Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘racism

The heresy of racial differences

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When I first read “The Bell Curve” in my mid-twenties, I was also first confronted with the modern U.S. takes on racism, finding an enormous difference between what the book said and what its detractors claimed that it said.

This also led me to for the first time contemplate questions like racism on a more nuanced level than the “racism is evil” take I learned in school. One of my central observations what that I had had a lot of exposure to sci-fi and fantasy, e.g. through the various “Star Trek” series. Through this exposure, I knew that I could take large differences in a stride, respect radically different cultures and species for their strengths, and develop strong sympathies for beings that were not even human. Indeed, it was regularly the case that humans were not the top dogs in terms of the qualities I favour the most, like intelligence and intellectual accomplishment; occasionally, as with Tolkien’s elves vs. humans, humans lost over the entire line. For my part, I found myself in occasional unexpected situations, like being troubled by the ethics of Buffy’s often unprovoked slaying of vampires*; preferring the looks** of the all-Klingon version of B’Elanna over the all-human version when she was split into two alter egos; or seeing an almost apartheid level take on creatures in the “Narnia” books***.

*They were regularly killed in a blanket manner for being vampires, with the ipso facto conclusion that they were blood-thirsty and ruthless killers—without verification that the conclusion was actually correct. While the conclusion might well have been true in a vast majority of cases, the example of Spike proves that there was no certainty. His abstinence was, admittedly, forced upon him, but the fact that he got by well proves that a vampire that forego killing; while his later decision to regain his soul, as well as some other behaviors shown, forms a strong indication that some vampires might make that decision. (Within the Buffy-verse, the absence of a soul is what sets vampires apart from humans on the mental side. Note that Angel is a weaker example, because he already had his soul restored—he was physically a vampire and mentally a human; Spike was all vampire.)

**This was not such much a question of beauty as it was of the former preserving more of what I perceived as “B’Elanna”-ness. A Klingon would quite possibly have come to the reverse conclusion, having the reverse frame of reference.

***Note the clear, divinely approved or created, hierarchy of humans above talking animals above regular animals; and the easily drawn parallels between the English children and the builders of the British Empire (as viewed by its proponents) resp. the talking animals and the natives conquered by the British Empire. (And, yes, I have read the books several times as an adult.)

How then could anyone reasonably believe that I would be fazed by the far smaller differences within humankind, that I could be racist?

The answer to this is simple, and it also explains a very significant part of the criticisms launched against e.g. “The Bell Curve”: To many modern activists, racism amounts to merely contemplating that there could be differences of any kind that are not “skin deep”. (To some degree, the same applies m.m. to sexism and likely a few other “-isms”.) It does not matter whether I could view someone non-White as equal or even superior, whether I could appreciate differences, what I believe about the relative size of individual variations and group differences, … By even suggesting that there could be group differences, I am automatically written off as a racist. The very suggestion is heresy, punishable by automatic excommunication, to the PC orthodoxy.

Of course, this is far from all that is wrong with the attacks on alleged racism or misuse of the word “racism” (cf. a longer older article), but I have over time grown to consider this the single greatest problem, as well as the problem rational thinkers gain the most from understanding before approaching the debate.

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Written by michaeleriksson

December 2, 2017 at 9:43 am

Microaggressions

with 5 comments

About a week ago, I found that I had a few old comment subscriptions unconfirmed. Confirming them, I took the opportunity to revisit the respective posts, including one on so called microaggressions that (again) struck me as unusually idiotic. I read up on Wikipedia (Microaggression, Microaffirmation), saw my view confirmed—and saw several independent minor mentions of the (alleged) phenomenon during my readings this week.

Since this concept appears to be of importance to some groups, I am moved to a discussion with the main conclusions (that should be obvious) that much of this is nonsense and misinterpretation, that it serves to create a feeling of hostile treatment where non is present, that it provides further excuses for those who do not take responsibility for their own actions*, and that it is a good way for movements who have accomplished their goals and ran out of targets to pretend that work is still direly needed—and likely unending work at that. The concept and state or research appears to be at best proto-scientific, more likely “gender studies” level pseudo-science. In as far as the discussions I have seen have something to offer, then when we leave the area of what can be considered “micro-”… To boot, it is very vulnerable to the problem of “you find what you are looking for”, likely to the point that a primer on microaggressions can make an easily influenced member of a minority suddenly see evil all around him—making his life and the lives of those who interact with him worse in the process…

*Even when it comes to “ordinary” claims of aggression, discrimination, …, the alleged victims are often just misinterpreting events that would have happened similarly for everyone else or are actually resulting from their own behavior. Was your boss mean to you because you are a woman—or because you performed poorly (or because he is an ass-hole)? Did you not get that job because of your skin color—or because someone else was better qualified (or had better personal connections, or made a better superficial impression, …)? We live in a world where we can count on negative things happening to us on a frequent basis, and if we make the mistake of thinking that we are alone and that it must be because of X, well, that is a recipe for victim mentality. I, e.g., could conclude that Germans must have negative feelings about Swedes—and some kind of “Swedar” to boot that allows them to identify me so easily.

The first Wikipedia article gives the following description

Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”. He describes microaggressions as generally happening below the level of awareness of well-intentioned members of the dominant culture. According to Sue, microaggressions are different from overt, deliberate acts of bigotry, such as the use of racist epithets, because the people perpetrating microaggressions often intend no offense and are unaware they are causing harm. Microaggressions are known to be subtle insults that direct towards the person or a group of people as a way to “put down”. He describes microaggressions as including statements that repeat or affirm stereotypes about the minority group or subtly demean them. They also position the dominant culture as normal and the minority one as aberrant or pathological, that express disapproval of or discomfort with the minority group, that assume all minority group members are the same, that minimize the existence of discrimination against the minority group, seek to deny the perpetrator’s own bias, or minimize real conflict between the minority group and the dominant culture.

Already from this definition at least the following problems are clear: The concept is hard to investigate and leaves very much up to the interpretation, even imagination, of the investigator; a negative proof or an “acquittal” (i.e. “you are innocent of microaggressions”) is virtually impossible to get. Microaggressions arbitrarily only go from the dominant culture towards others*, for no obvious objective reason, leaving us with the need for another concept in the other direction (e.g. a black man showing the same alleged behaviors towards a white man as a microaggressive white man does towards him) and unfortunate room for political/rhetorical/whatnot abuse of the concept. The “aggression” part is a severe misnomer, seeing that these alleged events are often unconscious—or even friendly or positive**! The concept is removed from the intention of the “perpetrator” and (at least when factoring in examples and wider discussions) reliant on the reactions of the “victim”. (In other words, yet another concept that allows criminalizing even people who are innocent based on both their own intentions and the opinions of reasonable neutral observers. The subjective reactions of the other party, even when entirely unreasonable, are the only thing that counts.)

*A common problem: I note e.g. how the Swedish “hate laws” (“hets mot folkgrupp”, roughly “aggitation against sub-population”) arbitrarily adds women to minorities and leaves men out—despite their being more women than men (i.e. men having a greater claim to be a minority). To say “all Jews should be shot” is a violation of this law, ditto “all women should be shot”; however, “all men should be shot” is not. Even if we were to accept the premise (highly disputable when the law was created; indisputably incorrect today) that women are in need of so much more protection than men that minority protections must be extended, there is no justifiable reason to exclude men—there is nothing legitimate to be gained from this special treatment. (And laws should be written to be general, consistent, and not contain weird exceptions. The same applies m.m. to scientific concepts and theories.) Another example is the sometime deliberate misdefinition of “racism” to necessitate a position of power (very much like microaggressions above), with absurd conclusions like “Blacks cannot be racist.”, irrespective of their actual opinions and behaviors—a misdefinition that with virtual certainty stems from a wish to abuse the concept of racism for self-serving purposes.

**For instance, one of the examples provided by the above Sue is “Ascription of intelligence: When Asian-Americans are stereotyped as being intelligent or assumed to be smart.”: If such things count as microaggressions, then the conclusion is that we must either (unscientifically) deny any difference between groups, be they cultural, genetic, whatnot, or any type of stereotype must be avoided (even when otherwise justified; note that stereotypes serve a purpose and the problems lie in not considering individual variations).

How absurdly this idea can be applied is shown by another Wikipedia quote of Sue: “[…] correcting a student’s use of “indigenous” in a paper by changing it from upper- to lowercase.” Taken to such extremes, any type of direct or indirect criticism, regardless of grounds and justification, would be impossible; correcting papers would be pointless; and school even more unproductive than today.

Among the more absurd other examples we find e.g. “displaying nude pin-ups of women at places of employment, someone making unwanted sexual advances toward another person”: In the first case, it is not clear what would be negative to begin with*, and we have a weird dependency on external circumstance and/or a definition problem—is this a microaggression when no women are present? If “yes”, how can this be without a “victim”; if “no”, why should e.g. the members of an all-male workplace suddenly become microaggressors when a woman visits? In the second, we have a strong dependency on the reactions of the other party—it is impossible to know in general whether sexual advance will be welcome or unwelcome. Effectively, if I approach a woman and she reacts positively—everything is fine. She reacts negatively—microaggression!

*Feminist clap trap about “objectification” and similar aside: I want legitimate reasons—not empty rhetoric. Besides, the one image in such a category that I have seen in one of my workplaces was showing a man and owned by a woman…

As Wikipedia says in the lede:

However, a number of psychologists and other authors, including Bradley Campbell, Heather Mac Donald, Amitai Etzioni, Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff, Jason Manning, Ralph Nader, and Christina Hoff Sommers, have argued that the concept of microaggressions is scientifically not well substantiated and may be harmful to both individuals and society. The concept of perceived microaggression has also been described as part of victimhood culture.

Or further down:

Some scholars think that the environment of protectiveness, of which microaggression allegations are a part, prepares students “poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong”.

Or yet further down:

Kenneth R. Thomas claimed in American Psychologist that recommendations inspired by microaggression theory, if “implemented, could have a chilling effect on free speech and on the willingness of White people, including some psychologists, to interact with people of color.” Sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning have written in the academic journal Comparative Sociology that the microaggression concept “fits into a larger class of conflict tactics in which the aggrieved seek to attract and mobilize the support of third parties” that sometimes involves “building a case for action by documenting, exaggerating, or even falsifying offenses”. It has been argued that the concept of microaggressions is a symptom of the breakdown in civil discourse, that microaggressions are “yesterday’s well-meaning faux pas”, that it has become “unacceptable to question the reasonableness (let alone the sincerity) of someone’s emotional state”, making adjudication of alleged microaggressions like witch trials.

Or in the section “Scientific status of the concept”:

Some psychologists have criticized microaggression theory for assuming that verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities are necessarily due to bias It has also been pointed out that it is uncertain whether a behavior is due to racial bias or is a larger phenomenon that occurs regardless of identity conflict. In a 2017 peer-reviewed review of microaggression literature, Scott Lilienfeld, while acknowledging the reality of “subtle slights and insults directed toward minorities”, concluded that the concept and programs for its scientific assessment are “far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application”. He recommended abandonment of the term microaggression since “the use of the root word ‘aggression’ in ‘microaggression’ is conceptually confusing and misleading” and called for a moratorium on microaggression training programs until further research can develop the field.

Althea Nagai, who works as a research fellow at the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, accuses microaggression research of being pseudoscience. Nagai asserts that the prominent critical race researchers behind microaggression theory “reject the methodology and standards of modern science.” She lists various technical shortcomings of microaggression research, including “biased interview questions, reliance on narrative and small numbers of respondents, problems of reliability, issues of replicability, and ignoring alternative explanations.”

The post I originally encountered (s. above) is much of the same nonsense. My original comment:

The specific case of “you speak so well” more-or-less necessitates bad faith on behalf of the observer to be considered even a micro-aggression. In all likelihood, it is a genuine compliment (or flattery…)—and not one that can be considered a sign of e.g. racism, seeing that there are easily observed differences in average language performance between various groups. (Differences that to boot are only indirectly race related through the direct mechanism of migration.)

(As an aside, living in Germany where the third language I learned is spoken, I know quite a lot about the experiences of non-native speakers. Believe me: Such statements are quite likely even when both parties are White Europeans of different nationalities who optically easily pass for natives in each others countries.)

Several of your other examples and/or your reasoning could be vulnerable to similar objections, noting observable differences in typical behaviour of groups. This will to a large degree depend on how the various statements were delivered and contextual information not present in the post. Claims of racism are particularly vulnerable, seeing that the examples can typically be seen as related to non-racial aspects or be explained by other phenomena than racism (even when actually micro-aggressions).

Written by michaeleriksson

November 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Let no man pull you low enough to hate him

with one comment

I just encountered a post titled Quotes I likee stating:

Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.
Martin Luther King Jr.
US black civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 – 1968)

I was struck by the great contrast between this and the very often hateful attitude of the self-proclaimed anti-racists of today. For instance, just yesterday, I saw the following commente:

Rasister är vidriga. Måtte de döden dö.

(Racists are despicable. They should die. [Lit. “May they die the death”, a Swedish expression.])

Written by michaeleriksson

June 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm

The myth of white male privilege

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I have had a post on the myth of white male privilege in the planning since January. The preliminary, late-running, product is now present on my website, having grown too long for the blog format.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies VIIIs: Coloured bloggers in need of a reality check (follow-up)

with 3 comments

To give a better perspective of the kind of thinking that goes on at the blog discussed in the previously installment:

  1. The following post is titled I blame the Patriarchy for my technical incompetence.e, giving a clear indication of the closeness in thought to harmful variations of feminism.

  2. Before I (relatively soon) left the discussion on the page, AfroCan made a number of illogical or ad hominem statements confirming my earlier opinions. These included (among many others) attacking me for using “racism” in its correct meaning instead of his own Newspeak distortion of the term, which, per definitionem, would make it impossible for coloured to be racists and near unavoidable for white to be so. (An evil rhetorical trick, which I recently saw echoed on the blog of a participant of a brain-washing seminare. For more on abuse of “racism”, see a previous article.)

    It is also clear that AfroCan has not actually bothered to understand what claims I actually make or the greater context of those claims.

    The following statement is downright scary:

    That is part of your White arrogance right there! Everything Whites extol is “truth” but the experiences of people of colour are “fabrications”, “lies” and “rantings”!

  3. Further misleading statements were made by Jennifer Kesler, including

    Michael, the argument that bigotry is perpetuated by angry marginalized people yapping excessively (which is what your quoted statement here boils down to) is an old silencing tactic. There’s a huge amount of privilege baked into the very idea.

    Here an argument that I have never made is associated with me as an excuse for the accusation of using a silencing tactic. This is the more absurd, seeing that silencing tactics are the speciality of the PC movement. Indeed, Jennifer’s own statement is exactly that—a silencing tactic. (Criticism of the “truths” of the movement are “proof” of being bigoted or “privileged” and, ipso facto, invalidate the criticism.) Further, an entirely irrelevant and factually incorrect claim about privilege is made.

    Further

    You’re attempting to show AfroCan what his place is. How textbook racist is that? No one’s alienating you. You’re just looking for rationalizations to back up what you’ve already decided.

    Again a highly misleading representation of my statements—followed by a grossly incorrect conclusion: I do not care the least about AfroCan’s skin color. What I care about is his destructiveness, lack of objectivity and insight, and flawed reasoning.

    I have never spoken about alienation concerning myself, but, irrespective of intentions, I am being alienated by the unreasonable behaviour shown by large parts of the PC movement.

    I am certainly not looking for rationalizations—even more certainly not for the alleged racist views that Jennifer tries to ascribe to me: My topics are evil rhetoric, lack of critical thinking, the harmful misguidedness of the PC movement, and similar. Criticizing idiocy among self-proclaimed anti-racists is not racism! I note that her claim about rationalizations amounts to directing the criticism against the PC movement (with its ideological blindness, rationalizations, and unwillingness to listen to factual arguments) back against those who raise the criticism in the first place. (More generally, I have noted that feminists are very prone to attack their opponents for exactly the sins that they, themselves, are the worst perpetrators of. A notable example is härskarteknikerw, including ridiculing and shaming, which are used on a very large scale by many feminist groups, debaters, and bloggers.)

Written by michaeleriksson

November 4, 2010 at 9:58 am

The misconception of defensive statements as proof of guilt

with 3 comments

I recently encountered a (sub-)discussione that well illustrates a common misconception: That a defensive statement equals admission of guilt. (The main discussion circles around an anti-Islam academic, does not interest me, and seems to be the same old arguments from both sides.)

Consider the following statements:

(Danny)

I think its fair to say that if you have to end a sentence with “…this statement was not racist,” it was probably a racist sentence.

(Sheikh Jahbooty)

Easy logic.

You communicate. They hear a racist idea. Either you are total crap at communicating or you were communicating a racist idea.

Then you attach, “…this statement was not racist.”

It can mean

1) You are incompetent. (Let’s assume that NYU doesn’t give PHDs to people who lack competence in communicating, although I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption.)

2) You are terribly racist.

(My reply)

Faulty logic:

As case has it, many people abuse the word “racism” to include things that are not racist out of ignorance, while others use it as a (deliberate) personal attack in order to discredit the speaker.

In my native Sweden, e.g., a minority of all uses of “racism” that I have seen the last few years have been justifiable.

In the US, in turn, there are nowadays cases when e.g. criticism directed at Obama or his policies is denounced as racist—despite the fact that Hillary would have been met with the same criticism. (Notwithstanding the possibility that a minority of the criticism does have a racist base.)

See e.g. http://www.aswedeingermany.de/50LanguageAndWriting/50Racism.html for more information.

(Lòt Poto-a)

Well, I always have doubts about the validity or authenticity of someone’s perspective when they are unnecessarily defensive. Think about it. The subject of race comes up in a conversation and the first thing someone says is “I don’t hate white people,” or “I have a black friend” (Just ONE black friend! Ha!).

If you have nothing to hide, then you have no reason to try to defend yourself. End of story.

What happens is simply something very different: There are great groups of people (including racists, anti-racists, Swedish leftist, and feminists) who often fail to argue their case by arguments, but instead tend to use personal attacks, undue generalizations, and distortions of their opponents opinions.

The result is that the opponent again and again sees himself confronted with the same, usually unfair, accusation of e.g. mansplaining. The case of racism is dealt with by the above link, but also in e.g. my discussion of Sverigedemokraterna—the core being that being a racist is not to be confused with (above) being anti-Islam(ism), anti-immigration, or justly criticizing an individual member of a minority on objective grounds. My article series on Unfair argumentation methods has some discussion of the more general topic of name calling instead of arguments.

Now, when again and again confronted with such accusations, it is only natural that one learns to expect them—and this is the reason behind such statements: Not knowledge that one is X, but knowledge that one regularly will be accused of being X.

The above tendency to name calling is sad enough, but the sickening part is that when someone either tries to preempt the unfair accusations or reacts negatively to them—then this is taken as further proof against him! In combination, these argumentless debate methods bring the opponents into a “damned if you do; damned if you do not” situation—either they remain silent and see themselves vilified through a misrepresentation of opinion; or they speak up and are vilified with the very fact that they spoke up as “proof”.

I note in conclusion that some of the most narrow-minded, intolerant, biased, and over-generalizing people I have encountered in the blogosphere and in Swedish politics have been self-declared anti-racists, anti-bigots, and similar—exactly those people who the most loudly complain about narrow-mindedness, intolerance, whatnot, in others.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Unfair argumentation methods X: Meaning and (ab)use of “racism”

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The long promised article on “racism”—or rather a link to it. Again, a post grew out of the scope for a good blog entry, making me turn into an article for my website.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 20, 2010 at 8:49 am