column. For the moment, suffice it to say that, if the fifteen-point difference means what it purports to mean, blacks, short of a miracle of genetic re-engineering, will be forever excluded from the higher intellectual reaches of a techno-industrial society.
Is the difference real?
First, let us assume that it is not–that is, that blacks are as intelligent as whites. The question then arises: Why in god’s name are we not educating black children to the level of white? Blacks lag whites by large margins. If they can perform, the country is criminal in not ensuring that they do. There can be no acceptable excuse. Children raised half-literate have little prospect in a society that daily becomes more technical. Poor education blights their lives intellectually, economically, emotionally. It also takes a heavy toll on others in crime, the expense of welfare, and lost taxes. It is simply immoral.
Why is schooling so poor for black children? To begin with, because blacks have little enthusiasm for academics. Blacks have demonstrated for an end to discrimination, more welfare, less brutality by police, greater rights, more pay, and greater respect. They do not march for more homework, harder courses, thicker texts with larger words and smaller pictures. Another reason is that the teachers’ unions resist the dismissal of the incompetent in a profession that already gets the dregs of the intellectual barrel. Finally, politicians are terrified of blacks, who complain that the imposition of academic standards constitutes a form of imperialism.
Second, let us assume that blacks are less intelligent. What can we do?
For starters, we need to recognize that no one is going anywhere. Blacks are not going to go back to Africa. Whites are not going to go back to Europe. We are all where we are going to be. We are not going to turn Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi into a separate black nation.
Yet neither, if the disparity in intelligence is real, are blacks going to become physicists, engineers, or doctors except in miniscule numbers, or through affirmative action. Leadership, except in electoral office or appointments arising from electoral power, will remain white, engendering resentment among blacks.
Worse, the demand for unskilled and barely schooled labor does not seem to be growing. Already, in a purely economic sense, blacks are unnecessary. They suffer not from discrimination but rather from inutility. They are not persecuted, but ignored. The portents are grim.
Maybe we need to ask–not as a matter of political equivocation or political correctness, but rather as a matter of decency and urgent practicality–whether intelligence should be the prescriptive measure of worth. Blacks have much to contribute that is not mathematics. Musically they are phenomenal, having largely invented this country–jazz, Delta blues, R&B, rock, Dixieland. As entertainers they are wonderful, as athletes incomparable. In years of riding with the police, I’ve noticed that blacks are better at dealing with people. Maybe these qualities too have a place. We cannot all be computer geeks.
In any event, be they bright or dull, I think we need to arrive at some conclusion–either educate the black population if it can be done, and move them into equality; or, if it can’t be done, decide how we may live in comity. People should not be punished for what they irremediably are; nor should the quick-witted necessarily be thought worthy for brains with which they were born.
I sometimes think we are too competitive. American society prizes ability over all else, encouraging athletes to squander their best years in half-mad pursuit of a hundredth of a second in an Olympic footrace. How much sense does it make? Does it really matter whether I am smarter than my neighbor, or he than I? Maybe, if he designs digital signal-processors, and I am a short-order cook, I should buy his stereo gear, and he should eat my hamburgers, and both be content.