On Racist Junk Science and Heritage

TPM Reader MC on the seemingly unsinkable career of racist junk science …

The Jason Richwine/Heritage Foundation immigration study’s broad implications about the aptitude of Hispanic immigrants to become productive US citizens really touched a nerve with me. I strongly suspect I am not alone on the reasons why and I think this is an important point in the discussion of this controversy, because it suggests that the political reverberations may go much deeper than just playing badly on Univision.

The “lack of intelligence/ability argument” is a very old saw that was used extensively by past generations of bigots to demonize many immigrants to the US, particularly those from Southern and Eastern Europe – Italians, Poles, Greeks – as well as the Irish and others. And much like today, there was plenty of junk science and punditry claiming to back up these claims. However in 21st Century America, all of these groups have shattered that myth with undeniable achievement and no one making such claims about these groups today would be taken seriously, let alone be politically viable. I believe this fact is very salient in examining the lack of social, political, and scientific validity of the Rothwine/Heritage study and Rothwine’s past work that underlies the Heritage study’s reasoning. (Let’s make no mistake about those connections despite Heritage’s disavowal.) Bottom line – the reasoning of Rothwine and his ilk is personally offensive to me as the descendent of Italian and Irish immigrants, because it sounds painfully similar to the nature of the smears and discrimination perpetrated against my own immigrant ancestors that is remembered through more than a century of family history.

One last point – in searching for literature of these historic examples of this line of argument about immigration, I found an article entitled “Race, IQ, and Wealth” by Ron Unz, publisher of none other than The American Conservative magazine, which delivers several compelling rebukes to Richwine’s hypothesis. (And wonders, fairly I think, how the mainstream media, immigration advocates, and the political left have missed the opportunity to publicize the very data he cites.) I think other TPM readers who may be unfamiliar with The American Conservative would find Unz’ article very interesting.