Race Realism and Symbolic Conflation

My last post, in response to a race realist, was mostly written for my own amusement. It wasn’t a particularly serious post. Something about that kind of intellectual dishonesty is compelling. But I wonder how much of it is self-deception, being taken in by one’s own ideological rhetoric.

I had no desire to analyze race realism to any great degree because it ultimately isn’t about race. It’s similar to how, when conservatives argue for pro-life, it isn’t really about abortion. And it’s similar to how, when apologists argue about the Bible, it isn’t really about historicity.

When you accept their framing, there is no way for the debate to go anywhere because the purpose of the frame is obfuscation, as much to cloud their own mind as to defend against criticism. This is particularly clear with apologetics in being used as a tool of indoctrination for young missionaries, since the purpose isn’t so much to convert unbelievers as to further convert the already converted, the missionary strengthening their own ideological worldview. Maybe there is an element to this with any ideological debate.

This is something that has fascinated me for a long time. I’ve pretty much given up on online debates. I’ve been involved in too many of them and they rarely if ever go anywhere. I’ve changed my mind about many things over my lifetime. And on most issues, I don’t have a strong opinion. But it’s hard to argue with an ideologue when one isn’t an ideologue. The problem is that most people interested in ‘debate’ are ideologues.

There is no way I can ‘win’ a debate with an ideologue because there is no way for a real debate to even happen. As long as the ideologue determines the frame, he can never lose and he will simply go around and around in circles. Try to debate a religious apologist sometime and you will quickly see the power of ideological rhetoric. Apologists can be masterful debaters for the very reason that intellectual honesty isn’t their motivation. They will never concede any point nor fairly deal with any criticism.

Here is the problem for me about race realism. I’m neither an anti-environmentalist hereditarian nor an anti-hereditarian environmentalist. The entire nature vs nurture frame of the debate is meaningless, as it can’t speak to what we actually know in terms of scientific research. Such a debate within such a frame becomes a battle of ideological rhetoric, having little to do with seeking truth and understanding. Ideologues tend to like meaningless frames because they are more interested in the frame and the agenda behind it than they are in the topic itself. To be fair, these frames aren’t entirely meaningless, just that they don’t mean what they superficially appear to mean.

This is the only part that interests and concerns me. I want to understand what motivates such behavior, what makes such a mindset possible, what locks in place such a worldview. It isn’t just ideologues or rather everyone has the potential to be drawn into an ideologue’s mindset. Our minds are constantly being bombarded by ideological rhetoric. Few people ever learn to escape the frames that have been forced onto them, often since childhood. We pick up frames from parents, teachers, ministers, reporters, politicians, etc. And these frames are immensely powerful.

I’ve been trying to understand what this all means for years now. It’s the main project of my blogging. It is what led me to formulate my theory about symbolic conflation.

I realized that race realism is a great example of how this works. Race realism effectively uses political correctness, just-so stories, social constructs, etc… and all of this fits into symbolic conflation. Ideas are taken as reality, speculations as facts. The purpose isn’t to argue about the science but to use it for purposes of rhetoric, to shore up the racialized social order. This is why the race realist can never honestly deal with heritability and confounding factors, since it really has nothing to do with the science taken on its own terms.

Race is used as a proxy for other things: class, social control, etc. What makes a social construct so powerful is that it is taken as reality. The symbol is conflated with the world itself. The symbol becomes embedded within every aspect of thought and perception. It is unimaginable to the race realist that race might not be real. It is at the core of their entire sense of reality.

So, why is race so useful for this purpose? Like abortion, it touches upon the visceral and emotional, the personal and interpersonal. The symbol isn’t just conflated with reality but is internalized and felt within the body itself, expressed through embodied thought. The symbol becomes concretely real. Then the symbol takes on a life of its own. Only personal trauma or other severe psychological experience could cause it to become dislodged.

Social constructs aren’t just ideas. Or to put it another way, ideas aren’t mere abstractions. We are embodied beings and social animals. Ideas always are deeply apart of who we are. The most powerful ideas are those that aren’t experienced as ideas. An idea, as a symbol, may not be objectively true. But that doesn’t stop it from being experienced as though objectively real.

Something like race realism can’t be debated. This is because it is the frame of debate. The frame of debate can’t be changed through debate. As I once explained, “Rationality must operate within a frame, but it can’t precede the act of framing.” The moment the frame is accepted as the basis of the debate, what follows is inevitable. Debate becomes a way of making it difficult to challenge the frame itself. As such, debate is a distraction from the real issue. It isn’t about race realism. It’s about an entire worldview and social order, an entire identity and way of being in the world. The more it is debated the stronger the frame becomes, the more deeply the symbol becomes conflated with everything it touches.

This isn’t just about those other people. This happens to the best of us. We all exist within reality tunnels. But some reality tunnels are more useful and less harmful than others. The trick is to learn to hold lightly any and all symbolic thought, to catch yourself before full conflation sets in. The imaginative mind needs to be made conscious. That is the closest humans ever come to freedom.

25 thoughts on “Race Realism and Symbolic Conflation

    • There were others who made such predictions. But it is interesting that someone like Sanders talked about this to a DNC crowd. The establishment had to have heard what he said and yet they didn’t take it seriously. They couldn’t believe it was true because it didn’t fit their belief system or rather wasn’t compatible with their power system.

    • Or much of the present genetic diversity in certain places of greater conflict might indicate recent wars, droughts, famines, refugee crises, and such that have forced shifting of populations and created stress.

  1. Ah! “Social construct” – that’s the term I’ve been groping for. My latest posts is on exactly this theme, but I’ve been saying “meme” and “metaphor.” This is where your mind and mine meet, I think. I haven’t finished the thought yet, only posted a Part #1 so far. I said “schools of thought” somewhere and now I’ll edit, make it “social constructs.”

    • That is something that has interested me for a while. It is an odd thing. And it is more than a mere idea. Social constructs get built into the social order. They have very real consequences.

      I see that related to political ideology. Most Americans, when given a forced choice between liberal and conservative, self-identify as conservative (although when given other choices, they prefer those other choices). Yet Most Americans, when asked about what they believe and support, demonstrate that they are fairly liberal on a wide variety of major issues.

      This is what is called the difference between symbolic ideology and operational ideology. I’ve come to see symbolic ideology as being ideology as a social construct. It is frames what we perceive and how we think. But it can do so by blinding us to self-awareness. This is how the majority doesn’t realize they are a majority because they are divided by a social construct of symbolic ideology.

  2. “I prep students for the SAT and the ACT. One of the things the SAT tests is idiomatic prepositions. For example, in English we say we are “suspicious of” someone or something. We don’t say “suspicious from” or “suspicious to” or “suspicious under.” Other languages may use a different preposition, or even none at all. I have noticed that students whose first language is not English OR whose parents’ first language is not English tend to miss these questions. As in when they read a sentence with this type of error in it, they don’t notice. This is true even if the student was born in the US and speaks English without an accent. It’s even true if, in their speaking and writing, they use the correct prepositions. “

    • That is the kind of cultural and linguistic factor that can have major influence on intelligence testing (along with other biases such as stereotype effect). These factors can be diverse and hard to detect, much less control for, in order to create better tests. It would be interesting to design tests according to various cultural biases and then see the results of people with different cultural backgrounds.

  3. As the food gets crappier and crappier, more and more Americans are dying from cancer. It wasn’t this way when farms were open air and cows ate grass.

    • I’m a strong believer that diet makes a big difference. That is based on both research I’ve seen and on personal experience. There are few things more important than diet. And the modern American diet is horrible, even ignoring all the artificial chemicals we consume.

      BTW please put comments like this in the Open Thread. Thanks! I don’t want to clutter up the comments section of posts like this.

    • In the past, race was another word for ethnicity. Different ethnicities were thought of as separate races. But now race is used to suppress ethnicity. Think about it. Whites in the US are still a majority, if only barely. European ethnicities taken separately are just a bunch of minority groups, no different than Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, etc.

      The majority has to be invented (and constantly reinvented) in order to maintain control. This is why a new white race will develop to include Hispanic Americans, so as to ensure the white majority remains. It’s irrelevant that it is simply a fiction. It’s a powerful narrative with real consequences, especially through politics.

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