164 Comments
Commenting has been turned off for this post

This post is pretty close to getting it. The instrumental value of CRT for corporations and schools is regimentation and policing. Of course it fulfills other needs such as moral pedagogy and religiosity. It serves an entrenched special interest: diversity administrators. Finally, it serves an institutional purpose as a kind of ‘insurance’ - CRT is a shakedown operation.

All of this is bad enough, but what is worse is that we don’t really know what the downstream effects will be. CRT is explicitly identitarian. It is also authoritarian in that it normalizes institutional involvement in what were previously private spaces. Finally, it is epistemically deranging. Critical theory in general is good at motivating action to get power (‘do your praxis’) but is bad at everything else. It leads to bad art, bad institutional governance, bad health policy, and the general dissolution of rigorous standards required in liberal discourse. What I think someone like Freddie, who is outside the institutions, misses is how cancerous the ascent of critical theory really is.

Expand full comment

I work in an institution and we've never not had a committee or office to oversee issues relating to diversity and minority scholarships. Some community members have participated, some haven't. It's been voluntary. Now it it all front and center and not grassroots, but imposed. People who have participated for years feel their decades long efforts are not seen or appreciated with a long view. People who've never participated feel like they must now. Hearts need to change before minds.

Expand full comment

DEI has become a Trojan Horse for policies and values that would otherwise be anathema. There's nothing wrong with a Kingian or Rawlsian ethos of social justice (winning hearts) that focuses on race being prominent institutionally. The TNC/Kendi/DiAngelo mishmash of class guilt assignation, authoritarianism, religious revelation, and the therapeutic culture is not that.

Expand full comment

The old liberal thinkers you worship were insanely authoritarian when it came to things that actually threatened the supremacy of their accumulated wealth, so saying that they weren't is hilarious to me. The notion that this new CRT thing is somehow a great authoritarian monster is just more liberal catastrophizing.

Expand full comment

The old liberal thinkers I worship? Like who?

Anyways when I was in college there were still a lot of Marxists who were much more interested in redistribution than the CRTers who are clearly much more focused on getting an elite perch for themselves.

I don't think CRT is really that interested in redistribution. Based on how it has been absorbed into corporations, universities, the military, and other centers of power, we should presume that that these institutions perceive it to be harmless to their interests.

CRT can be used as a rationale to stratify and solidify economic and social hierarchies - it is a paradoxically conservative undertaking with a radical veneer.

This is why I suspect, in part, that social media radicals of today who would have been the moderate Republican wine moms of my youth find appealing.

Expand full comment

Excellent post. The unforeseen consequences of this new identitarianism aren't going to shake out for years, but I promise you that they won't be pretty.

Expand full comment

We’ll said. I’m quite concerned that ‘private spaces’ will become extinct shortly as institutions and credentialism swallow more and more.

Expand full comment

I don't recall ever reading anything Freddie has written as naive as this essay, yet the essay's naivete seems deliberate and calculated to make Critical Race Theory more appealing.

Sadly, I think Freddie has recently realized that his dream of communism is so similar to the ethnic BLM/Woke form of communism, (the redistribution of society's wealth and power as a form of racial equity) that he has been co-opted by them.

Expand full comment
author

Huh?

Expand full comment

The White Negro.

In the 1950s it was white people wanting to be hipsters and jazz--Norman Mailer, 1957-

"it is no accident that the source of Hip is the Negro for he has been living on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries. But the presence of Hip as a working philosophy in the sub-worlds of American life is probably due to jazz, and its knife-like entrance into culture, its subtle but so penetrating influence on an avant-garde generation—that post-war generation of adventurers who (some consciously, some by osmosis) had absorbed the lessons of disillusionment and disgust of the Twenties, the Depression, and the War." (reprinted in Dissent in 2007--https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-white-negro-fall-1957 )

Expand full comment

Bravo. And in addition I would point out that eventually the worm will turn and this brand of politics will outlive its usefulness as public opinion shifts against it. And at that point the convenient scapegoats will not only be people like Sista Souljah but also Ricky Ray Rector.

Expand full comment

It's a kind of tragedy of the commons. If racism is structural, and all whites are complicit everyone is responsible for it and when everyone's responsible for something effectively no one is.

I feel like it's easier to imagine critical theory ameliorating material differences than it is to imagine incrementalism making blacks and whites statistically indistinguishable or near indistinguishable. Like if you could snap your fingers and convince the average voter to hold Kimberle Crenshaw's (to pick one random CRT scholar) views you could move mountains on materialist policy.

If you snapped your fingers and made CRT crazed white people gone away nothing much would come of that. They'd go be weird about something else and the culture war would shift to some adjacent topic.

Expand full comment

My instinct is the opposite.

If Crenshaw became the standard it would empower an entrenched administrative elite with authoritarian power to administer 'equity' and 'inclusion' that would further expand the gap between the elites and the proles. Critical theory is the highest form of knowledge after all; it is revelatory. It is far superior to what you get from liberal discourse. This is why Kendi suggests an authoritarian council of technocrats that would oversee our elected representatives.

In seriousness, no one has made the case convincingly that Kendian anti-racism is better than Rawlsian/Kingian/Christian bases for social justice.

Also, the empiric evidence on wealth and imprisonment and a number of other major metrics such that black Americans are in fact doing much better and closing gaps. The 'crisis' that justifies identitarian anti-racism is not supported empirically and is likely in large part astroturfed.

Expand full comment

That's my instinct too, but I don't think it's quite fair. Critical theory is premised on a theory of Marxism that is extremely interested in material effects. The reason we see the noxious "thoughts and feelings" forms of critical theory is because it's easy--easy for educated white liberals to sign on to, easier than actually giving up one's own material comfort, and certainly easier than organizing for material change in the face of entrenched capitalism.

If you managed to graft the _entirety_ of Crenshaw's politics into the base, you'd see material change. What we see, by and large, is merely the corrupted, milquetoast version after it's been stripped of all the good parts.

Expand full comment

Yeah I dunno - of course there are differences based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. But it just seems to me that a Left focused on class and trying to redress material deprivation is a healthier Left. A Left focused on identity is much more likely to become messy, identitarian, over-intellectualized, and lose the plot.

Expand full comment

Plus what are the consequences of identitarian thinking in a society that is genuinely multicultural as compared to the black and white one imagined by CRT supporters? If enough people cared about this stuff the end result would be a fractured society composed of numerous warring tribes rather than a binary outcome of a coalition of minorities/enlightened whites versus white racists.

Expand full comment

The consequence is divide and rule. The consequence is that people worry about their race first and their class second, if at all. Funny how that works!

Expand full comment

That's my preferred approach, too. It's funny--I feel like there's a plausible way to make the argument that confronting personal racism head-on is a necessary precursor to material change for PoC and the rest of the working class alike. However, in this post I've tried to steelman the argument twice and each time it just falls apart, so I just gave up. Maybe someone else can do it.

Expand full comment

I feel like it's class, and everything else up to and including all kinds of things. I feel like the liberal left was never really able to live up to how far we are from equality of opportunity and to catch up you either need some kind of Hail Mary or a trick play.

Like on balance I'd prefer more of a focus on class but I don't think that's enough. Money will never be enough. Even if we invented the replicator and we had infinite everything we'd still need to over and above people's material concerns address all kinds of social ills.

Expand full comment

You're on a roll. Excellent post again.

Expand full comment

Here's a real-world example. For the first time in his career, my husband is on a hiring committee. He works in public service. The open positions require some technical expertise but not overwhelmingly so. HR sent 8 applicants it considered qualified. Four are white guys of varying ages, two are black men, one is a black woman, one is a white woman. Nobody's resume is exactly the same (obviously).

My husband's current office is currently comprised of four white guys, a black woman and a white woman (plus those two open positions).

If we applied the Crenshaw/Kendi logic to this, ought he to dismiss the four male white applicants out of hand? What about the white woman?

One step in the process he has taken: he stripped the identifying data (name, age, gender, race) and gave the resumes to the other people in the office. Their top 4 turned out to be three white guys and a black guy.

They haven't done interviews at all yet, so this is an ongoing situation. But I really am curious: what would a hiring process look like under Kendi? What should it look like now?

Expand full comment

If your foundation for measuring the pace of racial equality is metrics like income, college education, etc. then the complicating factor is that it is not whites at the top of the heap in the United States but Asians. The entire CRT debate is really stuck in a world view where race relations in the US means the state of black-white relations rather than the reality of a multicultural society with a staggeringly diverse set of interests.

Expand full comment

What struck me years ago was the ascendance of Indian Americans to the heads of Google and Microsoft. If they had been black the media coverage would have been overwhelming. Instead we got crickets.

Expand full comment

It also needs to account for the staggering success of several African immigrant groups, especially Nigerian immigrants, who out-earn white Americans as a group iirc.

Part of their success is almost certainly immigrant selectivity--we only take the best, brightest, and most driven--but it's hard to imagine they would be allowed to be so successful at all if society is indeed so pervasively anti-black.

Expand full comment

Anybody who immigrates legally to the US has a powerful incentive not to screw up -- the mockery they would receive in their country of origin if they were to be deported or forced to leave.

Expand full comment

Oh, definitely--I think that is a large part of their success.

But some of the claims from CRT pushers about the plight of black Americans are so exaggerated that they argue it is literally impossible for black Americans to ever succeed. Black Americans are stuck in a "white supremacist society", and so it doesn't matter how hard they work or how talented they are: they will never be allowed to achieve the same successes as whites.

The existence of people like Barack Obama, Oprah, Michael Jordan, Jay-Z, etc should be at least slightly dispositive of this position, but the fact that their are subgroups of black Americans who are doing extremely well should be even more dispositive. Supremacist cultures do not allow other ethnic groups to succeed.

Expand full comment

Very true. I think it was Jim Webb who posited that blacks held a special position in American society vis a vis racism that Asians and Hispanics did not identify. Asian prosperity calls into question the hypothesis that American society is racist in general. Black prosperity of course goes beyond that to call Webb's assertion into question.

Expand full comment

My family are longtime friends of a Nigerian immigrant family. Mom is the daughter of a man whose status equates to a chief/king who despite her gender encouraged her education. Mom and dad were educated in England then emigrated here and had their children. Dad is a physics PhD mom is an educator. their three grown children are successful in different fields: daughter is a doctor, one son is an engineer (after a few year stint in the NFL), younger son is in sports marketing I believe. But they have all also experienced racism in the form of discriminatory interpersonal behavior.

So what does this mean? Is their success a product of the fact that mom and dad grew up believing in their innate value and capabilities and then passed that onto their children? Is it that their self-selected brilliance explains it? Mom and dad grew up in Africa so they were not minorities until adulthood; their kids have always been minorities. If it comes down to what one believes about one’s self and potential, what that mean for Black Americans? And if white people are responsible for a systemic disenfranchisement and cultural denigration of Black people (historically the answer is yes) but White people now bestowing value is just as racist, what’s the answer?

If CRT somehow helps, I guess I’m for it. But I kind of don’t think it will because it still focuses on the oppressed/oppressor dichotomy in a current context rather than merely a historical one. I imagine my inference that Black American people must believe in their own value irrespective of what White culture does would be deemed racist by Kendi, even though I also believe in equal enforcement of rights.

Expand full comment

Actually let me restate that: I imagine my inference that Black American people must believe in their own value irrespective of what white culture does and doing so *would help the Black community* would be deemed racist by Kendi.

Expand full comment
Jul 13, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

I share skepticism (as a white Latina, on the... sidelines, margins... of all this discourse) that CRT discourse by whites/for whites has had any meaningful impact on material outcomes... But then again... I work in health research and recently had a baby so it's on my mind.

One place racial and ethnic disparities - with material consequences - are immediately obvious is in obstetric care. Black moms in particular have worse outcomes (by "worse" I mean...death) than might be predicted otherwise by their health, their access to care, etc. Some of this is impacted by giving women Black doctors. https://www.pnas.org/content/117/35/21194. At a certain point, asking OBs to address *personal* and not *structural* racism might make some sense.

https://www.statnews.com/2021/06/03/vbac-calculator-birth-cesarean/ VBAC is meaningful for health of the mom and lowers risk for future pregnancies (Cesarean gets more dangerous with each baby... google "placenta accreta" sometime). The calculator OBs might use to determine candidacy... used race and ethnicity. Meaning, if I identified myself as Latina (important to do so because diabetes has a genetic link and it's common in my family) I would have been less likely to be a "candidate" for VBAC than if I identified myself as white. This is a socially constructed category, obviously. But it has potentially BIG impact on the quality of care I receive; the size of my family going forward; my risk of dying on the operating table (low in absolute terms, but it goes up quite a bit with each cesarean). This is a material outcome, right? Death of mother.

If more white OBs feel guilty, and think obsessively about race, and ponder their own decision-making ad nauseum, and revisit all their clinical decision-making, and try endlessly to be the wokest OB in the room... isn't it possible that more structurally racist tools like this VBAC calculator might be overhauled? I mean, this isn't changing on its own. It requires individually motivated people in positions of power to take a look; to revisit; to question received wisdom. What might motivate them to do that? If it's CRT, if it's the zeitgeist, if it's trendy right now to interrogate everything in light of racial disparities? That is a good thing.

Expand full comment

The PNAS article is garbage. There's been a lot on how poor the methodology is. It got a big reach on social media because it was 'sticky.' It is not good research - it doesn't control for gestational age at delivery and it doesn't control for major congenital anomalies which are the two most important determinants of neonatal death.

The VBAC issue is also a derangement. The decision to attempt VBAC is based on risks and benefits. If your chances of success are lower, that affects the risk/benefit estimates. We don't know why black women are less likely to have a successful VBAC - there is no evidence it is due to implicit bias or explicit racism or differences in clinical care. And no, 'race is just a social construct so it must be bias' is not an explanation. Yes, race is a social construct, but race is a proxy for large groups which may have both genetic differences and differences in environmental exposures. Southern Europeans have more sickle cell than northern Europeans, Ashkenazi Jews have more autoimmune disease, etc.

By pretending that black women have a higher chance of being successful with a VBAC attempt than they do, we are giving them bad information on which to make a decision. Bad information is inevitably where this type of thinking ends. Furthermore, the notion that if OBs meditate upon race that would improve outcomes for black women is in fact systemic racism. For any other ethnicity we would do actual research to try to find out why there are differences - CRT ironically creates a lower standard of care for black patients.

Expand full comment

Race is not real. I'm sorry to break it to you. It's a socially constructed category. There is more genetic variety on the continent of Africa than there is on the continent of Europe;" Black" is a social category not a biological one. Using "race" as a catch-all proxy for social processes and social dynamics along with biological processes at the molecular level is the derangement; it's not good science; it obfuscates instead of clarifying the mechanisms behind material outcomes.

Expand full comment

The question is whether or not it's a useful proxy for other, more difficult to measure metrics.

Expand full comment

Right. I almost certainly have little biologically in common with someone from Mexico; I'm Puerto Rican. We are both in the "Latina" category. We might have ancestral genetic dispositions towards a particular difficulty in childbirth, or we might not. Removing "race" from the equation and simultaneously searching for the *correct construct* is the accurate thing to do scientifically and the right thing to do ethically. This is why the VBAC calculator has been adjusted. P.S. If you're not white - participate in genetic research so we don't keep getting caught up in this nonsense discourse.

Expand full comment

Just so we're clear it was removed because of political pressure. Political pressure resulted in a model that is now less explanatory for black women considering attempting VBAC.

Expand full comment

Eventually the state of research will probably get around to identifying the genetic markers associated with the specific traits in question. But until then there are a lot of traits to be researched. To reject a proxy that yields useful results because of ideology? I think that's insane.

Expand full comment

Could you imagine if Ashkenazi Jews were simply told, 'You're at higher risk for X, Y, Z diseases because of centuries of intergenerational trauma from anti-Semitism in Europe?'

Expand full comment

Race is not real but it doesn't mean that there aren't differences in distributions of underlying traits. For example, let's say you have a bad autoimmune disease and based on your race or ethnicity we know that a biologic will be or less efficacious. Would you want that information?

You can stick your head in the sand and say no and that's fine. But that doesn't mean that information shouldn't be available to everyone else.

Adding race as a variable in an explanatory often accounts for more of the variance in risk for an outcome. We don't always know why race is a determinant (racism, biology, proxy for environment exposures) but that doesn't mean you should ignore it.

Expand full comment

There is ongoing controversy about the lack of racial diversity in clinical trials. If race is a social construct are we just supposed to say "Screw it, who cares if everyone in both arms is white"?

Expand full comment

Yeah that is a complicated topic. For some specialties (including obstetrics) the populations can actually be disproportionately black and Hispanic because a lot of the recruiting hospitals are minority predominant urban locales.

On the other hand, for some rare conditions clinical trials might be international with a lot of Eastern Europeans.

I think the main thing to keep in mind is that years after the big RCT paper is published in the NEJM, there needs to be a close look at what is happening in terms of outcomes with post-marketing surveillance.

Expand full comment

Yes, for example the vast majority of Black 12 graders are not proficient at high school reading (82% < proficient) and math (92.5% < proficient). Without these fundamental skills the vast majority will perform poorly at even community colleges.

Expand full comment

You didn’t “break” it to him. He clearly said “yes, race is a social construct” in the comment you’re responding to.

But while race is bs, genetics is real. And racism is real. It seems the VBAC rule was at least intended to protect women of color because there was evidence that having VBAC’s is more dangerous for people with dark skin. If you think that’s not true then let’s get more real science tests done and examine the evidence.

To assume bad faith bias or even outright racism of the medical community without doing the research to find out if that is in fact the case does a disservice to all people.

Expand full comment

This isn't coming from me but from the medical community itself, though. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41436-021-01109-w <Helpful for putting all this in context, again, from the medical community's perspective.

Expand full comment

That race is imprecise, contingent on circumstance (e.g. the "Black" population of the United States is materially different to the "Black" population of Saudi Arabia) and politically motivated does not render group genetics meaningless. Race is a clumsy and poor shortcut to those group genetics, which are absolutely real and are startlingly predictive of numerous life outcomes, ranging from health to education.

Expand full comment

The authors of that article definitely do not constitute the "medical community".

Expand full comment

The authors include a pediatrician and a genetic counselor. It was published in Nature and concerns *medical genetics.* Many providers offer genetic panels or screenings as a routine part of clinical care, so yes, genetics are part of medicine. This is in fact a medical question, concerning the medical community, and is a conversation that the medical genetics community continues to have.

Expand full comment

With all due respect this link you've sent seems to show that this ideology is infecting formerly legitimate science publications like Nature. The headline and the abstract alone don't say anything about VBAC or research. It starts with the conclusion that genetic studies are inherently racist and then seems to work back from there. Which is "bad science" 101.

Expand full comment

Something like this makes me really nervous actually. What was the justification for including race in the VBAC calculator in the first place? All real statistics are a problem from Hell and to dismiss race as a possible significant factor based solely on your priors is just irresponsible. The quote from Chesterton about fences springs to mind.

Expand full comment

Data. The VBAC calculator was based upon data. The prediction model was based upon data. The derangement is excluding data we don't like.

It's worth considering how deranged we've already become by CRT that we think we can wave a magic wand and ignore data.

Expand full comment

So the fight against racism may result in more adverse results for black women in the real world. Madness.

Expand full comment

'The fight against racism will result in more adverse results for black women in the real world. Madness.'

FTFY

'Systemic racism' as a causal explanation for racial disparities is an epistemic derangement.

In any other explanatory model, the MODEL explains the OUTCOME.

With CRT, the disparity explains the existence of systemic racism. The OUTCOME explains the MODEL.

Explaining away disparities along the lines of 'we know it's due to systemic racism' is a fundamental abrogation of the responsibility of academic and clinical leadership.

Expand full comment

Yup. They start with the conclusion then work their way back. Is the VBAC rule evidence of bias or racism? Maybe. Maybe not. Does it make births more or less dangerous for women of "color"? Maybe.

As they tell us all the time....DO THE WORK!!

Expand full comment
Jul 13, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

"Anti-racism", CRT, and rap music (or is it "wap" music now?) have all jumped the shark a while back. As Eric Hoffer said; "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket". But what's after racket?

Expand full comment

Religion.

Expand full comment

Religion plugs in to each step of the process :-)

Expand full comment

War.

Expand full comment

War is mostly competing rackets settling a dispute over turf, and outsourcing the labor to others

Expand full comment

War is people killing each other.

Expand full comment
Jul 13, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

When you say "educated white liberals" it almost feels like you're leaving out "on Twitter." Even among educated white liberals there is only a small minority who cares about this issue. It's the same small minority that likes to protest things. The small minority that wishes it was forever 1969 and they were protesting the Vietnam War.

Expand full comment

Protesting Vietnam was a moral imperative. Anti-racism is fraudulent and anti-White.

Expand full comment

Yeah, well those folks "on twitter" are getting real people fired from real jobs, and terrifying many others into silence. Read up on Maud Maron and how none of her former colleagues in the Legal Aid Office would speak up for her on the record.

Expand full comment

How much of that is a significant issue and how much of that is the twitter echo chamber? I've had many conservatives say that a few incidents don't indicate there is an overall problem with police treatment of Black people. Are they applying the same criteria here?

Expand full comment

If somebody loses their job over it isn't it by definition external to the Twitter echo chamber?

Expand full comment

Just so we are clear, you think the law should be changed to prohibit employers from terminating or otherwise disciplining employees for opinions they express publicly?

Expand full comment

No. Society should have the expectation that what you do on your free time is none of your employer's business.

Expand full comment

I enjoy the "You're Wrong About Podcast," but one of their blind spots is dismissing conservative moral panics over what's happening on college campuses because "they're just college kids." Which, yes, true. For a few years. But then those college kids graduate and go on to middle and upper management of companies and the country. So it kind of does matter, in the same way it matters "on twitter."

Expand full comment

Very well said. Although as someone pretty far on the Right, I place the blame firmly on my side. We sat there snickering and making jokes about basket weaving for decades while the Left got organized and dominated the universities. Now look at us.

Expand full comment

'Now look at us, having achieved the highest fulfillment of our politico-economic project'

Expand full comment

Maybe some peoples' project, but not mine. I want a home, not a free market shopping mall.

Expand full comment

Then you should probably find a different ideology ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Expand full comment

Oh, I think the right is doing pretty darn well at organizing to disenfranchise as many poor black and brown people as they possibly can, as well as positioning themselves to overturn elections that don't go their way.

Expand full comment

Man, don't get my hopes up.

Expand full comment

A couple thoughts from this.

1. While the results are often ham-handed, I suppose there's a lot worse things that (white) people could be competing over than being the most "anti-racist" person in the room. It seems like channeling that energy in a more productive direction is a better problem to have than turning people's motivations completely around.

2. I think the ham-handed efforts like the example listed stem from insecurity. People are afraid of being called racist, or harbor doubts that they are racists deep inside (a notion cultivated by the Robin DiAngelo types), and so have to engage in exaggerated gestures of demonstrating anti-racisms.

I suppose I'm more optimistic. These seem like fixable problems to me. But there is a lot of damage that can be done in the meantime. I thought people would learn to handle the flood of information coming into them in the rectangles in their pockets, but they elected Trump president once, and almost did so again. So, it is worth observing these problems, and taking steps to limit the damage done.

Expand full comment

1. There are certainly a lot of things worse, such as people being asked to constantly reflect on and self-flagellate for their Whiteness eventually asking if there might not be one or two good things about being White. Given the history of White racial consciousness in the 19th and 20th centuries, this seemed like something the anti-racists should have considered. As it is, a surprising number of people - in private, of course - have wandered off the reservation and believe that it's okay to be White. The horror, the horror.

2. Definitely to an extent. Denouncing heretics and thumping ones' chest is known in the social sciences to render one more pious-looking in the eyes of others. There's a lot to be said for being last to be eaten.

Expand full comment

The old approach was to advocate for simply ignoring race in pursuit of a color blind society. I think you could make the argument that the new approach is completely inferior to the old one and is actually exacerbating racism rather than decreasing it. That is not a reason for optimism.

Expand full comment

It's certainly awoken many former liberals, like myself, into seeing ourselves as White and acknowledging that White people have interests that may diverge from those of other groups. Of course I much prefer a rising tide that lifts all boats, and will always see class first and foremost, but I will not engage with or support any anti-White candidate. Why on earth would I?

Expand full comment

I keep telling people that genuinely diverse countries like the US face a number of internal pressures that racially/culturally homogeneous countries like S.Korea/Japan/etc. do not have to worry about. Do we really want to tell a country made up immigrants from around the planet that their first allegiance should be to tribe and not society as a whole?

Expand full comment

Depends on what the aim is. If the aim is divide and rule, yes, it makes perfect sense.

Expand full comment

It also seems to be reinforcing some ideas that come from actual white supremacists!

If science, writing, math, technology, democracy, meritocracy, the Industrial and Digital Revolutions, modern medicine, etc , are all white...then damn, white people are fucking _awesome_. They should rule the world! Other races are out there banging rocks together, while they're changing the very face of the planet!

In real life, of course, all of these innovations bounced around multiple cultures and what we would consider multiple races. These innovations belong to humanity, not any one race. But I've seen with my own eyes the "anti-racist" handbook given to a teacher friend, which explained that it was super racist to expect black kids to be able to do math and read books. Like...how do you even respond to that?

Expand full comment

There is no reason to demand 'equity' at the level of television and the Oscars any more than there is to demand 'equity' at the position of NFL cornerback. 'Equity' is a marker only applied when it comes to dispossessing White people.

Nonetheless, very interesting and timely article.

Expand full comment

Brilliant. Will be sharing widely.

Expand full comment

Let's center the Black voice of Professor Ibram X Kendi. What does he think the path forward should be?

"To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals. The amendment would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold, as well as racist ideas by public officials (with “racist ideas” and “public official” clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas."

https://www.politico.com/interactives/2019/how-to-fix-politics-in-america/inequality/pass-an-anti-racist-constitutional-amendment

Expand full comment

The worrying part of this is less his bizarre philosopher-king star chamber of the most woke and rather that his two guiding principles are completely incorrect.

Racial inequity is not necessarily evidence of racist policy at all. It might be. It could be. In most cases it isn't. East Africans dominate at long-distance running, and sub-Saharan Africans (mostly West Africans) dominate at sprinting. The absence of Asians and Whites from elite-level sprinting is not evidence of racist policy. It's evidence of racial differences. So too with IQ and many other measurements of achievement. This in no way negates the existence of exceptions, nor of wild divergence within groups, and above all nor does it mean that any individual's capabilities or achievements should be written off or prejudged on the basis of race. It does mean that racial inequity is multifaceted and not prima facie evidence of racist policy.

The different racial groups are equals? In terms of dignity and humanity, absolutely. That is key and needs to be proudly proclaimed. In terms of outcomes and abilities? No, that's simply a restatement of the first principle, which is incorrect.

His high council of anti-racists is talking past the sale. He hasn't come close to demonstrating the validity of his principles. This needs to be the first point of disagreement. Racial inequity is not, in fact, evidence of racist policy. In some cases it is. In other cases it's not.

Expand full comment

They have closed the sale with a large number of people in positions of power. People who disagree are getting fired from their jobs.

https://nypost.com/2021/07/13/public-defender-against-anti-bias-training-sues-over-discrimination/

Expand full comment

Being of the priestly caste is seldom a poor financial situation.

Expand full comment
author

I find it indeed far more insidious and problematic when major racial inequalities AREN'T caused by explicit racism. It makes them harder to fix.

Expand full comment

Absolutely! And it's a delicate conversation at the best of times. You get ill-willed people using it as a stick to beat "lesser" races with. (This is the dictionary definition of punching down, and it's disgusting.) You get people, quite naturally, being defensive. And you get people denying the premise, and grasping for that explicitly racist explanation even if it doesn't exist. (And then of course there's the nature vs. nurture aspect, which in most cases isn't even close to being resolved.)

Outside of healthcare there are very few such situations that our society has managed to confront head-on, much less resolve.

Expand full comment

In this case isn't focusing on racism exactly the wrong thing to do? Misdiagnosing the problem means coming up with a working solution is almost impossible.

Expand full comment

Freddie, could you help unpack this a little more? I know from your book that you believe in individual inhereitable genetic differences but NOT race-based genetic differences. So if there is a racial disparity and it's not b/c of race-based genetic inferiority, then what could be the cause of that disparity other than racism? (I'm asking genuinely even though the framing of my question sounds a little entrapping).

Expand full comment
author

Well, consider the idea that racial educational disparities are cultural. You can see this in James Flynn's, ah, problematic explanation of racial inequalities in outcomes, which is not genetic but still racial:

“Go to the American suburbs one evening, and find three professors. The Chinese professor’s kids immediately do their homework. The Jewish professor’s kids have to be yelled at. The black professor says: ‘Why don’t we go out and shoot a few baskets?’ The parenting is worse in black homes.”

You can point out that cultural and racial lines are not identical, but I think the broader idea stands. We talk frequently about "Black culture," after all. Flynn is positing a racial difference that does not stem from genetic difference (which he explicitly rejected consistently in his career) but still is fundamentally racial in nature.

Expand full comment

A couple questions arise in my mind: Are Flynn's characterizations grounded in data or impressionistic and possibly tainted by his confirmation bias or pre-existing stereotypes? How relevant is doing homework to actual learning? (I'm an old Alfie Kohn homework skeptic but not up on any of the more recent research).

Expand full comment
author

His book Does Your Family Make You Smarter? pretty explicitly argues that family influences educational outcomes to a degree downplayed by the kinship studies, although he also takes great pains to say that he agrees with the general finding of those studies - that is, that genes explain 50%+ of the variance in (population!) educational metrics, the unshared environment (kind of like the error term in this way of thinking) contributes almost all of the rest variation, and shared environment (parents/family) contributes very little. He doesn't really look at empirical studies of family effects, as I can recall, but instead uses an IQ table methodology that I confess I didn't really understand throughout the book.

Expand full comment

It may be that homework does nothing to improve academic standing but is highly correlated with factors that will make a difference: conscientiousness, studiousness, etc. Doing your homework perhaps just indicates that you are the type of person who does your homework, and that may make all the difference.

Expand full comment

How do you square that with studies indicating that nature, not nature, has a larger impact on grades and intelligence. I'm referring to studies showing adopted children and twins raised in different environments generally end up with approximately the same outcomes.

Expand full comment
author

Well I didn't mean to say that I endorsed Flynn's stance; I wrote a whole book about genes and education! But it's also worth underlining that Flynn's argument in DYFMYS? was all about trying to find maximum family influence WITHIN the framework of the kinship studies you mention. In other words, he repeatedly stresses that he thinks the basic genes/unshared/shared environment splits from those studies is correct, but he wants to interpret the data in a way that shows that the familial contribution has been downplayed in the zeal of the hereditarians. Make sense?

Expand full comment

Lol. Absurd. Just imagine an anti-sexist amendment. Don’t even think Kendi would be down with that.

Expand full comment

re: psychotic thought policing by the totalitarian cultural-left

The only place Kendi's totalitarian intellectual feces should be "centered" is in a toilet bowl that is being flushed.

Expand full comment

Along these lines (matarialist antiracism), I hope you'll review Musa al-Gharbi's book, We Have Never Been Woke, when it comes out. He has some challenging ideas for how affluent whites should stop virtue signaling and put some skin in the game and yet some of them to me still seem to rely too much on personal decisions rather than radical structural change so I'd love your assessment. Here's a preview: https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/wd54z/

Expand full comment
author

Nice, thanks.

Expand full comment

Seems to me like CRT has/is going to become a perpetual grift machine. For CRT’s goals to work, it would have about 25 years to fix systematic racism. So, if you don’t get systematic racism fixed in 25 years, now you have to finish fixing the systematic racism you missed in the first generation plus fix it in the next generation that has come along, and the next generation, and the next, etc. Sounds like a self licking ice cream cone that can easily find plenty of people (and their wallets) who feel guilty about their whiteness.

Expand full comment

"DEI training isn’t designed to make the world less hostile to people of color but to make white people into more spiritually clean people." Could you say more about this? I've only attended one "dismantling white supremacy" workshop, offered outside the workplace by the group SURJ, and I wouldn't characterize it as spiritual cleansing for white people. Can you report on the specifics of some of the DEI trainings you've attended or read about?

Expand full comment

>"as uncomfortable as this fact may be, the persistence of racism means that to fight racial inequality we will often have to downplay the racial elements of what we fight for".

Bingo!

It means a few other things as well. To take your example of student loan forgiveness, that likely requires an Act of Congress, passed by a majority in the House, and by a 60-40 supermajority in the Senate, and then signed in to law by the President (or, with a 2/3 supermajority vote in the Senate and in the House).

In the recent New York City Democratic primary, with a majority of voters BIPOC, and with ranked-choice voting consolidating their votes into a single final candidate, progressives still could not manage to make the top-two vote getters.

So, ya want student loan forgiveness??? It means, uncomfortable as this fact may be, that you're gonna have to fight hard, really REALLY HARD, to elect a whole bunch of Hillary Clintons and Joe Bidens.

Expand full comment

But is student loan forgiveness all that important for remedying the black wealth divide? A disproportionate number of blacks work blue collar jobs compared to the general population. What is going to help them more: programs designed around college or a hard look at income inequality where the primary factor is overwhelmingly the divide between blue collar and white collar work? The big knock against student loan forgiveness has been that it subsides the college going set, which is overwhelmingly the middle or upper class, at the expensive of everyone else.

I know Mr. deBoer is a Marxist and favors redistribution (although I have not yet reached that chapter of his book) but can I point out there is widespread uneasiness across a broad spectrum of the polity regarding the increasing social and cultural divisions that seem to be driven by class in this country? When Tucker Carlson discusses his personal discomfort with growing inequality that suggests to me that measures designed to target economics rather than race could find a wide base nationally.

Expand full comment

Student loan forgiveness was Freddie's example. But whatever you want to do, it will likely take an Act of Congress to do it. So Step One has to be getting a Congress that will do what you want done.

Expand full comment