Race and Intelligence: Separating Science from Myth

By Jefferson M. Fish | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
9

African Inputs
to the IQ Controversy,
or Why Two-Legged Animals
Can't Sit Gracefully
Eugenia Shanklin

My subtitle for this chapter, “Why Two-Legged Animals Can't Sit Gracefully, ” is taken from an Igbo proverb Chinua Achebe quoted in a 1996 talk at the New York Public Library on racism. The full proverb is, “A two-legged animal never learns how to sit gracefully but a four-legged animal knows.” In other words, the animals in power never understand either their own capacities or the capacities of the “other” animals that watch them. It is as though a four-legged animal is watching a two-legged (human) animal, so Achebe says, “those who are given all the facilities [i.e., bottoms for sitting] don't know how to use them but those who don't have all the facilities [bottoms] struggle and master the problem nonetheless” (C. Achebe, personal communication, October 8, 1998).1 Borrowing a prac-

____________________
1
I am indebted to Chinua Achebe for clarifying the deeper meanings of this proverb for me. I also assume full responsibility for any interpretive errors. Achebe seems not to have published this proverb anywhere; for a full discussion of the use of proverbs in Igbo culture and Achebe's use of them in his writings, see Lindfors (1997).

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