More On The New Orleans Nightmare: Why We Have To Talk About Racial Reality Even If John Podhoretz Says We Can't
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On this fourth anniversary of 9/11, I'm reminded that's immediate response to the terrorist attacks was to evoke Rudyard Kipling's 1919 poem with the funny-sounding name The Gods of the Copybook Headings. (“Copybook headings” are the stern ancient maxims that English schoolboys once had to write at the top of their notebook pages.)

Our message: hard social truths can be ignored or derided—but not permanently avoided:

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn

That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:

But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,

So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind…

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins

When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,

As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,

The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return

Now, in the wake of the shameful anarchy in New Orleans, our elites are again confronted with the need to relearn some unfashionable, politically incorrect lessons.

But whether they will remains much in doubt.

I don't like watching my fellow American citizens of any color suffer the horrors of anarchy. So my September 3rd essay “Racial Reality and the New Orleans Nightmare” expressed anger that all levels of government had made the happy-clappy multi-culti assumption that, in case of hurricane, the politicians, police, and people of New Orleans would all pitch in together like Good Samaritans to help each other out.

In many places, survivors will do that. But the demographics and culture of New Orleans were always prohibitive.

My article elicited a firestorm of rage from the pundits. As when television news broadcasts hours of blacks behaving badly, enormous pressure builds up amongst the commentariat to denounce furiously the first person who is so crass as to mention what everybody can see with their lying eyes. Almost all these condemnations of me have been of the now-traditional point-and-sputter ilk. The critic can't think of any facts or logic to disprove my argument. So he merely gesticulates about what an awful person I must be to say such a horrible thing.

For example, the thuggish John Podhoretz at National Review's Corner demonized my article for purportedly containing the “the most disgusting sentence [sic] yet written about Katrina.”

My disgusting “sentence” (paragraph, in fact) turned out to be merely:

All this is now common parlance, more or less. What you won't hear, except from me, is that “Let the good times roll” is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.

Yet, my essay has been one of the most emailed-out in history, and for precisely the same reason the media folks hated it: because it explained honestly the reasons behind the ugliness we could all see.

Our mainstream media is so intellectually hamstrung by self-censorship, so lacking in a conceptual vocabulary for describing racial realities, that after watching blacks tormenting blacks night after night in New Orleans, shooting at the helicopters and boats trying to rescue their fellow African-Americans, all the pundits could do was scream “white racism!”

And prescribe massive new spending on urban poverty—despite all the evidence that the last War of Poverty made the New Orleans Nightmare worse by undermining African-Americans' already tenuous family structure.

The revelations of the succeeding eight days have vindicated my original analysis.

While partisan talking heads continue to blame whichever level of government is controlled by the opposition, my criticism of each, along with the culture and residents of New Orleans, has stood up well:

  • Bush's appointee to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency, political hack Mike Brown, turns out to have been a failed horse show bureaucrat.
  • Louisiana's state government, while perhaps somewhat less at fault than the federal and city governments, once again lived down to its notorious Latin political heritage of incompetence and demagoguery.

Each of these failures of government was unsurprising, given their track records.

Even more controversially, I pointed out that officials should have expected that the population that failed to evacuate would be numerous, improvident, poor in judgment, laced with criminals, and highly dangerous to each other.

Even when New Orleans's police force is not otherwise occupied with looting and fleeing, the city's overall murder rate is ten times the national average. Among that fifth of the population who did not evacuate, the homicide rate would have been something like 30 times the national average.

Hundreds of school buses were left lined up in a flooded parking lot because residents were supposed to offer rides to their neighbors without cars. But let's think through a common situation. Imagine you are a single mother on a poor street who owns a car. After you've loaded up your family to evacuate, to which car-less neighbor are you going to offer your one empty seat: the churchgoer on your left or the gang-banger on your right?

But if you and all the other decent people flee your street, who is going to stop the left-behind criminals from looting your hard-earned possessions?

So you decide to stay behind—only to be forced to flee to the Superdome or the Convention Center when the levees break.

Everybody should have assumed that when the hammer finally came down, the New Orleans Police Department would fold and underclass thugs would run amok, making it unsafe for unarmed rescue workers to do their jobs. Rescue can't proceed effectively when workers fear for their lives from violence. How enthusiastic would you be about going out in a small boat to haul survivors off their rooftops if you needed to wear a heavy bulletproof vest that would drag you right down to the bottom if you fell in?

The first priority of government in a Hobbesian place like the impoverished 'hoods of New Orleans must be to provide order. The government should have planned to helicopter combat troops in and do what it takes to restore order: tear gas, rubber bullets, even live ammo if necessary.

But nobody is supposed to mention the barbarism likely to break out, so nobody in government initially acted as if they had a serious problem on their hands.

For instance, according to the New York Times, the hapless FEMA boss Mike Brown admitted, “that the lawlessness surprised him.”

Why didn't anyone discuss realistically how the people who were going to be left behind by the city's feckless evacuation effort would behave? Because they were overwhelmingly black. And, as the Two Minutes Hate conducted over my essay shows, you can't talk about that if you want to keep your job.

In fact, it's much safer for your career if you train yourself never to think about it at all.

While a sizable majority of the 365,000 African-Americans in New Orleans had the assets, prudence, and/or friends or family to get themselves out of town before the hurricane, something like 100,000 were left behind.

And, as we all saw on TV for several horrible days, the survivors were not, on average, the most civic-minded.

Yet they were still human beings and American citizens. They shouldn't have to survive in chaos.

Government, at bottom, is supposed to maintain a monopoly on violence. And that's exactly what was lost.

Just as Donald Rumsfeld catastrophically refused to stop the looting that broke out in the wake of our conquest of Baghdad in 2003, government agencies delayed disastrously in doing what it took to put down the chaos in New Orleans.

(I'm going to focus now upon IQ. But it's not the only racial difference. For over a decade, contributor Professor J.P. Rushton has been documenting that for a host of measures, not just IQ but also behavioral, Northeast Asians and West Africans tend on average to stand at opposite ends of the spectrum with Europeans in the middle.

(Of course, you don't have to read Rushton's book Race, Evolution, and Behavior to see this for yourself: Anybody who lives in a cosmopolitan big city and hasn't noticed this general pattern must not get out much.

(What are particularly relevant to the New Orleans disorder are the large racial gaps in crime rates. My next article, on the evening of Sunday September 18th, will review a major new study of racial differences in crime, as revealed by government statistics of arrest rates, imprisonment, and victim surveys, to be published by American Renaissance. For example, this report provides the first estimate I've yet seen of Asian-American imprisonment rates. They turn out to be, to the surprise of nobody with eyes in their heads, about 1/30th the African-American rate.)

The racial IQ distribution, however, is something that's both powerful in impact and relatively simple to understand. So all semi-numerate public-spirited citizens owe it to their country to take time to familiarize themselves with it.

Let me

  • start with the vexed question of the innateness of the IQ gap;
  • then discuss its size,
  • then show that those on the left and right who claim that IQ is meaningless are either uninformed or hypocritical, and finally
  • air a new and helpful idea on one small step we can take regarding this massive fact of American social life.

The innateness of the IQ gap

A bugaboo that often paralyzes rational thought about IQ is the controversy over whether or not the racial IQ gap stems solely from environmental differences, or has a hereditary component as well. Yet, this question isn't terribly relevant for thinking about planning better for urban disasters. As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, IQ is fairly stable throughout one's lifetime. So environmental interventions in the hope of raising black IQ would take at least one generation to work. So we can say for sure that the IQ gap will be around long enough to make it worth understanding.

My New Orleans Nightmare article was exposed to a lot of scientifically illiterate loathing. But I had a couple of genetic aces up my sleeve: I knew that later in the week, the leading American scientific journal, Science, would publish two blockbuster papers by U. of Chicago geneticist Bruce T. Lahn about the global distribution of brain development genes.

Here's Nicholas Wade's article “Researchers Say Human Brain Is Still Evolving” in the New York Times:

“Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, suggesting that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution…They report that with microcephalin, a new allele arose about 37,000 years ago…Some 70 percent or more of people in most European and East Asian populations carry this allele of the gene, as do 100 percent of those in three South American Indian populations, but the allele is much rarer in most sub-Saharan Africans.

“With the other gene, ASPM, a new allele emerged some time between 14,100 and 500 years ago, the researchers favoring a mid-way date of 5,800 years. The allele has attained a frequency of about 50 percent in populations of the Middle East and Europe, is less common in East Asia, and found at low frequency in some sub-Saharan Africa peoples.”

These findings are far from definitive on the IQ innateness question. But I can assure you there will be more announcements to come about these two brain genes that will be most interesting. And more brain genes with politically incorrect racial distributions are likely to follow.

What we can say for sure is that Darwinian logic suggests there's something about sub-Saharan Africa that prevented these brain gene variants from becoming common there—either the Sahara kept blacks reproductively isolated from the rest of the world while these genes were spreading, or the sub-Saharan environment wasn't conducive to the survival of people with these genes.

The size of the IQ gap

The size of the black-white racial gap in IQ has been studied for over 80 years. Of course, the answer is purely probabilistic. To say that blacks on average have lower IQs than Asians or whites is not to say that all blacks have lower IQs. In fact, about six million African-Americans possess higher IQs than the average white.

The most comprehensive investigation of the size of the white-black IQ gap was carried out by Philip L. Roth of Clemson and colleagues in a 2001 article, “Ethnic Group Differences in Cognitive Ability in Employment and Educational Settings: A Meta-Analysis,” in the academic journal Personnel Psychology.

They looked at 105 different studies covering 6,246,729 individuals and found an overall average difference between whites and blacks of 16.5 IQ points, or 1.1 standard deviations. The 95 percent confidence interval runs merely from 1.06 to 1.15 standard deviations (in other words, there is strong agreement among the 105 studies).

(By the way, Roth et al. found that the IQ gap between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics is 10.8 points.)

IQ tests are typically set up so the average score is 100 and the standard deviation is 15. Because IQ scores fall according to a normal distribution (or “bell-shaped curve”), you can use the NORMDIST function in Microsoft Office Excel, or this interactive web applet, to see where different IQ scores appear in percentile terms.

For example, if the average white IQ is 100 and the average black IQ is at 83.5 (according to Roth's meta-analysis), then the typical black falls at about the 14th percentile among the white population.

The most readable and up to date discussion of the white-black IQ difference is Charles Murray's “The Inequality Taboo” in the September 2005 issue of Commentary. (Paradoxically, John Podhoretz's father Norman has been Editor or Editor-at-Large for the last 45 years, during which time the elder Podhoretz has given strong support to Murray's book The Bell Curve.)

As I pointed out in two weeks ago, Murray presents tentative evidence suggesting that in recent years the IQ gap may has narrowed to 14 points, which would put the median black at about the 18th percentile among whites.

The black-white IQ gap is not the end of the story. I've been arguing for close to a decade, IQ tests probably do not measure well certain cognitive skills that blacks may tend to be better at than are whites and East Asians, such as improvisation. Life consists of trade-offs, so perhaps it's not startling that New Orleans, home to the great black improvisatory art form of jazz, did not display tremendous talent at planning ahead for this inevitable disaster.

But, nevertheless, the IQ gap does matter.

You thought the IQ test has been officially discredited by somebody or other? Not according to the Supreme Court and the military.

In the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court, in effect, abolished the death penalty for killers with IQs below 70. Liberals applauded. As Andrew Sullivan blogged:

“It's an article of faith among many liberals that I.Q. has no meaning, it's culturally constructed, and should never be used to judge people's intellectual ability. But suddenly, when I.Q. is the means by which to rescue retarded criminals on death row, I.Q. is just fine, thank you very much.”

Roughly 10-20 percent of the overall black population is now ineligible for capital punishment (compared to approximately two percent of whites and one percent of the Asian-Americans). Among the survivors at the Superdome and Convention Center, it would hardly be surprising if a quarter or more were so unintelligent they are legally immune from the death penalty.

Now, let's be clear. I'm not saying that low IQ people are not morally culpable or that they lack free will or all those other metaphysical issues that are fun to stay up all night talking about in the dorm room.

What I am saying is that policymakers need to plan for the likely problems that have been shown to be statistically correlated with having large numbers of low IQ people around.

But, how can any public servant make plans based on realistic assessments of how a particular population is likely to react in an emergency if the entire subject of racial behavioral differences is a career-killing thought crime?

Those were our fellow human beings and our fellow Americans in New Orleans. But we let some of them die because we've been terrified to make plans based on politically incorrect facts.

The meaningfulness of the IQ gap

Many on the right as well claim, at least in public, that IQ is meaningless. As the rightist blogger Tacitus alleged:

“I tested with a ridiculously high IQ as a child, and I was pretty proud of that till I got to the Army and found it didn't count for anything… we should not pretend [IQ tests] are an objective basis for science.”

Well, go tell it to the military, which has been giving IQ tests to enlistment applicants since the First World War.

Almost nobody in the media is aware of the vast investment the U.S. military has made over the last 88 years in IQ testing of potential recruits, and the huge number of correlation studies they have done comparing soldiers' IQ with their actual performance. I was only barely aware of it myself until I spent hours last fall interviewing military psychometricians for my article showing that John F. Kerry scored a bit lower on his officer application IQ test than George W. Bush did. (This was the report that Tom Brokaw asked Kerry about on the NBC Nightly News.)

Because the U.S. military knows that bad things tend to happen to low IQ soldiers—and to their comrades who have the misfortune to be standing nearby—since 1991 only about one percent of new enlistees have IQs below the 30th percentile (i.e., an IQ of about 92). (See Table 2.8 in this Defense Department report.)

Last year, the Army announced that because of tribulations in meeting recruitment quotas due to the Iraq War, it would up its share of new soldiers scoring below the 30th percentile all the way to … 2 percent.

Even a guerilla war isn't making the military enthusiastic about inducting volunteers from the bottom 30 percent of the Bell Curve.

Stop and think about that for a second: well over 80 million Americans lack high enough IQs to become a buck private in our high-tech modern military.

I bet you'd never heard that from the mainstream media!

The fine 1997 book All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way by sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler reported that in 1994:

“83 percent of white recruits scored in the upper half of the mental aptitude test (compared with 61 percent of white youths in the national population), while 59 percent of black recruits scored in the upper half (compared with 14 percent of the black youths nationwide).”

In other words, the Army's black enlisted personnel score just as well on the general aptitude test as typical white Americans—although not as well as white recruits. (African-American officers average even better, of course.) That shows the impressive patriotism of blacks who possess many options in life.

On the other hand, a sizable majority of all blacks are ineligible to enlist. This has created a social problem that nobody has noticed…because you aren't allowed to talk about race and IQ.

We like to imagine that the military frequently instills character-building discipline in underclass ghetto youths raised by single mothers. But, in fact, it hasn't let in many truly poor blacks since the collapse of the Soviet Union allowed the military to get leaner and meaner.

Black enlistees are well above the national black average in IQ. They come from families that average 15 percent higher income than the national black mean.

My new and helpful idea about the IQ gap

But perhaps there's an opportunity for a government program that might actually improve the morals of the poor. So I'd like to end this perhaps bleak summary of the basic facts of American urban life with an idea I've been kicking around for years.

I want to tell you first, though, about a young African-American man I knew from a rough neighborhood in Chicago.

High school wasn't easy for him, but he stuck it out, stayed out of trouble, and got his degree. He went to work at McDonald's, where the boss liked his attitude and the way the other kids followed his lead, and put him on the management track. But he messed up the paperwork too many times and got fired.

He started hanging out with loser friends and had a minor scrape with the law. He decided then that he didn't want to waste his life and that his best shot at getting on the right path was the Army. It offered the purpose and order he craved.

The recruiting sergeant liked him a lot, seeing leadership potential in him. Everything looked promising, but then he flunked the military's IQ test (the one used throughout The Bell Curve), the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Like more than 80 million other Americans would have done, he didn't score in the top 70 percent.

However, the recruiter was so enthusiastic about this young man that he offered him a special chance: the Army would pay to send him to a lengthy training program where he'd live in a barracks, wear a uniform, and cram for the AFQT.

He found there that he loved military life. And the military liked him: he won the award as the best cadet in his class. Fired up, he went home, and took the AFQT again.

And flunked once more.

Sadly, we don't live in Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average. The tautological fact is that 30 percent of Americans are going to score below the 30th percentile on IQ.

The tragic conundrum is that the young men like this fellow who could most benefit from serving a hitch in the Army, the decent but not too bright 18-year-olds who are on the knife-edge between getting their act together and falling into a lifetime of drugs and crime, are the ones least likely to make the Armed Forces' cognitive cutoff.

Now, the military exists to win wars. Modern weapons are so lethal and so complicated that the Pentagon is perfectly sensible in only wanting easily trainable recruits. The military isn't a social program. Indeed, much of what success it has as a social program originates from its asking soldiers, unlike the participants in the old Job Corps, to serve larger moral goals—duty, honor, country—than merely their own financial advancement.

Perhaps, though, our country could make good use of a Disaster Relief Corps, one with the discipline of the military but somewhat less rigorous IQ requirements, accepting young men down to, say, the 10th percentile (80 IQ, which is the legal minimum for soldiers). Many young men want the chance to be heroes, which is why small towns get by with volunteer fire departments. Those ambitions should be encouraged.

Disaster Relief Corpsmen would wear uniforms and train for a year on a base, learning to fill sandbags to fight floods, perform first aid, control crowds, and other basic skills that would have been useful in New Orleans.

After that they'd go home and serve, say, six years in the Disaster Relief Reserves, spending one weekend a month training (where they'd also take a drug test to keep them on the straight and narrow).

When the worst happened, each community, instead of waiting passively for FEMA functionaries to fly in from around the country, would have 19-25 year old men on hand ready to take initiative to organize and protect their neighborhoods…rather than loot them.

Of course, this program would only offer a modest remedy for the terrible social problems we saw in New Orleans. Maybe it wouldn't work at all. I'm sure somebody could come up with a better plan.

But to get this crucial conversation started, the media, left and “Righteous Right,” have to stop demonizing anybody who mentions the hard facts about IQ and racial differences.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic for

The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

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