How a Young Black Man Became a Race Realist

Robert Smith writes:

It is the only view of the world that makes sense.
I am a 21-year-old black man. I am an atheist, a registered Republican, and a member of Mensa. Already a minority within a minority within a minority, I have yet another idiosyncrasy that puts me in an even more unusual category: I am a race realist. I believe that consistently observed racial disparities in societal outcomes are largely rooted in genetic differences, primarily differences in average levels of intelligence.

Elementary school

I grew up in a two-parent, upper-middle-class household in a predominately black city. My parents worked hard so I could attend high-performing private (predominately white) schools throughout my life. They taught me to be respectful, to value education, and to take life seriously. Most notably, they taught me that race did not matter in the least, and that one should not consider it either when forming friendships or when dealing with people in general. I had mostly white friends and sought to assimilate into mainstream American society.

Two incidents while I was in elementary school were informative from a racial perspective. I recall a visit to the local children’s museum in which historical footage was being shown. What particularly struck me was a recording of Africans swinging from vines in the jungle, wearing minimal clothing, and living in primitive conditions. This was an utter shock to my sensibilities. Prior to this, I had believed that Africans had sophisticated and technologically advanced civilizations. This image of Africans as simple and unaccomplished did not at all fit into the framework of my beliefs about the world. Moreover, this was an actual video recording, not something that could be dismissed as hearsay or fabrication.

Another noteworthy challenge to my views on race came in the form of an issue of National Geographic we were assigned to read in class. It was about ancient Egypt, which I had until then thought to be a black civilization. It included pictures of modern Egyptians who were more Arab in appearance and clearly not black Africans. I was disappointed, as my view of ancient Egypt as a black achievement had been jeopardized. These events forced me to reevaluate my worldview, although they did not yet sway me all the way to race realism.

Middle school

Once I reached middle school, I became even more aware of race. I went to a highly selective and academically rigorous Catholic school that prided itself on producing well-mannered Christian gentlemen. It required prospective students to submit elementary school grades and discipline records, and to take a standardized test in order to be admitted. The school was grade-level-accelerated, meaning that the curriculum was geared one level above students’ actual grade: fifth graders were expected to do sixth-grade work and so on.

I was one of only a few black children in a school of about 300 students. Hispanic and Asian enrollment was also low, but these groups were a similarly low percentage of the city’s population. What demanded an explanation was how blacks could be only one percent of the school’s students when they were 60 percent of the city’s population.

Aside from my shock on the first day of classes at how overwhelmingly white the school was and my later astonishment at how starkly my classmates’ views on Barack Obama differed from mine, race seldom came up and was never an issue. If anything, I could sense that other students felt compelled to be more kind and pleasant than they otherwise would have been so as to avoid accusations of racism. For example, there was a tradition, observed shortly before graduation, in which classmates chose by vote the person whom they considered most likely to become a priest. Although I had not done anything particularly virtuous, I was chosen for this honor.

I enjoyed a great deal of academic success. Within the school we were tracked by academic aptitude, and the highest-performing students were put in a particular homeroom. In accordance with my performance on the standardized admission test, I was put in the most academically accelerated homeroom, where I performed at the top of my class.

I never had any sense of anyone trying to hold me back. Many of my classmates were even heavily into black culture and kept up with the latest hip-hop and rap trends.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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