In the Trump era, ill informed White people continue to throw barbs at people of color, and unlike a time in this country’s past, they are paying for it, with humiliation, financial settlements, loss of job and being stripped of their titles. Members of Congress and the House are currently calling for the censure and resignation of Steve King (R-Iowa) for endorsing White supremacists, and this week the New York Post is reporting that a White Nobel Prize winning scientist is being stripped of his honorary titles for saying Black people are intellectually inferior to White people.
James Watson was stripped of his honorary titles at a New York research institution after he claimed to still stand by his decade-old comments. Watson, 90, is a pioneer in DNA research who won a Nobel Prize in 1962 for helping discover the structure of DNA. He was recently featured in the PBS documentary “American Masters: Decoding Watson,” which aired Jan. 2, and claimed that genes caused different results on the IQ tests of Black and White people. Days after the show aired, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a research institution on Long Island, issued a statement clamming Watson’s “reprehensible” remarks and distancing itself from the scientist.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory “rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics,” the statement read. “Dr. Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of (the laboratory), its trustees, faculty, staff or students. The laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.” The statement added that Watson’s honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus and honorary trustee have been revoked.
Watson was the lab’s director from 1968 to 1994, when he became its president. He was then named chancellor in 2004, and also is the namesake for the lab’s School of Biological Sciences. He was relieved of his administrative duties at the lab and fired from his status as chancellor after making similar comments in 2007. Watson told London’s Sunday Times Magazine then that while there are “many people of color who are very talented,” he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa.” “All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really,” he told the newspaper.
Watson issued an apology at the time, telling the Associated Press, “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. There is no scientific basis for such a belief.” Even seven years after the comments, Watson said they still plagued him, lamenting to the Financial Times in 2014 that “no one really wants to admit I exist” and that he is considered an “unperson.” He sold his Nobel Prize gold medal in 2014, making him the first living recipient to ever do so.