Buying claims about IQ is not a bright thing to do

August 07, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

David Brudnoy and I were off to a flying start. The witty, erudite and conservative talk show host for Boston's WBZ radio agreed with me on the need for those black students who still feel learning is a white thing to drop that attitude and get on the ball.

Then he brought up the IQ thing.

Well, actually, a woman caller brought it up, citing "The Bell Curve" as having a distinctly anti-black tone. Brudnoy retorted that only 10 percent of the 2-year-old book by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray dealt with the vexing issue of differences in the IQs of blacks and whites.

Excellent point. But if we're going to give Murray and the late Herrnstein the benefit of the doubt, why not extend the same to Louis Farrakhan? We can rightfully claim that "only" a small percentage of the Nation of Islam leader's speeches attack Jews. The truth is, 95 percent of any Farrakhan speech is used to chide blacks for their shortcomings, with the Muslim leader scolding and exhorting African-Americans to study hard, work hard, get off welfare and develop strong and stable families. Whoops! Sounds like a conservative message, doesn't it? Besides, I digress.

The issue here is that supposed 15-point gap in the average IQs of whites and blacks. I say "supposed" because I'm suspicious of the IQ racket. That's what it is -- a racket. I took several IQ tests when I was in school. The results were all hush-hush, something we youngsters weren't supposed to know about. School officials just used the data to separate the "smart" kids from the "stupid" ones -- a questionable practice called "tracking" that still goes on today.

When so much secrecy surrounds a subject, I tend to smell a rat. A wise man once told me that the only folks in need of secrets are liars, crooks, murderers and child molesters. I suppose the folks who administer IQ tests don't neatly fit any of these categories. The closest might be "liars," which I'm sure they would deny. But if a 15-point gap does exist, I'm simply saying, "Show us."

Let me tell you. I know black folks who aren't too bright. I've known white folks who were just as dull or duller. When I was in the Air Force, I knew one white guy who was so stupid that, by himself, he could lower the average white IQ by 15 points.

We should all be skeptical about the IQ difference claims. The average white IQ is 100, the average black IQ 85, the experts tell us. The average IQ of black Africans is even lower, around 75, the experts tell us. How then do the experts explain the fact that black Africans are the highest-educated ethnic group in both the United States and Great Britain?

Well, the truth is, they can't. Even Herrnstein and Murray acknowledged in their book they could tell little about the differences between two 11-year-olds, one with an IQ of 110 and the other with an IQ of 90.

Instead, Murray and Herrnstein copped out and claimed that predictions could be made about a sixth-grade class with an "average" IQ of 110 and another with an "average" IQ of 90. The implication here is that blacks with our alleged average IQ of 85 can't succeed as a group because, well, we're just too darned stupid.

Don't feel too smug about that if you're white. When these IQ folks get on a roll and start writing books and theses and dissertations designed to promote a social policy, even white folks are at risk. That's what Carrie Buck would tell us, if she were still alive.

You've never heard of Carrie Buck? She was a white woman from Virginia who, at 17, found herself poor, pregnant and husbandless. When she was 18, the IQ mob got ahold of her. The mob tested her and found her "mental age" to be 9. (IQ is defined as your mental age -- as nebulous a concept to ever come down the pike -- divided by your physical age, multiplied by 100.) Into a home for the "feebleminded" went Buck, who was later sterilized without her consent.

Her sterilization was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes pompously declaring that "three generations of imbeciles is enough." J. David Smith, co-author of the 1989 book "The Sterilization of Carrie Buck," said he found it questionable that Buck was even retarded, much less feebleminded. Mary Bishop, in a 1994 article for the Roanoke Times, said that just before Buck died at 76 she read newspapers, did crossword puzzles and played Mary in a Christmas play.

There is no record of Buck's last words. But if she uttered "Stop the IQ mob before they test you again," we could hardly blame her.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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