Racial Reality Tunnel

The worldview of race is so embedded in our society that it has for centuries been our collective reality tunnel. We don’t even know how to talk about it without using race-based language. Race just seems real to us.

Of course, we have reasons to give for why it seems real, but the reasons are secondary. It isn’t an issue of an opposition between rationality and irrationality. Racialism is both pre-rational and rationalizing.

Far from denying the rationality of those who have accepted either belief as truth about the world, we assume it. We are interested in the processes of reasoning that manage to make both plausible. Witchcraft and racecraft are imagined, acted upon, and re-imagined, the action and imagining inextricably intertwined. The outcome is a belief that “presents itself to the mind and imagination as a vivid truth.” So wrote W. E. H. Lecky, a British scholar of Europe’s past who, looking back from the nineteenth century, tried to understand how very smart people managed for a very long time to believe in witchcraft. He warned that it takes “a strong effort of the imagination … [to] realise the position of the defenders of the belief.” To “realise,” in his sense, is to picture a bygone real world of normally constituted people who accepted, as obviously true, notions that the real world of one’s own present dismisses as obviously false. What if we Americans applied that “strong effort ” to our present? Only if we imagined racecraft as a thing in itself worth scrutiny might we imagine ourselves outside or beyond the belief.

Fields, Barbara J.; Fields, Karen (2012-10-09). Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life
by Barbara J. Fields and Karen Fields
pp. 19-20

The feeling of it being real is prior to conscious thought. We are raised in this worldview and for most of us we have never known anything else. It is a self-contained worldview and  a self-fulfilling prophesy. Its sociopolitical enactment creates its own evidence which proves the reality, necessity and inevitability of its enactment.

Then and there, cause and effect disappear into the smoky notion of “witches”— by definition, people who can “do accursed things ” that, by definition, are the things witches can do. Like pure races a while ago, Luther’s witches enter the world, and come to matter therein, not by observation and experience but by circular reasoning. Neither “witch” nor “pure race” has a material existence. Both are products of thought, and of language. Having no material existence, they cannot have material causation. Strictly speaking, Luther’s explanation omitted nothing essential.

Witchcraft has no moving parts of its own, and needs none . It acquires perfectly adequate moving parts when a person acts upon the reality of the imagined thing ; the real action creates evidence for the imagined thing. By that route, belief of that sort constantly dumps factitious evidence for itself into the real world . In Luther’s day, learned jurists and ecclesiastics produced mountains of such evidence. The specialized language of the proceedings generated evidence by shaping routine modes of narrating invisible (nay, impossible) events. The very pageantry of witchcraft trials yielded more evidence, and drastic executions of “accursed” people still more of it, a kind of material proof that bad things happen to bad people. Lecky concluded: “If we considered witchcraft probable, a hundredth part of the evidence we possess would have placed it beyond the region of doubt.” Correspondingly, if Ripley’s readers had considered racecraft improbable, his classification would have trapped him well within the region of doubt. In both instances, there was vast and varied evidence, but of what?

Of products of imagining, “realised” in everyday practice. Here , paraphrased , is an exchange between an unbelieving interviewer with the American children or grandchildren of European immigrants who believed in the evil eye: Q: How does the evil eye work? A: Some people are known to have it. Q: How do you know that? A: I have seen X’s remedy work. Q: Is it always effective? A: I know for a fact that it worked for So-and-so. Today, as in the sixteenth century, logical hopscotch of that kind is the warp and woof of banal sociability. The talkers respond to, but ignore, the interviewer’s question about the mechanism of the evil eye. It exists, period. The interviewer does not press, and does not need to. Those present do not query assumptions, the nature of available evidence, or the coherence of their reasoning from that evidence. What they know they know intimately, but not well. Such is the stuff that racecraft is made of. It occupies a middle ground between science and superstition , an invisible realm of collective understandings, a half-lit zone of the mind’s eye.

Dr. Watson was operating within it when he prophesied breakthroughs in genetics to account for things that happen when white people like him “have to deal with black employees.” That a scientist of his stature slipped into that half-light demonstrates the ease with which scientific and non-scientific thinking conflate in the minds of individuals. Had he been chatting over his back fence with a like-minded (or risk-averse) neighbor, rather than to a battalion of journalists, there would have been no uproar. And the world would have missed a sober lesson: Science is forever dogged by those seductive cousins and ancient antagonists which Francis Bacon named “Idols of the Tribe.” In their grip, Luther, a powerful dialectician, held both a workaday notion of cause and effect and a phantasmic folk belief that contradicted it, and so, too, did his learned contemporaries. Lecky again: “The acutest lawyers and ecclesiastics confronted evidence that extends to tens of thousands of cases, in almost every country of Europe.” For them, as for less well-educated people, there was little to impose the idea of absurdity or of improbability on stories about “old women riding on broomsticks.”

pp. 22-24

I realized the power of this social construct when I was once again looking at the genetic data.

The United States is apparently the only country in the world with a bimodal distribution of racial genetics, despite the fact that there are many other countries including both European and African ancestry. The reason for this relatively distinct genetic division of races exists at all (although still not as distinct as the racialists would prefer) is because of centuries of what amounts to eugenics public policies and socially oppressive practices such as miscegenation laws. The pure races of black and white didn’t exist as a natural reality but was only created (and never fully) through careful enforcement of the social construct. No one ever said beliefs weren’t powerful.

It is sort of like claiming that your belief is true and real and that someone’s belief is false and not real. You can kill or banish everyone in that group and so eliminate their beliefs. In doing that, you have proven that their beliefs don’t exist by the fact that they literally no longer exist (you can even wipe out all documents that gave any evidence of their existence) and, through Social Darwinism, you have proven that your religious beliefs are better. That isn’t unlike what happened in America. Those who fought against the racial order, especially blacks, disproportionately had their ideas and genetics removed from being passed onto future generations.

Evidence that supports is thusly created and evidence contradicting it is eliminated or made to seem irrelevant. It’s not just that race is a social construct. The societies and social orders we live in are themselves socially constructed and act as proof for the validity and reality of the social construct.

This, however, requires constant enforcement with threats of fines, imprisonment, violence, death, and/or banishment. The miscegenation laws have only been ended a half century or so. Yet already the racial divisions are breaking down. When given freedom to act according to their inborn human nature, people will marry and have children with a diversity of people, as is proven by the increasing number of interracial marriages and children. Some research even shows that people with more mixed genetics appear more attractive.

What about here and now? Americans acquire in childhood all it takes to doubt stories of witchcraft, but little in our childhood leads us to doubt racecraft. For us, as for bygone believers in witches, daily life produces an immense accumulation of supporting evidence for the belief. Think no further than the media -borne miscellany of things tabulated “by race ”— from hardy perennials like teenage pregnancy to novelties like “under-representation” among blood donors and “disproportionate representation” on Twitter, constantly churning out factitious evidence for an ever-expanding American immensity, the so-called racial divide. A recent instance , carried out under the sign of sociological theory, includes familiar features: for example, mapping genomic data onto “census” (that is, folk) racial categories and assuming a genetic origin for social conduct, with the absent supporting evidence expected any day now. Lecky’s subjects had authoritative sources in the science and law of the day. So do we. For them, but no less for us, it often is (or seems) “impossible for so much evidence to accumulate around a conception which has no basis in fact.” To them, witchcraft was obvious, not odd.

p. 24

Most Americans are born in and grow up in America. They’re never seriously confronted with entirely different social orders that would challenge their racial views.

Even in visiting Europe, the social order isn’t so alien as to necessarily challenge the American worldview, although some black Americans have noted the vast differences. Many European countries don’t put much emphasis on white versus black and instead focus on other divisions such as Protestant versus Catholic, upper classes versus lower classes or even Western versus non-Western. Black Americans aren’t necessarily seen as any more ‘other’ to many Europeans than how white Americans are seen.

Still, it requires an entirely non-Western country in order to get the experience of having one’s racial assumptions fully thrown back in one’s face. Eugene Robinson was shocked that dark-skinned people he met in Brazil denied they were black. They didn’t live in the American reality tunnel. They recognized race as a social construct specific to a particular culture rather than a universal truth of human reality. Eugene Robinson couldn’t accept this and argued they were in denial. It was just real because he knew it was real. Everything about his experience in America proved it was real.

The American racial order is something that has to be constantly created again and again with each generation. We aren’t born knowing races. Infants and young children do begin to pick up racial cues from adults, but full enculturation/indoctrination takes many years to solidify into a fully realized worldview that dominates one’s every thought and perception.

If one is able to recollect one’s earliest memories, one would find some early experience(s) that demonstrated a non-racial understanding or the beginnings of racial consciousness. In my readings, I’ve come across numerous examples of people telling of such memories. I’ve read about a white man in the South who remembers the first time he was made to understand why a dark-skinned older man was a “boy”. I’ve read about other memories from Southerners of both races where they describe playing with children of a different skin color until a certain age when it suddenly became a taboo.

I too have such memories. But my having spent my early life in the North and often in liberal towns created a quite different young experience than is more common for Southerners, especially older Southerners.

In the town I live in now (Iowa City), I moved here when I was in third grade and didn’t move to the Deep South until 8th grade. Iowa City is a liberal and multicultural college town which offers a distinct experience of the world. During that period of my childhood, I went to school with a number of minorities, but I don’t recall ever thinking of them as different than anyone else nor do I remember them acting differently. Part of the reason for this was that I knew a black brother and sister who were raised by white parents and an Asian brother and sister also raised by white parents. At the same time, I knew an Asian kid raised by Asian parents. It apparently never occurred to me that the skin color of children had to match that of their parents or else it just didn’t seem important.

It was only with moving down South that I had my own culture shock. Race became real, not as a skin color but as a regional culture. I watched the same MSM as any other kid when I was growing up. I saw that black kids from the South or the Inner City acted differently, but they didn’t act in the way that the black kids I knew at school acted. I had no evidence-based reason to think those culturally different blacks were somehow categorically the same as the blacks in my school. However,  in the Deep South, everything on a daily basis sought to confirm the reality of the racial order.

In America, we tend to mix culture and class with race. This conflation forms a part of our sense of reality from a young age, if it is to form. The sense of reality forms before we ever become fully conscious of it. We don’t consciously think about ideological philosophies and then logically analyze their merit according to scientific evidence. It is only as adults that we even begin the process of questioning deeply and thinking analytically.

This is why rationalization is such an easy trap to fall into. We lack the tools to entirely look outside of our shared reality tunnel. We need to develop those tools.

Racist Ideology within Racial Terminology

“History has shown that even acknowledging that race has both a social and a scientific meaning cannot disconnect the concept from its typological and racist past (or present). Despite the best intentions of many scientists and scholars, race will always remain what Ashley Montagu once called a “trigger word; utter it and a whole series of emotionally conditioned responses follow.”41

“We are a genetically diverse species, and there is meaning in that diversity. But we as a species seem thus far unable to reliably distinguish between the scientific ramifications and the social meanings of human difference. Race is an historical, not a scientific, term. Yet, until the scourge of racism is eliminated from our lives and institutions, developing methods unburdened by racial ideology to study human difference will be an impossibility.”

A Short History of the Race Concept by Michael Yudell (p. 27)
from Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture

To merely speak of race is to inevitably and automatically elicit or even express a racist worldview, no matter your intentions (including for anti-racists). It has so far proven impossible to separate race and racism. The earliest use of race in relation to humans had a racist purpose. That purpose became built into the concept itself, built into our entire racially ordered society that justified that concept.

Study after study has demonstrated how common is racial bias and prejudice in our everyday thinking and behavior, not to mention the pervasiveness of structural racism. It is all around us and within us. We aren’t normally conscious of this. It is just what happens when you are enculturated in this kind of society and indoctrinated in this kind of political system. When a racial order has existed for centuries, it doesn’t disappear in a single generation (or two or three) just because we had a civil rights movement.

There are only two results that can come from speaking of race.

First, as I’m pointing out here, to use race (even if only with code words) is to evoke a racist worldview. With this first option, you don’t even need to speak of race directly in order to elicit the corollary racial bias and prejudice. It is already in place. You simply must not challenge it. The racism is in-built not just into the overt language of racism for the race-tinged terminology and the racial framing is always shifting (politicians, for example, have become talented in using dog-whistle politics, Reagan having been the master). That is where its power lies.

The second option is to speak as openly, clearly and bluntly as possible. No unquestioned assumptions. No code words. No political correctness, whether of the liberal or conservative variety. Like Rumplestiltskin, the power resides in knowing the name of something and stating it. This is why not speaking of race or speaking around race empowers rather than disempowers a racist worldview. The greatest fear of those most invested in a racial worldview is an open and honest discussion of race and racism. That fear must be confronted. We live in a world ruled by fear and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

I advocate for the second option. No more hiding behind words. Instead of using language to obfuscate, let us use language to communicate and discuss.

Race & Racism: Reality & Imagination, Fear & Hope

The most powerful ideas are those we don’t question. 

We maybe aren’t aware enough to think about them or we don’t know how to formulate possible doubts and criticisms. There might be something actively obstructing our ability to perceive clearly or else a cognitive stumbling block. Biases and blind spots abound.

The most important and fundamental ideas are the very ideas we are least likely to see for what they are. This is all the more true on the collective level of society and culture. An idea as a social construct becomes a part of our perception of the world and part of our shared sense of reality. This is how the most nefarious of ideological systems become reality tunnels.

Thus is the idea of race. Thus is the racism and racial bias that inevitably follows from it.

In speaking of race, to what is being referred? We don’t normally think about the idea of race itself. We just see race. It is like that famous definition of porn: You know it when you see it. The corollary being: You see it because you know it.

Now we live in a supposed post-racial society of color-blindness. The ultimate taboo is to point out the continued existence of racial bias and prejudice and the pervasiveness of structural racism, systemic and institutional. The greatest rule of political correctness is to never point to any person or organization, any system or belief as racist, to never call a spade a spade. We all are supposed to go on pretending for many fear what would happen if we were to stop. The hope is that if racial issues are ignored long enough that they will go away, but sadly this hope has proven false.

Race as a social construct has existed for so long at this point that it is hard for us to imagine a world before it or a world without it. However, it didn’t always exist. When Europeans explored and colonized, they met with all kinds of people from all over the world. They knew people were different in many ways, but the modern idea of race was yet to be formulated. What they saw were differences between cultures which were represented mostly by differences of religion and, within cultures, differences of social class or caste.

“To be sure, past peoples were ethnocentric. They frequently believed themselves culturally superior to others and sometimes exhibited the nasty habit of painting others as uncultured and brutish or savage, even to the point of justifying enslavement and killing on this basis. Yet, as any introductory cultural anthropology text will illustrate, ethnocentric and later racial logics differed significantly. These differences are most obvious with respect to characterization of human potential and the perceived connection, or lack thereof, of cultural and physical traits. Prior to the inception of race, people were much less likely to link cultural practices instinctively and irrevocably to physical differences, which were often attributed to distinct environmental conditions (Brace 2005). Nor were people necessarily inclined to believe that phenotypic diversity across groups represented inherent or essential – i.e., unbridgeable – differences in ability or character. Indeed, before race, people more readily saw through phenotypes to find deeper, behavioral similarities if not common ground. Moreover, where they deemed others to be culturally backwards in language, religion, food, adornment, or other behaviors, they tended to view these deficits as correctable. With time, learned behavioral deficiencies could be overwritten through “proper” enculturation, while inherent racial inferiority, by definition, could not.

“Again, cultural biases are far from benign and it is not our intent to rank stratification systems according to their perniciousness. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between ethnocentrism and racism because of the increasing conflation of culture and race (Harrison, chapter 17 this volume). The point here is to show the critical shift that race represents in the nature of human relations; an unfortunate shift in primary focus from learned practices and traditions toward static or fixed notions of physical and essential characteristics. In general, pre-racial conceptions of diversity did not inhibit one from recognizing and acknowledging the shared human capacity to learn and participate fully in any culture or society – irrespective of phenotypic characteristics later used to distinguish races.

“Classicist Frank Snowden (1983) clearly illustrates this fact in Before Color Prejudice, his seminal study of “the black image” in Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and early Christian art and literature. Warning against the temptation to read contemporary social issues into the historical record, Snowden observes that interactions in the ancient Mediterranean between peoples today classified as black or white – even among political and military rivals – were devoid of “acute” color consciousness and any type of racial discrimination . He points out that these societies never observed blackness as the basis of slave status.”

(Race: Are We So Different by Goodman, Moses and Jones; Kindle Locations 893-914)

The ruling elite had found such non-racial divisions to be useful enough for maintaining their power and the social order. Race hadn’t been invented for it wasn’t needed. 

There was no social context in which to see the diversity of physical features as significant and meaningful. People at that time had little understanding of biology and no understanding of genetics. Many speculated that physical features were caused by environment such that skin was dark from spending a lot of time under a hot sun. Others sought religious explanations. 

The reason race didn’t occur to them at this time was because Europeans had no concept of being the same people. An English person had no reason to feel any more identified with an Italian or Russian than with an African or Native American. As far as that goes, the English didn’t even see themselves as having much in common with the Irish, the first savages in the English worldview.

The first use of the word ‘race’ appeared in the 15th century. At that time, it meant one’s lineage, family and kin. The Enlightenment brought a more universalizing interpretation to race where everyone who even vaguely resembled you or shared your geographic region was considered as part of some larger sense of lineage, family and kin.

When the modern idea of race was invented, it would have initially seemed truly bizarre and there was much ethnocentric resistance to it. It was only the growing demands of colonization that made the idea of race seem attractive and worthy. People were trying to make sense of a newly discovered complex world, a world in which the old social order was being challenged. Racial divisions were initially a practical matter of political power, not a scientific discovery. Once implemented, though, they began to take on a life of their own.

Before slavery, there were indentured servants in Virginia of a great variety of ethnicities and skin colors. These unfree people worked together, lived together, slept together and rebelled together.

“The first Africans who arrived in Virginia colony in 1619 were not initially considered slaves . They had Spanish or Portuguese names and were familiar with European culture. Like other poor laborers, they were treated as indentured servants who could also achieve their freedom after paying their debts. Some of these Africans worked hard and acquired land, houses, livestock, and tools on their own. Historians now agree that true slavery did not exist in the early decades of the English North American colonies (see Allen 1997; Fredrickson 2002; E. Morgan 1975; P. Morgan 1998; Parent, Jr. 2003). Moreover , there is little or no evidence that Africans were treated differently from other people of the same class. They were assimilated into colonial society as were others. When they acquired land, they participated in the assembly, the governing body of the colony , voted , served on juries, and socialized with white planters.

“Historian Edmund Morgan writes,

“There is more than a little evidence that Virginians during these years were ready to think of Negroes as members or potential members of the community on the same terms as other men and to demand of them the same standards of behavior. Black men and white serving the same master worked, ate, and slept together, and together shared in escapades, escapes, and punishments. (1975: 327)

“He adds, “It was common for servants and slaves to run away together , steal hogs together, get drunk together. It was not uncommon for them to make love together” (327). Indeed, there was no stigma associated with what we today call “interracial” marriages.

“Until the early 18th century, the image of Africans among most Europeans was generally positive . They were farmers and cattle-breeders; they had industries, arts and crafts, governments, and commerce. Moreover, they had immunities to Old World diseases, they were better laborers under the tropical conditions of the southern settlements; and they had nowhere to run and hide once transplanted to the New World (E. Morgan 1975; Smedley 2007).

“There were critical reasons for the preference for Africans. As early as the 1630s, planters expressed a desire for African laborers (“ If only we had some Africans!” they wrote ). Records of plantation owners in the Caribbean and in the colonies of Virginia and Maryland reveal that Africans were initially considered a civilized and docile people who had knowledge of, and experience with, tropical cultivation. They were accustomed to discipline, one of the hallmarks of civilized behavior, as well as working cooperatively in groups. They knew how to grow corn, tobacco, sugar cane, and cotton in their native lands ; these crops were unknown in Europe. And many Africans had knowledge of metalwork, carpentry, cattle-keeping, brick-making, weaving, rope making, leather tanning, and many other skills. Colonists soon realized that without Africans, their enterprises would fail. “We cannot survive without Africans!” they claimed.”

(Kindle Locations 1239-1263)

The aristocracy in the New World were isolated and their power was precarious. For reasons unknown, it occurred to someone that the notion of race could be imposed in order to divide the oppressed against one another. It was a brilliant innovation. Seemingly out of the blue, someone imagined the possibility of a new social order. Of course, there was great incentive to consider new possibilities with the restlessness of the oppressed such as Bacon’s Rebellion.

This was the Age of Enlightenment. The ancien régime was eroding. Reactionary conservatism was being born. The new ideas that arose then have been the basis of our society ever since. Some of those ideas like race have turned out to be quite adaptable. Who is and isn’t white or caucasian has changed massively over time, but the idea is so compelling that it is ever taken as if it were an unchanging reality.

What gives a social order its potency is the cultural understandings and assumptions it is built upon. Black and white have nothing to do with objective reality. So-called whites aren’t white. They are pink or beige or olive or even the lighter shades of brown.  And so-called blacks aren’t black. If you were to walk from Germany to South Africa, you’d never come across any color division at any point, rather a slow gradation and continuum from lighter to darker. Even within Africa, there is greater genetic diversity than there is between Africans and non-Africans.

“What they found is that the average difference between any two Europeans and any two Asians was slightly greater than 0.6/ 1000 or about 15 in total. This is not so surprisingly low as it has been crudely estimated that about 99.9 percent of single nucleotide polymorphisms are identical between any two individuals. They then found very little difference between an Asian and a European. Thinking about that, this makes sense as the dividing line between these continents is permeable and rather arbitrary. More variation was found between an African, on the one hand, and either a European or Asian on the other hand, right about one variation per thousand. The shocker comes next. However, the greatest variation was found between two Africans, about 1.2 variations per thousand. Said slightly differently, there is more variation among Africans than between Africans and non-Africans.”

(Kindle Locations 4781-4787)

To translate: Many Africans are more genetically in common with non-Africans, including Europeans, than they are with many other Africans (from other regions in Africa or from other populations in the same region). It would make more genetic sense to group all non-Africans together as a single race than to group all Africans together as a single race.

With race, there is no there there. Or what is there isn’t what we think is there.

Black and white is a symbolic order, more akin to religion than science. The duality of black and white is a symbol of stories, of myths, of archetypes. In the old cowboy movies, the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys black hats. In Taoism, Yang is white and Yin is black. These color symbols touch deeply upon our collective psyche. The same goes for yellow and red as racial symbols. In using such archetypal symbolism, we are dealing with the most primitive regions of the human mind and of human society that forms from it.

It is precisely because there is no objective reality they are limited to that such symbolic orders can be so powerful in their impact on social reality. This is also what makes them so flexible and mercurial, so hard to grasp and pin down. Even to try to objectively challenge them is near impossible for that isn’t the level where resides their force of authority. Only the imagining of a new symolic order even more compelling can challenge the old.

Thinking in black and white unsurprisingly is caused by and in turn reinforces black and white thinking.

Polarized dualities have obsessed the Western mind at least since the rise of the Judeo-Christian tradition with its having been heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism and Manichaeanism. Black and white symbolism is rooted in the ancient view of Good versus Evil, of cosmic battles, of God’s chosen people righteously saving souls or else destroying the unredeemable. It wasn’t because Africans were black that they were enslaved. Rather it was because they weren’t Protestants, weren’t Christians, because they were perceived as Heathens, whether as innocents to be saved or sinners to be damned. This is why race is always mired in harsh moral judgments of superiority and inferiority instead of mere neutral observations of diversity. Our society is still dominated by a Judeo-Christian moral order.

Still, times have changed. We no longer live in a worldview of the civilized versus savages and barbarians. The racial worldview replaced and co-opted that more ancient worldview so that certain races became seen as more civilized and so more worthy in civilized society. Eventually, the curse and blessings of genetics took the place of the curse and blessings of God. Such fatalism in whatever form it takes leads to visions of manifest destiny and white man’s burden, social Darwinism just being the same old belief in new form and with new rationalization.

The development of science has been a constant challenge to these dogmatic beliefs and dualistic moralizings. Still, humans are quite talented at putting old wine into new wine skins. The language of science easily gets misleadingly used as a more subtle and nuanced defense of pre-scientific and non-scientific beliefs. This isn’t necessarily a devious plan by all involved. It is simply difficult for humans to grasp the fundamentally new and different.

Even within science, old paradigms die hard and die slowly. The dualism of nurture versus nature is such a paradigm. It has been replaced by interactionism, but many people are still trying to understand this new paradigm according to the terms of the old paradigm. The implications of interactionism are more profound and paradigm shattering than many would like to admit. It is forcing us to begin anew which means cleaning the slate of tired notions and false assumptions. The potential and plasticity of human development is proving to be more vast than even the most optimistic were able to envision in the past. Genetic determinism, specifically of races, is no longer defensible.

However, as I already explained, this ultimately isn’t an issue that pivots on careful rational analysis. Rather it is about what we collectively are able and willing to imagine. How far will we allow ourselves to follow the data toward new visions of humanity?

To understand what holds us back as a society, it is necessary to grasp the primitive level of the psyche.

Race is an idea that originated from reactionary conservatism. What makes reactionary conservatism unique is that it is how the impulse of traditionalism is transformed in response to modernity. As such, it is reformulated in terms of Enlightenment rationalism. However, the impulse itself precedes and trumps any rationalization that follows from it.

The main difference for the conservative-minded, as research has shown, is the disgust response. Even something so simple as foreign or unusual food will create a disgust response for those of a strong disgust orientation. It is an instinctual reaction, not usually even conscious. There is just a knowing sense that it is wrong. Rationalizations can and often are given, but the essence of the matter is the gut-level feeling of ‘wrongness’.

This goes along with the black and white thinking. What black and white symbolizes more than anything else is that of a boundary, an absolute and clearly demarcated boundary. Conservatism correlates to the thick boundary type. This is something I previously noted in terms of human biodiversity advocates (HBDers) and their obsession with boundaries:

What I sense with the HBD crowd is that it attracts a lot more thick boundary types or at least those with thick boundary online personas. Either way, this means that it attracts people who want to focus on topics that focus on thick boundaries and in ways that are thick boundaried. I don’t mean extreme thick boundaries, but a tendency in that direction. The emphasis of HBD is on the boundaries between ethnicities, clans, regions, nations, etc. They have less interest in that which transcends, merges and blurs boundaries.

To my thin boundary mind, boundaries are imagined things. They are only real to the extent we imagine them to be real. The thin boundary type sees a less thick or clear boundary between even imagination and reality. It is because of this mentality that I look for how people, individually and collectively, project their imaginations onto reality.

What boundaries imply is separation. The enforcement of boundaries is to prevent their crossing.

The fear behind the racial boundary is what would happen if the races aren’t kept separate. In the pre-racial mindset, there were fears of civilized man mixing with the primitive. It was feared that bad things would happen or be produced. It was believed that this is how monsters were born. With the emergence of the racial mindset, miscegenation laws were created. The fear then was that the offspring would be deformed, stupid or dangerous. In both cases, the fear was that the boundary was natural and crossing it was unnatural.

HBDers have originated yet another version of this fear. They don’t speak of monsters or miscegenation. Instead, they advocate racial and ethnic purity, although they won’t use those terms.

Outbreeding within a population is seen as good in that it leads to civilizing effects, but interbreeding with entirely separate populations is seen as bad. HBDers can’t scientifically explain why it would be bad, but they just know it would be bad. It’s not that races have always existed and must be protected. What is desired is the eventual creation of races. Many HBDers speak of dog breeds when speaking of races. Maybe they are telling more of their true intentions than they would want to admit to. Dog breeds don’t happen naturally. They are forced into creation through socially enforced breeding that is manipulated by a ruling elite, i.e., the breeders. HBDers and similar racial visionaries want to breed races, to finally make real what was before only an idea.

Race isn’t a reality, at least not a physical reality. It is an ongoing project. A new social order was imagined. It has taken centuries to enforce it, but it has never been fully successful. Humans have gone on interbreeding as they did for millennia prior to the idea of races.

Modern civilization didn’t happen by accident. It had to be created by massive effort over the entire history of humanity. In oral-based indigenous societies, social order tends to be more fluid and changing. Stories change with each telling. Laws and rituals change with the passing of generations.

What has been sought with modernity is a final solution, a permanent order. Race is such an aspiration. We want to enforce order not just on society but on the very basis of human nature at the most fundamental level of biology and genetics. The creation of the idea of the white race was built on the hope of creating a new race of mankind that would dominate the world.

This hope may seem naive now. It has been dashed upon the rocks of globalization, the inevitable end result of European exploration and colonization. The advocates of race find themselves instead in a defensive position. They want to save what they can of this centuries-old project. They’ve limited the scope of the project for it turned out to be too ambitious, but the project must not be abandoned for some see it as the basis of all of Western Civilization. If there is no singular white race, then there can be no singular Western Civilization. Like race, civilizations aren’t natural realities that have always existed. They must be created and protected.

This is the power of imagination. We imagine vast social visions. Then those imaginings become our entire sense of reality. Anything that challenges them will threaten our very sense of identity. As a society, we’ve committed so much into this racial project that to fail now seems like the greatest of tragedies.

Others, however, envision new and better projects toward a new and better future. It’s not so much a matter of what humanity is for we have yet to discover our true limits. What we face is the unknown of what we might become if were to live out our full potential. That is a scary prospect. The known limits of race are more comforting than the unknowns transcending our fearful beliefs. The future is what we make of it. Human nature is the terra incognito on the map of new worlds.

The era of race is coming to an end. It might take many more generations to fully end, but it will end as previous eras ended. What will the new era bring? What new visions are emerging?

Let me add a simple note of explanation. I always worry about failing to communicate well and so being misunderstood.

When I spoke of a project, I don’t mean that it is necessarily a conscious project. It is more of a guiding function within a particular reality tunnel. The person who is under the influence of such a project does so in a less than direct fashion.

So, I wasn’t accusing HBDers of something as grandiose as breeding races as an eugenics agenda. It is simply that people act according to the reality they perceive and in doing so help to create that reality or try their best to do so. All reality tunnels are self-fulfilling prophecies, at least when successful.

In speaking of such things, I’m try to grasp elusive social realities. You’ll have to forgive my stumbling attempts to put words to it all.

An Apology and a Clarification

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”
~ Howard Zinn

I called someone, a blogger named M.G,, a racist in a recent post. Actually, I called her blog post racist. In my post, there were quite a few discussions about racism and related topics. None of them seemed overly fruitful.

The least fruitful part was the discussion of the word itself. I was noting how odd it is that conservatives (and the conservative-minded) will criticize political correctness, except when they wish to use it themselves. I’m not a politically correct guy, but neither do I want to be mean-spirited. I wish to apologize for being mean-spirited.

Yes, M.G. made a blog post that was racially biased. Then again, we live in a society that is racially biased, pervasively and systemically. Going by studies, it is fair to say we all are racially biased to varying degrees and in various ways. It seems unfair to pick on M.G. who probably has no intent of being racist, just simply expressing a common attitude in our society.

Maybe it was wrong for me to call M.G. or rather her blog post racist. I could have called her racialist instead which some prefer. Racism implies intent to be racist whereas racialist is simply being racially biased. But that seems like pointless nitpicking. Tim Wise argues that intent is irrelevant or rather the specific intent is irrelevant. In terms of real world results, it doesn’t necessarily matter if your intent is to be racist or your intent is to not admit to the racial bias in yourself and not confront it in society; both end up supporting and promoting the continuation of racism. The real world results are what I care about, not what some blogger chooses to post.

In the comments section of my post (and in the post following it), I admitted to being an asshole. Or to put it in more polite terms, I was being mean-spirited. I was in a bad mood. I’m never far away from a bad mood as I’ve dealt with severe depression for a couple of decades now. It is a side of my personality I struggle with. I don’t like being mean. I don’t like being argumentative, critical and accusatory. My bad moods are my own problem.

However, I would argue, as Mark Fisher argues in Capitalist Realism, that mental illness like poverty and oppression are pervasive and systemic issues that get blamed on individuals, i.e., the externalization of costs translated into individualistic terms. This is a point that directly relates to what I’ve been trying to communicate to others. This is also why it is unhelpful to pick on individuals with racial bias. We are all products of our society. We need to put the focus on the source of the disease, not the symptoms. But we also need to realize that we are all part of the problem. We can’t just blame others. We have to take responsibility, myself included.

I apologize to any individual I picked on in that post, M.G. in particular. And I apologize to anyone involved for my overly confrontational behavior, my sometimes rude language. But no apologies will be offered for my passionate defense of truth (truth as I see it), even though it often leads me into conflict.

Now for the clarification.

In that same recent post, I also stated something that wasn’t stated as well as it could have been. It ended up being a distraction from the point I was trying to make. Here is what I wrote:

“We also know that poor rural Southern whites are the most violent group in America.

The key word here is ‘group’. This statement is true or false, depending on how groups are being defined, how the demographics are being divided.

If you divide people by race, blacks are the most violent group. But what is this group?

Blacks in America include a vast diversity. Some are Northerners and others Southerners. Some are urban residents and others rural. Some Christians, some Muslims and some not either. There are African immigrants who have no European genetics and no history of slavery. There are mixed race people from countries all over the world and so with different historical and cultural backgrounds. Then there is the historical population of American blacks whose ancestors were slaves, but the Gullah in South Carolina are quite different from the African Americans of New Orleans. One in ten of African Americans have more European genetics than African genetics; and so why aren’t they grouped with whites instead?

By shifting away from race, we can look at regional and area populations as I was doing. According to Culture of Honor by Nisbett and Cohen, another view of violence can be seen if we break things down into more specific details.

The South is more violent than the North. Some argue this is because of the South having more blacks, but what the authors found is that the precise regions of high violence are those with the fewest blacks and with the least history of slavery. The region in question is the rural South, typically associated with Appalachia but including what some call Greater Appalachia, mostly the Upper South extending over to the Ozarks. Appalachia and the Ozarks have a long history of violence. They were the most violent areas during the Civil War. This population has a tradition of vigilante justice and blood feuds.

The border areas between Kentucky and Tennessee has the highest historical rates of violence in the entire country. It is the most violent area in the rural South. The rural South is the most violent sub-region within the South as a region. And the South of course is the most violent region in the US. I might also add that the US is one of the most violent Western countries and one of the most violent developed countries in the world.

Broken down in this way, rural Southerners are the most violent group as a specific (sub-)regional population taken in toto. This also happens to be one of the whitest areas of the entire country.

How we group people determines what data we include and exclude. It determines what we see and don’t see, how we interpret and what we explain away.

With my statement, I was trying to demonstrate this point. If you divide people differently, you get different conclusions about who is most violent. I don’t think it is any more helpful to group all whites together as to group all blacks together. This is a point that most HBDers understand, whether or not they would make the same point as I’m making with the data.

My purpose certainly wasn’t to pick on poor whites simply because they are violent. I don’t want to pick on any poor people, no matter race, ethnicity or region. My fundamental purpose was to put the focus on poverty itself and the history of oppression behind it.

Here is the takeaway message:

All personal problems are also public problems.
All public problems are also personal problems.

This mixing causes life to be messy. There is a lot at stake in our daily interactions. Issues of emotion and miscommunication are to be expected.

I didn’t write this post in hoping to change anyone’s mind or to appease my critics. I simply wanted to communicate myself more clearly. I didn’t want to end with a sense of unresolved conflict, at least on my end. These are my final thoughts to the discussions in that post. I don’t want to be in the role of endlessly explaining all of this. If someone doesn’t see it as I see it, then so be it.

HBD Proponents, Racists and Racialists

I came across a typical racist blog post that is posing as being intellectually credible.

It is typical in its racism, but I suppose I should at least give credit to the blogger for being atypical in putting some effort into defending his racism. Basically, he gathers together all the data that shows blacks are bad and inferior, ignores any positive data and dismisses out of hand the entire history and context behind the data. Also, he only focuses on his own preferred scapegoat group while not pointing out similar problems and other problems among whites, not to mention among Americans in general when compared to other countries (see here, here and here).

It’s important that we don’t ignore arguments like this, even though they are motivated by racism. We should never let a single injustice go by unchallenged. This goes back to what I was saying in my last post. A racist, like any other true believer, is beginning with a generalization and then cherrypicks the particulars that conform to their preconceived conclusion. This is why, in that post, I emphasized the particulars. The details of reality are messy and don’t easily fit into simple categories.

It is so hard to respond to people like this because of a simple truth Lionel Trilling once expressed:

“Where misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood.”

But I’m a fool for truth. So I feel compelled to try, and I did try. I left a comment at that post which was deleted. Hence, my presenting my thoughts here.

By the way, I came across this racist blog post because hbd chick posted it with a bunch of links.

I like and respect hbd chick. She isn’t a racist and, as with me, she would point out that poor rural Southern whites have their problems as well. Even then, she admits that she is speculating and hasn’t objectively proven anything (in the scientific sense). Still, the fact that she would post this racist link in her blog demonstrates a problem that is common among the proponents of human biodiversity (HBD).

If HBD blogs are to be used as a platform for racists, that brings discredit to HBD. I think that would be a shame because bloggers like hbd chick have a lot that is worthy to offer.

HBD attracts some overt racists and even among those who aren’t racist they often don’t recognize or acknowledge racism. The issue of racism is an uncomfortable truth which, to the conservative-minded, is a politically incorrect issue to be denied and dismissed rather than discussed. Many HBD proponents seem less interested in taking a moral stance and prefer instead to claim they are just objectively presenting data. If they do this, they are shifting the blame to the cherrypicked data and denying responsibility for having cherrypicked the data in the first place.

Of course, it is a moral issue and those involved are taking a moral stance. Data never speaks for itself. It is we who use data in support of our speaking.

From a rational perspective, there are two basic problems with the racist argument and sometimes with the non-racist HBD argument.

First, correlation is not causation, but it can imply it. I’m very interested in correlations and so I don’t mean to dismiss them. I take them very seriously which is why I take seriously the responsibility to not use them in a dishonest or prejudiced way.

Second, the reason correlation is not causation is because correlating data by itself doesn’t meet scientific standards. Using careful research methods, one has to prove a correlation is valid and that it has a causal relationship. Also, one needs to control for all known confounding factors.

That is a high standard to live up to. Nonetheless, for the intellectually honest, it is the standard one must live up to if one wants to be taken seriously. Racists and the intellectually lazy, however, are unwilling to strive for such intellectual self-responsibility.

I was particularly pointing out the aspect of confounding factors. There are so many of them, a whole history of them in fact.

For the record, here is the deleted comment I submitted to the racist post:

It is hard to respond such arguments because the author doesn’t consider the confounding factors. Looking at correlations without looking at confounding factors is the complete opposite of helpful.

If socio-economic class and systemic racial prejudice were taken into account, what would remain of many racial differences. I have yet to see this fully analyzed, but there sure are a lot of opinions. I must admit I get tired of opinions in search of supporting data rather than people merely seeking data to learn what might be discovered.

Here is what has been proven and yet ignored by the likes of the author.

More whites do drugs than blacks, but more blacks are in prison for drugs. Studies have shown that blacks are more often pulled over by police than whites, more often have criminal charges brought against them than whites for the same behaviors, are more likely to be judged more harshly by juries than whites for the same crimes, and more likely to be punished more harshly by judges than whites for the same crimes. These are the inconvenient truths that most Americans don’t want to face.

Poverty and lack of social mobility are major problems facing minorities, the former increasing and the latter decreasing in America these past decades. This of course relates to racism. Data has shown how discrimination has limited opportunities for blacks for many generations now. There was discrimination during the Progressive Era government assistance programs. There has been discrimination since involving housing, employment and bank loans.

We also know that poor rural Southern whites are the most violent group in America. But those who point out the problems of blacks never seem to notice or acknowledge this disconcerting fact. Like blacks, what these rural whites share is poverty, lack of opportunity, and a long history of oppression/scapegoating by the upper classes.

We all know this. It is no longer an issue that can be argued. Why can’t we have an honest discussion about all of this? What would be so horrible about objectively looking at all the data instead of cherrypicking what fits our preconceived conclusions?

What we don’t know is, after all these confounding factors are accounted for, what remains for the differences in crimes and IQ. Many are willing to offer opinions, but few opinions are very well informed on the matter. We need to get serious about this and quite playing scapegoating games.

America has massive problems of racism and classism that are inseparable from problems of poverty, economic inequality and social mobility. These problems are larger than any other problems we face.

To offer context, I’ve previously argued about this issue with HBD proponents. So this isn’t new territory I’m treading – for example, see: IQ Dilemma: Inconvenient Correlations, Uncomfortable Data. In another post about IQ and racism, someone going by the name Szopeno commented and I responded thusly:

“Do blacks in the south and north are the same biologically-wise?”

Most of the blacks in the North came from the same population of blacks in the South. And before that most blacks in America came from the same few tribes in Africa.

“E.g. it would be enough that only smarter blacks were emigrating north; that would create a pattern you have shown, without creating any need to appeal to poverty rates.”

There is no known evidence that this was the case or none that I know of. Why speculate about an unknown (only smarter blacks were emigrating north) when we can theorize on the proven facts (poverty and related factors have negative impact on cognitive development and IQ). Nonetheless, that would as I argued still disprove the white supremacists.

“No to mention of course the question of admixture – Jensen in g factor wrote that white admixture is higher in northern blacks than in south.”

You could only argue this by ignoring some of the known facts. The Southern whites who have some of the lowest IQs in the country don’t have more black genetics. They are among some of the whitest of whiteys around. As I pointed out in a recent post, Southern blacks are found in greatest concentration precisely where the Scots-Irish, Scottish and Irish are found in the least concentration.


There are only two known commonalities between American blacks in general and American whites in the South. They are both environmental commonalities. First, as Thomas Sowell argues, blacks have a culture similar to poor Southern whites, a culture they certainly inherited from their time in the South and brought North with the mass migration. Second, the only other known commonality is poverty. Genetics is the very thing that most separates poor low IQ blacks and poor low IQ whites.

“All I say that what you have presented here is not an argument which could convince hereditarians.”

All the facts in the world couldn’t convince many hereditarians. I don’t deny the known facts about heredity and I actually find that field interesting, but I will never understand those who will ignore or dismiss known facts for the sake of speculation that better fits their interpretive lense. Why not begin with what we know? Why not go with the simplest explanation first?

That is not an atypical interaction with many HBD proponents. A whole lot of speculation on limited data. I have no problem with speculation, but I usually prefer to limit my speculation to the data. It’s not as if the HBD proponent is making an entirely unintelligent argument. They just seem overly attached to a particular conclusion or theory which makes one suspicious of their biases, possibly their prejudices as well.

I don’t know the data about ethnic genetic ratios in regional US populations. Let me assume that Northern blacks have more European genetics. Why would we jump to the conclusion that Northern blacks having higher average IQs is genetically caused? More European genetics also means lighter skin and hence, as has been proven, less racial prejudice experienced. Isn’t that a simpler explanation? Unless we scientifically know of a precise gene that makes blacks stupid, why would we want to believe that is the case? The only reason we’d do so is for the sake of racial bias, whether overt racism or unconscious racialism.

Besides, I’ve found most people making this argument find it inconvenient to acknowledge that many blacks have large percentages of European genetics. It is hard to be racist or racialist when the boundaries are blurred between the races. As for me, I find it fascinating that the average African American is about 1/5 European and 1 in 10 African Americans have more European genetics than African genetics. So, as for those 1 in 10, why do we call them African Americans in the first place? Also, what makes them ‘black’ if their skin color is closer to Europeans than native Africans?

Oh, the confounding factors! What is one to do!?!

My comment to the racist blog post was also added to the comments section of hbd chick’s blog (and she has the intellectual evenhandedness to let almost anyone post, even critics which is why I like and respect her even when I disagree with her). The only person so far to respond to my comment there was a someone called bleach:

“We also know that poor rural Southern whites are the most violent group in America. But those who point out the problems of blacks never seem to notice or acknowledge this disconcerting fact.”

Uhh maybe because the “fact” is total bullshit, you just made it up and keep repeating it without any evidence. AE has the actual numbers:



Southern whites aren’t even the most violent amongst just whites; southwestern whites are. But the more important fact is how much higher, monumentally higher, the black rates are for every state.

Which everyone who wasn’t a hick from a 99% white Midwestern zip code KNEW ALREADY.

I’m not even going to bother with the rest of your claims, there is no reason to believe they have any truth when you keep repeating falsehoods and provide no data for anything. No one needs the opinion of an ignorant liberal hick on race relations, either. Have you even met any real life black people yet?

What is so interesting about his comment there is that he also commented on my post White Supremacy Defeated… yet again. His recent comment shows no knowledge of our ever having discussed this before. It is as if such people live in a bubble. Even when interacting with them, they aren’t listening to you or hearing anything other than the voices in their self-constructed echo chamber.

I’d previously explained the data to him. It isn’t just state by state data. It is data that is a combination of looking at both the North/South divide and the urban/rural divide. It’s not just that all Southerners are more violent, but that specifically white rural Southerners are the most violent. As for states over all, it would partly depend on which Southern states have higher ratios of rural whites to urban whites.

Also, he missed the entire point of confounding factors. What do poor rural whites and poor urban blacks have in common? Poverty. And what historical circumstances do they share in being poor? Centuries of oppression and prejudice, specifically in the South. Most of the poor rural whites are of Celtic ancestry. The upper class whites in the South have always looked down upon them. Before that, the upper class whites of Britain also looked down upon them.

For both poor blacks and whites, this has often been a severely violent history with political disenfranchisement. If poor whites are showing such problems without ever having experienced slavery, is it so surprising that blacks have had an uphill climb? When my parents were growing up, Jim Crow was still in effect. Even today, studies show that racism continues, including institutionalized racism.

These racists and racialist fellow travelers have never proven that these problems are anything other than the direct results of centuries of racism and classism. Yet they claim others as enforcing political correctness when those others point out inconvenient data that contradicts their cherrypicked data. The confounding factors are so numerous and complex that I doubt any scientific research has yet been able to control for all of them. It is so vast of a problem that we don’t know how to face it as a society.

It’s not as if I’m denying that genetics plays a role in human behavior and cognitive ability. But any theory proposed has to be scientifically proven with scientific data provided by scientific research. Just correlating a bunch of data found online isn’t the same thing as doing science. I love correlating data as much as the next blogger, but I take it for what it is.

In my thoughts, I return to my post about generalities vs particulars. The particulars are messy and can feel overwhelming whereas generalities can feel comforting as they give the appearance of providing simple conclusions and an orderly understanding, but the danger is this is too often superficial and deceptive.

To be a truth-seeker is to accept the responsibility of the moral force of truth, in all of its complexity and uncertainty. Yes, it is uncomfortable and sometimes even disconcerting. There are few easy answers and absolute knowns. But the alternative is much worse.

In my previous post, I presented two ways of focusing on data, the general vs the particular. There is also two ways to use data. You can use data as a way to speak truth to power or else you can use data to kick people while they are down. The sad part about the latter way is that the whole reason the poor, whether whites or blacks, are down in the first place is because they were kicked to the ground and have been continuously kicked ever since. After all this, to keep kicking them is to ensure they stay down. If we stop kicking them for a moment, who knows what might happen? For instance, they might stand up for themselves

What are the racists and racialists afraid of if they quit kicking the downtrodden and let them stand up with the rest of humanity?

If after that they fall down on their own, then be an asshole and point that out. But at least quick kicking them in the meantime. Heck, maybe even offer them a helping hand. Could you imagine if we gave these groups the same amount of assistance and compassion that they have received in oppression and prejudice? The worst part is those who like to kick the helpless the most are precisely those who have benefited the most and inherited the benefit of those who have gained the most from keeping those other people down.

All I can say is there are some sick assholes in the world.

Instead of just looking at the results of social problems, why don’t we look to the cause of social problems? The ethnic/racial ruling elite that existed in America’s oppressive past is basically the same ethnic/racial ruling elite that exists in America’s dysfunctional present. Is that mere coincidence? I think not.

I was imagining a truly worthy version of a HBD advocate. There is a worthy aspect to HBD theory. The data is interesting, but it is just a tiny piece of the puzzle.

I didn’t so much like the links offered by hbd chick, but I do like her blog. She is smart and I appreciate how data-driven she is, not in a cherrypicking kind of way. However, her focus is rather narrow on just HBD and so she mostly just looks at certain kinds of data and often doesn’t seem interested in data outside of that. I can’t blame her for following her interests, but I still can’t deny the sense that HBDers like her don’t appreciate the moral imperative of truth-seeking and truth-telling. It’s not just data. Human lives are involved.

I’m not an ideologue in the political sense and also not in the sense of having loyalty to theories. Even with my favored viewpoints, I’m only likely to defend them to the extent that they act as a proxy in my seeking balance with other perspectives and to the extent they act as conduits toward a greater field of understanding (which is why they are favored viewpoints in the first place). For example, I strongly appreciate Myers-Briggs and personality theory/research of all sorts, but I’m not overly identified with Myers-Briggs being absolutely true, although it is a theory that I’ve probably studied more than any other.

It isn’t just a loyalty thing. It’s obvious that hbd chick likes her own HBD theory, but she’ll admit to it possibly being wrong. So, she is less loyal than some HBDers. Nonetheless, this doesn’t stop her from remaining intently focused on a narrow band of data. My mind, however, wanders. I constantly have my toes in many pools. This allows me to see broad connections, the type of broad connections I rarely come across in any HBD blog.

I’ve had conflicts with HBDers such as JayMan because of this. JayMan’s blog is subtitled “Where Sacred Cows Go To Die”, but apparently that only applies to other people’s sacred cows. As for Jayman’s sacred cows, he’ll defend them at all costs. He has great loyalty to HBD, but moreso it is a narrow focus that seems motivated by a sense of thick boundaries. HBDers are particularly obsessed with boundaries between races, ethnicities and nations. I, on the other hand, am very thin boundaried in comparison.

I’m not an anything-goes universalist that wants to throw the borders open and let anarchism rule the land, although that would be an interesting experiment to do under the right conditions. But certainly, unlike most HBDers, I’m not an ethnocentric nationalist. I’ve noticed that there is an imperialist bias in the thinking of many HBDers. This became apparent in a discussion I was having in a post by hbd chick. Oddly, I’m apparently both more liberal and more libertarian than the average HBDer I’ve dealt with. I responded to that post with a post of mine where I discussed this issue of defense of empire as a defense of ethnocentrism.

There is nothing wrong in being narrowly focused. It makes hbd chick an impressive researcher. She focuses in on a particular area and it is amazing what she can dig up. However, it also leads to massive blindspots because of a lack of seeing the bigger picture and fully appreciating far different perspectives. One thing I notice is how rarely she discusses politics and world events. The type of analysis offered by someone like Noam Chomsky doesn’t even seem to exist in her world of data. I couldn’t even find any of her posts that included the likes of John Gray (the philosopher), Morris Berman and Wendell Berry. I haven’t come across a single HBDer who comes close to offering the subtle and wide-ranging insight of a Joe Bageant and certainly not the moral vision of a Thomas Paine, both being great examples of speaking truth to power.

One would think that HBDers would have a better ability to see outside of cultural biases, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think the problem is that most of them don’t want to see other cultural views, either to understand them on their own terms or to understand their criticisms of American and Western culture. Understanding others doesn’t seem to be their main priority. People aren’t individuals. They are races, ethnicities, clans and nationalities. Most HBDers are smart people. It’s just they seem strongly driven by an agenda or maybe just strongly attached to their cultural comfort zone.

I’m trying to get into the mindset of why someone like hbd chick would post links to racist blog posts. To her mind, I’m sure she doesn’t see the racism at all. She just sees a blogger correlating data. She sees the data but not the lives behind the data. Certainly, what she doesn’t see is the cherrypicking and the ignoring of confounding factors. Even if I pointed this out to her, she still wouldn’t likely see it. It simply isn’t part of her HBD reality tunnel.

I remember the first serious lengthy discussion I had with JayMan. I found his view interesting, but I couldn’t get him to understand my view.

I pointed out the confounding factors and it didn’t change his mind. It was as if the confounding factors didn’t exist. He was sure it had to be a genetic explanation because that is what he was looking for. He expected to find genetics and so couldn’t see the relevance of what he didn’t expect. It was strange to my mind, this narrow focus.

I tried to broaden his perspective by pointing out that these confounding factors matter because of the implications of ignoring them, but he didn’t find the idea of morality compelling. He saw himself as an objective researcher looking for objective data. Genes were in his mind more objectively real than the people influenced by the ideas he was advocating.

I suspect something similar with hbd chick. although with less obtuseness. When I speak of truth as moral imperative, that probably would make no sense to her. She would deny having such a responsibility to truth and morality. She might like truth and choose to communicate it in her own way, but not because of a moral imperative. The fact that linking to a racist blog post has moral implications wouldn’t seem relevant to her. Like JayMan, she likely would see herself as just an objective researcher looking for objective data.

Morality and ethics is the one area I never see discussed in HBD blogs. It is all about the data. The framework of HBD is scientific or, I would argue, in many cases pseudo-scientific. There is an insular nature to the HBD community. They are mostly talking amongst themselves and preaching to the choir. A moral perspective would require them to peak their heads outside this ideological enclave and look at the larger world of people with other views, a world that where their beliefs and ideas lead to real consequences, not just for them and their group but for everyone.

I think that ends my time commenting at hbd chick’s blog. It just is too frustrating being the only voice pointing out uncomfortable truths to an audience that doesn’t want to know uncomfortable truths. They don’t want to hear it and I’ve done all I can do at this point. *sigh*

I’m brought back to Tim Wise’s insight: The ultimate privilege of being a member of a privileged group is not having to know or acknowledge your privilege nor the systemic and institutionalized privilege throughout society. It takes a lot to force a privileged person to confront their own privilege. That is a rare event.

As a society, our only hope is to help the next generation understand before they become identified with the system of privilege, specifically in terms of the society of ethnocentric imperialism. We need to encourage the questioning of our society, deep soul-searching and most of all speaking truth to power. Could you imagine a society that put truth before all else, specifically truth as a moral imperative? I’d love to live in that society.

On a related topic, I thought I’d point out another link that hbd chick included in her post. It is Kinship or Citizenship? by Steve Sailer, the author being one of the most well known HBD defenders. Basically, he is attacking the poor, powerless minority groups for supposedly being clannish and hence their supposed unfairly picking on all the wealthier, more powerful white folk. I decided to point out this article for how well the comments section tore apart his argument:

Rebecca Trotter says:
I don’t think it’s victim groups we have to worry about. Rather, the new clans who act in their own interests without regard for their fellow man or citizens are the hyper-rich, the Ivy league elites, wall street masters of the universe. Even Obama could only benefit from his race because of his position as the child of academic elites and a member of the Ivy league. It’s a minutely tiny number of minorities who are able to leverage their “victim status” for any gain! For the overwhelming majority being part of a minority group is still a major disadvantage and media concocted fears of the white majority aside, that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. The clannish nature of our wealthy elites has been well documented and is probably the biggest threat to our democracy that America has ever faced. The pap we are fed to argue over is nothing more than a distraction.

Northern Observer says:
Sailer writes a nice essay and blows it all in his conclusion. If we are to take the idea of tribalism and clan politics seriously in America than we need to admit that the most dominant clan in America is the Southern White Conservative tribe. It is the behaviour of this political clan grouping that will determine the quality of political life in America for some time to come. The ongoing drift of this tribe’s politics to romantic irrationalism is something to worry about. In the big picture, homosexuals and African Americans are small potatoes. The Southern tribe’s rejection of the responsibilities of citizenship, as epitomized by the GOP controlled House and State Legislatures, is the most alarming political development in America today.

Frank Stain says:
It is an old and rather tiresome tactic of racists to suggest that the marginalized group identities formed by the efforts of the majority to defend its cultural privileges are in fact ‘clannish’ behavior. Hitler in fact argued specifically in Mein Kampf that the Jews are more clannish than other people, and act in concert to promote a Jewish agenda. Rather than the concentration of Jews in finance being a result of their exclusion from areas of communal endeavor, it appears to the anti-semite as evidence for the ‘clannish’ nature of the Jew.
Similarly, Steve Sailor is suggesting here that the efforts of blacks, Latinos, and Gays to claim full citizenship, and to reject the exclusions foisted upon them by white christians, are evidence of ‘clannish’ behavior, rather than an attempt to construct an ideal of full citizenship beyond the exclusions of race, sexual identity, and religion.

Eric says:
Does he have anything to say about the old WASP clan and its loss of power in this country?

Fran Macadam says:
Loyalty to clan precedes when citizenship no longer confers any benefit. Oligarchy is a form of superclan from which the mass of citizenry are excluded, by force if necessary. No wonder that this style of “warlord” governance, updated for the 21st century, has established and defends democratically unaccountable secret police tactics, such as mass surveillance and “homeland security” applied to all those outside their clan, to whom granting any real power would threaten their hegemony.

As for anyone reading this who cares about truth, including that of confounding factors, I’ll offer you the data:

In my major post about the North/South divide, it was the first time I explored the issue of violence and the South. I included an article by The Atlantic, The Scots-Irish Vote by Cameron Joseph. That article is a good introduction to the research done on the culture of honor. As general commentary, further down in my post, I add these thoughts:

…obesity rates (in developed countries) are correlated to both poverty and high wealth disparity (whereas, in developing countries, obesity and poverty are negatively correlated). So, societies with high wealth disparity tend to have higher obesity rates and societies with low wealth disparity tend to have lower obesity rates. But the real interesting part is that even wealthy people have higher obesity rates in societies with high wealth disparity. The explanation is that high wealth disparity societies tend to be more stressful places to live with higher rates of violence, bullying and social conflict. All of this stress impacts the poor and wealthy alike. The body responds, as a survival mechanism, to stress by increasing fat reserves. This is particularly true for babies whose mothers experienced high rates of stress while pregnant, in which case the body becomes permanently set at fat reserve mode.

I came across another example offering support for egalitarianism. Some conservatives like to point out the fact that gays have higher rates of suicide, implying homosexuality is unnatural and inferior. But, of course, it’s rather convenient for conservatives to ignore their own complicity. A study showed that “Suicide attempts by gay teens – and even straight kids – are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don’t have programs supporting gay rights”. When one group is singled out and treated unequally, all people in that social environment will suffer the consequences.

My point being that it is hardly surprising to find problems in an unhealthy and unjust society. It is also more than unsurprising that the worst victims of such a society show the worst problems. When talking about race and ethnicity, we are talking about problems that have their roots in the distant past. There hasn’t been a moment in the history of this country that these problems haven’t existed.

These kinds of problems came up again with the Trayvon Martin murder. In my post about it, I included a massive number of links and quotes. It is disheartening when you take it all in. It reminded me of a local case involving the death of John Bior Deng which I wrote about and added another post about the issues of racism and classism.

There are a few other posts of mine I haven’t mentioned yet which go to the heart of the data:

Disturbing Study Highlights Racism

Institutional Racism & Voting Rights

Obama vs The Bell Curve

Race & Wealth Gap

Prison Insanity

Old, Male, White, Religious, Rich Republicans Are Happy! Surprise, Surprise!

Do Politicians Racially Discriminate against Constituents?

Here is an example of how racial prejudice persists. Racism is institutionalized because institutions made by and operated by people. People make racist decisions not necessarily because they are overt racists but because most prejudices operate below conscious thought.

One thing that surprised me a bit is that racism existed similarly among both blacks and whites. Black politicians are also racially biased toward perceived black email senders. I’m not surprised that blacks are racist just like whites, but I am surprised that the racism operates the same way. I’ve seen other research that shows, in courts, both white and black jurors are more biased against black defendants. So, apparently context matters in how racism manifests.

Do Politicians Racially Discriminate against
Constituents? A Field Experiment on State Legislators
Short Title: Do politicians racially discriminate?

Daniel M. Butler, David E. Broockman

We use a field experiment to investigate whether race affects how responsive state legislators are to requests for help with registering to vote. In an email sent to each legislator, we randomized whether a putatively black or white alias was used and whether the email signaled the sender’s partisan preference. Overall, we find that putatively black requests receive fewer replies. We explore two potential explanations for this discrimination: strategic partisan behavior and the legislators’ own race. We find that the putatively black alias continues to be differentially treated even when the emails signal partisanship, indicating that strategic considerations cannot completely explain the observed differential treatment. Further analysis reveals that white legislators of both parties exhibit similar levels of discrimination against the black alias. Minority legislators do the opposite, responding more frequently to the black alias. Implications for the study of race and politics in the United States are discussed.

White Supremacy Defeated… yet again

I keep coming across racists/racialists who are obsessed with IQ. I dealt with this some in what I posted yesterday. Here is the relevant section:

The white supremacists love IQ because African Americans on average have lower IQs. The white supremacists argue that this is genetic, but there is no conclusive evidence for this hypothesis and much evidence against it. For example, the IQs of all children tend to be more similar and significant IQ differences are mostly seen in later education. The most obvious and simplest explanation is poverty. There are many factors related to poverty that are known to impact brain/cognitive development and hence IQ: pollution (such as lead poisoning from older houses), malnutrition (especially during pregnancy and early childhood), social stress, lack of educational resources, etc.

Here is a map showing the IQ differences in America with, once again, the same North/South divide (with the exception of West Virginia with its Scots-Irish population). The source of the map was using it apparently to make an argument for racism/racialism:

“Finally, it can be viewed in relationship to race. Alone, the racial composition of a state‘explains’ 72% of that state’s estimated IQ, with the two correlating at a robust .85. Expenditures per student, teacher salaries, and classroom size combined explain a paltry 15%. Considered independently, they are statistically insignificant and explain virtually nothing.”

There are different measures of IQ. This map is measuring math and science test scores. There does seem to be a correlation with ethnic diversity and lower average IQ (such as with California and the Southern states), although the ethnically diverse Texas is similar to some Northern states.

This map, however, makes the issue of race seem simpler than it actually is. When looking at other maps of IQ data, black populations in some Northern states have on average higher IQs than black populations in Southern states. And, even more significantly, white populations in many Northern states have on average higher IQs than white populations in Southern states (excluding Texas). So, doing comparisons just within single races, there are IQ differences that show a North/South divide for both black and white populations. However, the difference is most clear for white populations. This can only be explained, as far as I can tell, by poverty being the central factor in IQ differences. Blacks experience higher rates than whites of poverty in all states, but whites mostly just experience high rates of poverty in the South.

It seems the maps of IQ are essentially just another way of mapping poverty. So, why does poverty show a North/South divide? I’d also include in this question the issue of wealth disparity which also shows a North/South divide:

The 10 Most (and Least) Tolerant States in America

California and Texas are good ways of disentangling the poverty from wealth disparity. Both are wealthy states with high wealth disparity which causes them to measure positively on some indicators and measure negatively on other indicators. However, excluding Texas, most Southern states are both poor and have high wealth disparity. Many Northern states have both wealth and low wealth disparity, but there are states like Iowa which are relatively poor and yet have low wealth disparity. In a developed nation like the US, wealth disparity seems to be the more important indicator of social health (rates of high school drop outs, bullying, STDs, teen pregnancy, etc).

I decided to make a new post just with this material because of a response someone gave me on YouTube. NAARandom wrote:

“Whites in Northern states have higher average IQ than whites in southern states”

The south is “dumber” overall because it has a larger proportion of blacks than the north. The intra-racial differences in regional IQ are, at most, 3 points for blacks and 1 or 2 points for whites, and this can be easily explained by selection effects (more intelligent, ambitious, upwardly mobile southerners generally moved north, at least until the late 1940s, early 1950s).

As for southern west coast states having large ratios of nonwhites but “not the same degree of problems”, the two majority nonwhite western states (California and New Mexico), are having quite a few problems. The problems of California are relatively recent (probably in part because their rise in nonwhite population is a relatively recent phenomenon), and New Mexico has been near the bottom in most indicators for quite a while. To the extent that these problems are milder…

…in the west, it’s largely because they have different groups of nonwhites. Northeast Asians, for example, tend to have slightly higher IQs (by 3 to 6) than whites, so their presence in California partially offsets the economic effects of the huge mestizo population, which also has a slightly less severe depressing effect on average IQ than blacks (average Hispanic, which mostly means mestizo, IQ is 89, as opposed to 85 for blacks).

I find it endlessly amusing that people will avoid the simplest answers based on the data when it doesn’t fit their preconceived ideology. It’s scientifically known that poverty (and the factors related to poverty) has a negative impact on brain/cognitive development which is what is being measured by IQ tests. On the other hand, the hypothetical causal relation between racial genetics and IQ is unproven. There has been a fair amount of research and yet no conclusive data so far and no scientific consensus. So, why do racists/racialists prefer the inconclusive data instead of going with the simplest and most obvious explanation?

I realized this was a good opportunity to see if further data upholds the simplest and most obvious explanation of poverty. NAARandom mentioned Hispanics and Northeast Asians. NAARandom points out that Hispanics have higher average IQ than blacks, whites have higher average IQs than Hispanics and blacks, and Northeast Asians have higher average IQs than all of them (this is the case for the average IQ of all Asians in the US). If the poverty explanation is correct, a similar pattern should be seen.

In fact, that is the case with one exception. Yes, Hispanics have a lower poverty rate than blacks. Yes, whites have a lower poverty rate than Hispanics and blacks. Yes, Asians have a lower poverty rate than Hispanics and blacks. But, no, Asians don’t have a lower poverty rate than whites. Actually, Asians have around the same as or even slightly higher poverty rate than whites (depending if Pacific Islanders are included as part of the Asian demographic). Poverty alone explains the lower average IQ of Hispanics and blacks, but poverty alone doesn’t explain why whites have a lower average IQ than Asians. I suspect it’s just a matter of the intelligent (i.e., wealthy) Asians moving to Western countries. However, if one insists on racial genetics explanations, then it would be logical to assume whites (once adjusted for poverty) have inferior genetics.

I personally think that such an argument is just as silly when used against minorities as when used against whites. There are always complex factors, but it’s rational (going by Occam’s razor) to go with the simplest explanation. We know poverty causes lower IQ and we know poverty rates are different racial demographics. We know that black Americans have experienced centuries of enslavement and oppression which caused their present high rates of poverty. We know white Americans experienced centuries of privilege and opportunity which created their present lower rates of poverty. We know that whites in areas with higher poverty rates have lower average IQs. We know that blacks in areas with lower poverty rates have higher average IQs. We know all this. So, why speculate about racial genetics and IQ which we know so little about?

Related to poverty is the factor of wealth disparity. Many of the states (but not all) with high rates of poverty also have high rates of wealth disparity. The states with both whites and blacks with lower average IQs are states with both high rates of poverty and high rates of wealth disparity. Even if you wanted to try to blame their poverty on being dumb, you couldn’t blame the high wealth disparity on their being dumb. Afterall, if most of the smart people (white and black) left these problematic states, then wouldn’t all the population end up being poor and stupid instead of having an elite with most of the wealth?

To me, it seems like a vicious cycle. These poor conservative states are mostly the former slave states and so have societies that were based on class and race. For centuries, the ruling elite of these states intentionally created a poor and disenfranchised class (including both whites and blacks). We know that poverty causes low IQ. And we know that low IQ causes poverty. When you have a society that is built on a certain class staying stupid and poor, why would you expect any other results? You don’t need racial genetics to explain any of this. In fact, racial genetics has no explanatory value considering poor whites in poor states are experiencing similar problems as the poor blacks in poor states. Why not just accept the obvious? Why use convoluted logic to try to prove one’s racist/racialist beliefs? Why?

I brought up Southern West Coast states as an example of states with racial diversity and yet fewer problems than states in the Deep South. NAARandom pointed out that California also has problems. Yes, but fewer than the Deep South. California is more similar to Texas, both massively wealthy with high wealth disparity (also, California has the 5th and Texas the 3rd largest black population). Let’s look at Texas since few other states have such high rates and a long history of racial diversity. The blacks in Texas have an average IQ (92) around 5 to 7 points higher than the national average for average black IQ (depending if you go by the average of 85 or 87) and only 3 points below the Texas overall average (i.e., all races). What is one thing that distinguishes Texas? The most obvious factor is that Texas is wealthy. I’m sure, because of that wealth, blacks have more opportunities for education and self-improvement. Look at Alaska which is also a wealthy state and has the lowest wealth disparity in the entire country (by the way, Alaska has many positive factors, correlated to low wealth disprity, such as the best state for low rates of low birthweight). Blacks there have an average 95 IQ which, interestingly, is the average IQ of all Alaskans and which is the highest average black IQ in the country. This is even with blacks experiencing higher rates of poverty than whites in states like Texas and Alaska.

– – –

In the video where NAARandom responded to me, the issue of violence and race is brought up. That happens to be one of the issues I also analyzed in my post from yesterday. If you look at maps of various kinds of violence and homicide, you find a consistent pattern. Here is one example of a gun violence map (note that this is one of the factors on which California rates well):

So, how can this be explained? The white supremacist will immediately jump to the explanation of blaming it on the blacks simply because blacks live in the region. I’d respond in two ways.

First, a map of black doesn’t directly correlate with the gun violence map.

File:USA 2000 black density.png

Second, a study of this violence proves there is no correlation between Southern black populations and Southern high rates of violence.

A Matter of Respect
James D. Wright

Culture of Honor makes a compelling case that there is something about Southernness itself that accounts for the link between region and violence. The case begins with a review and reanalysis of the extensive research on region and homicide. University of Michigan psychologist Richard E. Nisbett and University of Illinois psychologist Dov Cohen find many common explanations for the South’s higher homicide rate wanting. The legacy of slavery is probably an inadequate explanation because the non-slave regions of the South show the highest homicide rates; temperature fails as an explanation because the cooler upland regions have higher homicide rates. Relative poverty rates cannot be ruled out as a causal factor, but the regional effect remains even when poverty is taken into account.

Two other results point to a fundamental cultural factor. The regional effect does not seem to operate in big cities (big-city homicide rates are about the same in the South as elsewhere); it appears only in small cities and towns (Southern small towns are a lot more violent than small towns in other regions). Also, there is little or no regional difference in black homicide rates, only in the white rates. So the Southern distinctiveness in homicide and violence is concentrated among small-town whites, strongly suggesting the impact of regional culture.

– – –

The entire argument of the white supremacist falls apart like the meaningless bigotry that it is. People are racist because they want to be racist. Yes, a racist can cherry-pick data to rationalize their racism, but they probably wouldn’t be looking for data that supports racism unless they already wanted to be racist. They are, of course, free to be racists. As has been said before, everyone is free to have their own opinion, but that doesn’t mean everyone is free to have their own facts.

Media, Race and Obama’s First Year

I think this is what fairly could be labelled as institutional racism.


As a group, African Americans attracted relatively little attention in the U.S. mainstream news media during the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency — and what coverage there was tended to focus more on specific episodes than on examining how broader issues and trends affected the lives of blacks generally, according to a year-long study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and its Social and Demographic Trends Project.

From early 2009 through early 2010, the biggest news story related to African Americans was the controversy triggered by the arrest last summer of a prominent black Harvard University professor by a white Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer. It accounted for nearly four times more African American-related coverage than did either of two biggest national “issue” stories covered by the mainstream media during the same period – the economy and health care.

The study finds that 9% of the coverage of the nation’s first black president and his administration during Obama’s first year in office had some race angle to it. Here, too, this coverage was largely tied to specific incidents or controversies rather than to broader issues and themes.

Read the full report, Media, Race and Obama’s First Year on the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

Tea Party: prejudiced against marginalized groups?

I mentioned the study done on racism in the Tea Party in a previous post (Tea Party Racism & Milwaukee Socialism). I’m posting again the relevant part of that post and adding further information about the values and attitudes of Tea Party supporters.

The conclusion is that the Tea Party is mostly white males (although another study showed they were slightly more female) who have more wealth than most and higher education than most Americans (it sounds like the Pew Enterpriser demographic which is also the Fox News loyal viewership). So, the Tea Party supporters are mostly Americans who live a privileged lifestyle. This affluent class is critical towards government in that they blame the government for the problems on Wall Street (according to Pew, Enterprisers are the group that does the most trading in stocks and bonds). But this group (and conservatives in general) are only critical of government when a Democrat is power (whereas liberals are equally critical no matter which party is in power: Republicans Support Big Government… just as long as Republicans are in power).

Most important, this privileged class has little compassion towards those who were born with less privilege. Also, they see themselves as the dominant class, i.e., “Real Americans”. They are worried about losing their dominance with the increasing numbers of minorites, the increasing social liberalism of the young generations, and the growing acceptance of diversity (interrracial dating and marriage; atheism, agnosticism, and other religious “nones”; social justice Christianity; pick-and-choose religious sensibility). They have always loved big government when they were in power for most of the last several decades, but now they worry that the government might be helping the poor and needy… which really makes them mad.


Tea Party supporters are less likely than Americans overall to believe whites have more opportunities to get ahead than blacks.

Just 16 percent of Tea Party supporters say whites have more opportunities to get ahead, compared to 31 percent of all Americans. Seventy-three percent say both have equal opportunity, compared to 60 percent of Americans overall.

Fifty-two percent believe too much has been made of the problems facing black people. Far fewer Americans overall — 28 percent — believe as much. Among non-Tea Party whites, the percentage who say too much attention has been paid to the problems of black people is 23 percent.

A majority of Tea Party suppers believe the Obama administration treats both blacks and whites the same way. But one in four believe the administration favors blacks over whites, an opinion shared by just 11 percent of Americans overall and seven percent of non-Tea Party whites.


A comprehensive poll conducted for the New York Times and CBS News and released late Monday CBS News/New York Times essentially found what anyone watching a couple minutes of news footage of a rally would intuit: the 18 percent of the nation that identifies with the Tea Party movement tends to be white, male, older than 45 and Republican. And also hypocritical: despite their anti-spending rhetoric, Tea Party supporters told pollsters that two of the federal government’s most money-consuming programs, Social Security and Medicare, are worth the cost to taxpayers (maybe not a surprise, given the Tea Partiers’ average age). 

Interestingly, despite the frequent framing of the Tea Partiers as a predominantly blue-collar, the NYT poll also found that they are wealthier and better-educated than the public as a whole. And half of them think the Obama administration’s policies favor the poor.

If you stopped there, you might think this is largely a class-based movement, built on the principle of “I got mine.” But there’s more to it than that: 25 percent of the movement’s supporters think that the administration favors blacks over whites (compared with 11 percent of the general public).

[…] The UW survey shows Tea Partiers’ concerns with federal government spending are bound up with fears of having to share “their” benefits with people who aren’t deserving – and who also happen to be non-white.


Yes, they’re white, older, male and Republican; 56 percent make over $50,000 a year and 12 percent make over $250,000. They’re more likely to rely on Social Security and Medicare than the average voter — and, no surprise, they tend to approve of those two programs.

[…] As my friend Digby points out, make that “way more likely: 52% of them think that as compared to only 28% of the general public.” (Digby delves into much more detail about the poll, here.)

[…] And Tea Party supporters don’t like it when anyone notices the racists in their midst? I’ve written before that I find it galling when the wealthy, white Pat Buchanan (who by the way spent much of his adult life on government health insurance) lectures me about being “condescending” to the Tea Partiers, as though they’re a grass-roots uprising of the vulnerable against the elites. That’s garbage: They are a well-funded uprising of the elites against the vulnerable. And they’d be nowhere if their mission wasn’t largely supported by the top of corporate America (and the GOP shadow government in waiting).The idea that the Obama administration’s policies somehow favor black people will come as a surprise to many in the black community who are concerned that the president hasn’t done enough to directly address the crisis of unemployment, especially among black men. I happen to believe Obama’s race-neutral employment policies, targeted to place, not race, are the way to tackle the problem. But I have an idea for Tavis Smiley, Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson: They should hook up with the Tea Partiers. That’s an audience that really needs to hear their complaints about how little Obama is doing for black people.


“The tea party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race,”said Christopher Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who directed the survey.

It found that those who are racially resentful, who believe the U.S. government has done too much to support blacks, are 36 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who are not.


“While it’s clear that the Tea Party in one sense about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,” said Christopher Parker, the assistant professor of political science at the UW who directed the survey. Among his findings:

  • Southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the Tea Party than whites in other parts of the U.S.
  • Conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the Tea Party.
  • Strong support for the Tea Party resulted in a 45 percent decline in support for health-care reform compared with people who opposed the Tea Party.
  • 30 percent of the 1,015 had never heard of the Tea Party. But among those who had, 32 percent strongly supported it.
  • 56 percent of Republicans who had heard of it strongly approved. So did 31 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats.
  • Whites who disapprove of President Obama are 55 percent more likely to support the Tea Party.
  • Among whites who approve of the Tea Party, 35 percent say they believe blacks are hardworking, 45 percent said they believe blacks are intelligent and 41 percent believe them to be trustworthy.
Tea Party Survey




For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.

[…]  Overall, the average distance separating respective levels of tea party support, across various marginalized groups, after rounding, is 17% for blacks, 12% for immigrants, and 13% for gay rights, respectively.

Rather large differences also emerge upon consideration of liberty, equality, and perceptions of president Obama’s character traits. On questions that tap issues of liberty, the gap between true believers and those in the middle is greatest on the question of whether or not the “government can detain people as long as they wish without trial,” where true believers support the proposition by 25 points over those in the middle. The difference narrows to 8 points when people were asked to consider whether or not people with political beliefs at variance with the much of the country are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Overall, for this set of questions, the mean difference is 19 points, where “true believers’” preferences appear to run counter to liberty, at least relative to those in the middle (table of results: click here)

Similar results obtain for egalitarianism, where strong supporters of the movement appear less inclined toward equality. Consider the proposition where the distance between groups is greatest. When asked to opine on whether or not “we’d have many fewer problems in this country” if people more treated more equally, only 31% of true believers agreed, versus 55% of those in the middle, reflecting a 24 percentage-point difference. The smallest difference, a 17 points, emerges when respondents were asked whether or not “our society should do whatever is necessary to ensure equal opportunity in this country,” where 81% of those in the middle agree, versus 64% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference is approximately 22 points.

Finally, at least for this round of analysis, we turn to the way in which support or the tea party informs how people perceive the president. At its most narrow, 21 points separate true believers from those who dwell in the middle, where 65% of the latter see the president as a strong leader versus 44% of the former group. The gap reaches its widest point on the issue of whether or not the president is moral: 64% of those in the middle agree that he is moral versus only 32% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference between the groups, in the way in which both perceive the president, is approximately 26 points.




With its preference for small government and fiscal responsibility, the Tea Party movement claims to be conservative. Yet, their tactics and rhetoric belie this claim. The shrill attacks against blacks, illegal immigrants, and gay rights are all consistent with conservatism, but suggesting that the president is a socialist bent on ruining the country, is beyond politics. This paper shows that Richard Hofstadter’s thesis about the “paranoid style” of American politics helps characterize the Tea Party’s pseudo-conservatism. Through a comprehensive analysis of qualitative interviews, content analysis and public opinion data, we find that Tea Party sympathizers are not mainstream conservatives, but rather, they hold a strong sense of out-group anxiety and a concern over the social and demographic changes in America.

Tea Party Racism & Milwaukee Socialism

Paranoia in Wonderland by David Horsey, see reader comments in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer 

Socialism before it was a four-letter word

By John Gurda

Journal Sentinel files
In 1910 in Milwaukee, Emil Seidel became the first Socialist mayor elected by a major American city.

One hundred years ago tomorrow, Milwaukee made political history. On April 5, 1910, we became the first (and only) major city in America to elect a Socialist mayor. A former patternmaker named Emil Seidel won a decisive victory in the spring election, beginning a period of Socialist success at the polls that would last until Frank Zeidler stepped down in 1960.

To those outside the city, Seidel’s win seemed positively revolutionary, a bold and abrupt departure from the American norm. The truth is that municipal Socialism had been germinating here for generations. It mattered, first of all, that Milwaukee was the most German city in America and that some of its residents were genuine revolutionaries. An 1848 revolt against the German monarchs had ended in victory for the crowned set and exile for thousands of rebels, many of them well-educated idealists who wanted nothing less than to change the world.

A significant number of these “Forty-Eighters” found their way to Milwaukee, where they established music societies, theater groups, schools and other organizations that made their new home the “German Athens” of America. The exiles were as passionate about politics as they were about culture. Their Turner halls and freethinker congregations became forums for ideas that would come to life as Milwaukee Socialism.

European intellectuals may have supplied the seeds, but workers furnished the soil. As Milwaukee became a center of industry in the late 1800s, the city attracted legions of blue-collar immigrants who worked 10 to 12 hours for a dollar or two a day, without a dime in benefits. They were understandably open to the Socialist argument that workers deserved a greater share of the wealth they created.

The “laboring classes” were particularly receptive after state militia troops leveled deadly fire against a group of strikers marching for the eight-hour day in 1886. The shootings sparked a populist revolt that swept a number of factory hands into political office. They were swept out again when Republicans and Democrats joined forces, but Milwaukee workers were ripe for a rematch.

The regular parties offered a progressively weaker alternative. Like many American cities, Milwaukee became a cesspool of political corruption during the Gilded Age. Under Mayor David Rose, who held sway between 1898 and 1910, public morals reached their historic low point. Virtually everything that was not nailed down – from public hay supplies to aldermanic votes – was for sale to the highest bidder.


Those who think the government has done too much to help African Americans are 36 more likely to support the Tea Party.  

“While it’s clear that the Tea Party in one sense about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,” said Christopher Parker, the assistant professor of political science at the UW who directed the survey.Among his findings:

  • Southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the Tea Party than whites in other parts of the U.S.
  • Conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the Tea Party.
  • Strong support for the Tea Party resulted in a 45 percent decline in support for health-care reform compared with people who opposed the Tea Party.
  • 30 percent of the 1,015 had never heard of the Tea Party. But among those who had, 32 percent strongly supported it.
  • 56 percent of Republicans who had heard of it strongly approved. So did 31 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats.
  • Whites who disapprove of President Obama are 55 percent more likely to support the Tea Party.
  • Among whites who approve of the Tea Party, 35 percent say they believe blacks are hardworking, 45 percent said they believe blacks are intelligent and 41 percent believe them to be trustworthy.


Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.

Preliminary analysis also reveals race affects the ways in which Blacks and Whites perceive the president, his policies, and how he’s handling his job. To illustrate, 75% of Blacks have confidence in the president; 58% of Whites share this appraisal. Likewise, where 90% of Blacks think the president is doing a good job on the economy, only 55% of Whites agree with this appraisal. And the most recent hot-button issue, health care reform, received support from 86% of Blacks versus only 36% among Whites.