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"What I meant to Say Was..Uh"

recorded 11/1/07

1) 2:50 Radio Essay- Mp3

2) 3:51 Radio Essay Mp3

"What I Meant to Say Was....Uh...."

[col. writ. 10/30/07] (c) '07 Mumia Abu-Jamal


    Once again, a major American scientific figure has emerged from the shadows of his laboratory, to insult Black people, and their genetic inability.

    The latest, James D. Watson, a co-winner of the 1962 Nobel prize for deciphering the double-helix of DNA, made statements in a recent interview that spanned the globe.

    Speaking to the Times of London (published Sun., 10/14/07) he spoke of "the prospect of Africa" as "inherently gloomy".  The British newspaper quoted Dr. Watson as saying, "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really."

    Presumably, by "ours" Dr. Watson meant, not Americans, but white people.

    Days later, Dr. Watson issued a statement saying he couldn't "understand" how he could have said such a thing.  Added the biologist, "There is no scientific basis for such a belief."*

    Some of us remember similar slurs launched by Nobelist, William B. Shockley, who asserted that inherent characteristics like intelligence are attributable to skin color.

    These scientific slurs aren't the first such attacks on Black intelligence; it won't be the last.

    They remind us that scientists are often experts in their fields of study, but idiots in other areas of life.

    Dr. Watson studied biology.  Dr. Shockley  won his 1956 Nobel in physics, for his part in the discovery of the transistor.

    Neither man had expertise in the social sciences.

    For them not to know of such studies is equivalent to the old Sufi story of the mullah who lost his purse, but was looking in the wrong place to find it.  When others asked Mullah Nasruddin why he was looking in a place where he couldn't have lost his purse, he replied, "Because the light is better here."

    Drs. Watson and Shockley looked within to explain something that they saw around them, and we shouldn't be surprised at their observations.

    That said, it is undeniable that Black Americans perform woefully worse than their white, Asian, or Latina counterparts in educational testing. Could the reasons lie in the equally undeniable fact that school funds are raised, almost universally, on property taxes, which, in most inner cities, amounts to little?  That such a design was guaranteed not just to create a failing, under funded and under resourced educational system -- but one that continues to be so?

    Just several months ago, an American monthly magazine published a special article on Africa.  In an article penned by Kenyan writer, Wainaina Binyavanga, a 2003 study by a State University of New York - Albany sociologist showed that "Africans averaged the highest attainments of any group in the United States -- higher even  than whites and Asians."

    Africans are the highest academic achievers in U.S. colleges?

    I don't remember reading this in my local [or national] newspaper!

    Apparently, neither did Dr. Watson.

    Perhaps if he did, he would have rethought his ideas, for if African-Americans perform one way, and continental Africans perform another way, then genetics is clearly not the culprit.

    In Black America, which has had its share of slurs cast its way, it should also be inspiring to know that Africans  coming here are outscoring all of their peers.

    It shows what is possible.

-(c) ''07 maj

[*Sources: Dean, Cornelia, "Nobel Winner Issues Apology for Comments About Blacks," New York Times, Fri., Oct., 19,2007, p.A24. ; Binyavenga, Wainaina, "Generation Kenya, "Vanity Fair (July 2007), pp.84-94, citing 2003 study by Dr. John R. Logan, Lewis Mumford Center/ SUNY-Albany.]

[Mr. Jamal's recent book features a chapter on the
remarkable women who helped build and defend
the Black Panther Party: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.


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[Check out Mumia's latest: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal

For additional information and to order Mumia's new book We Want Freedom,

visit: southendpress.org

Check out Mumia's NEW book:
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com