the science of racism


University of Massachusetts Lowell/ Office of University Advancement/ Southwick Hall 250/ One University Avenue/ Lowell, Massachusetts 01854-2882


The Science of Racism Root article: interview with Dr. James Watson, the father of DNA, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. editor.


Dr. Watson, half of the team that helped to uncover the DNA helix model, has been regarded as the father of modern genetics, so his recent remarks there’s such a thing as Jewish intelligence, or that a reason why there is a disproportionate amount of black basketball players may be gene related. this interview with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. a Harvard professor who studies race discourse in the West, is interesting because it doesn’t just dismiss Dr. Watson as an old-fashioned, codgy elite White racist. as he’s the “father of genetics”, he’s been called upon to make comments about our most complex, and puzzling social issues: homosexuality, obesity, race, and race in relation to sexuality.

what was most interesting to me was Louis Gates, Jr does not consider Dr. Watson a “racist”, but more of a “racialist”. he does believe there is some key to genetics’ ties of race and human characteristics like intelligence, athletic ability, or demeanor. the distinction may come from a “racist” simply buying into long-time stereotypes from media and history of racial inferiority and superiority. certainly the argument can be made that there may be a truth, or a genetic basis for why those stereotypes exist, so how is Dr. Watson not just an academically, and scientifically intelligent racist?

i got into an argument with my father this weekend who said that 2nd generation Asian children do better in school, and win the Scripps National Spelling bee, because their parents structure and push them harder, whereas in “white” families, there isn’t as much of an effort, not as much care. Generally. yeah… i got fairly upset that he could say such a thing, that he has never fully voiced his opinions or beliefs around me, i was surprised that he didn’t try to drill that sort of thinking into me when i was younger, glad that i disagree, but yet a bit sad that we argue over something so substantial, and untrivial, how did he even raise me, how was there never any lecturing, or matter-of-facting with me about things like race, and love, and sexuality. it’s good that i have made my own opinions, but then how much did he actually teach me? other than the simple, wear your seatbelt, don’t eat too much sugar, keep your hands away from the stove…

what can solve this issue of racism? whether it’s genetic or socially-based, how much each of those areas gain strength or resolve from each other, it’s something that’s here to stay. it seems ridiculous to me that because of one gene of skin melatonin and color, that is related to other characteristics like intelligence or body shape. we can say there are patterns, and certain people of a particular ethnicity are often similar, but for one thing to help dictate everything else, and create a hierarchy and elitism between humans seems superficial and clueless.

Dr. Watson says that we should be judging people on an individual basis, i agree. but the greater question of race still exists, it’s difficult to think of just race without intelligence, body shape, sexuality, or demeanor. Henry Louis Gates states, rather convincingly, that the battle of racism isn’t going to be solve by just providing everyone with more access to voting, the workplace, social capital, and other goods. ultimately, advocating for equality is going to need something bigger b/c even when those social, man-constructed means of access are met, the questions of genetic hierarchy are still going to exist. there’s going to need to be something definite from the laboratory to help quell or squash the debate. even then it’s going to be heavily contested, and both sides will probably still be fighting the results.


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