Recently, various institutions in our civilisation have tried to advocate for some really bad and racially-charged ideas:
- 100 years ago, leading American universities made it harder for Jews to gain admission to their courses. Until recently, leading American universities tried to make it harder for Asians to gain admission.
- British MP Diane Abbott wrote some incredibly dumb things about racism – dumb things that she later apologised for.
- New York University reportedly operated racially exclusionary workshops.
- An English primary school reportedly operated racially exclusionary literacy classes.
The views of these people and organisations – like the views of many people who see everything through a racial prism – are wrong on two key and intellectually fatal levels:
1. Racism is wrong factually
Racism is just a fundamentally inaccurate way of describing the facts of the world. A black person in Haiti typically has little in common with a black person living in Nigeria, and typically has little in common with a black person living in the United Kingdom. Each such person will have a variety of experiences, attributes and inheritances that are different from each other. This is, of course, a natural consequence of growing and living in radically different communities, cultures and historical contexts.
Even within nations, race is a bad way of grouping people. There are rich white people, there are poor white people, there are gifted white people, there are disadvantaged white people, and so on. As a result, identifying someone by their race simply does not accurately describe who that person is. Thus, it does not describe the reality of the world that we live in.
Of course, many black people have suffered terrible racism in some countries. But at the same time, that is not the experience of every such person. Barack Obama recognised this many years ago, when he said his daughters “should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged.”[efn_note]Obama’s take on affirmative action[/efn_note] Plainly, the daughters of a US President and a wildly-successful best selling author are very fortunate young women who may well suffer racism – but their experiences are likely to be different to many other people who are assigned to the same race. Judging the Obama daughters on the basis of their race is just not useful, since their experiences are likely to be radically different to others.
Further, while many bureaucrats pretend that race is something meaningful, real scientists knows that it is a false and fundamentally flawed way of looking at people:
“Classifying people by race is a practice entangled with and rooted in racism, and the pernicious effects of applying this classification to genetics and genomics research have undeniably caused harm over the last century,” said Charmaine D. Royal, committee co-chair and Robert O. Keohane Professor of African and African American Studies, Biology, Global Health, and Family Medicine and Community Health at Duke University. “The lack of consistency in the use of population descriptors also presents problems for the accuracy and applicability of genomics research. The new framework and processes our report recommends can help our field produce more trustworthy science.”Researchers Need to Rethink and Justify How and Why Race, Ethnicity, and Ancestry Labels Are Used in Genetics and Genomics Research, Says New Report
2. Racism is wrong morally
Not only is it wrong factually, it is wrong morally. Removing agency and choice from individuals, and ascribing attributes (or attitudes) on the basis of their race denies those people the moral decency of being treated as unique, and precious, and special, individuals. Treating badly behaved people as representatives of their race demeans them as individuals, and it also falsely judges other on the basis of guilt-by-race – law-abiding members of the same race shouldn’t be lumped with other members who share similar skin tones.
The big and high profile Islamist terrorist attacks of the last quarter century reflect the bad ideas and actions of the perpetrators and their supporters. Those bad ideas and actions do not reflect the thoughts of people who disagree with them, but happen to be assigned as belonging to the same race.
British-born migrant to the USA, Charles C.W. Cooke, explained this very well:
If, as you should, you sincerely believe that all people are equal, then you cannot cast some of them as mere automatons when it is politically convenient to do so. To acknowledge a person’s intrinsic equality is to fully accept his capacity for good and evil without engaging in transparent special pleading, without making vague appeals to “the culture,” and without offering excuses for his conduct when you would condemn a culprit of a different race unequivocally for the same behavior. (sic)No, White Supremacy Isn’t to Blame for Tyre Nichols’s Death
Further, the moral stain of racism remains just as harmful today when otherwise well-meaning people use it to disadvantage certain races today. One hundred years ago, elite American universities tried to reduce the number of Jews on their campuses. Until recently, the same American universities tried to reduce the number of Asians on their campuses:
Culturally, group-based classification is as toxic as it was when it justified racialized (sic) subjugation—not because race-based preferences are as bad as slavery, of course, but because they are rooted in the same rejection of human dignity. Individuals are no longer viewed as the bearers of their own unique stories, challenges, and advantages. They are assigned two-dimensional caricatures through the rough proxies of race and ethnicity, and treated accordingly.Category Error
A better option: Judge people as individuals
There is, instead, a better option: judge people on their personal attributes, their personal histories, and their personal character! If you think (as I do!) that people assigned to certain races are more likely to suffer disadvantage, then the better option is to help people who have suffered such disadvantage. Not only will you end up helping the big chunk of black people who have suffered such disadvantage, you will also end up helping the smaller chunk of people of other races who have suffered such disadvantage. If combatting disadvantage if your goal, it is better to directly combat such disadvantage, rather than rely upon racial proxies which are wrong.
There’s no need to use race as a proxy in the 21st century: you can use much better proxies, such as familial wealth, family structure, educational background, and so on. We live in a world where so much data is available on so many people – we should use more accurate data than the factually and morally wrong option of judging people based upon their race.