Thanks to a recent and highly controversial study of the correlation between conservatives and IQ conducted by psychologists at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, we may now have a clue as to why some conservatives think the way they do. Published in Psychological Science, the Brock University study found that children with low IQ scores are more than likely to adhere to social conservative ideology when they become adults. According to the study's lead researcher, Dr. Gordon Hodson, this kind of conservative ideology stresses hierarchy and resistance to change and can lead to them harboring prejudice. The study also noted that many of those surveyed with lower IQs also had very little, if any, contact with people of races other than their own and this may be the major factor in their racist attitudes. "This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice," writes Hodson.
But it didn't take a university study to tell me all of this. Growing up in Mississippi during the '60s and '70s, I have encountered more than my fair share of racist conservatives; some of them subtle and sublime while others were ... let's just say they weren't so subtle when it came to letting their feelings on race and politics be known.
Back in the early '70s, when the McComb School District first started integration, I remember when a white kid personally called me a "nigger" as if (even though I had bested him in a game of wits, as I often did) the word gave him some kind of magical power over me. I vividly remember the anger, pain and confusion I felt as I dutifully recited the words my mother taught to say when someone called me that: "I'm not a n****r, I'm a negro. When I become a n****r, I'll let you know." When I got home and told my grandmother what happened and how I felt about it, she told me that I had to overlook the "poor boy" because that was the Christian thing to do. After all, she added, "He thinks he better than you because he don't know no better." That was my grandmother's polite way of saying the kid wasn't so bright.
As an observer of history and politics it never ceases to amaze me how someone like Newt Gingrich and other conservative wing-nut politicians can openly spout off racially charged rhetoric that has absolutely no basis in truth and con thousand of supporters to vote for them. What's even more astonishing is how these same race-baiting politicians can get throngs of working-class whites to ardently support policies that slowly eat away at the public safety net, even though such actions are totally against their own class interest. Well, thanks to this study and the wisdom of my Nana, now I know — they ain't that bright.
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