September 6, 2005

The word from the street

One of my readers who was an inner city social worker writes:

Interesting to see how much grief you're getting for saying that African-Americans tend to have "poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups" and thus need "stricter moral guidance from society."

As you've pointed out, the average IQ of blacks is about a standard deviation below that of whites. Does intelligence affect judgment? Seriously, yes. This was one of the things that became most depressingly, painfully obvious to me when I was a social worker.

We had clients who were chronically in trouble, often for utterly boneheaded stuff. One client's son got arrested for taking part in a bank robbery. His accomplice ran off and left him standing there empty handed. Not knowing what to do, he stood outside the bank and *waited for a bus.* He seemed surprised that the cops somehow managed to find him.

Well, what can I say? This sort of thing happened all the time with my clients.

I remember one guy who'd been arrested repeatedly for robbery and other crimes. The interesting thing was that he did not come across as particularly "bad" or "dangerous" when I talked with him one on one. And when he was in prison (he went to prison several times), he was considered docile and cooperative. He actually sent me Christmas cards from the penitentiary, jolly ones with pictures of Santas and Bambi-esque reindeer.

When asked about his crimes, he rarely seemed defensive or evasive, just confused. It finally dawned on me that one of his big problems was that he had trouble processing multiple ideas and streams of information at the same time. He literally tended to "go with the flow" because the flow was pretty much all that existed for him at any given time.

If he was sitting talking with a young white female social worker, he was charming because he wanted to impress me. If he was under the control of prison authorities, he was cooperative because he didn't want to get his head busted. If it was Christmas season, he sent cards. If he was on the street with his friends, he was Criminal Dude because -- well, because that's just what the situation called for, wasn't it?

Saying this guy needed "stricter moral guidance from society" is putting it as mildly as possible; in fact, he required near constant reinforcement. And remember, this was a low-aggression kid, unlike a lot of others I encountered.

The late historian Jim Chapin, long the Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America, introduced me to the how-stupid-of-me-not-to-have-thought-of-that point that what poor people tend to need is more help from their government and culture in raising their kids, since they often lack the skills and resources that the affluent can bring to insulating their children from bad influences.

Chapin, who was the brother of the late folk singer Harry Chapin, lacked the ambition required to achieve the fame that his vast knowledge and largeness of heart merited, but he was a mentor to many of all shades of the ideological spectrum including Harold Meyerson, Fred Siegel, George Stephanonpolous, Scott McConnell, Jim Pinkerton, David Brooks, and myself. One of Chapin's many distinguishing traits was that he was a leftist who was honest enough to give racial differences in IQ the serious thought they deserved.

One of the reasons I despise gangsta rap, and the vast corporate music industry that pushes it, so much is because, while it's just a laugh to the white kids who buy the CDs, too many black kids down through the years have taken its messages seriously. The notion that blacks, on average, need more moral guidance than whites is shocking to many people, especially because our media, from Norman Mailer's "White Negro" onward, tends to treat blacks as if they need less guidance, as if their role is to act out for the amusement of whites their inner fantasies of unrestrained behavior.

Of course, it's particularly disastrous that the media encourages African-Americans to blame their troubles on white racism, rather to stand up and take responsibility for themselves. Scapegoating whites doesn't do blacks any good, no matter how useful it is for some whites to blame other whites for black crimes in the endless status struggle among whites for moral superiority.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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