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
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.
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