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1963 Civil Rights March on Washington
Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.
brought civil
rights to the
fore of
Distinctions of "race" discredited  
The Nazi horrors discredited eugenics as a social program. Studies in social and biological science repudiated its stigmatizing theories of human difference, showing that what it took to be distinctions of race were actually those of ethnicity. In the United States, the social policies that reduced discrimination and expanded opportunity worked with the passage of time to produce their salubrious effects among the newer immigrants and their descendants, including socioeconomic improvement and, eventually, par performance on IQ tests. Between the 1930s and the 1980s, whites' scores on such tests rose some 14 points. Blacks' scores rose, too, though not as much. Still, along with the change in whites' scores, the increase indicates that test results are not rigidly fixed by genes, but are also sensitive to changes in education, opportunity, and scholastic ambition.  

Blacks have resided on the American continent for the better part of four centuries; nevertheless, it is mainly since World War II -- but even more so since the 1960s -- that they have passed on their migration to freedom from a United States that was legally segregated and in countless ways racially oppressive to the contemporary nation, where, although racism continues its poisonous work, new standards of law and tolerance better protect dignity and beckon ambition. In a sense, blacks as a community have only just embarked on the journey that many white immigrant groups took several generations to complete. It is not unreasonable to conceive that, as it was for those white minorities, so it will be -- given enough time and good will -- for nonwhite minorities, including the flood of recent newcomers to the United States.

The roots of human behaviors and capacities are complicated. Attempts to probe them for the role of genes may try to allow for contemporary environmental differences, but they tend to be blind to the cultural and psychological impact of past experience. They rely on measures that fail to capture attitudes, aspirations, expectations, and, above all, social hope. In short, they can be blind to the legacy of history.

new citizens saying the Pledge of Allegiance
Recent immigrants
to the United States
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