Shockley and Free Speech

The Law School Forum's cancellation of a schedule William Shockley/Roy Innes debate "Race Differences in I.Q. and Dysgenic" on October 26 has provoked charges that SDS endangered free speech. Letters in The Crimson accused SDS of "denying a Nobel Laureate his 1st Amendment rights." This is our response to these charges and similar ones made by the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE).

SDS is not the only group which denounced William Shockley as a racist. Anti-racist faculty and the Black Law Students Association (BALSA) also convinced the Forum to cancel the debate. CORE spokesmen's statement that "some black law students were duped into supporting the white leftists" is a distortion which attacks members of both SDS and BALSA unjustly. White and black SDSers took a principled stand against ideas which we feel are a clear and present danger to black Americans and members of BALSA took a principled stand under no pressure from SDS to do so.

We oppose William Shockley because he is using unscientific assertions to suggest genocidal policy. His Nobel Prize in physics gives him no expertise in the field of genetics, although it makes his ideas more influential. If you are not convinced by our brief remarks here that Shockley's ideas are racist, read his article, "Dysgenic, Geneticist and Raceology: A Challenge to the Intellectual Responsibility of Educators," in Phi Delta Kappan, January 1972.

Shockley says black people and poor whites on welfare are a menace to Western civilization, and their "proliferation" will lower the intelligence of the population. Later in the article he explains that for every percentage of white blood carried by a black person, his I.Q. goes up one point. and following quite logically from this incredible racism, Shockley suggests sterilization of "low I.Q." individuals, proposing that "bonuses would be offered for sterilization at a bonus rate of 1000 for each point below I.Q. 100."

You might ask: why stop him from speaking when anyone can see he is a racist? First, there is no "right" to speak at the Harvard Law Forum. The organizers use discretion in inviting speakers as yet we have not received an invitation. Everyone agrees that there are limits to "abstract free speech." One man's right to organize incite, or legitimize race hatred leads to another person's lynching or exploitation. Should a medical school professor be allowed to teach that thalidomide is a good sleeping drug for a pregnant woman? Should a scientist of Shockley's prestige be free to suggest genocide as a solution to America's problems? No. A faculty committee recommended cancellation of Shockley's seminar on genetics since he is not qualified and "the essentially genocidal policies he has seemed to propose are not only painful for black people to hear, but are abhorrence to all decent people whatever their skin color." (New York Times, May 2, 1972)

Second in Indiana a bill has been under consideration in the state legislature that would require sterilization of welfare mothers after having three children. In a similar period of high unemployment in the United States, scientists called for eugenic procedures which were adopted by many states. By 1930, 24 states had passed laws calling for the sterilization of the "feeble minded, criminals, and paupers," By 1927, 3951 people had been sterilized in California; 61 per cent of whom were immigrants. This record shows that eugenics, which Shockley proposes, is not an idea in the pure sense. Eugenics is sterilization of immigrants, of Jews in Germany, of black people in the U.S. today. Although Shockley's article uses racist logic to call for sterilization, eugenics measures affect white as well as blacks. Eugenics can be the spearhead of fascism as in Germany, where millions of Jews and non-Jews died in World War II.

Freedom of speech should not be all inclusive. Drug companies cannot be allowed to advertise dangerous medicines. by the same token. Shockley's theories represent a much greater threat to people's freedom than the refusal of a platform at the Law forum.

The above article was written by Tom Bailey '76, Brian Mendis '75 and Kathy Moos '75, all members of SDS.