Friday, October 19, 2007

James Watson And The Science Of Racism

James Watson, credited for his research on the Double Helix, has jumped onto the racist-comment media bandwagon.

Malcom Ritter Reports:

"A profile of Watson in the Sunday Times Magazine of London quoted him as saying that he's "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.

While he hopes everyone is equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true," Watson is quoted as saying. He also said people should not be discriminated against on the basis of color, because "there are many people of color who are very talented."

Well thank you Watson, on behalf of all the people of color that white people "have to deal with," we are so flattered to know that there are many of us who are talented.

What is this language? Why don't all people recognize that we can't live in a color-blind world because this world is founded on the underlying assumption that white is the norm, and people of color have to be dealt with carefully?

Why don't we ever say "people who have to deal with white folks know that there are many of them who are very talented," and why do white people applaud people of color for being talented as if it were not a part of their nature?

Even more, why do we isolate racist comments like these to the individual white person who says it (like Don Imus) and overlook the fact that this is the mentality of many--but not all--white people?

I am very critical of the media backlash that Watson has become the target of...mostly because I feel that there are many white people pitting themselves against Watson as if racism only exists in those who are blatantly racist--in which Watson has now been 'revealed' as entirely racist.

Racism exists in degrees, it is not an all-or-nothing effect.

But there is another issue here. Watson is a special case because we must understand that he has been granted great power by our society, and has commanded the utmost respect from the Western world. He is up there in the list of names with Einstein, Thomas Edison, and many more--mostly white, men, and usually scientists.

When we look at Watson's racist comments, we need to talk about the fact that this is no Don Imus. This is a man who has become one of the kings of Knowledge by tagging the double helix with his name. The danger is not in his words, but in the man who said them.

Although Watson has retracted his comments, and although there has been a strong backlash against him by many people of all races, what Watson said is not all that uncommon--it's just more easy to detect.

When most of the scientific world is monopolized by Eurocentric paradigms, it is not surprising that it pumps out racist ideas.



  1. Fantastic post.

    I've written that the cynic in me is always pleased when episodes like this bubble to the surface (though there have been so many recently it's been difficult to keep up). I too find the reaction to his comments from (white) media sources to be incredibly hypocritical. If racism is the idea that Race A is intellectually superior to Race B then I'd argue that most white people are racist - if we can assume that they believe whites are superior to "minorities."

    At any rate, good post. I'm glad I was able to catch the re-issue.

  2. Thanks ACT, I think what is most irritating, also, is that when James Watson suddenly makes this kind of a slip--it is surprising to people. Particularly to Race A...

    thanks again for the re-comment!