An Honest Conversation About Race (Through Hip-Hop) Part Four: Genetics, IQ & Personality

DNA – Danny Brown

We heed the alarmists who ring that bringing up genetic differences between racial groups is liable to inspire more virulent renditions of yore’s most infamous crimes against humanity. So in the name of all that is humane and decent, we have made sure to do “research and homework,” before broaching the subject. Mind you, this has not been without acknowledging the violent and slanderous means those selfsame reproachful mouthpieces use to upend the lives of those who take a serious interest in it. 

Under the sway of amphetamines and the Muses, Brown produced a song that reveals what may be a crucial insight. An insight that one too many self-declared worshippers at the altar of Science—who tilt their fervent and dim belief in Darwin at the conservative and religious and all-around knuckle-dragging, creationist, dunderhead windmills, standing in the brisk and expansive prairie land wheatfield that is symbolic of their brains—reject offhandedly as wholly debunked, racist pseudoscience. Brown may have gotten away with this only by mischievously wrapping his apprehensions in the cloak of music.

    Psychology professor Richard Lynn—credited with uncovering the strong association between the average IQ of a nation’s people and its wealth and stability—was, ironically, the target of a misinformation campaign by those whom we assume were his former colleagues in the quest for truth. In 2018 Ulster University revoked Lynn’s emeritus title and repudiated him. As the university neglected to speak of the reasons it was deemed necessary to separate itself from the retired octogenarian, we can only speculate that the student union’s motion decrying his views as “racist and sexist in nature,” factored in as “relevant information” in their administration of “due process.” In our opinion, the professor’s views provide support for the message behind “DNA”. The upcoming quotations are taken from an article Lynn wrote for, the similarly maligned publication, American Renaissance in 2008: 

“For as long as official statistics have been kept, blacks in white societies have been overrepresented in all indices of social pathology: crime, illegitimacy, poverty, school failure, and long-term unemployment.”  

He goes on to assert that the “conventional liberal explanation” of “racism, past and present” is not a sufficient explanation for the self-destructive life choices so many blacks make. 

An alternative theory is proffered: 

“I propose that the variable that explains these differences is that blacks are more psychopathic than whites. Just as racial groups differ in average IQ, they can also differ in average levels of other psychological traits, and racial differences in tendency towards psychopathic personality would explain virtually all the differences in black and white behavior left unexplained by IQ.” 

While intriguing, extensive rap regarding the efficacy of instruments used to measure general intelligence or g—Ha! Orgy!—and personality will not take place here. Avail yourself of this 1996 American Psychological Association (APA) study, which was conducted by a supposedly heterogeneous band of researchers. They determined, somewhat begrudgingly, that “The critics do not dispute the stability of the test scores, nor the fact that they predict certain forms of achievement—especially school achievement—rather effectively.” 

The APA also attests that personality tests are, indeed, an “empirically supported” “proficiency in professional psychology” which can be used to “increase the accuracy of behavioral prediction in a variety of contexts[…]” So please do not glibly dismiss such tests as woo-woo or culturally-biased or whatever. 

What is more controversial, and relevant to us, is whether Nature plays a role in determining individual and group differences, as well as whether the races tend to be affected by divergent natural factors. In other words, is Brown correct in attributing the cause of his antics to the genes he inherited from his moms and pops? Does the race of his parents and their parents and so on have anything to do with this?

H2, a way of talking about how heritable measurable traits are, has continually been shown to be a significant determinant of a variety of characteristics in people. Setting up the conditions necessary to test the heritability of traits can be a little tedious: requiring sets of twins, fraternal and identical, raised together and separately. However, once those requisites have been met the rest is fairly simple. Paraphrasing Dr. Nancy Segal, a behavioral geneticist, and fraternal twin, just observing the grand and minute similarities between identical twins, regardless of whether they were raised together or apart, begets such profound inferences that they alone are eligible to qualify as scientific data. 

Identical or monozygotic twins are conceived from a single fertilized egg that has split into two, thus they have 100 percent of the same genes. Fraternal or dizygotic twins are conceived when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm. They have only 50 percent of their genes in common. By comparing the degree of commonality of traits within and between sets of twins, researchers can estimate just how much genes and/or the environment have to bear on the way they develop. Time and time again, traits such as intelligence and personality are found to be as highly heritable as traits that are generally accepted as being so, like height and dick size—we are speaking directly to you here, female heightists and size queens. And where the environment does play a role, an individual’s idiosyncratic experiences have more of an impact on their development than those which they share with their siblings.

Identical twins, raised in the same family and culture and country or otherwise, have an overwhelming degree of sameness relative to fraternal twins raised together. IQ and disposition sit high atop the list of things they share, alongside physical appearance and height. They have even been shown to prefer one another’s company despite being ignorant of each other’s existence for decades, express similar interests, and to naturally take identical postures. We dare you to offer a better explanation for these findings than genetics. It follows, then, that if your parents are stupid you, too, are likely stupid. Which, frankly, does not bode well for the writer’s own wits.

Being below average in intelligence does not predestine one to engage in the short-sighted, impulsive, and belligerent behavior depicted in “DNA”, yet that sort of conduct is often associated with being low-IQ. Again, like Brown, when he prespicaciously raps, “I’m a smart nigga that do dumb shit,” we should recognize that two seemingly contradictory things can be true at once.

When the IQs of prison inmates are measured, it is revealed that members of those populations do not just score slightly below the average—one or two or five points, say. They typically score one standard deviation below the norm, 15 points below the average of 100. Put more simply, the cognitive abilities of routine offenders are, statistically, poorer than those of over 80 percent of the general population. 

Intelligence in that range correlates with criminality probably because it impedes one’s capacity to look beyond the present moment and regulate his emotions. If he wants something now and has no voluntary or proper means of getting it, he simply takes it. The consequences of doing so have not occurred to him. Furthermore, being dumb makes learning a bitch. As education is usually a prerequisite for eligibility for more prestigious and higher-paying occupations, those lacking in intellect tend to fall out of the education truck and earn little money in menial, low-ranking positions. Crime can pay, making it a favourable alternative for dummies in dire straits. However, for better or worse, they tend not to be so artful at getting away with their violations of the law. 

Because what is inside a person’s head is so heritable, it may be concluded that we can be born with a predisposition to suffer from all the social maladies Lynn mentioned in his article. 

The average IQ for African Americans is 85. For Sub-Saharan Africans, it is 80 or lower.

Yet, as Lynn stated, IQ does not explain all the bad behaviour blacks are wont to get up to. There is another heritable psychological trait to be accounted for: personality. Neatly defined by Dr. Sandra Sanchez-Roige et al as, “the relatively enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that reflect the tendency to respond in certain ways in certain circumstances.” The abstract of their study also notes that personality is “moderately heritable, and can predict various life outcomes, including psychopathology.”

Personality can be broken down into five spectrums: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Psychological disorders can be viewed as the expression of extremely high or low scores in some combination of these dimensions. For instance, those diagnosed with psychopathy tend to have a combination of abysmally low agreeableness and conscientiousness. Speaking to the psychopath’s diminished capacity for empathy, willingness to violate social norms and laws, and poor self-control.

    Criminologist Matt DeLisi, in a study analyzing the potential group differences in personality, states:

“Within the Five Factor Model of Personality, a coherent profile of personality traits is commonly seen among antisocial individuals. Within Neuroticism, there is a tendency towards high anger and hostility, low self-consciousness, and high impulsiveness. Within Extraversion, there is a tendency toward low warth, low positive emotion, and high excitement-seeking. There are not expected associations within Openness to Experience. In structural models of personality, the strong effects are expected in Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. For Agreeableness, there is a tendency toward low trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness. For Conscientiousness, there is a tendency toward low competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation. These profiles are supported by multiple meta-analytic studies[…]”  

The rest of the study outlines how psychopathic and antisocial people are found to embody this highly impulsive, skeptical, aggressive, and non-conforming personality profile when assessed using several other instruments. Moreover, in a variety of studies, consisting of large and diverse samples, often but not across the board, blacks are found to have lower scores than whites, Hispanics, and Asians in agreeableness and conscientiousness. 

Merely finding evidence that genetics influence our temperaments and conduct does not help us understand how or which genes pull our biological strings. Thus, despite being admittedly out of our depth, we will indulge the spirits of Dunning and Kruger seated upon our shoulders, hazarding to discuss one well-known genetic puppeteer: the MAOA or Warrior gene. 

In the early 90s, as a result of examining a Dutch family whose male members were prone to violent outbursts, geneticist Dr. Han G. Brunner discovered that low-functioning variants or the complete absence of genes that promote for the production of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase alpha (MAOA) can lead to aggression and difficulties with self-control in the men who carry or lack them. The enzyme breaks down serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the synapses. Consistently high levels of these neurotransmitters can affect brain activity by exciting the amygdala and shutting off the prefrontal cortex—the emotional and rational parts of the brain, respectively.

It just so happens that at least a significant minority of African American men are carriers of low-functioning versions of the MAOA gene. This is relative to something like a fraction of a percent of white men.  

Note that we make no prescriptions about how these findings are to be addressed. The ushering in of some eugenics program is the most remote thing from our intentions. Notwithstanding, one can only come away with ambivalence on Danny Brown’s position on that matter:

“Rest in peace wack niggas, in oversized clothes

Complain about my genes (sic) cuz I’m taking all they hoes

Hold up, wait a minute

Your pussy ain’t shit until you had some Danny in it”

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