White women pay $2500 to learn how racist they are (and an alternative)

I’ve written a bit before about the “race and gender penitentes“: those people, generally white, who publicly confess how racist/sexist/transphobic they are, while at the same time asserting that every white person, or every male, or every straight person, partakes in that kind of bigotry. Even if you think you’re not bigoted in these ways, there are always courses or people ready to instruct you that your bigotry may be unconscious. (Indeed, there may be some truth to this, but more later on in this post.)

The latest incarnation of the penitentes is reported in this Guardian article (click on screenshot), in which wealthy white women pay a lot of money to be called out on their racism by two women of color.

It’s clever—the women come to a fancy dinner, and because of the circumstances they cannot leave before they flog themselves.

The Guardian reports:

This is Race to Dinner. [JAC: Read the page. It’s a bit confrontational!] A white woman volunteers to host a dinner in her home for seven other white women – often strangers, perhaps acquaintances. (Each dinner costs $2,500, which can be covered by a generous host or divided among guests.) A frank discussion is led by co-founders Regina Jackson, who is black, and Saira Rao, who identifies as Indian American. They started Race to Dinner to challenge liberal white women to accept their racism, however subconscious. “If you did this in a conference room, they’d leave,” Rao says. “But wealthy white women have been taught never to leave the dinner table.”

Rao and Jackson believe white, liberal women are the most receptive audience because they are open to changing their behavior. They don’t bother with the 53% of white women who voted for Trump. White men, they feel, are similarly a lost cause. “White men are never going to change anything. If they were, they would have done it by now,” Jackson says.

White women, on the other hand, are uniquely placed to challenge racism because of their proximity to power and wealth, Jackson says. “If they don’t hold these positions themselves, the white men in power are often their family, friends and partners.”

Before they come to the dinner, every guest is required to read the book White Fragility, which I can’t comment on because I haven’t read it. The women are asked by Jackson and Rao to confess to their racism, answering questions like, “What is your most recent act of racism?” Here is one example of what happens:

Across from Campbell-Swanson, Morgan Richards admits she recently did nothing when someone patronizingly commended her for adopting her two black children, as though she had saved them. “What I went through to be a mother, I didn’t care if they were black,” she says, opening a window for Rao to challenge her: “So, you admit it is stooping low to adopt a black child?” And Richards accepts that the undertone of her statement is racist.

As more confessions like this are revealed, Rao and Jackson seem to press those they think can take it, while empathizing with those who can’t. “Well done for recognizing that,” Jackson says, to soothe one woman. “We are all part of the problem. We have to get comfortable with that to become part of the solution.”

In that case, the act was not doing something, but failure to do something: failure to call out an acquaintance who was being patronizing. And indeed that women was—and was insensitive too. But had Morgan Richards called her out, would any good have been done? I don’t think so. She would have lost a friend, and there would have been no change in societal racism. For that is my issue with much of this stuff: it serves largely to absolve the women of their guilt while not even addressing the real problems of race in America.

And it’s like a Catholic confession as well. You get absolution, and then you must to say your Hail Marys—journaling in this case:

As more confessions like this are revealed, Rao and Jackson seem to press those they think can take it, while empathizing with those who can’t. “Well done for recognizing that,” Jackson says, to soothe one woman. “We are all part of the problem. We have to get comfortable with that to become part of the solution.”

Carbonara is heaped on to plates, and a sense of self-righteousness seems to wash over the eight white women. They’ve shown up, admitted their wrongdoing and are willing to change. Don’t they deserve a little pat on the back?. . . .

. . . In the conversation that followed the dinner, Campbell-Swanson, who couldn’t get her racist thoughts out, committed to writing a journal, jotting down daily decisions or thoughts that could be considered racist, and think about how to approach them differently.

I don’t know much about Regina Jackson; her “dinner” bio is here. Rao, on the other hand, seems to be an unpleasant piece of work, and even the Guardian article mentions her anger and dogmatism that spoiled several dinners. You can get a sense of Rao’s character from her Twitter feed, where she’s always denigrating white people, a form of racism that’s apparently okay. Here’s one example of woke logic from just yesterday:

I clearly don’t like these kinds of dinners, but I’m not going to rant about those who try to get whites to think about their bigotry—hidden or otherwise. For making people examine their attitudes is precisely what Dr. King and his associates did during the civil rights movement of the Fifties and Sixties. What they didn’t do, but what happens at these dinners, is that whites are hectored into ‘fessing up. Instead of prompted to recognize what’s immoral about society, the Dinner Women are prompted to admit what’s immoral about their own attitudes. And many universities have courses have courses that are like these dinners, designed to get us to confront our hidden racism (or, less often, sexism).

The thing is, Jackson and Rao have a point. Two points, actually. First, many of us—and I don’t exempt myself—do have some inculcated bigotry, much of it probably stemming from our upbringing. Who among us can say that they are 100% free of racism or (in the case of men) sexism? But recognizing that is far from being enough. It’s not even the best way to start. One has to do something about the results of a racism that has acted in America for over two centuries, not in your brain over your lifetime. The latter is what the “Dinner Racists” do, but what good has really been done? The goal is to improve the lot of marginalized people in society, not to rid yourself of the vestiges of bigotry. Those vestiges can remain, but you can overcome!

And that’s the difference between Rao and Jackson on the one hand and Dr. King on the other. King was effective not because he hectored white people into admitting their racism. He was successful because he confronted us all with the results of racism: the terrible living conditions of many African-Americans, the brutality of the police, the pervasive segregation, the refusal to let blacks into Southern colleges, and so on. There is nothing like seeing police turn fire hoses and billy clubs on peaceful demonstrators to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

When I drive through the South Side of Chicago, which is almost completely black, and see the dire living conditions for many, or see how inferior the schools are in black communities than in wealthier white communities, then I truly grasp that these things are the sequelae of racism. This is the kind of thing that people need to be exposed to, not hectored about how racist they are. The former can, in my view, change minds, while the latter seems to have no tangible benefits—at least for society. (In one sense, this is what the New York Times‘s 1619 Project is trying to do, but they’re turning off people by distorting history and asserting that every aspect of American society reflects racism.)

The inequities in American society are the result of people’s failure to act publicly—something that will remain even if people are prompted to ferret out hidden traces of their bigotry. I’d prefer to send these women to spend a day in an inner-city school, for I think that would have immensely greater social consequences than forcing them to ‘fess up over spaghetti carbonara. (I once went to such a school in New Jersey where a friend of mine was teaching, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.)

And ditch those college courses that so resemble the confession sessions of China’s Cultural Revolution!  Fixing the race- and sex-based inequities in American society is going to take decades and lots of money and willpower. But that’s what’s required to achieve equality of opportunity. It certainly won’t happen in my lifetime. But the will to do that comes from actually witnessing the immorality of those inequities, and realizing that a lot of them, where race is concerned, ultimately trace back to slavery. But, in the end, I still think that demonstrating to people is a lot more useful than hectoring them, for hectoring can be counterproductive while, in contrast, demonstrating inequities is at worst neutral, and at best produces things like the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

 

99 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    “…or (in the case of men) sexism.”

    Here I diverge… sexism isn’t only a feature of males. Divergent expectations of people based on sex is plenty prevalent among women as well.

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      And it isn’t necessarily women being prejudiced against men. I’ve known women with the same prejudices against women that men often have. For example there are women who have the same biases against employing new female staff as men are supposed to have.

  2. DrBrydon
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Sairo Rao’s syllogism is flawed in that it doesn’t introduce white supremacy until the conclusion. This is a correct syllogism:

    -Nothing is better than God
    -A ham sandwich is better than nothing
    -Therefore, a ham sandwich is better than God

    • C.
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I’ve always preferred:
      God is love.
      Love is blind.
      Ray Charles is blind.
      Therefore, Ray Charles is god.

      Of course since 2004 I have to add:
      Ray Charles is dead.
      Therefore god is dead.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted February 6, 2020 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      Reminds me of the fact that the great Australian rugby player John Eales was known by fans as ‘Nobody’ because nobody is perfect.

  3. Richard Sanderson🤴
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    This is the kind of regressive, unscientific woo that PZ Myers and his abusive horde of New Racists will be rushing up to sign up for.

    And a slap on the wrist for The Guardian, promoting obvious hateful hacks such as Saira Rao.

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      I am curious. Has PZ Myers reflected back on his host desecration incident? Does he think that blasphemy is okay while racism isn’t? And what did he think about Charlie Hebdo?

  4. KD
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Jez, for $2500, I expect a long session of boot licking followed by being tied up and whipped with a riding crop. AWFL’s can’t even do BDSM right.

    • C.
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      In all fairness, it is quite difficult to say the safe word “white fragility” with a ball gag in your mouth.

    • pablo
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Damn. I hadn’t read your comment before posting a similar one below.

      • C.
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Dirty minds think alike. 🤐

        perhaps the two of you could collaborate and write next summer’s must-read, NY Times Best Seller, Oprah Book Club selection, “Fifty Shades of White Guilt”.

        “Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me…then I remember there is…I was born…SMACK!…white…SMACK!…and thus a privileged and unredeemable racist!SMACK!”*

        *never read the book, so I had to pilfer a partial quote from the inter webs.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Agree with your take on this. White people in general are pretty ignorant about racism in America because they are ignorant of the history. Then when they hear some stories about it, such as Washington and Jefferson and Madison and more were slave owners they come to their own conclusions. Then the Civil War game and slavery was ended. Hurrah, everything was fixed. No actually almost nothing was fixed. Understanding the 13, 14, and 15th amendment might be a start but essentially the supreme court spent the next 100 years making garbage of those amendments. Attempting what free is continues to be a mystery in America. We currently have a white nationalist president in this country and half the people like it. I am not too concerned about racism in a few rich white women and that person who is, is wasting their time.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      People are also ignorant about history in general, like Muslim slavery in Europe and Africa.

      It is wrong/racist to look at everything from a color narrative.

      Is for example black on black tribe violence in Africa a lesser moral evil?
      You might argue that this has nothing to do with American history, but the narrative is that “white people” have an uniquely racist past.

      Liberal people like you should guard against racism from the left and right.

      The 1619 NYT project for example just causes more racism and division.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        I’ll try to keep that in mind. Our current great leader has no hesitation concerning what shade it is. He discriminates against all of them. If you recall what has been going on at our southern boarder or the recent added counties banned from coming to the U.S. It is a color thing but the colors vary don’t they?

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          And by the way, black on black violence in Africa has nothing to do with racism here in America.

          • AlTazim
            Posted February 5, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            On the contrary, it has much to do with it: without such violence, Africans would have not have been captured for sale as slaves to Europeans.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted February 5, 2020 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

              How wrong can you get. The African Americans are to blame for slavery. That is a joke.

              • JP415
                Posted February 5, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

                If I understand correctly, African tribes often went to war with each other and sold captive prisoners of war to European slave-traders. I think that was what the other commenter was getting at it. (My own knowledge of African history is a bit sketchy, so maybe another commenter can chime in here.)

              • Posted February 5, 2020 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                No, they weren’t tribes. They were powerful African kingdoms that captured people in the African interiors and sold them as slaves to Europeans.

              • Posted February 5, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                No, not African-Americans.
                He was referring to people of the West African kingdoms who traded with Europeans.

        • Posted February 5, 2020 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          And yet, the 2020 census still wouldn’t recognize ethnicities such as Jews, Turkish, Palestinians, Iranian, Lebanese, etc. These peoples are forced to check the ‘White’ box, then write down specific ethnicity under that box. The same goes for Italian, French, German, Czech, Serbs, etc. This is ethnicity erasure just for keeping the ‘White’ category and asserting that ‘Whites’ are majority and have privileges above others.

          • Jonathan Wallace
            Posted February 6, 2020 at 7:04 am | Permalink

            Everyone’s in a minority if you divide up the categories finely enough.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Paying $2500 a pop sounds like something WASP women would do — Catholics and Jews get all the guilt they can handle gratis. 🙂

    • JP415
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      The woke could sell indulgences, just like the Catholic Church did in the old days. It would be more pleasant and efficient than sitting through an entire dinner of guilt.

  7. Teresa Carson
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It seems a bit unfair to upbraid the adoptive mother of two black children for not calling out someone who had a skewed idea of what that adoption meant to her. I imagine the adoptive mother has had this conversation more than once and, on that day, may have not felt up to correcting the offending party, but still felt like she should have said something. It is unlikely the woman is a racist, and chastising her for something she already feels remorse for seems pointless. So, I’m with you, Jerry. We all need to do what we can to change society.

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Especially since black orphan children are far less likely to ever be adapted. So yes, she did to an especially good thing adapting them. Yes, they probably did need rescuing. These things are true, and attacking that truth is just picking a fight.

      • bascule
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        So “I didn’t care that they were black” was somehow racist; was the correct position to “care that they were black”?

        Because that lady should have defended herself with saying that she didn’t care they were black BECAUSE she didn’t believe being black means anything bad.

        • Adam M.
          Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          She probably did care, though. It seems unlikely that the white women who adopt black children do so purely by chance (especially when you see one woman with several of them as is often the case). I think they want to feel like they’re doing something good to help blacks, and that seems like a noble sentiment to me.

          I think her defense should have been “Yes, I adopted them because they were black. Blacks have a hard path in this life – that is, after all, why you’re here lecturing me isn’t it? – and I wanted to give them as much help along it as I could… because they needed help the most!”

      • Mark R.
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        I know this is a serious comment and don’t mean to give it levity, but I had to chuckle at “adapting” the children. You couldn’t help it…it’s your inner Darwin speaking. 🙂

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted February 6, 2020 at 7:10 am | Permalink

        ‘adapted’ and ‘adapting’. I presume that you meant ‘adopted’ and ‘adopting’ although I daresay that Rao might seize on your words as implying that the black-born children were being ‘adapted’ i.e. changed to have ‘white’ attitudes and prejudices!

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    … I think that would have immensely greater social consequences than forcing them to ‘fess up over spaghetti carbonara. (I did that once in New Jersey at a middle school where a friend of mine was teaching, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.)

    ‘Bout the only thing’ll help you get over middle-school spaghetti carbonara is a double dose of bicarbonate of soda. 🙂

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      I meant, of course, that I visited an inner-city school. I better fix the writing here. . .

  9. Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Jerry – have you seen Adam Rutherford’s new book?
    – How to Argue with a Racist –
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/30/how-to-argue-with-a-racist-adam-rutherford-review

    • C.
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I used to enjoy Rutherford and Fry’s podcasts, however, his tendency to shoehorn SJW ideology into science is so off putting I gave up and unsubscribed. I have a feeling he would rather enjoy this white self-flagellation diner.

    • Richard Sanderson🤴
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Rutherford has become a bit of a regressive, and chums with way too many #NewRacists. Heck, he probably thinks PZ Myers is an acceptable human being.

  10. Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Very chic and woke. Something to tell everyone about at your next cocktail party.

    • pablo
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Reminds me of Tom Wolfe’s essay Radical Chic.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. How is this anything other than virtue signalling?

  11. ladyatheist
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Having lived in both diverse and very-white areas, I can attest to the fact that people living in very-white areas are often unaware of their implicit bias, and may also insist that racism and sexism are things of the past.

    Self-awareness is the first step toward change. I wouldn’t call it self-flagellation. In the 70s it was called awakening.

    and p.s. research has shown that women are also sexist, and black people also have an anti-black bias

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      “research has shown that women are also sexist, and black people also have an anti-black bias”

      Exactly, thus it is a sort of racism to subject only “white people” to bias training.

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Confronting new situations, as I did when I lived in a mostly-black area, are more constructive than these self-congratulatory “training” scams.
      Where is the money going?

    • Adam M.
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Blacks also have an anti-Hispanic bias (and vice versa), and an anti-white bias, and apparently an anti-gay bias, and I’ve met a fair number of Asians who spoke openly about their distaste for blacks and Hispanics (and Japanese don’t seem to much like the Chinese and the Chinese seem to think themselves superior to other Asian groups)… so it seems to me that this is a rather ubiquitous feature of the human condition. In fact, whites seem to be the only ones who feel any guilt over it, for whatever that’s worth. I doubt you could get blacks to pay even $25 to sit and be told by whites about their racism.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Cue Tom Leherer singing “National Brotherhood Week”:

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted February 5, 2020 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

          Correction: That’s “Lehrer.”

      • Adam M.
        Posted February 8, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        Those lyrics are pretty funny. 🙂 The important question of course is how much truth there is to it. “White flight” isn’t the only kind. Blacks leave when Hispanics move in, if they can, and vice versa. There’s quite a lot of tension and violence in the south and west where blacks are being pushed out of formerly black neighborhoods by Hispanic immigrants.

        My own neighborhood is an odd mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, blacks, and Mexicans, and old whites who are being slowly replaced. Plus a handful of Japanese. There’s a constant low tension. The blacks hang out with other blacks, the Mexicans hang out with other Mexicans, the Chinese with the Chinese, and so on. I’ve never seen any of them mix. It’s middle-class so actual conflicts are rare, but there’s a degree of mutual suspicion and it’s far from being harmony. When a Chinese man’s house was burglarized last summer, there was some finger-pointing for example, but the culprit was never found and the increased mistrust lingers…

    • KD
      Posted February 6, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      While I don’t know what you mean by “implicit bias”, there is a test which supposedly measures “implicit bias”.

      In a 2013 meta-analysis of papers, Blanton and his co-authors declared that, despite its frequent characterization as a window into the unconscious, “the IAT provides little insight into who will discriminate against whom, and provides no more insight than explicit measures of bias.”

      He drew a graph illustrating how high IQ scores tend to predict achievement, a claim backed up by reams of data. In contrast, the IAT — a sort of IQ test for bias — doesn’t reveal whether a person will tend to act in a biased manner, nor are the scores on the test consistent over time. It’s possible to be labeled “moderately biased” on your first test and “slightly biased” on the next. And even within those categories the numbers fluctuate in a way that, Blanton contends, undermines the test’s value. “The IAT isn’t even predicting the IAT two weeks later,” Blanton says. “How can a test predict behavior if it can’t even predict itself?”

      https://www.chronicle.com/article/Can-We-Really-Measure-Implicit/238807

      I think if “implicit bias” actually exists, it can only be determined by Haitian Mambos, which would insure inclusivity and diversity, as well as removing it from the pretense of empiricism.

      Its pretty clear that the “implicit racism” crowd is in for shamanism and ritual exorcism with some eroticized BDSM overtones. Just give the people what they want and be done with it.

  12. littleboybrew
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    The $2500 dinners are akin to Jim Bakker selling apocalypse food buckets – there are suckers born every minute, and it is not just the right-wing wackos that have learned to take advantage.

    That said I generally agree with Dr. Coyne. I do think everybody is “racist” as some level, even if it is just being aware of race. And while Ms. Rao has a lot of anger – and I am sure much of it is well deserved – her outlet for it does not seem likely to drive results.

    • eric
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I agree. 3 hours’ labor x 2 subject matter experts should be 1/4 to 1/2 that. The fact they’re asking so much is a pretty good indication of a scam. Or at least, as someone else mentioned above, that they’re actually selling a high value virtue signal these white women can then display to their friends, rather than the focus being learning or growth.

  13. Adam M.
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    When I drive through the South Side of Chicago, which is almost completely black, and see the dire living conditions for many, or see how inferior the schools are in black communities than in wealthier white communities, then I truly grasp that these things are the sequelae of racism… a lot of them… ultimately trace back to slavery.

    I suppose that on this theory you’d expect to find that in countries where blacks were never ruled or oppressed by whites that they don’t live in poor conditions with inferior schools. I suppose you’d expect that the parts of Africa where whites historically didn’t venture have blacks that are more productive and successful than those in parts of Africa that were extensively colonized, and better than those in Western countries with our history of racism, segregation, and slavery. But is that the case? Is there any country on Earth where blacks, overall, do not have relatively poor living conditions and inferior schools, even – especially? – in their own lands?

    I just don’t see that racism can be a sufficient explanation, nor even slavery, given that many peoples were enslaved not so long ago but weren’t permanently hobbled by it, and given that most Western countries in which blacks live don’t have any history of slavery, segregation, etc. but have results essentially equivalent to those in the USA.

    That said, I almost entirely agree with your article. I wish I could get a racket where people pay me $2500 to tell them how bad they are… not sure I’d have the stomach for it, but I can learn…

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      I suppose you’d expect that the parts of Africa where whites historically didn’t venture have blacks that are more productive and successful than those in parts of Africa that were extensively colonized, and better than those in Western countries with our history of racism, segregation, and slavery. But is that the case?

      This from today’s Hili dialog of “things that happened on 2/5”:

      1885 – King Leopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo as a personal possession.

      The book King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochshield is a good place to learn about how a productive and successful population of black people can become enslaved in their own land and how disruptive it can be and how the ravished Congo basin still “haunts” the region today. In 1885, the Congo was definitely a place where whites didn’t historically venture until Leopold took the Congo and began his exploitation. I highly recommend the book, I think it will give you good insight into your question. Also realize that your words “productive and successful” are relative terms and just because one is productive or successful doesn’t mean they’re better off…after all, one can be a productive slave.

      • Dave
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Very little of sub-Saharan Africa was “extensively colonised” by whites in the way that, say North America or Australia were. The large-scale imposition of direct rule by European states(the “Scramble for Africa”) only really took off in the 1880s-90s, when those states were seized by a mania for empire-building. By the 1960s most of those European colonial possessions had become independent black-ruled nations, apart from in the far south (S. Africa, Rhodesia, Angola and Mozambique). In other words, in most of the continent, direct rule by Europeans lasted for less than one human lifetime. And strangely enough, those new African nations that retained more of the European legacy (e.g. Kenya, Botswana) have fared much better than those that those that have ditched it (e.g. Congo, Zimbabwe).

        But hey…what have the Romans ever done for us?

        • dd
          Posted February 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          Dave, Is there a book you would recommend about what you write?

          I am very interested in these topics…and planning to read “Slavery and Social Death” by Orlando Patterson….a highly esteemed scholar. That book may also be the most esteemed synoptic study of slavery ever published.

          Thanks.

          • Dave
            Posted February 5, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

            “The Scramble for Africa 1876-1912” by Thomas Pakenham (1991) is very good. It’s a monster of a book (~700 pages), but extremely detailed and informative.

          • Mark R.
            Posted February 5, 2020 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

            I’ll check that out too. Thank-ee Dave.

            As for a background about these inequalities, I think it’s always interesting to go way, way back 13,000 years or so. For that, I’d recommend Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. Too much scope for a synopsis here, but it’s a famous book and I suppose most readers here have already read it.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted February 6, 2020 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Well if you think that the facts that the average black child has poorer life chances than the average white child in the US and that the poorer areas of US cities are invariably disproportionately occupied by black people are not the sequelae of racism than I’d love to know what your explanation is. Do you have a non-racist explanation?

      Student wokeness (and that of some journalists and politicians) may be absurd and counter-productive but that does not mean that there are not real problems of racism and racial disadvantage in the US and elsewhere in the World.

      • JP415
        Posted February 6, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        Do you have a non-racist explanation?

        Cultural factors maybe? In general, the African American community in the U.S. doesn’t place as much emphasis on educational achievement as the white or Asian communities. That’s my impression based on anecdotal evidence; I haven’t conducted a large-scale survey. My point is merely that economic disparities between different groups can sometimes be explained by culture — that is, attitudes and practices that are handed down from generation to generation.

        (To be totally fair: I do recognize that there are large segments of the white American population that don’t value educational achievement much either, and some of them aren’t doing well economically.)

        • GBJames
          Posted February 6, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          “Cultural factors maybe?” is one way of saying nothing at all. Racism is cultural. Differential access to resources is cultural. And blaming the victim is cultural.

          Explaining racism by referencing “culture” is like explaining explaining air by referencing atmosphere.

          • JP415
            Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            I mean “cultural factors” as opposed to innate genetic differences. In any case, it’s not blaming the victim to note that Indian and Southeast Asian immigrants often come to America and excel in business and technical fields despite facing racism. Yes, the African American community has been harmed by racism, but it’s reductionist to attribute all their ills to racism. Most of the role models African American kids have available to them are musicians or athletes. Maybe if our society made a bigger effort to promote other types of role models for them they might be driven to excel academically.

            In any case, I was trying to look at the problem from a different angle, but I guess it’s too much of a taboo subject to talk about openly.

          • GBJames
            Posted February 8, 2020 at 8:13 am | Permalink

            Having someone point out a flaw in reasoning is equivalent to establishing a taboo?

            • JP415
              Posted February 8, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

              What flaw in reasoning? You obviously didn’t read my comment very carefully. It seems that you are more interested in winning a cheap rhetorical victory than in actually understanding my argument. You haven’t addressed the point I was actually making.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 8, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

                I read your comments perfectly well. I pointed out that your initial statement was meaningless because “culture” is not an alternate to “racism”. Racism is part of culture. This observation amounted, in your words, to making your views “taboo”. This is patent nonsense. And augmenting it with naive suggestions that we’re just not providing sufficient academic role models isn’t helping your case.

              • JP415
                Posted February 8, 2020 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

                I meant “cultural factors” as a set of learned behaviors on the part of African Americans or Asian Americans. In any case, you haven’t addressed the main question of why Asian Americans have generally been more successful in escaping poverty despite encountering racism. Clearly, racism is not an adequate explanation of why some groups succeed and others don’t.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 8, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

                Srsly, JP? You are aware, I assume, that the history of black people in the New World is very different than that of people from Asian countries. You might find some clues in those historical differences. “Racism” (and other human attitudes) is not applied to other subcultures equally.

              • JP415
                Posted February 8, 2020 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

                So the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II weren’t racist? Not to mention the mistreatment of Chinese railroad workers during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. You’re ignoring facts that don’t fit your narrative.

              • JP415
                Posted February 8, 2020 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

                “Racism … is not applied to other subcultures equally.” Sounds like a convenient but lazy way to dismiss contrary evidence. I cite examples of anti-Asian racism, but they don’t meet the GB James criterion of being “applied equally.” (And of course only GB James has the historical acumen and wisdom to determine how consistently racism is applied.)

              • GBJames
                Posted February 8, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, JP, but I don’t think you are discussing things in good faith. There’s no other way to explain how you transform “not applied equally” to “internment of Japanese wasn’t racist”.

                I’m not playing along any further.

        • Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          Then *why* do certain groups have these attitudes is the next question? (If one grants the premiss ex hypothesi, which one should come back to.)

          • JP415
            Posted February 7, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            “Historical experience” is the short answer, I guess. Culture is a learned adaptation to circumstances, and a set of behaviors that is useful in one environment might be harmful in another.

  14. TJR
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    All sounds very similar to the Gwyneth Paltrow stuff yesterday.

    Take a vaguely sensible starting point (failures in mainstream medicine, unacknowledged racism) and then use it to fleece the gullible.

  15. Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Everyone except identical twins have unique DNA. Groups of people isolated develop clysters on DNA. Part of our DNA is that we prefer to be around people whose DNA is similar to ours. Do not see any reason to feel guilty about this. If there us guilt, paying $2,500 may make you feel better.

    • EB
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Part of our DNA? I don’t think so. ‘Genetic Similarity Theory’ does not have strong evidence going for it, and the mechanism seems flawed.

      Any time evolutionists argue for a benefit to our genomes as a whole, one’s skepticism should kick in. Phenotypes mostly evolve by frequency changes at genes, and genes spread by virtue of their effects against allelic variants, not based on whether there is a benefit to whole genomes.

      A related confusion arises when people talk about kin selection as owing to organisms sharing a fraction of their genome with close relatives. That is erroneous reasoning, the real reason being that there is a higher than background probability of a particular gene (i.e. allele) being found among close relatives.

  16. HL
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Dr Coyne, I believe this is the equivalent of a catholic confessional. Affluent women seek redemption for the sins through confession and donations. It is just as strongly built on guilt and shame as any Adam and Eve gobbledygook. There is a strong quasi-religious fervor behind it. And of course, just like religion, it is divisive, and bad for society as a whole, butvery efficient at its own propagation as it preys on the same emotions that have kept religion alive throughout the ages.

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I believe I said that in my post, and we’re not the first people who have noticed a parallel between religion and wokeness!

      • Posted February 5, 2020 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        What about the parallel between the choice of metaphor: ‘wokeness’ and ‘WAKE UP, people/sheeple!!!!’ ?

        The ‘red pill’ metaphor used in the manosphere is also similar to this.

        These metaphors are parts of the hermeneutics of suspicion and the concept of false consciousness.

    • dd
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      In the Medieval church, I believe the term for it was the purchase of “indulgences”.

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      I wonder why this type of thing isn’t done for critics of Israel.

      Oh, it’s because Jews are white people who have to deal with antisemitism and whose places of worship (synagogues) were attacked. So, this is white privilege.

  17. Leigh
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    What does Race for Diner do with the money they raise? $20,000 per diner. Depending on how many diners occur during a year, that could be a big wad of cash. I looked at their web site and could not find any information about where money goes? Anyone know?

    • Deodand
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Reparations?

  18. Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    This dinner reminded me a lot of a sequence in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, here the villain convinces his niece that she is incredibly selfish because she enjoys doing charity work.

  19. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    During reconstruction a recently freed slave was asked, what freedoms is it that you want? He said, I guess all the freedoms that a white man has. I suspect even in 2020 many would say that hasn’t happened yet.

  20. pablo
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I prefer to see this as white guilt fetishism;in this case, aided by 2 dominatrixes.

    • JP415
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Someone should set up a class-themed dinner where homeless people berate rich ladies for their financial privilege. At least homeless people could use the $2500.

      • Charles Sawicki
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Great idea! Unfortunately, it will never be put in place.

        • Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          Indeed – I’m with Brian Leiter – the US may be fairly racist, but it is *far* more classist.

  21. JP415
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    In my own lifetime, I’ve seen several incidents of Black-Asian, Black-Latino, and Asian-Latino racism, with bad behavior on all sides. I’ve heard Chinese people make derogatory remarks about Hmong immigrants. Racism is not just a black versus white problem, and I would really love to say that to Rao and Jackson. The bigger problem is tribalism in general.

  22. Posted February 5, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    In 2016 I wrote a blog post titled “Innate Racism” and although I did not make a case for it being inborn, my point was that in the 1950’s in rural northern Indiana it was a part of the culture from school minstrels to slang from Brazil nuts and licorice babies to lawn jockeys. Most of us who moved away recognized this and have made significant adjustments to our thinking and actions re racism, whereas most who have remained are still overtly and covertly racist.

  23. revelator60
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    “…it serves largely to absolve the women of their guilt while not even addressing the real problems of race in America”

    Yes, and the heart of the matter is that these are elite women. They pay large amounts of money (very few Americans have that kind disposable income!) to absolve themselves of guilt for being elite as well as white. Similarly, many of the most outspoken woke folk are elite whites who hope to retain elite status and feel good about themselves.

    “King was effective not because he hectored white people into admitting their racism. He was successful because he confronted us all with the results of racism.”

    Yes, and instead of hectoring people he inspired them to live up to a commonly-held set of ideals about the equality of humankind. To enlist supporters to one’s case, appealing to their better angels usually works better than shaming them as morally inferior monsters.

  24. Charles Sawicki
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Both the right and extreme left are working to bring to an end civilization based on equality, which has a long way to go, but is better than regression.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      So its just the “right” plain word…but for the left, we get the adjective added “extreme left”. Poor word omission, think about your word choice. I’m so tired of the “right” somehow plowing the middle, yet for whatever reason, the “left” needs to be predicated with “extreme”. This is a dangerous frame or game for that matter.

  25. EB
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    What a sorry spectacle. Rao seems like a fictional character in a heavy handed satire, but no, she is 100% serious.

    A more serious way to address racial disparities than these Maoist struggle sessions is to tackle economic problems with moderate social democratic reforms. Blacks and various other minorities are, after all, disproportionately poor. In fact, that was MLK’s major focus after the civil rights movement accomplished its major victories against discrimination. MLK privately referred to himself a “democratic socialist”, to the dismay of some of his close allies, who urged him to keep quiet about that sort of thing.

  26. Vaal
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    “White men are never going to change anything. If they were, they would have done it by now,” Jackson says.

    How wonderful that such negative generalizations can be made about people by grouping them via their skin color and gender.

    And no one is allowed to call it out as racist or prejudiced.

    What a brave new world!

    #TheNewRacism

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 5, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention that white men have changed otherwise we’d still be living like it was the past with all the gender and racial stereotypes and oppressiveness of the past.

      • Vaal
        Posted February 5, 2020 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Diana,

        Yes, let’s just ignore the role of “white men” in abolishing slavery and in every move along the way that has led to the differences in the lives of modern black people in the USA vs the days of slavery.

        No change to be noticed.

        No change in the condition of black people over time that can be credited at all to any “white men.”

        (Of course I’m not for a moment denying or ignoring the role black people have played in advocating for change, or white women, or any relevant demographic. But all along the way these changes involved significant numbers of white men, citizens and politicians, judges, etc, changing things as well).

        Jackson’s comment is just explicitly racist. Just change the skin color/race in her comment to “black men,” or any other race than white, and this becomes clearly unacceptable racism.

        If ever the idea “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” was applicable, it’s here with these newly woke racialization of society.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 5, 2020 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Nothing is going to be won by alienating people with power. So you should work to convince them things need to change and get them on your side. If it weren’t for white men women wouldn’t have the vote among other things.

          • Posted February 7, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

            My admitted cursory investigation of the history of the struggle for justice is that tipping points happen when outsiders start to help out.

  27. Posted February 5, 2020 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    This is hermeneutics of suspicion. Here is a conservative Christian version:
    ‘Hey evolutionists, deep down you actually hate Christianity and Christians even though you yourself may not realize it. The hatred is subconscious but it is there.’

    Also, this reminds me of Bill Cosby’s defense that he was a victim of racism when he was accused of sexual assaults. The same goes for Clarence Thomas and O.J. Simpson. This is the clash between sexism and racism, a clash of suspicion.

  28. KD
    Posted February 5, 2020 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    An idiotic idea is an idea that is not subject to empirical falsifiability but which serves the interests of a particular political constituency.

    The reason why smart people continue to believe idiotic ideas, and why idiotic ideas continue to propagate should be self-evident.

  29. yep
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    “Each dinner costs $2,500”

    A dinner hosted in a private home? $2500?

    I would have loved to have seen the menu for such a dinner. Smoked salmon? Caviar? A suckling pig? What else?

  30. KD
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    In terms of “unconscious racism”, it is clear that kinship altruism is a thing, and kinship altruism when generalized become ethnocentrism, and there is lots of evidence that ethnocentrism is a winning strategy at least in yeast cells.

    So yes, all groups are ethnocentric, even “whites” (although I suspect “whites” are more likely to engage in ethnic altruism more than racial altruism). The problem with using ethnocentrism as an explanation of racial and ethnic inequality is that all groups are ethnocentric, and often groups on the bottom are often the most ethnocentric (which makes sense, the more precarious your circumstances, the more important cooperation becomes). If all groups are ethnocentric, it does not provide a specific explanation of why one group out-competes another group for status or resources.

    You don’t have a coherent sociological thesis when it turns out that the least ethnocentric groups are on top, and the most ethnocentric groups are on the bottom. In fact, the better hypothesis is that “anti-racist” attitudes may be the best means of attaining supremacy for your ethnic group/race. Obviously, an absurd hypothesis, but a better fit for the data. If you look at high SES, it correlates to high support for inter-racial marriage, same sex marriage, etc. A more reasonable explanation is that ethnocentrism is not a significant driver of the kinds of ethnic and racial disparities that are universally found among heterogeneous populations, from Malaysia to Nigeria to North America. Unfortunately, there is no significant political constituency for this idea.


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