Rageh Omaar is a smart lad. The son of wealthy Somali (yes!) immigrants to the UK, he went to the best public schools and then to Oxford. He then married the only daughter of a landed Scottish baron, whose title lineage goes back to the mid-1600s. Rageh has now put an end to that and the missus (Georgiana Rose Montgomery-Cuninghame) is now at home cranking out little Somalis for him (three at the latest count) while he does his thing around the world.
He now works for AL Jazeera, having left the BBC because of its being ‘a white man’s club’. I kid you not. Apparently has ‘more freedom’ at AJ. Indeed.
I've read his two books (they make good reading, seriously) and I formed the view that he’s a well-balanced individual. In the sense that he’s got a chip on both shoulders.
He now reappears in Channel 4 with a documentary, part of the season Race: Science's Last Taboo. According to the blurb, “in this, Rageh Omaar sets out to find out the truth, meeting scientists who believe the research supports the view that races can be differentiated as well as those who vehemently oppose this view. By daring to ask the difficult questions Omaar is able to explode the myths about race and IQ and reveal what he thinks are important lessons for society.”
I watched the programme (you can see it on the C4 site here) and I beg to differ about one thing. He did not ‘set out to find the truth’. He set out to prove that IQ meant nothing really, that in any event blacks were catching up with whites, and anyway it’s all down to social factors, not inheritance. Quite an achievement for one man in one hour, no?
By way of example he went to South Africa. He showed us horrendous townships outside CT. Their condition was, you’ve guessed it, ‘the legacy of apartheid’. Nobody was rude enough to ask why, if this were so, do you find similar hellholes all over the rest of Africa where apartheid is not a legacy?
Anyway, he then pulled his trump card. He tracked down a black astronomer, helpfully peering through a telescope into the night sky. This gentleman assured us that he had been educated to this level only because he matriculated in ‘the year freedom was won – 1994’. So the not too subtle point was that if only there hadn’t been apartheid all South African blacks would be, not impoverished shack dwellers, rather astronomers. Or similar, such as doctors. (Check out this post to see how Cape Town University addresses the latter.)
Duly enlightened, Rageh made his decision. Intelligence had nothing to do with race, rather it was totally determined by environment. Problem solved.
He finishes by wistfully speculating that, were we to eliminate poverty and discrimination everybody would achieve the same life outcomes. Now you may dismiss this as pietistic nonsense – which of course it is. But the real tragedy is that it serves to reinforce and perpetuate the failed social and educational strategies of the last fifty years.
Far from striking a blow for his fellow blacks, Omaar is in fact contributing to their ongoing underachievement. This case is very similar in that sense to my ‘Nobel Prize’ post a few weeks back. The simple sad truth is this. If you fail or refuse to see the cause of a problem, you are doomed never to solve it.
‘And so it goes’, as Kurt Vonnegut said…