Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Heart of Daftness

Andrew Sullivan is getting anxious about black people's IQs again:
The authors note correctly that IQ is a function of a cultural construct, the ability to succeed in middle class Western capitalist society. So I'm not sure why they would deny that such big differences do exist across the world and can be explained by lack of economic and social development. The Flynn effect shows that IQ can move swiftly upward as development proceeds. The question, really, is: why is Africa still such a basket-case? Why do we simply assume that it will not be in any way an economic power, even though its natural resources are plentiful? Why do we not hold the same conceptions about, say, the Chinese or Indians or South Koreans?
Look, no one doubts that Africa has problems, many of them internal. But while African nations remain behind 'the West' in a number of measurable variables, the idea that they're just stewing in poverty, and it has something to do with low IQs, is straight bullshit. From The Economist:
Since The Economist regrettably labelled Africa “the hopeless continent” a decade ago, a profound change has taken hold. Labour productivity has been rising. It is now growing by, on average, 2.7% a year. Trade between Africa and the rest of the world has increased by 200% since 2000. Inflation dropped from 22% in the 1990s to 8% in the past decade. Foreign debts declined by a quarter, budget deficits by two-thirds. In eight of the past ten years, according to the World Bank, sub-Saharan growth has been faster than East Asia’s (though that does include Japan).
From The World Bank:
Following a 4.6 percent expansion in 2010, the region’s output is expected to grow by 4.8 percent this year (5.8 percent excluding South Africa) and by more than 5 percent in 2012 and 2013. Indeed, African countries are amongst the fastest growing countries in the world: Ghana is projected to grow by well over 10 percent this year; and nearly 40 percent of the countries in the region are likely to see 6 percent or higher growth rates. Growth in Africa remains closely linked to the evolution of international commodity prices—oil, metals, and non-food agricultural commodities—which have remained generally buoyant.
As it so happens, many African economies are quickly growing—just like the Chinese and Indians and South Koreans!

It only took a quick Googling of "growing African economies" to find these. The question "Why is Africa still a basket case," with its 'are you still beating your wife?' framing of Africans as a perpetually benighted people, is misleading at best and racist at worst. It leads into the same condescending 'why are blacks are dumber than whites' rut that, as a longtime reader, I really wish Sullivan would get himself out of. A better, though tangential, question is, "Why does Andrew Sullivan think Africa is still a basket case?" but this is well-trod territory. An even better question might be, "What are the problems still afflicting Africa?" Some people are doing work to answer that, right now. One of those answers, from an actual African, author Teju Cole:
How, for example, could a well-meaning American "help" a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I've seen many) about how "we have to save them because they can't save themselves" can't change that fact.
The first step to helping is to not assume helplessness.

1 comment:

  1. He's clearly grasping at straws by now. The prejudice is still there, but he can't figure out how to justify it in anything that even resembles a coherent fashion anymore. Hopefully this is the beginning of the prejudice slipping away, but I'm not going to hold my breath.