In my view, intelligence, talent, and ambition are rare qualities no matter what the race or background. Most people, on average, are just plain stupid. Most people are barely competent. I think society used to recognize that and that's why achievement was celebrated. Whether it was being smarter than the average bear, or a star athlete or musician, or just someone who busted their hump to move up the ladder, we admired it. We've lost that amid the everybody-gets-a-trophy self esteem movement that has long since permeated the workplace.
The other problem with "intellectuals" is that far too many people think a formal education equates to intelligence. It doesn't. Some of the dumbest people I know have advanced degrees.