Remember Jason Richwine, the co-author of the Heritage Foundation’s condemnation of immigration reform? The conservative scholar ran into some trouble in May after we learned that Richwine has argued, for several years, that white people are more intelligent than people of color. It didn’t help when reports showed he contributed published pieces to a white nationalist website.
Indeed, Richwine’s “research” shaped a fairly specific racial and ethnic vision: there are “real differences between groups,” he’s argued, with Jews on top as the smartest people, followed by “East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks.” These “differences” in intelligence, Richwine has said, should help shape U.S. public policy.
It wasn’t long before the far-right think tank cut its losses and accepted Richwine’s resignation. Three months later, Politico published a nearly 2,000-word piece from the conservative, asking, “Why can’t we talk about IQ?”
“IQ is a metric of such dubiousness that almost no serious educational researcher uses it anymore,” the Guardian’s Ana Marie Cox wrote back in May. It was a breathtakingly ignorant statement. Psychologist Jelte Wicherts noted in response that a search for “IQ test” in Google’s academic database yielded more than 10,000 hits – just for the year 2013.
But Cox’s assertion is all too common. There is a large discrepancy between what educated laypeople believe about cognitive science and what experts actually know. Journalists are steeped in the lay wisdom, so they are repeatedly surprised when someone forthrightly discusses the real science of mental ability.
If that science happens to deal with group differences in average IQ, the journalists’ surprise turns into shock and disdain.
From there, the conservative goes on (and on) about how right he is about “science,” even if it makes the media uncomfortable.
Yes, poor Jason Richwine. All he wants to do is talk about his belief that white people are smarter than everyone else. He’s such a trooper to put up with rascally journalists and their “lay wisdom.” Why can’t reporters simply accept Richwine’s assertions that people of color are intellectually inferior on a genetic level – and will probably never catch up?
In his eyes, the reality-based community is apparently a bunch of killjoys.
Richwine’s point in Politico seems to be that he wants an objective, unemotional conversation about his scholarly evidence on racial groups and IQ. Here’s my not-so-radical suggestion: no, let’s not have that conversation again.
Eugenics was a point of debate for many years in the cognitive sciences, and those claiming white intellectual superiority lost the fight.
As for the political implications of essays like these, if the left is really lucky, Richwine will just keep talking.