Co-leader of N.Z.’s Māori Party claims that Māori are a genetically superior group

September 15, 2023 • 11:30 am

Is it okay for oppressed minorities to evince blatantly racist attitudes, claiming, for example, that they are “genetically superior to other groups”? (Needless to say, the claim I’m discussing here is not backed by evidence.)

I’d argue that no, dismissing entire groups as inferior based purely on stereotypes is wrong, whoever does it. But it’s even worse when the racist is a co-leader of an important political party in a Western nation.  And what’s triply bad is that the national press and government of that country, which happens to be New Zealand, fails to call out the racist.

That is, of course, because the racist is Rawiri Waititi, a Māori who is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori (TPM): the Māori party in New Zealand’s House of Representatives.  And the report, which I can’t find elsewhere, comes from the World Socialist Website (click below to read). On the other hand, the racist quote seconded by Waititi comes from The Northland Age, part of the New Zealand Herald, the country’s most widely read newspaper:

Here’s the new excerpt, and the bolding is mine:

In an interview with TVNZ on Sunday, Rawiri Waititi, co-leader of Te Pāti Māori (TPM, the Māori Party) defended the blatantly racist statement: “It is a known fact that Māori genetic makeup is stronger than others.”

The statement was made to the Northland Age in September 2020 by TPM candidate Heather Te Au-Skipworth while outlining the party’s call for a $100 million fund to invest in “Māori sport.” It was then added to TPM’s website and was only removed last year after the far-right ACT Party complained about it.

TPM did not issue a public retraction or apology. Now, with an election approaching on October 14, Waititi has doubled down on defending the claim that indigenous Māori are a superior race.

His comments reveal the utterly reactionary character of Māori nationalism, a form of racial identity politics that is dressed up as progressive by the New Zealand political and media establishment. They highlight the sham being perpetrated by liberal commentators such as the Daily Blog and pseudo-left groups like the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), which are supporting TPM as a “left-wing” party.

Speaking to TVNZ interviewer Jack Tame, Waititi defended the comment by stating: “How can it be racist when you’re trying to empower a people that are climbing out from the bottom of the bonnet [sic] of colonial violence for the last 183 years?”

He continued: “We’re trying to rebuild our people… [after] years and years of colonial violence on our people. And so why can’t we call ourselves magic? Why can’t we call ourselves proud? Why can’t we believe in ourselves? And why can’t we say to our people that your genetics mean something, that you can be proud of that?

Umm. . . yes, of course the Māori can believe in themselves and empower their people. Yes, they can be proud, though calling themselves “magic” is a bit too close to superstition for my taste. And of course your genetics does “mean something”, like which group you’re most closely related to (I’m betting on Polynesians).

But what you can’t say is that your group has a “stronger genetic makeup” than other groups. The term “stronger” is meaningless here, and is not used by geneticists to compare genomes of different groups.

The original statement was apparently meant to refer to sports, as seen in the quote below from Heather Te Au-Skipworth, but then she extended it to intellect as well. Here’s the statement from the 2020 NZ Herald:

“Exercise has been a big part of who we are, how we came here and how we would traverse the lands of Aotearoa,” TeAu-Skipworth said.

“Māori invented many sports prior to European arrival – running, swimming, fishing, waka, hunting, kī o rahi, taiaha/mau rakau/te whare tū taua, to name a few – all examples of a tūpuna mindset, an ancestral way of being and acting that we call Whānau Pakari…

To interrupt, I doubt that hunting, swimming, fishing, and running were literally invented by Māori. This cannot be true because people were doing these things all over the world well before the Māori came to New Zealand about 800 years ago (e.g., the Olympics in ancient Greece). Hers is just a dumb statement that is not at all specific to the Māori.

Te Au-Skipworth continued:

“There is much to be taught and learnt from the navigators of our past and how we can use that mātauranga to sail and paddle our way into a future frame by Whānau Pakari.

“It is a known fact that Māori genetic makeup is stronger than others. When there is commitment, dedication and great support around Māori to achieve a high standard in sport, it is guaranteed that Māori will thrive.

“Our ancestors were not just athletic, they were also strategic thinkers with intentions to survive. This all required stamina, resilience, endurance, speed, agility and logic.

It was racist when she said it, and it’s racist when Waititi says it. As the anonymous Kiwi who sent me this link said:

Surprisingly (or not), neither the media nor the Race Relations Commissioner has shown any interest.

If a white New Zealander said that “colonialist genetics were stronger than Māori genetics”, it would be all over the Kiwi news as an arrant example of racism, which it would be. So it’s telling that when a big-time Māori politicians says something equivalent, it’s ignored by the press, the government, and the public.  That is what is known as “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and all decent Kiwis, whether Māori or “colonialists”, should be demanding retractions and apologies.

Don’t hold your breath. It would be considered racist to call anything said by a Māori “racist.”  That’s how far the fear has spread in New Zealand.

The end of affirmative action

June 27, 2023 • 10:45 am

Here’s a prediction that’s a no-brainer: this week the Supreme Court will override the Bakke decision and rule that race-based school admissions are unconstitutional. (Several states, including California, have already done this.) This will leave schools in a quandary, since nearly all universities have declared that they’re in favor of “diversity” (they mean ethnic diversity), but they’ll no longer be able to attain it using race as one criterion for admission. (Bakke prohibited “quotas”.)

The title of the article below, from the Free Press, is a bit misleading, as we already know what will happen: schools will try to do an end run around the Court’s ruling by eliminating or downgrading indices of “merit” like grades or test scores, and concentrate intead on “holistic admissions”, a backet of intangibles that includes skin color, ethnicity, and “personality”.

And it’s the “personality” issue that ultimately brought this case to the Supreme Court. Investigation of Harvard’s admissions policy revealed that assessment of personality scores was used, probably deliberately, to lower the apparent “merit” of Asian American Applicants. As the article below notes:

A 2018 analysis of 160,000 applicant records uncovered during discovery in the suit showed that Asian Americans, while outperforming every other group on academics and extracurriculars, received low marks from Harvard admissions officers when it came to personality traits—lowering their odds of admission. Asian American students were consistently deemed less “likable, courageous, kind, and respectable.”

That this method was invidious was revealed by showing that when applicants were interviewed in person by Harvard alums or other university people, their scores were not lower than those of other groups.  They were lower only when Asian Americans were assessed on paper by admissions officers who never met them. To me, this gave little doubt that there was deliberate discrimination going on here, though two sets of Federal courts unaccountably ignored this and ruled for Harvard. An appeal took the case to the Supreme Court.

As I’ve said before, affirmative action is a tough one for me.  I am pretty much a merit-based admission person, but I don’t want to see colleges—especially “elite ones”—devoid of people of color. There’s something about the “optics” of that situation that bothers me.  We are a multicultural and multiethnic America, and that should be reflected in higher education. On the other hand, I don’t favor using “holisitic” admissions, which, in the Harvard case (and probably others) led to palpable racism against Asian Americans.  One solution I’m gravitating towards is class based admissions, which acts to give up a leg to all the socioeconomically disadvantaged regardless of ethnicity, and it’s legal.

I do not, however, favor lowering the merit bar so much that people unqualified to attend a college get in. After all, there are tons of colleges with widely varying admission standards, there are also technical colleges, and, as John McWhorter claims, perhaps not everyone needs to go to college. But in effect, there’s higher education for everyone.

At any rate, this article tells you what you really know: “holistic admissions” is in the offing. Click to read

Quotes from the piece are indented. The article begins by recounting what UC Berkeley did to boost diversity after affirmative action was banned in California, first by university rules and then by law:

Ultimately, the task force concluded that, to achieve racial diversity and not violate University of California policy, it had to deemphasize quantitative yardsticks like grades and test scores and focus on other things. “The prevailing opinion was that if we focused on these qualitative assessments of a person’s interests, lived experience, that would contribute to the diversity of students,” Carson said.

The task force’s conclusion was borne out when, in the spring of 1997—after affirmative action had been prohibited at the University of California but before Boalt could implement the task force’s recommendations—the numbers of minority students admitted to the law school plummeted.

That year, the number of black students admitted to Boalt declined from 9.2 percent the year before to 1.8 percent. Latino admits dropped from 4.2 percent to 2 percent. Meanwhile, the proportion of Asian American students jumped from 15.5 percent to nearly 19 percent, and that of white students, from 57.3 percent to nearly 68 percent.

Which made the task force’s proposal all the more urgent.

Within a few years, admissions officers across the country started to call the new ideas “holistic admissions” or “holistic review.” It sounded more palatable than affirmative action, but really it was a way of achieving the same outcome without saying so explicitly.

Over the past three decades, colleges across the country—public and private—have adopted this approach in an effort to boost their student bodies’ racial diversity.

“Holistic” now includes as a criterion “lived experience”:

Yvonne Berumen, the vice president of admissions and financial aid at Pitzer College, east of Los Angeles, shared Green’s perspective. “One of the most important things in the admission process is the lived experience,” she said. “Race is a part of that.” (“Lived experience,” affirmative action critics said, is like “holistic admissions” or “diversity.” It’s a way of signaling a preference for black and Latino students, while not appearing to be discriminatory.)

If schools are barred from taking all that into account, Berumen said, “it would really change the demographic landscape of higher education.”

The “Green” above is Sonia Green, a black student at Duke, who makes no apologies for using “lived experience” as a criterion:

Green said that the old, meritocratic way of determining who gets into elite universities was actually discriminatory. “Being colorblind is racist, because it erases part of somebody’s identity,” Green said. “By saying that you don’t see someone’s race or you don’t see their color and you just see them as a person, it tells black students that you don’t see the communities that they’ve grown up in and you don’t see the experiences that have made them who they are.”

She suggested that Asian Americans who felt as though they’d been discriminated against by elite universities should rethink that. “I don’t think it’s just because you’re Asian,” Green said. “It’s probably because the school didn’t see you as being a good fit, or the school didn’t get to know enough about you as a person.”

But the problem with this is that ethnicity is not a great indicator of “lived experience”. Does a well-off Nigerian student, or a black student from a middle-class home, have the same “lived experience” as, say, a kid from an impoverished home on Chicago’ South Side? I doubt it, yet I don’t doubt that race will be an important component (if not the only component) of “lived experience.”  Green’s view seems to be that there is a relevant commonality of the communities that black student grew up in that should give them a leg up in admissions.  Well, you can make the argument that ethnicity is a good index of lived experience, but you don’t need it if you use socioeconomic status, combined with merit, as criteria for admissions.

Further, the “holistic” route was exactly what was used to keep Jews out of places like Harvard in the earlier 20th century:

In the 1920s, he recalled, Ivy League schools introduced “holistic admissions” to keep out high-achieving Jewish newcomers—only then they simply called them quotas. The much revered Harvard Man (or, for that matter, the Yale Man or Princeton Man) was a type: WASPy, athletic, well-connected, well to do.

After World War II, the old antisemitism gave way to the new meritocracy, which emphasized quantitative metrics like the SAT and grade point average to ensure that discrimination against Jews or any other unwanted minority wouldn’t rear its ugly head.

One asks: why do we consider it odious to have used holistic criteria to keep Jews out of schools, but perfectly fine to use the same criteria to keep Asian Americans (or whites out of schools)? You can respond that “discrimination like that is okay if it allows for more blacks and Hispanics to get into college,” but the whole problem is moot if you use socioeconomic criteria, which of course are correlated with ethnicity, but not perfectly. And to me, the imperfect correlation makes the whole process fairer, for there are disadvantaged people in every group.

The article winds up by noting that Asian Americans are pretty divided on the “holistic admissions” issue, but are gradually moving against this kind of affirmative action as they’re gravitating more towards the political right. In fact, as a new YouGov poll reveals, “considering race at all in the admissions process is viewed as unacceptable by 65% of Americans, while 25% say race should be allowed to be considered among other factors. About half of Democrats (48%) and Black Americans (47%) reject allowing colleges to consider race in admissions decisions.”

The graph:

I didn’t realize that so many Americans were opposed to any consideration of an applicant’s race. Surprisingly, 9% more black and 34% more Hispanics oppose using race as even one of several criteria. Even 8% more Democrats oppose affirmative action than support it. (The gap, of course, is much larger among Republicans, who don’t differ much from Independents.

Well, the decision will come down, perhaps today but almost surely within a week. Affirmative action will be dead, singing with the Choir Invisible. And colleges are already plotting workarounds.  This will involve devaluating data like grades and test scores, and more “holistic” admissions. But I don’t think that, in the future, universities will be able to get away with what Harvard did: using bogus “holistic” criteria to achieve the ethnic mix they want.  Let’s just think about to socioeconomic status, with more consideration of measurable “merit” and less “holism”.

h/t: Rosemary, R.

Big Brother is coming: machines to catch implicit bias in the workplace

March 20, 2023 • 1:15 pm

What if you had an Alexa-like device around to monitor your behavior, especially your “implicit biases”? Would that bother you?  And if you knew you were being monitored, would it affect your behavior? And if it did affect your behavior, would it do so permanently, or only so long as you knew you were being monitored?

Well, first we have to know if the concept of “implicit bias” is meaningful. People may be biased, but it may be something that they recognize: explicit bias that’s kept largely private. In fact, that’s what seems to be the case: data show that not only is there no commonly accepted definition of “implicit bias”, but ways to measure it, most notably the “implicit association test” (IAT) are dubious and give widely varying results for single individuals. Further, ways to rectify it don’t seem to work.

In a post from earlier this month, I reprise psychologist Lee Jussim’s many criticisms of implicit bias. Even if you take the most generous view of the topic, you have to admit that we know little about it, very little about how to measure it if it’s real, and nothing about how to rectify what the tests say is “implicit bias.”. In other word, it’s way too early to start ferreting it out, much less asserting that it’s ubiquitous. Implicit bias (henceforth “IB”) is one of those concepts that we can’t get a handle on, has been largely rejected by psychologists and sociologists, but is nevertheless taken for granted by the woke. Who needs stinking data when a concept meets your needs? The first paragraph of the piece below shows that a highly controversial topic is just accepted as true when it’s ideologically convenient.

The piece below, from Northeastern University in Boston, outlines the proposals of two researchers to measure “implicit bias” remotely, with the aim of eliminating it. Click to read:

The article assumes from the outset, without any justification, that the bias is there and is also ubiquitous. It further claims that implicit bias is costly because (again assuming again that it’s real), it demoralizes workers who are its targets—and that costs money:

Studies have shown that implicit bias—the automatic, and often unintentional, associations people have in their minds about groups of people—is ubiquitous in the workplace, and can hurt not just employees, but also a company’s bottom line.

For example, employees who perceive bias are nearly three times as likely to be disengaged at work, and the cost of disengagement to employers isn’t cheap—to the tune of $450 billion to $550 billion a year. Despite the growing adoption of implicit bias training, some in the field of human resources have raised doubts about its effectiveness in improving diversity and inclusion within organizations.

I reject the assertion of the first paragraph entirely, for the data (while sometimes conflicting) do not show that this kind of bias is ubiquitous—or even exists.  Note as well that in the second paragraph “implicit bias” has now become “bias”, yet they are two different things.  One is a subconscious form of bias, the other more explicit and recognized by its proponent. And, of course, the paragraph assumes that employees who perceive bias are actually receiving bias rather than acting out a victim mentality, and we just don’t know that.  (I’m not denying that racism and sexism exist; just that it’s subconscious, ubiquitous, and has the financial effects noted above.) This being America, of course, the goal is not a more moral business, but a more lucrative one.

But technology is here to fix the problem! All we have to do is eavesdrop on people interacting, analyze what you find, and then use it to “rectify” the behavior of the transgressors. Problem solved!

But what if a smart device, similar to the Amazon Alexa, could tell when your boss inadvertently left a female colleague out of an important decision, or made her feel that her perspective wasn’t valued?

. . .This device doesn’t yet exist, but Northeastern associate professors Christoph Riedl and Brooke Foucault Welles are preparing to embark on a three-year project that could yield such a gadget. The researchers will be studying from a social science perspective how teams communicate with each other as well as with smart devices while solving problems together.

“The vision that we have [for this project] is that you would have a device, maybe something like Amazon Alexa, that sits on the table and observes the human team members while they are working on a problem, and supports them in various ways,” says Riedl, an associate professor who studies crowdsourcing, open innovation, and network science. “One of the ways in which we think we can support that team is by ensuring equal inclusion of all team members.”

The pair have received a $1.5 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to study teams using a combination of social science theories, machine learning, and audio-visual and physiological sensors.

Welles says the grant—which she and Riedl will undertake in collaboration with research colleagues from Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Army Research Lab—will allow her and her colleagues to program a sensor-equipped, smart device to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues, and eventually physiological signals, shared between members of a team. The device would keep track of their interactions over time, and then based on those interactions, make recommendations for improving the team’s productivity.

. . .As a woman, Welles says she knows all too well how it feels to be excluded in a professional setting.

“When you’re having this experience, it’s really hard as the woman in the room to intervene and be like, ‘you’re not listening to me,’ or ‘I said that and he repeated it and now suddenly we believe it,’” she says. “I really love the idea of building a system that both empowers women with evidence that this is happening so that we can feel validated and also helps us point out opportunities for intervention.”

Addressing these issues as soon as they occur could help cultivate a culture where all employees feel included, suggests Riedl.

A device on the table watching and filming everyone! Now THAT will lead to a freewheeling discussion, right?

But the problem Welles addresses is real. As I’ve said before, when I started teaching graduate seminars, one of the first things I noticed, since these were mostly discussion of readings, was that the men tended not only to talk more than the women, but tended to talk over the women. Not only that, but many times I’ve seen a woman student make a good comment, followed up by a comment from a man, only to have the good comment attributed to the man. Since then, discussions with other women have convinced me that this problem is widespread. It doesn’t make for a good learning environment, and it saps the confidence of women.

Now I’m not sure if the male behavior I saw reflects bias, much less implicit bias: it could just be the tendency of men, especially young ones, to be more aggressive and domineering. But it still needed fixing.

The way I fixed this was simple. At the beginning of the quarter I laid out discussion rules including these: everybody gets to finish what they’re saying, and every comment must either address the previous comment or say something like, “I’d like to switch gears now.” If a woman wasn’t participating enough, I would call on her more often to summarize papers, and myself follow up on her comments.

In my mind, at least, this solved the problem, so that by seminar’s end both men and women students were pretty much equal in participation. I did NOT have to take the most vociferous men aside and tell them that they were being domineering and bossy.  That might have solved the problem, but at the expense of hurt feelings and divisiveness, as well as resentment.

So would it improve matters to have an Alexa and a camera on the table, some kind of “implicit bias” or “body language” analyst to go through the data, and then rectify the problem: presumably by calling out the offender? This not only smacks of Big Brotherhood, but is confrontational, divisive, likely to breed resentment, and, most of all, not a fix of the problem. I’m not saying that my own rules fixed the problem permanently, either, but I am not a machine but a human being who could act on the spot, and my job was to promote learning for everyone by giving everyone equal opportunity to participate.  In contrast, the goal of an Alexa Bias Controller seems to be not the promotion of learning, but social engineering based on post facto analysis.

Just sayin’.

A black doctor speaks up against implicit bias training (required for all California MDs, including her)

February 23, 2023 • 10:00 am

We all know that data show implicit bias training doesn’t work, and could even be counterproductive by making blacks and whites more suspicious of each other. And yet there’s been no move to ditch implicit bias training; in fact, it seems to be spreading. As physician Marilyn SIngleton, a black doctor in California, reports, it’s required in California as part of “continuing education” for doctors—50 hours of implicit bias training—mostly involving race, but also gender, age, and disability—every two years. That’s a lot of hours for a method that doesn’t work! Its continuance and spread serve only to show that the organizations that mandate the training are doing something. But because the training is useless, this is purely a show of virtue.

You can read Singleton’s Washington Post op-ed by clicking on the screenshot below, and I found it archived here for free. I recommend reading the whole thing because it’s very good. (And it’s in the WaPo!)

Singleton is identified this way:

Marilyn Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist and a visiting fellow at the medical advocacy organization Do No Harm.

She’s also pretty courageous, because I can imagine the social-media opprobrium, not to mention ostracism among her fellow doctors, for speaking the truth:

A few quotes, but really, I’d like to quote the whole thing:

When I graduated with a medical degree in 1973, a Black woman in a class of mostly White men, there was a real sense that the days of obsessing over skin color and making race-based assumptions about our fellow human beings was finally fading — and, hopefully, soon gone for good.

Apparently not. That racial obsession has come rushing back — in academia, politics, business and even in my beloved medical profession. But now it’s coming from the opposite direction. The malignant false assumption that Black people are inherently inferior intellectually has been traded in for the malignant false assumption that White people are inherently racist.

That is the basic message conveyed by “implicit bias training,” which is now mandatory for California physicians; it is a message that I believe is harmful both to physicians and patients. There is a sad irony in all this, because the misguided focus on racism is intended to improve the health and well-being of Black patients in particular.

. . . In California, where I’ve been licensed since 1974, every physician is required by law to participate in this racially regressive practice. Doctors must take implicit bias training not just once but as part of the curriculum of “continuing medical education,” for at least 50 hours every two years, required for their medical license renewal.

The training’s focus is on exactly what the name suggests: Deeply ingrained prejudice toward people of different races. There is no room for debate, for the law states baldly: “Implicit bias, meaning the attitudes or internalized stereotypes that affect our perceptions, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner, exists.”

And the law asserts as fact that implicit bias is responsible for “racial and ethnic disparities in health care,” particularly for Black women.

JAC note added later: It’s not clear exactly how many hours of the continuing education is devoted to implicit bias training, as one reader points out below. However, more than one hour is too much. I’ve been to a class on implicit bias at the U of C, and have also taken implicit bias tests (I was diagnosed as “not biased,” but I can see how easy it would be to game those tests.) I found the class patronizing and almost insulting when they asked us to tell stories about how we may have manifested implicit bias.

Here’s part of what that law says: flat assertions with no evidence to back them up (bolding is mine)

Section 1. 

The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

  • Implicit bias, meaning the attitudes or internalized stereotypes that affect our perceptions, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner, exists, and often contributes to unequal treatment of people based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, and other characteristics.
  • Implicit bias contributes to health disparities by affecting the behavior of physicians and surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, and other healing arts licensees.
  • Evidence of racial and ethnic disparities in health care is remarkably consistent across a range of illnesses and health care services. Racial and ethnic disparities remain even after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, insurance status, and other factors influencing access to health care.
  • African American women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes nationwide. African American patients often are prescribed less pain medication than white patients who present the same complaints, and African American patients with signs of heart problems are not referred for advanced cardiovascular procedures as often as white patients with the same symptoms.
  • Implicit gender bias also impacts treatment decisions and outcomes. Women are less likely to survive a heart attack when they are treated by a male physician and surgeon. LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming patients are less likely to seek timely medical care because they experience disrespect and discrimination from health care staff, with one out of five transgender patients nationwide reporting that they were outright denied medical care due to bias.

More from Dr. Singleton:

. . . I reject the unscientific accusation that people are defined by their race, not by their individual beliefs and choices. It is little consolation that studies are finding implicit bias training has no effect on its intended targets, and might even make matters worse.

Think about the message this mandate sends to Black physicians. It suggests that I should be wary of my White colleagues because, after all, they’re biased against people like me. Sure, they can undergo frequent training, but their bias is always going to be there, beneath the surface, threatening to rear its ugly, racist head. Collegiality and collaboration — two essential components of high-quality medical care — are targeted by this mandate. Call that an implicit bias.

Since I became a physician, I have seen exactly one instance of racism in health care — and it was from a patient, not a fellow physician. As for my colleagues, I have been consistently impressed with the conscientious, individualized care they have provided to patients of every race and culture. When we all took our oath to “first, do no harm,” we meant it, and we live it. I can’t imagine spending my entire career thinking my peers can’t uphold that oath without constant racial reeducation.

Now of course you can dismiss Singleton’s claims because they are her “lived experience”, but you could just as well dismiss the claims of all the medical schools and the proclamations by medical associations that the whole profession is rife with systemic racism. In fact, at least Singleton has some evidence or her claims, but med schools and medical associations have only the “evidence” that there are disproportionately few black doctors compared to their proportion in the general population. But as we know, inequity is not prima facie evidence for racism—systemic or otherwise.

Singleton notes that black patients get an even worse message, which is that white doctors could hurt their health. And that message is injurious to the health of black people.

She finishes her piece this way:

The whole point of implicit bias training is to create better health outcomes for Black patients and others who might be the target of discrimination, but the opposite seems more likely. It fosters a climate of distrust and resentment that threatens to undermine the medical and moral progress I’ve seen over the decades. When I graduated from medical school, we were moving past the era of racial obsession and anger. Why are we going back to the days when race defined so many lives and dimmed so many futures?

If you want to see evidence compiled by Lee Jussim that the concept of implicit bias is flawed and that training to eliminate it is useless, go here or see the video here.

Here are the three steps that are skipped when organizations mandate implicit bias training:

a.) Ascertaining that inequities are the result of racism

b.) Assuming that the racism is expressed unconsciously, via “implicit bias”

c.) Assuming that implicit bias training actually works in eliminating racist attitudes

All three assumptions have no evidence behind them, ergo implicit bias training is unscientific. As ever, I’m not denying that some white people in the medical establishment are racist. I’m raising doubts, as does Dr. Singleton, that the medical establishment itself has inbuilt racism, and it is that which not only leads to inequities among physicians, but also harms healthcare for minorities.


Singleton, from her Linked In page:

h/t: Tm

Are National Parks racist?

February 20, 2023 • 11:15 am

Of course they are! For that’s the implication of “inequities” in the proportion groups that visit parks—the explicit conclusion of ABC News in this long and misguided article about how the inequities, and the racism that’s supposed to cause them, are an “existential crisis” for America’s national parks. For those of you who think that the Biden administration isn’t using inequities as marker of ongoing racism, read below:

The data are these:

New government data, shared first with ABC News, shows the country’s premier outdoor spaces — the 419 national parks — remain overwhelmingly white. Just 23% of visitors to the parks were people of color, the National Park Service found in its most recent 10-year survey; 77% were white. Minorities make up 42% of the U.S. population.

There are more Hispanics than blacks visiting the park (only 6% of visitors are African-American), but still strong inequity.  The conclusion, of course, is that national parks, and the great outdoors itself, is racist. It’s not just that some people’s racism is said to keep minorities away from the parks in droves (an assertion that’s doubtful at the outset), but that the racism is systemic, somehow built into the National Park System, and these inequities must be erased through antiracist action. (The assumption here is that without racism, there would be perfect equity among park visitors.)

The repeated claim of systemic racism (all quotes from the piece are indented, bolding below is mine):

“The outdoors and public lands suffer from the same systemic racism that the rest of our society does,” said Joel Pannell, associate director of the Sierra Club, which is leading an effort to boost diversity in the wilderness and access to natural spaces.

. . . Advocates like Williams and Tariq say they hope the moment since George Floyd’s death in police custody brings attention to systemic racism in the outdoors as well as other parts of society and translates into a long-term change in attitudes and behavior.

. . . National parks and the conservation movement were created as a way for people to escape cities during the industrial revolution, which Pannell said is one example of systemic racism in the outdoors that hasn’t been confronted.

. . . Americans of all races in the new Park Service study said they value the nation’s iconic parks and landmarks as important to America’s national identity and think they should be protected. And advocates say they hope the current moment leads to future change and more attention to combating systemic racism in national parks and the outdoors industry and culture.”

Now the definition of systemic racism in the first link includes past laws and customs that might no longer apply but still exert an effect, but that’s not the tenor of the article, which assumes that the racism is an ongoing practice. It’s important to distinguish the two, because getting rid of current racism requires an entirely different agenda from dismantling the historical effects of racism. If they’re conflating the two, then the word “systemic” is no longer needed.

Why is this an “existential crisis”? One would think that if few minorities are going to the parks, and the parks are still doing big business (which they are), they’re in no danger of going out of existence. But the article says that more than half of America will be nonwhite by 2044, and that extra 8%, deterred from visiting by structural racism, poses a huge threat to the parks’ existence. I don’t buy it:

In national parks, the most prominent and famous natural spaces in the country, Black Americans are consistently the most underrepresented. In 2018, only 6% of visitors identified as Black, according to the new report, a slight decline from the previous year.

“We need to communicate that national parks, one, are part of your birthright,” Vela told ABC News Live in an exclusive interview.

This would be worrisome if we knew the cause was racism. Note that throughout this article, the assumption is that all groups have an equal desire to go to parks, but we don’t even know that. In fact, the data say the opposite:

Twice as many black and Hispanic Americans said they don’t know what to do in national parks than whites. When asked if they share the same interests as people who visit national parks, 34% of Black respondents and 27% of Hispanics said no, compared with only 11% of whites.

Well, if so many blacks and Hispanics don’t share the interests of people who do visit national parks, then the assumption of equal interests may be far off. On the other hand, I do love parks, and if the lack of interest comes from a lack of information, well, perhaps the government should advertise the parks more widely.

Now the sole evidence for racism in the article, besides the usual one or two “lived experience” anecdotes, is the inequity in proportions of ethnic groups visiting the park. But there are many possible explanations for this, and the last one I’d think of is racism. The first one I’d guess would be culture: that minorities have no tradition of hiking or camping, not because of racism encountered by doing that, but for other reasons. Living in cities is one: urban dwellers may be less likely to want to go to Parks. Or poverty (a residuum of historical racism) is another, and one that the article actually admits is a possible cause. But current, ongoing, systemic racism? I can’t imagine how that would keep minorities away from parks, but let’s see what evidence ABC adduces.

Ambreen Tariq, creator of the “Brown People Camping” social media campaign, says this:

Still, racial profiling and stereotyping remain a big concern for Tariq and many people of color in the outdoors.

“When I was a child, I felt like an outsider trying to gain entrance, except now I am American and this is my country,” she said.

However, when she camps or hikes as an adult, Tariq said she still faces assumptions that she doesn’t belong and a sense of “imposter syndrome” and fear — even facing questions from rangers about whether she has followed park rules when she doesn’t see white visitors asked the same questions.

. . .Combined with attitudes that people do outdoor activities to relieve stress has made it difficult to have tough conversations about race.

“When I’m walking to work with park rangers or with other campers and hikers who treat me in some sort of way that make me feel unwelcome, that make me feel unsafe, that is startling,” Tariq said. “And that goes unchecked because there’s, there’s just no channel for us to be able to challenge that in such remote places.”

“Unsafe” is a red flag here. In what sense does Tariq feel unsafe? Does she think the rangers will attack her? Exactly what form does the “unwelcome behavior” take? I’m not doubting it, but remember that this is a sample of one person.

Such behavior is of course possible, and if it happens often it must be based on racist assumptions of rangers. But where are the surveys? I’d also like a statement  about structural racism from the Park Service itself, but there’s just this:

“That tells me that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said David Vela, acting director of the National Park Service.

What does he mean? Is he admitting structural racism? Or just saying that we have to have more equity in visitors? Remember, a lot of visitors to parks are Europeans (that’s all you see in Death Valley in summer, when the Germans come to scorch themselves red in 120-degree heat), and Europeans are mostly white.

But forgive me if I can’t take as dispositive evidence a statement about how one person like Tariq feels. Does she know that white visitors aren’t asked the same questions. Remember, “lived experience” is not evidence for a proposition like this one, though if it were repeated many times, we’d get more suspicious.

It’s true that many of the parks were created at a time of de facto segregation, and it’s barely conceivable that somehow that has led to a tradition of minorities not going to parks. But the claim is that the racism is systemic and ongoing, and that’s a different claim. Speaking of history, the article does claim this:

Lack of transportation to national parks and the cost of visiting were cited as the top reasons people — especially Black and Hispanic Americans — don’t visit them more often, according to the study.

So it’s not bias but money and access! That is not systemic racism under any construal, though it may be the historical result of racism, and doesn’t jibe with the claims of “racist treatment” of minority visitors. Which is it?

Another claim is that minorities don’t come to parks because some of the parks’ founders were bigots. But is it believable that that fact, known only to those with a deep knowledge of park history, would keep people from going to parks now?:

Carolyn Finney, a storyteller and cultural geographer whose book “Black Faces, White Spaces” focuses on African Americans’ relationship to the outdoors said the dominant narrative around national parks doesn’t include that they were considered primarily with white visitors in mind.

She said that despite the value of the ideas that conceptualized the National Park Service and laid the groundwork for the modern environmental movement in the early 1900s, figures like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt did not consider how those spaces would include people of color because they were actively segregated at the time. And some figures close to the conservation movement like Madison Grant, who founded organizations like the Bronx Zoo, espoused actively racist ideologies.

Well, Roosevelt’s and Muir’s racism is something that few Americans even know about, while what on earth does Madison Grant have to do with inequities in Park attendance? Before you claim that the history of the parks’ foundations are what’s causing inequities among visitors, find out why.  How many Hispanics say, “Well, I’d go to Yellowstone but that Muir was such a bigot”?  One would think that this would be the first thing to investigate. But it never is. The cause goes hand in hand with the observation of disproportionality, and that is the classical instance of begging the question.

Two more reasons are given for attendance inequity:

Many people of color say that history of the parks is another psychological barrier white Americans don’t have to face.

“Historically, in the South, in particular, many atrocious things that happened to Black people were in the woods,” said Frank Peterman, an outdoors enthusiast who began visiting the national parks with his wife Audrey 25 years ago.

Where are the surveys of “many people of color” showing that? The only one quoted is Peterman, and he’s surely not been put off: he’s been to many parks. To me, this sounds like a made-up reason. Where are the data? You can’t use phrases like “many people of color say that the history of the parks is a psychological barrier” unless you document it. “Many” has to be “more than one.”

And this:

Many advocates say public information about parks and outdoor activities are not tailored to communities of color. Posted signs, for example, are mostly in English rather than Spanish. Park ranger uniforms that resemble what is worn by law enforcement are intimidating to some immigrants and minorities in light of documented cases of profiling.

Given that America is becoming almost bilingual with Spanish, it would be nice to have signs in Spanish in parks, especially in the Southwest. But I’m not down with changing the ranger uniforms. They don’t look like military uniforms (look at the hats!), and they have to look somewhat official so that they have authority and people will recognize them easily.  When you’re looking for help in a park, as I’ve done many times in Death Valley, you have to be able to recognize the rangers. What do people want, for crying out loud: Hawaiian shirts and shorts and a ranger hat?

The lessons of this dire piece are ones we’ve learned before:

a.) With enough effort, you can find structural racism everywhere. If you can find it (and people have) in yoga, pumpkins, lattes, and glaciology, you can find it anywhere. I challenge someone to come up with an institution that can’t be accused of structural racism, except, perhaps, the NBA or other sports. But, I believe, even the NFL has been accused of structural racism despite the high percentage of black players (58%).

b.) Structural racism is always taken to be the prima facie cause of unequal representation of groups. For several reasons, including different preferences, different cultures, and an overrepresentation of marginalized groups in some areas, this cannot always be the case.

c.) If you’re going to make such accusations of ongoing, current racism, you need to document them, because. . . .

d.) . . . if you think that unequal representation needs to be made perfectly equitable (which it needn’t), you must find out the reasons for the inequities. It’s wrong to assume structural racism from the get-go, and that’s why this ABC article is so terribly off the mark.

USC’s highlighting of “field” as a racist word perplexes the students

January 13, 2023 • 9:15 am

Two days ago I reported that the University of Southern California’s (USC’s) School of Social Work had highlighted the word “field” as a racist term, for it was used in the phrase “field hand”, referring to enslaved people forced to do agricultural labor. Below is part of the memorandum issued by the School’s “Practicum Education Department”:

This is about as arrant an example of changing language for no good reason that I can think of, for who would think of the phrase “my field is psychiatric social work” as racist? And if you use “practicum”, which isn’t even technically correct, nobody would understand what you meant.

As readers here also noted, the phrase “field” in the agricultural sense goes back centuries, and, further, “field” has many other uses that can’t in one’s wildest imagination be seen as racist—like “field work” for ecologists. This is an example of an action that did not need to be taken, but also an example of how crazy the language policing has become. Words are getting deemed racist so fast that a good ideologue can’t keep up with the changes.

The memorandum has also confused USC students, too, as this article from Wednesday’s USC student newspaper, The Daily Trojan, notes (click to read):

The paper notes that the word’s earliest usage antedates its use in American slavery:

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term “field work” can be traced back to 1767 in uses meaning “gathering statistics or doing research out-of-doors or on-site.” Merriam-Webster’s website says the term’s first-known use was in 1686, to mean “a temporary fortification thrown up by an army in the field.”

But what’s doubly confusing is that the school administration walked back what the School of Social work declared:

Twitter pundits quickly seized on the announcement, decrying it as “woke” virtue signaling.

“The university does not maintain a list of banned or discouraged words,” wrote Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Graddy in a statement to the Daily Trojan Wednesday. We will continue to use words — including ‘field’ — that accurately encompass and describe our work and research.”

If that’s the case, then the School of Social Work is at odds with USC’s administration. When, then, is the word “field” to be seen as racist? I look forward to clarification from the Practicum Education Department.

What’s curious but predictable is that only a few students interviewed were willing to criticize the announcement about “field”. It looks like some were puzzled, but others thought that because “field” was declared racist, it must be racist.

Students — interviewed by the Daily Trojan on Tuesday both at random on the University Park Campus and specifically in the school of social work — seemed largely split on the school’s decision.

“I’ve never been in a conversation with another Black person that has had a problem with the word ‘field,’” said Leka Mpigi, a graduate student studying architecture. “But I don’t know if that’s because I’m of African descent; I’m not African American.”

Mpigi said she could see why the terms would be taken the way the memo characterized them, but suggested that USC might have “bigger problems” to focus on, specifically admitting more students of color.

“At this point, it looks like we’re fishing for something of relevance,” Mpigi said. “It feels like a stretch.”

Kudos to Mpigi for at least saying the obvious. She’s clearly savvier than the factotums in the School of Social Work.

Here’s a student bowing to authority and dissing free speech as well:

Paloma Williams, a junior majoring in design, said that if the phrases being replaced originated from slavery or have an offensive origin, she supports the decision.

“Free speech doesn’t make saying offensive things OK,” Williams said.

That last statement is wrong if by “OK” she meant “legal.”  Notice the revival of the old critique of free speech: it should be curbed when that free speech is deemed offensive.

Three other students who will go along to get along:

“I have no issue with [the change],” said Maya Borenstein, a graduate student studying social work. “The title of my courses doesn’t really affect me. I’m all for changing language if it’s what they think is correct.”

Borenstein said she doesn’t feel like the change is limiting her own speech. David Lerman, another graduate student studying social work, said he thinks it isn’t his place to judge whether a term is harmful or offensive because he’s white.

“Coming from a background where I had family members that grew up working fields, I don’t think that they themselves would find it particularly offensive,” said Rylan Jimenez, a freshman majoring in engineering. “It just seems a little ridiculous to me.”

Jimenez said he can’t speak for people whose families have been through slavery.

“I feel like I can see both sides of the argument,” said Rozheen Barekatein, a graduate student studying social work. “But at the same time, why are we calling it a ‘master’s program?’”

Barekatein sees the hypocrisy of expunging some words but not others. (After all “master” has been thoroughly demonized, as in the removal of the term “master bedroom” from real estate descriptions.)

But clearly the students aren’t as willing to take as hard a line against the term’s elimination as did readers here. That could be for three reasons:

a. The students are more woke than our readers and willing to accept changes in words deemed offensive.

b. The students are, as the paper notes in its headline, somewhat confused, and so are ambiguous in their thoughts and responses.

c. Many of the students think it’s dumb to eliminate the word “field,” but are too intimidated to say so.

I think the answer involves all three factors, but I hope that a.) is a minor one. But make no mistake about it. The School of Social Work may USE the word “practicum”, but I strongly doubt that it will catch on.


h/t: Anna


Are you a racist if you like big butts?

January 8, 2023 • 1:15 pm

How can you not like Kat Rosenfield when she’s named “Kat,” is Jewish, and has the ability to write a trenchant but also funny review of a book on how white people are not allowed to either like big butts or (if a woman) have one, for it’s a form of racist cultural appropriation. Twerking is out too.

The book under consideration is called Butts: A Backstory, and you can click on the cover to go to the Amazon link (yes, the title and graphics are clever):


You can read Kat’s Unherd review by clicking on the screenshot:

Kat gives the book a mixed review. The bit about the documented racialization of oversized derrieres, particularly in the 18th and 19th century, is pretty horrifying, especially the story of the South African black woman Sarah Baartman, who was exhibited as an inferior specimen of human for her rear pulchritude. But if big butts were racially denigrated then, author Heather Radke says that they’re welcome now among some white people, and gives examples like Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, and so on. “Twerking,” too, has been taken up by whites. And it’s the white appropriation of the butt fetish that is, well, problematic:


To be fair, it surely is not Radke’s intention to inculcate racial anxiety in her reader: Butts feels like a passion project, deeply researched and fun to read, offering a deep dive into the history and culture of the human rear end, from the Venus Callipyge (from whose name the word “callipygian” is derived) to Buns of Steel to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s seminal rap celebrating all things gluteal. It is a topic ripe for well-rounded analysis, so to speak. But having been written in the very particular milieu of 2020s America, Butts unfortunately falls victim to the contemporary vogue for viewing all matters of culture through a racial lens. The result is a work that not only flattens the butt, figuratively, but makes the book feel ultimately less like an anthropological study and more like an entry into the crowded genre of works which serve to stoke the white liberal guilt of the NPR tote bag set.

At this point I was starting to fall in love with Rosenfield, but she kept on stoking the ardor with her insistent anti-wokeness:

The concept of cultural appropriation has always struck me as both fundamentally misguided and historically illiterate, arising from a studied incuriosity about both the inherent contagiousness of culture and the mimetic nature of human beings. But when it comes to the remixing of thing such as textiles, hairdos or fashion trends across cultures, the appropriation complaints seem at least understandable, if not persuasive: there’s a conscious element there, a choice to take what looked interesting on someone else and adorn your own body in the same way. Here, though, the appropriated item is literally a body part — the size and shape of which we rather notoriously have no control over. And yet Radke employs more or less the same argument to stigmatise the appropriation of butts as is often made about dreadlocks or bindis.

The book is insistent on this front: butts are a black thing, and liking them is a black male thing, and the appreciation of butts by non-black folks represents a moral error: cultural theft or stolen valour or some potent mix of the two. Among the scholars and experts quoted by Radke on this front is one who asserts that the contemporary appreciation of butts by the wider male population is “coming from Black male desire. Straight-up, point-blank. It’s only through Black males and their gaze that white men are starting to take notice”. To paraphrase a popular meme: “Fellas, is it racist to like butts?”

But if it’s racist to like big butts, why are so many white people either getting butt implants or taking pride in their derrieres? It seems that Radtke is conflating racism with cultural approprition. Both are “moral errors”, but really it’s only the first.

First of all, buttophilia is not a new thing; there have always been a subset of men who like an ample bottom, and there’s nothing wrong with that, for there’s a subset of men who favor any given female body part. (Rosenfield notes the theory that the bustles of earlier times were designed as a superliminal stimulus to appeal to those who favor large rears.)

But there’s also no doubt that there’s recent cultural appropriation, as in white rapper Iggy Azalea’s astounding increase in bum girth, one suspects through surgery. If a love of big butts is racist, there’s an awful lot of white people who favor them!  Again, things that are really considered racist are not culturally appropriated, no matter who appropriates them.  I suppose that Radtke’s thesis, although she mentions cultural appropriation, is that women who strive for big butts are, à la Rachel Dolezal, trying to be black, and that is somehow a form of racism. But that doesn’t explain why some white men like big butts.

It’s all a mystery, but Rosenfield still writes well about it:

By the time Butts comes around to analysing the contemporary derriere discourse, its conclusions are all but foregone: the political is not just personal, but anatomical. The book calls multiple women, including Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Miley Cyrus, to account for their appropriation of butts, which are understood to belong metaphorically if not literally to black women. The most scathing critique is directed at the then-21-year-old Cyrus, whose twerking at the VMAs is described as “adopting and exploiting a form of dance that had long been popular in poor and working-class Black communities and simultaneously playing into the stereotype of the hypersexual Black woman”. The mainstreaming of butts as a thing to be admired, then, is the ultimate act of Columbusing: “The butt had always been there, even if white people failed to notice for decades.”

There is also the curious wrinkle in Radke’s section on the history of twerking, which credits its popularisation to a male drag queen named Big Freedia. The implicit suggestion is that this movement style is less offensive when performed by a man dressed as a woman than by a white woman with a tiny butt.

On the other hand, now that the fad is “healthy at any size,” how can there be an ideological stigma against large bottoms?

. . . Ironically, the author of this book is herself a white woman with a large backside, a fact of which she periodically reminds the reader. And yet, Butts thoroughly subsumes its subject matter into the cultural appropriation discourse in a way that implicitly impugns all the non-black women who look — at least from behind — a hell of a lot more like Nicki Minaj than Kate Moss, women who perhaps hoped that their own big butts might be counted among those Sir Mix-a-Lot cannot lie about liking. It is worth noting, too, that the women hung out to dry by this argument are the same ones who other progressive identitarian rhetoric almost invariably fails to account for: the more it indulges in the archetype of the assless willowy white woman, the more Butts excludes from its imagination the poor and working class — whose butts, along with everything else, tend to be bigger. It fails to account, too, for those from ethnic backgrounds where a bigger butt — or, as one of my Jewish great-grandmothers might have said, a nice round tuchus — is the norm.

And the last paragraph is great:

All told, Butts offers an interesting if somewhat monomaniacal look back at the cultural history of the derriere. But as for how to view our backsides moving forward — especially if you happen to be a woman in possession of a big butt yourself — the book finds itself at something of a loss. Those in search of body positivity will not find it here; Radke is firm on this front, that white women who embrace their big butts are guilty of what Toni Morrison called “playing in the dark”, dabbling thoughtlessly with a culture, an aesthetic, a physique that doesn’t really belong to them. The best these women can hope for, it seems, is to look at their bodies the way Radke does in the final pages, with a sort of resigned acceptance: her butt, she says, is “just a fact”. On the one hand, this is better than explicitly instructing women to feel ashamed of their bodies (although implicitly, one gets the sense that shame is preferable to the confident, twerking alternative). But after some 200 pages of narrative about the political, sexual, cultural, historical baggage with which the butt is laden, it feels a bit empty, a bit like a cop-out. It could even be said — not by me, but by someone — that Butts has a hole in it.* [see below]

In the end, it seems as if Radke’s message is that it’s not really racist to like big butts if you’re white, but you better not get one or engage in twerking.  That’s reserved for ethnicities whose women naturally have large rumps; in other words, whites of a callipygean bent are engaging in cultural appreciation, and that’s wrong. But I’ve never seen a form of cultural appropriation that I’d criticize, and this one is no exception. Let a thousand butts twerk!

The evolution of Iggy Azelea’s rear, from an article in (of course) The Sun:

Rosenfield’s last line reminds me of a semi-salacious joke that my father used to tell me when, as a young lad, I was tucked in (he always had a witticism at bedtime):

“Jerry, there’s a good movie on. The ad says “Mein Tuchus in two parts. Come tomorrow and see the whole!”

h/t: Luana

“The Problem of Whiteness” course postponed (but not canceled) at my university

November 9, 2022 • 10:15 am

Some time ago, a conservative second-year student at the University of Chicago discovered that a course called “The Problem of Whiteness” was going to be taught this winter. The student, Daniel Schmidt, who has about 30K Twitter followers and describes himself on the platform as “Sophomore @UChicago. Exposing insanity at an elite university. ‘Right-wing college activist’ — Media Matters”, emitted several tweets describing the course and giving bit of the syllabus. The instructor is white and the course is falls under “Critical Race and Ethnic Studies” (“CRES”). Here are two of Schmidt’s tweets.

Of course this caused a social-media fracas, with people getting all hot and bothered and writing the university in protest. I even hear that the instructor, Rebecca Journey (named in the article below), received email threats, but I can’t verify that.

Although I don’t like the tenor of this course, which seems both anti-white and divisive, I cannot demand that it be canceled. What an instructor decides to teach is a matter of academic freedom, and if her department approves the course, it’s their call, not mine.  I of course worry that the University of Chicago will become as woke as some of its peers, which regularly teach courses like this, but while I can criticize the effect and content of such courses as socially inimical, I cannot and will not call or lobby for the course’s elimination or demand that the instructor be criticized—much less threatened—for teaching it.

Nevertheless, as this article in Inside Higher Ed reports, the instructor has, of her own volition, postponed the course until Spring. This is likely a result of the public pushback, though it also may be due to the low prospective enrollment (zero students).

A bit of the article:

The University of Chicago is still offering a course called The Problem of Whiteness, which attracted negative attention online, but it will do so a term later than originally planned—in the spring instead of the upcoming winter quarter.

It’s unclear just what prompted the course delay. The instructor, Rebecca Journey, a teaching fellow in anthropology, did not respond to a request for comment.

In a public statement affirming its commitment to academic freedom, the university said Journey asked to push back the class.

Well, something’s wrong here, because the link above doesn’t say anything about Journey and the class, but merely restates, in the words of Dean Boyer, our principles of academic freedom. I would be surprised if the University had any comment on a specific course. The article goes on:

A description of the University of Chicago course in question says, in part, that “Whiteness has long functioned as an ‘unmarked’ racial category, saturating a default surround against which non-white or ‘not quite’ others appear as aberrant. This saturation has had wide-ranging effects, coloring everything from the consolidation of wealth, power and property to the distribution of environmental health hazards. Yet in recent years whiteness has resurfaced as a conspicuous problem within liberal political discourse. This seminar examines the problem of whiteness through an anthropological lens, drawing from classic works and contemporary works of critical race theory.”

The course became a target for critics earlier this month after Daniel Schmidt, a sophomore on campus with 30,000 Twitter followers, tweeted about it as an example of “anti-white hate.”

“Rebecca Journey, a ‘cultural anthropologist,’ who, ironically, appears to be white, will teach it,” Schmidt tweeted, listing Journey’s photo and Chicago email address. “The course description describes whiteness ‘as a conspicuous problem within liberal political discourse’ with ‘worldmaking (and razing) effects.’ Anti-white hatred is now mainstream academic inquiry. And you’re not even allowed to call that out without being called racist.”

Schmidt posted an apparent screenshot of the course’s registration information, which at the time listed zero students enrolled.

Several days later, Schmidt tweeted another apparent registration screenshot showing the class had been canceled.

“Thank you to everyone who shared my thread,” he said. “We are obviously fighting an uphill battle, but this is a huge victory. Students need to call out anti-white hatred whenever they see it. Just the beginning.”

Of course Schmidt has every right to say what he wants about the course, and that may affect how people see the University of Chicago. That’s proper counterspeech. But there’s also academic freedom, which gives Journey every right to teach her course so long as she adheres to the normal principles of pedagogy. (That, of course, doesn’t mean every course can be taught: teaching creationism in public schools and universities, for instance, has been banned by the courts as an exercise in religious propaganda prohibited by the First Amendment.)

I was glad to see that FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) agrees with me:

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression soon weighed in on this case, saying that while it had learned that the course was actually rescheduled for spring and not canceled, it still had concerns—especially (but not merely) because Chicago has a strong reputation for protecting academic freedom.

“U Chicago told us the class was not canceled, but the instructor had simply ‘chosen to move’ the course to the spring term. All good? Maybe…” FIRE said on Twitter. “Administrators can inappropriately pressure a professor to cancel or delay a class in hopes that a controversy will die down. We don’t have evidence that happened here, but in these cases, transparency is paramount so academics don’t fear teaching controversial material.”

Alex Morey, director of campus rights advocacy at FIRE, told Inside Higher Ed Tuesday that the University of Chicago “doesn’t appear to have exerted any pressure on this professor to cancel their course, which is great and exactly what we expect from a top school for free speech. But other sources of pressure on faculty are also common these days. For example—from legislators or Twitter mobs, who sometimes threaten the professor’s funding or even their safety.”

Given the current polarized political environment, Morey said, “universities should urgently re-evaluate what it means to support a professor through a controversy over their teaching. It likely needs to go beyond just saying their speech is protected. Sadly, that may look like taking interim measures to ensure their safety, like providing their class meetings police protection, so they can continue their important work without delay. That’s what it may take these days to preserve faculty’s rights. Universities and faculty senates should have this on their radar.”

Here’s one of FIRE’s tweets on the issue:

If academic freedom means anything, it means what FIRE says above, and what John Stuart Mill said 223 years ago about freedom of expression: it must not be censored because it exposes people to ideas they don’t like. I don’t particularly like (or agree with) the idea that whiteness itself is toxic, or that all white people are racist unless they are actively antiracist, or that whiteness is the dominant theme of academia, reason, or science, but these ideas aren’t vanishingly rare, either. Let the students take Journey’s course and judge for themselves (if they’re open-minded going in, of course!).


UPDATE: I don’t know if I’ll say much about the Stanford conference on academic freedom until the YouTube videos are released so you can see for yourself, but it’s already been widely attacked. Even this article in Inside Higher Ed is somewhat of a hit piece, concentrating mostly on the more demonized and controversial speakers. Click to read:

The complex issue of racial reparations

October 22, 2022 • 12:00 pm

UPDATE:  Reader Daniel sent me this link to a half-hour video of Christopher Hitchens and Glenn Loury on the question of reparations.  Hitchens is in favor of them, Loury opposed. The debate took place in 2001.

One of the big issues in the antiracist debate is the question of reparations, or restorative justice through dispensing money, good, or advantages like mortgage help.  This is motivated by trying to make up for the evils of slavery and the subsequent bad treatment of minorities, especially blacks, by making accommodations, though payments or otherwise, to the descendants of those who still feel the aftereffects of slavery and find their opportunities limited.  And there’s no doubt that the historical legacy of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow racism still lingers on, narrowing the opportunities for many black people.

Perhaps the most eloquent—and certainly the most famous—argument for reparations was Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article in the June 2014 issue of The Atlantic, an essay called “The Case for Reparations” (free read). It’s a must-read for those who want to think about this issue.  Those who haven’t read it often think Coates was calling simply for direct payment to blacks, but that’s not all of what he wanted, although it seems to be part o it.  He did assert that affirmative action wasn’t sufficient. We had to undergo a fundamental transformation of society and of the minds of white people, Coates argued:

And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans.

. . . . What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.

. . . Something more than moral pressure calls America to reparations. We cannot escape our history. All of our solutions to the great problems of health care, education, housing, and economic inequality are troubled by what must go unspoken. “The reason black people are so far behind now is not because of now,” Clyde Ross told me. “It’s because of then.”

And yes, he did think that some kind of monetary payments might be part of the package.

. . . Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.

I do think Coates has a point, though I don’t think direct payments are the way to go. The objections are familiar:  Why do I (a Jew whose ancestors came to the U.S. well after slavery) need to balance the ledger? Many white people had nothing to do with oppressing blacks, so why do they need to bear the burden? To that I say, “We all bear a societal responsibility to the marginalized.” After all, I pay taxes for schooling young Americans, though I have no kids. I do so willingly, for that furthers the good of America as a whole.  Others bring up more vexing questions.  Who will get the payments? What about black immigrants to America, or people not descended from slaves? Will those of partial black ancestry get partial payments? Most important, is the direct-payment form of reparations going to solve the problem of inequality? I don’t think so—any more than winning the lottery makes people happy (it often doesn’t).  Surely it would be better to spend the money eliminating the societal barriers that prevent blacks from having equal opportunity to success.  Note, however, that the debate that Coates wants has already started: it’s the discussion about “racial reckoning” we’re having now.

An alternative, one to which I subscribe, is outlined in this article on NPR (which means it’s passed the progressive “sniff test”). Click to read (you can also listen):

The man with the ideas is Andrew Delbanco, the Alexander Hamilton professor of American Studies at Columbia University and president of the Teagle Foundation. In an interview on the NPR All Things Considered show, Delbanco laid out his program, outlined more fully in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ annual Jefferson Lecture, held just this month.

Here are some excerpts; you can hear the show at the link above:

On why he believes everyone has a responsibility to help with reparations, even though they did not create the system

If we allow ourselves to be thoughtful, I think we all understand this instinctively. I mean, no one should be blamed for the sins of the fathers, as the scripture puts it. And yet we live in a world that has been damaged by history. And we have a responsibility, I think, to do what we can to repair the world.

So it’s a paradoxical problem that on the one hand, the past is past and should have nothing to do with us in the present as individual moral actors. But on the other hand, we live in the world that we’ve inherited, and so do people who’ve been injured by history. So it’s a difficult moral problem. It’s a problem that writers and philosophers have wrestled with for centuries. And we’re never going to arrive at a clean, clear answer to it. But the very fact that we’re talking about it, I think, is a positive sign for where we could go as a society.

You’d have to be blind to not see the effect that slavery and Jim Crow had on today’s black population. What to do about it? Delbanco talks about the damages at length, but I’ll let you read about those and see his solution:

On putting a monetary value on many of these intangible concepts

I don’t think we can. Some people have tried and we’ve seen numbers from the thousands to the millions to the billions and trillions proposed, and different programs for distributing financial benefits to all persons who are regarded as Black, according to some pundits.

Others say, “No, it should be restricted to only those who can prove they had an enslaved ancestor.”

I don’t think that’s the right path to travel on, and I recognize that this is a point of view that will anger and upset many, and that should be part of the discussion. For me, the more sensible and the more plausible — in the sense that something might actually come of it — approach to this is to recognize that many Americans have been injured by history, notably Black Americans who have a good case to make that they’re at the head of that line. But there are many others who can point to disadvantages that were visited on their families or on themselves for reasons of racial prejudice and for other reasons, as well.

What we need to do, and I take my cue here from a great person, from the past, that is Dr. King, and from a young scholar, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, who teaches at Georgetown University, who speaks of reparations not as a process of payback, or settling scores, or getting even, but as what Professor Táíwò calls, “A construction project,” a future-oriented reconstruction of our society to make it a fairer place. To ensure that the kinds of depredations that Black people and many others have had to deal with over the decades and centuries will be mitigated in the future.

And you can imagine the sorts of policies that someone who takes this point of view would have in mind, providing wraparound services for schoolchildren of the sort that affluent families take for granted. Providing better access to quality health care to try to close those shocking gaps in infant mortality, maternal deaths and childhood, and many others in childbirth. And many other measures on which Black Americans still lag behind, providing better educational opportunities beyond those early years.

And that’s my solution, too.  Although some people may object that it smacks of paternalism, it really doesn’t—not if your program is aimed at creating more opportunities for those at the lowest end of the socioeconomic scale. Those are disproportionately members of minorities, of course, but by aiming at those who lack both well being and access to the pipeline to well being, you’re helping all of those who are deprived of opportunity. And those are often descendants of slaves.

This, of course, takes will and money. I’ve already said that I’d be more than willing to pay a substantial part of my savings, or accept a rise in taxes on those who are better off to help all Americans achieve equal opportunity. In the end, this is the only way that reparations can work. It may not involve handing out checks, but it’s the pecuniary equivalent, and has the advantage that these structural changes will be in perpetuity, and devolve on everyone, so it can’t be criticized as a simple form of affirmative action. Remember that, if you’re a determinist (or even if you’re not), you can see that low societal well being is not the “fault” of the affected individuals in that they could have risen in America had they chosen otherwise, and many people don’t even know the opportunities, or have the environments, that could help them.


The Jefferson Lecture will eventually online; here’s Delbanco giving a preview:

h/t: Williams

Saturday reading: Glenn Loury on the history of civil rights

October 8, 2022 • 12:00 pm

Glenn Loury is, as you know, a black heterodox thinker and writer, much like his friend John McWhorter. Loury was also the first professor of economics at Harvard to get tenure, and that at only 33. Now he works at Brown University.

I found out only yesterday that Glenn has a Substack site, and saw the post below on it. Click to read, but, as always, subscribe if you read regularly. This post is free to the public, and if you’re pulled up short, just click “Let me read it first”:

This is a long post, much of it reproduced from an earlier interview that is not online. Loury intro:

There is no better time than now to think back with a critical eye on the conditions that brought about landmark mid-century civil rights legislation and Supreme Court decisions. Below I do just that in a long interview from 2019 led by Bucknell University sociologist Alexander Riley, which is taken from his edited collection, Reflecting on the 1960s at 50: A Concise Account on How the 1960s Changed America, for Better and for WorseIn it, I speak at length on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Panthers, affirmative action, mass incarceration, and reparations, among other topics.

A few quotes under topics I’ve chosen:

The relative efficacy of Dr. King’s actions vs. those of contemporary activists:

. . . .I get why people are saying that. I get why contemporary social justice activists are impatient with the color-blind “I have a dream that one day my children will be judged by the content of their character. Black and white will walk hand-in-hand together, etc., etc.” I understand people’s impatience with that rhetoric in our current day, but I just ask people to reflect on what the power of that rhetoric actually was in transforming structures in American society. Again, I don’t think the threats of violence, the rejection across the board of American norms, the contempt for patriotism, the classification of the Founding Fathers as a bunch of dead white males, half of whom were slave owners anyways, and “we were 3/5 of a man in the constitution,” I don’t think that kind of rhetoric gets us anywhere. So there’s that.

On affirmative action:

 I’m not one of those who would respond to affirmative action by saying it’s discrimination against non-black or non-Latino people and therefore it’s wrong and must not be done. It is discrimination to the extent that it’s undertaken to benefit blacks or Latinos, but it’s not discrimination that I think should be prevented on a constitutional argument. That’s one thing that I would say.

But we are here in the year 2019. Affirmative action is something that dates back to the late 1960s, and really gets going in the 1970s. President Lyndon Johnson famously says, I believe it’s at a commencement address at Howard University in 1965, that you don’t take someone who’s been hobbled by history, the chains that encumber them, and remove the chains and bring them up to the starting line of a race and then you set the race off and expect that you’re being entirely fair. This is a paraphrase of Johnson. What he says is we need equality as a fact, and equality as an outcome, not merely equality in principle or equality as a theory.

We are a half-century into this idea that we’ve got to do something special for the blacks in the competitive venues where they lag behind in order to ensure equality of opportunity. A half-century, that’s a long time. It’s as long from Johnson giving that speech in 1965 to where we sit right here, today, in 2019, as was the time that expired between Appomattox, where Lee surrenders to Grant, and Versailles, where the First World War is brought to a conclusion. That’s a long time. That’s three generations. It’s a long, long time.

There is a lot more he has to say on the issue, and it’s relevant because the Supreme Court is set to overturn the Bakke case. Last night I discussed with my friends, who are longtime social-justice activists of the good sort (they actually did and are still doing stuff: teachers at minority schools and social workers), and we all agreed that the true solution to underrepresentation (“inequity”) is not the magicking of equity into existence by lowering the bar for some groups, but a fundamental change in opportunity, allowing everyone equal opportunity from birth. And that would require income redistribution—anathema to most Americans and all Republicans. It would also require other changes difficult to make. But it’s the only viable long-term solution. As McWhorter notes:

There was recently this controversy about the exam schools in New York City: Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, Stuyvesant. They have an exam. They give the exam. Tens of thousands of people take it. They are admitting only hundreds. Stuyvesant constitutes a class—an incoming class for the fall next year—of 895 admits. Seven of them are black. And the newspaper article says, in the spirit of affirmative action, “Racial Segregation Returns to New York City’s High Schools.” The presumption is the low number of African Americans being admitted is a reflection of the failure of the institution to be fair and open to all people.

It is not! It’s a reflection of something else, something less pretty, something much more challenging, something that goes much more profoundly to the heart of what’s wrong in our country. It’s a reflection of the failure to develop the human potential of those youngsters who happen to be black. The test is only a messenger. It’s merely telling us what people know and what they don’t know. Some respond, “Well, let’s get rid of the test, let’s put a quota on the schools, let’s raise those numbers.” But why not, “Let’s develop those people so that they can compete”?

. . . I used to be one of those people who said, “Oh no, it is just racial discrimination, it is just reverse discrimination, and we shouldn’t do it.” And then I became one of those people who said, “Oh no, wait a minute, I do think we need to defend affirmative action.” And now I am one of these people who is saying, “Are we ever going to get serious about the actual problem of inequality and address ourselves to it? Affirmative action doesn’t take us to that point.” Imagine how weak, and, at the end of the day, pathetic it is to be in this position of begging not to have affirmative action taken away. Throwing a tantrum not to have them take away affirmative action. “We want our affirmative action!” Pathetic!

I still think that in the interim some form of affirmative action is needed, but perhaps it should be based on socioeconomic considerations rather than ethnicity. Since ethnicity is correlated with socioeconomic status, that would still create more “equity,” and perhaps that is the way colleges will counter the upcoming dismantling of affirmative action by the Supreme Court. I always wonder what will happen to the elaborate and expensive apparatus of DEI bureaucracy erected by many colleges and universities, including mine.  Will “D” no longer include race, but diversity of viewpoints and of socieconomic status?

On reparations.

I actually think that little bit of the question is kind of interesting, and maybe even ironic to me, because if I said that the family has a right to pass his wealth on to from one generation to the next without the encumbrance of inheritance tax, or call it the death tax as Republicans like to call it, a lot of progressives would say “Oh no, oh no. Just because your father made a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anything. You didn’t earn it.” Well, likewise, just because my ancestors may have been deprived of the fruits of their labor by being forcibly enslaved doesn’t mean that necessarily that I am entitled to anything. I really don’t see, conceptually, a distinction between one or the other. In some sense, intergenerational entitlement being transferred from one generation to the next is intergenerational entitlement being transferred from one generation to the next.

But that’s not my main point. Do the facts of slavery, and Jim Crow segregation, and inequality, and restrictive covenants, and racial discrimination, and poll taxes, and literally tests, and anti-miscegenation laws, and all of that figure in a social scientifically identifiable way in accounting for some of the disadvantage of African American? I have no doubt that that’s true. I have no doubt that history casts a long shadow, that some dimension of African American poverty does indeed derive from historical mistreatment of African-Americans. Saying how much would, it seems to me, be a bridge too far. I don’t know how you do that as an empirical project.

. . . How about this? How about those who are concerned about the lasting effects of slavery and Jim Crow as they manifest themselves in the lives of very poor and disadvantaged and marginalized people, how about if we get about the business of building a coalition of poor, disadvantaged, and marginalized people of all races, and try to formulate a politics in which the essential needs of those people for opportunity would be at the center of our advocacy? I am prepared to include white people, brown people, yellow people, red people, as well as black people in that effort. That would be, I think, a serious American political enterprise. This sectarian enterprise—“Y’all disadvantaged my ancestors and I need to get paid”—I don’t think it’s going anywhere and I don’t think frankly it should go anywhere.

There is much to read and think about in Loury’s essay, including prison reform as well as these Big Three racial issues: Is our goal to become color blind? What should we do about affirmative action? And should we enact reparations, and, if so, how? You may disagree with Loury, but he will make you think. (Feel free to give your opinions below on these three questions or other related issues.) But do read this piece.

We are probably going to have Loury speak on our campus this year, and I wonder what sort of disruptions would ensue.