Saturday, June 3, 2006

Simpleminded in Seattle

According to Betsy at Betsy's Page the Seattle Public Schools employ a person with the title of Director of Equity and Race Relations. Among this individual's duties, evidently, is the task of enlightening the taxpayers of the district as to the true nature and definition of racism. The Director's definition, distilled to its essence, is simply this: Something white people are guilty of. She words it rather differently, but what she says amounts to the same thing:

The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society."

This is the sort of addle-pated nonsense a Director of Equity churns out to justify her paycheck? What is "equitable" about this definition?

Question: If a poor white is oppressed by a wealthier black who hates whites because of their race, would the black be racist? Answer: No, because the black belongs to a racial group that is socially and economically inferior to the group to which the white belongs. Thus no matter how much power an individual black wields over an individual white, and no matter how much he uses that power to harm the white, he is innocent of the taint of racism because he is a member of the virtuous race of blacks who are untainted by the original sin of racism.

The Director of Racial Equity also assays to develop a taxonomy of racism for those of us who may not understand the sociological arcana involved. Cultural racism, for instance, is:

Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

Is it racist to point out that this might be the dumbest thing ever to be written on the subject of race? Madame Director of Equity and Race Relations manages to cram more stupidity into a single paragraph than one might have thought humanly possible. To take just a couple of examples:

It is cultural racism, by her definition, to be oriented toward the future, to pay into a retirement account, to show up for work every day and on time in order to secure a paycheck at the end of the week, to save for one's children's college education or a new house, to discipline oneself with regard to the pleasures of food, drink, and/or sex in order to secure the long term benefits of a healthier body and a more stable marriage. If this is racism, and if only whites are racist, it's no wonder the African American community is in such desperate condition.

It is cultural racism, we're given to understand, to value the rights of the individual. Madame Director of Equity and Race Relations should spend an evening or two with Atlas Shrugged, but assuming that she would not be inclined to read Ayn Rand - a white woman, after all - she might at least look around the globe at those societies which promote the collective over the individual and take note of what kind of communities they are. She might do well to compare predominately white nations built on the concept of the importance of individual rights versus non-white nations which are not, and ask herself which she would prefer she and her children live in.

It is cultural racism, the lady avers, to define one form of English as the standard for all citizens. Madame Director would do well to undertake a study of the countries of the world that have the greatest and the least social cohesion and assess whether there doesn't seem to be a correlation to language in these societies. In nations in which there are a plurality of languages there is often stultifying economic inefficiency and deprivation as well as cultural division. One of the surest ways to isolate people from each other, after all, is to encourage them to speak different languages. The best way to unify people is to give them a common tongue. Madame Director defines as racist the desire that we, as disparate races, be as unified as we can be through a common language. Very odd.

It is cultural racism to identify only whites as great writers or composers. One wishes Madame Director would give an example of someone who actually does this with regard to contemporary artists. If her complaint is that people tend to consider only whites to be great composers of classical music, or great writers prior to, say, 1920 perhaps that's because only whites were composing music during the classical era and writing literature prior to 1920 (with the exception of W.E.B. DuBois). Would it constitute cultural racism to say that historically only whites were great mathematicians, astronomers, physicists, or philosophers if only whites were doing this sort of work before the twentieth century?

One last question: Why are the Seattle taxpayers paying good money to employ someone as a Director of Equity and Race Relations in the first place, especially if the person employed is doing more to damage race relations than she is to help them?

Out of the Closet

Last Fall an accomplished geneticist at Cornell named John Sanford came out of the closet. Having harbored doubts for some time about what he calls the "Primary Axiom" of biology (i.e. neo-Darwinism) he could no longer keep his skepticism to himself. Braving the howls and execrations of his peers he has written a book (Genetic Entropy & and the Mystery of the Genome, 2005) wherein he lays out his doubts about the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to explain human genetics. He also discusses the path that led him to his apostasy. Here's a portion:

In retrospect, I realize that I have wasted so much of my life arguing about things that don't really matter. It is my sincere hope that this book can actually address something that really does matter. The issue of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going seem to me to be of enormous importance. This is the real subject of this book ....

Modern Darwinism is built on what I will be calling "The Primary Axiom". The Primary Axiom is that man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection. Within our society's academia, the Primary Axiom is universally taught, and almost universally accepted. It is the constantly mouthed mantra, repeated endlessly on every college campus. It is very difficult to find any professor on any college campus who would even consider (or should I say - dare) to question the Primary Axiom ....

Late in my career, I did something which for a Cornell professor would seem unthinkable. I began to question the Primary Axiom. I did this with great fear and trepidation. By doing this, I knew I would be at odds with the most "sacred cow" of modern academia. Among other things, it might even result in my expulsion from the academic world.

Although I had achieved considerable success and notoriety within my own particular specialty (applied genetics), it would mean I would have to be stepping out of the safety of my own little niche. I would have to begin to explore some very big things, including aspects of theoretical genetics which I had always accepted by faith alone. I felt compelled to do all this - but I must confess I fully expected to simply hit a brick wall. To my own amazement, I gradually realized that the seemingly "great and unassailable fortress" which has been built up around the Primary Axiom is really a house of cards.

The Primary Axiom is actually an extremely vulnerable theory - in fact it is essentially indefensible. Its apparent invincibility derives mostly from bluster, smoke, and mirrors. A large part of what keeps the Axiom standing is an almost mystical faith, which the true-believers have in the omnipotence of natural selection. Furthermore, I began to see that this deep-seated faith in natural selection was typically coupled with a degree of ideological commitment - which can only be described as religious. I started to realize (again with trepidation) that I might be offending a lot of people's religion!

Read the rest of Sanford's account of his backslide from the one true faith here.

The True Believers

Richard John Neuhaus at First Things (subscription required) notes that in the introduction to the book From the Gulag to the Killing Fields by Paul Hollander there appears a list of eight ways in which all extremist groups, whether of the right or left, are similar. All extremist mass movements are typified by the following beliefs or attitudes:

1. Extreme hostility toward "outgroups." You are either for us or against us and any dialogue or civil conversation with the "enemy" is betrayal.

2. Complete submissiveness to "ingroups." Our party and its leaders are to be supported without question. Criticism of our side is breaking ranks and breaking ranks is treason.

3. All relationships are subordinated to the criterion of what will advance the "cause."

4. The most important thing to know about the world is that it is divided by the conflict between them and us.

5. Purely theoretical ideas which do not serve the cause are to be repressed.

6. The extension of sentiment is a sign of weakness.

7. We and our group can only survive by the manipulation of others, who are there to be manipulated.

8. The triumph of our cause will result in a harmonious world without conflict.

Communism and Naziism exhibited most or all of these traits in the twentieth century and together they made that period the most murderous in all of human history. Islamo-fascism exhibits the same traits today, and, if it is allowed to thrive, it'll do to this century what the Marxists and Nazis did to the last, or worse.