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Why it's so hard to talk to white people about racism

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Here is an article from the huffington post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism_b_7183710.html

 

There's a lot I don't like about this article, especially the part where "Dr. Diangelo" blames individualism as a CAUSE of racism:

 

"Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today. It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are "accused" of racism, because as individuals, we are "different" from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole."

 

Aside from that, she just makes a lot of conclusions, but provides no evidence for it, as if it is just an axiom. for example:

 

"Any white person living in the United States will develop opinions about race simply by swimming in the water of our culture"

 

"While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group."

 

"white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldviews"

 

" the whiter our schools and neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to be seen as 'good'"

 

"While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority"

 

 

What are your thoughts on this? Considering she attacks whites for being defensive over this subject, and she tries to discredited the "individualism" argument, it seems like it's a trap to even engage someone over this.

Like, if you were to try to be defensive, or argue for individualism, a person could just say: "See?! You're doing exactly what she said you would do!"

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It's doesn't seem like he's saying that individualism is the cause of racism. Rather, he seems to be saying that the system we've been brought up under hasn't been individualist, but has included racial oppression, and that this legacy of oppression has structural effects on society today. He clearly is referring to racism as structural in nature. We cannot ignore the role of past state coercion and social oppression in previous centuries, laying the structural foundations of the present system.

Thus, if a white person invokes individualist rhetoric (many libertarians and objectivists do this) to whitewash or downplay the existence of white privilege in society today, that amounts to the robbers, or robbers descendants, with their hands still full of loot, saying "okay no more stealing... Starting now!"

As objectivists we wish to advance individualism and individual rights, but that does not mean that all current property rights are in fact based on individualism. Much of the current society is based on a deeply intertwined state system that has a legacy of slavery and brutal racial oppression, and we as objectivists should not lose sight of that.

Edited by 2046

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It's doesn't seem like he's saying that individualism is the cause of racism. Rather, he seems to be saying that the system we've been brought up under hasn't been individualist,

 

Did you read that quote I posted?

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"Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today.

This is the new Marxism-Social Constructivism. This philosophical poison is growing rapidly.

Edited by Plasmatic

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This is the new Marxism-Social Constructivism. This philosophical poison is growing rapidly.

Saying that some people who like to use individualist rhetoric happen to be ignorant of actual non-individualist history is Marxist? What tenet of Marxism is that? Can you provide a citation on this? Edited by 2046

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Much of the current society is based on a deeply intertwined state system that has a legacy of slavery and brutal racial oppression, and we as objectivists should not lose sight of that.

It's fine not to lose sight of history. However, it is equally important to understand that the way out is individualism.

In fact, this is more important, because someone whose ancestors were oppressed has only one primary and practical way to change things for himself: work a bit harder to overcome the disadvantages of birth.

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Saying that some people who like to use individualist rhetoric happen to be ignorant of actual non-individualist history is Marxist? What tenet of Marxism is that? Can you provide a citation on this?

 

The article seems to be saying more than "some people who like to use individualist rhetoric happen to be ignorant"; it seems to be saying that there is a problem with individualism, as such.  A problem with one "white person" seeing himself as being different from other "white people," and expecting to be treated as such.

 

What's more, it says that individualism "allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group."  Does the color of my skin put me meaningfully in a "group"?  Do I have a special claim to some certain history over another, or certain actions (not committed by me, perhaps even from before I was born), such that I cannot "distance myself" from them by saying that I am an individual, and that I am not responsible for the actions of others, regardless of whether or not we share common physical features?

 

Plasmatic is right.  This is poison.  There may be meaningful conversations we could have about "systemic" or "institutional" racism, but I don't think further dividing us and attacking individualism is the right way to go about it.

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It's fine not to lose sight of history. However, it is equally important to understand that the way out is individualism.

In fact, this is more important, because someone whose ancestors were oppressed has only one primary and practical way to change things for himself: work a bit harder to overcome the disadvantages of birth.

Well certainly, but the two are mutually reinforcing. If we don't know that the system we are living under was built on an oppressive structure, then simply using individualist rhetoric won't get us out of it, in fact it will serve the oppressive system instead, like the robbers who say "No more stealing... Starting now!"

It may be that the author does not see individualism as the way out, but there's nothing antagonistic to individualism at least in the quotes in the OP.

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Well certainly, but the two are mutually reinforcing. If we don't know that the system we are living under was built on an oppressive structure, then simply using individualist rhetoric won't get us out of it, in fact it will serve the oppressive system instead, like the robbers who say "No more stealing... Starting now!"

I don't see how "No more stealing" is an appropriate analogy any longer. Closer would be to say: "No, I'm not giving back what grandpa stole".

The problem with a focus on history is that it can become backward looking. Too many people think they are defined by their parents or their nationality or their race. For them, a focus on a history that has been unfair to their ancestors limits their views on "who they are". In doing so, it lowers their expectations of themselves, and perpetuates the disadvantage.

The more important fact, by far, is that any individual person who is disadvantaged because his parents faced discrimination -- or for any other reason (e.g. his parents were trash even though they shared skin color with non-cads) -- must work to overcome that disadvantage. He ought to understand his own history, but that should tell him how and why he has to work harder.

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Here is an article from the huffington post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism_b_7183710.html

 

There's a lot I don't like about this article, especially the part where "Dr. Diangelo" blames individualism as a CAUSE of racism:

 

"Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today. It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are "accused" of racism, because as individuals, we are "different" from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole."

 

Attacking Individuality and tacking on a form of original sin?  Sadly I can see such a gross evil sticking with enough people.

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Forget history.  None living today are the cause of it.

 

Imagine if NOW we were suddenly put in a society with a perfect Objectivist system, i.e. pure capitalism and 3 branches of government, voluntary taxation...  80 percent of white people (lets assume they are NOT in government) could still be racist... and they would be wrong to be racist because it is NOT in their self interest.  So what does having a great number of idiots in the general public mean for a perfect government/system?  Nothing.

 

 

Now it is irrelevant that a person of the 20 percent has the same color of skin as one of the 80 percent, to form a concept of a group on the basis of skin color is an error, it is invalid conceptually and IS racism no matter what the skin color.

 

 

An individual of ANY color SHOULD be defensive when accused of something they are not guilty of, and did not commit.

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Saying that some people who like to use individualist rhetoric happen to be ignorant of actual non-individualist history is Marxist? What tenet of Marxism is that? Can you provide a citation on this?

I think it's too much of an exaggeration to say Marxist, but in general the writer really sees all people as a product of their socialization. In other words, she's  still very tribalistic, and implicitly sees all people as inherently members of a collective tribe. She'd probably say individualism isn't real, so individualist rhetoric -causes- racism to persist. It'd be fine if she said "sometimes, people talk about individualism but still ignore that institutional problems exist." But she clearly is in favor of collectivism in terms of tribalism. I say tribalism because it's more about socialization than race here.

 

See her website: http://robindiangelo.com/about-me/

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Saying that some people who like to use individualist rhetoric happen to be ignorant of actual non-individualist history is Marxist? What tenet of Marxism is that? Can you provide a citation on this?

 

Notice that I did not say what you claim I am saying. I am saying that if you understand Marx you will see how Social Constructivism is basically repackaging the same tenets. Take Marxist "class" and replace it with "racial group" etc.

 

Everyone here should read this:

 

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology-social/#PeeDis

 

Particularly the section on "collective agents".

 

Excerpt:

Traditional epistemology focuses on individual agents and their doxastic states or attitudes. Doxastic attitudes are a sub-species of propositional attitudes, ones that make categorical or graded judgments concerning the truth or falsity of their propositional contents. A doxastic attitude is right or wrong—accurate or inaccurate—as a function of the genuine truth-value of its propositional content. In addition to assessing beliefs as accurate or inaccurate, token attitudes (e.g., George’s believing Q at time t) can be evaluated along various epistemic dimensions such as justified or unjustified, rational or irrational, and knowledge-qualifying or not knowledge-qualifying.

Traditional epistemology has primarily concerned itself with formulating criteria for the epistemic evaluation of individuals’ doxastic states. Such evaluations may be based on whether the attitude token comports with the agent’s evidence or whether it is produced by a reliable belief-forming process. Given that justification evaluation is the paradigm of individual epistemology, what is (or are) the paradigm task(s) for social epistemology?

There are different ways in which an epistemic activity can count as “social”. One such way is for an individual agent to base a doxastic decision on what we may dub “social evidence”, where by social evidence we shall understand evidence concerning the utterances, messages, deeds, or thoughts of other people.[...]

 

 For social epistemological purposes, it is the ascription of group doxastic states in particular that is essential to the second branch of the enterprise.

The rest of this section, then, presupposes that human groups exist and enjoy “intellectual” attitudes such as belief, disbelief, and suspension of judgment. Social epistemology is especially interested in how their epistemologies work. Under what conditions do collective beliefs attain such statuses as knowledge or justifiedness? We shall focus on the latter.

We begin, however, with questions about social metaphysics. A major sub-question here is how group entities relate to their members. One approach to this relationship is a so-called “summative” account (a term that is used rather variously by different authors). Here is one articulation of the summative approach.

  • (S) A group G believes that P if and only if all or most of its members believe P       

 

 

[...]First, researchers in the social studies of science tend to embrace a form of relativism about the traditional concepts of epistemic justification and rationality, by rejecting the idea of universal and objective epistemic norms. As Barry Barnes and David Bloor put it,there are no context-free or super-cultural norms of rationality”

 

 

 

And this:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-realism/#SocCon

 

Excerpt:

The term ‘social construction’ refers to any knowledge-generating process in which what counts as a fact is substantively determined by social factors, and in which different social factors would likely generate facts that are inconsistent with what is actually produced. The important implication here is thus a counterfactual claim about the dependence of facts on social factors. There are numerous ways in which social determinants may be consistent with realism; for example, social factors might determine the directions and methodologies of research permitted, encouraged, and funded, but this by itself need not undermine a realist attitude with respect to the outputs of scientific work. Often, however, work in SSK takes the form of case studies that aim to demonstrate how particular decisions affecting scientific work were influenced by social factors which, had they been different, would have facilitated results that are inconsistent with those ultimately accepted as scientific fact. Some, including proponents of the so-called Strong Program in SSK, argue that for more general, principled reasons, such factual contingency is inevitable. (For a sample of influential approaches to social constructivism, see Latour & Woolgar 1986/1979, Knorr-Cetina 1981, Pickering 1984, Shapin & Schaffer 1985, and Collins & Pinch 1993; on the Strong Program, see Barnes, Bloor & Henry 1996; for a historical study of the transition from Kuhn to SSK and social constructivism, see Zammito 2004, chs. 5–7.)

By making social factors an inextricable, substantive determinant of what counts as true or false in the realm of the sciences (and elsewhere), social constructivism stands opposed to the realist contention that theories can be understood as furnishing knowledge of a mind-independent world. And as in the historicist approach, notions such as truth, reference, and ontology are here relative to particular contexts, and have no context-transcendent significance.

[...] The challenge to objectivity in the sense of universality or perspective-independence is even more difficult to square with the possibility of realism. In a Marxist vein, some standpoint theorists argue that certain perspectives are epistemically privileged in the realm of science: viz., subjugated perspectives are epistemically privileged in comparison to dominant ones in light of the deeper insight afforded the former (just as the proletariat has a deeper knowledge of human potential than the superficial knowledge typical of those in power). Others portray epistemic privilege in a more splintered or deflationary manner, suggesting that no one point of view can be established as superior to another by any overarching standard of epistemological assessment. This view is most explicit in feminist postmodernism, which embraces a thoroughgoing relativism with respect to truth (and presumably approximate truth, scientific ontology, and other notions central to the various descriptions of realism). As in the case of Strong Program SSK, truth and epistemic standards are here defined only within the context of a perspective, and thus cannot be interpreted in any context-transcendent or mind-independent manner.

 

EDIT:

 

Tribalism is a product of fear, and fear is the dominant emotion of any person, culture or society that rejects man's power of survival: reason. As philosophy slithered into the primitive swamp of irrationalism, men were driven—existentially and psychologically—into its primordial corollary: tribalism. Existentially, the rise of the Welfare State broke up the country into pressure groups, each fighting for special privileges at the expense of the others—so that an individual unaffiliated with any group became fair game for tribal predators. Psychologically, Pragmatism lobotomized the country's intellectuals: John Dewey's theory of "Progressive" education (which has dominated the schools for close to half a century), established a method of crippling a child's conceptual faculty and replacing cognition with "social adjustment." It was and is a systematic attempt to manufacture tribal mentalities.

The Ayn Rand Letter

 

Vol. II, No. 17  May 21, 1973

 

The Missing Link--Part II

 

 

Getting it yet?

Edited by Plasmatic

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Well put, Plasmatic. I would just like to put additional stress on the idea that racism is an attempt to claim value by group association. It is an immediate corollary that racists view those whom they claim are different to have less value or even disvalue. In this way, racism derives from collectivism, not individualism. Leftists view everything through the polarizing lens of groups. Leftist racialist theories are merely a defense mechanism. It will be very difficult to persuade such a one, their whole world-view being at stake.

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Aleph said:

Well put, Plasmatic. I would just like to put additional stress on the idea that racism is an attempt to claim value by group association.

My nephew, who I ave been the main male role model for, is bi-racial. I have always stressed to him that racism is pride in the unearned. At about 17 his ex convict father tried to come around with a sad and ironic message of "racial pride". My nephew responded to him, "Pride is the result of productive achievement. How can I be "proud" of something I didn't earn?"

I have an intimate awareness of the effects of multiculturalist garbage because since that time of rational triumph, my Nephew has entered college and is now infected with a bizarre anger and contempt for certain "cultures" that are serving as easy excuses-scapegoats for bad decisions. I can only endeavor to continue to respond to him with the light of reason while he wades through all this fog.

Edited by Plasmatic

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The practice of tapping into the history of one's ancestors is so widespread, that I suppose there's one other way forward: tap into the best parts. When people look to their ancestors, they're always being selective anyway. Taken in the right spirit, "We Shall Overcome" can be a good fighting song for a group of people who were enslaved.

 

I'm reminded of Rand's comments on "Roots". Though she's critical of the desire to trace one's own ancestors, she says that Roots presented a view of black people as moral heroes, creating a new and good mythology for a people that have been cut off from so many of their traditional myths. [Q&A, Ford Hall Forum, 1977. Reprinted in "Ayn Rand Answers"]

Edited by softwareNerd

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Loaded questions suck.

Turns out that wasn't a question. Guess it's my reading comprehension that sucks.

 

" the whiter our schools and neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to be seen as 'good'"

 

There is a theory that racial diversity causes conflict. Personally, I don't think it's the racial diversity itself that's causing the conflict (it's the racial diversity coupled with race identity politics), but that doesn't change the fact that racially diverse neighborhoods, when one or all of the races engage in race identity politics, are objectively less 'good'. Nice touch putting good in quotation marks, btw. That fella'/gal knows his/her moral relativism.

Edited by Nicky

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Don't talk to me about racism! (lol) I think an anecdote is in order. I am white but married to a non-white and have mixed race children. Once, I took a rental application from a black man but could not verify his employment. I was going to return his application fee and had arranged to take another application at about the same time. When the black man saw the white woman I was taking an application from (to whom I did not end up renting), he spat in my face, said "You just don't want to rent to a black man" (I was already renting to more that one black family) assaulted me, robbed me, and left. It's pretty hard for me to accept charges of racism uncritically.

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The article seems to be saying more than "some people who like to use individualist rhetoric happen to be ignorant"; it seems to be saying that there is a problem with individualism, as such. A problem with one "white person" seeing himself as being different from other "white people," and expecting to be treated as such.

Well if she's saying that because some people employ individualist rhetoric in the service of racism, that there is a problem for individualism itself, then that's just a non sequitur. But that's not necessarily reflected in the quotes portion, and one doesn't have to make that leap.

What's more, it says that individualism "allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group." Does the color of my skin put me meaningfully in a "group"?

No, but the actions and the effects of those actions on a group of people do put you in a meaningful group. If the Ruritanians place a regime of hateful oppression upon the Waldavians living in the country, and over centuries those Ruritanians are still beneficiaries of the privileges conferred upon them by the past actions, you are still a member of a goup with very real consequences for yourself and others. Pointing that fact out isn't necessarily "poison," especially if some Ruritanians run around denying it while using individualist rhetoric. Seems like that would be the poison, if anything. Seems like those few Ruritanian individualists who do not deny reality should be especially eager to have meaningful conversations about the institutional effects of past oppressions that remain, and not get so touchy as if they are being accused every time the subject is even brought up.

Do I have a special claim to some certain history over another, or certain actions (not committed by me, perhaps even from before I was born), such that I cannot "distance myself" from them by saying that I am an individual, and that I am not responsible for the actions of others, regardless of whether or not we share common physical features?

Again, no one is saying YOU are personally responsible for anything necessarily. Point out where I said that? This is what the author in the OP talks about, when she points out that white people tend to have extremely low thresholds for discomfort for even challenging their racial perceptions.

Also nobody claimed "tribe is all that matters" or some such. As an objective person, shouldn't you only respond to what is being said and not invented straw men?

Edited by 2046

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Notice that I did not say what you claim I am saying. I am saying that if you understand Marx you will see how Social Constructivism is basically repackaging the same tenets. Take Marxist "class" and replace it with "racial group" etc.

Everyone here should read this:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology-social/#PeeDis

Particularly the section on "collective agents".

Excerpt:

And this:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-realism/#SocCon

Excerpt:

EDIT:

The Ayn Rand Letter

Vol. II, No. 17 May 21, 1973

The Missing Link--Part II

Getting it yet?

Nope not getting it. I think we are talking past each other.

So I asked you to point out which tenet of Marxism says "hey, it's bad to use individualist rhetoric to deny actually existing historical racial oppression and it's modern day legacies and effects on people."

You responded by pointing out how tribalistic epistemology is reflected in Marx' doctrine of polylogism, and how, you know, that's bad and all.

Okay. But thay doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what is being claimed in the OP. Maybe the author ultimately believes that, but it's not necessarily implied in the quotes, nor does it have to be. One does not have to believe in polylogism or be a social constructivist to claim that using individualist rhetoric to deny reality is bad, or that some people do in fact use individualist the rhetoric, both on purpose and unknowingly, to deny actually existing institutions of oppression.

In fact, objectivists do this all the time. As an example, do we not condemn millionaire plutocrat Mitt Romney for using individualist rhetoric when he talks about "our free market system" as if we actually had one and as if he would be representative of it anyway? Are Leonard Piekoff and Yaron Brook using social constructivist epistemology? Didn't think so.

Edited by 2046

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The problem, 2046, is not an unwillingness on the part of whites to accept responsibility for historical wrong. White guilt is too prominent. The problem is having racism literally spat in your face unjustly. I will have no more of this original sin. When I wiped that spit off of my face I was made clean and whole, baptized into blamelessness.

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The problem, 2046, is not an unwillingness on the part of whites to accept responsibility for historical wrong. White guilt is too prominent. The problem is having racism literally spat in your face unjustly. I will have no more of this original sin. When I wiped that spit off of my face I was made clean and whole, baptized into blamelessness.

So the problem is not the actual people who have to live their lives under the shadow of centuries of disgusting racial oppression with very real modern day effects on society, no the problem is that you are uncomfortable when people even talk about it. Yeah, no, THAT is the problem, YOU are the problem.

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Well put, Plasmatic. I would just like to put additional stress on the idea that racism is an attempt to claim value by group association. It is an immediate corollary that racists view those whom they claim are different to have less value or even disvalue. In this way, racism derives from collectivism, not individualism. Leftists view everything through the polarizing lens of groups. Leftist racialist theories are merely a defense mechanism. It will be very difficult to persuade such a one, their whole world-view being at stake.

Yeah no, stress on the idea of racism is an attempt to uphold individualism, (cause you know racism is bad) like the individualists of the past all opposing racism, before modern day alliance with right wingers and conservatives. Or I guess Ayn Rand is trying to "claim value by group association" when she wrote the essay "Racism"? Ayn Rand is a collectivist!!!, Ayn Rand uses Marxist epistemology!!!... says modern right wing Rush Limbaugh libertarians. Edited by 2046

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