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Last month, “After nearly two years of my resistance,” wrote a University of Houston Downtown professor, his department published an “anti-racist statement” on its website.
Adam Ellwanger, a tenured English professor, wrote this on Campus Reform, a conservative website where he’s a higher education fellow. By Monday, as Campus Reform and Fox News previously reported, the antiracist statement was gone.
“I resisted such a statement largely because I am not a leftist and I know that the anti-racists’ claims about society are false,” Ellwanger wrote in Campus Reform.
That sentence in his column links to a racist column—and not a type of racism that requires understanding current antiracism discourse or diversity, equity and inclusion or debates over recent definitions of racism. The column advances the argument that Black people are intellectually inferior to whites.
“I’m not really interested in getting bogged down in arguments about why this or that is or isn’t racist,” Ellwanger told Inside Higher Ed in an email Wednesday. His university’s student body in the fall was 19 percent Black and 55 percent Hispanic, according to the university’s website.
“Given the left-wing slant of Inside Higher Ed, I don’t really trust that my comments on this matter would be faithfully or positively represented,” he wrote, declining an interview.
Campus Reform didn’t respond to questions about whether Ellwanger or a Campus Reform editor inserted the link.
The column Ellwanger linked to, by John Staddon, a James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University , is titled, “Kendi’s Fallacy and Its Consequences” and subtitled, “Are humans really all the same?”
“On average, short people tend to have lower IQs than tall people,” Staddon writes for the Claremont Institute’s American Mind. “Nobody really knows why this is the case, nor has it caused any social problems—‘tall’ and ‘short’ people don’t usually identify themselves by their height so the average IQ difference goes unremarked. On the other hand, as demonstrated by [The Bell Curve author] Charles Murray, skin color and IQ are also correlated: people who are black tend to have lower IQs than whites or Asians. That might not be a problem either except that IQ is also correlated with some significant outcomes like wealth and health. Causality is always difficult to determine, but there is no doubt that high-IQ individuals tend to be richer and higher-status than the not so smart.
“One would suppose that the difference in average social status between whites and Asians compared to blacks would have generated research that could provide other explanations for this phenomenon,” Staddon writes. “For example, in addition to IQ differences, differences in childhood environment, education, culture and biology, etc. Perhaps some talents are complementary: are people bad at math and logic better at art, writing or speaking, for example? Did [Black Canadian jazz pianist] Oscar Peterson have a high IQ? Who cares, he was a brilliant musician.”
Staddon then criticizes Ibram X. Kendi, a Boston University professor and author of How to Be an Antiracist, for being, in that book, “interested in none of these questions, because he has a single answer to all of them: Racism is the cause of all black-white disparities.”
“Moral equality does not translate into equality in other dimensions such as ability, cultural background, interests or other traits that influence one’s prospect of success,” Staddon writes. “Kendi’s claim that all individuals, hence all groups, are equal in these characteristics is an untruth … Obviously, black-white wealth differences depend on several things: yes, racist policies but also behavioral and biological differences between groups.
“Kendi is willing to accept that blacks are generally darker than whites but says nothing about other biological differences such as their susceptibility to sickle-cell anemia,” Staddon writes. “People and hence groups are different. Many of these differences are irrelevant to social factors like wealth and criminality. Others are not.
“The book repeatedly claims that all racial groups are really the same,” Staddon writes. “Not just morally and legally the same but the same in every dimension—history, culture, strength, beauty, talents, interests and abilities—which is nonsense but allows him to blame all existing differences on ‘racist policies.’”
“Please try to look at facts as true or false and don’t give them a moral value,” Staddon told Inside Higher Ed, referring to average IQ disparities among self-identified groups. Other professors have disputed such IQ arguments and their use in the public sphere.
As for Ellwanger, his column didn’t state that the English Department’s “anti-racist statement” was part of hiring, promotion, continued employment or posttenure review criteria. But he expressed concern that it could affect such things.
“Although the attempts to attach left-ideological activism to tenure and promotion may have stalled, the activists haven’t given up: they’ve just begun to pursue their goals by different means,” he wrote. “Anti-racism statements are a covert way to justify lowering dissenting professors’ annual scores in the existing categories of teaching, scholarship and service, which could ultimately assist in purging the faculty of political dissidents.
“Given that the department has now stated openly that the promotion of these values should be manifested in ‘our work as teachers and scholars,’ how might this effect [sic] my annual evaluation scores in the categories of teaching and scholarship?” he wrote.
“Although the rubrics that officially determine annual evaluation scores within the categories of teaching, scholarship and service don’t (yet) reference the anti-racism statement, I doubt this would prevent activist faculty from taking it into account in my performance review,” he wrote. “The anti-racism statement—on my campus and others—is a covert, cowardly measure used to accomplish this punishment until a formal mechanism can be added to policy.”
Dagmar Scharold, the Houston Downtown English department chair, deferred comment to a spokeswoman for the university. That spokeswoman sent an emailed statement.
“The University of Houston Downtown (UHD) is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged,” she wrote. “The university believes that the content of its website should only be related to UHD’s mission and vision and provide information for students and the general public on its academic programming, services and university operations. Furthermore, UHD’s faculty hiring and promotion practices are based solely on merit.”