In the weeks leading up to the midterms, there was a lot of noise. One comment from Michael Cohen got lost in that din. Cohen said that our soon-to-be ex-president said that, “Blacks won’t vote for me because they are too stupid.”
Trump’s comment would make headlines in any other administration. But between the Blue Wave, Honduran Caravan and the Mueller Probe, and encouraged by a new-found tolerance for official idiocy, it was apparently not “fake-news” worthy for the 24 hour cable news cycle. So, here it is now, sandwiched between MLK and Black History, with time to ponder this latest utterance in the spirit of William Shockley.
William Shockley was a physicist, and a very good one. Good enough to invent the transistor, making him one of the true pioneers of Silicon Valley. Good enough to win himself a Nobel prize.
As a brilliant physicist, Shockley was a lousy social scientist. The newly minted Nobel laureate opined that African Americans were genetically challenged in the IQ department. Not only had he gone outside his intellectual lane, but he crossed over into the dubious path of genetic determination based on race. Shockley even suggested that people with IQs of less than 100 undergo voluntary sterilization. In other words, Eugenics, a preoccupation of the Nazis. The premise is that when the future of humanity is at stake, this bozo wanted to cull the herd for survival.
It’s not only dumb; it’s ironic. Here’s why. The transistor made portable radios possible. In the 50s and 60s, teens listened to these proto-IPhones held to their ears. They even listened under the covers once their parents told them to go to sleep. And they listened to Rock and Roll. Parents worried about this Devil’s Music sexualizing their kids. Horrors!
Now, Rock and Roll had an enormous effect on bridging the racial divide. White teenagers listened, to this new kind of music; first, on race records made by black musicians and then by white musicians who copied them. The fact is there really is no black or white Rock and Roll; only a sensuous beat that could not be stopped. Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Little Richard were part of the same community. Pretty soon, the music was popular all over America, facilitating blacks and whites to cast aside some of their stereotypes and truly appreciate the music regardless of race. Long live Rock!
Over time, the music fundamentally changed the cultural landscape. Fans thought that if black people can write, arrange, perform and market music that reached into people’s souls, maybe blacks weren’t stupid after all. Jazz and classical musicians of unquestioned sophistication underscored this message.
Shockley tried to make the case for racial bifurcation. In fact, the transistor did so more to bring black and white Americans together than any of his nutty ideas kept them apart. This is what scientists call the Law of Unintended Consequences.