Double standards on simian references …

Many years ago:

Of course, no one thinks that this meme is calling white people “simians” (in this case: chimpanzees). It is making fun of an individual.

But let’s face it: it is different if the target of the ridicule was black, it would be seen as “racist” as, in our country’s history, such comparisons were used to discriminate against black people, both socially and legally. Context matters.

So in this case, in our society, black people do have a “special protection”. If you think this is unfair.. watch this at 1:15

(basically, he says none of you white people would trade places with me, and I am rich!)

(2:30 in this clip)

And yes, if you are an entertainer, IMAGE is really your business. If you turn off customers and sponsors, you are sunk.

Workout notes
weights only today; nothing remarkable (4 x 185, 8 x 170 bench, 10 x 170 incline) though pull ups (5 sets of 10) were good..and plank still sucked.

stomach: still a little (TMI)..digestion not great.


May 30, 2018 Posted by | social/political, weight training | | Leave a comment

And I turn contrarian …..some conservative talking points have merit…

Well, I was very grumpy because I came back from a “College of Liberal Arts and Science” meeting and thought “what nonsense…hours and hours of time spent coming up with …THIS???”

So I was about to go on a tirade about how many conservatives are right about some of their criticisms of liberal arts education…but then I decided to read statements from other liberal arts colleges. And..they weren’t that bad.

Here is a typical one: it appears to be reasonable to me. But still: any statement has zero effect on how I teach, how I research, or how I think about our curriculum. In service courses: “what tools do they need to master in able to learn their major”? In major courses: “what do I expect a math major to have mastery of? How do we help them attain such mastery?”

The problem is that some mission statements have stuff about “equality” (our proposed statement does). So it follows that anything that appears to be contrary to “equality” must be bad or wrong, right? Hence you have things like this: (Jerry Coyne’s website)

Finally: a sensible discussion of “race”
And by “sensible,” of course, I mean a discussion that aligns with my own views. I’ve often written that while there are no finite and strongly genetically demarcated human “races”, there are meaningful and statistically diagnostic differences between populations, ethnic groups, or whatever you want to call them. This is in opposition to the common Left-wing view that races are purely “social constructs” having no biological reality.

Well, there aren’t a finite number of groups whose members are 100% genetically differentiated from other groups. But when you take all genes together, there are sufficient average frequency differences that one can discern statistical clusters that, in turn, allow you to use lots of genes to pretty much diagnose where somebody’s from and who their ancestors were. These “statistical clusters” are real, not social constructs, for they fall out regardless of the politics or biases of the investigator.

Recognizing their existence by no means justifies bigotry or stereotyping, but we shouldn’t dismiss the existence of those clusters simply because, in the past, people with an incorrect idea of “race” have used differences to justify segregation and prejudice. Yet all too often, as with genetic differences among ethnic groups, behavioral differences between the sexes, and evolutionary psychology, those on the Left simply dismiss entire fields because of a fear that scientific research will justify discrimination.

Professor Coyne links to an excellent article by David Reich in the New York Times:

To understand why it is so dangerous for geneticists and anthropologists to simply repeat the old consensus about human population differences, consider what kinds of voices are filling the void that our silence is creating. Nicholas Wade, a longtime science journalist for The New York Times, rightly notes in his 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” that modern research is challenging our thinking about the nature of human population differences. But he goes on to make the unfounded and irresponsible claim that this research is suggesting that genetic factors explain traditional stereotypes.

One of Mr. Wade’s key sources, for example, is the anthropologist Henry Harpending, who has asserted that people of sub-Saharan African ancestry have no propensity to work when they don’t have to because, he claims, they did not go through the type of natural selection for hard work in the last thousands of years that some Eurasians did. There is simply no scientific evidence to support this statement. Indeed, as 139 geneticists (including myself) pointed out in a letter to The New York Times about Mr. Wade’s book, there is no genetic evidence to back up any of the racist stereotypes he promotes.

Another high-profile example is James Watson, the scientist who in 1953 co-discovered the structure of DNA, and who was forced to retire as head of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 2007 after he stated in an interview — without any scientific evidence — that research has suggested that genetic factors contribute to lower intelligence in Africans than in Europeans. […]

What makes Dr. Watson’s and Mr. Wade’s statements so insidious is that they start with the accurate observation that many academics are implausibly denying the possibility of average genetic differences among human populations, and then end with a claim — backed by no evidence — that they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes.

In other words, refusing to admit that there ARE differences in frequencies of certain alleles in certain population clusters often leads to “see, the racist stereotypes must either be right or at least have a kernel of truth to them.” And, in my opinion, the regressive left (often found on college campuses) and the alt-right are on agreement of the implication; the “solution” the regressive left offers is to dismiss genuine science as “junk science; a tool of the oppressive white patriarchy” and the racist right is “see: the snowflakes are afraid of the truth, which WE are bold enough to talk about”.

(digression: I recommend reading Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and Pinker’s Blank Slate. )

But…yeah, I can see how some conservatives think of education as a type of indoctrination. Then again, many of these conservatives are the same morons who think of creationism as having any validity and of expertise of being of no value. Yeah, I know; the Illinois governor’s race is a contest between unqualified billionaires/multi-millionaires. So …

Speaking of campaigns: I always wondered about how effective some campaigns are and if there is a point of “diminishing returns”.

And there is some research that backs this up. That is one reason I no longer phonebank; who wants to be annoyed at home? I might do some GOTV stuff; getting your people to the polls is essential. But if the turn out is high..well, it is mostly about the candidate (after a certain point anyway).

March 24, 2018 Posted by | evolution, racism, social/political | , , , , | Leave a comment

SJWs and Alt-right: two sides of the same ignorant coin?

Like many, I’ve been wondering “how did Trump ever get elected” and I’ve considered the factor that “maybe Trump was a pushback against political correctness” conjecture.

And I asked myself “what role might I have played in this”?

Now don’t get me wrong: there are a lot of people who would have supported Trump “no matter what” and it is difficult, if not impossible, to convert a conservative into a liberal. Genes are in play here.

But..does it appear that liberals, in an attempt to be “fair” to minority groups with less power, refuse to acknowledge tough truths? I had very similar questions along those lines 35-40 years ago! (yes, I can recommend the book Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond)

But yes, I’ve seen justice minded liberals deny facts that they don’t like. Here is an excellent example of that (denying crime statistics)

Don’t like a statistic: say it is false and call it XXX-ist!

Another example: take the issue of race and IQ.
Fact: in the US, different racial groups score differently (e. g., Mexicans score lower than non-hispanic whites)
Fact: IQ IS relevant (albeit imperfect) in terms of measuring intelligence (yes, I know; it is a 1 dimensional measure of a complicated thing, but it is meaningful; e. g. someone with an IQ of 95 won’t be an engineer or lawyer (statistically))
Fact: intelligence, or the potential for intelligence, is heritable.

So what happens: the alt-right people improperly combine these facts to argue that, say, in a meritocracy, you’d expect Mexicans to do worse than whites (as a group). You see: as a group, Mexicans just aren’t smart enough to compete and only affirmative action, which gives unfair advantages, can make things look a bit more level.

The SJW liberals don’t like the conclusion that Mexicans are inferior so they deny one or more of the above facts! Reason: they believe that if the above facts are true (and they are), the conclusion that Mexicans are inferior would be correct!

That is, the SJWs and the alt-right agree on the logic; they don’t accept the same facts.

(disclaimer: I am Mexican and, no I don’t feel that we are inferior in any way)

The problem is not with the “facts” but on how you use the facts. To see what is going on, see this article in, of all places, The American Conservative.

TL;DR argument: the potential for intelligence is determined by genes. This is individual. Example: there is nothing anyone could have done to make me as smart as Steven Hawking. But outside forces effect gene expression (say: fetal alcohol syndrome). So if a group of people lives in worse circumstances (say, inferior nutrition, prenatal care, early childhood education), that could well show up in the group IQ measurements and that can change with time (as it did with the East German/West German example).

So, the “group mean IQ being low means that group is inferior” is not a valid conclusion.

But the denying of facts never helps.

We are seeing something like that going on with the reaction to a Steven Pinker video.

The 8 minute video is worth watching: (I got this from Jerry Coyne’s website)

I can see the the effect on bright students. They go through their educations and are either never told relevant facts, or told that these facts are wrong and believing those facts is xxx-ist. They then find out that those facts are, well, facts…and the student feels betrayed and lied to (and rightfully so).

Rule of thumb: do not rule out a hypothesis because it “fees bad”.

And by the way: the above is what I mean about “political correctness”. Political correctness is not “basic politeness”, as some claim.

By the way, read Pinker’s book Blank Slate.

January 14, 2018 Posted by | books, politics/social, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

Race and Law Enforcement: my pessimism for the short term

Having this discussion with conservatives is both frustrating and painful.

First, I should lay my cards on the table: I am for equal treatment by law enforcement. I believe that people should be judged by what THEY do and not by what others do. Racial profiling is wrong, period. And I believe that darker skinned people, especially black males, are unfairly profiled. My evidence for this: look at what routinely happens to even black professional males (the high achievers). Yes, it is wrong even if it happens to underachievers, but I use the high achievers to take away “they might have looked criminal” or “they knew of their record” excuse.

And NO, I am not here to defend what any “activist” says or does; activists don’t represent me. I’ll respond to queries about President Obama or Secretary Clinton as they do represent me; I voted for the former and support the latter.

Now to my argument:

I thought that President Obama was spot on:

But OF COURSE the conservatives hated it.

I’ve struggled to see exactly what they’d find wrong.

Perhaps they think that any criticism of police should be “behind closed doors”? Of course, this tells a large segment of the public that their concerns aren’t worth addressing.

Perhaps they think that there really isn’t that big of a problem but it is mostly a matter of genuine criminals complaining because they got caught and naive liberals falling for it?

If so, explain why highly successful black professionals have a beef?

I have a hard time imagining getting pulled over multiple times every year.

Of course, conservatives love to bring up “black on black” crime.

Yes, I stipulate that there are many poor black areas with appallingly high crime rates; that is undeniable, even of some “activists” will dismiss the statistics as being “racist”. And yes, that high rate will lead to a disproportionate number of encounters with police.

But how does that explain (or justify) what happened to the US Senator or to the surgeon?

Yes, black people are indeed far more likely to get killed by a common criminal than by a police officer; it isn’t even close.

But as to the question of “where are the protests about black crime”: criminals are not employed by the tax payer. They don’t represent us. Law enforcement DOES represent us; we pay their salary (and they deserve a good salary as it is a tough job).

I don’t think having a protest against murderers does much. But agitating for more accountability from those employed to protect and serve us might.

But back to the crime rate: people who live in high crime rate communities tend to not trust law enforcement. That leads to lesser enforcement which makes it easier on criminals and helps some who might not act criminally go over the line; witness what happens during, say, police strikes (in CANADA of all places). And, as pointed out by Stephen Pinker in Better Angels of our Nature, the absence of a Leviathan to keep order hand to enforce justice leads people to take the law into their own hands. Much of the violence in these regions is vigilantism. Middle class people take others to court; the poor often don’t have that option.

So, increasing trust in law enforcement benefits everyone. But why should people who are routinely mistreated by law enforcement have any confidence in it?

But alas, our conservative friends can offer only more moralizing and finger wagging…and that is why I am not hopeful for the near term.

But, well, we are getting older and eventually we dinosaurs will die out and be replaced by a more racially tolerant generation.

July 18, 2016 Posted by | political/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

More on the racial conversation …

Yes, I do post my workout first. Deal with it. 🙂

Workout notes: weights only.
rotator cuff
squats: 10 x 0, 10 x 45, 6 x 75, 6 x 95
goblet squats: 5 x 35, 5 x 50 (these feel good)
pull ups: 15-15-10-10 (strong)
bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 8 x 170 (so-so)
incline press: 10 x 135
military: dumbbell: 1 x 50 standing, 15 x 50 seated, supported, 6 x 50 standing, 10 x 40 standing (tough to straighten the arms with the 50s)
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 50 single arm dumbbell, 10 x 110 machine.
headstand (good), supine twist crunch: 2 sets of 12, yoga leg lifts: 2 sets of 10, vertical crunch (curl the pelvis) 2 sets of 10


All too often, when people say “we need a conversation about…” what they really mean is that YOU need to sit and listen to THEM as they wag their fingers at you. So this New York Times op-ed strikes some balance here:

But it was hard not to notice that her idea of a “conversation” is rather one directional: What she thinks we need to listen to is what most would consider the “black” side of things. We should listen to black families on having to counsel their boys to be extra careful in interactions with the police, to Black Lives Matter. We should listen to the police as well, she said — but notably, here Mrs. Clinton specified the five officers killed in Dallas protecting protesters, seeming to exclude cops generally.

All of this is good advice, but it leaves out quite a bit. If they were asked, many cops would say that they felt threatened, and even abused, in the dangerous neighborhoods — quite often black ones — where they are assigned. Other people would observe that white men are killed by cops as well, even though the national media rarely covers them. In general, in a real conversation on race, quite a few whites would probably complain that they were weary of being called racists, or disapprove of affirmative action, or think we exaggerate the harm of the Confederate battle flag.

To the extent that a call for a “conversation” on race omits mention of views like these, in favor of the idea that the conversation will “unite” us, it implies that these controversial views will be corrected (or silenced), that they will inevitably melt away in the face of logic or morality if only we all sit down and converse respectfully. Mrs. Clinton allowed that the conversation would be “hard,” mind you — but the thrust of her point is that America needs to take a deep breath and hear black America out.

I can recommend reading the rest of the column.

Then I recommend reading this too: the surgeon who tried to save the lives of the murdered Dallas police officers has a few things to say about his experiences:

A self-described military brat who moved around a lot as a child, Williams turned to medicine after spending six years in the Air Force as an aeronautical engineer. He got his medical degree from the University of South Florida in 2001, did his residency at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a fellowship at Emory University’s Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta before joining Parkland — the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy was brought after he was shot — six years ago. He’s married with a 5-year-old daughter.

He’s been stopped by police himself over the years and said he is mindful each time that he must act and speak in a way that doesn’t seem threatening. He lives each time in fear that he could be killed. He sees the news about other black men killed by police.

In one traffic stop, he ended up “spread eagle” on the hood of the cruiser. In another, when he was stopped for speeding, he had to wait until a second officer arrived. Just a few years ago, he was stopped by an officer and questioned as he stood outside his apartment complex waiting for someone to pick him up and drive him to the airport.

He doesn’t have such encounters every day but when he does, he’s on his guard and, “I’m always just praying for the encounter to end.”

And two conservative columnists have some interesting things to say: Kathleen Parker and Johah Goldberg. I recommend reading both, as I’d recommend listening to what Senator Tim Scott has to say (16 minutes, but very good)

I don’t know if this will go anywhere. But black people are justifiably tired of always being “guilty until proven innocent”, police are tired of being vilified and, in general, people don’t like someone else wagging their finger at them, while they are happy to do the finger wagging themselves. I do not pretend there is any symmetry here. After all, I’ve been stopped by police 4 times over the past 24 years (3 times when I really was speeding; once I was profiled). The Senator speaks of being stopped 7 times in ONE YEAR.

On the other hand, I have a safe job; I am not a police officer and wouldn’t be a good one. And yes, on the whole, police have treated me well, even when they’ve given me tickets. I can’t complain about how I’ve been treated, save that one time and even then, they were polite.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | social/political, weight training | , , , | Leave a comment

Black crime and all that…

Preliminaries (yes, I started with my workout; just scroll down): Workout notes: first weights:

rotator cuff
pull ups: 15-15-10-10 (good)
squats: 10 x 0, 10 x 45, 6 x 65, 6 x 85 (with bar)
5 x 25, 5 x 50 “Goblet squats”

incline press: 10 x 135, 8 x 150, 10 x 140

military press: 7 x 50 dumbbell standing, 15 x 50 seated, supported, 10 x 40 dumbbell
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 50 single arm, 10 x 110 machine

headstand: 2 reps; first time I lost confidence, second was fine
abs: 2 sets of 12 x twist crunch, 10 x yoga leg lift, 24 x crunch.

Walk: 4.2 mile Cornstalk classic for head conditioning.

Post Subject

I watched this discussion on CNN; the old argument “well, if Blacks committed fewer crimes, they wouldn’t get arrested as much.
No, liberals don’t want to hear this, but there is a grain of truth in that assertion. But what conservatives don’t want to hear is nicely summed up in this article in Reason:

In this view, African Americans have only themselves to blame for the presence and behavior of cops in their neighborhoods. If they would get serious about cleaning up the problems in their own communities, police would not be arresting or killing so many black people.

There’s an element of truth to this line of argument. Violent crime rates are far higher among blacks than among whites and other groups. One reason cops have a disproportionate number of interactions with African-American males is that these men commit a disproportionate number of offenses.

Where the argument fails is in its assumption that blacks are complacent about these realities and that whites are blameless. The gist of the message is that blacks created the problem and blacks need to solve it. […]

The common impulse of whites, then and now, was to blame blacks for pathologies that whites played a central role in creating. Criminologist Charles Silberman wrote in 1978 that “it would be hard to imagine an environment better calculated to evoke violence than the one in which black Americans have lived.” Pretending black crime is a black-created problem is like pretending New Orleans never got hit by a hurricane.

The Giuliani view omits some vital facts. The epidemic of unarmed blacks being killed by police comes not when black crime is high but when it is low. Homicides committed by African Americans declined by half between 1991 and 2008.

Since the early 1990s, arrests of black juveniles have plunged by more than half. In New York City, where Eric Garner was killed by police, the rate of homicides by blacks is down by 80 percent. In Chicago, where most murders are committed by African Americans, the number last year was the lowest since 1965—and this year’s could be lower yet.

What is also easy to forget in the denunciation of black crime is that the vast majority of blacks are not criminals. In any given year, less than 5 percent of African Americans are involved in violent crime as perpetrators or victims. The fact that blacks make up a large share of the violent criminal population gives many whites the impression that violent criminals make up a large share of the black population. They don’t.

Why don’t more blacks living in bad neighborhoods learn to behave like sober middle-class suburbanites? One reason is the shortage of stable families, steady incomes, good schools and safe streets. If you grow up with those advantages, it’s relatively easy to do the right thing. If you don’t, it’s a lot harder.

People trapped in a poor and dangerous slum can’t depend on the authorities to keep them safe. They face serious threats every time they leave home. But a young black man who packs or uses a weapon to protect himself against gangs is committing a crime. Even motivated, well-intended kids can wind up in jail.

I can recommend Steven Pinker’s book Better Angels of Our Nature. Though the book is very large, it does have a section about inner city violence. Much of it stems from the citizens not trusting law enforcement seriously; hence many take matters into their own hands to solve disputes. Middle class people call the police and take others to court.

And while there is quite a bit of social pathology, there is evidence that poverty (and discrimination) drives the social pathology, and not the other way around. William Julius Wilson wrote an excellent book on that topic: When Work Disappears.

But alas, problems are complicated and solutions don’t lend themselves to bumper sticker answers or internet memes.

July 13, 2016 Posted by | racism, social/political, walking, weight training | , , | 2 Comments

Political Correctness, Black Lives Matter, Police and all that…

I’ll start with “political correctness”. When I complain about “political correctness”, I am mostly talking about academic stuff like this. Yes, someone published a study on why “Pilates is white and racist”. Really.

Note: if one wants to discuss why certain movements are done easier by people with different body types, I am all for that. Example: my former yoga teacher is way better than yoga than I am. Yet, due to the design of our respective bodies, she cannot do headstand to save her life, but it is easy for me.

But there is no “-ist” to it; some things are easier for some people than they are for others.

Black lives Matter and Law Enforcement:
Yes, there is quite a bit of public anguish over this. We see accusations of “privilege” hurled at “white America”, a reminder that police officers are indeed human and it is good to remember that, and accusations that we are indeed talking past each other. The latter strikes me as mostly on point, but there is something else going on here, I think.

I think that we are dealing with a toxic mix of things: African Americans constitute a disproportionate amount of the poor on public aid, the poor exhibit a disproportionate amount of the social pathology (great book on this subject there; this Krugman column is also pretty good), humans are more sympathetic to “winners” and we are hard wired to reason inductively.

I really believe that the elimination (or great reduction) of poverty and social segregation would go a long, long way to cure what ails us. But how to do that? And do we, as a society, really want to do that?

I think that, at least in terms of racial tension, the best atmosphere I encountered was when I was an Air Force dependent (the Navy appeared to be more racially segregated than the Air Force), and when I played sports in Japan (on teams for dependents).

But what do I know?

July 11, 2016 Posted by | social/political | , , | 2 Comments

Police shootings, Black Lives Matter and all that….

Well, these topics are emotional.

On one hand, well, the data concerning deaths of black citizens at the hands of police is harsh. And incidents such as police being KKK members or posting photos of them aiming a gun at a caricature of a black person running is terrible.

But then, protesters are protesters and they think that they have a right to shut things down (no, they don’t). I know that Donald Trump is smiling. Those morons are not convincing anyone nor are they helping their cause, at least among the unconvinced.

They seem to think “if we make ourselves into enough of a nuisance they will HAVE to give in to our demands”. But I’ve seen no evidence of that happening. I know my reaction is “hmmm, I am glad that I don’t live there and if I did, I’d be looking to leave”. But I have not studied what effect such protests have had; if a reader has a good reference, I’d like to see it.


And I’ll get to the crux of the issue: yes, the police should serve all citizens, and all too frequently the citizens that they are encountering are, well, less than exemplary. Ok, many are out and out losers that I’d rather not associate with.

But that doesn’t negate the principle of everyone being treated fairly, and it sure looks as if some people get more benefit of the doubt than others.

Oh boy. This is depressing all the way around.

July 10, 2016 Posted by | racism, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Chilly Saturday: free speech, gun violence, starting in life

Workout notes 10K run on my own; 5.1 course plus the lower 1.2 loop. It was just below freezing but sunny; there was frost on the ground. My last mile: I tried to pick it up but could only manage 9:08 for the 1.03 ending. It felt “fast”. Sadly.

But as slow as the run was (about 1:07-1:08), it was just as much fun as it ever was.

Then I gave a presentation about mathematics to some minority prospective STEM students. I hope that I didn’t bore them too much.


Conservatives and liberals: don’t try to make your conservative friend into a liberal. And no, THAT latest mass shooting won’t convince them. Here is why.

Paradox: Yes, mass shootings are up, but total gun violence and deaths are DOWN. But since the big events make the papers, we tend to worry disproportionately about these and not about the more common, more lethal mundane events. On the other hand, in our “caveman” brains, “one death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” These paradoxes go hand in hand.

Society One reason I remain in favor of affirmative action: the playing field is far from level; many young minorities start in a financial hole that others do not. Example: many minority families suffer financially when the breadwinner dies whereas those families that are headed by those who have either built up an estate or have insurance do not. Minority young people graduate with more student debt and receive less financial help from families early on in life.

Politics No, I do not approve of “activists” going to a speech and shouting down the speaker. You are entitled to free speech but not to a captive audience.

December 5, 2015 Posted by | politics, politics/social, running | , | Leave a comment

Jeb Bush’s “longer hours” statement, skepticism and tribalism …

Jeb Bush said that Americans should work longer hours. You can see the short video here. Now, we need to understand what he meant by that. Of course, there are part time people who would like to have full time jobs:

There are arguments that more people need to be working (there are also good arguments to the contrary). And there is a real problem with underemployment – people who are involuntarily working less 40 hours a week. But Bush didn’t say that more people need to be working (questionable) or that more people need to be able to get full-time jobs (true). He said people need to work longer hours.

But that is not how it came out; it sure came out as if Gov. Bush thinks that Americans are, well, slacking? Or, is it the contention that we should make better jobs so that those working part time can go to full time if so desired?

Paul Krguman takes this on; he sees this as a continuation of Gov. Romney’s 47 percent remarks and entrenched Republican beliefs:

At my adventure in Las Vegas, one of the questions posed by the moderator was, if I remember it correctly, “What would you do about America’s growing underclass living off welfare?” When I said that the premise was wrong, that this isn’t actually happening, there was general incredulity — this is part of what the right knows is happening. When Jeb Bush — who is a known admirer of Charles Murray — talks about more hours, he’s probably thinking largely about getting the bums on welfare out there working.

As I asked a few months ago, where are these welfare programs people are supposedly living off? TANF is tiny; what’s left are EITC, food stamps, and unemployment benefits. Spending on food stamps and UI soared during the slump, but came down quickly; overall spending on “income security” has shown no trend at all as a share of GDP, with all the supposed growth in means-tested programs coming from Medicaid:


Krugman goes on to point out that the percentage of people on disability is flat, *once one corrects for age*. Remember that the longer one lives, the more likely one is to have a physical condition that is disabling.

But alas, the conservatives cannot divorce themselves from what “they know”, even if it is “not so.”

I see that is a human tendency; liberals are not immune to it either. Steven Pinker talks about the “blank slate” hypothesis here..and yes this “blank slate” hypothesis is very popular among the social justice warrior crowd.

It is also tough for humans to see things through the eyes of others, and it is tough to not feel attacked when one’s basic assumptions are challenged. You see frustration with that in John Metta’s sermon on racism.

Frankly, I think that is human nature to rebel when one’s fundamental assumptions are attacked. After all, we’ve believed those assumptions for a long time, and often the person who is attacking those assumptions might not be that intellectually distinguished, and they might be wrong about other things. Their arguments may be weak or contain gaping holes. But nevertheless, they might be right, even if their argument isn’t.

Having a science like skepticism toward the beliefs of others is easy. Having it toward ones OWN beliefs is hard, and I wonder if such skepticism is rare outside of science.

This is really a sticky topic when we talk about things like racism and sexism. Here is a point from Metta’s sermon. He talks about his prior discussions with his white aunt:

Those, however, are facts that my aunt does not need to know. She does not need to live with the racial segregation and oppression of her home. As a white person with upward mobility, she has continued to improve her situation. She moved out of the area I grew up in– she moved to an area with better schools. She doesn’t have to experience racism, and so it is not real to her.

Nor does it dawn on her that the very fact that she moved away from an increasingly Black neighborhood to live in a White suburb might itself be a aspect of racism. She doesn’t need to realize that “better schools” exclusively means “whiter schools.”

Now I challenge the notion that “better schools” means “whiter schools”; it can mean that, of course, but mostly it means “a school for wealthier people” or a “better funded school”. Believe me, I’d choose my racially mixed Department of Defense schools over most of the predominately white schools I’ve seen.

But I think that some of these unhelpful feelings are the result of human beings being tribal and humans tending to reason inductively. Here is what I mean: if you aren’t black, you probably don’t have many close black friends; you might notice a few athletes (“hey blacks are good at sports!”) and see a drug bust on TV (“hey…it is unfortunate that so many criminals happen to be black”) or you might see a black person hitting you up for money (as frequently happens where I live right now; in my prior location the panhandlers were white). So, your brain makes an unhelpful inference based on a tiny, non-random sample.

On the other hand: the white criminal or panhandler is seen as a negative outlier; after all there are many counter-examples in your life that you see every day. The white murderer: sociopath. The white who attacks people out of the blue: crazy.

Quickly: is she a “thug” and representative of violent “white culture”, or is she a druggie or mentally ill?

But when a black person does it, the human tendency is to draw an inference, however inaccurate.

But: I do NOT see white people as being unusually evil; in fact, if the world were created just a bit different and this were a time of black people dominating, I doubt that they would behave much differently. I know that my brown ancestors (Aztecs) happily enslaved and murdered their opponents when they could do so; it just so happens that when my Spanish ancestors got there, my Aztec ancestors got their asses kicked and my Spanish ancestors were less than gracious winners.

Nevertheless, black people in our society, have a “draining from 100 cuts” existence. The cuts might be individually small, but the toll they take accumulates.

Sometimes, our human nature, which may have worked for us from 50K to 1K years for us, works against us right now.

So, I’ll just conclude by saying something that will probably offend many of my liberal friends AND my conservative friends alike:

Yes, our society has some structural racism built in it, and it is a good thing to work and remedying that. But this does NOT mean that white people have any special reason to “feel guilty” either. I do think that we all have a responsibility to help build a less racist society though even if that means giving a little.

I think of it this way: if your neighbor had their house burned down and their wealth plundered, wouldn’t helping out be the right thing to do, even if you had no part in either the plundering or the burning? I realize that analogy is imperfect and that the situation is more complicated than that.

July 11, 2015 Posted by | political/social, racism, social/political | , , , , , , | Leave a comment