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Steve Sailer Interview Via Email

3/3/05

Luke: * Is race such a big deal in America that we can't talk about it publicly?

Steve: Well, we talk about race all the time, but in private. You're also allowed to joke about race in public if you are a comedian. You're just not supposed to write seriously and honestly about it in public.

For example, take the connection between race, crime, and real estate. Try this experiment: Go tell your most politically correct friends that you've found the perfect house to buy. It has a very cheap price and it's in a conveniently located neighborhood right on Martin Luther King Blvd. (The nice thing about this experiment is that it hardly matters what city you live in.). Your friends will make very clear to you that you would be a fool to move to Martin Luther King Blvd.

Stand-up comics are socially allowed to talk about race in public. For example, Chris Rock famously advised: "If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they're lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is 'Run!'"

But, you aren't supposed to write seriously about race in public, other than to repeat the usual cant. For example, a fine reporter named Jonathan Tilove wrote a book in 2003 called "Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America's Main Street," but practically nobody besides me would review it, apparently because of discomfort over the "stereotypes" associated with MLK Blvds.

Of course, serious public debate in print or on-line is far better than private talk to figure out how to ameliorate our country's problems. So, public understanding of race remains crude because writing frankly about race just isn't done in polite society.

Much of the censorship stems from the following logic (if you can call it logic): "If different racial groups tend to behave somewhat differently, then -- oh my God -- Hitler Was Right! Therefore, we must never allow this fact to be mentioned in print, or the public will learn the horrible truth and they'll all vote Nazi."

Well, that's just nuts on so many levels.

It's one big non-sequiter: Of course, there are different racial groups. And of course their members tend to inherit certain different genes, on average, than the members of other racial groups. And that means racial groups will differ, on average, in various innate capabilities. But that also means that no group can be supreme at all jobs. To be excellent at one skill frequently implies being worse at something else. So, there can't be a Master Race.

Sports fans can cite countless examples. Men of West African descent monopolize the Olympic 100m dash, but their explosive musculature, which is so helpful in sprinting, weighs them down in distance running, where they are also-rans. Similarly, there are far more Samoans in the National Football League than Chinese, simply because Samoans tend to be much, much bigger. But precisely because Samoans are so huge, they'll never do as well as the Chinese in gymnastics, on average.

* What have been the repercussions to your life from your writings on race?

I guess it's made me a cult figure, which is bizarre because I'm just about the most boringly conventional guy I know: a middle-aged, golf-playing, Republican family man with an MBA.

Years ago when I was working on a deal alongside a wise investment banker of the old school, he told me, "Always tell the truth. It's much easier to remember." At my age now, my memory isn't getting any better. Besides, I figure that the truth is better for the human race than lies, ignorance, and wishful thinking. At minimum, it's more interesting.

* Can a society ever have too much diversity?

Personally, I like ethnic diversity a lot. I lived for many years in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago, where something like 100 different languages are spoken. I enjoy observing different kinds of people, and because I'm rather shy, the fact that I couldn't converse with most of my neighbors due to the language barriers wasn't much of a problem to me. And I didn't worry too much about crime because I'm a big galoot and muggers don't mess with me much.

But, just because I like diversity doesn't mean everyone else necessarily should. When you get right down to it, most intellectuals' prescriptions for how to improve the world is for the human race to Be Like Me. Well, I try not to be that dogmatic about imposing my tastes on others. For example, among all the professional film critics in this country, I probably spend the least time in my reviews explaining my opinion of the movie and the most time analyzing the issues it raises. I like understanding how the world works more than I like.

For example, precisely what I liked about Uptown was what made it a lousy place to raise a family due to it lack of neighborliness, crime, and public schools completely overwhelmed by the challenge of educating children speaking 100 different languages.

Ethnic diversity isn't of much interest or value to little kids. They need to learn to deal first with all the human diversity that is found in even the most mono-ethnic communities: young and old, boy and girl, and all the different personality types that you see even in one extended family. Further, kids need some homogeneity and safety so they can learn independence. Before the great crime wave began in the 1960s, kids used to walk or ride their bikes everywhere. Now, moms chauffeur their kids everywhere, which is bad for kids and bad for women.

Overall, like everything else in life, increased ethnic diversity comes with tradeoffs. The funny thing is that a lot of its side effects are precisely the ones that liberals say they oppose: for instance, diversity makes free speech less popular; it lessens community solidarity and support for welfare programs, and it vulgarizes the arts. That probably why so many liberals have moved to Howard Dean's and Bernie Sanders' Vermont, which is the whitest state in the country.

* What do you think about the flood of illegal immigrants into the US? Is that good for our country?

It's good for some people, bad for others. The problem is that most of the Americans it's good are already among the most privileged people in America -- factory owners looking for cheap, nonunionized labor; corporate farmers wanting to bust the UFW with scabs from south of the border; movie stars looking for cheap servants; Democratic politicians, ethnic activists, people who eat out at sit-down restaurants a lot (such as journalists), and so forth. In contrast, illegal immigration tends to be bad for the poor and working class of America -- it cuts their wages, messes up their public schools, increases the cost of health care because so few illegals have insurance that the cost of their care gets passed on by hospitals to the rest of us, and increases crime in their neighborhoods.

But while the victims of illegal immigration outnumber the beneficiaries, they don't have much influence compared to the privileged. If you look at poll results, the divergence between elite opinion and mass opinion is greatest on immigration. The privileged maintain their privileges by demonizing anyone who calls for the enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration as a "racist," "xenophobe," "nativist," etc.

* Which public figures talk about race honestly?

Minority comedians, mostly.

As the film critic for The American Conservative magazine, I've noted that you can show an honest view about race, but for talking about it, well, you might have to go back to Ron Shelton's comedy with Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, "White Men Can't Jump." Writers? Not too many Heather MacDonald, the boys at GNXP.com, Randall Parker, the amazing prose stylist who calls himself the War Nerd, John Derbyshire You can find a lot of the best free thinkers on my iSteve.com website under "Links".

* Is it good to be proud of being black? Is it bad to be proud of being white?

I don't have too much of a problem with either, but I think it's healthier for our country to inculcate non-racial loyalties, such as being proud of being an American citizen, which is a legal concept, not a racial one. I'm a "citizenist." I try to think about: "What is in the best overall interests of the current citizens of the United States?" In contrast, so many others think in terms of: "What is in the best interest of my: identity group / race / ethnicity / religion / bank account / class / ideology / clique / gender / sexual orientation / party / and/or personal feelings of moral superiority?" Precisely because basing loyalties upon a legal category defined by our elected representatives -- citizenship -- is so unnatural, it's the least destructive and most uplifting form of allegiance humanly possible on an effective scale. I believe in looking out for my fellow citizens, especially the ones who didn't get lucky in the genetic lottery for IQ, even if it means I have to pay a little more to have my strawberries picked. And that's one reason why I'm against illegal immigration -- the elites have trashed the concept of solidarity with our fellow American citizens in order import more cheap labor.

* Is race a concept that has a basis in reality? In genetics?

First, the human race is clearly one single, interbreeding species.

Second, there's a huge amount of confusion on this subject since the standard scientific model of race we've had since Linnaeus -- race as subspecies -- doesn't work very well in theory, although it turns out to be surprisingly close to adequate in practice, as the findings of population geneticists L.L. Cavali-Sforza and Neil Risch show. Risch, who is with the UC San Francisco Medical School, compared the racial self-identification of medical patients to what their genes said their background was and found over 99% agreement.

Third, the logical problems with the Linnaean taxonomic model of race, however, allow many people to advance the trendy Race Does Not Exist dogma by throwing difficult questions at supporters of the race as subspecies model, such as "So, how many races are there?" "What race is Tiger Woods?" "How can you belong to more than one race?" and "Can races change over time?"

But this conceptual fuzziness inherent in race is common in the natural world. The best example of the fuzziness of natural categories is the "extended family." All the criticisms made about the fuzziness of racial groups apply in spades to extended families. How many extended families do you belong to? Well, at least two: your mom's and your dad's. But they each belonged to their parents' two extended families, so maybe you belong to four. And your grandparents each belonged to two

And what are the boundaries of your various extended families? If the question at hand is who you'd give a spare kidney to, you'd probably draw the limits rather narrowly. But, when making up your Christmas card list, you probably toss in the occasional third cousin, twice removed. And exactly what's the appropriate name for all these extended families anyway?

In fact, extended families are even less clear-cut than racial groups. Yet, nobody goes around smugly claiming that extended families don't exist. I dislike the Linnaean model, with its implicit assumption of "A race for everyone and everyone in his race." All the Linnaean categories both below and above "species," such as "subspecies" or "genus," tend to be highly arbitrary. So I've been exploring an older definition of race, which has the advantages of both being almost undeniable to the point of tautology, and fitting closer with what people around the globe think of as race: lineage. By far the most useful definition of a racial group is "a partly inbred extended family."

Why is extended family such a perfect analogy for race? Because it's not an analogy. They are the same thing: kin, individuals united by common descent. There's no natural law defining where extended families end. A racial group is merely an extended family (often an extremely extended family) that inbreeds to some extent. It's this tendency to marry within the group that makes racial groups somewhat more coherent, cohesive, and longer lasting than smaller-scale extended families.

For example, oceans slow down intermarriage. The same is true for the Sahara and the Himalayas. Social barriers of language, religion, caste, class, etc. get in the way of the whole world turning into beige Tiger Woods-look-alikes.

* What do you think of the famous chapter on race and IQ in the book The Bell Curve?

Something that always kills me is how liberals denounce IQ as utterly meaningless, except when they claim IQ scores prove that they are smarter than conservatives. Right after the election, millions upon millions of liberals visited web pages reassuring them that the blue states had much higher average IQs the than red states (such as Connecticut 113 and Utah 87). But, as I pointed out, it was a complete hoax, an utter fabrication.

As for The Bell Curve, even though it is one of the biggest selling social science books since Kinsey, it is now out of print, which says a lot about the intellectual climate these days. As for the backlash against the book, well, as my friend Greg Cochran says, "Nobody ever gets that mad at somebody unless they are telling the truth."

In many ways, though, what interests me more in The Bell Curve is its analysis of trends that transcend race, such as the stratification of American society by IQ, a process that allows the clever to wage a clandestine class war against the clueless. Nobody on the higher IQ right half of the bell curve is very interested in the welfare of the left half of the bell curve, per se. I wrote a long series on how to help our fellow citizens on the left half of the Bell Curve, but I've never seen anybody else interested in the subject.

* Can a racial or ethnic or religious group only have good characteristics? Is ascribing only good to a group patronizing?

These days we're supposed to celebrate diversity - but not notice it! The reality is that life is about trade-offs. For example, in the last six Olympics, all 48 finalists in the men's 100-meter dash to determine the World's Fastest Man have been of West African descent. On the other hand, the kind of massive muscularity and minimal body fat percentage that allows people of West African descent to dominate sprinting makes them very bad at, say, English Channel swimming. Sprint champions tend to sink like stones.

Nobody can be best at everything. There's no such thing as racial supremacy. Nobody can be above average at everything either. We don't live in Lake Wobegon.

Chaim Amalek writes: "The interview you did with Steve Sailor is one of the best discussions of race I've ever seen on the internet. They could build a course around it at Stern College. Kudos to you for asking, and to him for answering."

I Am a Racially Profiling Doctor

The New York Times | May 5, 2002

By Sally Satel

In practicing medicine, I am not colorblind. I always take note of my patient's race. So do many of my colleagues. We do it because certain diseases and treatment responses cluster by ethnicity. Recognizing these patterns can help us diagnose disease more efficiently and prescribe medications more effectively. When it comes to practicing medicine, stereotyping often works.

But to a growing number of critics, this statement is viewed as a shocking admission of prejudice. After all, shouldn't all patients be treated equally, regardless of the color of their skin? The controversy came to a boil last May in The New England Journal of Medicine. The journal published a study revealing that enalapril, a standard treatment for chronic heart failure, was less helpful to blacks than to whites. Researchers found that significantly more black patients treated with enalapril ended up hospitalized. A companion study examined carvedilol, a beta blocker; the results indicated that the drug was equally beneficial to both races. These clinically important studies were accompanied, however, by an essay titled "Racial Profiling in Medical Research." Robert S. Schwartz, a deputy editor at the journal, wrote that prescribing medication by taking race into account was a form of "race-based medicine" that was both morally and scientifically wrong. "Race is not only imprecise but also of no proven value in treating an individual patient," Schwartz wrote. "Tax-supported trolling . . . to find racial distinctions in human biology must end."