Why We Believe That Some Races Are Smarter Than Others

This is a very difficult topic to talk about…but I am going to try. I recently had a conversation where the topic was intelligence among the races….specifically between White people and Black people. Of course my stance was that race has no tie into intelligence, an opinion that is also shared by the American Anthropological Association. The counter argument was that you have fewer Black people in the sciences, taking advanced coursework, becoming leaders in their field, etc; even when taking into account their percentage of the population. African-Americans make up about 13% of the US population. However this percentage is not reflected equally in areas such as higher education, equal distribution across the intelligence spectrum, etc.

Or is it? Let’s look at two biggies: education and intelligence.


You may have heard the statement that there are more Black males in prison than in college. If so, then hopefully you know that this statement is not true anymore. What is true though is that Black Americans complete college at about 1/2 the rate of their White counterparts. But wait, that’s not really the entire story. I bet you didn’t know that almost 70% of Black college students are enrolled at community colleges and for-profit colleges. These institutions have lower completion rates in general. Having attended 3 community colleges for a course here and there, I will be the first to attest that the atmosphere is very different and much less supportive than your traditional, residential 4-year college/university.

The reasons for this are complex, and intrinsically tied to the fact that the poverty rate for Black Americans is about twice that of White Americans. But bringing this back to a personal level, I firmly believe that in order to educate someone, they must have the drive to learn. Is this drive genetic? Maybe…but it is most definitely cultured and cultivated as well. My father is a very smart man; much more inherently intelligent than I am. Interacting with him, I knew that. He had a love for books that I admired…and of being curious. But since I didn’t live with him…it’s not like he was around to help me with my homework or really be on the front lines to cultivate my intellect. My Grandparents were not as brilliant….but they let me do what I like. I could spend my hours reading, playing music, and messing around with the computer and they never gave me a hard time about it. In contrast my mother (who I also didn’t live with) did give me hard time about not being more social, not doing nice things with my hair, etc.

So by the time I reached college I was motivated, I knew I was smart enough for it, but I was really, unequivocally, on my own. Not only physically….but psychologically. Not only did no one in my family go to college….but they were not particularly interested in it either. I do not blame them….they had no frame of reference. They didn’t know what questions to ask. They just mostly saw the huge tuition bills, and would scramble with me to try to find some financial aid to get me through each semester. Other than that…what could they say or do?

My younger sisters have all been able to come to me with their gripes and questions about college. With that being said, two have dropped out. One for financial reasons, the other because she grew disillusioned. A third is currently a freshman…and looking to transfer (fingers crossed that it will work out for her)!


Even though I decided to write this post before seeing this page on Debate.org, I am still surprised that 70% of the respondents believe that there is a connection between race and intelligence. Wow. What many of these people fail to realize is that there are no universally accepted definitions of either race or intelligence….and they are most likely seeing things through a very limited scope. For example, many people mistakenly think of Jews as a race. Maybe they think this because it is not easy to become a Jew if you are not born one. However there are Jews of all races. So what people often think of as “race” is really “culture”. And culture is a lot more variable and undefined then race is.

Change your perceptions….accept that your “definitions” are wrong!

In my office, we have a pretty diverse group. There are 6 foreign-born employees. There are also 4 East Asian employees. Not all are foreign born. Not all are from the same country. If you took a picture of our group and showed it to those who didn’t know us, they probably would not be able to tell where the major cultural divisions are in our office. They would most likely differentiate us on our physical appearance….our races. Yet the woman who emigrated here from Japan as an adult has a totally different reference point that the woman who is ethnically Chinese, but grew up in the US. And then there is myself. I’m the only Black person in my office. But I’m also a first generation American and the only one that knows Hebrew. One of my peers who was born in Russia saw a sign in Hebrew at my desk and thought it was misplaced!

We believe what we’ve experienced to be true. And if we do not know about it, how can we support it? We don’t see the billions of people in India and China; we see the elite who have emigrated….the best of the best who have chosen to utilize their talents elsewhere. We don’t fully realize the culture and how certain people prioritize learning and education above just about everything else. American culture does not promote children reading and studying for 10 hours a day, every day. Poor Americans especially. And finally we tend to forget that someone’s “smartness” is also perception. If you are a genius, but homeless, there is no glory…no exposure for you. But if you are of average intelligence, but put into a community….a network where you can leverage things….portray yourself in a certain light, you can seem quite brilliant.