So, it seems genetics has crept back into the news. And African-Americans -- many of whom already believe in government-conspiracy theories against the race -- are upset.
This time around, the effort is to find a genetic link to crime. Since blacks -- for a variety of other reasons -- commit more than their share of stick-ups and other assorted means of redistributing wealth, guess who the research is likely to focus on?
Little wonder then that the outcry prompted the National Institutes of Health to withdraw funding from a conference on genetics and crime two months ago. But that didn't stop the National Research Council from releasing its report last month concluding that genetic factors should be considered when looking for causes of violence.
But amid the hullabaloo over stigmatizing blacks on the basis of dubious research, it says a lot about this society that no one seems to be raising the possibility of a contradictory finding. In short, what if it turns out the research shows that blacks are somehow genetically superior?
After the shocking data was checked, double-checked, rechecked, suppressed, and then unearthed through the Freedom of Information Act, it would turn many dearly held assumptions on their head.
In Western New York alone, the ramifications would be enormous:
Groups like Buffalo's self-appointed "gang of 18" would immediately have to step down. All moral authority for a group of mostly white male saviors obviously would be gone.
And after doing the logistical equivalent of throwing wool in a clothes dryer, the shrinkage of the World University Games would be proof that managerial skills alone don't justify keeping such men in power.
Blacks in Buffalo would suddenly begin to wonder whether there was a connection between white politicians' takeover of the Common Council a few years back and the enormous budget problems the city began to face soon thereafter.
It would probably be unfair to suspect that having whites in control automatically means things get screwed up. But, hey, whites would have to get used to that sort of stigma.
Rich whites would suddenly find they have a harder time of it than poor blacks who wander into Buffalo banks looking for mortgages or home-improvement loans. In keeping with the unspoken lending criteria that surfaced in a federal study, blacks would suddenly be seen as inherently better credit risks, regardless of personal circumstances. Strange, but true.
Area bars that have thought up innovative ways to keep blacks out over the years would reverse course. With the color of money suddenly more important than skin color, "Kwanzaa Night" drink specials would become the rage.
But Buffalo wouldn't be only area touched. Though the region's history might make the changes here seem especially pronounced, the ramifications would be everywhere.
Sportscasters would start referring to black players as "heady," "hard working" and "disciplined," while whites would start getting praised as great natural athletes.
There would be an immediate push to put blacks in charge of General Motors, the savings-and-loan industry, Congress' bank and postal services, the U.S. consumer electronics industry, the Rocky Flats nuclear plant, tottering Trans World Airlines . . .
The list would go on and on, threatening more "change" than even Bill Clinton envisioned.
But, of course, it would all come to a stop as analysts from the Heritage Foundation began assessing the dangers.
With the U.S. economy still troubled and the nation struggling mightily to compete with foreign interests, it would become clear that this was no time to suddenly inject a wealth of competent new workers, business owners or corporate leaders into the mix.
The disruption to labor and business markets, as blacks suddenly moved from welfare or crime into productive activity, would be much too massive and unsettling now. Far better to wait until the economy improves before pursuing research that has even the remotest possibility of leading to such a change in mindset.
The discovery of something different in the genes of a people able to face decades of the worst oppression, segregation and discrimination and still endure would not be something this society is ready for. Better to stop this research immediately.
ROD WATSON is an editorial writer for The News.