Thanks to a public
outcry in which my last week`s VDARE.COM article ("The
Case of the Truth-Telling [But Racially Incorrect]
Teacher") played a small role, Pasadena science
teacher Scott Phelps, who had been suspended for
pointing out that black students tended to behave
worse in class and score worse on tests than other
reinstated. Phelps didn`t even have to make one of
those Darkness at Noon show-trial
insensitivity confessions that are the usual outcome
of such brouhahas. In fact, school and district
officials, while of course not apologizing to Phelps,
admitted (“School to work with students, teachers,”
by Marie Leech, Pasadena Star-News, October 31,
2002) that some of what he had said was correct and that
they needed to look into the problem.
A small triumph for
truth and justice. But it`s important to understand why
the natural reaction of people in power in modern
America is to censor the honest. It`s because
diversity and freedom of speech are always in tension.
As diversity grows,
so, inevitably, will the demand for censorship.
Individuals have very
good reasons for wanting to stifle discussion of their
For example, Maria
reported in the Pasadena Star-News (October
"Ashley Bradford, who is among the group of students
that Phelps singled out, said he needs to `watch what he
says. His comments were very derogatory because I`m
part of the class of 2004 and I`m not unruly,` the 11th
grader said. `I think he needs to make an apology,` she
said. `But if he has no remorse, then he should be fired
because that means he`s a teacher that doesn`t support
"Jerome Smith, an African American whose 17-year-old
daughter attends Muir, said Phelps should be teaching at
an all-white school, not one as diverse as Muir. `If
those teachers believe that all African Americans
misbehave, then they don`t need to be there,` he said.
`Muir is a multicultural school. They need to be
teaching at an all Anglo-Saxon school.`"
In fact, of course,
teacher Phelps had made clear that he wasn`t speaking
about "all" black students. But African-Americans tend
to hear "many" as "all" because of a very real fear –
that they will be tarred as individuals by
statistically-correct generalizations about their race.
Almost everybody in
America today protests that they aren`t prejudiced, that
they judge each individual solely on his or her merits.
But is that true? Is it wise? Or even feasible?
For example, did you
completely believe student Bradford`s protestation of
innocence, quoted above? If you did, why?
All you know about
her is that
- She says
she`s not unruly; but
- Most observers now publicly admit that the group
she belongs to (black 11th graders at Muir H.S.) is
full of troublemakers.
Neither you nor I
know for sure whether Miss Bradford is a problem child
herself. But we definitely have reason to be more
suspicious of her than of somebody else who belongs to a
though, Miss Bradford resents this probabilistic
Or, consider a more
sympathetic character in the controversy:
Aundre Mathews. This recent graduate of Muir was one
of Phelps` strongest defenders ("`What [Phelps]
is saying is the truth, it`s just that nobody wants to
hear it"). As you`ve no doubt guessed from the
creative spelling of his first name, he is black.
Aundre Mathews sounds
like fine young man. Still, it`s worth reflecting on why
you wouldn`t give your baby boy a name spelled "Aundre."
It`s because you
wouldn`t want your son to go through life with other
people assuming, sight unseen, that he was black. You
wouldn`t want your son to suffer from the presumptions
that young men with strangely-spelled first names are
more likely to score poorly on their tests and to shout
out to their friends instead of listening to the
teacher. You`d feel that way because you know those
prejudices are statistically quite valid.
It is not irrational
to use prejudices to make decisions. In fact, there is
an entire school of mathematics called
Bayesian analysis demonstrating that you make worse
decisions in individual cases on average if you exclude
from consideration your prior learning about the general
In essence, the
mathematicians are saying that knowledge is better than
The black economist
Knowledge and Decisions is the
classic work in this field. It explains that
because knowledge about individuals is expensive to
acquire, it`s inefficient to discard knowledge about
general categories—including race. Sowell wrote:
"There is a fatal charm
about the idea of `judging each person as an
individual.` … Most objections to sorting and labeling
in general—and particularly to the sorting and labeling
of people—are based on ignoring the costs of
knowledge… Even objections on purely moral grounds
to `discrimination` against various groups often turn
out to involve ignoring knowledge costs."
But assume your son
is black. Of course, being your son, none
of these stereotypes apply to him. He`s a true
Lake Wobegon child, above average in all regards.
But, until others can get a chance to know him well,
they will make assumptions about him informed by their
(quite accurate) knowledge of what black youths are like
in general. Shopkeeper and cops watch him with a hawk`s
eye. So does Jesse Jackson when he`s walking home at
night, as he once famously
admitted. Other kids assume your son`s more into
sports than studies, and so on.
Perhaps you`d be as
much of a philosopher about this as
Tom Sowell. More likely, though, being a loving
parent, you`d view your son as unfairly held back by
these prejudices about blacks—no matter how correct they
You would no doubt
like to improve the image of blacks in general. But
getting 35 million African-Americans to behave better is
a daunting task. It`s much easier to demand ethnic
cheerleading in the schools and the media—and
insist the authorities stomp on anybody who dares to
mention the unmentionable.
Personally, I think
these spin campaigns are hopeless. You can
censor the words, but people still have
eyes in their heads. I`ve long argued that honesty
is the best policy for all concerned, no matter what
their race, since people of goodwill can make better
decisions if they possess more knowledge. (Here are
major articles I wrote on this theme in
But let me be the
first to admit that that`s easy for me to say. My
sons aren`t black.
I still think the
arguments in favor of truth are better than the
arguments in favor of lies. But I no longer expect to
persuade everybody of this. I believe it`s unavoidable
that the existence of substantial diversity in the U.S.
will provoke powerful efforts to suppress
freedom of speech and
inquiry. Diversity and liberty will always be
at each other`s throats.
The existence of the
behavioral gap between American whites and blacks is
unfortunate. A multicultural society works a lot better
when the groups are quite similar in
earning power and the like: compare
But that`s the way it
is in the U.S. Black-white diversity is simply a
fundamental part of who we are as Americans, ever since
1619. It`s just something we will all have to deal
On the other hand, we
don`t have to manufacture more inequality within
America by keeping the pedal to the metal on mass
immigration of the
deluded itself that, because Hispanics on average
tend to outperform blacks on a number of measures, they
are in effect the New Improved Poor People.
imprisoned only 3.7 times as often as
non-Hispanic whites, compared to a ratio of 9.1 to 1 for
illegitimacy rates are only about halfway
between those of whites and blacks.
participation is quite high, but American-born
Hispanics` high school graduation rates are actually
considerably worse than blacks` rates, which
slows their advancement considerably. Hispanics`
IQ test scores do tend to be above blacks`, but well
achievement test scores lag far behind those of whites
and Asians. Here are California`s statewide average
scores on the SAT-9 (which, confusingly, has nothing
to do with the college admission SAT), expressed in
terms of percent of students scoring at or above the
national 50th percentile
The Hispanic glass
is, at best, half full. Which means it`s at least half
Mass immigration is
increasing America`s level of inequality. That will
inevitably increase the demand for censorship—not just
in English, but in Spanish.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and
November 03, 2002