Reverend Wright On Black-White Cognitive Differences
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Here's an interesting excerpt from Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.'s Sunday night Detroit NAACP speech:

Turn to your neighbor and say different does not mean deficient. It simply means different. In fact, Dr. Janice Hale was the first writer whom I read who used that phrase. Different does not mean deficient. Different is not synonymous with deficient. It was in Dr. Hale's first book, "Black Children their Roots, Culture and Learning Style." Is Dr. Hale here tonight? We owe her a debt of gratitude. Dr. Hale showed us that in comparing African-American children and European-American children in the field of education, we were comparing apples and rocks. [Ha-ha.]

And in so doing, we kept coming up with meaningless labels like EMH, educable mentally handicapped, TMH, trainable mentally handicapped, ADD, attention deficit disorder.

And we were coming up with more meaningless solutions like reading, writing and Ritalin. Dr. Hale's research led her to stop comparing African-American children with European-American children and she started comparing the pedagogical methodologies of African-American children to African children and European-American children to European children. And bingo, she discovered that the two different worlds have two different ways of learning. European and European-American children have a left brained cognitive object oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America. Back in the early '70s, when Dr. Hale did her research was based on left brained cognitive object oriented learning style. Let me help you with fifty cent words.

Left brain is logical and analytical. Object oriented means the student learns from an object. From the solitude of the cradle with objects being hung over his or her head to help them determine colors and shape to the solitude in a carol in a PhD program stuffed off somewhere in a corner in absolute quietness to absorb from the object. From a block to a book, an object. That is one way of learning, but it is only one way of learning.

African and African-American children have a different way of learning.

They are right brained, subject oriented in their learning style. Right brain that means creative and intuitive. Subject oriented means they learn from a subject, not an object. They learn from a person. Some of you are old enough, I see your hair color, to remember when the NAACP won that tremendous desegregation case back in 1954 and when the schools were desegregated. They were never integrated. When they were desegregated in Philadelphia, several of the white teachers in my school freaked out. Why? Because black kids wouldn't stay in their place. Over there behind the desk, black kids climbed up all on them.

Because they learn from a subject, not from an object. Tell me a story. They have a different way of learning. Those same children who have difficulty reading from an object and who are labeled EMH, DMH and ADD. Those children can say every word from every song on every hip hop radio station half of who's words the average adult here tonight cannot understand. Why? Because they come from a right-brained creative oral culture like the (greos) in Africa who can go for two or three days as oral repositories of a people's history and like the oral tradition which passed down the first five book in our Jewish bible, our Christian Bible, our Hebrew bible long before there was a written Hebrew script or alphabet. And repeat incredulously long passages like Psalm 119 using mnemonic devices using eight line stanzas. Each stanza starting with a different letter of the alphabet. That is a different way of learning. It's not deficient, it is just different. Somebody say different. I believe that a change is going to come because many of us are committed to changing how we see other people who are different.

Rev. Dr. Wright resents not being taken seriously as an intellectual, and I think he has a point. So, I'll respond at some length.

This is pretty similar to a lot of stuff that I wrote in the late 1990s: for example, "Great Black Hopes" in National Review, my "Nerdishness" essay, and my review of Arthur Jensen's The g Factor.

The problem, of course, is that while Rev. Wright's ex-parishoner Oprah Winfrey can make a billion dollars being America's best nonrational subjective interpersonal improvisational thinker, it's a limited market. If you are the 100,000th best accountant in America, you probably live on a golf course. But if you are the 100,000 best talk show host, you are unemployed.

In my NR review of economic historian David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, I wrote:


Interestingly, many of the most striking racial differences can be thought of as resembling faint sex differences. For example, contrast the triumph of Japanese manufacturing with Japan's near-total failure in the brutally competitive global market for celebrities. (A recent survey revealed that Americans believe the most famous living Japanese person is Bruce Lee, a dead Chinese guy.) It's the mirror image of African-Americans' undistinguished technological achievements versus their outstanding performance in producing media personalities.

Why? Japanese talents extend far beyond chopstick-handling to a set of extremely masculine intellectual skills. Tests show they tend to excel at objective abilities like mathematics and mentally manipulating 3-d objects through "single-tasking" (focusing deeply upon a one impersonal logical problem). Blacks, on the other hand, are often better at typically feminine, more subjective cerebral skills like verbalization, emotional intuition and expression, sense of rhythm, sense of style, improvisation, situational awareness, and mental multi-tasking. Michael Jordan's brain, for instance, enables him to anticipate his opponent's every move while simultaneously demoralizing his foe with nonstop trash-talking. (Try it sometime. It's not easy.)

Next, think about physical and emotional/personality traits. Here the races are arrayed in the opposite order. Blacks tend to display more of typically male qualities like muscularity, aggressiveness, self-esteem, need for dominance, and impulsiveness. In contrast, the Japanese economy benefits from a male workforce endowed with more typically feminine virtues like small fingers and fine motor skills, cooperativeness, humility and anxiety, loyalty, long-term orientation, diligence, and carefulness. Combined with their first-rate masculine mental skills, these make Japanese companies powerhouses at exporting superbly engineered machinery.

Compared to Japanese organizations, black communities tend to be physically and psychologically masculine, sometimes to the point of disorderliness. Yet a relatively high percentage of individual black men achieve fame by possessing charismatically masculine looks and personalities, without the nerdishness that Dilbert-style male intellectual skills often induce."


The problem, of course, with the difference not deficiency approach is that there's no subjective way to keep the bridge from falling down. Thus, I suggested in NR in 1996:


The nice liberal white who beseeches black men, "I'm your friend, be like me," isn't always somebody they could be like and frequently isn't somebody they would be like, and thus can't give them a job they'll do themselves proud in. On the other hand, the not-so-nice white often holds the keys to what could be the right career. Another little-understood problem that will also continue to slow black male economic progress is that while Asian immigrants have flourished in part by their objective skills with numbers, blacks' advantages are typically in working with people. Thus, blacks are more susceptible than Asians both to residual bias and to debilitating fear of bias. I don't know of any quick solutions to either of these difficulties.

That said, what careers should black men consider more seriously in the next century? Since this type of question has been unthinkable under the reigning intellectual orthodoxy, my answers haven't yet been adequately assayed by public debate. But somebody has to stick his neck out first. So here goes:

Conservatives often advise blacks to start their own small businesses. However, African-Americans tend to face fierce competition from immigrants who can call upon more dependable relatives for advice, loans, and labor. Thus, for those African-Americans who are the most ambitious members of their families, integrated profit-seeking companies often provide better opportunities. But which jobs within those firms? For better educated black youths, the good news is that there are some fairly lucrative corporate careers that blacks have not yet widely discovered, but that especially reward persuasiveness and masculine charisma. There is always a price to be paid for breaking into new sectors, but these might hold long-run promise: selling big ticket contracts, stock-brokering, headhunting, and motivational speaking. In a word: Sales.

Unfortunately, the media climate saps the confidence blacks need. A salesguy must overflow with the assurance that the next account will love him more than the last one did. By automatically ascribing all gaps between whites and blacks to discrimination, the press drums up the menace of racism to the point of paranoia. This saps both motivation and that virile self-confidence that inspires customers to buy. Of course, some clients are anti-black, but over time blacks can mitigate that by discovering the less-biased industries and sales territories. Anyway, unfair as it is, the relevant question for a young black career-seeker is not whether he'd get richer if he was a white salesman. No, he needs to ask himself whether he'd ultimately end up generating more money and pride as a black salesman than as quota fodder in a make-work posting like Diversity Sensitivity Liaison.

And finally, here's how I summed it up in my review of Arthur Jensen's The g Factor:

Ironically, while diversity models are now popular in the abstract, it's nearly a hanging offense in the current mainstream media climate to actually mention particular talents in which minorities are superior to whites. (Today, "celebrating diversity" is automatically assumed to mean "insisting upon uniformity.") Gardner, for instance, coyly refuses to discuss the obvious racial and sexual disparities implicit in his seven factor model.

In the most publicized recent attempt to honestly flesh out a diversity model, the Reverend Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers asked the Wisconsin legislature, "Why did God make us so different?" He then listed what he saw as the different strengths of America's races, and concluded, "When you put all of that together … it forms a complete image of God." Despite being black, a football hero, an outstanding citizen, obviously well-intended, and in at least some of his examples undeniably right (e.g., Asians are gifted at invention, "they can turn a TV into a watch"), the Rev. White was pilloried by the press: "Stereotypes!"

Of course, none of the tut-tutters asked: Is a diversity model needed to describe specific black mental advantages overlooked by g? As a Reggieist (i.e., one who considers human biodiversity both a reality and a net blessing), I'm pleased to point out that IQ tests can't accurately measure at least one mental faculty in which blacks tend to outperform whites and Asians in real life. Despite lower mean IQ's, African-Americans are not a race of talentless dullards, but are instead the most charismatic contributors to 20th Century popular culture. What mental factor underlies the black revolutions in music, sport, oratory, dance, and slang? Subjective, improvisatory creativity.

For example, like a lot of NBA stars, Scottie Pippen's below-market contract, ill-timed trade demands, team-damaging pouts, and numerous child-support obligations imply that when given time to think, he often chooses unwisely. Yet, in the flow of the game, he's a Talleyrand at real-time decision-making. Leading a fast break, there are no permanent right answers. Even "Pass the ball to Michael Jordan" gets old fast as defenses habituate. Similarly, the NFL running back, the jazz soloist, the preacher, and the rapping DJ all must heed others' expectations and instantly respond with something a little unexpected. IQ tests — by necessity objective and standardized — can never measure this adequately.

Further, despite his data's inevitable shortcomings in this regard, Jensen does report that blacks possess particular mental weaknesses and strengths. Among individuals with equal g's, whites and Asians (like males) are typically stronger in those visual-spatial skills so useful in engineering and many skilled trades. In contrast, blacks (like females) often enjoy better short-term memories and thus can mentally juggle more balls in social situations. (This probably contributes to the black advantage in improvisation). Jensen's findings confirm my intuition (NR, 4/6/98) that while whites and Asians tend to be less masculine than blacks in physique and personality, they are typically more masculine than blacks in mental abilities. Put bluntly, whites and Asians tend to be nerdier than blacks. How many blacks would sincerely disagree?

Thus, the IQ disparity is less apocalyptic than is generally assumed. In fact, it's not all that unique — diversity is among the oldest and most pervasive problems / opportunities inherent in the human condition. Because everybody is less innately talented than somebody else at something, the human race has worked out some pragmatic ways to deal with this.

Since Adam Smith and David Ricardo, economic theory has recommended specializing in whatever's your greatest comparative advantage. The peculiar problem facing blacks, though, is their specific talents are most valuable in winner-take-all professions like entertainment and sports. Still, the masculine bermishness common among blacks should also be helpful in more broadly remunerative occupations like sales.

Even if blacks had no special skills, just a deficiency of g, methods used by white and Mexican athletes to deal with black superiority in team sports might offer blacks practical hints in partially mitigating the g-gap. Specialization, for instance, is still valuable. (As illustrated by their most famous star Fernando Valenzuela, Mexicans don't tend to be endowed with ideal, Ken Griffey Jr.-style bodies for baseball. Yet, through an intense focus on the game they've built a critical mass of baseball expertise.) Avoid affirmative action programs that prevent critical masses from emerging. Look for fields where the inherent demands are less (e.g., golf rather than football) or competition is lighter (e.g., volleyball instead of basketball).

Work harder than your more gifted rivals. Master the fundamentals. Nail the easy stuff. (E.g., the only category in which whites are over-represented among NBA leaders is free-throw shooting). Don't improvise: listen to your coach's wisdom. (E.g., the decline of traditional sexual morality has not lead to a high pregnancy rate among coldly logical Dutch teens. For African-American teens, though, the rise of do-it-yourself morality in the 1960's was a disaster.) Challenge yourself, but realistically. (E.g., I need to get in shape, but an affirmative action program for Sedentary-Americans that sets-aside for me an opening in Evander Holyfield next heavyweight title bout might not be in my best interest. The same goes for racial quotas at elite colleges.)

Finally, the U.S. Army offers the bracing example of an institution that has elicited a high level of black achievement, in part by demanding that those with high-IQ's search out what Richard Epstein calls simple rules for a complex world. In dismal contrast, research universities fail blacks because the publish-or-perish system encourages the high-IQ to wallow in abstruseness. Denouncing Jensen proclaims one's faith in empirical egalitarianism, which serves as the perfect excuse for ignoring the irksome demands of moral egalitarianism. By declaring that everyone could Be Like Me (if only they were properly socialized), the clever can, with clear conscience, continue to surreptitiously wage class war against the clueless.

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