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  • Emerging Ally

Race Science

There has been a recent re-emergence of a false set of ideas masquerading as "scientific" thought. This set of ideas is called “race science”, despite it having no scientific standing whatsoever.

This idea set is based on the false notion that intelligence has a genetic link to race and gender. And the conclusion it comes to is (surprise!) that white men are naturally smarter than everyone else.

This in many instances also carries over to religions, with those of non-christian decent often being relegated to a lower status.

This notion is nothing new sadly. Going back in time it has been used to justify a long list of awful: Nazism, Apartheid, Slavery, denying voting rights to various populations, etc…. The list goes on. It has even been used in recent history to deny funding to marginalized populations. The logic being that those groups would be poor and uneducated regardless of what was done because they are genetically disposed to that state. They have no opportunity to succeed because they genetically can’t.

This “science” is patently false.

“No one has successfully isolated any genes ‘for’ intelligence at all, and claims in this direction have turned to dust when subjected to peer review. As the Edinburgh University cognitive ageing specialist Prof Ian Deary put it, ‘It is difficult to name even one gene that is reliably associated with normal intelligence in young, healthy adults.’ Intelligence doesn’t come neatly packaged and labelled on any single strand of DNA.” (From The Guardian - “The Unwelcome Revival of Race Science”)

While this false idea has been around for a while it has moved into regular discourse and is often indirectly cited in arguments against Diversity and Inclusion efforts. I have heard it a lot: “We don’t want to lower standards”.

“Lowering standards” is based on the idea that the only way for someone of a diverse background to achieve something is to lower the bar. That demographically diverse people cannot rise to the level of white males.

As I have gone through my career the “lowering standards” comment comes up surprisingly often. College recruiting is a big one. Particularly when I have advocated for expanding beyond universities which the company has traditionally gone to such as suggesting we reach out to HBCU for candidates.

Whenever the comment comes up it is generally wrapped in a gentle warning and a caution. A bit of advice by people who are just “concerned”. They are just “looking out” for the DEI efforts and for the better of the entire community.

I find this “advice” useful. As to me it is an indication that the person is not supportive of DEI. I know where the resistance is going to come from. Knowing is half the battle. Once you know where resistance is coming from you can work to overcome it.

But I should be clear. No one says this comment in isolation. This comment in particular is said by someone who believes the organization will support it. This comment is an indication of a broader resistance in the organization.

I will try and work through the resistance. Conversations with the person in question of course but also try to understand the organizational support for that point of view. I will go back to my network and try to learn the cultural issues within the organization that lead to this comment. This mindset takes time to overcome as it is an indication of a cultural issues, not just an issue with one individual.

Talent is equally distributed. Opportunity is not. DEI is about opportunity. About giving people a chance. It is about having more people competing for roles. More people raises the level of competition and thus RAISES the bar. It is about eliminating the artificial barriers that society has raised to those that are not white and not male.

As always I hope this helps. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

All the best,

Dave Terné

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