Do we really want a color-blind society?

August 26, 2021 • 10:45 am

We all know this famous line from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

But what sounded so glorious, so right, and so moral in 1963 isn’t going down so well today.  There are two issues.

First, is this a realizable dream given that we’re evolved and taught to see race? We’re probably also evolved to be suspicious of those who are different, but I’m confident that this can be overcome. The fact is, though, that it’s been 58 years since King limned his dream, and although there’s been substantial progress in racial equality, clearly people are still judged by the color of their skin. Those of us who grew up in the Sixties hoped, though, that even if we saw race, we could instantly ignore it, and before too long we’d have a just society—one with equal opportunity for all. We’re still far from realizing the dream. (When I say, equality, by the way, I always mean “equality of opportunity”, not, like Ibram Kendi, equality of outcome.) In other words, when you’re assessing King’s dream, ask yourself this: Would it really be good for society if we all donned magical spectacles that prevented us from knowing the race of people we encounter? (I guess we’d have to have a way to block out self-identification as well.)

More important, the activist wing of anti-racism, which I take as the view outlined by Kendi, does want people judged by the color of their skin, and then given advantages for being black. And, as far as I can see, he sees this requirement as persisting indefinitely.

In the article below, Coleman Hughes, a writer, podcaster, and fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, outlines the two opposing views of antiracism delineating them them as polar opposites. He argues that the Kingian view is far better than the Kendian view. When I started thinking about it, I thought I adhered to the Kingian side. After all, I was a child of the Sixties and demonstrated for racial equality. But in the writing of this short piece, I realized that neither view is the best way to go forward.  We have to see race, we have to take it into account, and we have to do something about it (just as we must also do something about class differences), but we don’t have to see only race, as Kendi would have it. A person is not defined by their ethnicity, or assumed to share certain traits with others of the same ethnicity, but there are still average inequities between groups. To fix them, you have to see race.

This essay is one of several that the Persuasion site is particularly proud (the list is here), and is being republished.  Click to read it.

Here are the two opposing forms of anti-racism as outlined by Hughes:

For fifty years, the American left has been torn between two different answers. The first was best encapsulated by Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. King looked forward to a day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers”—a day when race would be seen as an insignificant attribute.

The competing vision—let’s call it race-consciousness—was best encapsulated by the Black Power movement. The end goal of this movement was not, as King once put it, to bring about a “new kind of togetherness between blacks and whites.” Rather, it was to demand that black people, understood as a collective, receive more recognition, more respect, and more resources. Underlying this vision was the assumption that society is a zero-sum power struggle between oppressed groups and oppressor groups—and that a win for the former requires a loss for the latter.

In the race-conscious vision, racial harmony is an afterthought. At times, it is actively shunned. Race-consciousness seeks to “problematize” relations between members of different ethnic groups in a variety of ways. In 2017, for instance, the New York Times ran an op-ed entitled “Can My Children Be Friends with White People?” written by a black father who planned on teaching his sons “to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible”—a near-perfect reversal of Dr. King’s message.

I’d maintain that, in the end, both groups are aiming for racial harmony, but differ in how it’s to be attained.

For Hughes, only the Kingian view can “deliver on its promises”, which turn out to be “more status and more access to opportunity” for minorities. He adds that it also gives white people guidelines about what to do instead of sitting around mired in guilt (I’m not sure, though, which way to act Hughes is thinking of), and also gives society a way to move forward with problems like “mass incarceration and police brutality.”

I don’t see that. Not only do we see color, but, more important, we shouldn’t ignore it, for solving these problems requires seeing it and doing something about it. Yes, a racist cop can’t beat up a black traffic violator if he “can’t see race”, but saying that “we shouldn’t see color” is not going to help us reduce the inequalities among groups. We’re a long way from seeing color but completely ignoring it.

And that’s where we have to incorporate a bit of the Kendian view (this is not a blanket endorsement of Kendi’s view on racial relations, most of which I disagree with). For if we ignore color, how does Hughes’ vision of providing equal opportunity come about?  I don’t see how it can unless we recognize that, on average, blacks and other minorities are disadvantaged by history, and that history continues to hold them back today. How do we give black children more exposure to STEM fields without explicitly going into black communities and trying to fix the problem? You can’t do that without the notion of “a black community.” Now certainly there are some privileged black kids from well-off families who don’t need a leg up, but starting with the idea that “I don’t see color” is not going to do squat about the big racial disparities.

We must act to eliminate these disparities, not just by ensuring equal opportunity, but by giving extra opportunities to minorities through some form of affirmative action. I still haven’t worked out in my head how much affirmative action is required to ensure justice, but I’m sure that without any such action, we will have no justice. Affirmative action, as I see it, is a species of reparations that are due to disadvantaged minorities to begin assuring them equal opportunity. The goal is to eventually create an equality of opportunity (not outcome, which may depend on group-specific preferences) so that affirmative action is no longer required.

Now I agree with Hughes that the way to give people equal opportunity is not, as some anti-racists suggest, to dismantle the meritocacy and lower standards so that all groups achieve Kendian “equity”: his view that groups must be represented in organizations in the same proportions they occur in the population, for if they’re not, says Kendi, this is prima facie evidence for ongoing structural racism. Of course that’s not true, as anybody in modern academia can attest, but we now have less equity than is seemly for a liberal democratic society. Whatever the solution to inequality of opportunity we adopt, it cannot involve a gross lowering of standards and expectations.  So I partly agree with this statement from Hughes, which could also have been said by John McWhorter:

Yet race-consciousness cannot deliver on its promises because its foundational assumptions are flawed. For one thing, it does not reject the old rigid racial categories so much as it transforms them, sneaking them in through the back door. If someone said that black kids should not be encouraged to work hard a hundred years ago, it was probably because they were racist. If someone says the same thing today, it’s almost certainly because they are “anti-racist.” But any political program that insists that black people be held to a lower standard will never be able to bring black achievement up to those same rejected standards—and thus will struggle mightily to address racial disparity.

The solution is not to hold minorities to lower standards, but to remedy any disparities in education, treatment, and the like, until everyone cam be held to the same high standards.

The other thing I agree with Hughes about is that we’ve made substantial progress in race relations in eighty years:

But this underplays how much progress we have already made. Back in the early 1970s, the NYPD killed 91 people in a single year. In 2018, they killed five. Since 2001, the national incarceration rate for black men ages 18-29 has been cut by more than half. Most people don’t know this. As a result, they imagine that the system must be overturned in order for progress to occur. But though there are, of course, still a lot of injustices in today’s America, they are wrong.

The current system, warts and all, has enabled huge progress for black people in recent decades. Overturning the liberal principles on which our institutions are based would not hasten progress towards racial equality; it would threaten the very stability that is required for incremental progress to occur.

But which way do we go to push that progress to King’s goal line:? I see a compromise between the Kingian and Kendian paths. We must recognize racial differences between people, for without that recognition we can’t arrive at equality of opportunity.  And then we must roll up our sleeves and do the really hard work: reallocation of funds, tutoring, and sensitive but rigorous teaching. And yes, reparations, but in the form of affirmative action, not money or housing vouchers. It will take years, and it will take sacrifice—substantial financial sacrifice by white people. Moving rocks or renaming buildings, however well intentioned these actions be, is not the way forward.

But if we do these things, will we eventually realize King’s dream? My youthful optimism is no longer so strong. Not only are people more interested in performative gestures than in substantial social reform—reform that requires sacrifice—but the diversity and equity industry is so well established in the media, in the arts, in business, and academia, that I believe they’re here for keeps. Even if, some fine day, we do arrive at an equality of opportunity that has nothing to do with pigmentation, the people in the DEI industry will be unwilling to admit that we’ve arrived, for they have to keep their jobs. And as we’ve learned, almost anything can be judged racist in an attempt to gain power, and the fear of being so judged will also contribute to impeding racial equality.

These are random thoughts, and I had no idea what I’d write when I started this. (It is, after all, a website, not a magazine piece.)

I’d recommend reading Hughes’s piece and then I’d ask you to weigh in below.

58 thoughts on “Do we really want a color-blind society?

  1. It’s a good article and I agree, we should seek a color-blind society. Of course, we shouldn’t take that phrase literally. It really means we don’t see color in situations where color shouldn’t matter. As you point out, color does matter when you are discussing ways to combat racism. It shouldn’t matter when in an interaction at a restaurant or in a hiring situation.

    There’s a similar problem when comparing “equality of opportunity” to “equality of outcome”. When taken literally, neither phrase works 100%. Equality of opportunity isn’t enough if it doesn’t produce outcomes among Black populations that match those of other races. Equality of outcome doesn’t work if it requires we use different performance standards for Black people.

    I understand that if equality of opportunity doesn’t produce the proper outcomes then we should conclude that opportunity was not, in fact, equal. Unfortunately, too many people assume opportunity is equal and then look no further. This is structural racism. The answer, of course, is to look harder and find that opportunity is not at all equal.

    1. Equality of opportunity isn’t enough if it doesn’t produce outcomes among Black populations that match those of other races.

      Why isn’t it enough?

        1. Amplifying the question: why do you see between-group equality of outcome as a goal? Do you see within-group equality of outcome as a goal? Societies that attempt the latter have ended disastrously.

    2. It’s a good ideal but obviously not practical in a lot of situations. Not least because, with culture often being correlated with color or race, it is very simple for racists to use a proxy for color or race to continue their racism.
      A good example of this is the GA GOP’s attempt to eliminate early voting on Sundays (I’m hazy about the details here, apologies if i get some things wrong). Why do that? Well because many black churches would take their people en masse to early voting after services. The GOP isn’t stupid, they know this, and so they know they can greatly reduce the black vote by using the non-race “Sunday voting” proxy for “black voting.”

      So yes, MLK’s thought was noble and an ideal. We should institute it where we can, but also pragmatically be on the lookout for where doing it naively has the opposite effect of what he intended – we should not allow liberally-minded race-blindness to let racism by proxy in the back door.

    3. “I understand that if equality of opportunity doesn’t produce the proper outcomes then we should conclude that opportunity was not, in fact, equal. ”

      I don’t think this is quite true as it ignores preference. It seems likely that preference is at least partly responsible for relatively few women pursuing advanced degrees in some STEM fields and it is largely the same reason relatively few men pursue a career in veterinary medicine or nursing. Wouldn’t a plausible alternative be that it isn’t so much unequal opportunity as differences in preferences which account for these disparities in career choice?

    4. “Equality of opportunity isn’t enough if it doesn’t produce outcomes among Black populations that match those of other races.”

      Just finished reading Thomas Sowell’s extraordinary book “Discrimination and Disparities”. There he addresses “the seemingly invincible fallacy that statistical disparities in socioeconomic outcomes imply either biased treatment of the less fortunate or genetic deficiencies in the less fortunate.” He demonstrates that neither discrimination nor genetic differences need be invoked to explain disparities in group outcomes. Myriad other factors usually carry far more weight in explaining disparate outcomes among groups. Sowell shows that there’s no basis for the idea, so pervasive today, that even, proportional or statistically random distributions of racial, ethnic and other groups in different fields is what we should expect if there were no discrimination.

      1. You only prove my point. No matter the slogan, situations can be found in which it doesn’t tell the whole truth. When I say “outcomes that match”, I don’t mean simply that two numbers are equal. Both sides are taking their slogans literally to make cheap points rather than doing the real work of fighting racism.

  2. Thanks for approaching this thoughtfully Jerry. I share your spirit of reconciliation here. That said, I don’t believe this is one of those issues where the solution is the golden mean.

    We seem to be snared in the semantics of terms like “color-blind” or “race consciousness,” when what McWhorter and Hughes are really after has more to do with the worldview and mindset or methodologies that underpin the semantics. “Affirmative action” means different things to different people, and how you arrive at your definition is the defining algorithm when we’re talking about how to build an enlightened civilization, because the “how you arrived” speaks to what sort of interlocutor you’re going to be on any other issue.

    Hughes and McWhorter have repeatedly acknowledged the need to grapple with racial disparities born of historic, systemic inequities. But their point, broadly, is that how you get from A to Z matters as much as whether you ever get to Z. They’re uninterested in Pyrrhic approaches.

    So no, I think the aspiration to “not see race” still applies, more so now than ever given trajectories. But I’ve also always understood that phrase to be more in the aspirational sense, one that still accommodates recognizing racial disparities (though I think the more enlightened view here would code this as class/socioeconomic), and rerouting resources in smart, rational ways to mitigate legacy inequities.

    Bottom line, I submit that we have to renew our contract to treat each other as individuals first, always. No mind-reading, no projecting, no presumption of anything on the basis of these crude phenotypical markers. And we can’t commit the naturalistic fallacy when thinking about evolution. Ethics and evolution aren’t synonymous. The road forward is complex, and we need to grapple with that complexity on its terms.

    1. What a fine comment, Matt! I to appreciate Jerry’s heartfelt attempts to grapple with this difficult issue.

      That being said, I am still leery of employing affirmative action policies. By not choosing the best applicant for a position, we are trading diminution in quality of the work that student or employee will provide for a seeming social good.

      Will such policies increase a sense of injustice, or even lead to an increase in animosity between people of color and other groups? Will white people, even subconsciously, wall themselves off (and groups in which they are members) from people of color in response to affirmative action?

      I know I may be wrong to question these things, as very intelligent people (such as Jerry, Glenn Loury, and others) feel that some degree of affirmative action ought to be employed in our society.

      I know it is easy to ask questions of this kind rather than propose solutions, but I do think it is worth stating these concerns.

      Thanks to everybody on this thread for thoughtful and sensitive discussion!

    2. Agreed wrt Jerry’s thoughtful essay. Hardly seems like random thoughts. Well considered.

      I agree about affirmative action for historically oppressed groups. But there are at least three problems being addressed. One is racist beliefs being acted out (the white traffic cop beating up the black motorist). The second is that “blacks and other minorities are disadvantaged by history, and that history continues to hold them back today”, and I agree this is still important (e.g., redlining in housing). The third rail in these discussions is cultural practices & beliefs that hold back some people in some ethnic groups (e.g., the culture in “Hillbilly Elegy”, or that “Aspects & Assumptions of Whiteness” poster at the Smithsonian) from succeeding in a multiracial, multicultural society.

      But reparations and affirmative action don’t address either racist acts by white (or other) people, or the problem of culture.

      Those solutions really only address the second problem, and in an inefficient way as Jerry notes: wealthy Black families don’t need a financial or administrative leg up; affirmative action for Black families will be viewed as inherently unfair by others; and it doesn’t help others who were also historically disadvantaged.

      I think addressing historical disadvantages should be a class issue: offer affirmative action to poor people. This would lift many boats, including hillbillies and Blacks and others. To the extent that Black people are disproportionately poor, it could provide a form of reparations for slavery and Jim Crow. It might even create some comity between poor Black people and other disadvantages ethnic groups.

      Again I agree with Jerry about the problem, but am not sure about the specific solution. Great essay.

      1. I underscore your prescription to offer affirmative action to poor people. I think that our descendants will look on us, just as we look on our ancestors who saw nothing wrong with slavery or subordinate status for women, as immoral for tolerating a society that worships obscenely rich people and neglects the poor.

  3. The error is seen in the phrase “color blind.” To practice it, one must invoke “race” (color) in order to refuse it — the formulation is an establishment of importance for race. This is wrong. It plays into the hands of bigots, both Pros and Anti-s. The true phrase should be “equal individuals.”

    MLK’s position does not call for blindness; it calls for the utmost observation, non-evasion, the sharpest possible discrimination … on character. Yes, one sees with one’s eyes the color of the other person’s skin, but that is a trivial incidental, overwhelmed by the tremendous feat of discernment that must be carried out with sober, objective eyes, on the person’s character.

    The utter-Left hates this. There’s no power and control in it.

    The Progressive-Left, I have observed, never quite gets fully behind it, since radical individualism does not play well with a social democracy. You can’t be a radical for individual rights and advocate the controls and confiscations needed to fund/run a social democracy.

    This leads to a (reluctant?) calling by Progressives for collective social enforcement, AKA thought policing. No good can come of this for anything, including the ending of bigotry.

    1. “…overwhelmed by the tremendous feat of discernment that must be carried out with sober, objective eyes, on the person’s character.

      The utter-Left hates this. There’s no power and control in it.”

      I am assuming you mean “ultra-left”.

      Your dig about “no power and control” is duly noted.

      The position of “ultra” individual rights has some problems of its own.

      The tremendous feat of discernment that you describe as your ideal is hard to come by, no matter what people’s politics. That requires effort, which most people can’t, or don’t want to, expend. Given the fact that such effort is hard to come by, it seems to me that there still needs to be some shorthand, in most instances, of determining a means of all of us living in the same society.

      As one example from current events, do you think that school children should be at risk for Covid because some people don’t want to wear masks and/or get vaccinated? All the adults in our business are vaccinated, but my partners have an eight-year-old who is too young. We get customers coming in with no masks who make a big deal out of their refusal to do so, and also are very loud about not being vaccinated. If we ask them politely to mask, they then go into our small town and spread lies about us. I am terrified for the eight-year old. What if one of us has a breakthrough infection? Because we’re vaccinated, it would most likely be mild, but the health department would close us down for two weeks, and the eight-year-old would be at high risk. Why does someone’s individual “rights” take precedence over our business and the health of a child?

      Also, I find a lot of people’s whining about their “freedom” to be somewhat hollow when they don’t see that same freedom extending to anyone else who isn’t part of their tribe. A lot of them are anti-abortion, at foaming-at-the-mouth level. If you point out to them that fetuses would have a better chance at survival if mothers had better prenatal care, they screech about SOCIALISM. Frankly, I don’t think if they got control, their commitment to others’ rights of free speech would be respected for even five minutes.

      And, just out of curiosity, do you drive on the right side of the road? Do you stop for red lights? Why?

      L

      1. “utter” — I did mean that, but I should have typed “uttermost” — Uttermost-Left

        “That requires effort, which most people can’t, or don’t want to, expend.” — no one said freedom was easy. It is unfortunate that you think the difficulty justifies watering it down … which is the beginning of the downward spiral.

        or… given this: “… some shorthand, in most instances, of determining a means of all of us living in the same society.” Let me suggest that there is one. Government’s role — and its only role — ought to be as rectifier of violations of any given individual’s life, liberty, and property.

        ‘…school children…” — [aside] children wearing masks is a disaster, developmentally. In the debris field of that tragedy, [end aside] my response is: individual rights must be universal, therefore government ought to have no right to stop your business from barring people with no masks at the door — or for any reason you give. Have the partners been told they are not allowed to do that?

        Your characterization from “Also,” on down does not apply to me, and your unwarranted intrusion of it — despite your attempt to ‘generalize’ and avoid directly calling me out personally — is rude and lame.

        I am not a conservative, PolRepublican, or ‘rightist.” You’ll have to do better than playing the “self-centered including stomping on others” card. This issue of freedom vs control requires better interaction than that false binary.

        1. A couple of things:

          Government’s role as “rectifier of violations” – do you see any value at all in prevention? I do. I don’t think we have to wait for buildings to collapse and fires to engulf whole states before we address climate change, for example.

          I had no reason to call you out personally, which is why I didn’t do it. Not meaning to be rude. It’s just that the position you’re taking is the same position that I hear from many rightist people who DO want to limit my behavior. Please just be aware of that.

          And, in theory, I agree with you that just because something is difficult is not a reason to reject doing it. But, at least for me, reality intervenes, often. Maybe you have time and energy to expend on evaluating people’s character, but I don’t. A lot of the reason I don’t post here often, and why this will be my last response in this thread, is that I’m REALLY busy. I have a dairy and a restaurant. I get up at 2:00 am and run my butt off until I drop. I love what I do, which is why I keep doing it. But philosophizing is a luxury, and writing about it is, too.

          L

          1. I don’t accept your explanation about the personal issue. I need not respond any further about the other; I made my points above.

  4. Prof. Coyne makes a valiant effort to find a middle course, to be nuanced, to accept valid points that may be made by both points of view examined.But it’s not enough. Race, ethnicity, community, family, culture, nuclear and/or extended family, nationality, nativist or internationalist, not to mention individualism – there are just too many ways for people to be identified and to identify themselves for a debate between Black and White, or King and Kendi, or John Locke and Karl Marx, to be easily navigable. Worse, both in the above discussion and elsewhere when we discuss race, do I ever see a discussion of behavior as it affects, say, incarceration, or performance as it affects, say, success in school (not graduation rates, which are easily manipulated, but real measures of learning). I read Booker T. Washington’s “Up From Slavery” many years ago and somewhere in there he wrote something like “In the end, America will have the best.” I don’t know if that’s an exact quote, but that was the gist of it. I know that racism will trumpeted as the cause for any unequal outcomes between the “races,” but that claim has been reduced to a tautology, or an ever-expanding nexus that ensnares Blacks everywhere, in every corner of their lives. I think it may not be so much “denial” by Whites of the very real lingering effects of racism as it is that so many have learned to tune it all out, or have turned far-Right in their orientation. In the meantime, see a profile of New York Mayoral candidate in The Atlantic. He, too, seems to be holding to a middle ground. I hope he can succeed.

  5. Hughes makes some good points:

    Cities such as Atlanta and Detroit, which have had five or six consecutive black mayors, see all the same problems as cities with mostly white leadership. As Bernie Sanders pointed out not long ago, caring about the skin color of politicians, as opposed to their policy proposals and qualifications, is just as wrong-headed as it sounds.

    I’m not sure that Kingsian anti-racism demands colour-blindness per se or that his dream of a day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers” is an impossible one. My 13-year-old daughter just had (yet another) sleepover at her (black) best friend’s house – they’re not blind, they must realise they look very different, but they don’t appear to spend a minute thinking about that issue at all.

    1. I think this is a great point. I see the same lack of interest in LGBTQ+ views of young people. They see no reason to suspect that they might question another person’s sexual identity, much less argue for their non-existence. I hope I live long enough to see these young people take over leadership and changing the debate.

  6. Paul and JezGrove already mentioned this, but in my opinion if you interpret the phrase “color blind” as it is intended in this context, then I’ve never come across a valid argument for why that shouldn’t be a goal to strive for.

    “My 13-year-old daughter just had (yet another) sleepover at her (black) best friend’s house – they’re not blind, they must realise they look very different, but they don’t appear to spend a minute thinking about that issue at all.” [JezGrove, from comment above]

    That’s what color blind means in this context. Show me an argument that could convince me that that is wrong in any way. Show me an argument that demonstrates convincingly that that is an impediment to further reducing the racism that still exists.

  7. We must act to eliminate these disparities, …

    Within-group disparities are large. E.g., one white kid lives in a mansion with two, well-off, professional-career parents while another white kid lives in a trailer park with a mom on welfare and an absent dad in jail.

    Within-group disparities are a lot larger than disparities between group means. That is, the distributions of “opportunity” overlap hugely between groups.

    Question: is it important to fix the within-group disparity, or can we just accept large amount of that? (The far-left would say, yes, we need to fix it, but most people in Western societies tolerate large amounts of within-group disparity.)

    If it is not important to fix within-group disparity, why is it important to fix between-group disparity, when the former is actually the much bigger effect?

    What is so important about group means that they are the focus of policy? I think MLK was right, treating people as individuals (not as members of groups) is the way forward.

    1. > is it important to fix the within-group disparity

      We should tolerate quite a bit. But too much is a real risk — countries in which people have too little in common, can’t have functional democracy, and fall apart in times of crisis. Poems about some “corner of a foreign field” being forever Hapsburg (or Ottoman) territory are rare.

      Perhaps the relevant disparity is more cultural than economic. And the important group is the nation.

      By contrast, anything that makes the reinforces the idea that the most important group is some ethnic (or linguistic, or religious) sub-group seems pretty dangerous. If I were king this would drive a lot of my policies.

      > What is so important about group means

      I think the concern is often more about tails than means. Things like like group prison stats (or group Harvard admission stats) are all about pretty extreme outliers, where there are many gaps larger than a factor of 10, not about which kind of average Joe can afford a 10% larger house.

  8. I more or less agree with our host’s nuanced views. However, I find serious dangers in the institutional changes that the current tsunami of Kendi-style “anti-racism” has brought about.

    ” …the diversity and equity industry is so well established in the media, in the arts, in business, and academia, that I believe they’re here for keeps.” All these institutions have been parasitized by an entire class of administrators whose employment and status depends upon: (1) inventing asinine performative gestures like the re-burying of rocks; (2) working for the abolition of proficiency tests and standards; (3) pressuring for immediate equality of outcome, under dishonest disguises; and (4) imposing their own doctrinal orthodoxy on everyone else whenever they can.

    The cultural consequences of this parasitic class will be with us for a long time, and extend far beyond race relations (which will quite possibly be worsened by the diversicrats’ operations). One could almost wish for the kind of authoritarian structure represented by the late-lamented USSR. Stalin, who had been Lysenko’s patron, died in 1953. By 1962, it was possible for scientists to publish explicit, no-holds-barred criticisms of Lysenko and Lysenkoism. In 1965, Lysenko was fired as Director of the Institute of Genetics at the Academy of Sciences—which sent a serious message to the academic establishment. A change this decisive here can only be dreamed of.

  9. We have to admit that racism in America is a big problem and continues to be. How to fix that is the million dollar question and maybe there is no true fix. But we should call it out where it exist and do what we can to fix it in our own small way. We just completed an election where 74 million people voted for a guy who is a racist in the truest sense. We have a 2 party system where one party, the republican is easily said to be a racist party. Around this country right now many states are doing everything they can to make voting harder for minorities and changing the structure of who controls the state elections to determine the outcome they want. What is left of democracy is slipping away every day and our system of government is full of holes allowing little chance of fixing it. This sudden run on voting rights did not come out of thin air. It was set in motion by a majority racist Supreme court who recently removed voter rights protections. Now they maintain that people attempting to get asylum must remain in Mexico as the Trump administration started. The racism in this country is much bigger than most people will admit and if they won’t even admit it, how do they begin to fix it?

  10. I’m still very much in the King camp.
    I think affirmative action should primarily take place in Kindergarten and primary schools, and it should not take the shape of lowering standards, but of remedial action. That is where ‘reparations’ should go.
    I think that from secondary school onwards, merit should be the most important criterion.
    I note that the ‘Black disadvantage’ in the US has little to do with innate race qualities (or lack thereof), and more with culture. For a change this actually appears indeed to be a cultural thing. Recent ‘black’ immigrants from Africa appear to do pretty well in the US.

  11. There is no easy solution. In search of a safe example, let’s say we believe that whites should be proportionately represented in NBA teams. I think most people will agree that whites are underrepresented because there aren’t as many talented white players as there are Black players. Now, you could require the NBA hire a proportional amount of white players, this would create two problems: the quality of play would probably decline, and it would be taboo to mention why the quality had declined. Not to mention there would be good Black players, who were better than the white players, who did not make the cut, filled with resentment, who would be “haters” if they articulated the source of their resentment.

    You could order the proportion of white players remain as long as you want, but there is no reason to believe that whites would suddenly become better basketball players just because you had affirmative action. There might be some marginal impact, but unless you are Lamarckian, its not going to change. People talk about genetics and environment, but in reality, genetics generally sets the natural potential, and environment determines in large measure the potential that gets actualized.
    If the potential is limited, then raised in the best circumstances with the best available coaches, etc., whites are never going to become great basketball players.

    Now, over time, the whites and Blacks might start intermarrying and eventually after multiple generations, you might truly have some really talented white players (proportionate to demographics) but you are talking about a 300-600 year convergence (10-20 generations). There is no reason to believe that after 50 years of civil rights laws, affirmative action, head start, and the rest of the trillions spent on racial equality, that there is a lot more convergence to be seen.

    Kendi is right, even if he is wrong, in that there is no reason to believe outcomes between races will converge unless they are artificially made to do so, not after 50 years of expensive social engineering to make them so. Moreover, to return to the basket ball example, once the quota is removed, basketball teams will simply revert to more-or-less where they were before the quota. If you remove affirmative action after 50 years, you are going to see major changes in the composition of elites. Racial quotas function more like crutches and less like stools (you saw this when CA abolished affirmative action).

    Maybe basketball doesn’t matter, but institutions like the military, research and development, corporations, academia, etc. have important functions, and American institutions are in competition with institutions in other countries, so to the degree to which equality of outcome necessitates undermining the original function and capability of the institutions, equality of outcome could endanger America’s ability to defend itself, adapt its economy, generate knowledge and technology, etc. We know the Chinese don’t give a whit how diverse their fighting forces are, only whether they can win. Where Kendi falls down is that he never proposes to look at the consequences of what his ideas would mean, to which he would probably say a priori that there can be none, and to think there could be is racist or white supremacist or something. That is to say, the old hat salesman, I’ll take your argument and I’ll give you a hat that says “racist” in exchange.

    Mao Zedong did what Kendi wants. China in the Cultural Revolution did exactly what the woke want on race on the question of class. How did the Cultural Revolution go? Why did it get reversed, was the landlord class just so powerful despite a totalitarian state and one party rule? Or was it just such an obvious disaster that it lost popular support and elites moved on in order to insure the Party survived? Why would America choose to repeat the mistakes of Maoist China?

  12. The problem is that we don’t distinguish between society at large and its institutions, as opposed to the attitudes of individuals. Clearly society and government needs to acknowledge and rectify imbalances and injustice and insure equality before the law and equal opportunity, and to prevent overt hostility and violence. This requires acknowledging different skin colors (or ethnicity or
    religion or gender). But individuals interacting with people in other identity groups don’t need to
    act any different with people of other identities. They have a right to treat them the same; in return they expect their acquaintances or co workers to behave no differently…. they have the right to expect that their acquaintances will not demand any special treatment or privileges. This is the kind of color blindness that allows social relationships to flourish without assumptions about the differences between groups. It is entirely different from what we expect of government or institutions, where discrimination and privilege must be prohibited. As for prejudice, people in the privacy of their homes can say anything they please, but publicly they are required to treat all others civilly and respectfully…not because they are a different color but because that is the way we should ALL treat others at all times!

  13. Whenever I hear or read about proposed solutions to racism I wonder how those solutions would play out in professional sports. Do we want professional sports teams to look like America? What does that mean for racial or ethnic groups that are not represented in each sport in their percentages of the population? What about representation of disabled persons? How can we provide equal opportunities to participate if we define success through winning and losing and measuring achievement by who is the fastest or strongest when some ethnic groups have physical characteristics that give them advantages in certain sports. Should we redefine success to give all ethnic groups and individuals an equal opportunity for success? And, if the solutions to racism we propose don’t work in professional sports, why should we expect them to work in every other specialized field? It’s all a puzzle to me.

    1. Solutions that actually have some measurable efficacy are hard. Heck, actually identify causes accurately is hard. Not to mention the political issues, i.e. getting enough people to accept issues and methods to attempt to address them.

      But some generalities seem clear to me.

      1) We still have significant problems with racism, women’s rights, and equality / equity in both opportunities and outcomes between a variety of groups.

      2) We have some good evidence to suppose that if we could magically remove all barriers and bias that the demographics of any given field of endeavor would not be likely to match the demographics of society as a whole.

      3) Despite number 2 we have even more good evidence to suppose that due to still extant racism and similar issues, and especially due to long term effects from past racism and similar, many individuals from affected groups are inhibited in various ways from participation in many fields of endeavor and that if we were able to find ways to clear away the obstacles that the demographics of many fields of endeavor would change.

      4) If we want to continue to improve our society one of the best ways to do that is to find ways to maximize the potential contribution of as many individuals as possible. The list of issues that if competently addressed would aid in that is long, and fixing the lingering obstacles from both current and long term effects of racism and similar problems is one of the top 2 or 3 on that list.

      5) All this is very difficult to figure out, but the biggest obstacle is extremists on every side and accommodationists that think these problems are already adequately solved.

      1. Well said. Taboos are a major obstacle to equitable outcomes. Taboos in research and in policy formation. Charles Murray has been vilified and cancelled by the SPLC for citing research on the correlation between different family formations and adult success. Taboo. The financial and academic success of Asian immigrants suggests that family and cultural factors can lead to success in our country despite the systemic racism that some believe underpins every difference between ethnic groups. If our interest is giving every individual an equitable opportunity to succeed in life, we need to be able to address taboos as well as other societal barriers to a successful life.

      2. All 5 points are spot on (in typical darrelle fashion). I would summarize points 3 and 5 by saying: even if we do want a “color blind” society in some sense, the best way to get there involves some people becoming *more* color conscious, at least temporarily.

    2. I realize that the sports example is cited often because it makes the absurdity stand out. Fine.

      However, the absurdity needs to be vilified much strong than that … such as this example:

      United Airlines proudly proclaims it intends to hire and train a new generation of pilots — pilots!– half of whom will be women, people of color, or otherwise disadvantaged minority.

      Think about that for a few seconds, and vilification can not be far behind.

  14. In the planetary society we live in, I don’t believe such social improvements required for our *species* to evolve in betterness can happen. Too many extremes, too many polarizing interests and big-game players.

  15. The rhetoric around racism is very interesting. Inequality between X and Y is problematic, etc.

    On the other hand, you have federal and state laws that outlaw racial discrimination in employment, school admissions, lending, etc. Not only explicit, but there are legal limits on generalized testing in employment which have been found to be implicitly biased.

    You have “diversity” which means that there are effective quotas in elite educational admission, and hiring at elite institutions. You have benefits for minority owned businesses and the like intended to compensate for past discrimination. You have benefits in terms of hiring for the federal civil service, etc. In employment and education, designated minorities get racial preferences.

    If you look at schooling, you have programs like Head Start which were specifically targeted at helping minorities. You also have special education laws, which are a huge chunk of spending, intended to help failing students (disproportionately minority) catch up.

    You have the general welfare, public housing, TANF, Food Stamps, which disproportionately benefit minorities. We spend trillions of dollars every year to stamp out racial discrimination, educate people, provide benefits, etc. etc. The question is what isn’t America doing to stop racism?

    The answers are racial reparations and more affirmative action. Now, if people think handing out money is going to magically fix inequality, they are fooling themselves. Putting that aside, it is hard to see what exactly we aren’t doing, and have been doing since Johnson. To pretend you are describing a system of “white supremacy” that is intended to keep down the racial beneficiaries of that system is a bit of a stretch.

  16. I have read this piece by Hughes, and I have been following him on YouTube for a couple of years. I propose that we chuck the terms “color-blindness” and “color-blind,” as they are fraught with misunderstanding and require too much explanation to be really useful any more. I propose using the terms “color-relevancy” and “color-relevant” instead. These terms mean that in any interpersonal transaction or relationship we ask ourselves whether the colors of the participants’ skins are relevant. I think upon asking this question we will find that in the majority of circumstances the color of skin is irrelevant. In the minority of the circumstances where color is relevant, we can then apply remedies such as affirmative action or early intervention (hat tip to Nicolaas for this idea). And circumstances where color is relevant are not limited to the concerns of social justice but can include other considerations such as casting decisions for a play or, dare I say it, proclivities for who someone might want to date. Not to mention the medical decisions that might have to be made based on the natural amount of melanin in a patient’s skin.

    1. The issue is that in a feudal system, you have estates that have different rights and privileges based on birth, starting with the King. In a republic, you have individual citizens that all have the same rights and responsibilities, which together vote to elect a representative government.

      In a republic, citizenship is color blind, and no one has more rights or less rights than someone else, and certainly not based on an accident of birth. The so-called equality under the law.

      A lot of “wokeness” is downright feudal, attempting to use arcane diversity requirements to resurrect the medieval guilds, and create a new intersectional and feudal caste system. It is fundamentally undemocratic, reactionary and backwards.

      1. Interesting to contemplate the connection between feudalism and wokeness. I agree that the wokeness we’re examining in this forum is undemocratic. In fact, under the guise of social justice, it’s crypto-authoritarian.

  17. It’s possible to recognise experiences someone likely had, based on some feature but without recurring to race. You know a blind person has certain disadvantages without inventing a “blind race” of people. Likewise you can assume a person with a “people of colour” appearance likely has faced racism or is affected by racist policies such as red lining.

    Further, you can recognise racism without accepting races, as you can recognise religion without accepting the existing of deities. And you can recognise quasi ethical groups in the USA and probable experiences members have, without generalising to big races. Racial categories are meaningless elsewhere, where e.g. skin colour is but one marker of “otherness” but possibly not the most important one.

    Using categories in a broad way, whatever they are, is just stereotyping by a different name. It’s a bit of a mystery why identity politics adherents flip out when using sensible heuristics (e.g. pious muslims tend to have conservative views inimical to feminist values) but totally embrace broadest stereotypical racial categories, so that e.g. a British man like Richard Dawkins becomes a “white male”, saying that “Dawkins is a member of a broad caucasian race” yet also pretending as if they were not racist. The racism is the assumption that some big races exists and that racial stereotypes are meaningful.

    Naturally, I totally disagree. “Race” is not a meaningful concept in society. Blacks and Whites and such are only meaningful within US society, and people who “look the part” in the US are not members of the same racial group, but are perhaps mistaken as such, and thus might also have similiar experiences (because you can recognise racism without assuming races). That is, a recent Nigerian immigrant is not “Black”, and a recent immigrant from Poland is not “White” — they may become that over time within the USA as they accumulate experiences of racism or privileges, i.e. navigate within a society that imposes racist assumptions.

  18. “The solution is not to hold minorities to lower standards, but to remedy any disparities in education, treatment, and the like, until everyone can be held to the same high standards.”

    I totally agree with this. Thomas Sowell talks about erroneously attributing disparities to discrimination, when the reality is that in most cases they’re simply the unbiased result of the attributes of the people involved when statistics are taken (university admissions, for example; or police arrests), and not at all an indication of arbitrary discrimination. In other words, the fix has to take place much earlier.

    But isn’t affirmative action holding minorities to lower standards, at least as far as university admissions are concerned? I think even then it might be justified if it were shown that by the time they graduate affirmative-action students are as competent as the rest, but the data don’t show that. In fact it shows that the students that affirmative action intended to help would have had better outcomes if they had been admitted to a lower-tier university on their own merits.

    I fear, too, that affirmative action can give rise to non-arbitrary discrimination, if one suspects that minority professionals might not be as competent as the rest because academic standards were lowered for them.

  19. The chief impediment to a color-blind society is people’s basic instinct for pattern recognition. Leaving the elephant over in the corner for now, let’s look at how Asian kids are stereotyped. That usually means quiet, well mannered, and studious. Of course plenty of Asian kids are dullards or gang members or truants. But the truth is, at least in the US, most Asian kids seem to fit the stereotype, or at least are more likely than other groups to conform to it.
    Even if we concentrate on teaching kids that Asians tend to be lazy and stupid, and portray them as so whenever possible in media, kids are going to go out there in the world and quickly develop an impression counter to what we have taught them.
    The best way to dispel a stereotype is to not conform to it.
    False stereotypes exist, but they are hard to maintain in the long term if people’s experiences generally show them to be false.

    I am not sure if a color blind society is even possible unless we can accept the premise that all of the existing stereotypes are false. That seems a difficult hurdle. One can certainly try to treat everyone the same, and without preconceptions. Really, we all should. It is not the fault of an innocent person that they share physical characteristics with people who make a negative impression. The other side of that is where the blame for such injustice lies. It is easy to call the shopkeeper a racist, but it seems like the real fault lies with the people who robbed and stole from him over the years, and presented the pattern for him to recognize.

  20. Good article. I appreciated your thoughts. I lean (strongly) toward the Hughes/King view myself. I tend to agree with Hughes that, to a large degree, we on the left have a negativity bias when it comes to race such that much of the 2020 narrative seemed to cross the line into deliberately misinforative (I do some work on policing, crime and race, so was familiar with the actual data). That’s not to say everything is a racial utopia, but I don’t believe the “systemic racism” narrative is consistent with the data, and things are far more nuanced and complex.

    I agree we have a kind of inborn tendency toward tribalism, but I think this can be focused away from race. My concern about the Kendian view (and wokism more generally) is it feeds this innate tendency toward race rather than away from it. If you look at race relations data over the last 2 decades, race relations were actually good (not perfect) in the 2000s, but have declined since 2014…why that is is certainly complex, but I think the hyperpartisan ways both sides have devolved these discussions into angry culture wars is a big part of that.

    So we’d benefit from a return to King’s optimism and need to listen to Hughes more and less to Kendi.

  21. 1. All this talk about equality of opportunity and about race is a distraction from the fact that people who are not academically gifted and/or from well connected or rich families are unable to make a decent living in stable working conditions (which is also the basis for stable families) in the modern US. Manual workers are maltreated and exploited, while people in the higher echelons whose work is often far less essential (like stock market analysts) are richer than they ever were. That is why the rich love anti-racism, it doesn’t threaten them, and they can feel progressive, although they aren’t.
    2. Opportunities for educational success will never be equal, because individuals differ and family environments differ and even in the very equal and ethnically and culturally homogeneous society of socialist Eastern Germany, where there was no social segregation in neighbourhoods or schools, and little differentiation in income, some were academically gifted (or gifted for music, or for sports) and were allowed into higher education/special schools for the gifted, and some weren’t.
    3. The US discussion about “race” is fixated on black and white, but society is not black and white. The differences between black and white in educational and economic success, elite participation and violent crime mirror similarly strong differences between Anglo and Jewish whites, or between whites and Asians. Racist stereotypes are reflections of these average group differences and the subcultures behind them. Affirmative action is a good thing when it helps level out positive or negative discrimination because of stereotypes, i e when it helps ethnicity blindness in hiring. If it accepts lower standards, it may well be counter productive.
    4. If better educational success for black children is the main goal, this needs early (pre school) intervention and what amounts to cultural reeducation, which nobody seems to want right now, least of all anti-racism activists. Asian kids work for school for many hours a day, white kids a lot less, and black kids even less. You won’t see any changes in average outcome as long as these differences in application persist. It also needs special schools for kids (of whatever color) whose brain got damaged in utero by drug/alcohol addicted mothers and who are very disruptive in school and make for a bad learning environment for everyone else.
    5. I think what is needed most is good job prospects for everyone in America, because if being a drug seller or mugger is objectively your best career option, why should you change your academically damaging and violence loving youth culture? That would also help all of the other people with bad economic prospects in modern America. Poor white people or native Americans suffer, too, look at their suicide rates. The extreme income inequality is less psychologically damaging for recent immigrants for whom coming to the US means better conditions and more opportunities than in their home countries. They compare their situation with people back home, not with successful US citizens, or with an idealized 1950s America, they are better motivated and often outcompete the native (in the sense of born and bred American) poor.

    1. What’s your evidence that the rich love anti-racism (CRT)? Seems unlikely. The anti-racism crowd is also against the meritocracy which, presumably, the rich love. Anti-racism is strongest among college educators who aren’t usually considered rich.

      1. Well, it seems to be sweeping the corporate world, pushed from the top down by (presumably wealthy) executives. Whether that’s because of genuine anti-racist sentiment on their part or a cynical attempt to gain good PR or protection from lawsuits I don’t know…

        1. I suspect you do know. Every company has to be worried about wokeness. I am pretty sure those who run the company aren’t in favor of this stuff. Why would they be? They are focused on their products and beating the competition. It’s PR and HR departments that are the problem. Not only do they have to keep the company from getting bad press, they have to worry about hiring and everything else. Those departments are increasingly staffed by woke graduates from the liberal arts so that’s also part of the problem.

      2. No, the rich hate the meritocracy, they want to keep inherited wealth and low capital gains taxes, so they can keep all their profit from gamed markets and casino capitalism where they write the rules and can use their leverage, and they want to keep a class segregated school system where only their children can go to the prep schools that prepare them for Ivy league entry, and they want to send their children to Ivy league schools even when they are not top performers.
        I had the impression that companies and some ultrarich individuals like Soros have become very woke and have funded woke NGOs. I would also count most Democratic politicians and most media personalities among the rich (certainly they are among the richest 5 %), and they have given craven anti-racism displays last year. But none of them send their children to public schools where they would help improve the learning environment for the disadvantaged they ostensibly want to help, one of whose major disadvantages is having to go to school with peers that are all from disadvantaged backgrounds.

        1. Maybe I should add that I meant “love” not as a genuine commitment, but as a possibility for virtue signalling while distracting from the real issues. As people like to think of themselves as good and moral, for some, this will mean that they think they genuinely believe in anti-racism (this will keep up to the moment they themselves are asked to bring sacrifices), for others, it will be more of a consciously calculated thing.
          I would also count most elite college students as rich (those whose parents pay for tuition).

        2. Maybe I should also add that I agree with you that the rich of course do not support the anti-capitalist aspects of the woke movement even verbally. Their virtue signalling (like posing with a knee on the floor and Ashanti cloths over their shoulders, which like much of the posing last year was calculated to mobilize black voters for the election) does not include any concessions to anti-capitalism. They will see to it that this part of the movement does not become more powerful. There is already some anti-antiracist and anti-woke backlash in the elites because they can see that this is getting out of hand.

        3. Some of the rich certainly do those things you mention but those that run companies are always looking for the best and brightest which means loving the meritocracy. They may want to send their own kids to a good school even if they’re not qualified but I think pretty much everyone looks out for their own regardless of class. Most of them that run companies love immigration because they realize that this benefits the country and their own hiring. Unlike Trump, they know that those countries ARE sending some of their best and brightest.

  22. My concern with race/color being the central category of concern is that it leads to misdiagnosis of the issue, wasting a lot of time and effort, all with little to no result.

    Evidence of POC groups outperforming European (white) in many key categories of affluence/education is present for everyone to see: Nigerians, Asians, Brown etc etc

    It reminds me of the arguments from years back on male/female educational achievements and how girls were being under educated because of sexism, while there existed clear evidence that girls were outperforming boys in many areas of concern, up to and including graduation rates – misdiagnosis – James Damore – remember him?

    Activism rarely gets the diagnosis correct, and this is the principal problem with most activism – its aim is really, really, bad.

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