I'm in my 70s and I often wonder how many people, even old ones, who think that it's still the bad old days view them through the lens of personal experience or stories. Anyone would be hard pressed to convince me that nothing has improved, based upon my lived experience. Is it now perfect? Of course not, but perfection is the enemy of improvement.

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Yeah, there's simply no question that things have improved. Anybody who has a passing familiarity with racial history should find that impossible to deny. It's not even a matter of experience. By any measure you care to name, life is better for black people in America today than it was 60 years ago.

As you say, things aren't perfect today. Far from it. But what drives me mad is that the people who insist on pretending that nothing has change divert time and attention form the issues that would actually improve people's lives.

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Read 'Woke Racism' yet? John McWhorter notes that antiracism gets this idea because fighting racism gives them a purpose in life and to acknowledge progress is to detract from the purpose. (Honestly, his book should be called 'Woke Everything' with the subtitle Everything Wrong With The Left). I've never understood this bizarre idea (it's my issue with feminism, natch) as it's clear that all social movements face a loooooong list of things that could be much better. McWhorter notes how much of how 'woke' antiracism (and woke etc.) window dresses and performs, but fails to enact any real change. I have these same arguments with feminists when they piss and moan about 'the patriarchy' but kick the dirt and mumble to themselves when I say things like, "And how do we get women to press charges more against men who rape and assault them rather than sweeping it under the rug and letting him get away with it?" That would help women IMMENSELY but no one wants to talk about that, much easier to 'cancel' someone for cracking a joke from fifteen years ago that isn't 'woke' enough today.

This afternoon I broke open a novel I published on Amazon close to ten years ago and it's so 'unwoke' today - not offensive then, but would probably be considered offensive now, not because I was too ignorant to know what not to say, but because I humorously write about three different religions, New Yorkers, Canadian men, satirize the Israeli/Palestinian land conflict, and feature several non-white characters which, on the face of it should be laudable, but white people writing about anything other than white people gets you canceled so if I were to publish it today I'd probably get murdered on Twitter :) Or perhaps not since JK Rowling in stature I ain't :)

If anyone's regressing, it's the political left and right, both of whom have turned into an army of toxic babies who differ from each other only in who they hate.

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Bothsidesism is bad. Please quit it.

You're comparing a tiny group of pathetic and attention-starved SJWs to the substantial plurality of murderous conservatives.

Why would anyone want to read a book like that, forewarned? I didn't read Jonah Greenberg either.

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"Contemptible"? Be nice Chris.

Also, not that I'm interested in bothsidesism either, I think describing some of the more worrying aspects of the Left this way is a serious mistake. The Left (by which I mean the fringes, just as the "plurality of murderous conservatives" are the fringes of the Right), and their capture of academia and much of the media, have the potential to do real damage over the next few decades.

For example, the growing culture of celebrating children (mainly girls) as they have their breasts cut off and take hormones that could have serious long-term consequences is entirely a creation of the Left. Race essentialism in schools and workplaces? Almost entirely the Left. Abolishing the police? The Left.

I agree that bothsidesism is a dangerous path (I don't really think Nicole was engaging in this), but so is moral relativism. The problems on the political Left go far beyond a few attention-starved SJWs. Of course there's very good reason to be concerned about the excesses of the Right. But we mustn't let that blind us to the excesses of "our side".

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Jan 17, 2022·edited Jan 17, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

I apologize for the word and I have edited it out. I have no excuses but it's been a pretty rough few weeks.

You'll get no argument from me about Teh Left other than the word; The true American left died in 1939 with the revelation of how things were really working under Stalin. What we call Teh Left mostly strike me as people seeking attention through shock; in a nation without police yeah fewer black men would be shot obediently reaching for driver licenses but cities would be ruled by mobs. Nobody sane wants that. But "defund the police" probably carries the same membership qualification as "Trump won."

Cutting off breasts? Do you have a link for that?

But yes I agree with the symmetry. Conservatism once meant strong defense and fiscal moderation; now it means cruelty and hate. American leftist politics used to be about fair wealth distribution and equality of of opportunity; now it's about pronouns and bathrooms and defunding the police.

In my mind there is no more significant issue in the world than the mass extinction we are heading into. Seeing taxidermied specimens in the Smithsonian labeled "extinct" at age ten actually made me throw up. Yet todays so-called "leftists" care more about transgenders' bathroom use than the disappearance of wildlife.

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Jan 23, 2022·edited Jan 23, 2022Author

"Cutting off breasts? Do you have a link for that?"

Hey Chris, sorry for the delay, Substack isn't sending me notifications for new posts for some reason..

Here are two stories that sprang to mind just because I saw them recently, but as Nicole says, it's not hard to find them on Google. Just search for "top surgery."



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For 'cutting off breasts' just Google it. There's plenty of information out there. I've been investigating the transgender movement from both sides - I've been radicalized by Medium's final takedown, LOL! Also I was arguing with Elle "I Hate The Patriarchy' Beau who was more interested in defending the rights of chicks with dicks than in protecting women from those same dicks.

The left is why the right will probably win. At the end of the day the right can put all their internal disagreements aside and rally together for a common cause (The Republicans have pretty much mastered this, and it involved trampling all over individual rights and *demanding* everyone work together. It may suck but it Gets Shit Done even if you don't like the shit they're doing.) The left, on the other hand, eats its own and cancels its own...because the left has shame and the right doesn't.

That's why I hew closer to the Murky Middle, where you don't always like the company you keep. As, it seems, do you.

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Good point about how America has adopted - let's call it what it is - female genital mutilation. That's been bothering me a lot too, and it IS violence against girls (maybe boys too...not sure if they're mutilating boys yet surgically but I know they're being harmed by hormone blockers et al.)

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OK, I realize this is the first time I've seen you use this, and so what I'm about to say may not apply to you personally.

But I'm getting really tired of other people who, whenever they hear any criticism of the left and the right, throw out 'bothsideism' or 'false equivalence' as if that was a magical error handkerchief on the ground.

Typically, I'm not even trying to say which side is worse nor that they are the same (for reasons noted below), but they imagine I'm trying to say both sides are exactly the same, and they use that like a strawman, distracting from my real points. I want to save society from the excesses of both, not to referee a moral p*ssing match between left and right.

Both sides are dangerous in different ways which are like apples and oranges. Trying to weigh in about who is worse is usually a way to distract from looking at something uncomfortable. "Well, the other side is worse, so shut up". I don't really care about weighing apples and oranges, I want to understand the different pitfalls of each side.

The right, today, is closer to violence, albeit not likely on a large scale. The left may be closer to soft fascism through control of institutions, and could well become violent in the future (they might use proxies to commit the violence of course). The dangers are different but neither becomes less dangerous because the other side is dangerous too!

Both sides have authoritarian tendencies, but the neo-progressive left's has in my opinion more proclivity towards totalitarianism - not just wanting power to enrich some elite at the expense of the neglected poor, but wanting to control every human interaction at a granular level. Pronouns, vocabulary, attitudes - stamping out all wrongthink. At least today, the right doesn't seem likely to want political commisars everywhere to make sure everybody thinks the right thoughts, but I do see the seeds of that kind of control on the left (only for the most noble of purposes of course).

So I'm very willing to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of extremists on both sides as separate issues.

And we need to pay attention to the way that the extremes on one side both inflame and justify the extremes on the other. These two sides bring out the worst on the other side. It's too common to hear "why are you criticising a tiny number of crazies on our side when the other side has more and worse crazies'. And the other side uses the same tactics. We have to break that cycle if we want to regain a sane society.

And in most cases, the characterization of 'bothsidesism' and the accusations of 'false equivalence' have been, at least in my experience, PART of that unconscious attempt to shield one dysfunction by pointing at the other.

Let's stop that.

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I pretty much agree with a lot of what you say, and I guess I only part ways, slightly, with the notion that we shouldn't point out what's going wrong on the *other* side - which in my case is pointing out what's wrong on my own, the left. Just as the right is wrong in thinking that everything wrong with America is the left, the left likewise points fingers and wallows in its own self-righteousness. I don't tend much toward criticizing the right because it's rather a lot like fish in a barrel, and everyone else is doing, most people much better. I criticized the right more when I still lived in the States, stuck with Reaganism/Bushism.

However the left needs to be reminded of its own imperfections, and they need to hear it from one of their own, which is why I liked writing for Medium. Lots more extremists there to challenge - the man-haters (I was big on challenging victim feminism), the whitey-haters, the virtue signallers. Challenging the deeply flawed and scientifically-challenged trans movement is what ultimately, I believe, got me kicked off, although I can't swear antiracist snowflakes didn't have a hand in it.

That's where I think I have something more original to add - not bashing Trump, or COVIDiots, or MAGAt terrorists, but in pointing out how the left contributes to political/social divisiveness and how we need to get over some of our conceits, like that we don't have elements every bit as subject to ludicrously unscientific arguments (like that biological sex means nothing and that you can declare yourself one or t'other based on the way you 'feel') and that we don't subscribe to dumbass conspiracy theories either (plenty of stupid-ass anti-vaccine arguments swallowed uncritically on the left, including in the black community, which is why, when some elements complain about the lopsided effect COVID infections and deaths have on the black community, and healthcare irregularities and disparities and yadda yadda yadda (all valid) I pop up to say something annoying like, "Well, could y'all please knock it off with the damn Tuskegee experiments crap? NO BLACK PERSON IS DYING OF COVID WHILE VAXXED UNLESS THEY HAVE SOME CO-MORBIDITY OR OTHERWISE COMPROMISING HEALTH PROBLEM!"

It's too easy to think of your own side as holy and forget, or just blithely ignore, overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I'm not much for Christianity these days but I thought Jesus put it very well about removing the log from one's own eye first.

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Actually, we are pretty much on the same page, and I agree with all that you have said.

I did not mean to give any impression that "we shouldn't point out what's going wrong on the *other* side". It was more about the tendency to avoid consideration of one's own side by changing the subject to the more comfortable topic of the other side's faults.

I am today somewhat of a rogue progressive liberal, who strongly dissents from the direction that neo-progressives have taken the movement. And I direct a lot of my critical thinking at the neo-progressive left ("woke", "successor ideology", "PC", "the elect"), because as you say, there is more need for it, at least where I live. Critiques of the right (even exaggerated critiques) are the water we swim in here. Voices from the left or center, with measured criticism of the neo-progressive ideology (or religion as McWhorter frames it) are in serious undersupply by comparison. Also, having been on the progressive left for half a century, I know the roots of this subculture, and hope to be able to speak to it.

I sense a substantial authoritarian undercurrent to the current neo-progressive approach, so I am concerned about where that is leading if they get and use more power to remake the world in their vision. But I also fear that they are going to trigger an over-reaction which brings right wing authoritarianism into power. If voices more in the middle cannot bring the neo-progressives into more sanity, then force from much further to the right may do so. Or the attempt from the right will trigger & justify the latent authoritarianism of the left.

So I agree about the need to pay attention to the log in our own eye, not just the mote in the eye of the other. (Except I'd say they are both logs, albeit differently shaped ones).

I will note that in addition to citing the long ago Tuskegee experiment as a reason to avoid medical care today, another supposed gross injustice often cited in the same breath is the case of Henrietta Lacks. She was not publicly credited as the cell donor from whom a line of research cell cultures was derived, and she herself did not give permission nor receive compensation (other than free health care). But that's hardly a logical reason to not get vaccinated! She was not harmed in any way, and did not receive bad care.

I used to be very much in favor of digging out "the seamy underside of democracy" and exposing every historical injustice, with the belief that this would help us improve the future. I am coming to doubt that it's having a net positive effect, because every example is being exaggerated and weaponized to support a narrative of perpetual oppression; it's not used to rebalance and reflect, but to gain power and twist the popular understanding, albeit in a different direction. I think that I may be another in the long list of casualties from failed expectations of rationality.

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Part of what makes the Right so dangerous is its religious fervor; fundamentalist Christianity, which has permeated the right since the earliest Reagan days (they helped elect him, after Jimmy Carter turned out to be a huge disappointment), has grown more corrupt and far more dangerous. They hold their noses and support Trump because, well, progressivism is a way worse sin I guess! The Left has been entirely subsumed by the *same* sort of religious fervor, albeit for a secular religion without gods or afterlives. Read Woke Racism, and you''ll see what's wrong with the Left in the ways Steve notes below. The Left can get violent too - look to its history in the '60s and '70s. What do you think will happen if Trump steals the next election? I'm not sure we can trust the Left to *not* get violent, although I don't know they're at the point yet where they'd attempt to riot on the Capitol like the right.

There's nothing wrong with 'bothsidesism' - looking at both sides. I think what you object to is 'false equivalency' - the notion that one side is just as bad as the other. With the political US divide today, the right is unquestionably more violent but I'm not sure the left isn't as equally *capable*, and just haven't gotten there yet. When it comes to religious extremism, I'd put them both on an even plane there. The excesses of racist-tinged CRT (not, itself, a racist field of study, but you can make *anything* racist) as well as what the trans nuts are doing to screw kids up about gender and sex, are both pretty toxic agendas (feminism has fallen behind, but its excessives regard men as the enemy, rather than white people or 'cis-het' people). The left is adopting the EXACT SAME TACTICS the right has been utilizing for four decades, going in at the ground level - school boards, city councils - which is how Christian fudnamentalists baked their anti-science, anti-history, toxic agenda into American life (and the left is no better - the two sides merely disagree on which science to support, and which to blow off). I don't like what the left has become which is what has driven me closer to the centre.

Maybe you could use a little more 'bothsidesism' because you sound like you're just as blind to the excesses of your side as the MAGAts are to the excesses of their own side.

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Sometimes I wonder how many people's 'bad experiences', whether it's living in a relentlessly 'racist' or 'patriarchal' culture (women) or a 'transphobic' culture (trans folk, and mostly transwomen) are perhaps inviting the hostility, consciously or not, with their own, subtle or not. There was a black writer on Medium before I left whose stories on racism she experienced living in another country (she's never, to my knowledge, lived in the US) who began reading the negative, victim-centred literature (Kendi, DiAngelo, Coates, etc.) and began sounding far more whiny and self-victimizing and a little bit racist herself. I began to feel sorry for her white husband, and I wonder whether the racist 'microaggressions', which sound a bit exaggerated now, are because her country is all that racist or whether maybe she's got a chip on her shoulder the size of a dump truck.

The funny part about human beings is that while no one likes to *be victimized*, many of us sure do like *feeling* victimized. Acknowledging progress interferes with the victim narrative that gives you a reason to blame everyone except yourself for your problems.

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 17, 2022Author

"There was a black writer on Medium before I left whose stories on racism she experienced living in another country (she's never, to my knowledge, lived in the US) who began reading the negative, victim-centred literature (Kendi, DiAngelo, Coates, etc.) and began sounding far more whiny and self-victimizing and a little bit racist herself"

This wouldn't be Rebecca Stevens would it?😅 At some point she blocked me, even though we've never even had a conversation, but the overwhelming positive was that I no longer had to see her articles in my feed.

John McWhorter has been talking about this problem recently. Victimhood is a perfectly human weakness. White, black, gay, straight, male, female, we're all susceptible to the temptation to say "poor me". This is why we often note that there's so much overlap between a certain type of antiracist and feminist and LGBT activist.

But when we're not only given permission to play the victim, but are rewarded for doing so, including financially in the case of writers on Medium, the temptation takes on a whole new level.

I'm not sure if you *are* talking about Rebecca, but what drove me mad about her "work" is the fact that there was never anything productive. Not a single relationship or work story or trip to a supermarket that wasn't tarnished by racism or her lack of "privilege". There was never even the slightest attempt to understand or portray nuance. I simply don't believe that her life is really like this. She simply edits out anything that portrays being black as anything other than a living hell.

But her thoroughly mediocre writing got the most attention when she wrote moronic, divisive nonsense. So that very quickly became all she ever wrote. It's this really toxic negative spiral.

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Medium has gone completely overboard in coddling the victim claims. I was kicked off for telling one of those "nonbinary" people that I would not refer to him/her as "they." NOTHING about the authenticity of the claim to intermediate gender, which privately I believe to be complete BS, just that my respect for grammar would not allow "they."

Medium called this "bullying" and banned me. Again. And with the changes to their partner program I won't be writing there anymore.

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ROTLFMAO! Thank you for sharing this story. Welcome to the club, O My Brother :) I got banned after I defended Dave Chappelle and criticized trans activists for being misogynist and snowflake. They'd already suspended two of my previous articles, and I predicted they'd suspend *me* next. Which they did. Having already psychologically disengaged from Medium after the second article takedown, it wasn't too hard to stick to my intention to refuse to beg for my account back. Wrote a whole article about it on my blog. https://www.nicolechardenet.com/post/bye-bye-medium-com

I take it you got reinstated at least once? I'm done with Medium.

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They don't reinstate. Appeals are always rejected. And my last one was at the complaint of one of the sickest and angriest people I have run across online, and I have been online since the dialup networks like Compuserve.

I mostly write about the software industry but it is hopeless.

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Then I'm glad I didn't give them the satisfaction of sucking (transwoman, LOL) d**k to try to get my account back. They're taking a very strict line in regards to *ANY* challenge to the trans community. Thou. Shalt. Not. Question.

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Yeah, it was Rebecca. I actually liked reading her stories when I first joined Medium, they seemed quite real, a view of racism I don't see myself, obviously. But later, it seemed like she was stretching to find the racism and shortly before I left it seemed to me that she was looking to US (slave) history to feel victimized and outraged and *that's not even her history*. She's from Africa originally and I have a little less patience with Africans pissing and moaning about a practice the US eliminated *over 150 years ago* when in many parts of Africa today they STILL practice the slave trade - in fact, an article in the last few years described Africa as once 'again' the epicentre of the global slave trade. Africans who dislike American slavery really need to go home and do something about slavery TODAY.

Although I've noticed that most people complain about Marley K the most. Marley is to antiracism what Jessica Valenti is to feminism - the biggest whiners and complainers out there, but maybe once a year they produce something rational and worth reading. Because of that, I muted rather than blocked both of them to keep their horse shit out of my feed (but in case it ever came to my attention that they'd written something worth reading, I wanted to remain a bit open.) I've never had an interaction with either myself.

Like you, I don't think Rebecca's life is as bad as she makes it out to be. She's an unhappy woman for reasons neither of us know why, but I'm pretty sure it ain't because she's subjected to a constant stream of racism (in Switzerland?) I guess Judson Vereen really called her out on that recently - someone sent me the article - and I was glad to see him take on the fact that she's middle class, has a good job, lives in a country with a decent standard of living. I'm beginning to feel real sorrow for her white husband, because I'll bet she's getting to be a real pain in the ass to live with.

One thing I've noticed about Medium three months away: I don't miss it that much. It took up a *lot* of my time, and while I felt a little 'cut off' at first I now realize how much I'd fallen into the Medium 'groove' of writing a certain way to feed the audience that wants what it wants. I have to write a little differently for Vocal, where your story has to be approved first. Their standards are similar to Medium's but not the same and in fact there's less leeway to be as extreme. Medium really does allow a lot of hateful content, my experience being a helluva lot of blanket man-hating and also plenty of whitey-hating. Extremism does sell and Medium is okay with paying for it, but only if you hate on the 'right' people.

Going to test Vocal with a rewrite of one of the articles Medium took down earlier last year. Taking out the snarkiness, the criticisms of the trans community, and focusing more on why I think 'transracialism' might be a good idea, based on some positive things I see coming out of its close cousin, the better parts of the trans movement. Let's see if Vocal can handle that...at least I won't get a strike mark against me if they don't approve it, I either rewrite it to their liking or I delete it :)

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Jan 17, 2022·edited Jan 17, 2022Author

"I actually liked reading her stories when I first joined Medium, they seemed quite real, a view of racism I don't see myself, obviously."

Yeah, that's just it. I think with Rebecca it's a question of exposure. The first couple of stories of hers I read struck me as a little sensationalist, but I though, "sure, she's a different person, maybe her experiences have simply differed from mine." I believed she was at least being genuine and was willing to excuse some of the hyperbole as fear or a difference in personality.

But then there's the next one. And the next one. And each time it gets a little harder to take her seriously. Especially when she starts talking about the way black people in general are treated, and it's obvious that what she's saying simply isn't true. Eventually any sympathy I might have had is completely eroded because it's obvious she's just a liar.

This is a microcosm of racial discourse at the moment. Especially on social media. And it's doing exactly the same thing to people who I see becoming increasingly racist in their thinking. They didn't start out like that in most cases. Some I personally know started out perfectly reasonable and engaged. But the constant drip, drip of bullshit, coupled with being told how evil and racist they are all the time, has led some of them to reflexively deny racism even in situations where it's obvious, or to generalise about black people in response to the generalisations about white people.

Increasingly often I find myself having arguments with people because they've just assumed I hold a bunch of views that I don't, because they're the views "black writers" hold. People like Rebecca and Marley are doing real, measurable damage.

Good luck with Vocal, I haven't given them a go yet but I'll be interested to hear your experiences with them.

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"The funny part about human beings is that while no one likes to *be victimized*, many of us sure do like *feeling* victimized. Acknowledging progress interferes with the victim narrative that gives you a reason to blame everyone except yourself for your problems."

There is some degree of "liking to feel victimized" but I believe that much of what we call victimhood cultures is about gaining power over others through exaggerated exposition of one's victimhood, rather than about actually wallowing in one's pain. If it didn't pay off in power, without that incentive, I believe a lot of it would die down. But if some professor having published something you don't like, and you can claim it makes you feel 'unsafe' to enter a campus where they work, the goal is less to feel sorry about yourself so much as to get that professor shut down - power.

And yes, I've come to believe that the Prime Directive for neo-progressives is "Reinforce the Narrative at all costs". Promoting the Narrative is their source of power, so any dissent which might undercut it at all must be suppressed. Research that shows a lessening of bias needs to be deep sixed, but anything which can be interpreted as supporting a narrative of oppression is to be highlighted.

One example was when at a certain stage of facial recognition the software was better at recognizing white faces than Black, this was portrayed as embodied white supremacy. The systemic racism in which white programmers were steeped was presumed to have leaked through their fingertips into a racially biased algorithm. The truth was that there are many more white faces available for training, and they on average have better contrast than the available Black faces, so the early iterations were better at one. Over time, by artificially biasing the training data not to proportionately represent the population, and general improvements, it will even out more. But suppose that it had for similar technical reasons been better at recognizing Black faces at that stage. I have no doubt that would be considered systematic racism as well - designed to detect Black criminal more than white. Being more easily identified by surveillance is not necessarily a privilege, after all. The reliable thing in common with either scenario is - Reinforce the Narrative at all costs. Find a way to accentuate the narrative of oppression, suppress anything which weakens that narrative. In the narrative lies power. Protect the narrative.

(I have more sympathy for what I consider the roots of that approach than it might sound. While I believe it has become dogmatic and corrosive today, I think that in part it's a bastardization of the call for moral integrity from sources like Dr King. However, it has mutated into something more malign today - a divisive tribalism rather than a unifying message among other things.)

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There is a young Black content creator on YouTube whom I appreciate - Kimi Kitati. She grew up in several countries of Africa, then moved to the US. In college she got way into the woke ideology. But she describes how miserable it was to be constantly looking for and reacting to microaggressions and racial bias everywhere all day long.

It was so draining that at some point she decided to forgive (one of her heroes is Desmond Tutu), and a weight was lifted off her shoulders. She started seeing nuance and the good in people. She also has an intellectual analysis, but the deeper change was in her heart.

Putting this in my own terms (which she might or might not agree with), she found that the psychological payoffs of neo-progressivism were the booby prize; the real prize was in authentic connection and engagement. Still trying to make the world better, but not with those poisoned tools.

Never doubt that neo-progressivism has its psychological payoffs; once hooked on them deeply, it's very hard to escape. Her story inspires me with hope.

You might like to check it out for a contrast to Rebecca in terms of how she has evolved with exposure to the first world. Her take just feels so much more psychologically *healthy* as well as politically constructive.

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Thanks for the rec! Yes, I will definitely check out Kim Katati. Sounds quite interesting. I often wonder how much people make *themselves* miserable with their increasingly twisted views of the world. I'd bet my bottom dollar people like Rebecca are at this point either consciously or unconsciously acting in such a way to invite hostility from others. I see this same dynamic from victim feminists who treat men the way Rebecca treats white people. The narrative is *always* about oppression, and you can always spin it to be proof of oppression, as you noted elsewhere about the 'racism' of facial recognition systems. Thanks again, now I have something new to listen to while I make dinner!

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I interpreted Mrs C to be saying not that skin color is "unfortunate" but that divisions and hierarchies based on skin color are unfortunate.

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 15, 2022Author

Hmm, I'm not sure I buy this. At the very least, I think it's a very strange way to phrase it if that's the case. Wouldn't you think it was odd if a woman spoke to you about the "unfortunate fact of your femininity"? Or the "unfortunate fact of your sex"?

As I said, I'll usually ignore a clumsily phrased sentence, but it's hard for me to see this phrasing as not suggesting something deeper than a discomfort with division. Especially as she's insisting that these superficial things divide us.

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I guess it all hinges on whether "unfortunate" is modifying "skin color" or "skin color divisions and hierarchies." Maybe you could ask her.

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Yeah, as I mentioned to somebody else, I have the advantage of having had a few other conversations with Mrs. C. So I have a little more insight into her thinking. But even without that, it's hard for me to see how the "unfortunate" in "unfortunate skin" doesn't modify "skin".

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See my comment above. Your interpretation would make sense if "unfortunate skin" wasn't followed by "and caste divisions'.

Having some charge from other interactions may not help in an unbiased understanding of her sentence. We have to admit that we have some of the same human flaws as we so easily perceive in others. (Myself very much included).

One common flaw in those following neo-progressive ideology is the inability to take a peek at things through any lens but the first and most emotionally driven one that triggers them, and then seek to defend that first take. It's a human thing, but they generally don't care to try to compensate for that bias.

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"Having some charge from other interactions may not help in an unbiased understanding of her sentence"

It's not charge, I've spoken to her. I know my interpretation of the sentence is correct not because I'm triggered, but because I've spoken to her about it in other conversations. That's why I said I have an advantage. With no other context, I can see how the sentence could be interpreted as you interpret it. I have that context.

You're totally right. A common flaw in all thinking is the inability to look at things through any lens but the first or the most emotionally driven. I'm fully aware that I'm susceptible to that flaw too. But isn't it also what you're doing here?

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I read it the same way, and even upon multiple re-readings still do. Here's the phrasing, in multiple interpretive parses:

1: "the fact of our (unfortunate ((skin and caste) divisions)) is not one of them."

>> the fact of our unfortunate skin divisions is not one of them

>> the fact of our unfortunate caste divisions is not one of them

2: "the fact of our (unfortunate skin) and (caste divisions) is not one of them."

>> the fact of our unfortunate skin is not one of them

>> the fact of our caste divisions is not one of them

3: "the fact of our (unfortunate ((skin) and (caste divisions))) is not one of them."

>> the fact of our unfortunate skin is not one of them

>> the fact of our unfortunate caste divisions is not one of them

(Other forced parses I can come up with get even weirder, but you are welcome to suggest another)

The first parsing makes a lot more sense to me in context. The others require a real stretch to justify, and sound ridiculous. For me hers was not even a 'strange' way to phrase it - collapsing the two parallel phrases of the first interpretation into her "combined with and" phrasing is common, proper and usually understood.

The only critique I can find with her sentence would be: that she let the words "unfortunate" occur next to "skin", such that if those successive words got extracted together but out of context, one might think that it was skin that she found unfortunate rather than divisions.

I would hate to have to scan every sentence I write to be sure nobody could misread anything to that degree, and I suspect you would not want your writing to be that subject to such selective interpretation - ie: must contain no two word sequences which might be interpreted outside badly if removed from their syntactic and semantic context.

Imagine an video where just speaking those two words was shown, outside of the full sentence structure. That's essentially what is happening here, as best I can understand. (In the _interpretation_; not saying you didn't provide the fuller text context to us!).

I find you an very thoughtful and wise voice in general, Steve. But in this particular case, I fear that you may have over-reacted to an accidental mis-parse. At the minimum, one could admit that the second parse is not the only feasible interpretation, and checked to see what she meant. You still have the opportunity to rethink and revise your response to come from your best self.

(Oh, and the examples you used in your response to Erica do not follow the syntax or semantics of the original. The ambiguity is about which word 'unfortunate' modifies ('skin' or 'divisions') and which fragments the 'and' connects ('skin' and 'caste' or 'unfortunate skin' and 'caste divisions'). Besides transposing the word 'fact', your examples omit that ambiguity so as to admit only one interpretation).

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"I suspect you would not want your writing to be that subject to such selective interpretation"

😅 You're absolutely correct. But sadly that's not how writing works. Writing, and all communication, is always subject to selective interpretation. The skill and struggle of good writing is communicating in such a way that it's hard to misinterpret. As I said in the post itself, I usually overlook a clumsily worded sentence. This went beyond that for me.

I freely admit that my interpretation isn't the only reasonable parse. No argument whatsoever. I don't think I've written anything that suggests otherwise. My confidence in my interpretation doesn't come simply from the words in the sentence, but from the fact that I've spoken to her before and since. I understand her thinking in ways that you don't yet. Mrs. C had the right of reply, and if she *had* replied, I'd have included that too. Note that she didn't.

Lastly, I'm fascinated by the accusation of an over-reaction. I interpreted a sentence in a particular way, and made a comment based on that interpretation. Let's pretend that I haven't had any other conversations with her (which I have), how would that be an over-reaction? Do you think my response was particularly harsh or emotional? If so, why? What makes you so certain that my response didn't come from my "best self"?

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First off, I hope this examination is welcome; I've come to greatly appreciate most of what you say and I don't want this particular small issue to cause you to think of me as an enemy. If it's alienating you, I'm glad to drop it.

That said, I can answer better if you could explain how you parse the whole sentence, including the words "and caste divisions". Please briefly paraphrase the meaning(s) you take from the whole sentence.

I ask because I cannot see a sensible way to parse the whole sentence which binds "unfortunate" to "skin" rather than to "divisions". Parelleling "skin" and "caste" as types of unfortunate divisions is extremely logical, while parelleling "unfortunate skin" and "caste divisions' doesn't make sense to me, semantically or syntactically.

However, if we stopped reading after the word "skin" I would agree with you.

So maybe I don't understand correctly how you interpret the (whole) sentence, and that needs to be cleared up before I build any argument upon a false understanding.

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"First off, I hope this examination is welcome; I've come to greatly appreciate most of what you say and I don't want this particular small issue to cause you to think of me as an enemy"

No, no worries there. I rely on you guys to keep me honest. If I thought of everybody who occasionally disagreed with me as an enemy I'd have very few friends😁

I'm simply reading "the fact of our unfortunate skin" and "caste divisions" separately. Caste divisions aren't even a meaningful way to describe divisions in the west.

But the issue here is that you're working off less information than I am. It's as if you had a conversation with a friend of yours, you recounted it to me, and then I wanted to debate what they meant by a particular phrase. It's not that I don't see that there's more than one way to interpret the sentence, it's about context.

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this was also my interpretation of the phrase

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I think you must love yourself if you’re going to make any progress on embracing people different from you. If we could just throw off, once and for all and despite an almost constant, shrill chorus of deniers, that skin color matters a whit in the grand pageant of our messy complex lives…ah what a day that would be!

The more we sternly and publicly condemn our respective privilege in some sweepstakes of the absurd, or slyly and maliciously denigrate someone of a different class or skin tone - the further from my utopian ideal we stray. Of course there is work to do. But let’s approach it with joy that recognizes how far we have come while realistically knowing how far we have to travel.

I can resolve to act and speak with integrity and a deep appreciation for all of us. Each person is a unique opportunity to have a great conversation, learning and respecting what makes us different as much as what makes us the same. Yes.

Toss the dross. Don’t give in to cynicism. It’s always too easy, after all.

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"I think you must love yourself if you’re going to make any progress on embracing people different from you."

100% true. My New Year's resolution is to write more on this topic. It's something that is almost entirely absent from racial discourse today and it's absolutely obvious that many black people feel marginalised and oppressed simply because they haven't understood this simple fact.

External affirmation and validation are all well and good. But they're utterly meaningless if they aren't reflected in a genuine internal sense of one's own worth.

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Jan 14, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Ah, Steve. Your commentary and rebuttal made me laugh out loud. I realize these truths are not, in their essence, laughing matters but your language of debate is irrefutable and highly entertaining. (For this older girl who watches neither television, movies or news of any sort. Reading good writing is so much more enlightening.)

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"I realize these truths are not, in their essence, laughing matters but your language of debate is irrefutable and highly entertaining."

😁 If I didn't have a little fun whilst writing some of these replies I think I'd lose my mind.

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The situation in the USA for nonwhite people has improved dramatically *in some areas.*. It was not that long ago that a black man with a Ph.D. could not get a job higher than janitorial work This has changed (it still has a long way to go). On the other hand the conviction of Derek Chauvin was remarkable, trailblazing, pivotal, because for most of my life a policeman who murdered a black man in cold blood could do so without fear of reprisal, not erven the loss of a day's pay.

At the other end, though, racist attitudes among a large minority of Americans have not substantially improved at all; quite the contrary, Trump's "plain speaking" on matters of race has liberated and encouraged these wretched people. Bigots are angrier than ever.

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"On the other hand the conviction of Derek Chauvin was remarkable, trailblazing, pivotal, because for most of my life a policeman who murdered a black man in cold blood could do so without fear of reprisal, not even the loss of a day's pay."

I wonder if this is a generational thing, but I honestly wasn't surprised by the Chauvin verdict. I was *relieved*, but not surprised. And I wouldn't have been particularly tempted to blame his acquittal on racism even if he had been acquitted.

As you say, police have been getting away with killing civilians for a long time. Not just black civilians, civilians. Most of those cases don't even make it to trial. The case of Tony Timpa, for example, was dropped and all three officers involved in his killing returned to active duty. Barely a word in the press.

And the fact that there was a time when a black man with a PhD couldn't get a job higher than a janitor, and today the idea is unthinkable, is exactly the kind of progress I'm pointing to. My awareness of how racist America was in the past is precisely why I'm so aware of the progress that's been made.

Racist attitudes haven't improved in some people and places. You're sadly absolutely right. And yes, those people are angrier than ever. But they're angry because they're *losing*. They're angry because their bigotry is dying out. They're dying because for all their efforts, black people are gaining the respect they deserve. I don't take these bigots lightly at all. But their tears are delicious to me😁.

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This comment is generic and not aimed at anyone's comment. I often wonder if we would get a better result on fixing race problems with less focus on race. I often see the raw number vs. per capita argument pertaining to the police being immune to justice when they wrongfully kill someone. If we all pile onto the issue without the "it's a bigger problem for my group" stuff and get a better police force, black people benefit along with everyone else. Isn't a good result good, even if it's for everyone?

Would more white people (even the racist ones) join in the effort if they didn't perceive it as all about black people?

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"I often wonder if we would get a better result on fixing race problems with less focus on race"

I absolutely think we would. I actually wrote this in an article recently.

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After deleting my old Medium account which erased all the toxic exchanges, I created a new account. That was the name of that article?

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Hey Dave, I touch on it in "Confessions of A Race Writer". I'll be posting paywall free versions of it and the rest of December's articles in this week's subscriber thread.👍

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Statistics on police convictions are astounding; anyone could be excused for thinking that a badge was a license to wanton murder.

But you know as well as I that while, yes, white people get shot by cops too, PoC are such victims entirely out of proportion to their representation in population,

I too revel in the rage and pain of racists. But I worry more than revel; these are irrational and hate-crazed people and the fact that they are losing makes them feel that violence is more justified than ever. They believe their cause is righteous.

And I'm a-standing at the crossroads.

Please be careful.

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"PoC are such victims entirely out of proportion to their representation in population"

Yes this is true. But as I said in a conversation here recently, black people are also quite dramatically overrepresented in violent crime and homicide. Sadly, with the state of policing, if you encounter the police more often, bad things will happen more often.

Black people are still overrepresented in police shootings if you account for this. And there are many other measures that demonstrate police bias against black people (rates at which we're pulled over, police verbal/physical aggression during non-criminal interactions). But it's important to look at the whole picture.

And yes, I hear you. I don't take racists lightly. I worry too. Especially given the idiots doing everything they can to stir up racial hatred in the name of "antiracism".

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Too busy right now for a long answer but ... traffic stops. Let me see your license. Man reaches into his jacket for his wallet. Cop blows his brains out. Doesn't happen too often to white drivers.

I think anyone who calls the cops on a black man for being somewhere like a park should be indicted for attempted murder.

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Your last sentence says a lot about the mental state of the nation, alas.

Police kill around 15-25 unarmed Blacks every year, out of 42 million, and out of tens of millions of interactions by 700,000 officers. That's well under 1 in a million. Among the risks that all of us face, that is a very small one, objectively.

However, white liberals when surveyed tend to overestimate by literally a factor of 10 to 1000 or MORE, believing that staggering numbers of Black men, women and children are gunned down in the street every year by police for no reason except racial animus.

I'd be pretty emotional if that were true, too. But it isn't.

As a result of their internal models being many orders of magnitude out of touch with reality, some well intentioned people sincerely believe that each interaction between (unarmed, as in a park) Black people and the police is really, really likely to result in a death - like 50/50 rather than less than one in a million. If the person in question doesn't fight with the police or try to resist arrest, the risk is probably well under one in ten million.

So with this distorted misunderstanding, they can with good conscience assert that any person [which presumably includes any Black person by the way] calling the police about a Black person should be indicted for attempted murder. Just imagine what it would be like to live in a world where such people came to power and could implement the policies they advocate. Even good intentions can have horrific effects if untethered from reality.

Where I live, even a (white) victim of theft or assault by a Black person, can be assailed by progressives if they go to police about it, because of the irrational believe that's that's pretty much a death sentence for a non-capital offense.

From any rational analysis, that's seriously bonkers. Staggeringly so. A society with as widespread delusion that big is in trouble (a society with a similar number of people who think that Trump won the last election is in trouble too; this troubling irrationality comes from both sides).

But it's so darn emotionally satisfying to imagine that one is fighting a noble crusade against a horrendous evil epidemic of unrestrained open season on Black people by cops. Accepting a criminal attack without accountability is a heroic action which will most likely save a Black life from the killer police. Actual facts are like a wet blanket to that fiery payoff, so it's hard to discuss this rationally with those who have been misled by the fuzzy "impression" they got from politically biased sources intentionally misleading them. (Yes, the professional activists are often privately aware of these numbers, but they say what gets them power).

There are many other facets to consider (like whether we should expect proportionality to raw population or to crime, comparisons among all racial/ethnic groups in the US, etc) which would be interesting to discuss. We could look at Roland Fryer's research which dug into finer details and accounted for factors missed by crude numbers. But we can't begin to have a reasoned conversation until some people recognize how grossly distorted their mental models of what's happening have become.

As I said before, if this was happening as frequently as many liberals imagine, I too would have a very different take on it. I do care about disparities, but I believe we have to understand the true nature and scope of a problem before we can implement effective remedies, not go off half cocked based on delusions.

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I think this could be a story for Steve. This isn't so much a defense of Trump and Trumpsters as it is a comment on partisan rhetoric. Democrats call everyone not in their tribe a racist and have in some ways stripped the word of real meaning. There's a lot of mind reading, word twisting going on. A desire to see the government enforce immigration law need not be racist.

I don't know if you've done much international travel but outside of the EU, immigration laws, especially pertaining to work are strictly enforced. One of the big changes in the US pertains to immigrants reporting their whereabouts. When my wife immigrated to the US in 1970, green card aliens reported their address on one form every January. Every time they moved the reported that on a different form. She did that until the became a naturalized citizen. Nobody gave a thought to immigration control being racist, it was what every country did and most still do.

Passports now have chips with your data and picture and upon entry into other countries it gets compared (facial recognition) with a camera at the immigration point. My last trip to China they even had it in the hotel that I told immigration I was staying in. Going into the Dominican Republic my daughter mentioned to me that I and the other man in our party who was wearing a hat were told to remove our hats. I pointed to the camera; they were doing facial recognition against our passports.

The point of my comment is that people resent the hell out of being called racists because they are to the political right of Karl Marx. It does not lead to productive discourse on racism.

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This goes well beyond irritating; there are perfectly sound reasons for differentiating people on the basis of race that have nothing to do with bigotry. I live in Vietnam and on many official forms e.g. vaccination records there is a set of checkboxes: Vietnamese, Hmong, western ... it isn't bigotry. Maybe they're tracing efficacy of the vaccines. Who cares?

There is this Social Justice Warrior idea that "there are no differences," that race and gender are "social constructs," as biological realities go out the window. And they enforce their views with a rigidity that would give pause to Heinrich Himmler. We are ordered to use gender neutrality in speech, with usages that are completely confusing; crime reports omit race when it is as important in a manhunt as height or any other identifying characteristic.

It's not racist to acknowledge the reality of race; it's not misogyny to acknowledge real differences between men and women. It is important to not regard these differences as inferiority.

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"there are perfectly sound reasons for differentiating people on the basis of race that have nothing to do with bigotry."

I've seen you make this argument a number of times in various forms, but I'm still no closer to understanding what reasons you're referring to.

To be clear, I agree with you that this isn't bigotry. I don't feel as if I'm being oppressed when I tick "Black/Other" on a form. But what are the "perfectly sound reasons" for me doing this?

Even if I could class myself simply as "Black/African", Africa is an entire *continent*. There is so much genetic and cultural diversity amongst people in Africa. I'm genetically closer to you than I am to some black people in Africa. So even if the motivation is medical (which I doubt as geneticists are absolutely settled on the idea that race is meaningless), there are far more meaningful ways to group people medically than "your great-grandfather was born on this piece of land" or "your skin is closer to this shade than that shade."

Please help me understand these sound reasons you see.

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 15, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Here's one: sickle cell anemia.

Another: malignant melanoma

I have no chance whatsoever of getting the former; the latter is quite likely for me, with my titanium oxide complexion.

You have pretty much no chance of getting the latter.

As for "African," that's just sloppy. Moroccans look nothing like Sudanese.

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 15, 2022Author

"Here's one: sickle cell anemia."

Yep, that's a good example. I'm actually a carrier (I have sickle cell trait). I became a carrier because my father (African) is also a carrier but my mother (Caribbean) isn't. Both of them look just as black as each other. My sister, thanks to the vagaries of genetics, isn't a carrier. Even though she would tick the same box for "race" as me.

If I wanted to have a child, there'd be no way to know by "race" whether my prospective partner was also a carrier (if both parents are carriers there's a high chance the child will have anemia). The vast majority of black people don't have sickle cell anemia or trait and about 20% of the people who *do* aren't black. Sickle cell trait is a (fairly rare) medical reality, not a racial one. So, in this case, simply asking people whether they have sickle cell trait would be far more useful than asking them whether they have any genealogy from sub-Saharan Africa.

I'm not trying to argue that there aren't physiological realities regarding people from different parts of the world. I'm just saying that we can't meaningfully flatten these out by the concept of race. Melanoma risk, for example, is largely related to how dark somebody's skin is, which is broadly a function of how many of their ancestors lived near the equator. But at what point as we move away from the equator do people become a different "race"? What are the lines of latitude that separate black people from brown people from white people?

Yes, people with lighter skin are more likely to be at risk for skin cancer. Yes, people from sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to have sickle cell trait/anemia. It's useful to know these things. But while "race", by which I think you really mean skin colour, *feels* like a useful shorthand for people's differences, it almost never maps them accurately when you're trying to be even slightly precise.

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Jan 17, 2022·edited Jan 17, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Fun facts to Know and Tell: SCA survives because it confers malaria resistance. Living in the USA you are unlikely to be exposed to malaria but it's endemic in much of the world.

With two SCA alleles one is likely to come down with SCA and die from it. But with one, as you have, a malaria infection is far less lethal because the one allele has the effect of causing the red blood cells to rupture before the parasites are mature. Zero SCA alleles and malaria is a real danger.

This is just one of several genetic abnormalities that persist because of malaria. Another is favism, allergy to fava beans; this allergy does something similar to red blood cells.

Without the influence of malaria, many genetic deficits would have died our long ago.

I know this has nothing to do with racism.

"(if both parents are carriers there's a high chance the child will have anemia)"

One chance in four.

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Just addressing one point. Much of what you say I agree with, but once you are talking about medical implications, I think you too easily dismiss race.

First off, what is generally considered invalid is the idea that we can assign all humans to one of four or five discrete non-overlapping categories. All the the genetic and phenotypical traits tend to follow gradients rather than binary functions. That conception of "race" is too oversimplified at best, and I would be glad to discard it because it causes much harm and little or no good.

However, using multifactoral cluster analysis of human traits, one can discover fuzzy clusters, or density areas where population groups can be distinguished. This is more like distinguishing night from day - the boundaries are fuzzy and not clearly defined, but that doesn't mean that there is no meaningful difference between night time and day time. But the thing is - depending on how you set the parameters, your analysis might distinguish 3 or 14 or 25 statistical clusters. There is no reason to strongly highlight just 4 (or 5). But if you do choose parameter which yield 4 clusters, those clusters will tend to correlate with continents. That should not be surprising - there has been statistically more mixing within continents than between them.

What that means is that once you get rid of the concept of hard bounded categories and accept fuzzy statistical clusters, there could be useful medical distintions between clusters in some cases. Now there's no scientific reason to choose 4 clusters for this - probably it would be more accurate to know the effects of medication on 25 clusters of humanity. But on practical terms, probabalistic medical statistics may have been gathered based on self-identified "race" - the 4 cluster model. So that fuzzy proxy may be the best data we have.

Having defended that possibility of race as an unfortunate but sometimes useful proxy for fuzzy genetic cluster in some contexts, I return to assert that other than for medical or research purposes, I think it would be best to discard the obsolete concept of 4 (or 5) "races" as prescientific folklore. It misleads the mind more often than not.

Alas, getting past "race" is hard to do, especially after people have come to voluntarily intermingle it deeply with their concept of self, which must be defended at all cost. That is, race is used as a proxy for culture. Abolishing "race" as a concept then feels to them like their very identity and personhood is under attack. It's a tough problem - even if we can see that it's corrosive to keep reifying race, it has also become a sacred cow. A twisted love/hate thing.

Ah humans. A most amazing group of critters we are.

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"but once you are talking about medical implications, I think you too easily dismiss race."

I'd actually be particularly tempted to dismiss race with regards medical implications precisely because when discussing medical implications we should be accurate. Race isn't.

If we talked about ancestry that would be far more useful medically speaking. If we talked about specific conditions (Chris and I touch on sickle cell anaemia/trait below) that would be useful. If we talked about family history, that would be useful. But if we talk about "black" people or even worse, "brown" people, we waste time and resources on people who have completely different risk factors and needs.

As you say, "race" is an enormously oversimplified way of looking at human complexity. And at the time it was conceived, sure, we couldn't do much better (we also hadn't figured out that bloodletting and phrenology weren't medically sound). But now we can.

I'm not suggesting we ignore our differences at all. But especially in a medical context, I think we should be as precise as possible. Ticking "Black" or "White" on a form is not precise.

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"Ticking "Black" or "White" on a form is not precise."

I think we have a lot of agreement - it's definitely not precise.

Where we might differ is that I am suggesting that medicine often operates on correlations and probabilities which are not precise or absolute, and that the data which has been gathered often requires inexact proxies for pragmatic reasons.

So for example, one might notice that there are statistically significant different outcomes among 100,000 patients given some treatment, between those who checked white and black. We would agree that the researchers having a complete genotype of all patients would be much better; but in the real world, imprecise proxies are often all we have or can feasibly obtain, and so we need to nevertheless pay attention to any (fuzzy, not precise) signals that nevertheless rise above the noise floor. It's a lot more practical for researchers to acquire data which includes how a race box was checked, than to get a full genetic sequence of every subject (not just a few markers like 23andMe uses).

AND again, I am speaking of a limited context where pragmatically, race may be the best proxy we have for something which IS relevant. This does NOT generalize to most situations we encounter in our lives, and I am not urging more emphasis be placed on the damaging concept of race.

And by the way, I appreciate your way of looking at things in historical context rather than removing them from context to evaluate them in isolation and under today's light.

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Your last paragraph says a lot. Actual differences exist, both physical and cultural. What matters is when they matter and when they don't. Sadly, we often err in that. In a perfect world we would all enjoy and value the difference without all the negative judgment.

My last comment was more with regard to the use of political inflammatory accusations. I actually see the political left as more racist than the political right in some matters, but I don't make assumptions or accusation about racism of whole groups or its individual members. That would be just another form of racism.

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I'm of the opinion that pretending race and gender are illusions is hardly any better than being racist or misogynist. They're both false. Opposite poles of falsehood, but false.

Mature and whole people see the realities of race and gender and attach no judgments of superiority or inferiority to them.

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Steve, I think you misread Mrs. C’s comment. She referred to “our unfortunate skin and caste divisions.” Not unfortunate skin; unfortunate divisions over skin. And she’s right that those divisions are (unfortunately) real, in a way that divisions over eye color or left- or right-handedness are not. They shouldn’t be; they’re based on superficial divisions that shouldn’t matter; but for too many people they are a reality that we need to work to overcome. I think Mrs. C’s heart is in the right place, and you’ve been unfair in your reaction to her.

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 15, 2022Author

"I think Mrs. C’s heart is in the right place, and you’ve been unfair in your reaction to her."

Yeah, Erica had a similar impression. I have the advantage of having had other conversations with Mrs. C and understanding where she's coming from a bit more clearly. But even without that, I think the phrasing is far too telling to simply be talking about divisions.

As I said to Erica, it would be odd to hear a woman talking about the "unfortunate fact of her femininity", no? There's a difference between recognising the problem of bigotry and lamenting the parts of yourself that the bigots attack.

That said, how was my reaction unfair? I don't think it was particularly forceful at all.

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Spot on, again. I hadn't seen Whoopi and the emancipation proclamation comment. It's hard for me to believe that some people really genuinely feel this in their bones, but apparently they do. It's warped and I frankly feel some despair about it. For all colors - you're either irredeemably oppressed or need to genuflect for centuries old sins. So much misspent collective angst.

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 17, 2022Author

"It's hard for me to believe that some people really genuinely feel this in their bones, but apparently they do."

Honestly? It's impossible for me to believe. I think it's just a nice warm cloak that people have gotten used to wrapping around themselves.

I mean, Whoopi Goldberg is a multi-millionaire with a glittering career who made these comments while hosting a television programme. How is it even conceivable that she feels in her bones that black people haven't made any progress since the emancipation proclamation?

I've challenged countless people when they say things like this and not once have they really defended the position. If trying to drape the oppression of 400 years of ancestry over themselves doesn't get the result they want (it doesn't) it's almost inevitably insults (often racist insults) followed by blocking. These people are frauds.

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I hadn't thought of it that way, but right on. I haven't had a fraction of the interactions you have, but it's invariably absent of content or there is one emotionally potent example they highlight as if it's supposed to sum up "the black experience". When I offer my view, or any alternative view, or data - it's racial insults and blocking the vast majority of the time.

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I don't think a fully fledged neo-progressive ever loses any argument - in their own minds. That ideology not only normalizes but downright valorizes the use of ad hominem attacks - if you can't win by reason, call the person with whom you disagree some name, which in their minds invalidates anything the person has said. A life of easy wins.

Without a shared enemy, people immersed in this ideology will turn the same intolerance and fallacious tools on each other in a flash. The ideology does not value reciprocity, mutual respect, compromise, agreeing to disagree, or diversity of thought. It would be disastrous to build a new society based on their limited toolset of human relations - it would turn into perpetual struggle between self-righteous tribes whose worldview is dogmatic and intolerant.

Concept like freedom of speech work because they are reciprocal - you get to speak freely but you have to allow the other person to do so as well, even grudgingly. You get something in return for what you give, a balance which can be compatible with self interest as well as with compassion.

Once the transaction becomes "you owe me in perpetuity and I have no need to ever treat you with the respect I demand of you", there is not enough social mortar to keep the structure intact. The guilt/resentment dynamics relies on a sufficiently robust outer society operating on other rules to survive as a niche. If and when it achieves the total control it has convinced itself it needs for safety, and deserves as recompense for past evil, it would undermine itself rapidly.

And alas, that's the effect I believe they are beginning to have on our society, as it erodes our commonality and rapport and replaces them with valorized tribal conflict as a permanent state.

The amazing thing is that many of the devotees are nice people who have good intentions. The power of ideology as a mind virus is frightening.

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"Despite the enormous progress that we’ve made in creating a kinder, fairer, more inclusive world, it feels as if we’re more divided than ever. Not because bigotry has gotten worse, not because our fundamental needs conflict with each other, but because instead of looking for common ground, we’ve gotten used to taking sides. "

Very important observation. I agree and would like to share some related observations about the mechanisms which produce and sustain this dysfunction.

For a large portion of my life (ie: for several decades), objectively crime in the US had been substantially decreasing (until recent years anyway). At the same time, many polls have shown that most people believed that it was actually substantially increasing and they were increasingly fearful. Common perceptions can be badly detached from reality, based on things like selective news coverage.

Polls have revealed that many liberals believe police killings of unarmed Black people to be 10 to 1000 or more times higher than they are. When one realizes how detached this is from reality, it explains some of their emotion driven attitudes. A white ally of my acquaintance felt she could not ride her motorcycle to a workshop here in liberal SF Bay Area northern California, because that would be white privilege since a Black person would have a substantial chance of being killed by police if they did the same thing; her estimate was implicitly out of touch with reality by a factor of perhaps 100,000 to 1,000,000. But if your own perception of reality was that grossly distorted and you were a decent person, how would you respond?

Perception and impressions drive the internal model that most people have of the world, not rational evaluation and data.

And selective media coverage drives that perception. Some of the bias comes from "if it bleeds, it leads" - emotionally evocative stories, especially those which invoke fear or outrage - get more readers, viewers and clicks. That bias goes back forever; a related concept is that "Man Bites Dog" is newsworthy but "Dog Bite Man" is not.

But today some of it is also shaped by polarized media consciously Reinforcing the Narrative by selectively focusing on stories which are believed by the reporters to advance social justice by highlighting a narrative of oppression, and burying stories which might reduce the certainty about that narrative. I want to emphasize that these reporters think of themselves as noble and are trying to do the right thing, not trying to destroy the country (as some right wingers believe). They have largely been trained to believe that reinforcing the neo-progresive narrative is the path to social justice and trump outdated concepts like balance or journalistic integrity. Who cares about such high minded abstractions when legions of Black men women and children are being hunted and killed in the streets by racist cops?

As a result, we can be in a rapidly escalating racial crisis, even when the underlying data does not support any panic - it's all about (shaped) perceptions. There is no huge increase in racist discrimination or bias in recent years. Racist discrimination is not rising to crisis levels today, but perception of racial issues is.

By contrast, there IS a new and escalating increase in polarization in the US, rising to historic levels. Of particular note is "affective polarization" - not just having widely divergent opinions, but actively despising rather than just disagreeing with the other side, projecting dehumanizing stereotypes on them - in both directions. That alarming rise IS actually supported by data. By some measures it's the worst since the US Civil War, by others it's the highest since the measure began. I consider this to be moving toward an existential threat to our nation and democracy. But it gets less attention (not none).

Sadly, when I try to discuss this, a common reaction is "that polarization is all driven by the zealots on the other side, not us", without a shred of reflection or irony.

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