Omaar desires to examine the opposite end of the spectrum, and shifts focus to Black underachievement. He takes us to John Muir High School, in Pasadena, California, and talks to various educators — none geneticists, cognitive psychologists, or experts in IQ — who state their opinions as to the causes of Black underachievement. All believe, of course, that said causes are environmental. And in the effort to bolster the uplifting thesis essayed in the previous segment, the old canard of Blacks being victims of a racist, middle-class, Eurocentric society once again rears its ugly head. Assistant Professor Rema Reynolds, of Azusa Pacific University, opines
The White middle class Eurocentric paradigm that our country is normed on is what we teach. Period. Anything outside of that — if you are poor and white, if you are Latino, if you are black — anything outside that white middle class paradigm you’re going to have a different challenge in our educational system.
Omaar seems pleased. He goads
What you are saying is that it is impossible or absurd to have a standardized test measuring children who are the product of a totally unequal system.
In reply to which Reynolds asserts, “I can better assess whether your mother drives a Volvo than I can assess your intelligence based on these ‘intelligence’ tests.” Reynolds can say this because her expertise is in school psychology and counseling — in other words, in education, not in intelligence or genetics.
For the reasons already stated at the end of the preceding section, this entire segment in the film is largely irrelevant, designed to obfuscate while pretending to elucidate, to conceal while pretending to reveal. Having identified an explanation for East Asian academic success that he likes (hard work), and having soaked in opinions from educators about the importance of education, the purpose of the segment is to set the stage for Omaar to enunciate his theory:
The so-called race gap is not about race at all. … Those Black students who’ve done well in Pasadena have parents with what we might call “middle class values.” Instead of beating the system, these parents have joined it. They have bought into the idea that doing well at school is of paramount importance, and have channeled their children’s aspirations towards college, and beyond that, into middle-class, high-IQ professions.
IQ, in other words, is for Omaar about being middle class, not about race. And, accordingly, the accompanying footage fills the screen with smiling faces from an all-Black high school graduation celebration.
This is where so-called documentary films like this one become particularly insidious. Sitting comfortably in their double-glazed, centrally-heated, well-furnished, middle-class living rooms, with a well-chromed 4×4 in the driveway and acres of plasma television screen filling their vision, Channel 4 viewers would typically hear the voiceover, look at the cheerful Black faces, and think, “Ah, they’re all graduating OK. So it’s not about ‘race’ at all!” They would be able to do so because Omaar decided not to share with them what Richard Lynn told him in that two to three hour interview which viewers were barely given the chance to see: Studies have shown that Black children adopted by middle class families have shown no gains in IQ.
Once again, Omaar shows us that the liberal brain is coated in Teflon.
Modern Heretic No. 2: J. Philippe Rushton
At this point Omaar decides that, having examined IQ measurement and the factors that might influence differences in IQ, the time has come to confront race itself. He opines, “It seems to me the whole idea of some races being cleverer than others also hinges on races really being different.”
Thus, to ascertain the “validity of classifying people according to the color of their skin,” Omaar travels to Minneapolis to meet with Professor J. Philippe Rushton, to experience the heresy firsthand.
In case the minds of his viewers have opened during the course of the film, Omaar takes pre-emptive action by telling us, not about the extent of Rushton’s voluminous research, which continues to be published in the top academic journals in the field, but about how egalitarians feel about it:
He is probably the most controversial of the small number of academics who are prepared to say that there is a racial hierarchy in intelligence. Rushton’s work has been strongly condemned by many psychologists and geneticists.
Rushton being a man of accomplishment, Omaar sounds almost rueful and perplexed when he admits, “Nonetheless, he is a Fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.” Obviously, this is catastrophic for Omaar, since his thesis is predicated on race differences in IQ being the result of bad science.
He frames the interview in adversarial language: “I want him to explain why he thinks people who look like him are cleverer than people who look likeme.”
Coming two-thirds into the film, Rushton is allowed to provide more detailed answers than Lynn. But all the same, if you were hoping for a solid dose of Rushton, you will be disappointed, for the interview with him is over in less than 135 seconds. Rushton comes across well: He appears amiable, calm, and confident, and provides an effective answer when asked to explain why he thinks race is more than skin-deep:
DNA will tell you a racial classification, but so will most internal organs. Bones, for example. If you actually find a skeleton in your back garden, and you call in the police, and they call in some anthropologists, they will be able to tell from even the thigh bone or the skull whether you are looking for a male or a female, what age they are, what race they are, because the races differ. And so if they weren’t able to do that, it would mean that races didn’t exist, but because the can do that, implies that races do exist.
The camera cuts back Omaar, who looks very unhappy. In fact, throughout the interview, we see him pleating his forehead, staring suspiciously, and cocking his head this way and that, sending out aggressive signals; his hostile visage and head language are not those of a journalist listening with an open mind, hoping to uncover the truth. They are those of a man who has armor-plated his brain; who has hermetically sealed it, and is forcing himself to sit in front of, and be polite to, a clever and powerful adversary. They are also those of a man who feels he is onto something, who is holding on to information with which he will in due course be able to devastate his odious enemy. Omaar’s eyes are like laser guns, and one gets the impression that his rage and his outrage are barely contained by his glinting, dark orbs.
Omaar, unable to challenge Rushton on the existence of race, attempts to turn the female audience against him. He first invites Rushton to tell him about the different pelvic sizes of the various racial groups. Rushton obliges, stating that, on average, East Asian have larger pelvic sizes than European women, who have larger pelvic sizes than Black women; and explaining that this is probably because the women in groups with larger pelvic sizes give birth to larger brained babies.
Omaar then asks whether men and women have different brain sizes, which Rushton confirms, at which point he moves in for the kill:
RUSTHON: The differences between men and women’s brains are due to spatial ability. But the differences between Black and White, and East Asian brains, are due to general intelligence. That’s what we think is the situation.
OMAAR: Even though women’s brain sizes are smaller than men, they are just as intelligent as men, but Black people have smaller brain sizes than White people, but they’re not as intelligent as White people.
RUSHTON: That’s correct. As an average, yes.
Omaar’s is a rhetorical argument, of course, which only appears logical to a shallow mind. It would only follow that smaller brain sizes would necessarily imply lower intelligence for members of both sexes if male and female brains were morphologically identical; but they are not identical: We are dealing with two different dimensions — sex and size — each of which affects the human brain in different ways and to different degrees. This is implicit in Rushton’s reply:
The differences between men and women’s brains are due to spatial ability. But the differences between Black and White, and East Asian brains, is due to general intelligence. That’s what we think is the situation.
Unfortunately, but predictably, Omaar does not want the dimensional issue highlighted, and, therefore, he moves on. He attempts to cast Rushton as a biological determinist:
OMAAR: So intelligence is biologically fixed.
RUSHTON: Fixed is maybe too strong a word.
OMAAR: Biologically determined.
RUSHTON: Yea, for sure. You were born with a genetic potential for a particular brain size.
This answer would appear to confirm biological determinism to the average Channel 4 viewer, and, with Omaar’s mission apparently accomplished, this line of questioning is at this point abandoned. However, an astute listener will note that the use of the word ‘potential’ in the answer does not exclude environmental effects.
Under normal circumstances, given that the film rushes past very quickly and ordinary viewers will not have had adequate time to notice or consider this point, this is the moment where Omaar ought to have asked Rushton to elucidate his thoughts on this matter. Anyone familiar with Rushton’s work will know that Rushton would have replied that race differences in IQ are 50% genetic, 50% environmental. Rushton is not asked, of course, and one cannot but think that this is deliberate, as allowing Rushton to present a nuanced position would make it difficult to discredit him before the viewers.
This is why, perhaps, the interview looks so fragmented and staged on the screen: Rushton has always presented nuanced theses and arguments, and to make Rushton seem a one-dimensional biological determinist must have required savage editing during post-production.
Omaar’s final question is somewhat comical, for it is a transparent attempt to make Rushton look as if he does not know what he is talking about — as if his research is based on racist assumptions and skewed interpretations of ambiguous or irrelevant measurements, as opposed to exact, solid, incontrovertible data. He taunts, “What are the genes that determine intelligence? What are they? Can you name them?” Rushton, however, is well prepared, and supplies an answer that will not be disproved by the other scientists participating in the program. He replies, “We don’t know the specific genes, but we know that genes are absolutely crucial from behaviour genetic studies.”
Next, Omaar is back in London, mulling over the Rushton interview. He announces, “I want to take Rushton’s arguments one by one with Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College, London.”
The following scene is with Jones, a specialist in the genetics of snails. Gesticulating emphatically, Omaar asks him, “Is it possible to arrive at abiological definition of race that would be acceptable to people in your field?” Jones replies:
It’s obviously true that there are geographic differences in the human population. That is obviously the case. Look at you and look at me. I mean, we look different. But if we were to look beneath the skin, there wouldn’t be a complete split. So actually the human race is remarkable compared to other primates in only one way: we are so boring, we are so similar from place to place.
This is an admission, but a somewhat evasive one: Note the use of the term ‘geographic’ as a euphemism for ‘genetic’; note also the somewhat disingenuous emphasis on overall similarity. As a geneticist, Jones cannot deny that there is a biological basis for race, but, as a committed Leftist and court scientist, he feels compelled to draw attention away from the fact that genes underlie racial differences.
His obscurantism suits the purposes of the film, and Jones’ reply triggers dramatic audiovisual effects: The television speakers explode with a deep slamming sound and the screen is suddenly a multiracial mosaic of faces. This is meant to be a big “Aha!” moment. Omaar states, importantly:
This is important. According to Jones there are genetic differences between different races but they are not very big. What strikes him is how alike we are. Which suggests environmental factors play akey role in IQ.
Yet again, we see Rushton’s and Lynn’s thesis re-stated, but in the guise of a refutation.
It is far from a refutation, of course, because not only is this statement perfectly consistent with Rushton and Lynn’s research: Saying that environmental factors have a key role in IQ is not the same as saying that environmental factors are thesole determinant of IQ. What’s more, Omaar overlooks the fact that genetic differences need not be very large for them to have important effects on humans, to the point where they can significantly affect life outcomes. Humans and chimpanzees have been said to share 96% of their DNA, for example; but, if so, the remaining 4%, although a small proportion overall, still makes us vastly different from our primate cousins. A chimpanzee is not 96% as intelligent as a human.
To conceal his bias, Omaar feigns journalistic fairness by asking, “But at the same time, I mean… on the other side of the argument, one can’t deny that there is hereditary components in IQ.” Jones re-deploys his earlier tactic:
Oh, no, I think you’d be extremely foolish to deny that there is a hereditary component in intelligence. It’s extremely foolish to deny there is hereditary components in almost anything, you know. Most things have some heritability, as we say. We will probably, some day find some of the genes that underlie some of the heritability. What that will tell you about race and IQ I have no idea. I would imagine almost nothing.
Jones is of course free to imagine anything he likes — whether that will tally with future discoveries in genetic research is another question. What is important here is that, even though he makes strenuous efforts to conceal it, he ultimately seems to agree with Rushton and Lynn in that IQ is determined partly by genes, partly by environment.
Go to Part 4 of this article.