DNA Founder, James Watson, More Racist Than We Thought

By Jonathan Adams Jun 02, 2008

Henry Louis Gates, editor of TheRoot.com and host of the series African American Lives, a geneological quest of Black celebrities, is continuing his pursuit of race in biological terms. Today, Gates released an interview with Dr. James Watson, founder of DNA, who recently came under fire for arguing that Africans where genetically inclined to be intellectually inferior.

The 79-year-old geneticist said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.". He said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. [Times Online]

It’s clear that Dr. Watson, 80, didn’t just misspeak when he said that Black people do not have equal intelligence to their white counterparts. Watson continues to defy the laws of science as his foot goes even further in his mouth when he says athleticism is also genetically linked with race.

JW: I was watching the basketball games yesterday. And I’m just trying to say, you dominate. HLG: Oh, you mean black people? JW: Yes. HLG: In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not exactly a basketball kind of type. But could that be genetic, the dominance that you described in the NBA yesterday? JW: I don’t know what it’s due to. Because we haven’t found genes. You know, genes depending on what sort of types of muscles, slow twitch, fast twitch. I don’t think it’s going to change things much. White runners will still try to beat black runners. And they’ll largely lose. But they’re gonna try. If you’re a sprinter, you’re going to try to run as fast as you can.

Watson continues on like this for the rest of the interview. Read the unedited transcript here. But I think Skip Gates’ comments during the interview are also noteworthy. With his obsession with the biological understanding of race (add up two shows searching for his Irish family, the website, and interviews with the founder of DNA and you get more than simple intrigue), it makes me wonder why the Harvard professor doesn’t see the danger in these pursuits. It’s easy to see what people who have been stripped of ancestral history can get from researching and uncovering the figures of the past, but placing value in the percentage of white blood a person has is a slippery slope with unquestionable consequences. As a leading scholar on race, Gates’ endorsement of race through a biological lens even if it is only finding out your DNA moves away from the real issues. While Gates thinks that giving young Black students DNA tests to uncover their paternal blood line will make them succeed, I would much rather address the real policies that have excluded generations of Black students from having the same access to quality education as their white counterparts.