WEAKER APART: We pause our previously planned report!


Pause—With a few simple starter questions:
As announced yesterday, we've decided to pause the report we'd planned to pursue this week. Charlottesville has overtaken it, in several ways.

That said, we thought we'd leave you with a few simple starter questions. Imagine that someone—a person you knew, or perhaps an academician—approached you with questions like these:
Question 1: Do unauthorized immigrants commit fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans? Than native-born white Americans? Than native-born black Americans?

Question 2: Would it be racist to say that they do?
If someone asked us those questions, our own award-winning answers would be these:
Answer 1: As far as we know, they do commit fewer crimes, on average.

Answer 2: Please. Could we possibly start to grow up?
Those would be our answers, based on things we've read.

Moving right along, let's consider two more questions. Suppose a researcher jumped you with these questions:
Question 1: Do Asian-American kids work harder in school, on average, than American kids of other ethnicities?

Question 2: Is it racist to say that they do?
Incomparably, our answers might go something like this:
Answer 1: We have no way of knowing. It's certainly possible.

Answer 2: Same as Answer 2 above.
Why do we imagine such questions? Here's why:

As we've noted in the past few days, the Washington Post has produced a mini-orgy of eye-catching headlines about the "racism" of These Millennials Today, or perhaps about the racism of These White Millennials Today.

One such headline appeared earlier this week. The op-ed column it topped linked to an earlier analysis piece—a piece which appeared in June 2015, under this eye-catching headline:
"Millennials are just about as racist as their parents"
That's an unpleasant-sounding headline. It seems to reflect on tens of millions of people—on These Millennials Today.

We think that's an unwise headline. In fairness, the headline basically captured the judgment expressed in that earlier analysis piece—a piece which was written by the Post's polling director.

In part, the polling director was basing his judgment on a set of survey questions—questions which aren't gigantically different from the ones we've imagined above. Let's consider one of those sets of questions:

In fairness to These White Millennials Today, 70 percent of These White Millennials answered the questions in a way which freed them from the claim of being "racist."

That said, thirty percent of These White Millennials answered the questions wrongly, in way which were judged in-correct. On this basis, the polling director judged them to have displayed "racial prejudice," which was instantly turned into "racism" by the gods of These Headlines Today.

In this and a thousand other presentations, These Professors and Journalists Today have tossed their favorite bombs around in rather dull-witted ways. Within our liberal tribe, this can create real problems:

For many liberals, it's hard to consider the possibility that our ranking academics may not be especially sharp, especially when their deathless research results in the types of judgment which fire our tribal narratives.

For ourselves, we've long found that our academics aren't always especially sharp. Back in the day, Albert Einstein drew the exact same conclusion!

We have decided that Einstein was right. These Academics Today aren't always especially sharp. And once they mate with These Journalists Today, we can be in for a rather dumb ride.

Work of this type, with R-bombs attached, tends to fire us liberals. It also tends to leave us weaker apart.

More than anything else, such work just isn't especially bright. As we've often said to imaginary inquisitors:

Academics and researchers, please! Could we possibly start to grow up?

What Athene said: We think Athene, daughter of Zeus of the aegis, had it just about right when Odysseus returned from the fighting around Troy. Her deathless words of wisdom were recorded by sacred Homer, right at the end of The Odyssey:
And now they would have killed them all, and given none of them homecoming, had not Athene, daughter of Zeus of the aegis, cried out in a great voice and held back all the company: "Hold back, men of Ithaka, from the wearisome fighting, so that most soon, and without blood, you can settle everything."
We think Athene had it right. In fairness, we're just saying.


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  2. Can Somerby really think that if we stop labeling racist thinking "racism", that it will go away and people will stop behaving in racist ways?

    The opposite is true. Racist beliefs motivate racist behavior. Such beliefs are so embedded in thought that they make racist actions seem normal, logical, inevitable. It is by making such thoughts explicit and conscious that they can be challenged and changed. And change is surely the goal. Not peace and quiet or the false harmony that arises when oppressed people are made to shut up about their oppression.

    Somerby is wrong.

  3. Since we are generalizing about large groups of people here (rarely a good idea), I'd say it's not 'academics' but 'intellectuals'.

    See Taleb's IYI: 'intellectuals-yet-idiots'.

    'Academic' is often someone analyzing some chemical or something, without ever opining on political or social phenomena. 'Intellectual', on the other hand, does it for a living. These fellas are most likely to be real morons, or tools of the powerful elites.

    Also, what they call 'racial prejudice' most often (almost always, imo) amounts to ethnic/racial stereotyping. Which is so common (and not particularly troubling, imo) that denying it (as those 70% did, apparently), often amounts to self-censorship, to lying, trying to please the pollster. To doublethink.

    1. racism is defind as racial animus not simply stereotyping.

    2. It's the same thing, more or less. Negative stereotyping is the basis for animus. You notice that 'black' neighborhoods are more dangerous, you attribute it to 'racial'/ethnic culture (by mistaking correlation for causation - a very common, very natural mistake), you feel animosity towards this presumably more violent culture. In the end, I believe it really is steretyping, as opposed to 'scientific' racism, which is what the word 'racism' should mean, imo.