This past Monday, when I watched President Donald Trump give an impromptu defense of his slow response to last weekend’s KKK/Neo-Nazi race riot, such was further proof of what I have written many times before–Trump is not a very bright man.
Anytime Trump goes off teleprompter, I can hear the words of the late, great Soul crooner Sam Cooke singing, “don’t know much about history…” I mean, while Trump was right to point out that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveholders, if he cannot understand the difference in monuments to men who, while morally flawed on this issue, at least created a Constitution that allowed their flaws to be ameliorated by the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments that abolished slavery, provided equal protection and the right to vote for the formerly enslaved, with men like Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson who fought specifically to tear that Constitution asunder while creating a new nation where slavery would exist in perpetuity, such proves that Trump simply is tragically and willfully dumb with respect to the history of the land he now leads.
Lest we forget that Trump was one of the leading proponents of the “Birther” movement that theorized that President Barack Obama was a Kenyan whose poor grades formed the bases for his refusal to release his transcripts from Columbia and Harvard. The irony is that having listened carefully to Trump on the campaign trail and as president where he has shown a poor grasp of current events, history and the law, I ask why we have yet to see HIS transcripts from the University of Pennsylvania?
For most Americans, whether you agreed with President Obama’s policies or not, the very idea that he was unintelligent was highly offensive when considering his resume, one that includes matriculation at Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School–the latter where he led the Harvard Law Review, a position that is earned through superior grades only.
So when dumb folks like Trump suggested that Obama’s grades would establish a lack of intelligence, what you need to know is that their position stems from a direct line of racist academic analysis that caught fire in the mid-1860’s just as the tide of European nationalism and the last stages of European colonialism were taking root throughout Africa, Asia and right here in the United States.
During this period in American history, a recently concluded Civil War had left hundreds of thousands of white men dead for the underlying and primary reason of ending slavery, an institution that was formulated upon a concept of racial superiority.
The roots of race as a predictor of intelligence arguably derive from famous European philosophers Voltaire, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Carl Linnaeus, each of whom suggested that intellect varied among the different racial categories in the world. By the mid-1860’s, the British philosopher Francis Galton, a cousin of famous geneticist Charles Darwin, suggested that the lack of “eminent” or prominent men among sub-Saharan Africans, where most American blacks derive, and dark-skinned Aboriginal Australians, for instance, rendered them on the lower intellectual end. This distinction is important to note because both during and after the Renaissance, most European academics divided Africa into northern and Sub-Saharan variations and even considered North Africa–specifically Egypt–to be more European because of the centuries of racial mixing with Greeks and later Romans who traveled freely to North Africa.
The reason behind this distinction, one of claiming North Africa as European, is fairly common when considering that most academics, including Galton, believed that Ancient Greece was the most advanced early civilization and the foundation of Western thought. The problem, however, was that as European scholars learned more about how many of the oft lauded Ancient Greek philosophers, mathematicians and architects spent considerable time studying under and copying from Egyptian philosophers, mathematicians and architects, then the conclusion from the racial superiority vantage point became that those pre-existing and highly intelligent Egyptians had to be something other than black. This argument rages to this very day in academia as a great many scholars refuse to concede that the mixed raced Egyptians of today and the past two millennia are much lighter in complexion than their ancient forebears who erected the pyramids, formed the bases of intellectual thought and theology while painting pictures of themselves on their tombs and pyramid walls–pictures that depicted dark skin color, brown eyes and thick lips that look an awful lot like modern Sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants here in the Americas.
While Galton had no “objective” measures with which to test his hypotheses, by the turn of the 20th Century, Alfred Binet, a french lawyer by trade who read extensively about psychology, developed a testing methodology to help classify French students from an academic standpoint. Binet’s tests ranged from measures to determine the ability to draw shapes and figures from memory, to the ability to do certain simple physical tasks on command and the same formed the bases of the first “Intelligent Quotient” or IQ examinations. That the founder of such measures was not classically trained in any rigorous scientific analysis should be noted as should the fact that language, or the ability to perform on command, also is crucial in the testing results. It also must be noted that because of that language aspect, Binet actually believed that environment–not heredity or inherent racial superiority–was key in a given outcome.
Still, with nationalism and the Eugenics or “good genes” movement taking hold across the Western World in the early 20th Century, Binet’s test was imported to America and became known as the “Stanford-Binet” test that supposedly was to be used to curtail “the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and in the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism, and industrial inefficiency.”
In a famous 1912 study, Frank Bruner, a graduate of the psychology department at Columbia, described the mental qualities of Negroes (Blacks) as, “lacking in filial affection, strong migratory instincts and tendencies; little sense of veneration, integrity or honor; shiftless, indolent, untidy, improvident, extravagant, lazy, lacking in persistence and initiative and unwilling to work continuously at details. Indeed, experience with the Negro in classrooms indicates that it is impossible to get the child to do anything with continued accuracy, and similarly in industrial pursuits, the Negro shows a woeful lack of power of sustained activity and constructive conduct.”
Now, Bruner’s study is almost laughable when considering that the clearing of fields and swamps that became major American cities was done from 1619 to 1865 by black slave labor; that the plans for the nation’s capital were designed in large part by a black man named Benjamin Banneker and the very stones that were laid to form the buildings in said Capitol were cut and erected by enslaved black laborers; the agriculture industry in the south and the textile industry from the north were wholly dependent upon black slave labor planting, harvesting and shipping cotton. But when false notions of intellectual and motivational inferiority among blacks began gaining acceptance among academics, it was not long before industrial giants like Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller and political figures like Presidents’ Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge joined the chorus of those believing in the accuracy of testing measures and observations that suggested that non-whites were inferior.
These theories later went from mere propaganda to formal policy with the Immigration Act of 1924 one that, when signed into law, allowed immigration from Northern Europe, limited immigration from Southern European nations that held darker whites who had intermingled with Africans through the centuries; maintained quotas on Asian immigrants and held that zero–ZERO–immigration was to occur from Sub-Saharan Africa. These policies remained in effect well into the late 1960’s.
Eugenics also forged the one tie between American Democracy and Nazi socialism in that during the so-called “Roaring 20’s,” many prominent white Americans and German Nazis all agreed that blacks were mentally inferior.
While some may suggest, “well, Hobbs, that was almost 100 years ago so why don’t you just get over it,” the fallacy in such a conclusion is that it fails to realize how the past, indeed, is prologue with respect to ideas about intellectual inferiority among the races. Indeed, in 1994, “The Bell Curve” was published by political scientist Charles Murray and psychologist Richard Hermstein where the pair’s conclusion that human intelligence is based on environment and heredity is nothing short of a recrudescence of racism past in the form of Eugenics.
And each year, when kids are subjected to IQ tests, these same tests are descended from the Binet testing models that, again, were designed and used in manners that do not account for other testing variables that account for language or cultural gaps. Meaning, I strongly believe that there are black kids who are highly intelligent but because Standard English is not spoken in their home, when intelligence tests that are vocabulary based ask them to tell whether or not “facile” matches with “ease” it is “perspicuous” and readily apparent that one’s “ease” with understanding this sentence depends on exposure–not inherent lack of intellectual ability.
Which brings me to my conclusion, which is that much like the main character in one of my favorite movies, “Good Will Hunting,” is brilliant despite lacking formal education, I never conclude that because someone has multiple college degrees or is filthy rich that such makes them intelligent, or that the lack of a degree renders one less intelligent. To me, I observe and listen to how someone analyzes the issues in their own words and when listening to Donald Trump, the problem is not that he clearly isn’t a brilliant orator or maybe even stumbles across words–we all have or will at some point. No, the problem is that he is prone to narcissistic talking points and is incapable of speaking with depth or logic on any pertinent political or social issues. Ditto for many of his defenders and the “Alt-Right” racist neanderthals who are so dim-witted that they do not know whether to wind their asses, or scratch their watches.