Another week, another firestorm about another racist gesture. It seems we’ve seen it all recently. Nooses hung from trees, doors and other locations; James Watson’s ill-conceived remarks about Africans’ native intelligence.
Now, this isn’t going to be another blog post about how terrible racism is and why Watson should be pilloried. Let’s face it, based on my understanding of biology, humans developed with a strong distrust of anything and anyone that represents a change from their normal everyday existence. In the wilds of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas this was a good survival strategy. Because of this, it is human nature to distrust “The Other,” no matter our color or creed. In fact, this tendency is so strong that some will marshal any number of facts and figures to buttress their beliefs about why they are superior to another person.
Given this, racism will never go away. It infuses our perceptions, and yes science – no matter how “objectively” people interpret the data. (I’m saying this because some apologists for Watson have suggested that the numbers back his claims about the relative intelligence of Blacks versus Whites. We must remember that science is far from an objective enterprise.)