Category 7. Race

MacDonald’s Insight

In an oped that appeared in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, Heather MacDonald made a simple point that I have been thinking about ever since:


“By perpetuating a false narrative about its own racism, Yale, like the vast majority of colleges and universities today, encourages its minority students to think of themselves as victims. That mentality is contrary to fact and will hinder those who adopt it from fully seizing the boundless opportunities …

I don’t doubt that academics think that they’re promoting their idea of justice by teaching the idea, now taken as Unchallenged Truth in academia and popular culture, that “implicit bias” against minorities is deeply – and often unconsciously – embedded in our society. (Well, “implicit bias” against non-Asian-American minorities...

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Accusations of Racism

I have sometimes wondered, sitting in a church pew, how much Christian dogma the person in front of me actually believes. Does he or she believe in the virgin birth? The resurrection? That by believing we will attain eternal life?

We cannot see into each others’ hearts, nor can we ever really know for sure why people do what they do.

Invariably, as I think about the questions I’ve asked myself about my fellow congregants, I realize that I neither know nor particularly care whether or not they believe in the literal truth of these doctrines, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not happy that they’re there – I am.

***

Most accusations of racism today, prominently including the ones routinely leveled at our current president, are despicable and, all-too-often, successful a...

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A Culturist

As you may know, the word libertarian fairly describes my thinking on most broadly political, economic and even social matters; there should be a word that captures how I, and others like me, think about culture. I propose the word culturist. I think – and clutch your pearls now if you are one of the perpetually offended – that some cultures are better than others.

By better, I mean both that such cultures are – in broad terms – fairer and that they encourage behaviors that result in the creation of vastly more wealth and knowledge. They help mankind not lead lives that are, in Hobbes’s immortal phrase, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Over time the vast majority of people who have ever lived have done so in Hobbesian conditions; we do not...

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Against Multiculturalism

Take a moment to think again about one of the most important sentences ever written:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the Founders set out a proudly universalist vision of natural rights. If all men are created equal, then preferences for one tribe, sect or class over another, whether in law or custom, are wrong.

This statement was a (literally) revolutionary rejection of the caste systems – and tribe-based identities – of other nations of the world. It spoke of universal natural rights...

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I Don’t Want to Talk About It.

Is it possible to be thrown out of a tight-knit group that one was instrumental in forming? I have a chance to find out.

I am in a fabulous book club. I got the group rolling four or five years ago by recruiting a handful of close friends to the venture. On a rotating schedule, one person chooses a book, another cooks a meal and a third leads the discussion. We read all kinds of books, and our subsequent discussions are augmented by fine food and wine. We are just as competitive about the consumables as we are about the selections of, and our opinions about, the books.

Considering that the book club is small, and consists exclusively of people who are sociologically similar (we are all prosperous men, 55+) the points of view represented are widely divergent: our political and religious or...

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Race, Social Class and Personal Brands

Out for a walk just now, I had an unremarkable experience.

I crossed paths with an African-American of perhaps 30, well dressed and groomed, wearing horn-rimmed glasses not unlike my own. Had we spoken, I would guess that his diction and intonation, and quite possibly his accent, would also have been similar to mine; his appearance and manner strongly suggested that we were of the same social class.

We smiled silent greetings and kept on our merry ways.

Let’s think about brands for a minute or two, before coming back to race and social class.

McDonalds and Coca-Cola have built enormous businesses on the comfort that consumers take from knowing exactly what they’ll get when they purchase burgers or sodas...

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Identity and Belonging

We tend to define our individual identities largely by reference to groups. Each of us can be seen as part of countless definable groups; for example, I am an American; I am a man; I am middle-aged; I am a husband and father; I am a business-person; I am a blogger; I am a (non-doctrinaire) libertarian; I am a WASP. I could go on and on. So could you, about anybody.

Groups are communally defined: others must share an understanding of the definitions of the groups by which we characterize ourselves. We pick and choose which group identities are more important in our own eyes.

The sense of belonging in particular groups becomes an important part of how we see ourselves. Indeed, we need to belong to groups that help form our identities...

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Ferguson

A couple of years ago, an African-American woman who has worked in my home one day a week for many years was assaulted by a police officer outside her home in the Bronx because her neighbor was playing loud music.

She is in her late 50s – mild-mannered, a devout Christian and a very hard-working lady; her character is, in my long experience, unimpeachable. Imagine our surprise, then, when she showed up for work one day with her face covered in ugly bruises, explaining that her injuries had been caused by an out-of-control member of the NYPD.

I have been thinking about her experience while reading about the protests/riots in Ferguson. She and her very large, teenage son were probably both very lucky that he was not present when the policeman lost his temper over something that was no fault ...

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American Jews, Israel and Me

I have the highest regard and the deepest affection for the Jews in my life. I find them, and the culture that I see in their actions, fantastically impressive. There’s a reason that Jews have won so many Nobel prizes, achieved so much in business and made their various marks on the world: their culture fosters achievement. And they not only demonstrate industry and wit, they are charitable – albeit often with somewhat more of a tribal focus than others might appreciate; but in considering that undoubted bias, one cannot forget that since time immemorial they have both segregated themselves, and been segregated, often abusively, by others; these are two sides of the coin of apartness.

The relationship between American Jews and Israel fascinates me...

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Affirmative Action

Many years ago, while reading a book about contract law I stumbled across a passage that I have never forgotten. In 1861, a British historian of laws named Henry Maine wrote that:

“…the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract.”

His idea was that the whole evolution from medieval societies based on inherited personal status (aristocrat, cleric, guild-member or serf) to more modern societies based on individual freedoms could be traced in the movement of the law away from treating people as members of designated classes and toward seeing them as individuals who could make their own decisions – and enter into binding contracts among themselves – irrespective of their backgrounds...

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