88 Thank You, Doctors Murray and Herrnstein (Or, Who's Afraid of Critical Race Theory?)
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88 Thank You, Doctors Murray and Herrnstein (Or, Who's Afraid of Critical Race Theory?) DERRICK A. BELL Radical assessment can encompass illustration, anecdote, allegory, and imagination, as well as analysis of doctrine and cases. I want to utilize all of these techniques to comment on a contemporary phenomenon: The Bell Curve. A great deal of attention and energy has been devoted to commending and condemning Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein, authors of this best-selling book on racial intelligence. This book suggests great social policy significance in the fact that black people score, on average, fifteen points below whites on I.Q. tests. This thesis has been criticized as the rehashing of views long-ago rejected by virtually all experts in the field. There is, critics maintain, no basis for a finding that intelligence is inherited and no accepted definition of the vague term "intelligence." There is, on the other hand, a depressingly strong and invariant correlation between resources and race in this country, and resources and success-including success in taking I.Q. tests. These are settled facts. Even so, the book has enjoyed an enormous success that its critics find difficult to explain . Stephen Jay Gould, for example, writes: The Bell Curve, with its claims and supposed documentation that race and class differences are largely caused by genetic factors and are therefore essentially immutable, contains no new arguments and presents no compelling data to support its anachronistic social Darwinism, so I can only conclude its success in winning attention must reflect the depressing temper of our timea historical moment of unprecedented ungenerosity, when a mood for slashing social programs can be powerfully abetted by an argument that beneficiaries cannot be helped, owing to inborn cognitive limits expressed as low I.Q. scores] Criticism of The Bell Curve has been so universal among biologists that one must wonder : Why did these two well-known men produce a book filled with rejected theories? Surely they must have known that doing so would provide pseudoscientific support for racial hostilities that always worsen during times of economic stress and anxiety. The all too easy answer is that The Bell Curve's authors saw a market opportunity and took it. The book has sold over 300,000 copies and has become a major source of discussion in the me1995 U. ILL. L. REV. 893 (1995). Copyright © 1995 by The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Reprinted by permission. Copyrighted Material Thank You, Doctors Murray and Herrnstein 535 dia. But utilizing the conceptual and experiential tools of critical race theory, I want to suggest another possibility. It is not difficult to imagine that the authors were aware of the generally accepted findings regarding the lack of any connection between race and intelligence. Suppose that recognizing the debilitating effects of discrimination and exclusion on African Americans, they devised an "oppression factor" and, adding it to existing data, discovered that there was indeed a discernible racial difference in intelligence measured by I.Q. tests. However, when the I.Q. data playing field was leveled via the"oppression factor," contrary to their expectations, they discovered that blacks performed fifteen points higher than whites. Quite likely, they disbelieved and thus reviewed their data several times. Each time they did so, the conclusion that they (perhaps) did not want became ever more certain. It was beyond denial. Indeed, it explained why blacks survived two centuries of the world's most destructive slavery and a century of utter subordination under segregation: Black people are simply smarter than whites. What would they do with this information? Its release would almost certainly throw the country into turmoil. As history indicates all too well, blacks have suffered greatly as a result of discrimination often justified by the general belief in black inferiority. But history shows with equal clarity, though it is less frequently acknowledged, that indications of black success and possible black superiority result in racist outrage. Many race riots in this nation's history were sparked by white outrage over black success.2 In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, blacks who were successful at business or farming were targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups for death and destruction.3 While protection of white womanhood is widely considered the major motivation for the thousands of blacks lynched during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth , in fact, retaliation against blacks who dared compete successfully with white...