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  • Barack Obama on Race & IQ (From 1994)

    by Shariq
    22nd September, 2008 at 3:00 pm    

    Via Andrew Sullivan, Razib at Gene Expression has posted this speech which Obama gave in 1994. Its not that long so I’m posting the whole thing after the jump because it sums up my views on this. I will say though that I think Obama is being unfair when he accuses Charles Murray of racism.

    I think that Murray is one of those rare thinkers who put forward these opinions because he was genuinely searching for the truth. For instance Obama argues against welfare reform which Murray also propagated, but which according to a lot of serious people has played a big role in getting black people in the inner cities out of poverty. The fact it hasn’t been accompanied with health care reform is another matter.

    Also in Murray’s favour is the fact that he was one of the few right-wing thinkers/pundits who saw the brilliance# in Obama’s post Rev. Wright speech on Race.

    My review of John McWhorter’s book, ‘Losing the Race’ is also relevant. Anyways, the speech is after the jump.

    October 28, 1994
    SHOW: All Things Considered (NPR 4:30 pm ET)

    Charles Murray’s Political Expediency Denounced
    SECTION: News; Domestic
    LENGTH: 635 words

    HIGHLIGHT: Commentator Barack Obama finds that Charles Murray, author of the controversial “The Bell Curve,” demonstrates not scientific expertise but spurious political motivation in his conclusions about race and IQ.

    BARACK OBAMA, Commentator: Charles Murray is inviting American down a dangerous path.

    NOAH ADAMS, Host: Civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama.

    Mr. OBAMA: The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. The arguments against such dubious science aren’t new either. Scientists have repeatedly told us that genes don’t vary much from one race to another, and psychologists have pointed out the role that language and other cultural barriers can play in depressing minority test scores, and no one disputes that children whose mothers smoke crack when they’re pregnant are going to have developmental problems.

    Now, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn’t interested in prevention. He’s interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It’s easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray’s calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, realor perceived, that minorities may enjoy.

    I happen to think Mr. Murray’s wrong, not just in his estimation of black people, but in his estimation of the broader American public. But I do think Mr. Murray’s right about the growing distance between the races. The violence and despair of the inner city are real. So’s the problem of street crime. The longer we allow these problems to fester, the easier it becomes for white America to see all blacks as menacing and for black America to see all whites as racist. To close that gap, we’re going to have to do more than denounce Mr. Murray’s book. We’re going to have to take concrete and deliberate action. For blacks, that means taking greater responsibility for the state of our own communities. Too many of us use white racism as an excuse for self-defeating behavior. Too many of our young people think education is a white thing and that the values of hard work and discipline andself-respect are somehow outdated.

    That being said, it’s time for all of us, and now I’m talking about the larger American community, to acknowledge that we’ve never even come close to providing equal opportunity to the majority of black children. Real opportunity would mean quality prenatal care for all women and well-funded and innovative public schools for all children. Real opportunity would mean a job at a living wage for everyone who was willing to work, jobs that can return some structure and dignity to people’s lives and give inner-city children something more than a basketball rim to shoot for. In the short run, such ladders of opportunity are going to cost more, not less, than either welfare or affirmative action. But, in the long run, our investment should payoff handsomely. That we fail to make this investment is just plain stupid. It’s not the result of an intellectual deficit. It’s theresult of a moral deficit.

    ADAMS: Barack Obama is a civil rights lawyer and writer. He lives in Chicago.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Current affairs,Race politics,Science,United States

    8 Comments below   |  

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    1. heather

      Pickled Politics » Barack Obama on Race & IQ (From 1994)

    1. Amrit — on 22nd September, 2008 at 6:47 pm  

      Obama really is a very accomplished orator.

      ‘It’s not the result of an intellectual deficit. It’s the result of a moral deficit.’

      Dayumn! XD

    2. sonia — on 22nd September, 2008 at 11:31 pm  

      yes he is a good orator indeed. like all politicians appear to be. oratory is what it is about. “

    3. Shamit — on 23rd September, 2008 at 1:31 am  

      Interesting though — Obama now thinks that the welfare reform bill which President Clinton signed was very good and delivered more than he thought it would. And especially on the specific issues he discussed above. And also he talks about personal responsibility far more than before. He reminds me more and more of Bill Clinton running in 1992.

      On Oratory — Obama is brilliant but there were quite a few who were equally good if not better. Reagan and Clinton in the US. Blair in the UK definitely.

      If you look at oratory, Bill Clinton is actually very very good and was brilliant when he was running for President in 1992. However, the difference between Obama’s oratory and Clinton is that while Obama’s rhetoric has an intellectual appeal I think it lacks the ability to sum public policy in a conversational tone which appeals and touches voters no matter what their education or intellect level are.

      For example, look at Bill Clinton’s speech at the Dem Convention this year — the only guy who talked about productivity and the income differential and make it sound like your thoughtful neighbour stopping by and having a chat. To me that is political oratory at its best.

      This is not a critique of Obama but I believe that Clinton and Obama are very alike and we said so after his Iowa victory.

      But policies alone wont solve the problems that Obama highlighted in 1994 — and even with the Clinton presidency it did not help those who did not want to help themselves or were caught up in Baltimore crime areas where the only hope was getting a street rep and being a gangster for many black teenagers. How do you change that? And thats where personal responsibility comes in.

      The funny thing is Colin Powell did grow up in a very bad and tough neighbourhood in NY and guess what the first Black national security advisor, the first Chairman of JCS, and the first Black Secretary of State and that too without an IVY league education. So personal responsibility and family made a huge difference. and its not really a race issue.

    4. flipside — on 23rd September, 2008 at 7:08 am

    5. Letters From A Tory — on 23rd September, 2008 at 9:41 am  

      I find it very irritating that I agree with Obama whenever he talks about certain social issues but as soon as he talks about the economy or anything on that scale, he starts to look very shaky.

    6. damon — on 23rd September, 2008 at 10:51 am  

      ”My review of John McWhorter’s book, ‘Losing the Race’ is also relevant.”

      I think he’s really good. Here he is talking about whether racism will matter in November, and ”Is it OK for white people to embrace whiteness?”

    7. shariq — on 24th September, 2008 at 1:22 pm  

      Shamit, excellent point about the excellence of Bill Clinton’s oratory - the speech at the convention was incredibly good.

      Btw, Obama did talk about personal responsibility in his MLK day speech. The great thing is he can do that while still seeing the structural problems as well. In essence its a synthesis of what McWhorter and Loury have been talking and arguing about on Bloggingheads.

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