When I was an undergraduate at the University of Southern Mississippi, I had the pleasure of taking a class under John C. Koeppel titled “The History of Psychology.”
He was a capable professor and encouraged his students to maximize their potential.
For one of our class research papers, a classmate and I decided to study the subject of race and intelligence.
We uncovered startling studies funded by racists, concluding that race determined a person’s level of intelligence.
According to these findings, whites were genetically predisposed to be intellectually superior while blacks were intellectually inferior.
Some of the studies and articles we found were shocking and offensive.
One study that particularly alarmed me concluded that the darker a person’s skin, the less intelligent he or she was.
Another study, presented in the “Bell Curve” by Herrnstein and Murray, reported that blacks were intellectually inferior to their white, Asian and Latino counterparts.
This study has been rejected by blacks and whites alike, but there are still those who believe that this publication pointed out truths.
During our presentation, I pointed out that according to these studies, since I was the darkest person in the room, I was intellectually inferior to everyone else.
However, I had one of the highest averages in my class.
I also highlighted a number of studies conducted by black psychologists that offered empirically-based rebuttals, and their studies concluded that race does not determine a person’s cognitive abilities or level of functioning and that the previous studies had no scientific merit.
We received an A on the assignment, but I still felt we had not done enough. I consequently devoured all the information I could on the subject of race, genetics and intelligence. My research inspired me to be a teacher.
The educational system must realize that the black child is constantly bombarded with racial stereotypes and unfair assumptions that manifest themselves in the form of self-fulfilling prophecies.
Some white, Latino, Asian and even black teachers perpetuate theories of black intellectual inferiority (consciously and subconsciously) by treating the black child as though he is incapable of academic success.
Black children don’t need to be treated differently from their counterparts; however, it is important for the educational system to recognize the cultural and environmental factors that create massive stumbling blocks that, in turn, can stifle their academic achievement.
-Matthew Lynch is a guest columnist.