Is “Diversity” Killing Black Men?

Ron Howell (Yale, ’70), a journalism professor at Brooklyn College, writesin the current issue of the Yale alumni magazine that

over the years I have from time to time floated the idea that some racist scientist had slipped poison into our milk, after our births or while we were at Yale. Others, not easily inclined to conspiracy theories, have also puzzled at what seemed to be a disproportionately high death rate for black Yalies.

After the death of one of his black Yale friends Howell

did some counting and came up with 84 members of the Class of ’70 who were deceased, nine of them blacks who entered with us in 1966. Thus, while we African Americans were 3 percent of the Class of ’70, we were more than 10 percent of the deaths. Put another way, we have been more than three times more likely to die than the average class member.

Howell does not attribute this disparate death rate to poison in the milk, and, good reporter that he is, duly notes that it is well established that black males in America, not just Yale, die earlier than whites — “For white men, 76.2. For black men, 70.9.” But that disparity is usually attributed to poverty, crime, lack of access to good health care, etc., explanations that shouldn’t apply to black Yale graduates.

So the question is this: are the black men who went to Yale and similar institutions in the throes of the blooming civil rights era of the ’60s–and who represented the first significant presence of African Americans on Ivy League campuses–now experiencing inequality in death, as their forebears did in life?

“Many scientists,” it pains Howell to report, “believe the answer is yes,” agreeing with sociologist David R. Wilson that “for some indicators of health … the racial gap becomes larger as [the socioeconomic status] increases.” A number of experts, Howell continues, “back up sociologist Williams’s findings, saying that not only do higher-income black males fare worse than their white counterparts, but they also fare worse–in terms of morbidity and certain illnesses — than lower-income, less highly educated blacks.”

The explanation, according to Howell and the experts he cites, “is a phenomenon known as ‘John Henryism,’ a determination among these men to succeed even at the cost of their health.” Like the folk hero John Henry, they labor valiantly but in vain to beat the forces — steam drills, discrimination, whatever — arrayed against them. Howell quotes a 2006 study by Duke psychiatrist Christopher L. Edwards:

People who are so intensely success-oriented and goal-directed, even beyond their resources such as income, education, or family support, might seem to succeed at first. But, long term they are likely to fail because their lack of resources will catch up to them. Add to that the African American situation, which, for many, includes an expectation that failure is inevitable, and you find yourself in a most destructive situation. They end up compromising their health, with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and death.

Similarly, Keith C. Ferdinand, chief science officer for the Association of Black Cardiologists who attended Cornell in the late 1960s, has argued that “hypertension in black men may be related to ‘intensive stress when it comes to achieving in an environment where they’re underappreciated or working against barriers.'”

After reviewing this evidence and his own experience, Howell agrees.

racial experiences of blacks from a generation ago were significantly more fraught with pain and anxiety than is the case now, especially for those higher up the socioeconomic ladder; and that racial slights had unique debilitating effects on blacks, especially on black males, who were programmed to sense potential infliction of pain even in minor acts of disrespect, or even in the mere approach of, for example, a police officer. This leads to bad, deadly stress.

I’m sure that Howell is right that the pain of being a black man in America was worse a generation ago, but I think he’s wrong (dead wrong?) in supposing that consequently the “anxiety” and sensitivity to “racial slights,” real or imagined, is less now than then. Indeed, I think the opposite is true: the more campuses lean over backwards to promote “inclusion” and multiculturalism, etc., the more they cultivate a hothouse racial atmosphere where all the skins, not just the “diverse” ones, are even thinner than they used to be.

Perhaps all the pious paeans to “affirmative action” and “diversity” that proliferate on university web sites and promotional materials should be accompanied by a “WARNING! Diversity may be hazardous to your health!” 

John S. Rosenberg

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

3 thoughts on “Is “Diversity” Killing Black Men?

  1. The major point of contention here might be Mr. Rosenberg’s apparent inability to appreciate the vast, pervasive, astounding changes that have taken place, demographically, socially and politically, at Yale and other campuses across America over the past two generations.
    Or it could be that his mind and eyes have taken in those transformations, but will not acknowledge how they have so positively re-made the American academy and its new inhabitants?
    I — one of those black males who matriculated at Yale in the ’60s and, yes, has felt race-induced anxiety in his lifetime — today visit Yale’s campus and feel an almost breathtaking awe that reinforces my faith in the sincerity of the American dream — DKE notwithstanding. To stand at Elm and York and see such an array of people and sense such a variety of lifestyles and ambitions leaves me dreamy.
    And so the goal of keeping blacks out of Yale — which seems to be the hotly embraced mission of Mr. Rosenberg and Dinesh D’Souza — seems such a waste of time, so outdated and even (in the context of all we have been through in the past ten years) small-minded.
    Further, I simply cannot comprehend how Mr. Rosenberg can say “the pain of being a black man in America” is worse today than it was a generation ago. Unless, that is, his remark is a couched attempt to deny the good that Barack Obama — his presence on the scene and his election — has done for the American character.
    Perhaps therein lies the answer.
    –Ron Howell

  2. Blacks reach sexual maturity, fertility, and full size earlier than whites. Among some races of black Africa, dramatically earlier.
    We should therefore be unsurprised that they age faster and die earlier.
    Genes show that black Africans are significantly more closely related to Chimps than whites are related to Chimps. See “The Root of the Phylogenetic Tree of Human Populations” by Masatoshi Nei and Naoko Takezaki
    Chimps have a substantially shorter lifespan than whites. We should therefore be unsurprised that the natural lifespan of blacks is significantly shorter than that of whites.
    The ancestral environment of whites was based on assets and artifacts. If he lacked shelter and food stores for winter, he died. The ancestral environment of blacks was similar to that of chimpanzees. He wandered naked through the jungle looking for food, and slept naked on the dirt.
    An environment where one accumulates assets selects for longevity more than an environment where one does not.
    Table 1 of Nei and Takezaki shows blacks the same genetic distance from Chimps as whites, and other races further from chimps than blacks or whites, but shows the distance between blacks and whites to be half the distance between chimps and humans.
    Table 2 of Nei and Takezaki on the other hand, suggests that all human races are closely related to each other, unlike what is suggested by Table 1, but some of them are more closely related to chimps than others, blacks being significantly more closely related to chimps than whites are related to chimps.
    Table 3 of Nei and Takezaki suggests that all human races are closely related to each other, but blacks are slightly closer to chimps than whites are.
    Table 4 of Nei and Takezaki, somewhat paradoxically, suggests that all human races are closely related to each other, but that black africans are a lot closer to chimps than whites are. It also suggests that whites are markedly closer to chimps than asians are.
    Figure 1 suggests that all races have undergone roughly the same amount of evolution, though it does not follow that they evolved in the same direction. One race might have evolved physical resistance to cold, while another race might have evolved the intellectual abilities to create shelter and clothing.
    Figures 2, 3, and 4 suggests that African races have undergone substantially less evolution than out of Africa races, and that the amount of evolution is for the most part roughly proportional to the distance from Africa, which is reasonable because environmental change induces faster evolution.
    Outside of Africa, the southernmost races of man, not the whites, are by and large the most evolved, but the southernmost races were notorious for sleeping naked in the snow and frost, so most evolved does not necessarily equate to most human. Human is living by artifacts, thus the most human races are those whose ancestral environment was most dependent on artifacts for survival, not those whose ancestral environment differed most from that of chimps.
    The general evolutionary trend is to higher and higher evolutionary grade, but this is not because most races and species tend towards higher evolutionary grade, but because those that attain higher evolutionary grade tend to exterminate those that do not. Evolution is not necessarily upwards, until after the extinctions and genocides are done. Then evolution tends to be upwards.

  3. Or, it could be that the ancestors of Euro Americans and NorthEast Asians went through an ice age, and thus to survive had to evolve more of a future-time orientation than the people living in the warm tropics. Thus perhaps modern African Americans, in whatever socioeconomic bracket, have (on average) less of a future-time orientation than whites do (on average), and thus take care of their health less.
    I find it inappropriate that so much social “science” research (really, political advocacy) compares African-American (health, economic, educational, etc) outcomes with Euro-American outcomes (and usually finds some sort of “gap” that must be redressed *right now* omg crisis). Really, the comparison group of interest might just as well be Africans in black-run countries – compared to which the outcomes for African-Americans end up looking pretty good.

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