Charles Murray’s Facing Reality
F. Roger Devlin, VDARE, June 14, 2021
Charles Murray’s just-published Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America is an elegantly brief (168 pages) essay devoted to summarizing the great mass of evidence for the existence and persistence of significant racial differences in two areas: 1) cognitive ability, aka intelligence, and 2) violent crime rates. Taken together, this evidence is irrefutable, and informed experts have pretty well given up contesting it. In dramatic contrast, public debate has actually gone backward since Murray co-authored The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life in 1994. He hopes his politely rational arguments can change that — or that the Ruling Class will heed his warning about a white backlash. Too bad he’s wrong.
Facing Reality was inspired by the slogans of “systemic racism” and “white privilege” popularized by the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. It is Murray’s patient attempt to explain to anyone who will listen just why such incendiary charges “float free of reality,” in the words of the front jacket flap.
Murray’s focus is limited to the USA, yet he refers to American whites as “Europeans” and American blacks as “Africans.” This is due not to any recent conversion to racial nationalism, but because he hopes a more clinical terminology will “make it easier to look at some inflammatory issues with at least a little more dispassion.”
Good luck with that.
Concerning cognitive ability, Murray concentrates on demonstrating three points:
- When Africans, Asians, Europeans and Latins take tests that are related to cognitive ability, their group results have different means.
- Race differences between Africans and Europeans in cognitive test scores narrowed significantly during the 1970s and 1980s, but the narrowing stopped three decades ago.
- Scores on today’s most widely used standardized tests, whether of cognitive ability or academic achievement, pass the central test of fairness: They do not underpredict the performance of lower-scoring groups in the classroom or on the job. 
Hundreds of studies on these matters have been performed. Murray limits himself to those involving nationally representative samples, measures of both verbal and mathematical (or visuo-spatial) abilities, and test takers no younger than twelve.
A mix of IQ tests, National Longitudinal Studies, and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests meet these three criteria. For tests performed during the last decade or so, the results are as follows:
These scores are based on NAEP tests, which are less g-loaded than true IQ tests. That explains, e.g., why the Black-White difference comes out to 12 points rather than the more commonly cited 15 points.
People who dislike accepting the existence of mean differences in intelligence are reckless with charges of test bias but, as Murray writes, such claims have “nearly disappeared from the technical literature because there are so few unresolved questions.” The literature on how well cognitive ability predicts job performance, e.g., has become so extensive that the relevant chapter in the most recent edition of The Oxford Handbook of Personnel Assessment and Selection “is not a meta-analysis of existing studies; it is a review of many meta-analyses.” (Does that make it a meta-meta-analysis?)
At least four results emerge consistently:
- Measures of cognitive ability and job performance are always positively correlated.
- The size of the correlation goes up as the job becomes more cognitively complex.
- Even for low-skill occupations, job experience does not lead to convergence in performance among persons with different cognitive ability.
- For intellectually demanding jobs, there is no point at which more cognitive ability doesn’t make a difference.
Let us consider jobs which require an exceptionally high IQ (defined by Murray as 135 or above). Given mean group differences and the relative representation of blacks and whites in today’s American population, we can expect there to be about 57 qualified white applicants for every qualified black at this level. Since most companies are not large enough to need vast numbers of employees this intelligent, we should not be surprised to find many with no blacks in such positions at all.
This does not mean there is no racial discrimination in hiring, of course. There is plenty of it, as Murray recognizes:
The American job market systematically discriminates in favor of racial minorities other than Asians…A detached observer might even call it systemic racism.
Perhaps the real reason for all the empty chatter about “white privilege” is that if no such thing exists, our current system of racial discrimination becomes indefensible.
Rates of violent crime—murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — differ across the four demographic groups as well, although the differences are not as consistent as those in intelligence. Such differences have the greatest effects in large urban settings where the races tend to concentrate geographically.
The FBI’s racial data covers the entire country, but Murray was able to find recent data for thirteen cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington. In these cities, black arrest rates for violent crime are on average 9.6 times as common as white rates, running from a low of 4.0 in Fayetteville, NC to a high of 19.9 in Washington, DC. The Latin rates average 2.7 times white rates, ranging from a low of 1.2 times in relatively small Urbana, IL to a high of 6.4 in—once again—Washington, DC.
“Racist cops!” shout the faithful. Murray responds with the “largest and most rigorous study” he can find, involving 335,619 incidents in which the victim saw the offender:
The odds of arrest for white offenders is approximately 22% higher for robbery [and] 13% higher for aggravated assault . . . than they are for black offenders.
There are no equally good studies for murder, but in New York the black/white ratio in reports to police has recently been 14.8, higher than the arrest ratio of 11.6.
In recent years, New York City has also maintained records by race for “shootings” both fatal and nonfatal. Of the 1906 Black deaths for which the race of the perpetrator is known, 89 percent were killed by other Blacks, 10 percent by Latins and just 0.6 by Whites. For nonfatal shootings, the respective numbers are 90, 9, and 0.4 percent.
Murray adds: “Triangulating data indicates that the arrest rates reflect, and perhaps understate, ace differences in violent criminal activity.”
Different crime rates and racial concentration in urban areas means that some neighborhoods will be far more dangerous than others, with predictable consequences for police behavior in such neighborhoods. As Murray points out:
Well-trained police exercising good judgment will, on average, take more steps to establish their authority, call for more backup, and respond with more force to provocations, regardless of the race of the citizens they are dealing with. Another result is that errors in judgment will be skewed to the greater-force end of the distribution. If the error in the direction of greater force is perceived as reducing the downside risk, and the downside risk is one’s own death, then police officers, being human, will err on the side of protecting themselves. [This means] that police use of force will always and inevitably be higher in high-crime areas, and high-crime areas in the United States are overwhelmingly urban and African or Latin.
There is really nothing to criticize about Murray’s presentation of the evidence for his “two truths about race in America,” although it will certainly be ignored by those who most need to face up to that evidence.
In a final chapter, however, he goes beyond the data to speculate on what might happen “If We Don’t Face Reality.” This involves speculation and interpretation, leaving much more room for disagreement.
But let us begin with his valuable admission that racial identity politics has strong evolutionary roots:
Treating our fellow human beings as individuals instead of treating them as members of groups is unnatural. Our brains evolved to think of people as members of groups; to trust and care for people who are like us and to be suspicious of people who are unlike us. Those traits had great survival value for human beings throughout millions of years. People who were trusting of outsiders were less likely to pass on their genes.
Yet a few countries, pre-1965 America conspicuous among them, successfully developed high levels of trust independent of kinship bonds. Such countries have fostered historically exceptional levels of human achievement and prosperity.
Murray himself is a typical product of such a society in that thinking in racial terms does not come naturally to him: he invariably treats races as collections of individuals among whom non-random patterns happen to be observable rather than as (roughly) constant gene pools which perpetuate themselves across the generations.
Where does this individualistic mindset come from? Murray attributes it to the American Founders, who enshrined as in “The American Creed.” He might have profited by considering Kevin MacDonald’s argument that northern Europeans (such as our Founders) are the product of an unusual evolutionary environment in which the ability to cooperate with non-kin, including the careful maintenance of a personal reputation for fair dealing with them, was of greater importance than kinship bonds. This is inherently more plausible than seeing American individualism as the invention of a group of Enlightenment-era political savants.
One powerful reason to suspect our individualism and tendency to de-emphasize race and kinship has deeper roots is the slowness of American whites to adopt racial identity politics for themselves. Murray approves of such reluctance. He may not like minority racial politics, yet his principal fear appears to be that Whitesmay begin to develop something similar.
In other words, he believes the current double standard forbidding Whites (and only Whites) from pursuing their group interests—while permitting or encouraging such behavior in other groups—is a lesser evil than Whites starting to behave like everybody else and fight fire with fire. In his own words: “If Whites adopt identity politics, disaster follows.”
But disaster for whom? Not for Whites themselves, apparently. Murray acknowledges:
If a minority consisting of 13 percent of the population can generate as much political energy and solidarity as America’s Blacks have, what happens when a large proportion of the 60 percent of the population that is White begins to use the same playbook?
Maybe they start winning for a change?
But no, that is definitely not the conclusion Murray wishes us to draw. Instead, his fear is that the American government will lose legitimacy:
The federal government has enacted thousands of laws and regulations [that] apply to every family and business in the nation. They cannot possibly be enforced by the police or courts without almost universal voluntary compliance. When a government is seen as legitimate, most citizens voluntarily comply because they believe it is their duty. When people see laws as products of the illegitimate use of power, the sense of obligation fades.
This, then, is the disaster which Charles Murray fears will result from the growth of white identity politics: Non-elite white Trump-voters with American flags on their pickup trucks may stop cooperating with the sanctimonious elite whites and resentful nonwhites who rule over them! They must not stand up for themselves because it could prove to be a disaster to their enemies!
The final chapter of Facing Reality is, albeit unintentionally, the most encouraging argument in favor of white identity politics that I have ever read.
From VDARE.com’s point of view, Murray is wrong (not for the first time), to ignore the impact of immigration. This is particularly odd because an immigration moratorium is the obvious way to calm rising white alarm about imminent minority status.
Curiously, Murray does mention the disastrous 1965 Immigration Act in the context of discrediting current conventional wisdom about race relations:
…the narrative tells us that America is moving towards a multiracial society in which Europeans will soon be a minority and we all need to adjust in similar ways. The reality is that different parts of America have had widely varying experiences with a multiracial society and are moving toward even more different futures.
Or, as VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow wrote in Alien Nation back in 1995:
These will be communities as different from one another as any in the civilized world. They will verge on being separate nations.
And the existence of these different communities will raise the classic problem of federalism: why should any one of them submit in a larger political unit to the majority when it shares nothing with that majority? Particularly if the community is being visibly taxed for others’ benefit.
This divergence, of course, is what lies behind the re-emergence, initially at the local and state levels, of the specter of secession.