Friday, August 28, 2020

How Not to Be an Antiracist

The above title is the title of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. It is the best thing I have read -- not a lot -- about the new meaning of racism. Since it is behind a paywall, the following in italics are some excerpts.

When properly conceived, antiracist programs can provide a powerful response to hate and bias incidents. The problem with much of today’s antiracism is that it doesn’t really oppose invidious discrimination and may even foment it.

The new antiracism is not, as its etymology suggests, opposition to racial discrimination. Ibram X. Kendi demonstrates this in his 2019 bestseller, “How to Be an Antiracist.” He defines “racism” as a combination of policies and ideas that “produces and normalizes racial inequities.” This racism has nothing to do with individual discrimination. Rather, it is support for institutions that yield disparities. Lest there be confusion, Mr. Kendi emphasizes that “focusing on ‘racial discrimination’ takes our eyes off” the policy goals he and other self-proclaimed antiracists support.

In other words, the new antiracism requires that we take our eyes off what antidiscrimination work is all about—combating invidious discrimination—and focus instead on social outcomes that arise in the absence of racial preferences.

I have not read Ibram X. Kendi's book, but I have seen him in videos and often referenced in articles. He is at the forefront of the new meaning of "racism" and the new term "anti-racism." The book was a #1 New York Times bestseller. It has 6,561 reviews on Amazon with 88% of them 5-star and a tiny percent of 1-star or 2-star reviews. The top of page 81 defines a cultural antiracist as "One who is rejecting cultural standards and equalizing cultural differences among racial groups."

Imagine a person with primary responsibility of selecting players for a professional NBA basketball team or NFL football team. About 80% of all NBA and NFL players are black, far exceeding their percentage of the U.S. population, which is about 13%. Imagine the person pursues all or nearly all white players in order to equalize this huge racial disparity. In other words, skin color outranks any other considerations like playing ability and improving the team's skill-set. 

Somebody might object. That's not what Mr. Kendi means. That person would decrease income for the blacks replaced and the wider goal of equalizing income for the black population. I would reply that objection doesn't follow. Other teams could pick up the black players replaced. What this brief exchange shows is how logically weak Kendi's meaning of "cultural antiracist" is.

An individual being color-blind is not good enough in Kendi's opinion. What counts instead is that society level statistics show no racial disparity.

Is there institutional racism in America? Walter Williams says 'yes', but it is not the kind that Kendi dislikes.

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