Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Fighting Racism With Collectivism is No Way to Exterminate Racism

Fighting racism. That is the subject of a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column by Khadijah Costley White, assistant professor in the School of Communication and Information, Rutgers-New Brunswick.

In I've suffered from racism in N.J. Here's one way to fight it, White recounts an encounter with racism as a little girl, with a group of white brats yelling racial epithets at White, who is black.

White casts substantial blame on the media; specifically, how it gives disproportionately large coverage of blacks who commit crimes as opposed to whites. There may be something to it. White is a “media studies professor”. I’m in no position to question this expert. But I think the problem of racism is much deeper than media coverage. I left these comments, citing quotes from White’s article along the way:

“Put simply, racism is the belief that one racial group is superior to another . . .”
That’s a good start. Fundamentally, racism is about group identity.* But then the message gets lost in a swamp of groupism:
There are a lot of measures in society where white people do better than black people - health, education, housing, intelligence tests -- all sorts of measures where whites fare better than black Americans.

Why is that? If you believe that whites do better than black people because there's something wrong with black people -- either culturally, that the way black kids are raised or their parents' values, or if you think that there's something biologically inferior about black people that makes them genetically inferior to whites -- that's just the very definition of racism.

Statistical measures tell you nothing about racism. Statistics are an average drawn among many individuals. I’ve been around long enough—worked with, played with, associated with and observed people of all races and backgrounds in my 69 years—to learn that you can learn nothing about any individual’s racial views by studying statistics. Not everyone is a racist and not everyone experiences racism—or experiences it the same, or deals with it the same. Likewise, you can learn nothing about any individual’s character by looking at statistics. You can learn nothing about the reasons for any individual’s achievement, or lack thereof, by looking at statistics. Or his intelligence, or education, or other “societal measures”. Any judging of individuals according to “paint-with-a-broad-brush” racial group affiliation is racist but, more practically, utterly illogical and useless. Yet that is the implied worldview of the “measures in society” standard the author uses.

I’ve been wondering if the writer is just so indoctrinated into collectivism that she innocently never considered any approach other than groupthink. Or, more is the writer cynically using racism to sneak in a socialist/egalitarian agenda? This statement hints at the latter:
Either you believe all people are equal and there’s something very wrong in our society that makes it so one group fares much better than the rest, or you don’t believe in equality at all.

Groups don’t “fare”. Groups don’t do anything. A group is only a number of individuals. The individual, not the group, is the unit of humanity that actually exists. Only individuals “fare”—think, choose values and goals, work or not, ambitiously apply themselves or not, succeed or fail, flourish or stagnate—each according to her unique personal circumstances, attributes, and above all content of character.

Equality is not a matter to “believe in” or not. It is a matter of recognizing facts. Human nature is such that inequality is an irrevocable natural fact, like the law of gravity. People, as individuals, are unequal in ability, ambition, values, interests, upbringing, moral character, looks, associations, even luck, to name just a few of the myriad respects that people are unequal. Like a huge global blizzard with no two snowflakes alike, what we refer in the abstract as “humanity” consists of autonomous individuals no two of whom are exactly alike. Existentially, humans are unequal. This natural inequality does not mean that people are, qua individual, morally unequal. “All men,” regardless of race, gender, genetic or cultural heritage, etc., “are created equal”—equal, that is, in our basic humanity as beings of reason. But beyond the basics, people differ, starting with the choice to use their reason or not, to think or not. This is why people can only be equal in one respect—the individual rights that guarantee legal freedom to pursue one’s own happiness and to keep and control whatever one achieves in life, so long as one’s actions don’t violate the same rights of others. When left free, their rights protected by government and law equally and at all times, people will always achieve unequally based on myriad factors that have nothing to do with race. Inequality in how we each “fare”—in outcome of whatever efforts we exert—is not wrong. It is a sign of justice.

To believe that groups should fare equally is to effectively dismiss as insignificant the lives and achievements of each individual; it’s to say that none of us had anything to do with our station in life. To equalize individual outcomes requires the cutting down and destruction of individual achievers, because by definition, anyone who achieves anything, on any level, in any area of human endeavor, is unequal to those who didn’t achieve it. To equalize racial groups is to cut down individual achievers, based solely on the color of skin. That, by definition, is racism. We should protect individual rights equally before the law. Any attempt to equalize group outcomes, and thus equalize individual outcomes, is utopian—that is, contrary the the laws of human nature—and thus destructive, unfair, and inhuman.

Eradicating racism, however overt or subtle, is a worthy fight—and the subtle kind is the hardest. To identify and oppose overt racism, such as harassment by name calling, is the easy part. To root out and oppose the subtle racism that people won’t openly admit to, maybe not even to themselves, but which may be hinted at in group statistics can not be fought with socialistic or egalitarian outcome-equalizing coercive government policies (We can and should, however, eliminate economic policies that stifle individual upward mobility). The fight against racism is philosophical. If “racism is the belief that one racial group is superior to another,” then individualism is the belief that all individuals should be judged by individual characteristics related to personal choice, regardless of race.

Whatever the media’s role in perpetuating racist attitudes, our deepest convictions relating to individualism versus collectivism is the fundamental issue. To measure group against group is to foster collectivism, which is to foster racism. When you collectivize problems of individuals (“. . . health, education, housing, intelligence tests -- all sorts of measures where whites fare better than black Americans”), it is no surprise when people offer collectivist speculations as to the why (it’s “black culture”, “black parenting”, “black values”, “black biology”)—even from people who, in their private associations, are not racist. I don’t offer collective generalizations, because I’m consciously anti-collectivism/pro-individualism. But when you frame the issue in collectivist terms, people who have not thought things through philosophically—even non-racists—may be drawn to racist, collectivistic broad-brush explanations. Applying the logic of the author's analysis, I’d have to ignore the achievements, the intelligence, the character, the actions, the ideas of each person I meet, and judge the person according to the group the person “belongs” to—according to skin color rather than content of character. That is racism. You can’t fight racism with collectivism, because racism is collectivism. The only antipode to collectivism is individualism.

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* [I prefer philosopher Ayn Rand’s broader definition of racism:
Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. 
Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control.

Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.]

Related Reading:

Racism—Ayn Rand

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of problems with Rand's definition of racism. Most significantly it is based on a blank slate view of human nature is wrong.

This video goes into some of the problems:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyKI685eBJk

-Steve Jackson

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Thanks for the link.

Rand never claimed that, on average, there are no differences among groups. But an average is not an individual, the only human entity that actually exists. An average drawn among many individuals tells you nothing about any specific individual. It is not racist to study groups in the aggregate. It is racist to judge a specific individual according to his group average, especially with regard to the attributes over which he has choice, such as his ambition, political opinions, actions, and other considerations that together make up the content of his mind and moral character.

Nor did she ever argue that people don’t differ in specific attributes--or subscribe to some irrational egualitarian “ideal”. Beyond the common capacities of free will and reason that distinguishes man from other species, differences abound among individuals, both within and between races, including the potentiality of one’s cognitive apparatus. I don’t know what is meant by Rand’s alleged “blank slate view of human nature.” What Objectivism does hold is that the content of a person’s mind is fully in control of the individual, not genetically inherited-- “tabula rasa”, as Aristotle put it.

Yes, studies indicate that average group characteristics differ. Those who identify these differences are not racist for simply pointing out facts. One is racist if one automatically ascribes the average results to each and every individual that makes up that group. As Rand observes in the same essay, “A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race—and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.”

I disagree with Rand on numerous issues, including about a woman president and her moral view of homosexuality (mentioned in the video). But Rand’s definition and analysis of racism is spot on, in my view. The video attacks a straw man. It cherrypicks the opening phrase, and ignores the rest.

madmax said...

"One is racist if one automatically ascribes the average results to each and every individual that makes up that group."

And one is a racial egalitarian, ie an advocate of the blank slate view of human nature That Rand and you believe in, if one judges a group by the productivity and intelligence of that group's right tail members; ie thinking that blacks as a group are the equivalent of Thomas Sowell. You judge individuals by their individual behavior and you judge groups by their group behavior. To do otherwise is a category error. But I know as a Randian the very idea of "judging groups by the standards of a group" goes against your atomistic individualist religion. And it is a religion. It sure as hell isn't science.

Europeans and North East Asians have, trough their respective histories, culled their lower classes by limiting the breeding rates of the less intelligent and more impulsive. This was in response to the harsh winters faced by the northern races. Greater cognitive skills and thus less impulsive populations resulted. Those races therefore developed the ability to create *high trust* societies and the *institutions* necessary for advanced civilization. The Western Europeans were the best at this. Blacks, browns and other equatorial region people did not develop this way. Including them in your society, and I mean their full bell curves not just the talented right tail members (ie Thomas Sowell), is destructive to the shared commons (institutions both real and normative) necessary for all the things you libertarians want (private property, liberty, leisure, arts, etc).

Show me one place on Earth or in history where multi-racialism worked; ie didn't implode? Brazil? India? The ME? The racial kinship model is the only proven way to build a great society. We are about to get a lesson in this as the Chinese (and the North East Asians by extension) become the *dominant* political and economic power on this earth. They practice racial exclusivity. Whites around the world are going to get jealous. I already am.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

"Show me one place on Earth or in history where multi-racialism worked; ie didn't implode?"

The United States of America, because based on individualism. America can implode, but only if it abandons its individualist roots and reverts to the tribalism that has dominated history. The collectivists are working hard at bringing that about.

Mike Kevitt said...

Mr. LaFerrara: These 2 guys flat out, bare faced ignore and evade your arguments, just like the big boys (and girls) in 'government' do. Mr. madmax deliberately substitutes multi-racism for individualism. Mr. Anomynous deliberately smears government and private discrimination as illegal with no reference to any moral factor. (They're both immoral, but only government discrimination is illegal, regardless of legislation or no legislation.) People like them must be ignored (but not evaded) if possible. (The big boys, and girls, in 'government' can't be ignored.)

Racism is a form of collectivism. That's why collectivism is no way to exterminate racism. Collectivism oks racism along with all other forms of collectivism.

As for the 'blank slate', that means people, at birth, have no abstract, conceptual knowledge, and they don't gain any of it for a while after birth. But, they gain sensory perceptual data before birth. That gives them a 'leg up' on gaining abstract, conceptual knowledge after birth. If "tabula rasa" means not genetically inherited, then, people are tabula rasa for their whole lives. Let's clear up the terminology.

Mike Kevitt said...

I must clear one thing up in my comment immediately above. I said, "(They're both immoral,...)" That meant government and private discrimination, not Anomynous and madmax.

Anonymous said...

"Rand never claimed that, on average, there are no differences among groups. But an average is not an individual, the only human entity that actually exists."

She did deny that group differences in intelligence and behavior have a genetic component. Granted she was writing before Arthur Jensen's '69 essay and The Bell Curve, but we now know that she was wrong. And this error is significant. The reason is because low IQ is correlated to a number of undesirable character traits including criminality, welfare dependency and drug use. So if Detroit were made up of whites with an IQ of 85 it would pretty much look like the Detroit of today.

"One is racist if one automatically ascribes the average results to each and every individual that makes up that group. As Rand observes in the same essay, 'A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race—and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.'"

But no one says you attribute the average qualities of a group to every member of a group. There are smart blacks and dumb blacks but if you get more than 20 or so the law of averages takes over. I doubt the most benighted Southern racist though that all blacks were the same. The people who bombed black churches were racists because they though it was ok to violate the rights of a certain group. The typical segregationist probably though that blacks as a group were none too bright and didn't want to associate with them.

And as Michael Levin said, if all you know about a guy is that he is a member of a group that has an IQ of 85 and a third of whose male members are either in prison or on probation or parole you know something about him. Because time is short and knowledge hard to come by it is generally best to exclude black doctors if you are searching for a new doctor. The chance you will find the next Ben Carson is slim. (Of course affirmative action doesn't help.) As Levin also said, nothing is more important than the cause of these group differences because when whites are confronted with demands for affirmative action and reparations, political correctness prohibits whites from giving the appropriate response: "Call it God or evolution, but whites are not responsible for the low black IQ which results in such high rates of black poverty." (I'm paraphrasing.)

-Steve Jackson

Anonymous said...

__________________

"Show me one place on Earth or in history where multi-racialism worked; ie didn't implode?"

The United States of America, because based on individualism. America can implode, but only if it abandons its individualist roots and reverts to the tribalism that has dominated history. The collectivists are working hard at bringing that about.

__________________

But the US was never (and still isn't) a multiracial society. Even 50 years after the Immigration Act of 65 it is still almost 75% white.

I also think it is a mistake to say the US was founded on one principle, such as individualism. It was founded on a few general principles such as limited government, Protestantism, individual freedom and most importantly a European identity. You might find this hard to believe but the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited citizenship to "Free Europeans of good character." Native Americans weren't made citizens until 1924.

-Steve Jackson

Anonymous said...

Mutiracialism doesn't work - just consider Brazil and Mexico. And things are bad there notwithstanding that the White elite still runs the government. And when things get really bad, as in South Africa, we will see the complete dispossession of whites and their property (as happened in Rhodesia).

California is multi-racial and it is starting to look like a third world country. It has the highest rate of poverty and welfare dependency in the US. Its prisons are filled with immigrants and their children. Gang violence between Blacks and Hispanics is endemic. There are tent cities all over the place.

-Steve Jackson

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kevitt,

I do believe private discrimination should be legal (including racially restrictive housing covenants). I do not think it is necessarily immoral.

-SJ

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

“But the US was never (and still isn't) a multiracial society.”

You could have fooled me. I’m 69 and I have and do intermingle and associate with people of all different races, both in and out of work.

“I also think it is a mistake to say the US was founded on one principle, such as individualism. It was founded on a few general principles such as limited government, Protestantism, individual freedom and most importantly a European identity.”

Individualism is the foundation that encompasses many derivative principles (limited government, individual freedom, etc). But the concept is universal. It’s true that Americans didn’t fully live up to the principle. But “all men are created equal”--equal, I must stress, in their basic humanity as beings of reason and free will, not natural attributes or moral character--applies to all men, regardless of race, gender, etc., not just to a particular race or religious sect.

Every instance of multiracial cultures that didn't or don’t “work”, cited here, are at root a result of tribalism/collectivism--of which individualism is the antipode.

Anonymous said...

"Every instance of multiracial cultures that didn't or don’t 'work', cited here, are at root a result of tribalism/collectivism--of which individualism is the antipode.

Spain is socialist and has a moderately high standard of living.

Portugal is socialist and has a moderately high standard of living.

Why then are socialist Brazil and Mexico poor?

Are you seriously maintaining that low IQ population groups can create functioning industrial societies? There is no example of that in history. Or do you believe that, contrary all scientific evidence, that there is a substantial genetic component to group differences in intelligence?

-SJ

Anonymous said...

I meant to say: 'Or do you believe that, contrary all scientific evidence, that there is no substantial genetic component to group differences in intelligence?'

-SJ