Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Not All 'Anti-Racist' Ideas Are Good Ones

You don't say? 

And this is Matthew Yglesias, someone who blocked me on Twitter back in the day. I obviously don't care for the guy, but, as it's happening a lot these days, he's been on the wrong end of leftist "cancel culture." See Fox News's report, "Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias quits, cites 'inherent tension' and desire to be 'independent' voice: Yglesias follows Glenn Greenwald, Bari Weiss, and Andrew Sullivan in exodus of journalists from prominent news outlets."

Yglesias is up at WaPo with an op-ed, here, "Not all ‘anti-racist’ ideas are good ones. The left isn’t being honest about this: On some topics, progressives prefer pointing out right-wing hypocrisy to debating substance":

The same Republicans championing free speech and deploring “cancel culture” are trying to pass laws criminalizing protests, bar classroom discussions of the New York Times’ 1619 Project on slavery and penalize people who advocate boycotts to oppose Israeli settlements. Combine that with the idea that we’ve got more important issues to deal with, from the pandemic to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and many progressives think they don’t have to engage with the argument that the left is too conformist and dogmatic on certain topics involving race. They don’t want to hear about the San Francisco Board of Education stripping Abraham Lincoln’s name from a high school, or Oregon teacher-training materials claiming that asking math students to “show their work” reinforces white supremacy.

“One of America’s major parties has turned against democracy,” Vox’s Zack Beauchamp tweeted Feb. 9, after a Times a reporter who had used the n-word in a discussion with students about racism was compelled to resign, “and we’re talking about . . . the Times’ staffing decisions?”

But it would be a significant mistake for mainstream progressives to duck the substance of these controversies. After all, it is progressives who in recent years have attempted to increase the stigma attached to racist speech while also expanding the scope of what’s “racist.” That double move introduces complications into discussions of racism that should invite more argumentation, not less.

In educated liberal circles these days, everyone knows that racism is not just a question of individual prejudice or hatred. The conversations are about “structural” or “systemic” racism — impersonal properties of systems, embedded in processes. Certainly it’s true that race and racism have shaped many legal, political and social institutions, since America’s earliest days. But when you make the scope of racism so expansive, that necessarily means pushing the conversations into contestable terrain.

The shift from dismantling monuments to the Confederacy to erasing homages to Lincoln, for example, raises important questions about how to balance the praiseworthy and lamentable aspects of political figures. (The school board noted that during Lincoln’s presidency, the military hanged 38 rebellious Native Americans in Minnesota.) But whether to cancel Lincoln is — for most people — a fairly easy case. Consider a more challenging one, involving land use restrictions in American cities. Having studied the issue, I believe that excessively strict regulations embody structural racism in housing: Such rules price low-income people, who are disproportionately Black and Brown, out of many areas. To me, it’s clear that the sensible (and progressive) course of action is to allow denser construction in the most expensive neighborhoods; increasing housing supply will have ripple effects that reduce housing prices for everyone. But I’m also aware that many people sincerely believe that allowing real estate development fuels gentrification and displacement — and that the key to racial justice is even more stringent regulations.

Nothing is gained if the different parties in this debate call each other racists or invoke the specter of “white supremacy” to discredit their opponents. The affordable-housing question requires dispassionate analysis, not the censoriousness and scolding that might be appropriate for combating expressions of traditional prejudice, such as redlining.

Yet many commentators urge a more fiery approach. Ibram Kendi, author of the bestseller “How to Be an Antiracist,” argues for an extremely expansive concept of racism that pushes the boundaries of structural analysis to the limits. According to Kendi, any racial gap simply is racist by definition; any policy that maintains such a gap is a racist policy; and — most debatably — any intellectual explanation of its existence (sociological, cultural, and so on) is also racist. He has famously argued that anything that is not anti-racist is perforce racist.

This reaches its most radical form in Kendi’s conflation of measurements of problems with the problems themselves. In his book — ubiquitous in educational circles — he denounces not the existence of a large Black-White gap in school performance but any discussion of such a gap. Kendi writes that “we degrade Black minds every time we speak of an ‘academic-achievement gap’ ” based on standardized test scores and grades. Instead, he asks: “What if the intellect of a low-testing Black child in a poor Black school is different from — and not inferior to — the intellect of a high-testing White child in a rich White school? What if we measured intelligence by how knowledgeable individuals are about their own environments?”

We certainly could do that. But the fact remains that if African American children continue to be less likely to learn to read and write and do math than White children, and less likely to graduate from high school, then this will contribute to other unequal outcomes down the road. Education is not a cure-all for labor market discrimination, and educational disparities don’t fully account for the Black-White earnings gap. But they partially account for that gap while also leaving people less able to organize politically, protect themselves from financial scams and otherwise navigate the modern world. Stigmatizing the use of test scores and grades to measure learning undermines policymakers’ ability to make the case for reforms to promote equity — from providing air conditioning in schools to combating racially biased low expectations among teachers...

I disagree with most of this piece (Yglesias is much too soft on his fellow leftists), but he's got a point about the toxicity of Ibram X. Kendi, which is something I'm dealing with at my college, and which Tucker Carlson has been hammering in recent segments as "the most destructive ideology" of our lifetimes. 

It's bad. Very bad. And as hard as it is, I sure hope more and more parents yank their kids out of public schools. That will help, but then there's the universities families have to consider. Professor William Jacobson created a new website to track racial indoctrination on campuses all across the country, and with luck, the word will get out, and spread farther, and more and more families will vote with their dollars, and they'll ultimately abandon all the "woke" education B.S., turning instead, one hopes, to decent, family-values oriented educational institutions. 

Again, this is not easy to do, especially for families who're not wealthy, but if enough families indeed choose alternative educational paths for their kids, sooner or later the "woke" totalitarians will get what's coming to them --- ultimate repudiation and banishment from polite society.