A California professor is facing criticism after his racist publications linked to the debunked theory of eugenics triggered controversy that came to light at a board meeting last week when a Black professor voiced her concerns about his teachings.
Gregory Christainsen, an economics professor at California State East Bay, has authored publications including passages containing comparisons of brain size and IQ between sub-Saharan Africans, Latinos and Europeans. The publications have been flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having white supremacist ideologies.
In some of the passages, Christainsen justifies pay discrimination along racial and ethnic lines, and credits the wealth of European nations to IQ European people.
Christainsen once wrote that Black women were overpaid “relative to their cognitive ability.”
At the board of trustees meeting last week, Dr. Pascale Guiton, a Black assistant biology professor, voiced her concerns about Christainsen’s teachings.
“Our campus honors faculty that dabble in pseudoscience and eugenics ideology, like emeritus professor Gregory Christainsen in economics, who asserts in his work that people of sub-Saharan African descent — people like me and many of our students — have significantly lower IQs than any other ethnicity,” Guiton said at the meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It is appalling and scary to know that he and others like him get to teach and evaluate Black students and Black faculty.”
Guiton said Christainsen sent her an email about his “established methods,” after she spoke out about the meeting.
“There are established methods for evaluating the reliability and validity of the scores and their relevance to economic growth among other concerns,” he said, according to the email Guiton posted on Twitter and to which she referred a reporter. “It is not the case that people of sub-Saharan descent have the lowest average score of any population group in the world, although the scores are below the world mean.”
Samuel Morton, a craniologist who pioneered physical anthropology in the 1830s and 1840s, collected and measured hundreds of human skulls and concluded that Europeans had the largest brain sizes, and that Africans had the smallest. Likewise, his intellectual hierarchy placed Caucasians at the top, and Africans at the bottom.
Since then, experts have agreed that racist bias plagued Morton’s science.
“Individual variation within population groups, overlapping with other population groups, turned out to be so large that the boundaries of race made less and less sense,” wrote Angela Saini, a London-based science journalist.
Saini, among other geneticists, argues that race has no place in genetics research.
More than 1,600 people have signed a student-led petition that calls for Christainsen’s emeritus status to be rescinded.
East Bay President Leroy Morishita said the views expressed by Christainsen are “antithetical to the core values of Cal State East Bay” but defended his First Amendment rights to free speech.
“The cure for hateful and hurtful speech is to condemn it forcefully with our own protected speech, using our voices to challenge and discredit pernicious theories and views that our university has long rejected as bigoted, racist, and immoral,” he said.