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O Tempora, O Mores! (January, 1993)

What is This?

This is the shape of the third congressional district of Florida. Why does it make the original gerrymander look neat and compact? Because it was the only way to draw a district that would give non-whites a secure majority so that they could elect a non-white Congressman.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was originally written to forbid local practices that were thought to prevent non-whites from voting. Now it has been reinterpreted to require crazy-quilt districts that will ensure that more blacks and Hispanics go to Congress. There are now districts all over the country that are as misshapen as this one. All the old, meaningful borders like county, city, and school district lines are ignored. Voters have race in common and not much else.

This is a curious system for a country that is supposed to be trying to make race irrelevant. The next logical step would be to do away with districts entirely and simply set aside 12 percent of the seats in Congress for blacks, eight percent for Hispanics, etc. Of course, if the theory is that blacks can be properly represented only by blacks, and Hispanics by Hispanics, perhaps they should be governed, taught, and policed only by people of their own race as well. Maybe they would even prefer that their neighbors be the same race as themselves. The new voting districts are a virtual admission that race is a category that matters. It is a pity that this sort of enlightenment is so rare in government.

Hated for their Virtues

Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in South America, and its poorest region is called the Chaco. It is a great plain of scrub forest that takes up more than half of the country’s area but contains only two percent of its population. No one seems to be able to make anything of the Chaco — no one, that is, except twelve thousand Mennonites descended from small groups that first immigrated in 1927 and 1930.

The Mennonites trace their religious roots to the early 16th century in Switzerland and today’s Paraguay Mennonites still speak a Low German dialect called Plattdeutsch. In the Chaco, Mennonites maintain their own roads, electric power system, schools, hospital, and telephone system. They even issue their own traffic tickets and run a small jail. They do all this because the corrupt, ineffective government of Paraguay is incapable of doing it for them. As one Mennonite explains, “If we waited for the Paraguayan government, poor things, we’d be dead.”

At the same time, the Mennonites have thrived on unproductive land that no one else could cultivate. They produce half the country’s milk and nearly all of its peanuts. Thousands of Indians have come to work for the Mennonites, who have taught them carpentry and farming, and given them houses with running water and electricity.

Since the Mennonites are white, their prosperity is said to be due to “exploitation.” In Asuncion, the capital, officials threaten to crack down on their “state within a state.” The Indians who work for Mennonites, and who live far better than they could if there had been no Mennonites, complain that they do not live well enough. [Sandra Dibble, “Paraguay: Plotting a New Course,” National Geographic, Aug, 1992.]

This is a particularly clear examples of something that happens all over the world. An unproductive group benefits enormously from the presence of a productive group. The unproductive then complain that differences in achievement are due to “exploitation.”

Detroit on Drugs

The Detroit Urban League has just completed a survey of Detroit boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18. It found that 30 percent have a family member who sells drugs, and 41 percent know someone at school who sells drugs. Fifty-one percent said it would take less than five minutes to find someone from whom to buy drugs, and 70 percent said it would take less than 15 minutes.

Despite the fact that virtually everyone these young people knew in the drug business is black, nearly half said they thought drugs were part of a white plot to exterminate blacks. [Patricia Chargot, Survey finds some youths see drugs as plot, Detroit Free Press, 9/29/92, p. 3A.]

Kicking the Corpse

Sir Cyril Burt (1883-1971) was a pioneering student of the heritability of intelligence. He did some of the first studies of the intelligence of twins, and concluded that about 70 percent of the differences between individual IQ scores are due to heredity. Burt was one of the most admired psychologists of his day, but his reputation has since suffered greatly.

Shortly after his death, Burt’s integrity was attacked by scientists who promoted the view that intelligence is influenced much more by environment than by genes. They claimed that Burt faked his twin data and that two assistants whom he had said helped him gather data never existed. The media, always eager to discredit hereditarian views, gave these accusations banner headlines. In 1980, the British Psychological Society endorsed the charges and formally denounced one of its most distinguished members. Today, most people who know Burt’s name at all know only that he was a “fraud.”

In fact, in the last several years, Burt has been vindicated. The two assistants have been found, and the “faked” data were perfectly good. Had he been alive when the accusations were made, he could have easily refuted them. The smear campaign got as far as it did because Burt was a prickly man who worked alone. No other scientists knew his habits well enough to defend him. It is only now, after careful investigation, that the attacks against him have been shown to be reckless and ideological. Two books, The Burt Affair (1989) and Science, Ideology and the Media (1991) show that if there was fraud, it was on the part of Burt’s accusers. In fact it appears that one of his most vociferous accusers may have destroyed some of Burt’s unpublished work.

The media have, of course, been quiet about the new findings. However, it is the British Psychological Society that has perhaps behaved most disgracefully. In 1980, it happily kicked the corpse and pronounced Burt a fraud. This year, in response to a petition from members that it acknowledge its error of 12 years ago, it announced primly that it should not “attempt to pass corporate judgment on the alleged misconduct of any member now deceased.” [Robert Joynson, “The Burt Business,” Times Literary Supplement, 9/4/92.]

Mexico Beyond Reproach

Although the American media make an enormous fuss every time the Immigration and Naturalization Service mistreats an illegal immigrant, they have very little to say about the mistreatment of Americans at the hands of Mexicans. For example, the State Department says it knows of 27 cases in 1991 of torture or other mistreatment of U.S. citizens by Mexican officials, but practically no one has heard of this.

Recently there has also been a spate of mysterious “suicides” by Americans in Mexican jails. In August, William Yost is said to have shot himself in the head after 36 hours of Mexican police custody. No one seems to be able to explain how he got his hands on a gun.

Another U.S. citizen, Mario Amada, is said to have hanged himself in jail. Mr. Amado’s brother hired a pathologist to examine the corpse and learned that Mr. Amado appears to have been beaten so severely just before he died that he would have been incapable of hanging himself.

In the most gruesome case of all, the body of a man who appears to have been a U.S. citizen was found in July tied to a tree by his neck and hands, with one leg amputated and his intestines torn out of his body. Mexican police gamely called this a suicide as well and would have closed the case if a group called the Minnesota Lawyers Human Rights Committee had not protested. This incident, too, has been scarcely reported in America, though it is easy to imagine how the press would roar if American police found a dead Mexican in such a state and called it a suicide.

The U.S. government appears to be particularly reluctant to criticize Mexico at this time because it does not want to jeopardize progress on the free-trade agreement. [Katherine Ellison, “Mysterious ‘Suicides’” Houston Chronicle, 9/2/92.]

A Nation of Catechumens

For the first time since the Council of Trent in 1566, the Catholic Church has undertaken a thorough revision of its catechism. The 676-page document outlines Church policy on everything from the Trinity to drug trafficking. Most of the Church’s well-known stands on such things as divorce, abortion and homosexuality are unchanged. However, the Church now directs its members to take the following position on an issue about which previous catechisms have been silent:

Better-off nations are obliged to welcome, within their capacities, the foreigner in search of security and vital resources that he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities will ensure respect of the natural law that places the guest under the protection of those who receive him.

[“Revising Catholicism became a matter of faith, Toronto Globe and Mail, 11/17/92, p. 1.]

In an unrelated development, in late October, Pope John Paul II asked American Indians to forgive white people for the 500 years of injustices that followed the arrival of Columbus. He said that whites must never stop asking forgiveness from blacks and Indians for the sins of the white man.

Brain Size and Intelligence

J. Philippe Rushton of the University of Ontario is back in the news on account of his race-related research. In his latest paper, he analyzes the head sizes of 6,325 U.S. soldiers whose crania were measured so they could be fitted with helmets. The data accord with Prof. Rushton’s findings to date: Asians have larger heads in relation to body size than whites do, and whites have larger heads than blacks. He also found that officers have larger heads (and therefore larger brains) than enlisted men and that men have proportionately larger brains than women.

Last summer, the prestigious British journal, Nature, not only rejected Prof. Rushton’s findings but published an article by its editor saying that “unpalatable” and “politically incorrect” research must meet higher standards than usual. It is remarkable that Nature should admit that political considerations influence what it publishes. It has since received a flood of letters in support of Prof. Rushton, some of which it has grudgingly published. “I’m getting an incredible amount of support,” says the professor, who has in the past had to wage his intellectual battles virtually unaided. [Shelley Page, “Race and Intelligence: the debate rages,” Vancouver Sun, 11/18/92, p. A9.]

Black Acquitted

Last summer in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, blacks rioted because a Hasidic Jew killed a seven-year-old black boy in a traffic accident. As part of the anti-Jewish violence, a gang of a dozen or so young blacks surrounded Yankel Rosenbaum and beat and stabbed him to death. Lemrick Nelson, age 17, was charged with the murder after police found him with a bloody knife. He admitted to the killing, and Mr. Rosenbaum identified him as his attacker before he died. DNA tests showed that the blood on the knife was probably Mr. Rosenbaum’s.

At the trial, Mr. Nelson’s lawyer argued that his client had been framed by corrupt police. The jury of six blacks, four Hispanics and two whites appear to have believed him. On October 29th, Lemrick Nelson was found innocent and set free. [Oakland Tribune, Black teenager acquitted in death of Jewish student, 10/30/92, p. A15.] Following his acquittal, Mr. Nelson was feted by jurors at a dinner hosted by the defense lawyer. [Eric Briendel, Race and Riots in New York, WSJ, 11/18/92.]

More Money for Minorities

The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) has announced a new plan to help non-whites buy houses. The program, called FannieNeighbors, will allow applicants to make down payments as small as five percent, will reduce closing costs, and will waive a number of standard credit requirements. These benefits will be available to first-time home buyers who live in Census Bureau districts that are at least 50 percent non-white. [New Fannie Mae program to boost minority loans, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 20, 1992, p. 1C.]

Sensitivity at GWU

On November second, classes were canceled at George Washington University so thousands of students and faculty could attend a discussion on campus racism. They heard the university’s president, Stephen Trachtenberg, explain that the children’s rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is wrong. “The truth,” said Mr. Trachtenberg, “is really the opposite. A broken bone, however painful, can mend and be over and done with . . . A really ugly word . . . leaves a wound and then a scar that endures for years and even decades.” (Was Mr. Trachtenberg really saying that name calling was worse than physical assault?)

Finally, the culprit himself, a senior named Michael Musante, was brought out for an auto-da-fe. “I feel more ashamed than I ever have in my brief life,” he said; “[H]elp me to learn to grow.” Mr. Musante’s crime? Someone reported that he had once, in private, referred to another student as “that nigger.” [Brooks Masters, “GWU seeks unity in wake of racist remark,” Wash Post, Nov. 3, 1992, p. B1.]

Miami Vice

Although the city does not like to publicize the fact for fear of frightening away tourists, Miami has the highest crime rate in the country. It has become increasingly common for robbers to attack motorists, either when they are stopped at traffic lights or when they are getting in or out of their cars.

Late in October, Miami had just the sort of crime the tourism industry most dreads. Renate Morlock, a German tourist, had just gotten into her car after a meal at McDonald’s when robbers grabbed her purse. Although she did not resist, one of the robbers shot her and she is paralyzed from the waist down. This sort of thing does not happen in Europe, and Mrs. Morlock’s story was big news in Germany.

One aspect of how the story was covered was probably not reported in Germany. Mrs. Morlock’s husband and two daughters witnessed the attack and got a good look at the robbers and the car they were driving. This is how the newspapers described the car: “a run-down 1978-1979 cream or white station wagon with wood paneling, damage to the left rear door and a hubcap missing on the left side.” The suspects? As has become common in Miami, because any description of the perpetrators would have to include race, the newspapers did not describe them at all. [Gail Epstein, “Thief’s shot paralyzes tourist,” Miami Herald, 10/28/92, p. 1B.]

The White Man’s Burden

Germans protesting against immigrants are ordinarily portrayed in the American press as bigoted boors. Only rarely do we learn just what they are opposing. Under current immigration rules, anyone who shows up in Germany can claim to be a political refugee. Though fewer than five percent of people who make the claim are eventually found to be refugees, all are entitled to a hearing process that can last as long as three years. During that period, claimants get free housing, education, and health benefits. On top of that, a family of four gets a stipend of about $10,000 a year. By contrast, the average eastern German, where the unemployment rate is 17 percent, makes $7,000 a year, out of which he must pay for his own housing.

Vijay, a newcomer from Sri Lanka, represents everything that the Germans find intolerable. In Sri Lanka, the average annual income is equal to what “refugees” to Germany are paid every two weeks. Vijay figures he has it made. “If I come to Germany and save just half of the money refugees receive, even if I am forced to go back I will return to Sri Lanka a rich man.” [Frank Viviano, “Why German Resentment of Refugees is So High,” Oct. 20, 1992.]

Spike Lee on AIDS

Film director Spike Lee has joined Bill Cosby among the ranks of prominent blacks who think that whites developed AIDS in order to exterminate blacks. This is what he wrote in the Nov. 1992 issue of Rolling Stone:

I’m convinced AIDS is a government-engineered disease. They got one thing wrong, they never realized it couldn’t just be contained to the groups it was intended to wipe out. So, now it’s a national priority. Exactly like drugs when they escaped the urban centers into white suburbia.

[Janet Braunstein, “Spike’s Message Obscured,” Detroit Free Press, Nov. 9, 1992, p. 4F.]

Genes and Crime

The National Research Council has just released a report, “Understanding and Preventing Violence,” in which it recommends investigation into the genetic causes of violence. It points out that many future criminals are already markedly anti-social by age eight.

The Dread Hand of Racism

A recent report has found that many things are getting worse for children in the state of Michigan. In just ten years all the following indices of youthful misery have gone up: the teen-age birth rate by 22.5 percent, the teen-age violent death rate by 27.6 percent, and the child poverty rate by 36.7 percent. In the past decade, the number of children on food stamps has risen by an astonishing 56 percent.

Richard Lerner, the director of the Institute for Children, Youth and Families at Michigan State University, was involved in conducting the study. He points out that blacks suffer from all these ailments more than whites. A black child is nearly four times more likely to be in poverty than a white, for example, though he did not elaborate on how much likely a black teen-ager was to have a baby or to be murdered.

“And why don’t kids have equal life chances?” asks Mr. Lerner. He supplies the answer in one word: “Racism.” [Kenneth Cole, “Report: Minority Kids Shortchanged,” Detroit News, Nov. 18, 1992, p. B1.]

Devaluing America’s Heritage

Robert Adams has been Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution since 1984, and has been unflagging in his attempts to correct “Eurocentric bias.” He has shut down several exhibits at the Museum of Natural History on the advice of Helen Maddox, “Queen Mother” of Tu-Wa-Moja, an afrocentric study group. The Queen Mother explained to him that displays of the primitive practices of non-whites were “racist.” The museum now has “dilemma labels” on many of the exhibits that are still open, which apologize for biases and prejudices.

Under Mr. Adams, American Indians are likely to get their own museum. According to the Smithsonian, the museum’s theme will be that Indian cultures have “intrinsic validity and equality with other cultural experiences.” Mr. Adams has also launched plans to dismantle the Arts and Industries Museum which, in 1881, was the first museum to be founded by the Smithsonian. If plans go through, the building will be turned into the National African-American Museum.

Mr. Adams even has designs on the National Air and Space Museum, which gets more visitors than virtually any other museum in the world and is considered one of the Smithsonian’s greatest successes. Apparently its sin is that it is a tribute to American bravery and ingenuity. Henceforth, the Smithsonian will take “less of a celebratory approach.” Mr. Adams prefers to examine airplanes as “instruments of destruction,” and has planned an exhibit entitled “From Guernica to Hiroshima.” [Matthew Hoffman, “Smithsonian caretaker a fox guarding the hen house,” Detroit News, Oct. 16, 1992, p. 10A.]