Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The insidious problem of racism

Take a moment to seriously think about what is wrong with racism.  If you're like most people, your answer will probably be that racism is bad because it's a form of prejudice, and prejudice is bad.  This is not wrong, but it misses a much deeper, more insidious issue.  The real problem with racism is that it is that it can be (and usually is) rationalized and those rationalizations can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, which in turn causes racism to not only be rationalized, but rationally justifiable.  It's a vicious cycle that leads otherwise virtuous people to unwittingly contribute to great evils.

Here's an example: professional basketball players are disproportionately black by an enormous margin.  Why?  It would seem odd if this were a result of racial prejudice.  Being a professional basketball player is not a menial job.  It's a challenging, well-respected and well-compensated profession.  Professional basketball players are role models.  The stakes are high: if a team could gain a competitive advantage by hiring more white players they would surely do so.  So it seems more likely that there is actually some kind of causal influence that results in black skin being correlated with basketball skill.

The obvious candidate for this kind of causal influence is that black people are taller than white people.  Being tall presents an obvious advantage if you're a basketball player.  I was convinced that this had to be the answer, but it's not.  It turns out that, on average, black people are actually shorter than white people.  (The source data is here.)  So there goes that theory.

There could be some other physical trait that is linked to black skin that provides a competitive advantage in basketball.  Black people also dominate in other sports, like running.  Maybe there's some biological factor that makes blacks faster than whites, or able to jump higher, and that produces a competitive advantage in basketball.

But there is another, much more insidious possibility: maybe black dominance in basketball is not a physical advantage, but a cultural one.  Maybe blacks make better basketball players simply because as a group they happen to spend more time playing basketball.  And maybe the reason they spend more time playing basketball is that other avenues of economic advancement are closed to them for one reason or another, and so basketball is seen as the only way out of the hood.  So they play basketball.

Notice that it is not necessary for it to actually be true that non-basketball careers are closed to blacks to set this vicious cycle into motion.  The mere perception that it is true is enough.  If a black kid growing up in the hood believes that he's never going to be hired as an engineer then he could reach the perfectly rational (albeit possibly mistaken) conclusion that he should not spend his time studying math but should practice basketball instead.  The result is a lot more black kids playing basketball, and doing it with much more seriousness and dedication, than white kids.  And the result of that is that the best basketball players are overwhelmingly black simply because they've been working at it harder than whites.  And so the NBA team managers make the perfectly rational decision to hire black players because they are in point of actual fact better than whites.  And then the next generation of black kids grows up seeing a lot of basketball-playing role models and very few engineering role models, and reach the perfectly rational conclusion that maybe they ought not to study engineering.

The mere belief that black people make better basketball players can actually cause them to be better basketball players in point of actual fact.  It is, quite literally, a self-fulfilling prophecy.  And the thing about self-fulfilling prophecies is that they are actually true!

Notice that all this can happen even if everyone is behaving rationally on good evidence and without any ill will on anyone's part.  Less damaging forms of the same underlying dynamic are very common.  Taxi cab drivers in Glendale, California are overwhelmingly Armenian.  Restaurant owners in San Carlos are overwhelmingly Turkish.  Cruise ship crew members are overwhelmingly Filipino (except for the senior officers).  It's not because there is anything in the genes of Armenians that makes them better cab drivers, or the genes of Turks that makes them better resaurateurs, or the genes of Filipinos that makes them better sailors.  It's purely a cultural dynamic of expectations playing against rational decision making to produce self-fulfilling prophecies.

But now, instead of basketball player or cab driver or sailor, consider a drug dealer.

Think about the mental image that popped into your brain when you read those words.  I'll wager it was not a white guy in a suit and tie in the board room of a pharmacology company, though such a person is very much a drug dealer.  The image that popped into your head was very likely a black man in a hoodie shuffling furtively on a street corner.  And yet John Kapoor is every bit as much a drug dealer as El Chapo Guzman, and vastly more of a drug dealer than, say, Aron Tuff.

You have likely never heard of Aron Tuff.  I hadn't until I started researching this post.  Tuff was sentenced to life in prison without parole because police found a third of a gram of cocaine in his yard.  It was his third strike.  Compare that to Kapoor's five-year sentence for peddling massive quantities of opioids that caused tens of thousands of deaths.  Part of the rationale for Kapoor's reduced sentence was his "philanthropy", notwithstanding that the money he used to engage in philanthropy came from dealing drugs.  Vast quantities of drugs which killed tens of thousands of people.

There is no end to the ways in which the disparities between Kapoor's sentence and Tuff's can be rationalized.  The drugs Kapoor sold were legal.  The drugs that Tuff (allegedly) possessed (but did not sell) were illegal.  Kapoor was a respected captain of industry, a job creator.  Tuff was an addict with priors.  All of these things are true.  None of them have anything to do with race, at least not overtly.  And yet, somehow the net result is that blacks get sent to prison for drug offenses a lot more than whites do.

This is the problem with racism: it's never just about the color of someone's skin.  Skin color is always just a proxy for some other quality which actually justifies the racism.  This goes all the way back to chattel slavery in the American South: blacks were not enslaved because they were black per se, they were enslaved because they were inferior.  Skin color was just an indicator of the inferiority.  Many slave owners believed in good faith at the time that they were actually doing blacks a favor by enslaving them.  If you don't believe me, all you have to do is read this excerpt from the articles of secession of the state of Texas:
...all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations...
That sounds shocking today, but it wasn't shocking then.  Millions of people passionately believed in the sentiment expressed in these words.  Tens of thousands literally fought and died for them.  They sincerely believed they were the good guys.

Today the proxy quality that launches the vicious cycle is no longer genetic inferiority, it's something else.  It's "making poor decisions" or whatever the fuck it is, it doesn't matter.  What matters is that the structure of the argument and the resulting social dynamic is exactly the same as it was in 1861: black skin is taken to be a reliable proxy for some other quality --the ability to play basketball, a propensity to criminality-- and that belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and hence actually true.  Everyone believes in good faith (indeed, correctly!) that they are acting rationally and on good evidence!  And yet the result is catastrophic.

So what do we do about it?  After all, rationality got us in to this mess, so how can it possibly get us out?  Well, first we have to agree that it's a mess.  Not everyone does.  There is a school of thought that says that everything is basically hunky-dory, at least on a systemic level.  Slavery is gone.  Jim Crow is gone.  Any remaining disparities must therefore be a result of individual choices because the playing field has now been leveled.  If there are problems they should be dealt with on an individual level.  If someone breaks the law, they go to jail.  Eventually the transgressors will figure out that it is better for them to hew to the social order, so all we need to do is send enough troops to quell the riots and sooner or later this will all sort itself out.  Now, excuse me while I mix myself a martini and get my kids ready to go to their private school.

There are actually people who think that we've already gone overboard in our attempts to address racial issues in the U.S.  There is a small but significant contingent who believes that legally enforced segregation, a return to separate-but-equal, is actually the Right Answer.  If you think these people can simply be ignored you have not been paying attention.  The Trump administration is actively courting these people.  If you are one of those people who believes that Donald Trump doesn't have a racist bone in his body, well, I have a bridge you might be interested in buying.

Personally, it seems to me that we tried segregation for about 100 years and as far as I'm concerned it was not a good outcome, and I'm white.  Like I said in my earlier post on this topic, I am the beneficiary of the current system.  The expectations that turn into self-fulfilling prophecies have worked very much in my favor.  I'm a white male, and so everyone expected me to grow up to be successful, and lo and behold I grew up to be successful.  I was there for this entire process and so I can tell you that this was not because of any extraordinary effort on my part.  I totally coasted to my success.  I figured out how to game the system in middle school, and I've been doing it ever since.  I have a very impressive-looking resume, but if you look carefully none of it actually reflects any extraordinary accomplishment on my part.  Yes, I worked for NASA for fifteen years.  Yes, that sounds impressive.  But the reason I worked for NASA for 15 years is because I happened to be in graduate school when my advisor got a job offer, and he took me with him.  The reason I was in grad school is because I was too lazy to get a real job.  The reason I was able to go to grad school in the first place is because the government gave me a fellowship, and before that the university I attended gave me a scholarship, and all that happened because I got good grades.  And the reason I was able to get good grades is that I grew up in a quiet house within walking distance of the country club (the neighborhood I grew up in was literally called Country Club Estates!) where there was not a basketball court to be found.  Tennis.  Golf.  A swimming pool where waiters would bring me club sandwiches that I didn't have to pay for.  It was fucking awesome.  And it was only possible because I was white.  There were no black people in the Country Club Estates.  Not in the 1970s.  Not in Tennessee.

Things are certainly better today.   My parents still live in the house I grew up in, and today their next-door neighbors are black, so maybe this will all sort itself out in the fullness of time.  But at the same time the Supreme Court casually disenfranchises a million ex-felons in Florida, who are, of course, disproportionately black.  The President of the United States calls white supremacists "fine people" and sends secret police to arrest people carrying Black Lives Matter banners.  An American Senator defends chattel slavery as a "necessary evil".  Black people are killed by police at a much higher rate than white people.  I don't have to worry about any of this because I'm white.  And this gnaws at my soul.

No human being should grow up believing that they will be judged by the color of their skin, and they certainly should not grow up being correct in that belief, but that is today's reality.  The first step to fixing this is to persuade people that it needs fixing, and it needs fixing now.  We've been fucking around for 400 years.  Enough.  The recently deceased John Lewis said it better than I can:
“To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient.  We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.”
I want my black brothers and sisters to be free now.  That is, of course, impossible.  The scars of 400 years of oppression will not be erased in my lifetime.  Getting to the point where everyone is truly judged not on the color of their skin but the content of their character will be a multi-generational project even under ideal circumstances, and today's circumstances are far from ideal.  But there are three requirements for solving this problem.  The first, as I've already said, is acknowledging that there is a problem.  The second is a sense of urgency.  We tried patience.  It doesn't work.  And the third is a recognition by those with power that racism is subtle and insidious.  It cloaks itself in rationality and good evidence and good intentions and a million and one reasons why this isn't your responsibility.  Simply by accepting those arguments, you advance, however unwittingly, the self-fulfilling prophecies they sustain and thus become part of the problem.

13 comments:

Don Geddis said...

You are right that "culture" plays a huge factor in shaping individual choices (which in turn are the causal factor in final outcomes).

You seem to think the people "with power" don't care, and are somehow responsible for this outcome. And "it needs fixing now".

But you haven't actually offered any solutions. What are you recommending that the NBA do, with a large population of qualified black athletes applying? What is UC Berkeley supposed to do, with a huge number of high-performing Asians applying?

I agree with you about the self-fulfilling prophecy. So, now what? It's not very effective for you to just complain about everybody else, when it isn't clear what should be done about it.

(And, as a libertarian, I also agree that drugs should be legalized.)

From my side, there's a huge difference between "historical" racism, where an equal or superior qualified candidate is not selected merely because of the color of his skin ... vs. your "rational" example of correctly inferring the correlation between being black and being good as basketball. Again, you don't seem to have suggested any solutions, but you're going to have a really hard time if you go down the road of advocating for ignoring information that is actually valuable. If you try to field a basketball team without blacks, your team is simply going to perform worse. That's a fact, as inconvenient as it may be.

Ron said...

> But you haven't actually offered any solutions.

Yes, I have.

> You seem to think the people "with power" ... are somehow responsible for this outcome.

Not "somehow". I just wrote two blog posts explaining exactly how and why people in power are in fact responsible, not just morally, but *causally*. To recap: people in power are morally responsible because historical racism is in no small measure the reason they are in power, and they are causally responsible because their prejudices become self-fulfilling prophecies.

At this point I'd like to remind you of something you wrote in the previous thread:

> I support and agree with your effort to fight and shame current racists.

That's great, because that's exactly what I'm trying to do here. But one of the big challenges with trying to shame racists is that many racists are in denial about their racism. When you try to call them out on it their response is, "But *I'm* not a racist. I have perfectly rational reasons supported by good evidence to justify my prejudices." And they're right. They do. But even a rational racist is still a racist.

Don Geddis said...

@Ron: Well, unfortunately this seems non-productive again. I actually liked your post here. I thought you were insightful and fair, albeit mostly complaining without offering solutions. But now this latest comment, seems to me, to have fallen back into the depths of unthinking knee-jerk political correctness.

"...offered any solutions" "Yes, I have."

So I have honestly tried to find your proposed solutions, and it's a challenge.

I asked specific concrete questions (black NBA players, Asian college students). You never seem to engage on the tough questions. I have no idea what your proposed "solution" is.

I looked back on that previous post. Again, I see a lot of complaining, and precious little constructive advice. So let me read it again and see what I can find ... "keep the memory of Ricky Ray Rector alive" ... "white people stop whitesplaining" ... "white people accept the term 'white privilege'" ... "not pretending not to notice skin color, but ... actually do not notice skin color [like eye or hair]".

I tried really hard to look at that previous post, and all your comments, to find any constructive suggestion you actually made. If you were King, what would your orders be? I can hardly find any actual ideas that you have.

"people in power are ... causally responsible because their prejudices become self-fulfilling prophecies."

No, that's not what this post said. This post said that black youth become great basketball players, because black culture encourages and rewards practicing basketball and discourages studying engineering. That "self-fulfilling prophecy" is not caused by "people in power". You are wrong. Even by the standards of your own post.

"But even a rational racist is still a racist."

No, I couldn't disagree with you more strongly. You're not thinking any more, you're just reacting. In a comment on the other post, you claimed that "racism" meant "Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another." I told you already that I didn't believe you, and I thought you were playing a slippery rhetorical "motte and bailey" game ... and here you go doing it again.

The concrete "rational racist" example is: seeking out black basketball players, because they are more likely (statistically correlated) with being better at basketball. (Likely for cultural reasons, in this case -- but the causal reasons don't actually matter.)

Does that really match the definition you were claiming to use? I doubt it, but let's pretend that you can argue that observing blacks being better at basketball falls under your proposed definition of "racism".

Now I have to ask you: why are you choosing to "fight and shame" people that are objectively observing true facts about the world (and then trying to choose actions that are most likely to lead to success, given that true knowledge)? You apparently prefer that we all live in a fake fantasy world and ignore the actual truth. And you're not even willing to be honest and have an objective discussion about your desire for lies; instead you jump deep into the methodology of "shame" as your chosen weapon. You don't even seem to think you need to justify your goals with logic and evidence.

I feel like, at this point, you deserve to be sworn at for your rudeness and arrogance, but I realize that epithets wouldn't be productive.

Ron said...

> So I have honestly tried to find your proposed solutions, and it's a challenge.

"For what it's worth, I hereby confess my sins, acknowledge my white privilege, and announce my advocacy for reparations." [Emphasis added.]

> That "self-fulfilling prophecy" is not caused by "people in power".

Yes, it is.

"maybe the reason they spend more time playing basketball is that other avenues of economic advancement are closed to them for one reason or another"

It may not be true today, but there is absolutely no question that many avenues of economic advancement were closed to blacks BY WHITES for a very, very long time.

> Does that really match the definition you were claiming to use?

Yes.

> Now I have to ask you: why are you choosing to "fight and shame" people that are objectively observing true facts about the world (and then trying to choose actions that are most likely to lead to success, given that true knowledge)?

That's what the entire post was about: because these facts are self-fulfilling prophecies, and so the fact that they are facts do not absolve the believer of the responsibility of the consequences of believing them. That's the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the belief in the fact is the cause of the fact. The belief that black people are more violent than white people causes them, through a circuitous causal chain, to be more violent just as the belief that black people are better basketball players causes them, through a similar circuitous causal chain which I described above, to become better basketball players.

> you deserve to be sworn at for your rudeness and arrogance

Think about that for a second and imagine that I was actually in a position of power over you. Imagine that if you acted out on your urge to swear at me, I could destroy your career, ruin your family, even kill you with impunity. Now imagine how you would feel and how you might react if from this position of power I said something truly rude and arrogant, like that you are mother fucking racist scum and don't you dare talk back to me, boy.

Now imagine that it wasn't just me treating you this way, but an entire cohort of people, and that you and your children had to suck that up every single day of your life. Imagine how that would make you feel and how you might react.

Publius said...

The BarcaLounger Chronicles

@Ron:
>Notice that it is not necessary for it to actually be true that non-basketball careers are closed to blacks to set this vicious cycle into motion. The mere perception that it is true is enough. If a black kid growing up in the hood believes that he's never going to be hired as an engineer then he could reach the perfectly rational (albeit possibly mistaken) conclusion that he should not spend his time studying math but should practice basketball instead.

Where do you come up with this stuff? Do you sit in your BarcaLounger writing these narratives to outrage yourself? You're just writing strawman fiction.

It's not even plausible. Consider this -- how many high school kids even know what an engineer does? Or that "engineering" is a career? The answer is very few. Of those very few who even know what an engineer does, are they really evaluating their future hiring prospects? No, they're not. Most of them are thinking, "I hate math. Math is stupid. I will never need this."

It's also not true that a black engineering student will not be hired due to his race. Companies compete fiercely to hire black engineers. They are in high demand.

You know, people actually go out into the environment and study what influences students future career aspirations, and break out the results by race and sex. You don't need to be conjuring up fiction on your BarcaLounger. Here's one example: Who Wants to Have a Career in Science or Math? Exploring Adolescents' Future Aspirations by Gender and Race/Ethnicity.

>And so the NBA team managers make the perfectly rational decision to hire black players because they are in point of actual fact better than whites. And then the next generation of black kids grows up seeing a lot of basketball-playing role models and very few engineering role models, and reach the perfectly rational conclusion that maybe they ought not to study engineering.

Basketball players are not role models. Parents are role models.
Charles Barkley -- What He REALLY Meant by "I Am Not A Role Model"

>The mere belief that black people make better basketball players can actually cause them to be better basketball players in point of actual fact. It is, quite literally, a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the thing about self-fulfilling prophecies is that they are actually true!
... Taxi cab drivers in Glendale, California are overwhelmingly Armenian. Restaurant owners in San Carlos are overwhelmingly Turkish. Cruise ship crew members are overwhelmingly Filipino (except for the senior officers). It's not because there is anything in the genes of Armenians that makes them better cab drivers, or the genes of Turks that makes them better restaurateurs, or the genes of Filipinos that makes them better sailors. It's purely a cultural dynamic of expectations playing against rational decision making to produce self-fulfilling prophecies.


Eh, a "self-fulfilling prophecy" is when, say, a rumor starts that San Francisco markets are running out of toilet paper. People then rush to the markets to buy toilet paper, causing a stock-out situation.

What you're describing is differentiation and competitive advantage. The best selling beers in America are created by people of German ancestry. China's famed Tsingtao beer was also created by Germans. Eskimos are better at hunting seals that Hawaiians; however, Hawaiians are better at growing pineapples than Eskimos. Jews dominate the diamond cutting industry. Italians produce fine olive oil, the French produce fine wines. Germans produce fine optics. Distillers in the US South produce fine bourbons.

Publius said...

Science vs. Quakers

>Many slave owners believed in good faith at the time that they were actually doing blacks a favor by enslaving them.. . .

Where they applying the best science of the day?

In the days of the Roman Empire, Cicero warned his fellow Romans not to buy British slaves, because he found them hard to teach anything. A 10th century Muslim scholar noted that Europeans grew more pale the farther north they were and the "farther they are to the north the more stupid, gross, and brutish they are." We might dismiss both these statements as "racism" today, but in reality, they wre probably true, as of the time they were made. Britain was a primitive, illiterate, tribal land at the time when the Roman Empire was one of the most advanced civilizations on earth. A Briton transplanted to Rome in captivity must have found this complex civilization completely baffling and was probably none too quick to understand instructions on what to do and how to do in such a wholly unfamiliar setting.

>Now imagine that it wasn't just me treating you this way, but an entire cohort of people, and that you and your children had to suck that up every single day of your life. Imagine how that would make you feel and how you might react.

Y̶o̶u̶ ̶w̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶r̶s̶e̶ ̶u̶r̶i̶n̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶l̶e̶v̶a̶t̶o̶r̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶h̶o̶u̶s̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶j̶e̶c̶t̶.̶ ̶ This is the harmful idea you've swallowed. This idea, defending anti-social behavior like urinating in public housing elevators originated in the 1960's and was defended by intellectuals like James Baldwin, for instance, as a perfectly rational response to being perceived negatively by whites. Yet blacks didn't exhibit this anti-social behavior at the turn of the 20th Century, just 50 years after the end of slavery. Harlem in New York, for example, was safe, had good schools, and was visited by whites to attend their excellent entertainment venues.
̶

Publius said...

Ron's Political Lies

>There are actually people who think that we've already gone overboard in our attempts to address racial issues in the U.S. There is a small but significant contingent who believes that legally enforced segregation, a return to separate-but-equal, is actually the Right Answer. If you think these people can simply be ignored you have not been paying attention. The Trump administration is actively courting these people.

Ha! No, the people promoting segregation today are leftist liberals -- who are demanding segregated "affinity housing" on college campuses. You know, to protect minorities from the white students and create a "more welcoming, supportive, and safe community for minoritized students." These people are not Trump supporters.

>If you are one of those people who believes that Donald Trump doesn't have a racist bone in his body, well, I have a bridge you might be interested in buying.

That is just political libel that you can't support with facts or evidence.

> I'm a white male, and so everyone expected me to grow up to be successful, and lo and behold I grew up to be successful.

"Everyone" expected you to grow up and be successful because you were white? I doubt it. Lots of white kids are expected to be complete losers.

>And the reason I was able to get good grades is that I grew up in a quiet house within walking distance of the country club . . . And it was only possible because I was white.

Wasn't that possible because of your parents? You had another advantage: two parents in the home.

>But at the same time the Supreme Court casually disenfranchises a million ex-felons in Florida, who are, of course, disproportionately black.

That's a lie. The people of Florida actually re-enfranchised felons . . . once there sentence is complete -- and that includes paying all fines levied against them as part of their sentencing.

>The President of the United States calls white supremacists "fine people" and sends secret police to arrest people carrying Black Lives Matter banners.

Another lie.

>An American Senator defends chattel slavery as a "necessary evil".

Another lie. He was quoting historical figures who defended chattel slavery in that way.

Democrats should perhaps try being truthful instead of constantly lying. Maybe they'll do better in elections.

Don Geddis said...

@Ron: "my advocacy for reparations"

Yes, I apologize for overlooking that one. I did try to re-read all your words, and find any proposed solutions.

So. Now you are honestly trying to suggest that if reparations were offered, that this would somehow cause fewer blacks to be good at basketball, or more blacks to study engineering? You're a fool. It would either have no effect, or it would more likely have a negative effect. (At least, on the specific problems you outlined. It might, of course, have other good effects, or be morally justified. But it won't solve the "problems" you described in this post.)

Yes, it is. ... It may not be true today

So you contradict yourself, just within a couple of paragraphs. You observe a current "inequity" (blacks are too good at basketball), you blame "people in power", but when I call you on it even you agree that isn't the current cause of the outcome, today.

Don't you think you should spend a little more effort on figuring out why these outcomes are happening today, and perhaps craft your proposed solutions to the actual current causes?

"the fact that they are facts do not absolve the believer of the responsibility of the consequences of believing them."

I have rejected every time, your advocacy of avoiding actual truth and choosing to deliberately believe lies. You have come nowhere near to making a convincing argument it is "bad" to seek to understand the universe as it actually is (as opposed to how you wish it were, in some fantasy).

"you are mother fucking racist scum"

OK, so you've run out of intellectual ideas, and you've chosen to resort to kindergarten name calling. Or, at the very least, you want me to react emotionally, with anger, instead of rationally and calmly.

I deserve an apology from you, both for this, and for "that is an incredibly racist statement" and "Something to be ashamed of, yes." and "I accused you of making a racist statement." You should be ashamed of yourself. But I won't hold my breath.

I could follow you down into this name-calling cesspool. You deserve to be sworn at as well. But given that you're no longer willing to have an intellectual discussion based on evidence and logic, perhaps I'll just opt out, and leave you to swim in your own filth. Best of luck.

Ron said...

[Re-posting because apparently EM tags don't work.]

> Now you are honestly trying to suggest that if reparations were offered, that this would somehow cause fewer blacks to be good at basketball, or more blacks to study engineering?

No. Of course not. That is an absurd caricature of my position.

I am not saying that my proposed solution is the best one, or even that it has any merit at all. All I'm saying here is that you are wrong when you say I haven't advanced a proposal.

Frankly, I don't know if reparations are a viable solution or not. But I do believe that hearing a white person *say* that they *think* that they *could* be might in and of itself be helpful. So I'm saying it.

> Don't you think you should spend a little more effort on figuring out why these outcomes are happening today

I've advanced a hypothesis: 250 years of slavery, followed by 100 years of overt institutionalized discrimination, followed by 60 years of slightly less overt institutionalized discrimination, together with the observation that the effects of such discrimination cross generational lines. That seems like a perfectly plausible explanation to me.

> I have rejected every time, your advocacy of avoiding actual truth and choosing to deliberately believe lies.

Yes, I know. Believe me, I struggled with this myself. But in the case of self-fulfilling prophecies that produce bad outcomes, the only options I see are to either temporarily suspend disbelief or to accept the bad outcome. I'm not any happier about it than you are.

> you want me to react emotionally, with anger, instead of rationally and calmly.

No, it's not that I want this. It's that I've tried other way I could think of to get the point across and nothing has worked. But note well that you left out a VERY important bit of context:

"...IMAGINE that I was actually in a position of power over you. IMAGINE that if you acted out on your urge to swear at me, I could destroy your career, ruin your family, even kill you with impunity. NOW IMAGINE how you would feel and how you might react if from this position of power I said something truly rude and arrogant..." [emphasis added]

The passage you quoted was not an insult, it was a thought experiment. It was designed to make you put yourself in another person's shoes and see the situation from their point of view. Black people don't have to imagine how they would feel in a situation like that the way you and I do. They know. For them, it's not a hypothetical. It's their life.

Ron said...

This just occurred to me as well:

> I have rejected every time, your advocacy of avoiding actual truth and choosing to deliberately believe lies.

Here are two other illustrative examples where suspension of disbelief can be constructive:

1. The placebo effect

2. Adolescent youth often fall into a vicious cycle of depression triggered by a belief that are disliked by their peers. This belief drives behavior, like grumbling and complaining about the "fact" that no one likes them, that actually causes people not to like them. This is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy. The depressed kid says, "No one like me" and his peers say, "Of course no one likes you. You're depressed all the time, so you're no fun to be around." Again, all parties are acting rationally on good evidence, and the net result is that every now and then a kid goes over the edge, gets daddy's gun, and shoots up the school. I'd say that it's worth suspending a little disbelief to break that cycle.

Publius said...

BarcaLounger Theory vs. Data

@Ron:

>I've advanced a hypothesis: 250 years of slavery, followed by 100 years of overt institutionalized discrimination, followed by 60 years of slightly less overt institutionalized discrimination, together with the observation that the effects of such discrimination cross generational lines. That seems like a perfectly plausible explanation to me.

Isn't this too simplistic? Aren't you failing to account for the abolitionists? The Republican Party was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and passed all of the major civil rights legislation (take this Civic Rights History Test).

>. . . Black people don't have to imagine how they would feel in a situation like that the way you and I do. They know. For them, it's not a hypothetical. It's their life.

No, it's not. I Am Not Oppressed

What does the data say?
An examination of the relationship between general life stress, racism-related stress, and psychological health among black men.

Racism: Perceptions of Distress Among African Americans

Publius said...

Ron's Harmful "solution" 1/2

@Ron:
"For what it's worth, I hereby confess my sins, acknowledge my white privilege, and announce my advocacy for reparations."

Leave it to you to support a "solution" that would actually make the situation worse. Reparations -- however that would be administered (you haven't specified any details) -- would cause more harm to the black community.

If you want to actually make the situation better, try supporting the following:

School Choice

Watch the documentaries, The Lottery and Waiting for "Superman". Also the TED talk, Our failing schools. Enough is enough! | Geoffrey Canada.

A foundation for future success is a good education. School choice lets parents get their kids out of bad public schools and into higher performing charter schools. Charter schools, in fact, have succeeded in closing the racial gap in education.

If you actually want to do something to improve the situation, get off your BarcaLounger and visit a classroom to tell the students about science and engineering careers. Do something like this engineer. Explore if you can help out SEEK or one of these groups. Or a STEAM outreach program in your community. Blogging and supporting ridiculous ideas like reparations isn't educating even one child.

N̶o̶w̶,̶ ̶w̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶n̶e̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶e̶l̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶s̶e̶ ̶c̶h̶i̶l̶d̶r̶e̶n̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶v̶i̶c̶t̶i̶m̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶n̶e̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶r̶i̶o̶t̶ ̶u̶n̶t̶i̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶g̶o̶v̶e̶r̶n̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶g̶i̶v̶e̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶m̶ ̶r̶e̶p̶a̶r̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶s̶.̶ ̶ Now, what you need to tell them is that they are in control of their future, and if they work hard, they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.

Publius said...

Ron's Harmful "solution" 2/2

Restore Black Families

Blacks were doing quite well until they came under the influence of the Democratic party and harmful policies designed to "help them." One hundred years ago, the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate. Black unemployment rose after FDR and the New Deal Democrats instituted a minimum wage -- which they passed because black-owned construction companies were underbidding white-owned construction companies and getting too much business.

The black poverty rate declined from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960, prior the great expansion of the welfare state that began in in the 1960's under the Johnson administration. There was a far more modest decline in poverty rate among blacks after the Johnson administration's massive 'war on poverty' programs began. But by far the worst thing the Democrats did was to advance policies that resulted in the destruction of the black family. In 1960, two-thirds of all black American children were living with both parents. That declined over the years, until only one-third were living with both parents in 1995. Among black families in poverty, 85% of the children have no father present.

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