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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Back in 2007, James D. Watson, the man who co-discovered the DNA helix in 1962, told the Sunday Times in London that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because black people are less intelligent than whites.
Watson went on to further insult black people by stating that “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.”
Watson also said that the evidence of reduced intelligence for blacks shows up in the workplace every day. According to Watson, we are misguided by believing that blacks and whites have equal intelligence: “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Watson himself was intelligent enough to realize that this topic might be a wee bit controversial. The Nobel Prize Winner watered down his remarks by stating that he is a lifelong Democrat and secular humanist and has no desire to discriminate against blacks.
“There are many people of color who are very talented,” said Watson, “but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level.”
Watson says that he has opened a DNA research lab in Harlem, but can’t get anything done because “there’s no one to recruit.”
I’m not sure what my IQ is, but I know that I am intelligent enough to not take Mr. Watson seriously. The poor old man is coming to the end of his days on earth and we are only hopeful that his attitudes will die along with him. But one thing I respect about Watson is that he says what’s on his mind, which makes him different from many of his colleagues who’ve subscribed to White Supremacy as a lifelong ideology.
The fact is that Watson isn’t the only white guy who sees the results of hundreds of years of brutish oppression and concludes that it all occurred because black people are less intelligent than whites. He doesn’t conclude, on the other hand, that these disparities exist because blacks were more civilized than whites. He doesn’t consider the fact that the Native Americans helped European explorers to survive and were repaid by being mass murdered to the brink of extinction. A hardened-criminal is not more intelligent than the old lady who let him in the house to use her telephone, he’s just less compassionate.
I’ve dealt with men like Watson my entire life. My field, Financial Economics, is full of white male scholars who’ve always treated me as if I were a monkey who’d learned to play the piano. As a younger man, I fought against this disparate treatment and went out of my way to prove these men wrong. But once I realized that I was brighter, more capable, harder working and more successful than 99% of them, I realized that there was nothing to prove. In fact, if I could do it all over again, I never would have put so much pressure on myself to gain the respect of people who don’t really matter.
You see, its only White Supremacy that leads us to be so responsive, angry and engaged when men like Watson make such disparaging remarks. It is our own inferiority complex that drives us to feel that getting validation and approval from the descendants of our historical oppressors makes us a bit more human. But the truth is that you are beautiful and powerful just the way you are, even if men like James Watson don’t respect you. I don’t respect Watson either, but the fact is that his self-esteem is high enough that he doesn’t care. Perhaps we can take a lesson from that.
With regard to the fact that Watson considers himself to be a liberal with genuine concern about minorities, the truth is that we have quite a few James Watsons right in the Democratic Party. Men like Vice President Joe Biden, who congratulated Barack Obama for being “the first clean, articulate and intelligent mainstream African American” in politics are also among those who think that they are helping black people by “civilizing the savages.” Thanks for your help Joe Biden, but we can take care of ourselves.
The bottom line in revisiting this tired old issue is to remind you that your potential is as great as you decide it’s going to be, and the bars on your cage are typically created in your own mind. Being your best and doing your best are what make you the best, and you can’t let anyone stop you.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To check out Dr. Watkins in the Janks Morton Film, Hoodwinked, please visit this link.