THE FOCUS (3/1/2021)

A Color Blind Society

It is your ability to recognize the tree from its shadow, not your skin color, that defines you as a person

By Republic Report

I am not an anti white people. I don’t hate black people or yellow people, or people of any color--red, blue, purple, brown, or green. Skin color is irrelevant to me.

Skin color cannot open a bottle of wine. You need hands to do it. It cannot say “thank you”. You need a mouth to do it. It cannot discover an invention. You need a brain and persistency to achieve it. Talking about persistency, you need a mental strength to have it. And to have a mental strength, you need self-discipline to begin with. And so forth.

See, if you have self-discipline, mental strength, persistence, a little bit brain, and a little luck with physical appearances and stamina (no, nothing to do with skin color), you could be Christiano Ronaldo, or Denzel Washington, or Kathy Bates, or Michael Jordan, or Mother Theresa, or Maradona, or Jack Ma, or Amartya Sen (figure out who he is), Abraham Lincoln, or Einstein, or Beethoven of the world.  You could be anything in this world. But you could be nobody as well. It depends on how you use your existence to promote your life.  

The great Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.” In other words, when someone feels miserable, it actually begins with oneself: How the person thinks of himself/herself and also thinks of God who created him or her.

Skin color doesn’t define or make you as a person. Otherwise, God Himself has conspired from the outset to favor you or screw you, depending perhaps on His mood when He created you. And if that’s true, which means the Creator of the Universe has determined your life based on your skin color, then nothing you can do to change the trajectory of your life.

You may need first to petition to God to change His mind. Until then, the case closed.

Since all superlative or regular achievements in this world have been contributed by people from all different skin colors, it shows that God doesn’t really have any bias or preference on that matter. Otherwise, the Creator would have created a yellow-skin-color person with one eye to have disadvantage or advantage on vision or a white-skin-color person with three eyes to have a solid advantage or disadvantage in that business (having more eyes could create more distractions so it is not necessary an advantage). That would have been much easier to accomplish than the silly skin color.

The G-Factor

Perplexed with differences in observed people’s life achievements despite their similarities in key aspects of their physical appearances (having two eyes, two ears, one mouth, two legs, two hands, and so forth), scientists began to wonder the role of a hidden factor that we cannot see from the outside: brain. Maybe God did mess up when He created human beings or He indeed had planned it from the outset that people’s life trajectories are different based on the colors of their skin. He may have secretly put in our body by giving us brains with different sizes. 

A literature review on brain size and IQ by Rushton in his book Race, evolution, and behavior: a life history perspective found that African-descended people (Blacks) average cranial capacities of 1267 cm3, European-descended people (Whites) 1347 cm3, and East Asian-descended people (East Asians) 1364 cm3. These brain size differences, containing millions of brain cells and hundreds of millions of synapses, were considered to underlie the race differences on IQ tests, in which Blacks average an IQ of 85, Whites 100, and East Asians 106.

Whoa! God is unfair. Not so fast.

IQ is not everything in life. Even scientists agree with it. It is true that IQ tests test for the skills that are required for learning, such as short-term memory. For instance, someone who has a low IQ would find learning difficult and be unable to make correct inferences from existing knowledge. However, all of these tests are positively correlated to an underlying factor –called g–that accounts for 40-50% of the variation between IQ scores. 

The g factor was introduced by English psychologist Charles Spearman as the general mental ability which is required in all mental efforts. Spearman gave the name g to the common factor underlying all mental tasks. He suggested that g reflected individual differences in "mental energy".

Let us imagine that life consists of a series and parallel of constant mental tests. Under certain conditions, a person’s score of a mental test can be divided into two factors, one of which is always the same in all tests, whereas the other varies from one test to another; the former is called the general factor or g. It is akin to one’s mental asset that is endowed by God the Creator. We were born with a certain level of g factor.

In his book The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability published in 1998, psychologist Arthur Jensen argues that the g factor is important because it is a major node in a complex network of educationally, socially and economically important variables, which he then calls it  "the g nexus".

If g-factor, which is simply known as general mental ability (GMA) factor is so important to determine one’s life trajectory, how can it relate to brain size? Well, the not politically correct answer is, brain size is correlated to g-factor.

In their article published in International Journal of Neuroscience in 2009, Philippe Rushton and Davison Ankney show that (a) brain size is related to mental abilities, (b) brain size varies by sex and race, and (c) mental abilities vary by sex and race.

This should not be a surprise, a point which will be explained later. But those who have failed to grasp the complexity of life tend to view it from merely a racial prism or are blinded by certain political ideology they embrace. As a result, in trying to understand a somewhat complex phenomenon, they can arrive at some non-sensical conclusion. Consider an article published in the USNews in October 2020 titled “The Nobel Prizes’ Diversity Problem in Science”:

In more than 100 years since the awards were first given out, only 3% of science laureates have been women and zero have been black.

A 2017 National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics report shows that while white men make up only one-third of the U.S. population, they constitute at least half of all scientists.

There's no good reason students from underrepresented groups wouldn't start out aspiring to careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields at the same rates as their nonminority peers. But minorities, who comprise 30% of the U.S. population, make up only 14% of master's students and just 6% of all Ph.D. candidates. In 2017, there were more than a dozen areas in which not a single Ph.D. was awarded to a Black person, and these are primarily within the STEM fields. Only 1.6% of chemistry professors at the top 50 U.S. schools are Black. This gap hasn't changed much in the last 15 years. There are not enough Black full professors in the sciences at elite universities where the networks and reputations critical for winning a Nobel are made.

In other words, the Noble prize committee is racist! In fact, the author, a professor of chemistry, concluded that there is a systematic racism in the Noble prize decision makings and the final objective should be to have a Noble diversity.

The list of STEM Nobel laureates since 1901 sends the wrong message to young people, funding agencies, editorial boards and others about who does noteworthy science. Perhaps much more important, it is indicative of many biases and inequities that plague women and minorities in science. Colleges and universities host programs to support underrepresented groups in the sciences, but they are just Band-Aids on much bigger systemic issues in society. Without economic equity and educational parity, it will be hard to achieve Nobel diversity.

The author may have a noble heart, but not a Noble mind. First, is equality in all aspects of life really our terminal goal? Never mind that we can make the same silly argument that despite black Americans only 13.4% of the US population in 2019, but 74% of National Baseball Association players were blacks. Secondly, can you train a donkey to run like a thoroughbred horse, the fastest horse breed in the world with top speed at 44 miles per hour? Yes, both animals have four legs and can both run at some equal speed. But that's it. They have differences in some respects of their physical body. I can train myself 100 years, but while I could be a very good basketball player, I will never attain the level of Michael Jordan.  

Brain Evolution

Just like our physical appearances that have undergone evolution through the last several million years, and so do our brains. However, the evolution of our brain size and its neuron complexity is much slower. Philippe Rushton and Davison Ankney suggest that “over the last 575 million years of evolutionary history, neural complexity and brain size have increased in vertebrates and invertebrates alike, little of which can be explained by body size increases.”

Meanwhile, Dale Russell in his published paper in Advances in Space Research in 1983 calculated encephalization quotients, or EQs, a measure of actual brain size to expected brain size for an animal of that body weight and found that the mean EQ was only about 0.30 for mammals living 65 million years ago compared to the average of 1.00 today.

That means the mean of EQ for mammals have increased by 0.7 during the last 65 million years. Or, it has a growth rate of 0.00000185% per year. This suggests that while the brain size/GMA relation has shown a progressive trend upwards for 570 million years, the growth is super slow. By our mortal standard, not to mention our today’s past-face culture, that is essentially constant, not changing at all.

 So, God is not playing dice with our brains. He did not insert a code that will change the growth rate of people’s brains based on their skin color. But He does give a little room for people to enlarge their brain.

The F Factor

In line with Spearman’s conclusion that the g-factor is the general mental ability that has a certain level, Jensen argues that a person's level of g is a threshold variable. Above a certain threshold, other factors, non-g abilities and talents, including personality differences, are critical for educational and vocational success. Let’s just call it the “F” factor and see how it is related to our brain development since our childhood.

Writing in Smithsonian magazine, New York Times best-selling author, Alexandra Horowitz said:

Consider, though, the strange case of that growing child. Every infant’s brain develops through a period of synaptogenesis—wanton proliferation of synapses, which are the connections between neurons—in the first year or so of life. But one could argue that it is when this intense brain growth ends that the real growth of the child qua individual begins. The next phase of brain development occurs in large part through an increase in synaptic pruning: paring of those connections that are not useful for perceiving, considering or understanding the world the child is facing. In this sense, it’s by downsizing that an individual’s brain is born.

This is echoing what Spearman has acknowledged years ago that "Every normal man, woman, and child is … a genius at something.” He then emphasized the role of “eductive” ability to make meaning out of confusion. Which means twins raised by two different approaches or in two different environments can have different life trajectories because their brains will have different abilities to sort out the essentials from non-essentials in understanding the world. As they are able to sort out the complexity, they are downsizing the “unimportant” and upsizing the “important” part of the brains.

Brain size is environmentally sensitive. Marian Diamond, considered one of the founders of modern neuroscience and one of the foremost researchers of the anatomy of the brain, who communicated her research in her book Enriching Heredity: The Impact Of The Environment On The Anatomy of The Brain (1988), reveals how the mammalian cortex can actually be enlarged if properly nurtured--with a good diet, spacious living quarters, or access to stimulating objects. In her experiment she found that rats raised in complex environments have thicker cortices and larger brains than rats reared in impoverished environments.

As Philippe Rushton and Davison Ankney suggest, “the direction of causality is bidirectional and complicated by gene–environment correlations and interactions. Genes for GMA (general mental ability) likely cause individuals to experience more stimulating and complex environmental situations, thereby increasing their brain size and creating a ‘benign circle’ between brain size and intellectual performance.”

This is easily captured by the old saying that goes along this line: “train your brain otherwise it will not function”. Of course, our awareness and willingness to train our brain is related to a host of "F" factors or traits related to one's life environment and existence such as faith, family, friends, fortitude, forbearance, and faithful. Not the other "F" word. 

Beside faith, family is the closest environment to one’s life. 

A Real Life Story

Combined with one’s closest life environment or family, the general secret of a person's successful life journey lies in his or her self-determination, not his or her skin color.

Consider the life journey of Sadio Mané. Non-football fans (soccer, not American football) may not recognize him, but he is among the top ten football players in the world and plays with Liverpool FC, arguably one of the world’s top five football clubs in the world.

He was not raised in a rich family or an environment that had well equipped football training facilities. He was born and raised in the village of Sedhiou in south-west Senegal, Africa. Everyone in the Mané family placed school ahead of sport in the list of priorities.

In an interview published at SUN Newspaper, Mané said, “They preferred me to go to school all the time to study. But I was only focussed on being a footballer. “They would say it was not possible because the village was too far from Dakar." 

“But I knew I would be a footballer but I just did not know how. It was the only thing I knew and I always trained and trained and trained.

And he has an earnest message for the average teenager who prefers a little extra free time. “That’s a real mistake,” insists Mané. “When you’re young, that’s when you have to make the most of it; to work even harder. Everything that’s happened to me is the result of hard work.”

As reported in Fourfourtwo, a website dedicated to football news, features, and statistics:

When he was nearly 16, Mané ran away to Dakar, Senegal’s capital, in order to find football fame. In true teenage style, he’d hidden his sports bag in the long grass outside his house the previous night, and told only his best friend. His misadventure was soon discovered and curtailed, but he won permission for a real tilt at his dream in exchange for finishing the school year.

It was an internal strength which comes from within himself that drove Mané to success. But he also stated that his success is linked to the family. Mané once asserted: “You can say, ‘I don’t know where I’m going’, but you can’t say, ‘I don’t know where I’ve come from’. You must always think of those who brought you up and helped you.”

In 2017, Denzel Washington, who starred as an idealistic defense attorney in his new movie Roman J. Israel, Esq., said upbringing and a lack of father figures are the main reasons why so many young men spend time in prison.

Asked if the movie has made him more cynical about the justice system in the US, Washington said: “It starts at home.”

“It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn't have a father figure, he'll go find a father figure. So you know I can't blame the system. It's unfortunate that we make such easy work for them,” added the actor.

Mané’s father died when Sadio was 11. But he was raised by his mother, his uncle and his grandmother, which provided him with a cohesive family support system, at least mentally. What Denzel Washington also means is that in the absence of father figures in the family, due to death for instance, stable figure(s) from within the family can be alternative. What he was worried is, without stable figure(s) substitute, young men may end up looking up to bad people as alternatives for their father figures. 

 

Mané’s extended family, at least 40 of them, now live in a mansion he had built for them.

Tree vs Shadow

God has endowed each of us with a brain. It is our brains that elevate us to a place where we’re able to pursue our dreams, but it’s often our self-determination coupled with a cohesive family support system that enable it to continue the journey and overcome life challenges, however difficult they are. Borrowing Abraham Lincoln’s words, “Self-determination is like a tree and success is its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”

We often confuse the shadows from the trees and we end up chasing shadows and forgetting to teach trees—the perseverance and the importance of cohesive family--to the young generations. The Apostle Paul wrote in the Romans 5:3-4, suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope.

His perseverance also shaped Mané’s character.

Let me bring the original quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Character is like a tree and reputation is its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”

Somehow we want to take care of the social problems in our society by offering people the shadows in order to satisfy our utopian view, forgetting the fact the trees (perseverance, cohesive family, and character) are the real solution to the problems. One of the shadows we have been offering them is the color of our skin matters.

I am not an anti white people. I don’t hate black people or people of any color--red, blue, yellow, purple, brown, or green. Skin color is irrelevant to me.

What I hate is people who see every problem in the world from a prism of skin color.  I don’t know whether the reason the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites about 3800 years ago was due to the latter’s skin color or not. If today’s skin color of the two groups of people was the same as they were during the period of enslavement (which was highly likely), the 430 years of the slavery had little to do with the Israelites’ skin color. ‘

Suffering can come in many shapes and forms and with any reason that has nothing to do with skin color. The only difference between the victors and the losers is not the color of their skin, but their ability to recognize the trees from their shadows. That defines one as a person.

Rev. Martin Luther King once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

In today’s environment, it seems a more relevant dream is “I have a dream that people in our society will be seriously instilled with values stressing that the content of their character, not the color of their skin, is the paramount importance in their lives.”

 

Extra Readings

Family Breakdown and Poverty

The Role of Discipline and Determination in Your Success

Denzel Washington Speaks Out: Don’t ‘blame the system’ for black

incarceration, ‘it starts at home’

Building Resilience Boosts Success: Family Cohesion

Family Breakdown and Its Consequences

Why Brain Size Doesn’t Correlate with Intelligence: We Can Nurture Growth, But Never Really Control It

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