White supremacy and white privilege; same coin

By Razib Khan | May 19, 2012 8:55 pm

A few weeks ago I met Chris Mooney for some drinks & snacks, and we talked about his new book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–and Reality. It was an interesting conversation. We have a long history, so it wasn’t as if we were strangers. I recall Chris from the late 1990s when we were both involved in the college “freethought” movement, and later when I followed his political journalism at The American Prospect. On the whole we’re on different political “teams,” though neither of us seems particularly enthusiastic “players,” so to speak (I think at this point I can disclose that when I emailed Chris a few times when he worked at TAP to object to items in a particular piece, I often found that he concurred with my specific objections). I assume that to push copies Chris had to make sure that the emphasis was on Republican and not conservative in the title for his new book (and also, it exhibits nice parallel to The Republican War on Science). For me this is unfortunate because I have a lot more sympathy for conservatism, than I do for Republicans. Of course that’s a trite thing to say. And bemoaning the state of party politics in the United States is as old as the origination of political coalitions over 200 years ago (remember, many of the Founders, including George Washington, opposed a party system, which they believed would produce unnecessary faction). But I am of the opinion that due to its sheer scale and diversity the United States of America may be poised for an age of sectional discord. A throwback to the first half of the 19th century in the first decades of the 21st. Sometimes “this time” is different.

 

But back to Chris’ book. I have not read Jon Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, but my impression is that it taps into the same vein of social science literature, though with a slightly different spin. The big from-the-eye-in-the-sky picture is straightforward: different social segments exhibit varied cognitive styles in the proximate sense. Additionally, some of this psychological difference, on average, is likely due to heritable variation (e.g., political ideology is ~40 percent heritable). Finally, Haidt in particular emphasizes the possible evolutionary roots of these differences. The first two are relatively non-controversial issues, because they’re descriptive, at least in the most general sense. The details of how the generalizations play out may be subject to disputation, but that such differences exist seems less controversial (there are many details where I don’t buy what Chris or what Jon Haidt are selling,but I don’t think their enterprise is without merit).

Which brings this back to me. Chris half-seriously asserted that I’m basically a liberal no matter what I assert about not being a liberal in the course of our discussion. By this, he didn’t mean my specific ideology, but my cognitive style. This is not ridiculous on the face of it (though it is probably more precise to say I’m a libertarian in Haidt’s “moral foundations,” ultimately libertarianism of this sort is really liberalism). When I spoke at the Moving Secularism Forward conference last March I encountered a lot of skepticism that I was a conservative at all. When I explicitly rejected the label of social liberal/fiscal conservative, several people continued to push the thesis that that’s exactly what I was after the talk. They just couldn’t comprehend how someone like me, as nice as I was, and an atheist to boot, could think that some aspects of social conservatism are worth defending. Over long discussions with some of the younger attendees I encountered a repeated expression of shock that I could identify as conservative, and seem so coherent and unobjectionable. Strangely, Ron Bailey of Reason was on the receiving end of a lot more knee-jerk hostility than I was from the audience. I’m pretty sure that part of the issue was that my own articulation had less to do with contemporary politics, than deeper philosophical objections to the liberal project, broadly construed. Most people don’t care about philosophy, they care about your position on the public option (mind you, they don’t know the policy details of the public option, but they know what they should believe).

The ultimate root of my conservatism is a fact, not a value. That fact is that human cognitive and behavioral variation is real and important. We are not uniform. Nor is this variation always simply a chance contingency of personal history. Some people are more naturally prone or disposed to some outlooks, preferences, and values. The bigger implication is that human difference is profoundly baked into the cake on many dimensions. The inference is that even if a system of pure blind meritocracy was operative inequality would persist, because we have different endowments and strengths. Deeply individualist liberalism misses something precisely because it extrapolates from the mores and values of people like me, overly analytic and atomized personas who obtain little concrete benefits from social embeddedness in relation to the norm.

A personal aspect of this description of the world which explains the disjunction between my cognitive style and individual ethos (“liberal”) and that which I espouse in the interests of Eudaimonia (“conservative”) is that I don’t project from my own preferences to the rest of the human race. The reason is the fact of human difference. I’m conscious of the fact that my own values, which derive in part from introspection and intuition, are grounded in my own psychology. Not only that, but I’m also willing to admit that I’m not cognitively typical in many ways (i.e., I’m an outlier). What allows me to flourish may not be what allows others of the human race to flourish. And more critically, my own cognitive orientation is very much in the minority. In the post below where I was taken aback by how much many of my liberal readers insist on treating me like a moron when we disagree on issues, this comment jumped out at me:

This says more about your own willingness to identify with a set of cultural assumptions than it says about anything else. You’re just writing a post-hoc rationale.

I like the fact that this bolsters a my hypothesis, though. Seems conservatives are far more prone to tribal thinking — you’re certainly a smart guy, but the weird need to lash out against a strawman marks you as a conservative, and I suggest that that’s mainly what drives you to adopt conservative political positions.

Because I have kept the “public” separate from the “personal” readers can make their own inferences in a vacuum of information. Many of you are socially dull, so the inferences are often kind of funny, as you see information-poor logical engines producing amusing conjectures. But this can irritate me sometimes, when readers presume a whole “offline” life which is at some variance with the reality that I live (e.g., a long-time internet acquaintance presuming I must always have lived in a cosmopolitan part of the USA, not realizing that my whole adolescence was spent in “Red America”). The idea that I identify with a set of “cultural assumptions” and am prone to “tribal thinking” is actually a reasonable inference if the only prior I’m giving you is that I identify as a “conservative.” From the social science I’ve seen conservatives do operate with a set of heuristics which give priority to culturally mediated wisdom. And to some extent that’s close to a textbook definition of a Burkean conservative. But by using that sort of method you should also infer that I’m a white Protestant Christian. So let’s update that inference with more information. If I consider the people who I spend time with in “real life” none of them are conservative. By none, I mean literally none. The only time I really meet people who would identify as conservative is when the Secular Right crew meets up for dinner or lunch when I’m swinging through New York, which alas has been less frequent the last year or so. My parents are Democrats, my in-laws are liberals, my personal trainer is a Democrat! (he likes to crack Republican jokes). I know a fair smattering of libertarians through the Singularity Institute, but they’re definitely not conservatives (Peter Thiel would be an exception, but I’ve never met him, only his assorted lackeys!).

Let’s move to another dimension. I’m an atheist. I’ve basically been an atheist my whole conscious life, in that religion has never been “alive” for me as it is for most people. When I was eight years old I explicitly and consciously realized that I never believed in God in the first place. My parents are moderately religious Muslims, and my childhood upbringing was around nominal Protestants and Catholics. I didn’t even know the term “atheist” until my father once mentioned that his Ph.D. adviser did not believe in God, and so was an atheist. I don’t take particular credit for this as a matter of deep reflection and rationality. I just don’t grok God. Though today most people I encounter are irreligious, this was not always the case. I lived in eastern Oregon for my adolescence, and was one of the few atheists in my high school. Well, at least open and acknowledged atheists. I don’t recall that it resulted in any social consequences, so please don’t cry for me. People just took my casual assertion of lack of belief in God as another strange quirk. So I grew up in a mostly Republican town, which was 95 percent white, as a brown atheist. By the end of high school I was already identifying as right-wing libertarian. Take that however you want in terms of my tribalism.

One thing to understand about me is that when I was in high school I frankly had little use for the kids I saw who were Sunday Christians, and proud Republicans, who nevertheless smoked weed, got drunk, and hooked up. Not that there was anything wrong with those things as such, but the disjunction between values and action made my skin crawl. Hypocrisy tends to make me vomit in my mouth just a little bit. I was psychologically more naive then, and was not totally aware that my own overly analytic and somewhat bloodless orientation was very atypical. Today I am much more willing to cut people slack on their weaknesses; we’re all sinners, or something like that. Human conscious coherency and unity is to a great extent an illusion in any case.

Today my eye of skepticism is aimed toward the Left when it comes to hypocrisy, presumably enlightened rational atheist liberals who nevertheless live in a world sharply constrained and delimited by their own superstitions. Some long-time readers who are of the liberal persuasion stridently insist that my political heresy is in large part a function of my personal animus toward the garden-variety Left stupidity which I’m confronted with on a day to day basis. There is almost certainly some truth in this. I don’t react well when long-time readers take to turning me into a moron for purposes of appropriate disputation with the benighted. I also have to deal with this in my personal life if I happen to disagree with the consensus; I must disagree because I’m ignorant/uninformed/let others do my thinking for them/or have bad motive (yes, people who agree with a social consensus who I disagree with have floated the proposition that my own dissent is a function of the fact that I don’t “think for myself”!). It kind of gets old (I particularly hate the weird “enlightened” tick to label people who have heterodox/dissenting opinions ignorant, as if they don’t know the Truth).

I’m really not super interested in convincing anyone of any particular proposition. Rather, I do like to face orthodoxies full on, and see if they can survive the blast of skepticism. All views should be examined, no matter how distasteful from a normative perspective, because even the process of analytic decomposition of the profane can yield fertile insight. Not everyone agrees with this proposition. Long in the past (on the scale of my life) I have had religious friends for whom Cartesian doubt in the existence of God would have been mentally traumatic. But this sort of psychology does not exist just among the believers in God. A friend once recounted to me how his ex would tell him that if evolutionary psychology was true she didn’t know how she could even face the world. I honestly have no idea where that response came from, but it was a sincere sentiment. I’ve encountered plenty of flavors of that. The world is as it is. Your own model of it doesn’t perturb anything at the end of the day. Don’t confuse your own illusions for reality. But this conflation seems rather typical.

My long digression into intellectual semi-biography is to situate my own assertion that I am fundamentally an incorrigible heretic. As I’ve aged I’ve mellowed out and am not so transgressive in social situations. But I’ve spent my whole life in contexts where I’m the one who has to dissent from the proposition that “well, we all agree….” I really don’t care too much how others may view me for dissenting. Most peoples’ opinions on most things are worthless from what I have seen, so I don’t see the point in not adding a little value to discussion which is prone to devolving into a mental circle-jerk. The esteem of those with worthless opinions is not something I put a high priority on in any case. The prophet Muhammad reportedly exhorted his followers to “Go in quest of knowledge even unto China.” A lot of the sayings of the prohpet strike me as rather stupid or trivial (if the prophet Muhammad is the perfect human, Muslims have a really low bar for perfection), but this is certainly gold.

As a self-identified heretic (whether I am a heretic or not is a different matter) I like to think I “see” trends and dynamics which others may not be as conscious of because they’re part of them. It also helps that I know a lot of diverse things. I recall in the summer of 2006 at his old Right Reason weblog I had an argument with Steve Burton about the nature of Christianity. He suggested that there was no comparison to the ethical teachings of Christ in the New Testament in other cultures. I asked him if he had explored other cultures, particular those of China, and he admitted that such exploration was cursory at best. Whereof one does not know, one must be silent. Similarly, Ross Douthat has gone around making assertions about the nature of Christianity in contrast to other religions such as its embrace of paradox in his most recent book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. This is, in short, an example of ignorance. If Douthat had any familiarity with the obsucrantist paradoxical tripe that passes for philosophical reflection in Vedanta he would reconsider the singular flight of Christianity to paradox (this flight to paradox is part of the Christian inheritance from Greek classical philosophy, whose fascination with paradox is actually somewhat reflected in some Indian philosophical traditions). I ask intellectuals: why not step outside yourself a little? Burton and Douthat are Westerners, and Douthat is a Catholic, so it stands to reason that they’d explore their own cultural heritage first and foremost, but if they are going to engage in the project of comparison they should actually bother to do more than cursory survey of the corpus of other traditions. Too often people compare by comparing what they know to the image or preconception of what they know. Shame!

Before you can reason, you need to know. This is obviously true on the face of it when it comes to descriptive or positive questions, but what about normative ones? To the left is a chart which tracks the decline in the proportion of whites born before 1961 who support banning interracial marriage. Though some of this almost certainly due to the oldest dying off, some if it is the genuine change of opinions (you can play around with regressions and confirm this in the GSS). How did people change their opinions? The reality is that interracial marriage rates for whites are still low in relation to expectation, and residential segregation is a major social issue. But norms have shifted. People follow the views of their social milieu, no matter their actions. Sometimes this can occur unpredictably. American conservative Protestants were not particularly exercised about abortion until the late 1970s. There are various historical and social reasons why they did not become focused on the issue as early as Roman Catholics, but the fact is that the focus today is so strong and necessary people forget that this may not have been inevitable. It seems “reasonable” to everyone that social conservatives would have abortion as one of their top priorities.


Lothrop Stoddard

This dynamic is common. You follow the positions and views of your social and cultural milieu because it is a cognitively cheap and convenient way to go. Logical thought is energetically taxing. The changes of the milieu’s opinions though can occur very rapidly (at least on the cultural time-scale). As those changes result in a flip, your own rational faculties simply re-write the past accordingly. Inter-temporal cognitive dissonance is minimized, because people have a bias in attributing their views and opinions to their own conscious and rational faculties.The social science strongly indicates that the heuristic “believe what your peers believe” is the primary factor driving most opinion.  So you always need to be careful about taking the self-serving rationales of the individuals at the heart of the phenomenon at face value. Cognition is both implicit and explicit.

One of the recent cultural phenomena which is of some interest is the shift among the Western elites from a position of unabashed white supremacism toward one of araciality, verging toward exceeding consciousness of “white privilege” in our own era. The first stance is probably best encapsulated in Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tides of Color Against White-Supremacy. The second position began to ripen with the 1950 UNESCO state on The Race Question. By 1967 Susan Sontag was achieving some acclaim, and could plainly state that “the white race is the cancer of human history.” In the next few years some 1960s radicals, such as the Weather Underground, took it further, justifying the murder of all white babies. At this point I do have to point out that two of the most famous Weathermen, Bernadine Dorhn and Bill Ayers, brought two more white children in the world themselves in subsequent years (recall that Dorhn seemed to exult in the murder of Roman Polanksi’s white baby). You always need to contrast what people say, and what they do.


Yellow Peril

So here is my proposition: white Westerners have continued to maintain the schema of the racial order of Lothrop Stoddard’s day, but simply altered the moral valence. The term “white Westerners” itself presupposes that non-whites can be Western, which would surprise many before 1950. I suspect that this attitude maintains itself in the assertion that “people of color” are Other by their nature (though this is bemoaned in by the high priests of the New Class, alienation and marginalization of the colored is taken as a fact of life).

One of Stoddard’s main intellectual projects was to heal some of the divisions sown by Nordicist thinkers such as Madison Grant, of whom he was a protege, by forging a common white identity. I am not here saying that Stoddard rejected Grant’s factual characterization of divisions between European peoples (i.e., Nordic vs. Alpine vs. Mediterranean). Rather, as a matter of political and social pragmatism the primary concern was for the white race to unite so as to maintain the regime of racial supremacy. To make the model punchy. not only did Stoddard de-emphasize intra-European distinctions, but he separated the world into white and non-white. Note, Stoddard’s book was about the rising tides of color, black, brown, yellow, etc. Contemporary black nationalists of his day such as Marcus Garvey quickly took to Stodddard’s dichotomy, seeing the possibility for an interracial alliance of color against white supremacy (a thread which remains visible today in the Nation of Islam).

This dichotomy between white and non-white was useful and reasonable in Stoddard’s time. It was the age of white supremacy in reality, not just ideology. In contrast, as late as the 1790s the Chinese were rebuffing British delegations, while in the 16th and 17th centuries European “colonial” enterprises in Asia consisted mostly of establishing “factories” on the margins of land-based gunpowder empires. Tokugawa rejection of contact with Europeans, and the Omani defeat of the Portuguese across the western Indian ocean, illustrates how the world before 1800 was multipolar in civilizational terms. Not so after 1800. That civilizational division, and the rise of the West, was racialized by 1900 due to the influence of scientific taxonomy, and the collapse of non-European polities on all fronts.

It ain’t 1920 anymore. But some things don’t change. One of the main themes of Clash of Civilizations is that the West now (“now” being nearly a generation ago) has to start thinking about how to deal with a multipolar world, not in nation-state terms, but in civilizational sections. The biggest point is that the West can not simply interpret all actions of non-Western actors through their own set of values. To give an example, the diplomatic culture which grew out of the Westphalian System, and crystallized in the Congress of Vienna, is profoundly alien to the tradition of Chinese cultural history. Rather than a balance of powers, China has traditionally had tributary or hegemonic relationships with nearby states such as Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. One tension at the heart of the relations between China and its neighbors is the explicit Westphalian garb which they have had to don in the modern world, and, the congeniality of this system for the traditional inferior states within the East Asian sphere, because it presumes equality or parity between all actors fundamentally. The Chinese tendency to “act out” in areas like the South China Sea probably issues in part from the dichotomy between explicit de jure nation-state Westphalian ideology, and the customary Chinese modality whereby superior to inferior relationships of graded hierarchy are established between China and its “near abroad.”

A second more subtle issue is that the model of white supremacy, which has now been repackaged as white privilege, recognizes only dyadic relationships between the West and the rest. Consider that before 9/11 neoconservatives were looking to China as the great rival against which they could expend their rhetorical energies. After 9/11 it was the Islamic world. Or, in relation to Africa the West perceives itself to be a source of uplift via humanitarian aid. What all this misses is that the West is no longer a party to all inter-cultural relations. The West vs. non-West dyad is not always fully informative. The Chinese are now major economic players in Africa. Dubai serves as an entrepôt which ties together much of the western Indian ocean. And so on. This isn’t news to you, but we still talk about the “Global South,” as if the “South” was some amorphous whole of which it is useful to speak of as a conceptual unit.

I’ve addressed the issue of how post-colonialism is an intellectual instantiation of the inversion of white supremacy at length. So let’s address the phenomenon at a more demotic level. More concretely, we span the gamut from constant demands that white college students interrogate their own white privilege on a personal and individual level, and the broader the idea that diversity is good as a social matter. To put my cards on the table: I think this is mostly signalling. People have public scripts which they implement because they are part of their collective norms. Consider this recent article in The New York Times, Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S.:

Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.

The media and public reaction to this has generally been of moderate enthusiasm. I speak of this from personal experience, as several of my white friends have expressed barely concealed excitement at the prospect of a white minority. And yet public scripts may not always align with private actions. Consider, ‘Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?’:

In the broad resegregation of the nation’s schools that has transpired over recent decades, New York’s public-school system looms as one of the most segregated. While the city’s public-school population looks diverse — 40.3 percent Hispanic, 32 percent black, 14.9 percent white and 13.7 percent Asian — many of its schools are nothing of the sort.

About 650 of the nearly 1,700 schools in the system have populations that are 70 percent a single race, a New York Times analysis of schools data for the 2009-10 school year found; more than half the city’s schools are at least 90 percent black and Hispanic. Explore Charter is one of them: of the school’s 502 students from kindergarten through eighth grade this school year, 92.7 percent are black, 5.7 percent are Hispanic, and a scattering are of mixed race. None are white or Asian….

Tim Thomas, a fund-raiser who is white and lives in Flatbush, writes a blog called The Q at Parkside, about the neighborhood. He has spoken to white parents trying to comprehend why the local schools aren’t more integrated, even as white people move in. “They say things like they don’t want to be guinea pigs,” he said. “The other day, one said, ‘I don’t want to be the only drop of cream in the coffee.’ ”

Now that’s white privilege! And this isn’t “Red America.” It’s New York City. Speaking of which, here is Leah Dunham of ‘Girls’, commenting on the relative whiteness of her characters’ Brooklyn world:

I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately

What was Leah Dunham’s experience? I think the reality is that her experience probably was mostly white, at least from what I’ve seen in the real Brooklyn. People tend to cluster with their own group. And that’s what gets on my nerves about all the enthusiasm about diversity: it’s a massive demographic token for something which people tend not live out in their own lives even when they have the opportunity. That’s not necessarily a problem. Even if people are totally color or culture blind sometimes different groups have different preferences and mores. For example, if you go to an evolution and ecology seminar at a major research university I’m willing to bet that you’ll run into far fewer people of Asian origin than if you go to a neuroscience seminar at the same university. Why? Is evolution and ecology white normative or something stupid like that? No. For various reasons it seems that Asian kids tend to prefer neuroscience over evolution and ecology. But these sorts of explanations are never considered for white assemblages of political conservatives, to give an example.

A few years ago I decided to be a dick and point out to a young Washington D.C. liberal pundit that his Flickr was open, and it was obvious that there was only one token black guy at the parties he and his friends had thrown over the past 6 months (D.C. is about half black). I wasn’t accusing him of being a racist, but observing if he was a conservative some might imply that that was ipso facto evidence of race bias. No, the reason that a party of conservative pundits that’s totally white can be accused of being the outcome of racial bias has to do with the history of the conservative movement since the 1960s, not demographics stripped of all context. If so, then instead of taking incessantly about the demographics one should tackle the historical factors which serve as the basis of the accusation. Too often that does not occur, people support their pre-suppositions with demographic data which don’t necessarily support the proposition which they believe it supports unless one already holds to the proposition in the first place. To be concrete about what I’m getting at, if an institution is 90% non-Hispanic white, that is only strong evidence of racial bias if you already presuppose that racial bias is rife and pervasive all through society. If you don’t grant this presupposition then other explanations may be brought to bear.

But the main reason for this post was that I come to bury white privilege, not deconstruct it. While searching for more pigmentation SNPs to check on for my daughter for the purposes of future prediction (here eyes are still blue, even though she’s a heterozygote on HERC2-OCA2, as well as a host of other loci such as SLC45A2) I came upon this paper, Beyond the Shadow of White Privilege? The Socioeconomic Attainments of Second-Generation South Asian Americans (PDF):

There have been numerous studies of second-generation minorities in recent years but South Asian Americans have been completely ignored in this growing literature. We provide the first multivariate statistical analysis that focuses specifically on the socioeconomic attainments of second-generation South Asian Americans. Our results indicate that this group has educational attainments that significantly exceed those of non-Hispanic whites. The wages of South Asian Americans are also on par with those of non-Hispanic whites who have similar educational and other basic demographic characteristics. If anything, 1.5-generation South Asian Americans may be slightly advantaged in terms of wages relative to non-Hispanic whites. These conclusions apply equally to both male and female South Asian Americans. Some theorists of race relations have emphasized the socioeconomic advantages of non-Hispanic whites relative to minorities with darker skin tones, but these theories do not appear to be directly applicable to second-generation South Asian Americans.


Credit: Wikipedia

The quantitative background for this paper is actually interesting. There’s a body of research in Asian American studies which emphasizes results that indicate that when correcting for region and education Asian Americans tend to make less money than whites. The argument then is that the Asian American status as a “Model Minority” is a myth, only enabled by intensive accruing of human capital (as well as residence in high-wage high-cost of living states like California). When I was an undergrad I had a friend who majored in Asian American Studies (along with biology). It was obvious that in Asian American Studies they really did not like the “Model Minority” narrative. It may be instructive for me to observe that one of his favorite stories to tell was of an incident where white police officers beat up a few Asians, and then subsequently also smacked down a black man who came to their aid. It seems to me that this sort of ethnic-identity politics fundamentally takes the black experience as a model to emulate, and if the data does not fit, you seek it. I also think that because of this model modern Asian American Studies is implicitly strongly shaped by presuppositions which derive from a specific instance in history, the nadir of American race relations between blacks and whites.

These results are interesting because breaking South Asians apart indicates that the refutation of the “Model Minority” myth simply does not work in this case. The authors have some discussion of “over-controlling” in regression models, and why they did not look for patterns of wage difference within jobs (e.g., do native born and 1.5 South Asians make less money in the same field than native born whites?). And one must always be careful of regression analyses, as they are easy to manipulate. But as the authors forthrightly imply these sort of data give the lie to the idea that white supremacy/privilege is such an overwhelming parameter that it prevents success. There is an interesting section on South Asian pigmentation genetics (how I got to this paper), as the authors are trying to establish that South Asians are darker skinned than whites (ergo, a “visible minority”). This is rather funny, because South Asians are the world’s darkest population in complexion except for Sub-Saharan Africans! I’ve certainly been confused for an African American from behind a few times in my life (often when I was wearing a hat, or if my head was shaved). It also does not align well with research from 2008 which reported that skin color even for immigrants is highly predictive of current wages. That particular result is probably a major reason why the authors in this case focused so much on skin color, because South Asians, unlike the traditional Asian American groups (Chinese and Japanese) are very rarely light-skinned.

One social science paper does not refute a consensus. But, consensus in social science is often flawed and ideological. People of Asian immigrant background do not neatly fall into the mainstream model of American race relations, which derives from the nadir of race relations, and the paradigm of white supremacy. This is why the model minority framework is relentlessly attacked. It is also how Asians become white, or at least de-minoritized. The American system seems unable to handle the “three body problem,” where some groups of non-whites operate through a dynamic of inferiority on many social metrics, while others operate on a dynamic of superiority. This is always the major problem that I had with some members of the Sepia Mutiny weblog. Focused on South Asian Americans, the weblog seemed to highlight the marginalization of Muslims, or poor immigrants working in dead-end service sector jobs. These are all real experiences, but they are not the only experiences, and they are not the modal experiences of South Asian Americans. It reminded me all too well of my Asian American activist friends who seemed far keener on highlighting the difficulties of Southeast Asian refugees in assimilating to the American way than the fact that the majority of Asian Americans seem to be doing just fine.

The ideology of victimization is alluring, responsibility is no longer yours as the power of society approaches omnipotence. Asian American males often complain of the emasculation of their identity in the public domain, and fume about high outmarriage rates of women in the community. But the data tell a more subtle story. It turns out that when you correct for immigration status (at least -for the 2000 Census) a great deal of the sex ratio imbalance disappears. And some of the sex ratio imbalances may be explained by a variable as simple as height differences between populations. But the easiest “off-the-shelf” model for most people is white racism and white supremacy and prejudice. People who would otherwise consider themselves subtle or nuanced thinkers go straight for the sociological sledgehammer. And why not? There’s no social penalty!

Recently there’s been really strange talk about racism and the Bachelor series. The issue is pretty statistically straightforward: the casts are overwhelmingly (often exclusively so) white, and the few non-whites seem to be tokens who are quickly dismissed. The problem is that some potential contestants are suing for discrimination. This seems manifestly wrong-headed to me. The reality is that people discriminate constantly in their personal lives, and the target audience of The Bachelor series in particular is looking back to an older America where interracial marriage, “hooking up,” etc., did not exist (it also has a Southern white bias from what I can tell). And in any case many of the people sagely observing how racist the people on The Bachelor are seem quite statistically political incorrect in their own life. To find the link for the Bachelor race controversy I just used Google, and came up with the above piece in Salon.  The writer of the Salon piece has a Facebook profile where you can see her friends’ list. Check it out, and notice how unrepresentative of Chicago and New York City it is. A quick search on Intelius indicates that this person has lived in the Bronx, Chicago, and New York. Very diverse cities. And yet in their personal life their social demographic is very particularly “curated.” It goes to my point that a lot of the public discourse is following a relatively mindless script which is motivated by signalling (by analogy, back when I socialized with evangelical Christians there was often random talk about “glorifying God” within conversation. A lot of this was meaningless, but it was an important signal within that social group that you were in the “in” crowd).


Fight the power!

All of these phenomenon above are explicable as natural elaborations of “bottom-up” human dynamics. There doesn’t need to be a hegemonic ideology at work here, only the laissez faire bubbling of cultural evolution. Here is a Wikipedia discussion of Critical Race Theory: CRT recognizes that racism is engrained [sic] in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. In a descriptive sense the racial thinkers of yore, Lothorop Stoddard and company, would not disagree much with the above. Rather, they would only assert that what is up and good is down and evil. Their goal as social engineers would to be preserve, rather than compensate for, white supremacy. Where the proponents of CRT lose the big picture is that the concerns of a fantastical white supremacist superstructure is very 20th century. We live in an era where China is now regaining its status as the preeminent economic engine of the human species. I need not elaborate in detail why this entails complications in the narrative of white supremacy. But even within the United States Asian Americans present problems for the narrative. Because of their academic success Asian Americans are targets of positive discrimination, not beneficiaries.

We don’t need to look just to the present for problems with the model. In the early 20th century Jews literally broke down all the barriers presented before them in the face of gentile discrimination. This resulted in social controls such as the Jewish quota at American universities, and cycles of systematic anti-Semitism in Europe which culminated in the Nazi abomination. As long as Jews were constrained to ghettos, and not part & parcel of the gentile world, attacks against them did not reach industrial levels (and converts were assimilated). But once aspiring Jewish meritocrats began to impinge upon the circumstances of the gentile high bourgeois a more thoroughgoing anti-Semitism crystallized. Too often we remember the European Jew as the victim, but that tragic victimization was a consequence not of Jewish passivity, but the shocking and surprising efflorescence of activity in the wake of emancipation and the Haskalah.

The Jewish example, and the example of Asian Americans, and the assimilation of many Latinos into the same catchall as white European ethnics a century ago, suggest the possibility that the whole paradigm of white racial privilege/supremacy is an illusion, or at least is ephemeral. This is not to say that racism or discrimination are not real, just that they do not play out in the almost omnipotent yet subliminal fashion that is often assumed to be the case by many. The priors you bring into your framework of evaluating facts impacts your inference. If you think that racism is pervasive, and systematically generating injustice and enabling discrimination, then it clearly effects your life outcomes, especially those negative ones. On the other hand, if you do not think that that is the case, you look for other clues or hints as to where you may fall short, or how you may not “fit the bill.”

Of course I am not saying that most Americans hold to this false model. Rather, it is an influential minority. To the left you see attitudes of non-Hispanic whites after the year 2000 in the GSS to the question: On the average African-Americans have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are mainly due to discrimination? Only a bare majority of very liberal whites accept that white supremacy is so powerful as to be the primary determinate of the absolute outcome of non-whites in their conditions in the United States. You wouldn’t know that from the academy, and to some extent even from the policies enacted from on high. In the domain of personal behavior the breach between the elite orthodoxy and the reality is also stark. According to the General Social Survey only 47 percent of liberal non-Hispanic white and 39 percent of conservative non-Hispanic whites had a friend over for dinner who was black in the last few years! (the survey dates to the year 2000 and later for this case)

In evolutionary biology about a generation ago there was a debate about the rate of evolution, whether it was punctuated or gradual. I believe that in the domain of cultural evolution it is generally punctuated. The “distance” between 1963 and 1969 is far greater than the distance between 1969 and 1975. 1910 to 1890 is not symmetrical with 1910 to 1930. We live under the delusion that “it always gets better”, but it doesn’t always. England had a prime minister who was born a Jew, Benjamin Disraeli, in the 1870s. It seems likely that this feat would have been more difficult a generation later, as essentialist ideas of nationality become more fixed in the Edwardian imagination. In the text above I argue that the framework of white supremacy which is normative in elite Western discourse, and serves as a background assumption in many a conceptualization of “how the world works,” is fundamentally flawed. One can move under false premises for a very long time, but not indefinitely. I also suggest that the real lives of the average American is strongly “sorted,” not just politically or socially, but racially, in a manner which is tinged less with discrimination than with the consequences of genuine real life diversity. I believe that in the next few decades nations like the United States will genuinely become multicultural, diverse, and move into a post-20th century future. But I suspect that its outlines may be very surprising to those of us alive today, who live in the shadow of the Civil Rights era. I think that the chances are non-trivial that a sort of identity politics will reemerge among many white Americans which has only been submerged superficially among Southern whites, and exists implicitly even among non-Southern whites. The key is that all that that will entail is an alignment of the public and the personal, because many whites already sequester themselves in a world which is highly unrepresentative, just as many Asians, blacks, and Mexicans, etc., do. History does not repeat itself in quite the same manner, so I am not projecting here a world where interracial marriage is banned and Jim Crow reemerges. Rather, I think that its broad outlines will simply be more accountable to the facts and flexibility of 21st century existence. This is not necessarily a world I wish to see emerge, but it is a world that I might be willing to bet money on emerging as a point of fact.

Note: If it is obvious you didn’t read the whole post in a comment I will probably delete it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    and yes, probably fewer social and political posts for a bit now. i’m kind of out of shells ;-)

  • Polynices

    That’s a really brilliant, masterful post. Bravo.

    The bits about your Oregon upbringing are intriguing. When’s the biography coming out? ;)

  • Clark

    Really interesting post. The bit about conservative vs. liberal positions as opposed to styles is particularly fascinating and really well put. I’m not convinced the current situation is a long term one given the litany of stresses the past decade. (Bush v Gore, 9/11, Iraq, Recession) However it’s undeniable that the way conservatives and Republicans in particular have approached issues has changed the past decade. I think though that if you look back before that conservatives were engaging in a lot some might call the liberal cognitive style. (Where would we put Buckley, for instance? Even though he makes many more traditional conservative moves.)

    What I fear at the moment is that the US political system is becoming more like I remember the Canadian system of my youth. (I’ve not followed Canadian politics enough to have an opinion on its contemporary status) One thing that always bugged me was how much unanimity there was within parties whereas it seemed in the States that politicians were more accountable to their voters and more apt to break the party line when it reflected their constituents. That is for all the strength of parities it seemed like there was a diversity of political views. I relished a lot of the conservative debate as it seemed to cross political lines in many ways. That is there was a debate about what worked and the ability to persuade others through reason.

    Now there’s less of that. (On both sides it seems to me) There’s still a lot more diversity than often acknowledged – witness the “stay the course” versus “get out of Afghanistan” views which don’t line up at all with parties. (Although both Obama and Romney appear to hold to similar views) I also think that what you call liberalism is actually pretty prominent among conservatives and Republicans. That is there is a certain faith that some structure leads to egalitarianism when it seems extremely dubious that it would. (This is why I’m extremely skeptical of a lot of libertarian claims regarding what would have worked) That faith seems pretty independent of any particular contemporary political view.

    I also agree that a lot of social norms are primarily signaling. I actually think a lot of politics is signaling with little concern on what happens due to ones acts. (At least in terms of stated goals – the hidden goal of signaling is what is important) That’s why environmentalists do so many things that in aggregate seem horrible for the environment and why (sadly) evolution and global warming have taken the place they have for Republicans. (I’d say much of the Abortion debate on both sides is primarily about signaling too)

    Don’t have much opinion on race other than a hope we could eventually find some other category to organize around. But then we’d probably have just an other set of identity politics. (i.e. a black and white Mormon probably frequently identify with each other more than they would with others of those races even though undeniable to social structures due to race are quite different for each – that is there still are social differences within the new group but the new group identity dominates)

  • Razib

    #2, biography is for famous ppl. You are talking memoir, a bullshit genre IMO. My ideas are more worthy of interest than my life.

  • Dwight E. Howell

    If liberal/progressive/~socialist are the same thing as they seem to have become in the US, it has all the hall marks of group think and the things many say seem to be based on what amounts to religious type thinking. They aren’t into looking at facts and reject out of hand anything that challenges their dogma. Anyone who disagrees with them is automatically a raciest even if the person is obviously a member of a minority group and the speaker isn’t and the topic under discussion was purely economic. I could go on with instances of these people not living up to what they claim to stand for but what’s the point?

    Yes many Republicans seem to do the same thing and quite frankly seem to share the same values only they choose not to acknowledge it. The biggest value shared is a wish for a stifling nanny state in which citizens have no rights and no privacy and the Central Government controls everything in minute detail. The only winners in business are those who pay off the government to buy preferential treatment. Capitalism pretty much doesn’t exist in this nation unless it is crony capitalism.

  • Pierre-Olivier

    ” A personal aspect of this description of the world which explains the disjunction between my cognitive style and individual ethos (“liberal”) and that which I espouse in the interests of Eudaimonia (“conservative”) is that I don’t project from my own preferences to the rest of the human race. ”

    Thank you Razib, it is very nice to know other people make these distinctions.

    I know it’s not a constructive comment, but I thought with all the insults and crap you get from people who just want you to read their fact less personal perspectives, I’d just say thanks! It’s very educational to me, as always. Plus, your proposition is something I have always felt “instinctively”, whereas I could not put it into words and facts. I’m very happy with this post!

    Unrelated, yes, so feel free to disregard, but have you noted books of interest lately? The last one I know of is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature. I’ve bought John Keay’s history books on china and india upon your recommendation recently, so that will keep me occupied for a while.

  • razib

    Value add comments early please. Don’t use thread to rant. I wrote 7000 words, construct, don’t just repeat.

  • http://outofthedepths.blogspot.com/ Steve Allison

    You are amazing. You covered so much territory in that post with many asides all showing vast knowledge and mental nimbleness. I’m a white southern protestant preacher’s kid, born in 1950, and abortion was never mentioned in our particular quasi-fundamentalist group as I was growing up, that I can recall. If you had asked me about it when I was a student at our church-associated school, I would not have known how I was supposed to answer. Perhaps I missed it but I don’t recall you mentioning the current obsession with immigration among some of our fellow citizens. Seems to me this must be connected to a perception of loss of white privilege. I was reading blog comments (Experimental Theology – a psychology blog of note) a couple of years ago and an always articulate opponent there (they are in Texas after all) mentioned the “existential threat” that many were fearing. Not quick on my mental feet, I wished I’d asked what the threat was and why having more short, dark people being around is something to fear?

  • http://futurespaceprofiles.blogspot.com/ Andrew W

    So why are large sections of some racial groups so persistently represented in the poverty and crime statistics (dragging down the racial group average) while other racial groups, as you point out, succeed, or at least are as successful as the predominant culture? It’s a situation not restricted to the US, it’s also seen amongst Maori here in New Zealand, and other minorities around the world, even in societies that appear to strongly discourage discrimination against minorities.

    This isn’t a theory I’ve seen suggested by others but: Could it be the result of hostility amongst some minority groups towards the dominant culture, with this hostility being passed from generation to generation?

    History cannot be changed, current attitudes can.
    If I’m correct, is the solution for parents in struggling minorities feeding this hostility to their kids needing to take responsibility for the damage they do to them, because if young people – of any race or gender – are brought up to believe they won’t succeed simply because of their race or gender, that’s the most certain way to handicap them for the rest of their lives?

    How much of those appalling statistics, of child abuse, of poverty, of poor educational performance, are the result of the bitterness towards the wider society that has not only been passed down from grandparents to parents to children, but is now being re-enforced by “liberal” people who say to struggling minorities: “you’ve been exploited, you won’t get a fair go, it’s not your fault, it’s because of that exploitation by the racist white society, that’s who’s to blame”?

  • http://chicagoboyz.net/ Jay Manifold

    I read this while audio-streaming WFMT’s “With Heart and Voice,” which had an Ascension Sunday theme. ;^) Anyway, here’s a possibly unoriginal and vaguely autistic attempt at value-add:

    Amusing non- (if not downright negative) correlation between self-reported ideology and actual racial diversity of friends, even in ostensibly racially diverse communities. I note that over the past century the speed at which the average American can move through the local environment as part of a daily routine has increased from walking at ~1 m/sec to automobile travel at ~10 m/sec, and the cost of personal motorized transportation has plummeted – in the 1920s it cost $~1/mile in 2012 dollars just to keep a car in tires. So the radius of daily activity even for lower-income people has gone up by an order of magnitude, and the area by two orders of magnitude.

    Ceterus paribus, this allows nearly everyone to be highly selective in location of both residence and free-time activities, amplifying any prior tendency to self-sort into relatively uniform communities. Nor does physical proximity to neighbors mean that many of them will be close friends, when you can be hanging out with your buddies five miles away on a quarter of an hour’s notice. Pertinent disclosure: my census tract is 2/5 African-American. I have met my ~5 nearest neighbors, but am not at all close to any of them personally.

    Enormous increases in the bandwidth of effectively instantaneous communication seem likely to be another amplifier, aptly demonstrated by your Facebook example. Now we can pick the most congenial people out of a global audience of ~10^9, not merely the ~10^6 within reasonable driving distance in a metropolitan area.

    So heterophilous networks aren’t getting any easier to maintain. I’d generally recommend making an effort to befriend people who not only look different, but think differently and are of varying ages. A graze through my FB friend list would indicate that I am, maybe, just OK at this, but following me around for a week and noting who I really spend time with would not be so flattering. I’m reminded of CS Lewis’ remark about how the behavior that democracies like might not turn out to be the behavior that’s good for democracies.

    (A personal aside: I was especially delighted to read that you have interacted with Steve Burton, a friend of mine from Chicago days who now lives ~40 miles north of me; we meet for lunch monthly.)

  • R Will

    A nice article, although when deadline time rolls around next time you may wish you had broken it into two, because it could easily make two very distinct articles :)

    The point in the first half is especially well-received. I also find myself in the minority in political discussions when I raise a critical question. The funny thing is, when I raise a question, the person/people involved almost always immediately assume I must be an advocate of the opposing party, instead of just a person asking questions about an idea. The concept that someone would disagree without it being an attack from the opposing team seems to be somewhat of a surprise.

    I think the idea of applying rationality and critical thinking to political ideas is given somewhat of a bad rap because the terms “rational”, “critical thinking”, and “open-minded” have been adopted as shorthand for “thinking clearly” (which of course just means “agreeing with me”) by people who assume that opposing political views are just due to people not thinking as clearly as their enlightened selves. So when people hear about these terms, they’re conditioned to think they’re just catchphrases for people with an elite view of their own ideas instead of a process that can be learned and isn’t political at all.

  • marcel

    Thank you for this. Because of both the political implications of genetics and your frequent discussions of social and political issues in this blog, this background information about yourself is of interest. Also, I can learn a lot from other perspectives, especially well considered ones.

    When you write “I believe that in the next few decades nations like the United States will genuinely become multicultural, diverse, and move into a post-20th century future., you clearly expect if not hope that the U.S. will get beyond the simple black-white racial framework (What a hopeless liberal you are! ;) ).

    Why do you believe that this will happen?

    In the past, during periods when there were intermediate groups that made the simple (white-black) framework inadequate, “white” was eventually redefined to encompass these groups and the country reverted to a situation in which the simple scheme was once again useful. Following the immigration law reforms of the 1960s, we once again find ourselves in one of these transitional periods.

    Why do you think the US will end up permanently able to transcend the simple scheme this time? Are you an optimistic conservative (in contrast to which, I guess, I am a deeply fatalistic progressive)? Or are there trends, etc., that you think will allow us to break free of it?

  • omar

    Minor detail, but you may be interested to know that the perfect man probably did not say “…Acquire knowledge even if you have to go to China” . Hardcore authenticators seem to think that this is not a genuine hadith. http://wikiislam.net/wiki/List_of_Fabricated_Hadith#Seeking_knowledge_is_a_duty_upon_every_Muslim
    http://www.al-mawrid.org/pages/questions_english_detail.php?qid=1084&cid=511

    The fact that this is today one of the most frequently quoted “ahadith” reflects the intense demand for such a hadith (a hadith that fits currently fashionable ideological positions) and fits in nicely with some of the themes highlighted in your piece.

  • Matt W

    Razib, you make a strong argument, but its foundations are a little rickety. I would submit that there are different liberalisms out there striding the land, and a proper accounting of these different liberalisms would complicate your argument.

    Left-leaning non-profits and media outlets in DC don’t pay very well (and for the most junior employees often don’t pay at all). To want to work there, you have to have sufficient resources to live and play in DC without counting on much income. To get hired there, you have to have sufficient social capital to know about the jobs and it helps to have connections through family or friends or teachers. It’s that combination of social capital and economic resources that largely confines those workforces to privileged white people and to those non-whites who grew up in close proximity to those privileged whites. Interestingly, because conservative non-profits have more money to play with and pay their employees better, there seems to be more diversity, both of race and class, among their junior staffers.

    So without knowing the life stories of your Flickr and Facebook informants, I would not be at all surprised if they have degrees from elite institutions and grew up in pretty fortunate circumstances. For most such people, of whatever political stripe, that would mean they are white and most of the people they have known as peers throughout their lives have also been white. That would make them walking talking exemplars of white privilege.

    There are other liberalisms, though, that are typically excluded from gatekeeper discourse. One, and the one I grew up in, is working-class, union-centric, and reflexively and unapologetically anti-inequality. In my middle-aged lifetime that culture has moved from being largely white to being more non-white than white, but I don’t know that the central cultural characteristics of it have changed all that much. Looking after each other in times of need, minding your own business the rest of the time, appreciating the value of work and sacrifice and family and integrity and all that — those are the core values and likely always have been. And there’s not a lot there that doesn’t resonate with the core values of successive waves of non-white entrants into the culture of the American working class. I’ll save the rant about how the Democrats have lost their way when they’ve failed to speak to these values, but I wonder just how deeply Mr. Flickr and Ms. Facebook understand or respect working-class values.

    It’s at the organic, bottom-up level of working-class culture where whiteness as a distinctive virtue worth walling off from the rest of the world is in real danger. At the fringes there may be some working-class whites who fall back on notions of white supremacy to bolster their individual or group identity, but their numbers are dwarfed by the numbers of working-class whites who count non-whites as trusted neighbors, classmates, co-workers, friends, spouses. Depending on the demographic mix of their physical communities, it’s not at all news when a young white man starts dating a young Hispanic woman, or when a young white woman starts dating a young black man. Young working-class people seem to move in a world where racial/ethnic identity is a fact and important, but not determinative in terms of the formation of close relationships with either friends or lovers.

    And this was always the fear of those who fought bitterly against desegregation of schools and neighborhoods, wasn’t it? It’s a lot easier to Otherize a stranger of a different color when you can’t draw on a pool of experiences with similarly-colored individuals who are your peers. And once you have that pool of experiences, it’s far harder to see that stranger as the Other. In a way, the segregationists were right all along about what would happen when the races were allowed to mix. “Whiteness” is indeed disintegrating — those who benefit from the privileges it has conferred upon them are either unwilling to recognize that or are troubled by it, and for those who were never really that privileged to begin with, whiteness has less and less intrinsic meaning.

    I enjoy your blog, and enjoy your willingness to delve into topics others tiptoe around. Thanks for opening this up to discussion.

  • Michael Quick

    Good article (or whatever you call it) though I had some minor complaints about how the article was structured. Anyway, regarding the point: “That fact is that human cognitive and behavioral variation is real and important. We are not uniform.”, I largely agree however in looking at humans as a species, and drawing a comparison to specialization, I wonder if the postive notion of us “not being uniform” always justifies that statement? As many of us know, seemingly hearty specialization seen in now extinct species such as the Smilodon, Dire wolves, or Megaolodon led to their demise; has our cognitive trappings been leading us down the same path?

  • Siod Beorn

    I think it’s becoming clear to me why liberals are having a hard time understanding your position. A) you disagree more with the more implicit assumptions in liberal ideology that many liberals aren’t aware of (e.g., proactive egalitarianism), and thereby making your position heavily nuanced and non-obvious; B) your position relies on empirical evidence that contradicts the folk, ostensibly proven, understanding of several fields; C) your position doesn’t fit within standard political archetypes, and so people have a hard time realizing they need to create a new mental model for your position rather than stuffing you back into one of their preexisting models.

    But all that being said, I still don’t understand your position (to be fair, you’ve left me with a lot to chew on). What normative ethical theory are you subscribed to? Why is it necessary for you to identify with conservatism (is this a Wittgenstein’s ladder, because I don’t think it’s helpful it if it is)? Are you advocating for cultural and racial homogeneity like in Japan (or just pointing out liberal signaling & hypocrisy)? Given the ability to implement your ideology, how would the United States be different?

  • omar

    Matt’s comment made me think about people I know very closely who who live in lower income areas that are truly “diverse”…this is strictly anecdotal, but its my impression that people there are integrating more quickly than you may think. Not only do kids in school there have friends from all races, they date all races and actually have babies with them. At home, social life may still be dominantly within their own ancestral group, but the new generation is going to be strikingly different from the old.
    Of course, this is just my personal observation of one neighborhood in Van Nuys CA and one in Brooklyn NY, and this may not be the norm across the nation, but I do remember other comments about the degree to which at least SOME working class Whites are more integrated with their working class “colored” neighbors than is the norm in the upper reaches of society. e.g., I see mixed race children from the poorer parts of our city more frequently than I see the same from richer neighborhoods..and when their parents come to clinic one may sense many “issues” below the surface (or on it) but the racial issue that seems to have been such a big deal in the past seems absent. Nobody, not the clerk checking them in, not the nurses and doctors seeing them, and not the patients themselves, seem too conscious of the “mixing of the races”.
    This change may be here to stay.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #3

    (Where would we put Buckley, for instance? Even though he makes many more traditional conservative moves.)

    we need to distinguish the elite and the masses. but, buckley famously asserted that NR’s goal was to stand athwart history. this is fundamentally the conservative bias. what conservative is changes. in the 19th century it was skeptical of the corrosive power of the free market. in the 21st century american conservatives are skeptical of the corrosive power of the welfare state.

    in behavioral ecology there’s a model where organisms “track” changes in their environment. very volatile environments obviate the benefits of tracking change, while static ones make individual tracking a waste. tracking and openness to change is most beneficial in an environment with a moderate amount of change. in a protean work i suspect that you see a ‘normal range’ of bias toward tracking change and ‘updating’ across a species. ‘conservatives’ are those who rely on ‘social wisdom’ and are less inclined to ‘track’ changes and innovate to adapt. there are plenty of instances where too much innovation has a downside, and the rational thing is status quo bias.

    What I fear at the moment is that the US political system is becoming more like I remember the Canadian system of my youth.

    from what i have read the main issue with american polarization which makes it different is that we don’t have a parliamentary system. this makes governance difficult in a polarized environment due to the balance of powers. as i note above many of the american founders did not anticipate the rise of faction and political parties, and the system of federal governance may have been built on a false supposition. obviously we’ve made do until now….

    also think that what you call liberalism is actually pretty prominent among conservatives and Republicans. That is there is a certain faith that some structure leads to egalitarianism when it seems extremely dubious that it would.

    YES! this is something that i actually can use to convince my liberal friends that i am a conservative. open espousal of the idea that egalitarianism is built on false premises, and leads to a false model of the world, is pretty heterodox. even american ‘conservatives’ shy away from this, except on the extremes.

    Don’t have much opinion on race other than a hope we could eventually find some other category to organize around. But then we’d probably have just an other set of identity politics

    i think it depends on the category of ‘we.’ some people are genuinely post-racial. the problem though is that the masses have gotten good at following the ‘script,’ though they don’t live it, and many of them don’t believe it (this applies to whites, non-whites are generally racially conscious because it is socially acceptable). i don’t think the current arrangement is sustainable beyond this generation.

    #8, I’m a white southern protestant preacher’s kid, born in 1950, and abortion was never mentioned in our particular quasi-fundamentalist group as I was growing up, that I can recall.

    part of it is that before the 1960s abortion was criminalized. the point i’m alluding to is that protestants, and even conservative protestants, were relatively open to de-criminalization of abortion. ronald reagan famously signed the de-criminalization law in california, and though he made excuses for it later, the fact that he would have signed the law implies that it wasn’t on their radar. in 1968 christianity today published a pro-decriminalization editorial. the initial organized opposition to roe vs. wade was overwhelmingly roman catholic, with protestants being relative late arrivals (see catholicism and freedom). but in the late 1970s abortion got mixed up in the new right culture wars. george h. w. bush famously flipped from pro-choice to pro-life in 1960, and the rest is history, as the parties and ideologies polarized on the issue.

    a couple of years ago and an always articulate opponent there (they are in Texas after all) mentioned the “existential threat” that many were fearing. Not quick on my mental feet, I wished I’d asked what the threat was and why having more short, dark people being around is something to fear?

    the threat they are fearing may be similar to the threat the tejanos experienced when anglo (as opposed to german) settlers started flooding texas, and bringing slavery with them. nominally they were supposed to abandon the practice, but they refused, and fought for their independence. the point is that people want to preserve their folkways. the response might be inchoate, but it’s a real fear which has waxed and waned.

    Could it be the result of hostility amongst some minority groups towards the dominant culture, with this hostility being passed from generation to generation?

    things are rarely monocausal, and often there are interactions. one big “takeaway” is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every situation. in the USA for liberals that solution is often a robust social safety net, while for conservatives it is free market capitalism. this is a “if you have a hammer, you must find a nail….” problem.

    #10, nice to see you around! old friends from the permian era of the blogosphere we are :-) in any case, your overall comment is very informative, and i had not thought much about the role of transportation in encouraging sorting. but: I’d generally recommend making an effort to befriend people who not only look different, but think differently and are of varying ages. all things in good measure though. and i would give different recommendations to different people. if you are a manual worker a relatively homogeneous social environment might be best, because you want stability, and a refuge from the stresses of a brutal job. in contrast, if you are a journalist who is supposed to comment on the passing scene then a more diverse friend set is probably useful. more easily said than done.

    #11, A nice article, although when deadline time rolls around next time you may wish you had broken it into two, because it could easily make two very distinct articles

    i wanted to “situate” myself and make clear where i’m coming from. i’m sick & tired of retards jumping into the comments assuming i’m someone i’m not. so i just put enough there in one place to satisfy people. i don’t care about almost anyone i know exclusively on the internet to share much personal history, so normally i don’t put myself out there. also, this was a post, NOT and “article” :-)

    . The concept that someone would disagree without it being an attack from the opposing team seems to be somewhat of a surprise.

    humans have a ‘tribal’ tendency, and also a heuristic whereby we think in dichotomies.

    #12, In the past, during periods when there were intermediate groups that made the simple (white-black) framework inadequate, “white” was eventually redefined to encompass these groups and the country reverted to a situation in which the simple scheme was once again useful. Following the immigration law reforms of the 1960s, we once again find ourselves in one of these transitional periods.

    Why do you think the US will end up permanently able to transcend the simple scheme this time? Are you an optimistic conservative (in contrast to which, I guess, I am a deeply fatalistic progressive)? Or are there trends, etc., that you think will allow us to break free of it?

    there are several issues here. first, the core ethnicity of the USA in previous periods was very asserted in the past. to give a good example, read about how the roman catholic church in the USA was basically bludgeoned into submission. the american WASP elite won its kulturkampf. today the reigning ideology celebrates the ‘salad bowel.’ second, the european immigrants who arrived earlier were perceived as inferior and marginally white. but, the objective distance was much smaller culturally and racially. the relative distance perhaps not so different; i.e., catholicism was viewed probably as suspiciously by protestants then as islam is by protestants now! (in fact, there were de facto pogroms against catholics) finally, there is the legal dispensation where division into groups is encouraged and expected. there is a benefit to being non-white, and there wasn’t.

    i don’t mean to imply here that it’s inevitable that amalgamation will not occur. just that that amalgamation may not. additionally, there’s the point that the USA is VERY diverse and segmented. there isn’t really a ‘white’ identity as one identity to assimilate into.

    #14, your comment is fascinating. this needs more exploration, but to my surprise, it turns out that higher socioeconomic status is *positively* correlated with having a black person over for dinner in the GSS (i checked after your comment). this might be illusory (due to aggregating different regions, etc.), but i’m going to look further into it. as for elite educations, white privilege, etc., your comment is fair enough. but a lot of these universities have LOTS of asians. but asians and whites seem surprising self-segregated. so who is racist here? :-)

    As many of us know, seemingly hearty specialization seen in now extinct species such as the Smilodon, Dire wolves, or Megaolodon led to their demise; has our cognitive trappings been leading us down the same path?

    no, we have lots of morphs. they had one (in theory). also, it seems like that we killed them.

    #16, you disagree more with the more implicit assumptions in liberal ideology that many liberals aren’t aware of (e.g., proactive egalitarianism)

    to be clear, i don’t oppose proactive egalitarianism necessarily. my main point is that total equality is not possible, and, that proactive policies need to take into account inequality of endowment. for example, the liberal-libertarian idea of a ‘guaranteed minimum income’ through cash grants is probably a recipe for disaster.

    What normative ethical theory are you subscribed to?

    i tend to avoid thinking in terms of ethical theories (i used to lean toward various flavors of deontological theories if you care).

    Are you advocating for cultural and racial homogeneity like in Japan

    no. please see no “one size fits all” above.

    Given the ability to implement your ideology, how would the United States be different?

    i would actually break up the USA into more viable pieces first. perhaps keep it as a confederation. i don’t think we’re scalable as a republic. fwiw, i think the most likely medium term future for the USA is brazil.

  • http://www.parhasard.net/ Aidan Kehoe

    i don’t think we’re scalable as a republic. fwiw, i think the most likely medium term future for the USA is brazil.

    I think you’ll move in that direction, but you basically can’t be Brazil. Brazil, a western country for its whole existence—not a neophyte on the world stage like Korea or even Japan—has had one Nobel prize winner, a man who moved to England at the age of three. The US has three hundred and thirty-one, and you put a man on the moon. Different leagues in terms of human achievement, despite both having huge populations of Europeans.

  • Matt W

    Razib, a couple of notes. First, I would suggest that working-class whites are probably far less likely to have sit-down meals with anyone compared to upper-middle-class whites. That culture of sitting down for a shared meal has been largely replaced by something like parallel grazing, particularly among younger generations. So having someone over for dinner might not be the best metric for interracial socializing.

    Also, I wonder to what extent Asians are missing out on non-academic undergraduate and graduate experiences and how that’s affecting their post-college careers and earnings. If you accept as I do that college is more about credentialing and networking than about the transmission of knowledge and development of thinking skills, then Saturday nights spent at the library rather than partying with your lacrosse buddies might be time ill-served.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    If you accept as I do that college is more about credentialing and networking than about the transmission of knowledge and development of thinking skills,

    this is not so true of engineering majors.

  • http://futurespaceprofiles.blogspot.com/ Andrew W

    things are rarely monocausal, and often there are interactions. one big “takeaway” is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every situation. in the USA for liberals that solution is often a robust social safety net, while for conservatives it is free market capitalism. this is a “if you have a hammer, you must find a nail….” problem.

    The Liberal and Conservative solutions and explanations for large sections of minority groups that persist as “disadvantaged” and alienated minorities in affluent societies are the same the world over. In NZ we throw a very comprehensive social safety net at the problem, but it’s done nothing to solve the problem, the money just gets spent by many of the parents on … things other than those that benefit their children.

    You mentioned that even non-PC perspectives should be examined, I think the “hostility amongst some minority groups towards the dominant culture, with this hostility being passed from generation to generation” is one of those perspectives, neither end of the political spectrum wants to look at racism within the families of minorities as an explanation, as it doesn’t fit the solutions that suit their politics or is too much of a hot potato, and so its not addressed, and so it continues.

    I know hostility towards a dominant culture, and a belief that they’re the victims of discrimination by that dominant culture, amongst some struggling minority groups exists.
    I doubt it exists amongst minority groups whose children succeed?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #22, re: hostility, the roma are a classic case of this. they have a strong ingroup vs. outgroup moral system, and view non-roman (gadje) has possessing contagion. this obviously results in antisocial behavior as a badge of conformity….

  • http://futurespaceprofiles.blogspot.com/ Andrew W

    #23.

    Yep, the Roma though have their own functioning society within a society, the minority groups I’m concerned about can better be described as dysfunctional, minorities that fill the prisons, high child abuse rates, low educational success rates, children living in a poverty trap, parents convinced there’s no point in trying to succeed, or to encourage and support their children to succeed, because they have a perception that within the society they live in they’ll never be allowed to succeed because of their ethnicity, so they give up without even trying.

    Well that’s my theory why the problems been so persistent.

  • http://dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    * “biography is for famous ppl.”

    You were quoted in the spot of an end of the evening plenary lecture by Michael Hammer at the African Genetics International Conference last week (Dienekes has a podcast embedded at a recent post, you are quoted about about 50:00). So, like it or not, you’re starting to become famous ppl.

    * I would humbly suggest that some of the “no true Scotsman” static that you have been getting for so many years has something to do with the inadequacy of the term “conservative” which like all interesting words in the English language has multiple meanings.

    One of the more common senses of the word “conservative” is to refer collectively to all of the components factions (in the Federalist papers sense) that make up the American political right. The trouble is that a unidimensional (or even bidimensional or tridimensional) description of the coalition that makes up the American political right (and, of course, there is a parallel coalition that make up the American political left), isn’t really very apt.

    Coalitions don’t have to be, and in point of fact, aren’t, simply points along one (or two or three) continuums. Atheists in Americans, for example, have a cluster of shared ideology and reasons for coming to that ideology that is almost no more than coincidental in how it ends up sharing the same metaphysics as Soviet Communists.

    The modal faction in American conservatism is the one that predominant among white anti-intellectual Evangelican Christians in the American South. You very obviously don’t belong to that particular subfaction.

    It isn’t the only part of the coalition, but it is an important one. There are least a dozen, probably many dozens, of other factions that go into that coalition as well: Florida Cubans, for example, and Wisconsin Missouri Synod Lutheran (and WELS) Republicans, for another. There are neo-conservatives (often, but not always Jewish), and there are people like my inlaws who are Gen 1.5 Christians and Gen 1 Americans from Korea with upper class Korean roots and Confucian values and a Cuban-like personal history of flight from real life Communism that they feel are a better fit for conservatism than liberalism. There are Sagebrush Republicans and blue collar Pennsylviania hill country conservatives.

    Context, to some extent, determines whether a particular faction ends up on one side or another of a liberal-conservative line, since any majoritarian system of government is ultimately going to naturally split along its own particular left-right line. Surely, you wouldn’t disagree that in the Egyptian political world, you would be a social liberal.

    At Oberlin College (one study ranked it in the top ten most liberal colleges in the nation), I was considered a conservative, despite the fact that I was President of the campus ACLU and went onto be an officer in the Democratic party. On a campus with 600 members of the Democratic Socialists of America, 40 Trotskyists, and 7 Republicans, that will happen. (There was guilt by association as well, I wrote articles for a campus publication run by Michelle Malkin’s boyfriend and future husband Jesse).

    Since liberal and conservative are ultimately relative terms, one can be both at the same time, in different frames, and it isn’t always obvious which frame is the one most appropriate to consider and indeed, different people in the same conversation can use different frames of reference to the same word, which explains how it is possible even for people with all of the facts to disagree on the conclusion.

  • April Brown

    I hadn’t thought about the idea that a minority integrating into society might cause a backlash until recently. Just finished The Prague Cemetary (Umberto Eco), which focuses on the rise of anti-semitism in Europe from the 1860′s, specifically the villianization of Jews in literature and conspiracy theories.

    A character representing the French police is indifferent to finding a ‘solution’ to the Jews until they started infiltrating the military, taking positions as mid level officers and performing their jobs just as well as everybody else and acting like regular French people. Somehow this lent credence to the sinister conspiracy theories, and motivated him to take action (leading up to the fabrication of the Proticols of the Elders of Zion.)

    Fiction, though based on history written by one hell of a historian. It seems counterintuitive – you’d thing that trying to integrate into a majority would be appreciated, but I hadn’t ever thought about how that could backfire.

  • http://contemplationist.wordpress.com Contemplationist

    Awesome post.
    I suspect I agree with everything you say.
    However, one of your comments was surprising to me so I request you to explain a bit more.

    for example, the liberal-libertarian idea of a ‘guaranteed minimum income’ through cash grants is probably a recipe for disaster.

    Considering that Charles Murray (!) supports this, I’m very curious of your reasons for opposing.

  • E. O’Neal

    I’ve read your blog for years but have never posted. I want to say how much I enjoy it. This particular post is outstanding.

    America has an ugly racial history redeemed by what MLK described as an arc bending toward justice. I’m convinced that the overwhelming percentage of white people today would love to see a color-blind society with equal opportunity for all, a true meritocracy with a humane safety net. But we’re no closer today than we were fifty years ago to being a nation where we’re all judged not on the color of our skin but on the content of our character. In fact, we’re no longer even trying to achieve MLK’s vision because it’s inconsistent with multiculturalism and identity politics. There are powerful political forces that need to keep us all in our separate boxes and to preserve a sense of victimization among their demographic base.

    For the majority to be universalist in its “official” outlook but for all the various minorities to be particularist, even tribal, in theirs is not a stable situation. Eventually the whites will start to feel the same sense of group identity and group rights, and then we’ll be like every other dysfunctional multi-ethnic country in the world. There is still time to prevent this pernicious sort of white backlash, but the window of opportunity is closing,

    Many of us saw Obama as a post-racial figure who could help us put America’s racial divisions behind us. Instead he’s decided to write off the traditional Democrat base, blue-collar and lower middle-class whites, as hopeless primitives (bitter clingers). Obama represents the liberals you write about, the white professionals and other knowledge workers, crony capitalists, and government emploees who are the real power elite in America today. White liberals run the Democratic party, and blacks, Hispanics, single white women, and immature whites are along for the ride. They get mostly symbolic policy (hope n change, free contraceptives, etc), while the big boys get the big bucks.

    All Obama figures he needs to be re-elected is 38% of the white vote. But I don’t think he can racially polarize American politics, as he has, and still hold onto even that 38%. The rural and small-town whites are really angry about being the only group in American society that is stigmatized by the dominant liberal culture. And eventually Obama’s relatively strong support among college-educated whites will also crumble. Many are fiscal conservatives who can understand the debt precipice we’re approaching but who have favored the Dems on social policy or for superficial stylistic reasons. The last thing they want is to be called racists (and few are), but white guilt goes only so far. In the privacy of the voting booth, many who voted for Obama last time will reject him this November.

  • http://contemplationist.wordpress.com Contemplationist

    To be clear, it’s not a rhetorical question at all, just that it hadn’t occurred to me (I guess I’m lazy) that someone who is libertarian-leaning + accepts a lot of Charles Murray’s work would think not just that the scheme would be a waste but that it would be a disaster.

  • marcel

    RK wrote there are several issues here.

    As they say where I once lived (Twin Cities), “You betcha!”

    The comment I originally wrote was absurdly long, (not only because, but) esp. given that this is not my blog, so I decided I’d better compress it. Perhaps I succeeded too well. I will have to chew on your observation about there being benefits awarded for sustaining a non-white identity in contrast with earlier periods. My initial reaction is skepticism that they outweigh the benefits of being white ( I admit to being much taken by Scalzi’s post about how being a SWM is the lowest difficulty setting in the game of real life).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    . But we’re no closer today than we were fifty years ago to being a nation where we’re all judged not on the color of our skin but on the content of our character.

    i think we’re a little closer. if i had to pick between 2012 and 1962, 2012 all the way.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    for example, the liberal-libertarian idea of a ‘guaranteed minimum income’ through cash grants is probably a recipe for disaster.

    same reason i think it is probably a good idea to ban check-cashing: i don’t think people are rational often enough in their decision making, especially those with few means.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    You were quoted in the spot of an end of the evening plenary lecture by Michael Hammer at the African Genetics International Conference last week (Dienekes has a podcast embedded at a recent post, you are quoted about about 50:00). So, like it or not, you’re starting to become famous ppl.

    just an fyi, i believe he’s given a talk with that slide multiple times now.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    To quote from my review of Haidt’s book:

    What Haidt never quite gets across is that conservatives typically define their groups concentrically, moving from their families outward to their communities, classes, religions, nations, and so forth. If Mars attacked, conservatives would be reflexively Earthist. As Ronald Reagan pointed out to the UN in 1987, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” (Libertarians would wait to see if the Martian invaders were free marketeers.)

    In contrast, modern liberals’ defining trait is making a public spectacle of how their loyalties leapfrog over some unworthy folks relatively close to them in favor of other people they barely know (or in the case of profoundly liberal sci-fi movies such as Avatar, other 10-foot-tall blue space creatures they barely know).

    http://takimag.com/article/the_self_righteous_hive_mind_steve_sailer/page_2#ixzz1vUvjDBO3

  • Superfast Jellyfish

    #18: “…in contrast, if you are a journalist who is supposed to comment on the passing scene then a more diverse friend set is probably useful. more easily said than done.”

    I have a friend who used to be a journalist at a decent-sized daily paper. He was a closeted conservative there, and it was entertaining to hear insider accounts of the groupthink there. For people who are supposed to publish the truth, they have a disappointing lack of curiosity. So yeah, journalists could probably use a more diverse friend set.

    On a similar note, I used to live in a trendy, artsy, gentrifying neighborhood. One evening at the neighborhood meeting it was time for the annual elections, and the outgoing neighborhood association president greeted everyone and went out of her way to congratulate the crowd for being so diverse. This is a rough estimate, but the crowd consisted 80% of college-educated white liberals in their 20s and 30s and 20% of college-educated white liberals in their 40s and 50s. Diversity!

  • Michael Quick

    Regarding my post #15, what I was trying to say was that I don’t agree that what makes us different is necessarily something good. Not trying to say that the ‘conservative’ (such as Winston Churchill) types are all bad, but to assume it’s always good is probably giving too much credit imo.

  • Church of Jed

    “Under the circumstances, racism really is the best option.”

    -Rev. Jed DeValleyism, “Cashing in on my White privilege,” 2004

  • Anthony

    ” I know hostility towards a dominant culture, and a belief that they’re the victims of discrimination by that dominant culture, amongst some struggling minority groups exists.
    I doubt it exists amongst minority groups whose children succeed?”

    American Jews. Very hostile to any public expression of Christianity, and have a belief that the discrimination of the 20s is still going on, though more subtly. And very successful financially.

    Different Asian groups seem to have one or another component of this, depending how you define “dominant culture”. American prole culture is something any group trying to succeed would do well to avoid, but it’s not necessarily the “dominant” culture.

  • Anthony

    Something Matt W says @14 inspires a thought. The white middle class is individually non-racist, but collectively racist, in an interesting way. What middle class whites don’t like about being around people of other races isn’t the biological difference, but the cultural difference. Any person of any race can be accepted in to the white middle class by acting like them. But most American blacks and many hispanics don’t act that way, and the white middle class knows that. So they’re uncomfortable around groups of blacks (that aren’t obviously middle-class), Hispanics, or working-class or welfare-class whites. The middle-class discomfort in other cultural surroundings is greater or lesser based on a fairly accurate knowledge of the hostility that the other group bears to middle-class whites.

    This is why Asians generally aren’t discriminated against by whites, even while Asians out-compete whites for jobs. The values and behaviors of American Asians mostly fit within the range of acceptable middle-class behaviors, even among immigrants fresh off the boat. There are some tensions even there, but they’re minor, and geographically circumscribed. (There’s also the fact that Asian groups in the U.S. have members who are not middle-class in values and actions.)

  • http://shinbounomatsuri.wordpress.com Spike Gomes

    Anthony:

    Yep, that Irving Berlin sure hated public expressions of Christianity.
    “I’m dreaming of an inclusive diverse solstice celebration. Just like the ones I used to know.”

  • Latifundiário

    Reading now and I think the Brazilian Elite is the most successful Elite in the American Continent. We are the mainstream continuity of our little insignificant European society and not a runaway group of religious or political refugees like the WASPs. We have the same institutions, language, religion, culture and Y DNA since the Portuguese Reconquista and we defeated our enemies in our big territory. We used to be slavers and now we still are the ruling class with more millionaires in Brazil than in Japan or Germany and our economy is just starting this new century with a country ready to move ahead even with the heavy burden and heavy heritage of our 5 million of African slaves ready to be socially included as our partners in this new saga. The Nobel prize is a private prize and as a private club they decide whatever they want just like we have private premiums anywhere in the world. China has invented better private international premiums than the private Norwegian Nobel and China is nowadays economically more important to us Brazilians than the United States and Norway ! So be prepared to be overtaken without fuss !

  • http://www.textonthebeach.com Seth

    Razib writes, “People who would otherwise consider themselves subtle or nuanced thinkers go straight for the sociological sledgehammer [white racism]. And why not? There’s no social penalty!”

    If I were to take one gold nugget from this wonderful article, this would be it. This fact is precisely what bothers me about the Left (and the academic Left in particular). When it comes to the “race script,” all nuance and historical perspective goes out the window, and it doesn’t matter, because it’s a sexy script to follow.

    A colleague and friend of mine is very active in working with the local Native American tribe, trying to get their land back or some such thing. The tribe was part of the Iroquois Nation. My friend, as far as I can tell, sees his work as part of the Grand Narrative: Evil white people came in, took the land illegally from the peaceful natives, and brutalized said natives in the process. Injustice! The script calls for righteous indignation!

    An otherwise nuanced and critical thinker, he fails to see any irony in what he’s doing. The Iroquois didn’t gain their initial power or land by being nice . When it comes to “non-whites,” it’s as if everything occurs in a vacuum, as if history did not exist prior to 1960. It baffles me.

  • bokko

    @sailer

    And yet somehow the conservative Germanic English skipped over their nearest ring of cousins on the continent in order to embrace nasty Slavic Poles in a crazy little conflict a while back. And they leapt over the same ring to ally with the despised “Mediterranean” French the war before. And the “religion” ring didn’t seem to exist at all in either war. Protestants before Catholics before, ahem, Jews, certainly wasn’t a factor at all. Come on.

    But let’s posit that your pithy and binary descriptors have validity – and I’m not saying they don’t. Does that mean that only people of European descent are liberals? Because I sure don’t see a single other group leapfrogging these concentric sociobio-rings of yours with the aplomb of these folks.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Reading now and I think the Brazilian Elite is the most successful Elite in the American Continent.

    why am i not surprised you think this? :-)

  • Tom Bri

    #32 you said…same reason i think it is probably a good idea to ban check-cashing: i don’t think people are rational often enough in their decision making, especially those with few means…

    I remain enough of a libertarian to think people will never learn until they are burnt again and again. Some will never overcome stupidity, but some will. Banning this or that probably won’t help, there are endless avenues for irrational behavior. Getting burnt on the payday loan scam is probably a pretty good way to learn to avoid high interest debt. Safer than a credit card, which isn’t limited to a single paycheck.

    A few years ago I went through a bad patch, and ended up working with a lot of low income people, mainly Blacks and redneck Whites. My friends and lunchmates were mainly Black men. It was easy to see who had gotten the message and who not. Young lower class Blacks and Whites both were trouble waiting to happen, but the older folks I mostly hung out with had put that behind them, and were concentrating on building capitol to start businesses. Many of them ran businesses on the side. The younger ones who had their shit together were going to school.

  • Kumar

    Razib,

    Interesting aside about the analogous development of an interest in paradox in some strands of Indian philosophy and classical Greek philosophy. Which Indian philosophers did you have in mind?

    Regards,
    Kumar

  • MCZ

    #40 Here’s what Philip Roth would say to that:

    “God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then He gave to Irving Berlin ‘Easter Parade’ and ‘White Christmas’. The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ – the divinity that’s the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christianity – and what does Irving Berlin brilliantly do? He de-Christs them both! Easter he turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow. Gone is the gore and the murder of Christ – down with the crucifix and up with the bonnet! He turns their religion into schlock.”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #46, sankara.

  • Spike Gomes

    47:

    Irving Berlin only finished what the German Thomas Nast started, but I’m being facetious.

    Seriously, the idea that pre 60s culture war Judaism was undermining Christianity is garbage. The stuff Irving Berlin and other American Jews were doing were attempting to construct a new civil religion around American cultural practices and values shorn of theology, in other words finding ways of plugging Jews (and by extension Roman Catholics and other urban immigrant groups and their descendants) in the American narrative that before was distinctly Protestant, Anglo and focused on a sort of Jeffersonian yeoman settler ideal.

    In other words it had as much to do with undermining traditional Christianity as Santa Claus does, namely only in the heads of believers, and being that I’m not one, I’m not due to care much.

  • Douglas Knight

    the european immigrants who arrived earlier were perceived as inferior and marginally white

    Did people really frame ethnic superiority in terms being white?

  • http://www.russellturpin.com/ Russell

    Razib writes:

    same reason i think it is probably a good idea to ban check-cashing: i don’t think people are rational often enough in their decision making, especially those with few means.

    In today’s political landscape, that’s a liberal position. Which is why the payday loan companies are large contributors to Republicans at the state level.

    I’m not convinced that being opposed to kum-bay-ya liberalism makes one a conservative. ;-)

  • wj

    Your eperience of having people doubt you can really be a conservative definitely resonated.

    I recall a time in the mid 1980s, when a (very) liberal friend and co-worker was on a rant about how terrible conservatives are, and how she couldn’t see how anyone could stand to be around them. A lengthy rant. So I pointed out that *I* was a conservative, and she got along fine with me. She stopped dead for a moment, and then replied: “Yes, but you’re a tolerant conservative.” As if such a thing was so totally anomalous as to make no difference in her overall world-view.

  • Bill

    I applaud your personal efforts to acknowledge individual differences and to gather information before reaching a conclusion. Even more importantly, I truly appreciate your providing references so others can look at your sources as well.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think your apparent conclusion is sufficiently supported by your references in the case of the Weathermen. I’m unsurprised that as a group they were against bringing more white babies into the world and they clearly were willing to engage in violent action to achieve their aims. However, I think it is a stretch to extrapolate from one individual suggesting infanticide to the idea that murdering white children was a core belief of the group as a whole. As for the Tate murder, it was an unborn (albeit late term) fetus and not something in which the Weathermen were actually involved. Given the times and the individuals, “don’t get pregnant and if you do get an abortion” seems to me a more probable group belief.

  • http://www.russellturpin.com/ Russell

    It’s interesting that the GSS asks about a popular liberal explanation — overt discrimination –for poorer outcomes for blacks. Does it ask about either of the popular conservative explanations: genetic differences in intelligence and consequence of liberal social policies?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I think it is a stretch to extrapolate from one individual suggesting infanticide to the idea that murdering white children was a core belief of the group as a whole.

    i didn’t say it was a core belief. please don’t impute a position which i didn’t hold.

    Does it ask about either of the popular conservative explanations: genetic differences in intelligence and consequence of liberal social policies?

    genetic differences in intelligence is not a popular position among american conservatives.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I’m not convinced that being opposed to kum-bay-ya liberalism makes one a conservative.

    free inquiry will publish an article by me this fall on why i’m a conservative, so i’ll outline my views in more detail.

  • floodmouse

    @ Steve Sailer: “Conservatives typically define their groups concentrically, moving from their families outward to their communities, classes, religions, nations, and so forth. If Mars attacked, conservatives would be reflexively Earthist.” – It’s interesting to look at Leni Reifenstahl’s infamous 1935 Nazi propaganda film, “Triumph of the Will.” Under the Nazis, integration of different regional and ethnic populations in Germany was to be achieved by uniting against the demonized out-group, namely, the so-called Semitic conspiracy. Again it’s interesting to look at the recent (2008) documentary, “Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown.” H.P. Lovecraft is now famous as a pioneer of the science fiction genre. The documentary convincingly argues that the alien menace present in his works reflects his own racism and fear of the non-WASP European immigrants that were transforming the American society of his time.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025913/
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1261900/

    @ Razib Khan’s original post: “I think this is mostly signalling. People have public scripts which they implement because they are part of their collective norms.” – The scripts change over time, but the tendency for people to blindly mouth the words never seems to change. What is defined as “politically correct” changes over time. Now it is politically correct to support diversity, but in Nazi Germany, it was politically correct to support anti-Semitism. The historical lesson is useful as a cautionary tale: Most people are just going along for the ride. Even if they talk the talk, they can’t be counted on to walk the walk. The tricky part is trying to steer society so that political correctness comes more and more into line with factual correctness.

    “According to the General Social Survey only 47 percent of liberal non-Hispanic white and 39 percent of conservative non-Hispanic whites had a friend over for dinner who was black in the last few years!” – I have never had anyone over for dinner (I don’t cook). In fact, I don’t even own a dining room set. However, over 50% of my leisure time activities are spent with black friends. Some questions are just poorly worded.

    @ Andrew W: “If young people – of any race or gender – are brought up to believe they won’t succeed simply because of their race or gender, that’s the most certain way to handicap them for the rest of their lives[.]” – The most successful person I know is a black-Asian woman who is a successful professional, has started her own business, and is now focused on empowering the local community. We’ve chatted a little about our upbringings. She tells me that she was encouraged to succeed by her mother and grandmother, was tracked into an achievement-oriented school program, and spent little time playing. No one encouraged me to do much of anything, and I spent most of my time reading books (fiction, of course, not textbooks). Our white liberal schoolteachers enjoyed telling all the white kids about how all the high-IQ, super-achieving students in places like China were whupping our backsides on test scores, while all of us American students were just lazy, ignorant, apathetic TV-watchers who couldn’t find our own country on a map of the world. Needless to say, I don’t own my own business and I don’t think I could be considered a successful professional, even though I do hold down a boring stable office job.

    @ Omar: “At least SOME working class Whites are more integrated with their working class “colored” neighbors than is the norm in the upper reaches of society.” – Ain’t it the truth? I live in an old working-class neighborhood with street names like “Mechanic Street.” White and black families are mixed about equally, and you see lots of interracial couples. I guess I could have lived in a “better” neighborhood, but I always thought the suburbs were kind of scary. We all have small houses and small yards, but people here love their kids. The yards are all full of toys and bikes, and people in this neighborhood don’t steal from each other. We have lots of parks and the whole street is kind of a public space, instead of everyone being walled off in a fenced yard.

    @ ohwilleke: “Since liberal and conservative are ultimately relative terms, one can be both at the same time, in different frames, and it isn’t always obvious which frame is the one most appropriate to consider.” – I would certainly be considered a liberal in the Republican small town where I grew up. I remember overhearing animated discussions among my elders of whether white health care professionals ought to be required to draw black blood, and whether drawing black blood gave you a sort of mental cooties, like a person of high caste being contaminated by contact with an untouchable. On the other hand, I went to a very liberal university where I would certainly be considered a conservative because I believe in concepts like personal merit as opposed to the myth of social equality. My professors could never convert me to historical determinism. I don’t believe that you can legislate, enforce, or economically subsidize people into making good choices. You can try to educate them, and that’s about it.

    @ Razib again: “Human cognitive and behavioral variation is real and important. We are not uniform. Nor is this variation always simply a chance contingency of personal history.” – I said before that I spent more than half my leisure time with people not of my own cultural group. I like them, and I’m getting to know how they react, but I never understand WHY they react the way they do. I’m sure part of is due to our different upbringings, but part of it must be the way we are put together physically. Brain chemistry is coded for genetically, and so are the way our skin and eyes react to light. One thing that always gets me is how I get accused of not paying attention because I don’t have my eyes propped wide open, whereas I would need sunglasses indoors to sustain that level of light exposure. Another thing I’ve noticed is that while it seems rude to me to stare, I get accused of not making enough eye contact. The fact that they misread my facial expressions this way makes me wonder how often I’m misreading their expressions in turn.

    “I don’t project from my own preferences to the rest of the human race. The reason is the fact of human difference.” – Bravo. I think this is the definition of maturity. When I was young, I read books to find other people who thought the same as me. When I got older, I sought out books that gave me new points of view, and ideas I had never thought of before.

    Let me also say that I love reading this blog. Even though a lot of the genetics go over my head, it is one of the few weekly rituals that reminds me there really IS intelligent life outside my cubicle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.whitehead.904 Aaron Whitehead

    I loved reading this article. I’ve found that my 20-something peers here in Australia engage in the same frustrating hypocritical attitudes you discussed here. I grew up in a rural area, with a large indigenous population. There are ongoing issues in Australia with regards to indigenous issues of health education ect, yet I who have actually met and interacted with this racial group am dismissed for saying that there is equal responsibility for both the indigenous themselves and also wider white Australia. I am called racist ect. by people who have never even met an indigenous person, never mind had indigenous friends, whereas I have made friends, been bullied by and lived among indigenous people. And so these problems are not being resolved, simply because the very people who wish them to be resolved the most place 100% of the blame on racism, discrimination ect. I agree wholeheartedly that sooner or later the prevalent discourse here as well as in America will shift, and not in a good way. I’s almost as if people are dismissing reality in lieu of a more comfortable, politically correct illusion where everything that happens, happens due to white people or is the responsibility of white people. A cursory understanding of history would show that in times of white people taking the responsibility for the issues of other races or civilizations, colonialism and imperialism followed not long after. The driving philosophical force behind European imperialism was “White Man’s Burden” where is was believed that since white people possessed technology and science beyond that of a great amount of native peoples across the world, those same white people had a responsibility to share it and ‘uplift’ these populations. What followed was the most brutal era of colonialism, with ramifications still being felt today.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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