Matric pupils write exams. File picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency Archives (ANA)
Until this weekend, most of us would never have heard of James Watson, the famed scientist who alongside Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin discovered DNA. For their efforts they won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Watson is now 90 and the controversy surrounding him stems from his comments in a documentary film in which he again affirms his previous views that black people are intellectually inferior to white people.

Consider that for a while.

Watson who grew up in Chicago lived through World War II, entering university as a 15-year-old at the peak of the war while Dr Josef Mengele was butchering Nazi prisoners of war in the name of medical science.

Watson would have been there during the Civil Rights period, where Chicago, although not in the Deep South, was a hotbed of racism.

One would think that being a scientist, basing one’s conclusions on tangible evidence would have persuaded Watson from his racist views.

In South Africa, the Nationalists held similar views, and while Watson and his colleagues were busy making his breakthrough they were working to ensure that black people were systematically excluded from access to the best possible education.

A few years ago when students around South African campuses rose up, with the call that #RhodesMustFall they were also protesting against those who share similar ideas to that of Watson.

They used their racism, although carefully masked and couched in all manner of syntax, as reason that more black students could not be accepted into universities.

While South Africa spends an inordinate amount of money on basic education, estimated at R15 963 annually per learner this year, our outcomes have been poor.

Racists will look at these figures, and their confirmation bias will point them in one direction when in actual fact there are so many variables at play

Outcomes can’t point to the intelligence of one particular race but more to whether a group of individuals are adequately resourced to succeed in a competitive environment.

This has absolutely nothing to do with genetics.

* Mtyala is Independent Media's politics editor in the Western Cape.

** For more opinion go to voices360.co za