Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ibram X. Kendi: More Insanity On Race From The Left

   How is it that people on the left get away with saying such patently stupid things about race? I mean, we know the right was hopeless for...seems like ever...on the topic. But has the left always been this delusional? Here are just two bits from the article:
Kendi, a historian at the University of Florida, proposes a standard. “My definition of a racist idea is a simple one: it is any concept that regards one racial group as inferior or superior to another racial group in any way.”
   Right then. So the proposition that blacks can stay out in the sun longer than whites without getting sunburned...racism! Believing that Jews have a disproportionate number of Nobel prizes...racism!!! In fact, we don't even know whether racism is false! We have to wait until the scientific data about comparative abilities is in. Here's hoping that the Koreans don't turn out to be better at Starcraft or something...because if they do, the Klan has been right all along...  
   I don't expect the activist/academic left to talk sense about race (or anything else) anymore. Here's how you know you're in the grip of a stupid theory: people randomly picked off the street are more likely to talk sense than you are. The activist/academic left is in the grip of a set of theories and sentiments that basically pushes them to converge on falsehoods and nonsense. It's like a kind of anti-science.
   Here's a news flash: people aren't perfectly equal with respect to their abilities. The sexes are not equal in ever way, and it is very, very unlikely that the races will turn out to be equal in every way. If that ridiculous definition of racism were true, it would force us to accept an analogous definition of sexism--and that would mean that sexism is not merely permissible, it's true and irrefutable. It's just a scientific fact. Men are better at lifting heavy things. Women are better at nursing babies. Sexism!!!! What utter bullshit. Ideas this ridiculous only survive in protected environments. Even a tiny bit of actual thought about this is enough to reveal that Kendi's definition isn't right and isn't anywhere close to being right. Here's another test: if you think Barack Obama is a racist, you need to go back and check your work.
   Defining racism is actually not a trivial task. You can say that it's the view that some races are morally inferior to others, i.e. of less moral worth. Or you can say that it's the view that some races deserve to be treated better or worse than others. You can also say that it's at least  in part an eagerness to believe in differential abilities...  But you can't say--not with a straight face, anyway--that if hard data ultimately indicates that Australian Aborigines are better than other races at Backgammon, then it's racist to believe it. It's not racist to believe any fact. Racism is more in the direction of spinning evidence in order to "confirm" prejudices--or ignoring evidence completely. How is it that people who seem to spend all their time thinking about this stuff seem to understand it so poorly? Well, again...bad theories and bad sentiments among activist/academicians is surely part of the story.
   Ok, just one more:
So, in a world where the Brown opinion is racist, what does it take to not be? “In order to be truly antiracists, we must also oppose all the sexism, homophobia, colorism, ethnocentrism, nativism, cultural prejudice, and class bias teeming and teaming with racism to harm many Black lives,” Kendi asserts, in a full-throated embrace of intersectionality. In other words, oppose everything, at all times, all at once. For instance, the author criticizes the reaction of female suffragists to the 15th Amendment’s enfranchisement of black men. “It stung leading suffragist Susan B. Anthony to think the Constitution had ‘recognized’ Black men ‘as the political superiors of all the noble women,’ ” Kendi writes.For instance, the author criticizes the reaction of female suffragists to the 15th Amendment’s enfranchisement of black men. “It stung leading suffragist Susan B. Anthony to think the Constitution had ‘recognized’ Black men ‘as the political superiors of all the noble women,’ ” Kendi writes.
   Oh god..."intersectionality"...a term that ranks up there with "problematic" and "cultural appropriation" on the annoying scale... But anyway...none of that paragraph is true, of course. You can be antiracist while still being sexist. And throwing in 'truly' before 'antiracist' doesn't change anything. If you can be against sexism while still being racist (which Kendi acknowledges, whether he's right about Anthony or not), then you can be against racism while still being sexist.  Kendi's claim is fashionable on the left, but it's false. It's good to be against racism (correctly defined) and good to be against sexism (correctly defined), and so even better to be agaisnt both--but not being both does not mean you are neither.
   And another thing...if Kendi's evidence for the claim that you can't be anti-racist without being against all prejudice is really that stuff about Anthony...egad...flaming non sequitur... First, Anthony was probably right to be angry (if she was) that black men seemed to be treated better than all women. If everybody should be treated equally, then unequal treatment is bad. Perhaps Anthony's annoyance (if any of this is even true...) was sub-optimal...but it's not clearly racist. But Kendi seems to think her alleged reaction was racist. However, even if it were, showing that one anti-sexist person was racist in no way shows that it is impossible to be anti-sexist without being anti-racist. I suspect the reviewer is botching Kendi's argument here...but the definition discussed above doesn't give me a lot of confidence about that...
   Anyway. Crap. Crap, crap, crap. The prevalence and popularity of this kind of stuff on the left makes me even more pessimistic about race than I used to be. We've got a problem, obviously...but I used to think that we at least had our heads on straight about what needed to be done. I worry more and more that we may be moving toward a situation such that we still have a problem...but the brain-scrambling theories and sentiments of the far left are going to rob us of our relatively clear-headedness about where we need to go. I usually fight hard to resist the urge to use "you're just making it worse" arguments. I resist it because it's the only argument the far left seems to acknowledge as weighty. Thus such arguments reinforce their view that they can be as idiotic as they want so long as their idiocy doesn't interfere with their goals. What they need to realize, however, is that the truth matters, and being nutty is bad in and of itself, regardless of any bad consequences it might have.


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