Some scattered remarks on race prompted by this post (which in turn was prompted by my linking this post).

  • In the first post, Dafydd (Mr Lizard?) points out that he says “To be a racist, one must, at the very least, believe in the concept of race — where “race” means some discrete and self-perpetuating subgroup of humans, defined by skin color and a certain morphology, but that also affects behavior and (some argue) thought itself.” Yet, in part this is in itself false. “Race” that is observable phenotypical inheritable differences between groups of humans, the prime notable example being skin color, do in fact track real differences regarding ability in a variety of ways. Northern Europeans and a few others have a genetic mutation which prevents the turning off of the ability to digest lactose. The notion that all racial differences have no impact on statistical distributions of cognitive and physical skills is a fallacy. Significant (statistical) differences of abilities and traits track along cultural lines because of historical geographical and social isolation allowed/allows the development of real measurable differences in the abilities of these subgroups in a range of arenas. Some of these differences are more significant in the modern world than others.
  • Mr Schraub makes a interesting correction in his definition of racism. He writes, “And what is a racist? I’d say a concept or argument or behavior is racist if it causes or reinforces unequal inegalitarian distribution of benefits and burdens on racial lines.” The replacement of unequal with inegalitarian is interesting in the light of de Tocqueville’s observations of America. His prediction that American tendencies to move equality to a “cutting down the outstanding” to match the herd comes to mind. A premise of egalitarianism is one the axiomatic foundational political concepts for the left (as extended and distinquished from beyond legal/moral egalitarianism). The right remains with the older classical liberal notion of legal/moral egalitarianism. But, by including “egalitarian” concerns in a definition of racist ideas and racism, then it follows that a rejection (or more accurately a disregard) of egalitarianism might go far to explain why when the left, as so frequently occurs, accuses the right of racism that then the right has trouble figuring out the basis of that accusation. It also gives a hint why Mr Schraub (and others) apparently can talk of “unconscious” racism. That is because they use a notion which requires the premise of egalitarianism to work. For if one is “free” regarding egalitarianism (not driven at all by egalitarian concerns) the tracking of one’s concepts/arguments/behaviors with egalitarian concerns will be somewhat random … and therefore often be judged by egalitarians to be in contrary to those concerns. If you back off on your definition of inegalitarianism to purely moral and legal venues distinct from material then there’s another problem. For then racial concepts, arguments, and behaviourswhich the progressives utilize and promote are those which are racist and the legal egalitarian ones the right prefers are not. This, perhaps, is the reason for the correction seen above.
  • Even if one accepts the definition of racism as being intrinsically tied to material egalitarian policy there is a problem of differing ideas of the presumptive consequences of policy. For example, take affirmative action as a race-based policy. The intention of the policy is egalitarian, it is meant to normalize material inequities by given enhanced educational and employment opportunities to races deemed disadvantaged. Opposition to this policy is normally thereforedeemed racist, by Mr Schraub’s definition. Yet, one might hold the opposite opinion, that is the effect of affirmative action is exactly opposite of the intent, that it enhances and sustains the unequal material norms that it hopes to diminish. In that case, from the point of view of those (like me) who believe that, support for affirmative action would be racist not the reverse. Thus you cannot (apparently) judge a policy/argument/behaviour as racist in any objective non-personal way. Racism becomes a purely subjective relativistic concept.  Or in other words it becomes completelyuseless.
  • A famous writer once observed that race and racism, specifically regarding Black America, is the “most important” factor for American (US) historical development. This however, mostly betrays the fact that the writer himself was concerned chiefly with Black American issues. For it is categorically false that this in the “most” important factor for American development. Technology, foreign events and currents, and even the interaction of the multiple cultural heritages in the waves of immigration to these shores dwarf the Black/White matter regarding our historical development. Compare for example the historical impact on today’s America from two events that occurred in the late 50s, that being the transistor and the civil rights movement. Which impacts today’s America more? Clearly the former has more impact.

Finally a summary of these points follows.

While race as broadly defined (White/Black/Asian) is not useful, narrower cultural groups do in fact track with real differences of ability. Second, including ideological concepts in a definition of racism is less than useful, unless the purpose is to cast aspersions on those who don’t hold to your ideology. Third, even within the concept of those ideological concepts, using material egalitarianism within a definition of race is problematic. Finally, race itself is less important than many (if not most) race theorists imagine, so if you really want to change the world become a scientist or engineer and not a lawyer or social worker. 😀

Filed under: Mark O.Race Issues

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