Monday, January 07, 2008

Race and science: The new Will Smith movie, I am Legend, is about a black scientist who is the last man alive after a worldwide epidemic wipes out all humans. It is up to him to discover a cure. This plot reminded me of the popular archetype of the black doctor/scientist. I'm thinking, for example, of Joe Morton who has played this type at least a half-dozen times (including the computer whiz in Terminator II) and of course Bill Cosby's Dr. Huckstable and Dr. Hibbert from the Simpsons. (List others if you'd like). I suppose I can understand pushing this archetype to send a message to young blacks that the absence of this kind of people in your own life does not mean you cannot be one, but it is a bit annoying. I find myself thinking, "Okay, a black scientist--helping the black kids, got it," when I should be getting lost in the story.

But my real interest here is to investigate the question of whether blacks are really interested in science, and if not, is it the Man's fault? Now white racists might be able to deny you good lab equipment at your local school, but they cannot dictate which TV shows you watch. The General Social Survey asked 1,468 Americans if they would hypothetically be interested in watching a TV program on the ozone. Here are the 8 ethnic groups with at least 50 respondents:

Percent who are likely or very likely to watch TV science program

Italian 70.4
Scottish 68.7
German 67.5
Irish 67.4
English/Welsh 67.2
Amerindian 66.2

USA 65.9

Mexican 62.3
Black 51.9

Blacks are at the bottom of the list. No one put them there. As a group, they are simply not as interested in science as other groups. Haven't you ever heard a black comedian making fun of how white people like to do weird things like study bugs? Little E.O. Wilson, spending all day hanging out with ants, must have been retarded or something, right?

People are different. So what. Get over it.


  1. Oh noes!! "Only" 50% of blacks are interested in science. Clearly, there could not be a black scientist. And there are obviously no black doctors in the world. ;-)

  2. Actually, Chris Rock's 'black people and n____ers' routine makes fun of black anti-intellectualism.

  3. JA, that's the same old canard that always get used. Group differences are averages, not absolutes.

  4. sfg:

    That's not a canard, that's my point.

    The post implied that "black people are not interested in science" and based it on a figure of "only" 50% of blacks being interested in watching a show about the ozone.

    If the post were more like, "black people slightly less interested in science," I wouldn't have complained.

  5. Dr. Hibbard on the Simpsons is based on Bill Cosby's character.

  6. Rain And10:02 PM

    Oh noes!! "Only" 50% of blacks are interested in science.

    50% of blacks are not interested in science. 50% of whites aren't interested in science. High %s of people are simply TV zombies.

    I would have answered 'no' to this question, since I could read a fact-packed book on the ozone in the hour it would take them to fart out 10 infotainment factoids.

  7. Anonymous7:06 AM

    Interested in science. Blacks aren't interested in any kind of academics.

  8. Had Enough?10:39 AM

    Some blacks do seem to be interested in the culinary arts:

    Sure likes the white meat though.

  9. Muswell Hillbilly5:30 PM

    I think the more salient point is not really how much less blacks are interested in science, but rather how aggressively media elites promote the trope of the black nerd.

    See, also: Die Hard.

  10. It is funny. I've met Jewish nerds, Asian nerds, and even female nerds, but never a black nerd.

  11. pjgoober10:37 AM

    Black nerds are probably far more likely to be clearly identifiable in upper middle class neighborhoods with low black populations, in low black population states. Outside of those situations, black nerds probably just try to blend in with other blacks, acting and talking like them so as to not be ridiculed. I have met 2 black nerds in southern California, one at college and one in a video game store.

  12. Anonymous11:10 AM

    An even more obvious example of "social engineering" on TV and the movies is the huge percentage of black judges there are in movies involving legal themes. More often than not, this seems to be the easiest character to cast as black, so as to satisfy the diversity police and assuage the liberal conscience.


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