Combatting White Supremacy: The Pressing Need to Make the Baseless “Scientific” Origins of Race and Their Place in Society Part of American Curriculum

By Matthew Fellows
Associate Editor, Vol. 25

Race is a human invention. Although made up, race theories in their inception were offered and accepted as constituting natural scientific fact. The hierarchies created out of pen and paper articulated what people thought was a proper arrangement of the natural order.[2] “Preracist” notions on non-whites gave rise to those scientific and “biologically-grounded” ideas that would encompass race in its beginning; however, whites would continue to produce ideas of race couched in “biological thinking” into the twentieth century.[3]

An illustration from an 1899 book exemplifying the deluded belief in “race science.”

From the beginning, these ideas existed to maintain white superiority. Eventually they were proffered as contributions to a field of “scientific” study of races­­—­­­their characteristics and fate—and often reflected relevant societal concerns involving race.[4] Notwithstanding the insidious purposes behind its social construction and baseless “science” on which it was formed, race has remained a potent identification device in American society that is still used to gather policy-guiding statistics and attaches cultural-behavioral assumptions wherever it goes.[5] Today prominent political commentators continue to espouse race as “the foundations of human grouping” along with classic scientific racism beliefs that there are inherent characteristics of each group, which forms a hierarchy with whites at the top.[6] Because of the resurgence of white supremacy and white nationalism,[7] debunking any notions of valid attachments of scientific qualities inherent to any race regarding intelligence and capacity is vital to ensuring overt or tacit racial scientific thinking becomes divorced from common understanding on the issue. To help accomplish this the U.S. Department of Education and state education agency equivalents should use their guidance-issuing authority to encourage curriculum development and informed discussions in schools around race. The federal, state, and local education authorities should then work together to develop the substance of such curriculum and discussion and implement it.

A Short Survey of the Evidence of a Problem

As stated above, some prominent scholars and political commentators still espouse distinctions in intelligence based on race.[8] These thinkers are not fringe figures without meaningful roles or platforms when it comes to policymaking and popular discourse direction. They include individuals who hold PhDs from Harvard[9] and have authored immigration policy reports for the Heritage Foundation[10] and contribute to[11] and edit the National Review.[12]

Jason Rinchwine, the PhD from Harvard and immigration report author, argued in his thesis, titled “IQ and Immigration Policy,” that “[t]he average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population,” and that “the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent.”[13] Apart from his thesis (inexplicably accepted by the Kennedy School of Public Policy), Rinchwine has advocated a natural hierarchical order of the different races, stating in a 2008 speech that “[a]t least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks.”[14] Despite these views, Rinchwine helped author an immigration report for the influential Heritage Foundation in 2013, before resigning from the organization after the substance of his thesis came to light.[15] The world should be so lucky that this would mean the end of Rinchwine’s holding of a meaningful platform, but, instead, “[s]ince his resignation from the Heritage Foundation, Rinchwine has continued his laser focus on immigration restrictionism, writing papers . . . for the National Review,” including one article which came to the vigorous defense of University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Amy Wax after she expressed similar inherent racial intelligence sentiments in 2018.[16]

Other figures that think in a similar vein who have possessed a prominent platform on which to espouse their beliefs include Peter Brimelow and John Derbyshire.[17] Brimelow was fired from the National Review in 1997 for his racist worldview and founded the popular white supremacist website VDare two years later.[18] VDare has been cited by prominent figures like Laura Ingraham and has encouraged white nationalist scientific racism thinkers to contribute to the website.[19] Brimelow continues to speak at alt-right conferences and media platforms. Derbyshire was similarly fired from the National Review in 2012 for expressing views like Rinchwine’s, that non-white races have permanent and inherently inferior IQ than whites.[20] John O’Sullivan is, at least at time of writing, an editor-at-large of the National Review.[21] O’Sullivan, too, has connections to racist ideology as he formerly served on the board of the VDare Foundation, which funds projects to further the website’s white supremacist agenda.[22]

What Can be Done by Education Authorities and Educators?

The U.S. Department of Education and state equivalents should adopt guidance letters encouraging more local entities to develop strategies and curricula to promote an accurate understanding of race. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education can issue a “Key Policy Letter,” which is a policy letter on matters “that may be of interest, signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Education Secretary, and are provided by the Executive Secretariat, Office of the Secretary.”[23]

State education departments can issue similar guidance and add to the social studies curriculum for students to understand race as divorced from behavioral scientific ideas.[24] Further, some state legislative education committees can accomplish this task through their legislative powers as well.[25] Any guidance issued by state or federal education bodies should be followed up by a close working relationship with local school districts and educators that choose to take action from such guidance to develop specific methods to implement discussions and curriculum on the topic in classrooms.

The local educators and school boards are best positioned to take final actions because they understand their locality’s needs and the appropriate ways to address the topic within different age groups best. Action at the local school level may not entirely solve the issue presented here. Yet, it would go a long way in ensuring that overt scientific racism does not gain more traction during this time of resurgent white supremacy and white nationalism. School action can also quash the potential for these pseudoscientific racial ideas to remain on a subconscious level among a broader portion of the public who would not espouse the “intellectualized” type of racism of figures like the National Review’s Rinchwine.

[1] Thomas F. Pettigrew, The Sociology of Race Relations: Reflection and Reform 1-9 (Thomas F. Pettigrew ed., 1980).

[2] Id.

[3] George M. Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny 1817-1914 xi (1971).

[4] Id.

[5] United States Census Bureau, Why We Ask About Race; David Amodio et al., Neural Signals for the Detection of Unintentional Race Bias, 15 Psychological Science 88 (2004),

[6] Jane Coaston, Peter Brimelow and VDare, the White Nationalist Website With Close Ties to the Right, Explained, Vox, Sept. 24, 2018, (quoting white supremacy website VDare’s self-description and detailing prominent white supremacy and nationalist writers who also have or recently have had platforms on mainstream political outlets); Jane Coaston, National Review’s Weak Attack on Affirmative Action, Vox, May 21, 2018, (surveying recent scientific racism works by prominent law and policy commentators after University of Pennsylvania Law School professor made remarks of similar sentiment in 2018).

[7] Center on Extremism, New Hate and Old: The Changing Face of American White Supremacy, Anti-Defamation League,

[8] Coaston, National Review’s Weak Attack.

[9] Jon Wiener, Why Did Harvard Give a PhD for a Discredited Approach to Race and IQ?, The Nation, May 11, 2013,

[10] Philip Bump, Heritage Foundation Cuts Ties to Jason Richwine, The Atlantic, May 10, 2013,

[11] Coaston, National Review’s Weak Attack; Coaston, Peter Brimelow.

[12] Coaston, Peter Brimelow; John O’Sullivan Bio, The National Review,

[13] Coaston, National Review’s Weak Attack (describing Rinchwine thesis).

[14] Id. (presenting Rinchwine 2008 speech at the American Enterprise Institute).

[15] Id.; Bump, Heritage Foundation Cuts Ties.

[16] See Coaston, National Review’s Weak Attack.

[17] Coaston, Peter Brimelow.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Coaston, National Review’s Weak Attack.

[21] John O’Sullivan Bio.

[22] Coaston, Peter Brimelow; but see also, John O’Sullivan, V-Dare, The National Review, April 17, 2012, (O’Sullivan claiming he has not played a role in V-Dare after his resignation from the board in 2007, and that he has “no sympathy” for white nationalism because he “think[s] it is silly”).

[23] Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary, U.S. Dep’t of Educ., (last modified March 11, 2019).

[24] See, eg. Michigan Academic Standards, Michigan Dep’t of Educ.,,4615,7-140-28753_64839_65510—,00.html.

[25] See, e.g. David Eggert, Michigan’s Legislative Education Board Approving Guidance on LGBT Inclusivity, Lansing St. J., Sept. 14, 2016,