I firmly believe that dialogues between opposing viewpoints are crucial for responsibly developing academic and political opinions. I also believe, however, that some voices dismally fail to advance intellectual debate in a productive manner, and that ultimately, they are best left unheard. Among others, racists, misogynists and deniers of climate change all fall under that category. One of those voices, most relevantly, is that of Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author whom NU College Republicans are hosting this Wednesday.
Murray is best known for his book “The Bell Curve,” which he co-authored in 1994 with psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein. The 600-page text is available in PDF version online, and while it is far from light reading, it is easy enough to skim. Ultimately, Murray argues the key reason that certain racial and ethnic groups in America tend to be more oppressed or impoverished than others lies in intellectual disparity. Citing differences between black and white scores on IQ exams, Murray claims the divergence lies not in test bias, but rather in differences in “cognitive functioning.” As a result, “dysgenic pressures” are causing increased socio-economic divergences between whites and other groups. Murray reiterates this belief in an interview from 2014 where he states, “Since the decoding of the genome, it has been securely established that race is not a social construct, evolution continued long after humans left Africa along different paths in different parts of the world, and recent evolution involves cognitive as well as physiological functioning.”
Essentially, Murray is spouting the same rhetoric that fueled eugenics in the early 1900s and, ultimately, the Holocaust. He speaks of “dysgenic pressures,” and yet the whole notion of human dysgenics exists only in association with eugenics. It stems from the belief that certain population groups possess hereditary traits that are either unfavorable (dysgenics) or favorable (eugenics), and reproduction should be limited or encouraged accordingly. This is the foundation of racism and white supremacy, and Murray’s claims provide false validity to the overwhelmingly flawed notion that genetic makeup creates a natural hierarchy in which some ethnicities are inherently superior to others. It is a damaging, dangerous belief that should be absolutely intolerable in the modern era. And yet, NU College Republicans is providing it with a platform, describing Murray in their Facebook event description as a renowned intellectual rather than the bigot he really is.
In a 1994 interview with The New York Times Magazine, Murray said, “A huge number of well-meaning whites fear that they are closet racists, and this book tells them they are not. It’s going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say.” And, for once, Murray is exactly right. It is precisely texts like these that allow white supremacists to wrongly justify their beliefs, or believe they are appropriate interjections into the broader political and social discourse. It is something that we have seen time and time again, most recently through President Donald Trump’s racist and misogynistic rhetoric, which paved the way for atrocities like the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia just a few months ago. It is unacceptable, but it continues to happen, and only because people are continuing to listen.
There is a trend on liberal campuses in which students increasingly protest speakers simply due to differences of opinion, neglecting to consider that we can only progress as a society by attempting to understand one another and engage in fruitful debate. But at the same time, there are certain opinions that bring little, if any, productive discourse to the community, threatening to throw society backward rather than propelling it forward. Murray’s views are among those opinions, and fueling his ideas with money, time and respect is nothing more than a severe detriment to campus dialogue. By hosting him, NU College Republicans is unequivocally revealing the amount of bigoted intolerance that they are willing to tolerate themselves, making it crystal clear how little they respect the Northwestern community.
Ariel Sheffey is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.