Is psychology’s race albatross nearing its end?

By Albert H. Yee, Ed.D.
March 1, 2006 - Last updated: May 31, 2011

I was stunned by the Jan. ‘05 American Psychologist “Genes, Race, and Psychology in the Genome Era” — stunned because the AP is the American Psychological Association’s (APA) flagship journal, and its January issue flew in the face of APA’s historic refusal to challenge the idea of biological race and racist studies. Although kudos go to APA’s CEO and AP’s editor Norman B. Anderson for this welcomed rainbow, AP hasn’t printed reactions to the issue in more than a year and rejected mine. Flies in the ointment or a consolidating pause before the dawn?

Naming humans Homo sapiens in 1758, Carl Linnaeus classified four races with whites superior over Africans, Asians and Indians, thus creating a white-colored hierarchy on allegedly scientific grounds. As Europeans grasped world empires, they demeaned peoples they ruled as inferior, base beings. Starting in the ‘30s, leading biologists citing genetic evidence denounced race as a myth. Millennia of human intermingling made the notion of pure, homogeneous races absurd. Nevertheless, many social scientists, particularly psychologists in IQ testing, turned a deaf ear and pursued race studies with pedestrian labels. Now that 21st Century. genome research has hammered in race’s final coffin nail, psychology should finally turn its back on race.

The race issue in psychology and public opinion has been racial differences in behavior and innate potentials, chiefly black versus white IQ. Flawed by arbitrariness, race classification can be both silly and deadly serious. For example, paying poll taxes in 1964 at the neighborhood fire station when I taught at the University of Texas, Austin, Mrs. Yee and I found two choices for race on the form – “white” and “colored.” We Asians chose “colored” without hesitation. The fireman sneered at us and said testily, “Don’t you people know what you are?” and changed our race to “white.” The same happened at the drivers’ license office. Thus, decree determined race into the 1960s; white and black in Texas.

I have always questioned the pervasive idea of race and all that went with it. It savaged my identity as a youth and violated my rights as a citizen. Korean War service in the integrated Army confirmed the hollowness of race. A quantitative type in the 1970s, I was appalled by the statistics-coated bigotry of Jensenism. Seeing that UNESCO began to censure the biological race idea in 1950 followed by the American Anthropological Association in 1967, I decided to tackle race through APA, which scolded racism but ignored biological race, racism’s taproot.

Appointed to APA’s Minority Affairs Board in 1981, I originated a Race Resolution that APA’s membership approved. It mandated APA to lobby the government to end the use of race and substitute ethnicity to classify the population. It also stipulated that efforts would continue with “subsequent censuses.” Soon after its approval, I went to Hong Kong to teach and conduct research. Back in the United States after the 1990 Census, I learned that APA had done nothing and was shocked when APA CEO Raymond D. Fowler’s chief aides barefacedly asserted, “What Race Resolution? It doesn’t exist.” Stymied by APA’s version of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 but only momentarily, I sent an article on psychology’s problems with race to AP in 1992. The same Ray Fowler, also AP’s editor, promptly rejected it asserting that it would not interest psychologists. Enlisting coauthors, I resubmitted and was elated with its acceptance. Whether by coincidence or not, our article’s action editor soon lost his post.

Including other works of mine on race, the Jan. ’05 AP issue cited our article repeatedly. It exposed the myth of race and deception used in its advocacy, such as Arthur Jensen’s colossal lie. Although Jensen never named the geneticists he said supported the genetic basis of his black IQ deficit hypothesis, he cited a critical reference: “The most comprehensive and sophisticated discussion of the genetic-behavior analysis of race differences that I have found is by Spuhler and Lindzey.” Studying the reference and phoning James N. Spuhler, the first author, I was revolted to find that he and Gardner Lindzey had actually rejected racial comparisons – “the concept of race has little importance for the student of human behavior …” and had never claimed to be geneticists (anthropologist, psychologist, respectively). Although Spuhler assured me that he had informed him of his monstrous blunder, Jensen continued to cite them as his genetic prop for years. I later learned that white supremacist groups, such as the Pioneer Fund, paid Jensen and his kind (e.g., Raymond B. Cattell, Hans J. Eysensk, J. Philipe Rushton, William B. Shockley, etc.) many hundreds of thousands for their racist efforts.

The subterfuge over the Race Resolution continued for years until I went to Washington, D.C., in 1996 to resurrect it from APA’s archives. However, with that revelation before them, APA administrators and directors immediately reversed 180 degrees, saying unapologetically, “Oh that! It had been complied with by letters sent in 1982 or so to the OMB, Bureau of the Census and Congressional committees informing them of the Race Resolution.” Despite members’ ballot approval of the Resolution, APA leaders and the Scientific Affairs Board arrogantly refused to comply with the “subsequent censuses” clause. After the Scientific Affairs Board declared that the Resolution was not within its purview, it was shuffled to the Public Affairs Board where it laid dormant for years and then was forgotten. Identical, evasive run-arounds were given my several proposals to APA’s Board of Directors (and American Psychological Society’s) to appoint a blue-ribbon commission to assess race’s value to psychological theory and research, results of which I expected to be nil. Amidst the Bell Curve furor when many demanded that APA address the racism, CEO Raymond Fowler appointed a task force that produced more of an apologia than criticism of the book.

Though the above illuminates the obsequious neglect of race by APA’s administration and its accomplices and deceit toward those who questioned them, not to mention the trampling of scholarly and democratic values, their undoing of America’s largest psychological society goes much further. For example, as The National Psychologist [13(2), 2004] reported: “A normally routine mid-winter meeting of the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives exploded in recriminations when members learned that Raymond D. Fowler, Ph.D., received $2.2 million when he retired as CEO at the end of 2002. Contributing to the acrimony was the fact that most members were just learning of the payout more than a year after it was paid and only then because of a gossip column item in The Washington Post…. The Council theoretically determines how the organization spends its money, but other than those on the board of directors, members were unaware that Fowler … received a total of $2,218,914 when he retired (in 2002)….”

Reacting to the Post’s report and Council’s objections, the APA issued a press release on Feb. 23, 2004 listing components of Fowler’s retirement package, which included items such as accumulated leave time of $436,797 (‘02 salary, $364,172), 20 months remaining on his employment contract and loss of use of APA’s car and computer.

The generosity and secrecy in how APA’s Board of Directors handled the payout reflects its thick intimacy with central office vs. a healthy degree of objective detachment. Its specious response to my decades-long initiatives regarding biological race matches the favoritism granted Fowler and other insiders. Instead, a national professional society should embody candor and exhibit scientific rigor. APA’s membership and Council of Representatives must demand accountability and openness of the directorate. Since space limits disallow more details of pre-Norman Anderson APA and its sycophants, see Yeee-Hah! cited below. Is Anderson willing and able to revive APA? Is there a wellspring of members who will strive to return integrity to APA? I for one am willing to be of assistance.


Albert H. Yee, Ed.D., is a fellow of the AAAS, APA, and APS and a retired psychology professor and academic dean. He can be reached at his e-mail address:

Yee, A. H. (1983). Ethnicity and race: Psychological perspectives. Educational Psychologist, 18(1), p. 23.
Yee, A. H., Fairchild, H. H., Weizmann, F., & Wyatt, G. E. (1993). Addressing psychology’s problems with race. American Psychologist, 48(11), 1132-1140.
Jensen, A. R. (1969). How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 39(1), p. 81.
Tucker, William H. (1994). The science and politics of racial research. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, pp. 251-252 & 280.
Neisser, U., Boodoo, G., Bouchard, T. J., Jr., Boykin, A. W., Brody, N., Ceci, S. J., Halpern, D. F., Loehlin, J. C., Perloff, R., Sternberg, R. J., & Urbina, S. (1996). Intelligence: Known and Unknown. American Psychologist, 51(2), 77-101.
Yee, A. H. (2005). The race idea: Psychology’s bugaboo. Chapter 8 in Yeee-Hah!: Remembrance and longing (pp. 262-284). Martinsville, Ind. Airleaf Publishing.

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