Many people believe in innate racial equality, yet I have never seen an argument made for it. All I have seen are attempts to keep people away from the opposite view, whether by calling it racist pseudo-science, saying that racial differences should not be studied, denying that there is anything to study by saying that there are no such things as races, or condemning a belief in racial differences on the grounds that it entails judgements of superiority and inferiority. To see what line it took, I watched a video produced in 2014 at University College London (UCL) about Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911).
After a debate, which wasn’t shown, a student asked the Provost why UCL continued to celebrate a racist like Francis Galton, after whom a laboratory and a lecture hall were named, whereas no black academic was similarly honored. Everyone applauded, including the Provost, who instead of explaining the lack of monuments to black academics by saying that none had equaled Galton’s achievements was apologetic, saying that his only defense of Galton’s name being seen at UCL was that he had inherited him.
Three women were interviewed: the curator of the Galton collection, who showed an instrument used by Galton to measure people’s heads; a senior lecturer in science and technology studies, who showed a display of hair from people of many races that was made for the statistician and anthropologist Sir Ronald Fisher (1890-1962); and one from UCL’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, who showed Sir Flinders Petrie’s collection of model heads that had been made by the ancient Greeks to illustrate the different human types (Petrie 1854-1942).
None of the women mentioned anything the scientists had said about the races, instead suggesting that it was indecent of them to have thought that they differed or to have taken an interest in the differences. Their main reason for taking this view seemed to be that the idea of racial differences brought with it notions of superiority and inferiority. But comparing any two things of a given type does that, at least descriptively, and an evaluative sense is added if the feature with respect to which they are being compared is valued. Thus, to say that the riper of two apples is the superior in ripeness is a tautology, and if one wants a ripe apple, it is the preferable one. To forbid judgements of superiority and inferiority is to forbid comparisons.
But white people, who have been conditioned to react with horror to the thought of one race being said to be superior to another, think that comparisons between the races should be forbidden, and therefore such a simple statement as that black people are on average faster runners than whites, as seen in a race over any distance, or that whites are more inventive than are blacks as seen throughout history, make them feel uncomfortable. Merely to observe that white people had built great cathedrals before black people had ever put up a stone building would be reprehensible according to this conditioning because of the implication that whites are superior to blacks as builders.
The participants in the video could therefore make a case against Galton simply by referring to his belief that whites exceeded blacks in many ways; they didn’t need to say that he was wrong, or in what respects he found whites to be superior. Thus the student, Mahmoud Arif, who was interviewed later, said that Galton believed that the other races were inferior to Anglo-Saxons, which for him by itself dealt Galton a knockout blow. The lecturer mentioned superiority and inferiority no fewer than four times, each reference presumably being intended as a criticism.
The experts showed their distaste for Galton and his like in other ways. The curator called him racist and referred to measuring people as if it were disgusting. She repeated the statement: Galton had gone round measuring people. But doctors and nurses measure people all the time, and what else would she have expected of a scientist studying racial differences? The lecturer said that Fisher had “used instruments to scientifically measure race.” Think of that! Measuring it scientifically, using instruments! The Egyptologist, who had revealed the model heads as though they made a case against Petrie or the ancient Greeks, said that they represented “so-called racial types” and had made her realize how influenced Petrie had been by “so-called racial theory” and “so-called racial science.” She didn’t say why Petrie shouldn’t have been influenced by these things, or why they were only so-called.
But the student did mention something Galton had said. In a letter to the Times, he had suggested encouraging the Chinese to colonize East Africa. Mahmoud Arif partially quoted him: “The gain would be immense to the whole civilized world if we [through the Chinese] were to out-breed and finally displace the N-word as completely as the latter has displaced the aborigines of the West Indies” — where the “N-word” Galton used, as I found out when looking up his letter, was “Negro.” It seems a strange idea, but Galton made a reasonable case for it, saying that although there were some highly intelligent Negroes, the average member of the race lacked the intellect, self-reliance, and self-control needed to sustain any respectable form of civilization, whereas the industrious and order-loving Chinese, who were prolific breeders and would thrive in the East African climate, were endowed with a remarkable aptitude for it. No such empirical claim made it into the video lest it be put into the minds of viewers and the experts were to find themselves having to contest it.
Thus, the video illustrated every strategy commonly used to fend off the idea of innate racial differences. Between them the experts attached the word “racist” to Galton and his like, implied that they were not scientists, suggested that there were no such things as races, and condemned objective observations, which could invite value judgements. They did not say that the scientists’ unmentioned opinions were wrong — or rather, while not saying that they were wrong empirically, they suggested that they were wrong morally, not seeming to realize that their moralism was only the product of a historically unprecedented squeamishness about natural facts.
In 2020, when statues of white people were being pulled down, in some cases to be replaced by statues of black people, and when streets and buildings named after whites were being renamed after non-whites, UCL renamed its Galton Lecture Theatre. But in the absence of a sufficiently eminent black scientist to name it after, it was rechristened “Lecture Theatre 115.”
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 The other way of getting rid of unwanted value judgements is by giving up one’s values. Thus, if one race is superior to another in art, this won’t matter as long as we don’t value art. Otherwise one can choose one’s values to match the things a favored race is good at.
 Evening Standard, June 19, 2020, “University College London renames lecture theatres after criticism over eugenicist links.”
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