The conservative illusion of racial equality

Mainstream conservatives’ principal argument against affirmative action is that it prevents black people’s true equality of abilities with whites from being developed and seen. Thus, in “Diversity Excuse,”, March 24, 2001, Jason L. Riley wrote:

Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson—founder of the University of Virginia and a man as enlightened as men were at the time—revealed his “suspicion” that blacks “are inferior in the faculties of reason and imagination.” Today, our elites pompously malign Jefferson for this “suspicion” while simultaneously pushing programs based on it.

Last month the University of California’s president, Richard Atkinson, suggested that the SAT requirement for applicants be discontinued. His problem is that the student body doesn’t reflect his ideal racial composition. Not enough blacks are gaining admission because they don’t score high enough on the SAT. Time was, California addressed this dilemma the same way most other selective schools still do—by holding black students to lower standards. But five years ago, the state’s voters put an end to that practice by approving Proposition 209. Now Mr. Atkinson has come up with a way to undermine the voters’ will.

Discarding the SAT in deference to campus cosmetics is, like lowering standards, a nod to the notion of black inferiority. It assumes black students lack “the faculties” to compete with whites.

For three decades, this form of racial paternalism was dressed up as affirmative action ….

Mainstream conservative such as Riley assume that the belief in lower black intelligence is false. Therefore their main objection to affirmative action is that it makes people believe in a black inferiority that is not in fact the case. Instead of acknowledging that the intractably low numbers of blacks who are able to compete with whites in academic institutions indicates a lower average black intelligence, conservatives argue that the very effort to increase the number of blacks in those institutions has created a false impression that blacks are less intelligent. In other words, conservatives interpret society’s endless effort to eliminate the black intelligence gap as unfairly suggesting that blacks are less intelligent.

With this legerdemain in hand, conservatives can evade racial reality forever. Every further effort by liberals to close by means of racial preferences the huge divide in racial performance can be interpreted by conservatives as a misbegotten project that obscures the “real truth” of black intellectual equality. The more social engineering that is done to equalize black outcomes, the more the conservatives can say: “These liberal policies are preventing the true black equality of abilities from manifesting itself.”

Thus liberals and conservatives mutually support each others’ agendas. Liberals through social engineering get to increase the number of blacks in every area of life (which is all the liberals really care about), while the conservatives get to affirm their universalist belief in the non-existence of racial differences (which is all that they really care about.) Without the liberals pushing racial preferences, the conservatives would have no one to blame for “covering up” the “true” racial equality that is supposedly just waiting to emerge into view as soon as racial preferences are dropped. At the same time, without the conservatives complaining that liberal racial preferences conceal “true” racial equality, the liberal racial preferences would be seen by everyone as the naked admission of lower average black intelligence that they really are.

This ideological dance helps maintain both wings of modern liberalism: the racial socialism of the liberals, and the race-blind universalism of the conservatives.

I am not suggesting, by the way, that subjecting blacks to the same standards as whites would not result in a substantial improvement in blacks’ performance. Clearly it would. But it is utopian to believe, as most establishment conservatives profess to believe, that it would close the racial gap completely.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 13, 2002 05:53 PM | Send


I reviewed the choices posed by Larry Auster in re the J. Riley 3/24/2001 piece at . Larry says liberals view affirmative action as necessary redress for perceived black inferiority (but concludes that its a wrong) and that Riley conservatives decry affirmative action as masking black equality( which is a wrong too).Are blacks intellectually inferior or not? Is affirmative action necessary and desirable or not?
One need not reach back to Thomas Jefferson to find opinion on black intellectual inferiority. The 1935 Popenoe & Johnson college text “Applied Eugenics” states:
“There is a large overlapping between the test scores of members of the two races (white & black)…. Mulattos score about half way between the races. …Meanwhile, the Negro should be helped by the dominant group in the U.S. to develop along his own lines. It is desirable not to subject him to too severe competition with the whites; yet such competition, acting as a stimulus, is responsible for much of the progress he has made over the last century….”.
These academic conclusions were discredited after Nazi eugenics programs sterilized or destroyed the mentally deficient and other “inferior” races before and during WWII. Later, the entire black inferiority argument was rejected, reviled and eliminated from public discussion in America by P.C. “racist” labels.
Affirmative action, became the flavor of the day , based on the notion that nurture not nature was the culprit; the idea that poor environmental and economic factors caused the disparity in performance and testing of blacks. Then the idea that the disadvantage blacks endured at the hands of whites created a performance bias that could never be factored out of “white I.Q. tests”. Black I.Q. testing became a “racist act by the slave masters”..
Then William Shockley, co-winner of the 1956 Nobel prize for physics work on computers, designed an 1970’s I.Q. test to eliminate bias by spreading it over equally disadvantaged groups. He was promptly subject to lawsuits and professional vilification when the results showed the same lag in black I.Q. performance when compared todisadvantaged chicanos, native American Indians, Puerto Ricans, etc.
Leftist rabid fury about “racist” claims of black inferiority peaked against Harvard professor R.J. Herrnstein for his writings on I.Q. His 1971 book “I.Q. IN THE MERITOCRACY” includes a copy of a Wanted Poster issued against him by student activists at Harvard for “racist use of statistics”.

In 1994 Charles Murray and he produced a scientific study of unimpeachable accuracy called “The Bell Curve”. Its 843 pages remain the standard text on the subject of racial I.Q. The book delineates a real and actual one standard deviation gap in black- white I.Q. performance AND urges a stripping out unfairness in affirmative action to get back to its original intent.
A paragraph from page 475 reads:
“We urge that affirmative action in the universities be radically modified, returning to the original conception….In the case of two candidates closely matched otherwise, universities should give the nod to the applicant from the disadvantaged background. This original sense of affirmative action seems to us to have been not only reasonable but fair and wise”.
Closely matched means no identifiable group ( such as a racial minority) has a mean more than half of one standard deviation below the rest of the student body. Since the book concludes that blacks average one standard deviation below whites on I.Q. tests the suggestion means affirmative action ONLY when the applicant matches closely to the rest of the student body in I.Q.

Do conservatives oppose affirmative action in genuine belief of black I.Q. equality or are they just spouting racial quality to push the anti affirmative position faster to its destruction?
Do liberals believe environment causes I.Q. differences or just spout it to keep the democrats affirmative action vote pump primed?

We live in a meritocracy of the intellect. I. Q. directly corresponds to the degree of satisfaction and success Americans achieve at work, school at home, indeed in every area and at every level of mental endeavor.
Matriculating at every school and college in America, at every grade level, are students having a wide range of I.Q.’s and abilities successfully performing academic tasks capably and avoiding failure in the classroom. That’s why grades run from A thru D or F.
Most colleges and universities have limited seats to offer, so select students by common testing for potential academic success by measuring I.Q. of those tested. About 80%of the United States population is white. About 12-15% are black or brown and Asians are fewer still. The scramble for scarce seats set off competition among the applicants.

Posted by: sandy on December 13, 2002 10:45 PM

I think Mr. Auster is missing some relevant context in his analysis. In California, affirmative action issues on the ground generally are hispanic (really Mexican/Mexican American)issues, not black issues. The Hispanic population of the state dwarfs the Black population, and is of course growing. In fact, it was the state legislature’s Hispanic Caucus threatening to withhold funds for UC if the percentage of Hispanic students didn’t increase in the system that led to UC’s restructuring its admission’s criteria (i.e. eliminating SAT I, which I think has been approved, and increasing emphasis on sob stories of “overcoming adversity”, like having immigrant parents). Incidentally, White students are underrepresented slightly, because of the great performance of Asians, who are over represented by a factor of 3, I believe.

The larger point here is that the mainstream conservatives’ belief in race-blind, equal playing field policies is rapidly becoming obsolete, as are liberals’ pleas for “diversity”. What we are seeing now is the raw political power of an ethnic caucus, deriving strength from the increasing numbers of people who “look like them”, pursuing policies that benefit their own ethnic group. In this case it is the rewriting of UC admissions policies, previously it has been driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.

This will continue. It is a natural political impulse, and all the appeals to race neutral ideals will fall on deaf ears. Only “Anglos” are mesmerized by that old tune.

Posted by: Mitchell Young on December 15, 2002 8:03 AM

Mitchell Young, not only have you got it EXACTLY right in your concluding observations, but one would think that, far from needing to be pointed out to people, those observations would be a no-brainer! But they’re not, for most so-called “Conservatives” (and let’s not even TALK ABOUT liberals and neocons!), so they deserve repeating:

“The larger point here is that the mainstream conservatives’ belief in race-blind, equal playing field policies is rapidly becoming obsolete, as are liberals’ pleas for ‘diversity.’ What we are seeing now is the raw political power of an ethnic caucus, deriving strength from the increasing numbers of people who ‘look like them,’ pursuing policies that benefit their own ethnic group. In this case it is the rewriting of UC admissions policies, previously it has been driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. This will continue. It is a natural political impulse, and all the appeals to race neutral ideals will fall on deaf ears. Only ‘Anglos’ are mesmerized by that old tune.”

And of course what we are faced with is the heartbreaking (and infuriating, if we let it get to us) fact that our “Anglo” élites won’t fight for us — the Ross Perots, the Warren Buffets, the Bill Buckleys, the Bill Gateses, the Dan Quayles, the Bush family, the Rockefeller family, and all the others who, if they made so much as a few phone calls to each other, then a few more to a few key individuals in the scheme of things, could stop all this crap in five minutes.

No, we have to fight this all by ourselves, we who don’t live in Malabu and Southampton during the summer and divide our time between the Cote d’Azur and Gstaad in winter, or whatever it is — we’ve been abandoned, in what must be the mystery of the millennium.

We shall have to fight for our lives alone.

Posted by: Unadorned on December 15, 2002 10:30 AM

As I tell my liberal friends, the designated “victim groups” don’t believe in “diversity.” They are grabbing everything they can get for themselves.

Unadorned is exactly right. Our “elites” support every bit of the “affirmative action” agenda. One reason is that they think it will never affect them. Their own children will always get in the right schools and jobs. However, they may have their own escape route planned if needed.

The mainstream Right pushes for “race-blind universalism” because they cannot buck the liberal culture surrounding everything. Thus they say things like, “Affirmative Action harms Blacks.”

Posted by: David on December 15, 2002 2:09 PM

I think it was Unadorned who first posted the site, , but it has statistical analysis of such unfair practices as college admissions and its relationship with race. In each analysis the web admin tells exactly where he got his stats and shows his calculus methods for anyone that cares. Those are the true statistics, and its frightening.

Posted by: remus on December 15, 2002 3:37 PM

My mention of a one standard deviation statistical gap exists between black & white I.Q. groups does not imply individual black mental inferiority.. The bell curve for each population has a similar shape, but the black group bell shifts to the left by one standard deviation. The black group, is 1/5th to 1/6th the white population size. The lower black group I.Q., combined with small population size flattens the compared black curve terribly. I speculate that the larger white group has 20,30 perhaps 40 white applicants for every equally qualified black applicant for the same few scarce academic openings. Ex: Medical schools have dozens of equally qualified applicants for every freshman seat. When colleges increase minimum required SAT scores they raise the ante for both groups. But blacks have fewer and fewer people the further right we look on the bell curve (higher I.Q.) and can’t compete with the larger group.
So what do we do? Let dog eat dog or find a way for blacks in America?

Posted by: sandy on December 15, 2002 8:14 PM

Sandy presents a choice between “dog eat dog” and “finding a way for (unqualified) blacks in America.” I think this misrepresents the situation somewhat. Most of the push for affirmative action is directed at getting blacks proportionally represented in the top level institutions. Whites feel that an America where blacks are not so represented is intolerable. But the reality is that there are lots of places for blacks, say, at second and third tier institutions. There are plenty of opportunities in America for people to make a decent life for themselves in conformity with social and moral order. But that’s not what the aa advocates are concerned about. Their demand for group representation, for a symbolically diverse America at every level of society, particularly at the most prestigious levels, trumps all other concerns.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on December 15, 2002 8:51 PM

“So what do we do? Let dog eat dog or find a way for blacks in America?” — Sandy

Sandy, why do other folk have to find a way for blacks in America? Can they find their own way, as everyone else did? Plenty of whites have IQs a standard deviation lower than the white mean. All of them found a way. (And of course there are blacks whose IQs are above the white mean, who can certainly find their way.)

Furthermore, why do guilt-ridden liberals insist on thinking the only choices for blacks are “Yale or jail”? Why do they see bending the admissions rules to try to push unqualified blacks to become brain surgeons as the only way for blacks to get ahead? What about the trades? My father was a patent attorney and electrical engineer. Two of the kids I knew as a boy had dads without college educations who were doing better than my dad was — one was a plumbing contractor, the other a baker who started a bakery.

Why is it that blacks, in the liberal mind, must leap-frog over all the trades (wherein whites have always done very well for themselves) to become brain surgeons?

Posted by: Unadorned on December 15, 2002 8:54 PM

“Yale or jail”?

That’s hilarious, that’s exactly the way the liberals see it. Is that your idea?

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on December 15, 2002 8:58 PM

Larry, no, I saw “Yale or jail” somewhere recently, so this discussion has been out there lately.

Posted by: Unadorned on December 15, 2002 9:22 PM

The J.Riley Opinion.Com piece intro’d on by Larry was about SAT scores vs. Aff.Action on campus.Education IS helping by another name.It’s a bit off topic to say “why can’t blacks find their own way in America”,and anecdotally mention plumbers and bakers as Unadorned did..As a fact we’ve always tried to help blacks academically-thats what the old free admission A& M colleges were designed to do.Americans always have had charitabe instincts to citizens lower on the rung.
I think Larry is right that the real academic admission issue(the hidden one)is the liberal/radical preference for proportional black representation, by which 1 in every 6 seats would be reserved for blacks.But the black talent pool is so small there’s a risk of it disappearing in a sea of white applicants.
Again I ask dog eat dog or some form of help-up the ladder?

Posted by: sandy on December 15, 2002 11:04 PM

I remember discussing having trade schools, but they do not exist nearly as plentifully as they did sevel decades ago. There has been a steady to push to provide everyone with a “real education” in a public school with little or no trade practice. I could go on a tirade about public schooling (11 years experience), but I will just say that there has a steady push, most likely born out of some insecurity that trade schools weren’t making everyone look equal and were possibly believed inferior, to force everyone to go to public school.

Posted by: remus on December 16, 2002 2:58 AM

Remus makes a valid point. The push for a “good” education.the perception of which has changed over time in America. Today upper class parents rush to enroll their offspring at birth in the better pre-schools.Absurd? Or just a little educational “help” in the face of an unknown future need?.In the MAD (mutually assured nuclear destruction) era, a college polysci instructor asked “Who got the best education,the C.P.A. who depends on IRS rules & regs or the master carpenter with a sailboat tied up at the pier?. Wealthier people built in ground bomb-shelters as a middle road.
There are black bones buried at Jamestown,Plymouth,Mt. Vernon and across America.Again I ask dog eat dog or some form of help up the ladder?.

Posted by: sandy on December 16, 2002 5:20 AM

” ‘Who got the best education,the C.P.A. who depends on IRS rules & regs or the master carpenter with a sailboat tied up at the pier?’ Wealthier people built in-ground bomb-shelters as a middle road. There are black bones buried at Jamestown, Plymouth, Mt. Vernon and across America. Again I ask, dog eat dog, or some form of help up the ladder?” — Sandy

Sandy, I didn’t follow your point about the CPA, the master carpenter with a sail boat, and the rich who built backyard bomb shelters.

As for the proper policy toward any segment of the population who may not have the inborn wherewithal to compete effectively on academic tests such as the SAT, I don’t see how affirmative action in its present sense of putting them where they don’t belong can be the right one.

The “ladder” has many rungs. Some are all the way at the top academically (these are not necessarily at the top income-wise, by the way — Michael Jackson got 15 million dollars for a 30-second Pepsi commercial; what were his SAT scores, I wonder? … if he even took the test, which he certainly didn’t need to … ), while many rungs are at more modest levels academically. The latter category is not anything someone needs to be “helped out of,” or FROM WHICH someone needs to be helped by society to get onto a higher rung. If a person wants the change rungs by his own efforts, fine, and go ahead — that’s part of the fluidity of U.S. society. However those non-academic rungs are where most people, including most whites, AND non-inner-city, non-welfare-dependent blacks, earn a living, raise families, and thrive.

For inner-city welfare-dependent blacks to attain the level of one of those more academically modest but perfectly respectable rungs of the ladder — ie, the so-called “lower rungs” — and to earn their own living for a change, and to thrive therefrom, would already be a huge improvement for them, no? What exactly would be wrong with that?

The next generation, then, might rise higher on the ladder, or stay at the same level, or go lower — just as with whites or anyone else.

Posted by: Unadorned on December 16, 2002 8:57 AM

I think Sandy was relating an incident where a professor implied that the carpenter might be better off in the world of MAD. The carpenter has a skill that will presumably be useful under almost any circumstances as well as a means of escape (sailboat). The CPA has neither.

The question of what is a “good” education is of course value-laden, so it will naturally be a trouble spot for a society that pretends to value-neutral equality.

Posted by: Matt on December 16, 2002 10:10 AM

Unadorned: The comment was my polysci professor’s, the memory of which, was triggered by your brain surgeons, bakers and plumbers reference.His point was that when a country’s survival is a primary concern certain kinds of education looks preferable. So, it follows as true that in some times and places, some trades educated people do lot$ better than professionally educated ones.

You are spot on target to observe that affirmative action, as recently constituted cannot be right.The left’s racial equality argument caused expectation of black achievement to exceed realistic limits.And black failure, guaranteed by that lie,was sublimated and projected by black communities onto imagined “racists whose attitudes are holding our black community down”. So the left got black votes built on a lie, the black community bought the self deception the lie caused, and they both produced the poisonous and isolating effects affirmative action caused between the races.
Still, on the issues of higher education where the 20th century test called SAT gives membership in the tiny collegiate club, there is need to sort out newer equitable arrangements to assist a smaller minority population to educate as many of its brightest blacks that it can.
We could go on all day about convergence trends in black/white I.Q.,;increasing growth of the white underclass, decreasing growth of high I.Q. in both black & white populationa et. al.but those are different issues.

Posted by: Sandy on December 16, 2002 10:15 AM

I couldnt (and didnt) say it better.All education is value laden and causes all manner of misconceptions in a value neutral society.Thats why it becomes all important to focus on the real values of our country- for its future.
Like the American military leaves no(wounded)man behind. Its a covenant that makes citizens know that, bottom line, they come home.Of course there’s a way to help minority Americans-we just need to keep trying.

Posted by: sandy on December 16, 2002 10:32 AM

Sandy, I would say that one of the important (not in the sense of historical rank, but in the sense of being worth preserving and fostering) core values of traditional America is Christian charity. The question of course is how to keep that value from being coopted by liberalism and perverted into a drive for equality (or its evil twin, libertarian voluntarism). The articulation of equality as the goal of humble charity, while objectively false, is nonetheless one of the left’s greatest triumphs — and it started as early as Locke and Jefferson, so it runs deeply through the American psyche. There is a danger that those of us in the Right have been on the losing end of things for so long that we will lose track of our Christian charity; but it is or should be among our most critical values.

Posted by: Matt on December 16, 2002 12:18 PM

America’s core values are indeed Christian in origin.We’ve been at war with the destructive left for so long that we hide the charity we learned at the Master’s knee, like a jewel we fear exposing to theft by taking it out of the safe deposit box.We are an American nation of black and white Christian values..Black Muslims and Aryan Nation be damned, Conservative Americans still do the right thing for all Americans.
The beauty and the wonder of it is that we are still standing, here in the 21stC, scientifically technologically and militarily the only super power,led by faith based conservatives skilled in the lore of the battles to come.The left has done damage to the image and the psyche of America and her citizens, but we’re still standing.And we get stronger every time they ring the bell for a new round.

Posted by: sandy on December 16, 2002 4:42 PM

Sandy, I disagree that America’s core values in general are Christian and with your assessment of her current state. I think that America _as a particular people_ have historically been largely Christian and have held to core Christian values, but America _as a nation_ has been a liberal polity from the outset. See for example:

That was why I qualified my earlier remark with respect to historical import versus the value of preservation.

Posted by: Matt on December 16, 2002 5:59 PM

When we restrict our analysis of “afirmative action” to Blacks, and to elite college admissions, we are missing the bulk of the iceberg. Peter Brimelow among other has made it clear how affirmative action preferences are given to recent immigrants or the children of recent immigrants. These are not generally black people. Moreover, affirmative action extends to hiring in the civil service, in public safety jobs (firemen, police etc) and the issuing of government contracts (minority set asides). In all these cases, affirmative action is impacting on non-college educated whites. Restricting analysis of AA to admissions policies of elite Uni’s, while natural for people who participate in forums like this, misses a lot of what’s going on.

Posted by: Mitchell Young on December 16, 2002 6:15 PM

I was too quick to punch the post button,so will clarify my statement that America’s values are Christian in origin. Ever quick, Matt caught the slip.America’s charitable instincts are Christian in origin.Most of America’s founders were expressly deists by inclination but avoided the incorporation of their individual beliefs into the new government.In the 1600s before revolutionary times, however, America was populated, exclusively by protestant Christians running away from European suppression of their particlar brand of protestantism.Most of the early New England colonies were of this makeup. And, there was specific acknowledgment of the leadership of Jesus Christ even among the revolutionaries.When I visited the Captial many years ago, there was a hall of documents, containing the Declaration of Independence, Constitution..etc….about forty different early documents on wall display in a semi circular corridor.I was suprised to see several of the earliest documents headed “In the Name of Jesus Christ”…..
I smiled and wondered if some goverment wag put those out for all to see…as rebuttal to the oft told tale that we were strictly founded on secular lines.

Posted by: sandy on December 16, 2002 8:32 PM

“And there was specific acknowledgment, by the leadership, of Jesus Christ, even among the revolutionaries. When I visited the Capitol many years ago, there was a hall of documents containing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, etc. … about forty different early documents on wall display in a semi-circular corridor. I was surprised to see several of the earliest documents headed, ‘In the Name of Jesus Christ … .’ I smiled and wondered if some goverment wag had put those out for all to see, as a rebuttal to the oft-told tale that we were strictly founded on secular lines.” — Sandy

Sandy, it’s a good thing you posted that comment just now, because once the Left takes care of effacing those documents in D.C. which you just mentioned, the VFR archives will be the only proof available to future generations of conservatives that such documents ever existed! (That’s why I took the trouble to edit out some of your typos — your post is an important document for the future, man!)

Posted by: Unadorned on December 16, 2002 8:56 PM

Sandy: OK. But isn’t anal-retentive spelled with a hyphen? :-)

Posted by: Matt on December 16, 2002 9:00 PM

“… the VFR archives will be the only proof available to future generations of conservatives that such documents ever existed!”

I’m afraid Unadorned somewhat exaggerates the resources and the importance of VFR!

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on December 16, 2002 9:58 PM
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