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Progress Against Prejudice?

November 29, 1987

In Elizabeth Mehren's article on Toni Morrison's recently published novel, "Beloved" (View, Oct. 14), we are told that while doing research for the novel, an assistant to Morrison discovered a description of "Why Negroes are inferior" from a 75-year-old edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "They decided that the bone structure of Negro babies' heads closed early,' (making) them inferior." Of course, as Morrison states, such a definition is absurd.

Yet, only a day before in the Los Angeles Times was a review by Lee Dembart of Seymour W. Itzkoff's book, "Why Humans Vary in Intelligence" (View, Oct. 13). In this article, Dembart tells us that Itzkoff "asserts that whites as a group outperform blacks as a group in every intellectual task." The book's author does not really seem to back this up with anything except that "his conclusions represent the consensus of knowledgeable researchers." What?! The similarity between the 75-year-old definition and Itzkoff's theories amazes as well as saddens me. Perhaps the rhetorical approach has changed, but how far have we really come toward wiping out prejudice?

JOHN W. ENGLANDER

Los Angeles

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