Racism in Academic Robes

When I first heard about The Bell Curve, the new book by Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein, I remembered an incident last year at Sojourners Neighborhood Center. A little girl, new to the children's program, was talking to one of our volunteers. She said, "I'm ugly." "No you're not," replied the Sojourners worker. "You are a beautiful child. Why do you say that you're ugly?" The 8-year-old African-American girl replied, "I'm ugly because I'm black." Murray's book will most likely make her feel uglier and stupid.

Who does this book hurt? Those already on the bottom. Who does it help? The rich and powerful elites who are already on top. There is really nothing new here in this hot new book that preaches black genetic inferiority in relation to IQ and cites the genetic difference between blacks and whites as the primary reason for black disadvantage. Racial theorists like Jensen and Shockley in the late 1960s said much the same thing. Murray and his colleagues have merely given old racial notions new life.

Bluntly put, Murray and Herrn-stein's book is a pseudoscientific justification of wealth and power staying in the same hands. When racism appears in academic robes instead of hoods and sheets, it somehow is more acceptable and becomes a media phenomenon. At least hoods and sheets are more clear.

The Bell Curve chooses nature over nurture as the cause of our many social ills. Yet the book fails to take adequate account of the fact that the environment in which the black poor live is a virtual war zone. I live there. Murray does not. This book is the political and moral justification for continuing to make war on the black poor. It is the ideological cannon fodder for a policy assault against the disenfranchised.

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Sojourners Magazine December 1994-January 1995
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