Race and Intelligence: Separating Science from Myth

By Jefferson M. Fish | Go to book overview

This is what social scientists must do about racism—help defang and defuse the black–white binary opposition that causes so much tension and friction in our society. Anthropologists and anthropology teachers need to come up with their own definitions, in Carr's (1997) terms, of an “updated, multidimensional measure of anti-African American prejudice, ” and publicize those definitions, making sure that their audience understands the distinctions between the old, evolutionary racist formulations and the new, symbolic racist thinking. We must recognize the recurrence of racism in its newer, more virulent forms and denounce both racism and its effects, wherever found. In another context, I asked how one sets about dissolving a harmful opposition.

First, by recognizing if for what it is—not black and white, but pink and brown, humanity's shades, not those of our monstrous creations; and then by taking steps to insure that the wider public understand not only the oppositions's fallacious nature but its harmful consequences. Second, by insisting that scholars and the general public recognize the inconsistency between their own egalitarian ideals and their discriminatory institutions/acts. The task remains for anthropologists to take up these questions in serious comparative ways, lest we find the next generations asking nineteenth-century questions (eugenics) and answering with twenty-first century technology (cloning). If we anthropologists do not want to see repeated the racist predicates of the twentieth century, we must explain, clarify, and reiterate the non-racist ideals we hope will guide the future (Shanklin, 1999, p. 677).


REFERENCES

Barrett, R. A. (1984). Culture and conduct: An excursion in anthropology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Boas, F. (1963). The mind of primitive man. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. (Original work published 1911)

Browne, M. W. (1994, October 16). What is intelligence, and who has it? [Review of The bell curve, J. Philippe Rushton's Race, evolution, and behavior, and Seymour W. Itzkoff's The decline of intelligence in America]. New York Times Book Review, pp. 3, 41, 45.

Carr, L. G. (1997). “Color-blind” racism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Cohen, M. N. (1995). Anthropology and race: The bell curve phenomenon. General Anthropology, 2(1), 1–4.

Coon, C. S. (1950). Races: A study of the problems of race formation in man. Springfield, IL: CI Thomas.

Cryns, A. G. J. (1962). African intelligence: A critical survey of cross-cultural intelligence research in Africa south of the Sahara. Journal of Social Psychology, 47,283–284.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (1997). Optics [cd version; EB/_3.htm#].

Fish, J. (1998). Politically correct red herring. Anthropology Newsletter, 39(6), 2.

Gould, S. J. (1994, November 28). Curveball. The New Yorker, 139–149.

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