A snapshot from last year's final day!


Only The Others were wrong: In this morning's New York Times, David Brooks presents a column, rich with links to academic studies, concerning the claim that diversity training generally fails to produce good results. 

Brooks even links to one essay in the journal, Anthropology Now!

We haven't read the studies yet. On its face, we suspect that Brooks' column makes various good points. (As the column proceeds. Brooks presents a possible alternate way to reduce workplace discrimination.)

We suspect that Brooks' column makes sense. In one respect, we'd go beyond what Brooks says about such programs:

We suspect that such programs are especially counterproductive when their facilitators behave in ridiculous ways and make ridiculous claims as part of the mandated training. Such ridiculous claims and behaviors are not unknown here in Our Town.

We expect to peruse the studies to which Brooks has linked. That said, another reader seems to have reacted somewhat differently to the new year's newest column.

Among the many comments to Brooks' column, you can see her comment under "Reader Picks." In fact, her comment ranks second highest in the number of recommendations received from other readers of the column. 

The comment appeared on last year's final day, when the column appeared online. The comment goes like this:

COMMENTER FROM MARYLAND (12/31/20): The reason I find Brooks hard to read is gems like:

"This is the year when millions of Americans—and not just your political opponents—seemed impervious to evidence."

Actually, it WAS just my political opponents who spent the year denying the most undeniable facts. There is only one political party that seeks to drag America into unending inequality, grievance, and sickness. They are the problem here.

Do better, Brooks and NYT.

In this reader's mind, it was the others, and nobody else, who misbehaved last year. The others were the problem, full stop. Things were and are fine in Our Town.

This reader was reacting to a throwaway statement at the start of Brooks' column. For ourselves, we would have advised Brooks not to include the quoted remark, if only because it would generate such reactions.

That said, we post this reader's comment, as a new year begins, in tribute to humankind's oldest known problem. We humans are wired to think this way, disconsolate major top anthropologists have repeatedly sadly alleged.


  1. Regarding efforts to reduce racism, there is only one party which is resisting these efforts, and which is relying on fomenting racial partisanship. People may be subjected to sensitivity training at work, and then go home and watch Fox News where racism is deliberately encouraged. Nobody is without faults and everyone tends to be partisan, but there aren't two sides to the issue of who encourages racism.

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  2. "...concerning the claim that diversity training generally fails to produce good results"

    Why, it depends on one's definition of "good results", dear Bob.

    To your zombie cult, dear Bob, a good result would be, of course, turning masses of humyn beings into zombies, and, judging by the letter you quoted, your goebbelsian 'trainings' do succeed.

    Not too often, one hopes, but occasionally. It's not easy to kill a humyn brain by your zombie 'trainings', dear Bob, but unfortunately not entirely impossible...

    1. NOBODY exhibits zombie behavior to the extent you do, bud.

    2. ugh. Recent visits to the site have suggested this idiot might have taken off. What a great leap forward that would have been.

  3. Brooks says diversity training doesn’t work, but:
    “People change when they are put in new environments, in permanent relationship with diverse groups of people. Their embodied minds adapt to the environments in a million different ways we will never understand or be able to plan. Decades ago, the social psychologist Gordon Allport wrote about the contact hypothesis, that doing life together with people of other groups can reduce prejudice and change minds. It’s how new emotional bonds are formed, how new conceptions of who is “us” and who is “them” come into being.”

    This sounds very much like an argument for school integration.

  4. That throwaway comment reeks of bothsidesism (also called False Balance -- you can Wiki it). While I wouldn't go so far as the writer of the cited comment -- she insists the tendency to be imperviousness to evidence is absolute, and absolutely only found in The Others, there is a critical rejoinder to that throwaway comment: one party in America is currently embracing anti-science (and anti-intellectualism) at historically high levels for the USA and historically high levels for Western Democracies. The other party is not. The former stance is an existential danger for the continuance of humanity, let alone merely the United States.

    All that said, my experience with diversity courses is: the one or two day "seminars" given by large corporations to their employees is, in fact, counter productive. On the other hand, the full semester of diversity studies I took at the graduate level (in my late 40s, which was 15 years ago) was possibly the best course I have ever taken. Best meaning a course that not only positively and permanently improved the quality of my life, but of others who have dealt with me. I don't think "woke" is an overly trite and reductive term for what that course did to me.

  5. Even Brooks, the conservative, acknowledges there is a genuine problem that diversity training is attempting to solve. I have yet to see Somerby acknowledge this. When he talks about liberal “Storyline”, it’s easy to infer that he questions these basic premises that even Brooks acknowledges.

  6. Actually, it is mostly the others who do not believe in facts or evidence. On our side the BLM movement refuses to acknowledge that 90% of violent deaths of African Americans are the result of other African Americans. Less than 3% of violent deaths are the result of interactions with the police.

    1. BLM is not condoning the murder of anyone by anyone else.

      BLM is against police killing of unarmed citizens and similar police abuses.

      Black communities across the country have been working for decades to reduce both crime and killings. BLM is a new effort aimed at police violence.

      Switching the topic to other crimes doesn't change the need to reform how the police operate.

      BLM does not deny any facts about other violent deaths. But while we're on the subject, most white men don't acknowledge that the greatest source of violence against women is domestic violence perpetrated by husbands and boyfriends of the women who are killed. A woman is most in danger from a man when she is pregnant. THOSE are facts that assholes like you need to know about and more importantly, do something about.


    2. 11:53,
      Giving blacks cash will reduce the poverty which causes "black on black" crime while allowing you time to do other things than going on the internet and pretending you are concerned about black on black crime.

    3. You don't protest such happenings. You work with the kids, community and police in gang prevention efforts. You don't protest because it isn't he police causing those problems, unlike the situation where police shoot unarmed citizens.

      The police are sworn to uphold peace and serve citizens, not shoot them. That is why there are protests when unarmed people are shot or otherwise killed. Criminals take no such oath and are not on the public payroll.

      You are being obtuse.

    4. What causes crime? One article lists 10 causes:

      1. Poverty
      2. Peer pressure
      3. Drugs
      4. Politics (in unstable countries)
      5. Religion (in developing nations)
      6. Family conditions (inability to provide)
      7. Drive to succeed materially (inability to tell apart needs and wants)
      8. Unemployment
      9. Economic deprivation, fights over wealth, land
      10. Unfair judicial system

      Notice how many of these are tied to financial inequality. No one was suggesting paying people not to commit crimes, but when the cause of crime is so often financial, addressing wealth inequality will reduce crime.

      Note that race is not considered a cause of crime.

    5. Black on black crime is like white on white crime. People of any race are most likely to commit crimes within their own racial group.

    6. "So, you are saying that people need to be bribed with cash so as not to commit crimes?"

      No. That doesn't work. We give bundles of $$$ to the Fortune 1000, and the criminality there is rampant.

  7. "The others were the problem, full stop."

    Yes, that sums it up well.

    Somerby aligns himself with those others when he challenges an obvious fact about who denied reality during this past year.

  8. 1. I won't read Brooks.
    2. If I wanted to read him, his column is behind a paywall.
    3. Somerby fails to list any of the studies that supposedly show that diversity training lacks value, so how can we even discuss the topic?
    4. Somerby doesn't want to engage in any discussion or he might read his comments and allow his readers to participate instead of lecturing at us.
    5. These facts (1-4 above) mean that there is little value in what Somerby says here daily.

  9. Opposition to diversity training strikes me as politically motivated. There is a saying about this situation: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. Of course someone isn't going to benefit if they are adamant about opposition to diversity issues, as the people who need such training the most tend to be.

    Unfortunately for Somerby-types, the country is becoming more diverse and it will continue to do so. Our country, despite Trump's efforts, will be increasingly dependent upon participation in a world economy and the world is diverse.

    Conservatives don't want to acknowledge facts (aka reality). That will doom them to ineffectiveness in their environment and they will get theirs, sooner or later. If they spurn efforts to help them join the 21st century, they will suffer more. Because reality doesn't bend to individual beliefs -- it just goes on being what it is.

    And that is the main reason why no one needs to be concerned about whatever it is that Brooks said today, or what Somerby says, for that matter.

    The dinosaurs went extinct, whether they wanted to or not. So will Somerby and his ilk.

  10. When I joined a major Fortune 500 corporation, they sent me for a 2-day training seminar before starting my job. It consisted of indoctrination into the company attitudes and values, rules, and some team-building exercises. I consider it a huge waste of time, but that is what large companies do. Of course, I participated with as positive an attitude as I could fake.

    Diversity training was not part of that curriculum, but I believe employees regard diversity training with the same lack of enthusiasm, especially if it is forced, as my new-employee training session was.

    In my most recent job, we were required to undergo anti-sexual harassment training in order to recognize it, counsel students reporting it, and create a comfortable environment in our classrooms for all students. It was mandatory and I regarded it as a huge imposition on my time, especially since the answer to every question seemed to be "when in doubt, report the incident to the responsible officer on campus".

    But, what all of these training activities have in common is that they communicate to employees what is expected of them and what the corporation (or university) wants to see happen and what must not occur. If that reduces incidents of bad behavior, whether it changes attitudes or not, it is an important preventative measure.

    So, it makes a huge difference what those studies (which Somerby failed to link to) were measuring as outcomes of diversity training. If the outcomes was employee satisfaction with their learning, then the ratings are going to be low (especially if anonymous). But, if there are measures of reduction of incidents of diversity-related harassment, then the courses should be considered successful even if they are painful for employees to sit through.

    I don't think anyone, even the worst bigot, believes they need to go through such training. I would prefer the kind of courses taught at the college level (women's studies, ethnic studies) instead of lectures and exercises on company behavior with respect to diversity, but the people most in need of such courses don't tend to sign up for them. I once TA'd a course in African American Psychology that had only one or two white students, all the rest were black. That's why I favor making exposure to such classes part of General Ed requirements on campuses (and perhaps also at the K-12 level).

    Studies of how to reduce conflict suggest that not only exposure to diverse others is needed, but they need to work together on important goals -- otherwise the differences form the dividing lines for cliques. So those who participate on integrated sports teams will be more likely to reduce racial animosities than those who simply take classes together. To that end, teachers who assign students to group projects, instead of letting them choose their own groups, will be doing something the students generally dislike, but giving those students a chance to work with and come to respect those who are different from themselves, whether based on race or gender.

  11. “rich with links to academic studies”

    There are precisely four links in Brooks’ brief opinion. Not all of them appear to be academic studies. Here they are:

    “Why doesn’t diversity training work? The challenge for Industry and Academia” by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev

    “Curbing implicit bias: what works and what doesn't” by Betsy Mason

    “The Problem with Implicit Bias Training” By Tiffany L. Green, Nao Hagiwara

    “5 reasons diversity training usually fails” by Matt Martin

    1. Thank you for listing these. Links 1 and 4 are similar, with 1 being the most useful as a review. Links 2 and 3 concern the IAT as a measure of bias. The IAT is controversial among social psychologists because it isn't clear what it is measuring -- some suggest linguistic properties, others suggest exposure to cultural stereotypes, others suggest that it is measuring racial bias. The lack of relationship between IAT results and biased behavior makes this a poor measure, in my opinion. In practice, African American subjects can show bias toward their own race on an IAT test, which makes little sense for identifying racist attitudes. The focus on the IAT and similar implicit measures is that you cannot ask anyone questions with obvious normative answers (e.g., are you a bigot, y/n?, or black people are not as good as white people, y/n?) and expect to get honest results. The IAT purportedly assesses unconscious biases that cannot be suppressed during a speeded-response task in which race is primed.

      None of these articles is saying that diversity training shouldn't occur. They are saying it needs to be done effectively, should last longer (e.g., 12 weeks), and needs to be supported by participants and supplemented by corporate efforts to reduce bias in other ways, in order for bias in hiring and promotion to be decreased. The measures of effectiveness described by link 1 are short-term and concern self-reported opinions, such as 2/3 of human resource specialists who considered it ineffective, pretest/posttest assessments immediately following training, and observations that hiring practices showed no change. There were only 5 tests of long-term effects, 2 showing positive results, 2 showing negative results, and 1 showing no change. That isn't much to base these strong conclusions upon. Further, buried in the report was a statement that NO workplace training has been shown to be of much benefit.

      I believe the various incidents that circulate on youtube and twitter, like the one at Starbucks or the recent incident in which the black teen was assaulted by a woman who left her phone in an uber, do more to reduce racist attitudes than any such training program. They avoid the coercion factor and permit empathy by showing the individuals affected receiving mistreatment. They make racism real to those who may not experience it themselves. I think social media may do a great deal to change racial attitudes, without intending it. Meanwhile companies should set diversity goals and implement procedures to achieve them and let attitudes catch up as managers work together to meet such goals (which should be part of managerial assessment). That is what getting serious about diversity would be, in my opinion.

    2. Reading about the backlash when whites feel excluded, the phenomenon of "moral licensing" and complacency, and the negative reaction when training is made mandatory, it seems to me that white people are the problem, not those organizing and presenting such courses.

  12. School integration half worked for my daughters in Berkeley, CA 40 years ago. My daughters are less racially prejudiced thank to being in integrated classes in elementary school.

    However, integration didn't work too well academically. Fortunately, my wife and I could supplement whatever education was lacking in the classroom. I don't know how students with less educated parents fared.

    1. If academics were lacking, it wasn't due to integration but due to the school and teachers. Many wealthier parents in Berkeley send their kids to private school, so the public schools are neglected in terms of resources.

    2. Studies show integration leads to higher test scores for all demographics.

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  14. Idiot Democrats spent years and years denying the most undeniable facts that Russia and the Trump campaign did not collude in the manner in which they originally claimed.

    1. Better trolling please.

    2. How anyone can make the argument that it took a foreign power to get Republican voters jazzed-up about voting for a bigot like Trump, is beyond me.

    3. Republican voters were so jazzed-up about Trump in 2020 that he lost bigly.

    4. 74 million Republican voters were jazzed-up enough about Trump's bigotry to vote for him in the 2020 general election.

      BTW, the number of Republicans who have a problem with treason against the USA is believed to be about 30. That's thirty, not 30 million.

    5. Trump did collude with Russia, the weak, Republican-ran Mueller Report wrote an entire volume detailing the evidence.

      Whatever impact the Trump/Russia arrangement had on the 2016 election can not be known, it was not zero, but the issue Dems had was how corrupt it was.

      Those that are comfortable with Trump's corruption can defend him and attack Dems all they want; America voted, Trump lost.

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    He may have targeted AT&T because of a belief that 5G causes covid, now circulating among right-wing conspiracy theorists.

    1. My condolences to the Republican Party on the loss of their would-be Senate leader.

  16. "Moral licensing" is what Somerby does routinely in his essays. First he says that someone is a good, kind person, then he says a bunch of mean and awful things about that same person. The first good thing gives him a moral license to say that bad things, that are the purpose of his essay.

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  18. Brooks starts with the valid contention that this was the year the truth broke, although one might have easily have called it 2016, when Brooks and his paper got the result of his generation of untruths about the Clintons, with the election of a venal
    fraud as leader of the free world.
    But then his onto to sensitivity training, which may be a a dubious arm of liberalism, but in terms of 2020 truth breaking would be far, far down on the list of offenders.


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