The wrong blacks

While eight percent of Harvard undergrads are black, they’re the wrong blacks, critics said at a black alumni weekend. According to Lani Guinier, a Harvard law professor, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Harvard’s African and African-American studies department, “the majority of them — perhaps as many as two-thirds — were West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples,” reports the New York Times. Guinier herself is the daughter of a Jamaican father and a white mother.

If their figures are correct, affirmative action is helping students whose families didn’t suffer from American slavery or segregation. And not just at Harvard.

Researchers at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania who have been studying the achievement of minority students at 28 selective colleges and universities (including theirs, as well as Yale, Columbia, Duke and the University of California at Berkeley), found that 41 percent of the black students identified themselves as immigrants, as children of immigrants or as mixed race.

In another survey, nine percent of college-age blacks describe themselves as of African or West Indian ancestry.

A Harvard sociologist quoted in the story says West Indian immigrants, are “less psychologically handicapped by the stigma of race” because they come from majority-black countries. Gates points to cultural values.

“This is about the kids of recent arrivals beating out the black indigenous middle-class kids,” said Professor Gates, who plans to assemble a study group on the subject. “We need to learn what the immigrants’ kids have so we can bottle it and sell it, because many members of the African-American community, particularly among the chronically poor, have lost that sense of purpose and values which produced our generation.”

Many academics want to duck the issue that Gates and Guinier have raised. If immigrants’ children don’t count, it’s too hard to make the diversity numbers come out. Students of all colors from poor or working-class families rarely qualify for elite universities.

The Supreme Court ruled that racial preferences are OK to promote diversity but not to remediate past injustice, writes On David Bernstein on Volokh Conspiracy. Discriminating against immigrant blacks is probably illegal. Discriminations wonders if preferentialists are getting a clue that race is not a reliable proxy for diversity.

About Joanne


  1. cjstevens says:

    Some think that an “immigrant mindset” has something to do with this. Now, I’m not a psychologist or anything like that, but the idea is that those who took the time and possibly-extreme risk to leave their home countries and head to new countries naturally have more drive than people who are content to stay in their poor situations. Alone, this idea is simplistic, but I’m inclined to say it has some weight.

  2. theAmericanist says:

    Lots of weight. Immigrants are self-selected strivers.

    BTW, this is a rationale for the diversity lottery in our immigration laws. They were initially rigged primarily for the Irish (the Donnelly and Morrison visas), but since 1994, most of the visas are available to Africa — which is the single largest chunk of the planet that has not sent large #s of voluntary immigrants to the U.S.

    Some of us argued at the time (the 1990 Act) that this would help to create a kind of Korean grocery phenomenon — and guess what? In my neighborhood, there is a Ghanian grocery about half a mile off, and (in the other direction) an Oyingbo grocery. (The former has good cheap saffron; they both sell salt-fish, which I don’t get.)

    Some years ago, the Brandeis scholar and immigration expert Larry Fuchs argued that affirmative action should ONLY count for those born in the United States before 1965. Wouldn’t that solve a lot?

    There are laws against racial discrimination (but only since 1965), so if somebody won’t hire a person based on race, there is an option. Likewise, there are programs to promote diversity — on race, gender, economics, geography, culture.

    The classic argument for affirmative action, that ‘you can’t put a guy at the starting line with the shackles of slavery and Jim Crow on him and expect him to run right away’, is essentially over. Now most arguments for affirmative action are essentially arguments against discrimination (which should be prosecuted) or for diversity (which can be better served openly).

    The Americans I know who were born in Africa recognize that there is racial bigotry in America. But I’ve heard many argue that it is simply an annoyance, and not at all crippling.

    Immigration is an engine of American progress.

  3. May I be permitted to note the irony that we conservatives have been making this point (and the point that AA disproportionately aids wealthy blacks who least need a “hand up”) for the better part of 25 years? And during that time, these same liberals who have discovered this phenomenon labeled us a racists for doing so and refused to consider our anhecdotal evidence.

    What they don’t get is that this is an argument for ending these afirmative action plans, not mending them, for they will almost invariably reward those who have been least impacted by the social problems AA seeks to remedy and who are therefore least in need of assistance.

  4. cjstevens says:

    I agree with you in relative terms. I’m again speaking way out of my “field,” but I believe poor communities tend to stay poor in the same self-selecting manner. Abused children become abusive parents; they pick up crime and drugs by example, and thus it becomes very hard for talented individuals to break out. This, moreso than race itself, puts poor individuals at a disadvantage. Why are a disproportionately large number of poor Americans of non-Caucasian descent? I don’t know. Can someone enlighten on this?

  5. superdestroyer says:

    Isn’t this the same questions that come up about racial profiling or employment law. Isn’t this the same questions that come up about Halle Barry and other mixed race entertainers? That question is: What exactly is an African-American?

    In Montgomery County Maryland, the police chief wants to put racial designations on drivers licenses so that data can be collected on racial profiling because he realizes that the current system of having officers guess just does not work.
    Yet, the government does not have a real definition for African-American not does the government try to reconcile people’s perceptions of race/ethnicity versus what people really are?

  6. At least Professor Gates is “planning to assemble” a study group on the problem. That ought to do it.

    Why are a disproportionately large number of poor Americans of non-Caucasian descent? I don’t know. Can someone enlighten on this?

    You should be asking that question about all countries where blacks and whites co-exist, including Brazil and the European countries. The stratification exists everywhere, by race.

    A more incisive question would be “why do Asians make up a disproportionate number of the upper class, and those of african descent make up such a disproportionate number of the lower class?”.

  7. Bob Diethrich says:

    What do the children of immigrants have that many native born Blacks don’t hav Professor Gates?

    Quite succintly: they haven’t grown up the victimhood, “Whitey is responsible for all my problems” crap that has been foreced down the throats of AA kids in this country and has been parroted ad nauseum for decades by their own leaders (including you Professor).

    As I stated before you want to hear the N word said with contempt, listen to a hard working African immigrant describe how they tend to see American Blacks.

  8. speedwell says:

    To me, the obvious question is, “Why do so many recent immigrants have the merit to earn these privileges, when so many ‘indigenous’ people do not?”

    The so-called “americanist,” who believes in robbing Peter to pay Paul–I mean, doling out privileges indiscrimiately from the public pocketbook–has a problem understanding that it’s meritorious behavior that ought to be rewarded, not mere presence as a lump of goo in a given geographical territory.

  9. Roy W. Wright says:

    Why are a disproportionately large number of poor Americans of non-Caucasian descent?

    The Bell Curve

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Are you going to believe what the experts tell you, or your lying eyes?

  11. theAmericanist says:


    The fact is, The Bell Curve is racist crap.

    There’s a longer version of that which would abuse JJ’s hospitality since she didn’t bring it up, but the Readers’ Digest take is that Murray’s terminology is sloppy, his research sucks, his method is dishonest: It. is. racist. crap. Get it?

    That said, the real answer to the question is that much of what we consider to revolve around “race” in America, isn’t about race at all, but the legacy of slavery — a racist institution (in this country) to be sure, but distinct nevertheless. A good f’r instance is the different performance of distinct populations, e.g, Caribbean immigrants who while descended from African slaves taken to the islands nevertheless CHOSE to come here, who generally outperform (econmically, educationally) African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves brought directly here. Both share lots of characteristics, but the difference is that one group involves becoming Americans by choice, the other does not.

    Speed, and others, evidently miss the point: There are different goals for anti-discrimination laws, diversity programs, and affirmative action. Most folks can’t seem to tell the differences, which is why I pointed ’em out.

    Fuchs’ argument was simply that affirmative action, for its SPECIFIC purpose, should be limited to African-Americans born in the United States before 1965. NOT to immigrants, who were not here when discrimination was legal. NOR to those born after 1965, because that is when racial discrimination was outlawed.

    This is the opposite of the argument that Speed attributes to me, not that I’m surprised.

  12. The Americanist: “That said, the real answer to the question is that much of what we consider to revolve around “race” in America, isn’t about race at all, but the legacy of slavery — a racist institution”

    What pernicious nonsense.

  13. theAmericanist says:

    How so?

    Pernicious, possibly: I suppose you could argue even noting this is harmful.

    But — nonsense? I cited evidence that only this fact explains.

    “Sez you” ain’t a rebuttal — most of the time, it means the person either knows they lost or doesn’t understand the argument in the first place.

  14. To say that West Indies Blacks doesn’t come from a culture that has slavery in its history is to ignore the inconvient history. What they meant to say is that West Indies Blacks haven’t been indoctronated with the victimhood mentality that American Black have been given since birth. Without that handicap, they’ll succeed just like everyone else.

  15. BigFire: yep. Although, in fairness, some of these Caribbean natives (my family doesn’t consider itself West Indian), do come from countries where black people have been running the show, so there would be a big cognitive dissonance to even have that mentality in the first place.

    Moreover, some black immigrants, like a Rwandan girl I was once vaguely acquainted with, come from places — like Rwanda — where real oppression and hardship was rampant, and cannot relate to the the standard of hardship here. Their frame of reference is so out of balance (with native born Americans) that I can’t see anyone from there thinking that they are too oppressed to succeed. They just see it in terms of, “well, I don’t have to deal with this that and the other, so I know I can make it here.”

  16. Eric Holcombe says:

    Sez you…

  17. theAmericanist says:

    “To say that West Indies Blacks don’t come from a culture that has slavery in its history is…” not what anybody posting here said.


    What THIS poster said, anyway, (I’ve been saying this since the debate over the diversity provision in the 1990 Act, btw), is that 1) much of what the public conversation considers to revolve around ‘race’, e.g., affirmative action, is actually about the legacy of American slavery; 2) the legacy of slavery is different from racism — slavery was a racist institution in the U.S., sure, but there’s a distinction there nevertheless, and 3) you can see the difference in the relative performance of various groups, such as those born in Africa, or those whose parents or grandparents were born in the Caribbean, compared with African-Americans whose ancestors, time out of mind, were born in the U.S.

    Considerations involving race and race discrimination affect all three groups, but only the third is affected by the effects of the Middle Passage directly HERE. Put another way, there is a differential between people whose ancestors were brought to this hemisphere as captives, but who then CHOSE to come to the United States, and those who ancestors were brought to the United States as captives directly.

    That’s not a race distinction. It’s a legacy of slavery.

    Clear now? How is that either pernicious or nonsense?

  18. Do Northern blacks (who internally migrated, especially during the 1930’s – there were almost no blacks in the north pre-1900) outperform Southern blacks to an extent not explained by their (rural vs. urban) economic situations? It seems to me moving from Mississippi to Chicago in 1930 is almost but not quite as big a step as moving from Jamaica to the US in 1980, suggesting that, if it exists, the “motivated immigrant theory” should have had an impact on the black condition in the north during and after the 60s.

  19. theAmericanist says:

    I’ve never seen good data on it, so what little I know is mostly descriptive and speculative.

    The primary means of getting ahead in the U.S. for most folks is capital, of course: first savings, then a business, education, etc. The cliche goes that Grampa comes here (from Italy or Ireland or wherever) with no education and no skills, works two jobs 7 days a week and saves every penny, then opens his own store and the whole family sleeps upstairs. HIS kids go to college, or join the Army as their primary step up, and finally the third generation (the second to go to college) joins the professions: doctors, lawyers, etc. Fully assimilated — although you can parse that: the cliche is that mittel European Jews 80 years ago and Asians in the last generation did all this in one generation, while Italians 80 years ago and Mexicans today are taking four. But you get the idea.

    The Northern Migration didn’t follow this pattern — and there is a substantial argument that immigration itself is the reason. That’s what George Washington Carver believed, anyway — that European immigrants were cheap labor who, because they were accepted as white, blocked the children and grandchildren of slaves from the factory jobs that they needed to move ahead.

    Another argument is that low levels of entrepreneurship among African Americans (that is, the Middle Passage folks, rather than Caribbean immigrants) can be attributed to slavery. But I don’t buy that.

    Again, I’ve never seen good data, but there WAS substantial entrepreneurship among African Americans in the South — until Jim Crow and the Klan stamped it out. It was limited to certain fields (produce markets), and to mostly a black clientele, being linked to churches and whatnot. But consistently the argument goes that segregation, which limited black entrepreneurs to a small slice of the overall market, is the reason African Americans didn’t develop the entrepreneurship that ya see with immigrant groups. I think that’s true as far as it goes.

    But there are lots of cases where prosperous African American communities were simply destroyed: Tulsa. Saint Louis. That town in Florida whose name I can never remember.

    But — you’re right. Those are all in the South. Still, the South got little foreign immigration compared to the North, so the Northern Migration folks were competing with the foreign born, which tends to support Carver’s point.

    I suppose it muddies up my argument that it was slavery rather than race to try to explain Jim Crow and the Klan, but I think it still holds.

    If anybody knows of any good data on the Northern Migration, I’d like to see it.

  20. Americanist:


  21. I don’t know the current stats, but there used to be a large gap on IQ tests — a standard deviation, if memory serves — between northern and southern blacks. It usually was attributed to lousy schooling in the segregated south but there also may have been a difference between those who chose to stay and those who went north for greater opportunities. And, I think, living in an urban environment tends to be more stimulating, and therefore to raise IQ, compared to living in the sticks.

  22. Okay. So my overwhelming beef with Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Lani Guinier (former idols) can be put to the side and for once I’ll have to agree with them on one point:

    Hate to say it, but generally speaking, there is a huge psychological distinction between Black Americans and Blacks who’ve immigrated. This usually has to do with culturally transmitted victimhood, history books and the yelping of NAACP (or at least I’d like to think so). This doesn’t make it right or acceptable.

    Gates and Guinier were a little slow on the uptake, but at least they got that revelation. I only hope this “dialogue” they wish educators and sociologist to enter into is productive enough to recognize that oftentimes Black Americans are just as responsible if not more so for perpetuating certain mental oppressions and leaving many of their young predecessors in a haze of zero motivation.

  23. And then there are rich boys like Harold Ford Jr., born in 1970, son of a Congressman, uncles and cousins who are professional politicians, wealthy, went to the best private schools in D.C., and yet still has the cojones to brag in public that he “personally benefitted from Affirmative Action.”

    Jesus wept.

  24. The Americanist: “That said, the real answer to the question is that much of what we consider to revolve around “race” in America, isn’t about race at all, but the legacy of slavery — a racist institution”
    Me: “Pernicious nonsense.”
    The American:” How so? Pernicious, possibly: I suppose you could argue even noting this is harmful.
    But — nonsense? I cited evidence that only this fact explains.”

    If the West Indians succeed in the US, then they are doing so despite the legacy of slavery–a racist institution which existed there as well as here, and was far more brutal there as a matter of point.

    What I object to, is your insinuation that somehow, as Americans, we are all sinners, inheritors of that great original sin Slavery, that has molded us in such a way that a black who is decended from American slavery will never have any chance to achieve, even though his West Indian counterpart magically can.

    I accuse you of considering American blacks as subhuman, incapable of growing up, managing their own affairs and moving beyond the stereotype of the helpless victim–because the central vision of your posts is the corrupt America, flawed at its founding, married to its legacy of slavery–a racist institution.

  25. Joanne:

    Same IQ gap occurs between North and South whites.

  26. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Anyone with an I.Q. of 85 is capable of absorbing and benefitting from a high school education. They can be taught to read the daily paper, keep a checkbook and to determine when they need help with a proposed contract.
    To fail to educate both those so equipped and those even better blessed is a crime against humanity and an act to re-enslave blacks. Kinda like physical education where anyone not NBA or NFL material is relegated to the towel room.
    Teach, damn it, teach! Administrators, enable teaching! People, demand teaching!

  27. Apologies. I hit post too early. Let me restate:


    I recall reading somewhere that the same gap has been seen between North and South whites. I believe this was during the testing for GIs.

  28. theAmericanist says:

    E: you’re an idiot. If I wasn’t being polite for JJ’s sake, I’d elaborate.

    When I worked for the late, lamented Barbara Jordan in the last years of her life, I was struck by her approach to these things. She was most definitely a child of the Middle Passage, her ancestors having been brought here directly. She was pre-affirmative action, hell, she was born and raised under Jim Crow. I admired the way she combined intense patriotism with a stark realism about American history — she really did recall that having been left out of the Founding on two counts — as black and female — and then INCLUDED, is how her faith in the Constitutiion became “complete. It is absolute. It is total.”

    It’s a dynamic, driven by the inclusion of immigrants. That’s what E doesn’t seem to get.

    Ya know, the real problem here is the wedding of Henry Ford and Jim Crow. Under Jim Crow, African Americans couldn’t gain political power through elections, the way immigrants could. So the NAACP organized to win in other ways. They did win — and thank God.

    But not in the way the Founders intended. But for that to really take off required more than a model. It required MONEY.

    Henry Ford wanted to stiff the IRS, so he set up the Ford Foundation. It’s the grand-daddy of all these anti-political letterheads with foundation grants, that ‘represent’ folks who never get to vote for ’em, all following the NAACP model of winning political power without elections: MALDEF, f’r instance.

    When Fuchs proposed to limit affirmative action to U.S.-born before 1965, it was the letterheads with foundation grants that killed it. (grin) And I do recall a deafening silence from Lani Guinier at the time, too.

  29. pragmatist says:

    So …

    A system is set up to “reward” a certain
    “class” of people. Some members of that
    “class” are better at using the system than
    are other members. Obviously, we now need
    a “fairer” system.

    Step 1 – define “fairer” …
    … wait a sec … I’ll do that …
    “fairer” must mean a system that benefits
    ME … AND

    Step 2 – use that definition of “fairer”
    to justify discrimination against all the


  30. The thesis of Murray and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve” is that individually measured IQ accounts for more within-group variation in social outcomes than does family socioeconomic status. It is equally true for whites and blacks, considered separately.

    Would theAmericanist be so kind as to explain what is racist about that?

  31. One could treat this as another opportunity to hoot derisively at liberal piety. The ironies are rich — such as the fact that as the rationale for AA programs has shifted from “race” to “diversity,” the latter proves to be precisely what the program’s proponents don’t want.

    But seriously, I do believe in the core goal of affirmative action: to give the most underpriveleged among us a helping hand. I believe the social payoff can be well worth the cost. But for AA for have any chance at succeeding in that goal, it has to depart from defining its beneficiaries by “race” (a construct with more holes than Swiss cheese) and start to focus on the socioeconomic factors it seeks to rectify.

  32. I suppose I could set a good example by knowing how to spell: underprivileged.

  33. Roy W. Wright says:

    Wow, Americanist. Use a Reader’s Digest book review to discredit a book whose premises have been validated by at least several dozen experts (you know, people who actually study the topic in question). I am impressed.

  34. Roy W. Wright says:

    As for the relevance of the above link — and The Bell Curve in general — to the current debate, look to points 7-9:

    “Members of all racial-ethnic groups can be found at every IQ level… The bell curve for whites is centered roughly around IQ 100; the bell curve for American blacks roughly around 85… IQ is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic, and social outcomes.”

  35. I’ve never seen any commentor better at picking fights than the Americanist. Not that he’s necessarily wrong…

    Actually I do have a question for him though: you may be right that there is a distinction between the legacy of racism and the legacy of slavery (as well as substantial overlap) but in any case why should it matter? Wouldn’t it be better to identify those things that AA is supposed to rectify (if any) and attack them directly? I’d almost think you are constructing an argument for reparations.

  36. Alex Bensky says:

    Well, here’s a minor point: if one of the differences is that American born blacks grew up with the stigma of being black, etc., then what about here (Detroit)? The city is over eighty percent black, there’s been a black mayor for over thirty years, and a student coming out of our public school system will have lived in neighborhoods and gone to school almost entirely black. Wouldn’t that to some extent abate the alleged stigma?

    If so, then shouldn’t that affect eligibility for affirmative action?

  37. Descendants of holocaust survivors have the legacy of a trauma far more recent and deadly than slavery. Yet we have no affirmative action programs for them.

    Likewise descendants of asian immigrants, many of whom were indentured servants–often referred to as slaves in modern terminology. Instead of affirmative action favoring asian students, we have affirmative action discriminating against them.

    The cultural explanation for poor performance of american blacks holds up far better, according to esteemed african american academics John McWhorter and John Ogbu, and Thomas Sowell.

  38. Mark Odell says:

    George wrote: I’ve never seen any commentor better at picking fights than the Americanist. Not that he’s necessarily wrong…

    If he’s as right, and his arguments as strong, as he claims, then merely picking fights (which appears to be his strong suit) is a sloppy, and unnecessary, style of argumentation; and thus he should have no need to engage in it.

  39. theAmericanist says:

    At the risk of confusing you guys, how about 1) we return to the subject, 2) I answer the question put to me, and 3) refer to what I actually said in the first place? In reverse order:

    I had said: “Murray’s terminology is sloppy, his research sucks, his method is dishonest.”

    Linsee promptly changed the subject, saying: “The thesis of Murray and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve” is that individually measured IQ accounts for more within-group variation in social outcomes than does family socioeconomic status. It is equally true for whites and blacks, considered separately.”

    L wants to know what’s racist about that. Here’s your answer:

    Actually, that’s not what H and M pretend to say, most of the time. But more to the point, it’s not what I said.

    “Murray’s terminology is sloppy”. Linsee does a pretty fair job of illustrating this, actually: “individually measured IQ accounts for more within-group variation in social outcomes than does family socioeconomic status.”

    Herrenstein and Murray treat the Armed Forces Qualifying Test as a good measure of intelligence. That test includes trigonometry.

    Is that clear enough? NOBODY knews trigonometry who is not TAUGHT it. That’s not a measure of intelligence, it’s a measure of education. Education — particularly math like trig — is a function of ‘socioecononomic status’.

    Get it? Strike one.

    “his research sucks”. (To be more precise, I should’ve said “their” research sucks.) Consider, from the book: “half a century of work, now amounting to hundreds of empirical and theoretical studies, permits a broad conclusion that the genetic component of IQ is unlikely to be smaller than 40 per cent or higher than 80 per cent. … For purposes of this discussion, we will adopt a middling estimate of 60 per cent heritability.”

    Oh? Let’s find somebody who checked their figures.

    Carnegie Mellon University scholars Michael Daniels, Bernie Devlin, and Kathryn Roeder took The Bell Curve’s OWN DATA, and concluded: “”In brief, studies of IQ, and our reanalyses of them, suggest a narrow-sense heritability of 34 per cent and a broad-sense heritability of 46 per cent… This is a far cry from Herrnstein and Murray’s maximum value of 80 per cent or their middling value of 60 per cent. Consequently, Herrnstein and Murray give the impression that IQ is highly ‘heritable,’ but it is not.”

    Strike two.

    “his method is dishonest..” Well, let’s see. He misrepresented the central piece of evidence about his thesis, namely that ‘intelligence’, by his own-cited measurements, is not all that dependent on education. Except that one of his prime measures for intelligence is PRECISELY dependent on education.

    Well, then: we know he can’t do words. Do his figures even add up?

    How about when serious scholars — ya know, the guys who don’t issue their findings AFTER the press conference and the TV appearances? — review HIS OWN DATA, they discover that, no, it isn’t 40-80 with a middling of 60, it’s more like 34-46.

    As for the knucklehead idea that “dozens” of scholars reviewed Herrnstein and Murray’s work — puhleeze, don’t embarrass yourself. I know AEI: do you? Their idea of scholarly review is Jonah G. The Bell Curve was never a scholarly enterprise, it was a press release for a book from the galleys.

    And only suckers bought into the ‘argument’, such as it was, cuz The Bell Curve dissolves into the racist crap that it is the instant you actually look it over, as noted above.

    (shaking head) The reaction this book got confirms the vivid suspicion that most conservatives never think past who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’.

    Finally: geeze, folks: I offered a cogent argument against affirmative action, noting that I’ve been making it for the better part of a decade and ACTING on it at a national level since 1990.

    Get a grip, willya?

  40. Richard Brandshaft says:

    This tracks with research previously mentioned here: the finding the American-born black kids are already behind when they hit kindergarten, because fewer words are spoken to them at home. How much of the problem is racism; how much is a cultural problem with black Americans? Findings on black immigrants separate the variables.

    Elsewhere, numerous people, some of them black, have commented that black kids do poorly because of the notion that doing well is “white”; a cultural problem that goes back to grade school, if not earlier.

    If there is an answer, it is a more elaborate, even earlier, head start problem. Conservatives will say that throwing money at the problem didn’t work, so I am suggesting throwing even more. Yes. Sometimes that is the answer.

  41. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Why not stop screwing around and just educate everyone to the extent they are educable? Most kids are capable of absorbing a high school education. Most kids deserve a high school education.

  42. The problem seems not to be race per se, but differential language use across class. Sorry this isn’t prettier, but I want yo to be able to go look for yourselves:

    Serving Children From the Culture of Poverty

    Practical Strategies for Speech-Language Pathologists

    by Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin

    3. Educational level and language stimulation.

    Many people are educationally and vocationally limited because of their lack of opportunities. Research has documented a strong correlation between education and income levels. Welfare dependency is strongly associated with lack of a high school diploma and low literacy levels. The strongest predictors of a child’s academic success have proven to be family income and mother’s educational level, and not ethnic background or language ability.

    Early Language Stimulation

    Some parents with low income and limited educational opportunities do not believe that talking to babies is important or necessary. Thus, children who are rarely spoken to or given language stimulation during the first year of life have disadvantages from early on. Research indicates that stimulation in the first year of life is critical for linguistic and cognitive development. One study of early-enriched children from various cultural backgrounds showed that, in terms of long-term cognitive-linguistic competencies, infants whose enrichment began at 4 months greatly exceeded infants whose enrichment began at 12 months (Fowler et al).

    There is much evidence that the amount of parental language input to children of low Social Economic Status (SES) is often less than the input to children of middle SES. Parents of low SES are less likely to respond to their children’s utterances; when verbal interaction does occur, it is more likely to take the form of directives than to take a form (such as inquiries) that keeps the interaction going. Children from low-income backgrounds have poorer phonemic awareness than children of middle SES; the children of low SES fall farther and farther behind children of middle SES on phonemic awareness tasks and reading ability as they go through school.

    Falling Behind

    Hart and Risley (1995) conducted longitudinal studies of families from various ethnic backgrounds. These studies focused on the home environments of 1- and 2-year-old children and, specifically, interactions and language stimulation within these homes. The researchers concluded, “Socioeconomic status made an overwhelming difference in how much talking went on in a family … the family factor most strongly associated with amount of talking was SES.” They extrapolated that, in a 365-day year, children from professional families would have heard 4 million utterances, and children from welfare families would have heard 250,000 utterances. Westby (1997), commenting on this research, states, “Even by 3 years of age, the difference in vocabulary knowledge between children from welfare homes is so great that children from welfare homes would require a preschool program for 40 hours per week in which they heard language at a rate heard in the homes of professional families to gain a vocabulary the equivalent of working-class children.”

    Children from low-SES homes whose parents are not highly educated may not experience language or literacy experiences that are commensurate with the expectations of mainstream schools. Because parents/caregivers are trying to survive and provide the basics of life such as food and shelter, oral and written language stimulation often does not receive priority. Limited funds also means that families may not be able to take their children to many places and expose them to experiences such as they might have at zoos or museums that many mainstream educators take for granted. Lack of assumed literacy and specific environmental experiences often means that children from low-SES homes perform poorly on standardized tests.

    Children with low or nonexistent levels of literacy in their home languages tend to have difficulty with formal schooling tasks. For many children of low SES, school is a culture shock. These children present special challenges for the school system because the children technically do not have language-learning disabilities; they simply come from environments where language stimulation and literacy are not readily available. In their study of children from low-income households, Justice and Ezell (2001) found that the children had low skill levels on tasks measuring metalinguistic terminology, alphabet knowledge, and print and word concepts. These skills are necessary for kindergarten in many states, and thus children from low-income backgrounds may be at a disadvantage from the beginning of their formal schooling.

    Fowler, S. A. (1982). Transition from preschool to kindergarten for children with special needs. In K. E. Allen & E. M. Goetz (Eds.), Early childhood education: Special problems, special solutions. Rockville, MD: Aspen.

    Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1992). American parenting of language-learning children: Persisting differences in family-child interactions observed in natural home environments. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1096-1105.

    Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: Brookes.

    Carol Westby

    Learning Science in Culturally/Linguistically Diverse Classrooms

  43. nobody important says:

    I’m very skeptical of IQ differences between ethnicities having any significant meaning. If you divide any set of humans into groups, by height, by weight, by eye color, by hair color, there will be differences in average IQ. Also consider that fully half of each group will be above average of the group. So, if it is the case that the average IQ of African Americans is 85 (I’m highly suspicious of this number, but leave that aside) then half of African Americans have higher IQs, most significantly higher.

    Has anyone given any thought to environmental factors that are in play here such as the effect of poor nutrition on the developing human brain, or the effect of lead paint and other toxins?

  44. Richard Aubrey says:

    Nobody. Lead paint is supposed to, among other things, depress impulse control, which would explain some things.
    The legacy of slavery seems to get worse as slavery disappears in the mists of time.
    Numbers of blacks–since we don’t believe whites who disagree with liberals–who have looked at the issue suggest that the social pathologies we see among the black underclass were far less apparent fifty years ago and eighty years ago.
    Shelby Steele said that white liberal guilt did something slavery and Jim Crow could not..destroy the black family.
    So, if white liberal guilt is a legacy of slavery, Americanist is right.

  45. theAmericanist says:

    That’s not quite it.

    Once you recognize what Jim Crow did, I swear, it’s all Henry Ford’s fault. I mean, just consider:

    A long series of immigrants come to the U.S. from particular source countries in waves, each of ’em facing roughly similar problems of adjustment and inclusion: Dutch, English, German, Irish, Scandinavians, Italians, central Europeans. In each case, you have motivated folks (they came by choice), and you have a political and civic empowerment: by 1930 or so, every significant American community of any size was heavily influenced if not dominated by foreign stock voters — and those that were not, e.g., in the South, were the ones furthest behind.

    The exceptional ethnic group is African Americans (and to a lesser and later extent, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans). They couldn’t vote — Jim Crow saw to that.

    So the NAACP invented a different way to empower blacks: through courts.

    Enter Henry Ford. He wanted to stiff the IRS. So he created a foundation that — after much tugging and hauling — the IRS insisted had to be actually independent of the Ford heirs. So basically a bunch of folks who ‘represent’ people who never elected ’em spend a zillion dollars in that essentially unaccountable effort. They give money to people who agree with ’em.

    Particularly after 1954, the NAACP became the model for how to do social action, which had somehow become distinct from elections. And the Ford Foundation became the model for how to pay for it.

    It’s got very little to do with “the black underclass”, which of course wasn’t the same 80 years ago. (For one thing, under segregation you had black neighborhoods that were far more diverse econmically and culturally than you have now.) And still less to do with ‘white liberal guilt’, which is a really vile concept.

    But it’s got a lot to do with the legacy of slavery I keep observing. It’s far better for folks to win elections and have to be deal with (and to deal) than simply to be ‘represented’ by letterheads with foundation grants.

  46. Roy W. Wright says:

    I find your comments odd, nobody. Taking one of your examples, if we divided humans into groups by hair color and found that blondes have a significantly lower average IQ (for example, a standard deviation or more) than others, that information on its face would be enough to indicate a solid and meaningful link between hair color and intelligence. Also, I don’t follow your point when you say that “fully half of each group will be above average of the group.” This is clearly true, of course… As for environmental factors, while efforts to improve them are noble and beneficial in many ways, they seem to have rather disappointing long-term effects on the intellectual abilities of children.

  47. theAmericanist says:

    RW writes: “if we divided humans into groups by hair color and found that blondes have a significantly lower average IQ (for example, a standard deviation or more) than others, that information on its face would be enough to indicate a solid and meaningful link between hair color and intelligence.”

    Indicate? Maybe. But this is false reasoning. It’s the Chanticleer fallacy, the idea that the rooster causes the sunrise. There could be a “solid and meaningful link” between intelligence and hair color indicated by correlation, but that tells you precisely nothing, since “indicated” merely repeats that they seem related. It could just as logically — and far more probably — indicate some other factor.

    I remember taking an aptitude test for a cryptographer job once, and doing quite well at it. They had made up a language for the purposes of the test, giving you a few words and their meanings, then the grammar of the invented language, and finally having you translate/guess at the meaning of a paragraph with all new words. The idea was that if you got the gist of the paragraph in a made up language with words you’d never seen, you had potential for breaking codes. But a friend of mine pointed out — after he aced this section — that it actually followed the core rules for Latin and Greek (and not Chinese or other non-alphabet languages), so what they were really testing for wasn’t cryptological aptitude but a classical education.

    But they didn’t know it.

    LOL — and just as a technical point, half are above the median, not the average.

  48. J_Crater says:

    Is the real problem here that the group of blacks, as a whole, is just too diverse.

  49. I am of african descent and mixed. One of my best is african-american and we went to the university.We were both dedicated students we graduated with honors. Nether the less, I have to admit that AA of AA descendence were not as ambitious and dedicated compare to other African, Asian,and West Indians student. In our Graduation class he is the only AA in the Honors program.
    this has everything to do with the environmental elements in which the students evolve.

  50. Redstrype says:

    Interesting posts. I am from the Windies and went to university in the USA as well as the C’bbean. I noticed great differences between American blacks and others. It did seem as if American blacks were caught in some sort of cultural time warp in which they prided themselves in being against the “man” and refusing to speak proper English. Conversely educated WI blacks and children of WI blacks can speak their local english dialects as well as proper english, and switch back and forth with ease. All of this is of course anecdotal, but I also noticed that the American blacks seemed to be much more concerned with racial inequality than non Americans. Perhaps it is because of growing up in a predominantly caucasian setting but I’m not so sure about that. I’m of mixed heritage and have always been a minority regardless of where I have lived, yet I don’t know anyone from the Windies of similar heritage that feels inadequate or underpiveliged as a result. To the contrary being mixed means haveing the best of all worlds. I remember taking a Scottish friend of mine to a Caribbean party in the USA. When he walked in and realized that he was the only blonde/blue eyed person in attendance his shoulders immediately tensed. I then informed him that it was black/mixed people from the C’bbean so he need not worry as it wasn’t black Americans. He ended up having a blast as not one person bothered him in fact they made sure he felt welcome.


  1. says:

    Immigrant Blacks More Successful than African Americans

    (Preface: Am I on some black stuff today or what? I think it’s a coincidence, but every bit of news that’s struck my fancy today just so happens to explore some hot topics. Also, I had to hotlink the New…