Apr 19Liked by Yassine Meskhout

I think the fixation on group differences is driven by a widespread belief that differences in outcome are attributable to discrimination. The progressive understanding of the world is that socioeconomic inequalities are the product of unfair treatment of marginalized groups by the oppressor groups. Empirical findings about IQ and genes call this narrative into question. Society is very concerned about these differences, so it seems reasonable to provide a counterbalancing narrative if it is actually true.

Having a better understanding of the world and embracing the truth is itself a good thing, but there are other advantages.

1. False narratives about oppressor groups. It's bad when people think Jewish success is a conspiracy or exploitation. It's also bad if whites aren't the cause of socioeconomic disparities, to blame it on them. https://www.aporiamagazine.com/p/hereditarian-hypotheses-arent-more

2. False narratives undermine good systems/measures. The reason we probably don't have more IQ screening is because it produces disparity and has been labeled biased. Using testing can actually make selection more fair, rather than less. Meritocracy and race-blind submissions are good. The demographics of organizations should not be driven by DEI concerns, or penalize people for their race/sex. Universities should not penalize Asians and whites for the color of their skin.

3. Interventions premised on false causal beliefs will be ineffective or harmful. For example, replacing white teachers with black teachers/ compensatory education. Those could work, but we need to rigorously investigate it and if it doesn't work, then we need to search for different solutions. DEI and what flows from it is a waste of money, time, resources, and it's probably somewhat harmful. It wouldn't surprising if it created backlash and made race much more salient in people's minds.

4. A resistance to accounting for genetic confounding, which undermines a lot of social science research and makes finding actual environmental solutions difficult. https://doi.org/10.1037/arc0000033

5. A rejection of genetic enhancement technology, something that could change the world for the better by reducing disease, and increasing happiness and IQ. https://www.parrhesia.co/p/the-effective-altruist-case-for-using

I know progressives don't like this, but you can persuade highly intelligent and honest people. If you actually want to change the world for the better and promote the truth, you'll face resistance. If everyone remains quite about controversial issues, then the censors win. It's possible to change elite opinion quietly and slowly.

I've tried to formulate a vision for a biorealist progressivism (https://www.parrhesia.co/p/compassionate-biorealism). I don't know if you'll agree but at least you can maybe say I have coherent proposals :).

Thanks for the thoughtful engagement with a taboo subject.

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I've never claimed that acknowledging hereditarianism is in any way dangerous, and disagree with that concern. I do believe the problem it poses is how difficult it makes it to tell the earnest academics away from the bona fide racists who are using it as a pretext. I largely agree with your Compassionate Biorealism piece, but as I argued above, I don't think doubling down on race & IQ differences is a practical avenue for refuting the blank slate fallacy.

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Apr 19Liked by Yassine Meskhout

It does make figuring out what is scientifically true more challenging. Good point. This is a problem with introducing morality into the academic process. You can eliminate the herediatarian researchers -- Bo Winegard, Noah Carl, Bryan Pesta -- from academia until there's basically nobody, then claim it's because the research is low quality. They also restrict access to the datasets that could be used to evaluate the hypothesis. https://www.city-journal.org/article/dont-even-go-there. Basically, if you touch this stuff publicly you're going to seriously hurt your chances of having an academic career, being promoted, etc. So, there are a lot of anime-faced anons who are highly disagreeable. It's unfortunate.

Individual blank slatism has a bunch of unfortunate consequences, but so does group blank slatism. It touches on all the culture war issues -- sex, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. I think it is a factor in what could be the most important social science question: why are some nations 50x more wealthy than others? That's a huge deal. But we're kind of contrained to PC explanations, to the detriment of understanding the world. It also has implications for the future because of differential fertility and accumulating mutations. I'm not so concerned but like...that stuff matters for the future of humanity.

What's the most practical approach? Maybe trying to just fight blank slatism directly without getting into group stuff. Maybe you're right on that. Pinker had some success.

I think some people are driven by honesty. That's probably what motivated Jensen who didn't seem to have any particular axe to grind politically.

I don't deny that some people are driven by hate. But I figure a lot of it is blame. People don't like being blamed or considered bad for stuff that's not their fault. Escalating wokeness is concerning and there's not a really good rebuttal to some of the empirical claims of wokeness except diving into the most taboo topic. But it's tabooness got us where we are today. And there is a lot of hate from the woke, but it's okay in their view to hate certain groups because they deserve it. That stuff is pretty repugnant to some. But obviously the idea of genes being really important is probably more repugnant to most.

I have to say that I appreciate your willingness to engage with this. I have been being attacked for the past few days on the EA forum, being told I'm making Nazi arguments and people going over all of my writing to find offensive content for my article on genetic enhancement.

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Yes, I also fully agree that the repression of herediatarianism within academia is real, serious, and condemnable. It's deplorable how taboo this topic is even when it's coming from unimpeachably honest voices (like Bryan Caplan).

I agree that group blank slatism *can* be a problem (to the extent that any truth denial on any topic causes problems) but disagree with you on how big of a deal that is. Even where group averages are conclusively proven, they're not really actionable in terms of what policies we should pursue *except* when it's used to refute a group blank slatism explanation. But it's only possible to refute that explanation if it didn't have supporting evidence in its favor in the first place. It's redundant in other words.

There are some disparate outcomes that are indeed, at least in part, the result of intentional textbook racism. If the racism is supported by evidence, then it gives us a hypothetical blueprint for what can be done about it (cure racism lol!). I don't see what harping on about group averages in such a scenario gets us, except maybe to help set an upper-bound expectations on the magnitude of the racism problem.

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Apr 19·edited Apr 19Liked by Yassine Meskhout

It has been my experience that HBD is almost always simplistic tribalism masquerading as data-driven scientific inquiry. You cannot get anybody to shut up about it no matter how strongly you affirm the potential validity of their hypothesis unless you are willing to sign off on some flavor of regressive ethnocentrism, eugenics, etc. as an inevitable corollary.

No Mott-and-Bailey has ever had quite so much success as this one at making me angry enough to chuck a hair dryer into a public swimming pool.

"Oh, so what you really meant by human biodiversity is the idea that different tribes are essentially and indelibly incompatible, and you're only willing to entertain solutions that accept these presuppositions as true."


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I've experienced exactly this. It takes a long time before they're reluctantly exposing the racial collectivist ideology lurking beneath.

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I think this is very likely a selection effect of who's willing to discuss beliefs in HBD either publicly or in a way attached to a persistent internet handle. I've had discussions with people who could fairly be described as ascribing to the notions of HBD who didn't fall into this category, but pretty much only in private contexts where they could trust me not to share around the things they'd discussed with me. These people have good reason not to want to discuss their beliefs in other contexts, for fear of being mistaken for people of the first type.

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Apr 19·edited Apr 19Liked by Yassine Meskhout

In general, it feels like HBD proponents are just another manifestation of a sort of "pop psychology enthusiast", who thinks that a few studies showing an effect of one variable on another is THE explanation for disparate outcomes.

Anyone who's done actual research in social sciences knows that any complex phenomenon like "poverty", "intelligence", or "clam fishing" is multiply determined, with a billion tiny predictive factors all wrapped up in a huge convoluted circular network of causation. It's very rare to find One Thing That Explains [abstract noun]. But for the casual reader, they see some paper that says "power posing before interviews makes you better at negotiating" and thinks this means that One Weird Trick can reduce the male/female wage gap or similar.

Most intelligence researchers accept that intelligence is highly heritable, but all get pretty squeamish about between-group differences. To HBDers this seems like a failure to acknowledge the big effect sizes of IQ differences, but it seems more downstream of methodological limitations in intelligence research. A lot of the early studies estimating heritability of intelligence were twin and adoption studies, which only really get you within-family effects, not between-group effects. It's super difficult to identify the *cause* of between-group differences when those groups are very different in a billion other ways.

The problem is that there may be future studies that find some small between-group effects after rigorously controlling for confounders and the like, and HBDers will claim these studies validate their beliefs. But their beliefs are so "big" -- they think between group differences in intelligence explain *a lot* about other disparate incomes in stuff like poverty or criminality -- so big that a potential future finding of a couple IQ points difference isn't nearly big enough to warrant them.

The gulf between the Motte ("I think humans are diverse!") and the Bailey ("immigration has poisoned The West's genetic heritage and causing the collapse of society") is so immense

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Yes exactly. I admit that I am way outside my wheelhouse but I posit that the very "fast" evolution of lactase persistence is instructive on this topic. Every human is born with the ability to produce lactase and only loses the ability as they age, so a mutation that allows this enzyme to continue being produced is a relatively minor tweak in the grand scheme of things, but it still took almost 10,000 years to proliferate.

The Hajnal summary article I linked to from HBD Chick both dramatically shortens the evolution timescale to a thousand or even a few hundred years AND ALSO dramatically magnifies the purported changes to cover everything from impulsivity to corruption to whatever. Fast and dramatic genetic changes are still theoretically possible but you can tell how much they're bullshitting when instead of referencing *specific* gene mutations, they reference vague national stereotypes. I hadn't realized how bad it was.

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The true blackpill imo is when you dig into the national IQ datasets many reference and see how they are actually constructed. Richard Lynn is/was a big name here, and his estimate of IQ for Equatorial Guineau "was taken from a group of children in a home for developmentally disabled children in Spain." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lynn#:~:text=The%20datum%20that%20Lynn%20and,developmentally%20disabled%20children%20in%20Spain.). This is the most egregious example, but I think pretty indicative of the quality control in this area.

This isn't to say reliable national IQ datasets can't be constructed, or that better ones aren't out there -- but there are pretty clear isolated demands for rigor in this space, and I feel particularly unwilling to take any HBD claim at face value without first trying to actually see what they're referencing.

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Yes! I've encountered exactly the same problem when I tried to look into national testosterone averages. A lot of "we sampled 32 escaped convicts from the mountainous region of Bulgaria" genre.

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That said, I've also had very surreal arguments with more progressive/leftist types who refuse to believe that any between-group differences in traits truly exist. I argued once that men were stronger than women with a friend who appeared to genuinely believe that this was all downstream of upbringing, and that if we raised girls the same way we raise boys then strength differences would disappear. I understand how these debates drive people insane

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One heuristic you can use to filter out people with a genuinely white supremacist agenda from those who are just hereditarians is to see whether they think whites' average characteristics as a whole are better than those of Asians. White supremacists baselessly claim Asians are less creative than whites due to docility, risk aversion, and lower IQ variance despite a higher average. They see whites as the happy medium between purportedly impersonable and uninventive Asians, on the one hand, and blacks on the other. At that point, it's just racism because they're ranking human worth based on an assortment of values without an objective criterion to decide which are salient

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Yes, I've noticed that. The classic example was the Twitter user who self-immolated by claiming a statue sculpted by an Asian woman couldn't possibly be sculpted by anyone except a white man. If someone is hiding their textbook racist beliefs, there are a lot of ways to pick it apart and watch them crumble.

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May 25·edited May 25Liked by Yassine Meskhout

While I don't particularly like Kendi, I think you're misrepresenting him. For one thing, he uses an unusual definition of racism that means any policy that produces inequitable outcomes between racial groups. Since illegal fishing laws disproportionately punish Cambodians they are objectively racist by his definition. It's as simple as measuring whether a reaction is exothermic or endothermic. Since he's only focused on outcomes, he would also not have to know the reason that Cambodians were arrested more often to prove that it was racist.

He did say that there were only two causes of disparities:

"And there’s only two causes of, you know, racial disparities. Either certain groups are better or worse than others and that’s why they have more, or racist policy. "

I always read that to be more about general disparities such as incarceration rates, life expectancy or test scores than something as specific as who is charged with a specific crime. In that case, then it must be true that disparities, like anything else, must be either innate or caused by the environment (Kendi generally uses "policy" to mean all institutional regulations or cultural rules, in addition to government policy).

Kendi's beliefs are usually internally consistent, but contradict more traditional civil rights activism and use non-standard definitions. Unlike most people, he makes a distinction between "discrimination" and "racism", and racism describes outcomes, rather than beliefs. This is subtly different from the belief disparities are due to racial "discrimination". He readily classifies a color-blind capital gains tax cut as racist regardless of intent, because it would benefit whites more than poorer groups. He also repeatedly clarifies that "racist" should be used descriptively rather than pejoratively.

Despite being internally consistent, I don't think his new definitions are that useful. First off, it introduces a bizarre superposition of racist and anti-racist to policies with unknown outcomes. Consider teacher pay. It's entirely possible that a district issuing a blanket wage would be racist at a school level, but anti-racist at a district level. Or maybe it is a racist policy that becomes anti-racist as demographics change. There's a lot of ambiguity like this, especially when there's a disparity in something more abstract than money.

This leads to a lot of "begging the question" when people just assume the effects of a policy, but it could lead to interesting discussion if it was adopted in good faith. For example, in 2020 it was considered anti-racist to decrease police presence in Black communities. But what if some people believe that increasing police resources would benefit Black communities affected by crime? These two groups are actually arguing about whether a policy is racist, but it's portrayed as if they're arguing about whether to implement a racist policy.

Anyways, I'm not a Kendi expert or fan- and you could probably find someone to defend him better - but do think it's unfair to say he would say any disparate outcome is caused by discrimination. Instead, he would describe the outcome itself as racist, and say it was caused by either innate or environmental factors. If it's an environmental factor, that policy must be racist by definition because it caused a disparity.

(To tie this into an SSC post, Kendi's framework could be useful to a mistake theorist, but it's only used by conflict theorists.)

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I really appreciate how nuanced this comment is! Do you have a source/citation on this point or quotations? I'm open to the idea that Kendi uses "racism" in a very technical and narrow way that is explicitly distinct from "discrimination", but according to this worldview how could the Cambodian fisherman disparity exist *without* discrimination? I don't know what innate or environmental factors he'd be willing to accept.

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May 27Liked by Yassine Meskhout

Kendi's comment on the tax cut came from a podcast originally, but I saw it quoted in a few places over the years. I haven't listened to the podcast myself though. I found it referenced in city journal while researching my comment.



I sourced his comment about only two possible causes from a vox interview:


I assumed that some version of that quote formed your opinion of his view so wanted to bring it up.

I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I don't think he would care too much about the specific reason for the disparity. The disparity exists, therefore the policy is racist. I'm sure that he'd probably argue that there's some discrimination in play - such as regulations being stricter (or more strictly enforced) in Cambodian areas than in Cape Cod. Or maybe Cambodians have fewer non-shellfish-poaching opportunities than others. Or the signs are not posted in Cambodian or society expects a non-Cambodian understanding of cultural norm while enforcing the rules. But that's all moot since he only care about outcomes when deciding whether something is racist.

A lot of his views come off bizarre, but it all circles back to his bizarre definition of racism. But using his definition of racism, your description of his beliefs are nonsensical or maybe tautological. When you say

"Now if you want to pull a Kendi here, the only explanation for racial disparate outcomes is racial discrimination" you're essentially saying that Kendi believes that "the only explanation for racial disparate outcomes are policies that lead to racial disparate outcomes" if you use Kendi's consequentialist vocabulary.

It's helpful to think of Kendi's use of racism/anti-racism as analogous to profitable/unprofitable. You can look at a company's strategy and measure it's profitability, but it'd be odd to ask whether that strategy was caused by profitability. And if a company was losing money you could limit that down to either being caused by an innate problem or unprofitable company policies.

That probably gets to my main criticism of him which is that his supposedly extreme ideas are mostly just semantics. It's trivially true that any policy will affect people differently and it's unlikely that members of all races will be affected the exact same way. When he suggests an anti-racism department with veto power over racist bills, it'd actually be a bunch of bean counters similar to the congressional budget office. With stats about farm ownership, demographics of transportation employees and hummus consumption rates we could figure out how everyone would be affected by a garbanzo bean tariff and decide whether it's a racist policy. While that sounds absurd, Kendi often clarifies that "racism" is only descriptive and not pejortive. The chickpea protectionist lobby wouldn't be immoral even if the tariff was racist(i.e. benefited wealthier racial groups more) anymore than someone is immoral for overestimating the profitability of a domestic chickpea industry.

But unfortunately "racist" is probably one of the most pejorative things you can call someone! Being "racist" (as the word is most commonly used) is extremely immoral. Kendi's readers (and sometimes Kendi himself) conflate the two definitions of racism so the chickpea protectionists would end up getting described like the klan. It seems ridiculous to try to redefine racism (one of the most loaded terms in the English language) to mean something so bloodless. I don't really enjoy the schadenfreude of the anti-racism center failing, but it seems like it's predictable that those millions are wasted when Kendi's main political goal seems to be rewriting a dictionary entry

In an odd way, it reminds me of your recent podcast with the alt-right guy that insisted on the importance of "cracking down on black crime". There was a very frustrating few minutes where you tried to get him to clarify how that's different from just cracking down on crime. I got the sense that he wasn't used to having to actually explain because people were usually so disgusted with him that they criticized him personally. I don't think Kendi gets pushed too often on specifics like why it's beneficial to call neutral policies racist, especially since he himself acknowledges that people react poorly. Matt Yglesias questions the utility of the entire project here:


(I'm not a Kendi expert, so may have gotten something wrong. But due to my professional and social connections I'm sure I read most of his book one screenshot at a time on social media at 2020.)

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I appreciate the links, but so far I remain unconvinced that I'm misrepresenting Kendi. In the Vox interview, this is the fuller quote from that passage:

> "And there’s only two causes of, you know, racial disparities. Either certain groups are better or worse than others and that’s why they have more, or racist policy. Those are the only two options, and antiracists believe that the racial groups are equal, and so they’re trying to change policy. And racists believe that certain groups are better or worse than others. So they are either trying to get rid of people, or segregate people, or civilize people. Indeed, there’s two American racial histories."

I interpret this as him presenting "two causes" with an obvious aim of knocking one of them down as not even worthwhile of consideration. He's explicitly framing antiracism as the laudable side who pursues policy changes because they believe "racial groups are equal" lodestar assumption. He's doing the thing where you look at any disparate outcome and say "OBVIOUSLY this can't be from group differences, because groups are equal".

I acknowledge that his definition of racism has never required malicious intent. But the problem with heralding "racial groups are equal" as the crown jewel assumption in one's worldview is that innocuous explanations quickly evaporate as implausible and incompatible.

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May 27·edited May 27Liked by Yassine Meskhout

Yeah, I get that but would argue that the "two causes" explanation only works for larger differences than who gets arrested for a specific law. For "equal" he means some vague idea like "equal moral worth" rather than that all racial groups behave the same way. Which is true - Cambodians aren't "worth less" than non-cambodians, even if they behave differently. Those different behaviors are reacted to differently, resulting in disparate outcomes.

He says this explicitly when he laments that bank robbery is criminalized and condemned more than drunk driving (!????) in a different interview:

>And the reason I’m saying this is because what is criminalized has historically been based on race and power and even how certain criminalized or decriminalized acts have also been racialized. In 1986, as an example, more people died that year from drunk drivers than they did from homicides and drug overdoses.

>And at the time, organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others were organizing and really trying to get more tougher laws in the books and even punitive responses. But the response of the state was different for drunk drivers, and historically it has been different for people who engage in drunk drivers. And drunk drivers, one study, I think, in the early ’90s found that 75% of drunk drivers were white men. But people don’t view drunk drivers as violent criminals in the way that they would, let’s say, a Black person who robs a bank.

In his view, it is racist that we don't punish drunk drivers(majority white) the same way we punish more diverse groups such as violent bank robbers. People made and chose to enforce this anti-fishing law when it affects Cambodians more than whites. That's "racism" even if they did so without knowing who would be affected. An anti-racist law would find a way to punish all groups equally (or maybe find a way to punish less-criminal groups more to get those numbers up). He slips into the more conventional definition of racism when describing the lawmakers, which makes the whole thing more confusing. I guess this is motte and bailey but I think it's more likely that it's incredibly difficult to use his bizarre definition.

This brings up another reason why Kendi's philosophy would be tough to implement. There's advantages to punishing bank robbing more than drunk driving obviously. It's unclear how he'd solve overfishing when different groups fish at different rates. Maybe he'd offset it with criminalizing some sort of white behavior to offset it and get total criminality aligned. But he wouldn't say that Cambodians aren't different, just that it's "racist" that the ways that they're different are criminalized. That policy choice is what causes them to be over-represented in court.

Interview paywalled, but I shared it so hope you click first:


He also brings up SCA in this interview, which I think also shows his thinking:


Even if is entirely biological that Black people get SCA more often than others, there are hypothetical policies that would bring their results in line with other groups. It is "racist" that we didn't choose those policies. Similarly, it's racist to say that different lifestyles cause disparities in things like cancer or obesity, because hypothetically policy could influence that lifestyle. Taken to an extreme, If we decided to give every Cambodian a fishing boat and clamming license, they would no longer commit that crime.

(sorry for the linkspam! I It's probably pointless because his moment has passed and even during peak-Kendi no one cared about the nuances of his belief. Those beliefs don't stand up to much scrutiny imo, but they're usually misrepresented. Also, he points out that 75% of drunk drivers were white men in a year that ~75% of American adults were white. It doesn't disprove his point about what's criminalized, but kind of amusing.


(edited to ramble slightly less)

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I think I have a fair grasp of your point, which is a very thin nuanced slice but still very much worthwhile. His argument on drunk driving resonates very well with me because it's a crime that is nominally "serious" but is nevertheless closely kept within the misdemeanor garden. Generally the only way a DUI gets turned into a felony is if you kill someone or if already have had THREE prior DUIs within so many years.

Given how easily petty crimes are routinely classified as felonies, this is a very odd and unusually generous discrepancy. The only explanation for such foot-dragging is that DUIs tend to be very "intersectional" such that even high-class people can get dinged for it. I lean towards 'class' as the metric here, but Kendi's focus on race isn't far off from my position. So I agree with Kendi's point here that a law can be "racist" even if it is nominally neutral and enforced/prosecuted by angels.

The problem remains that when you have a "racist" policy (read: disparate outcome) there's only 3 possible explanations:

1. Inherent group differences

2. Racist design/intent/implementation

3. Niche scenario where none of the above is present but you still get "racist" outcomes due to a weird little quirk

What I notice Kendi doing is spending a lot of effort in acknowledging #1 was a possibility, but he also understands he can't easily pivot to #2 unless he can marshal good evidence. So the only option left is #3.

The Ezra interview you linked provides an excellent example of Kendi's playbook. When asked about criminogenic conditions in black communities, he expresses serious reservations about even acknowledging them as a possibility. At the same time, he can't easily dismiss black criminality stats. So his only option here was a non-responsive but a cogent-enough ramble on drunk driving vs bank robbing.

You've pointed out something about Kendi's worldview that I hadn't considered before so thanks for that. Nevertheless, I maintain I described his worldview accurately. Explanations from bucket #3 are basically the motte that he dangles whenever he's cornered on a vexing question, and the scenarios from that bucket are too niche to be worth ruminating on. I'll change my mind about him if there's an example of him acknowledging an unambiguous group difference without qualifications (regardless whether those differences are genetic/cultural/religious/environmental/etc).

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May 28·edited May 28

To be clear, I'm not exactly defending Kendi. I think he's bad in a completely novel way (while sometimes switching to being generically bad) and you think he's bad in a normal way. Maybe I'm misreading him and being way too charitable. This is probably the most I've thought about Kendi in years so thank you for responding to me working it out publicly.

>The problem remains that when you have a "racist" policy (read: disparate outcome) there's only 3 possible explanations:

1. Inherent group differences

2. Racist design/intent/implementation

3. Niche scenario where none of the above is present but you still get "racist" outcomes due to a weird little quirk

These aren't discrete choices. Kendi would reframe any policy that doesn't correct for group differences as racist. A group difference leading to a disparate outcome turns that difference into a group inadequacy. He's unlikely to mention an unambiguous group difference without qualification since he wants to explain why neither group is superior. He would not acknowledge that there's any group difference that would lead to a different outcome, because policy could potentially lead to the same outcome.

But here's what I could find:

1. POC are more likely to live in the global south than whites - talking about climate change in Klein Interview

2. Anti-Racist Baby is encouraged to "celebrate our differences" and "appreciate how groups speak dance and create as they choose" rather than "see certain groups as better or worse". I don't see how a baby could do this without the groups being unambiguously different

3. "Immigrants and migrants of all races tend to be more resilient and resourceful when compared with the natives of their own countries and the natives of their new countries." - differences between immigrants and others

4. “Antiracist ideas are based in the truth that racial groups are equals in all the ways they are different, assimilationist ideas are rooted in the notion that certain racial groups are culturally or behaviorally inferior, and segregationist ideas spring from a belief in genetic racial distinction and fixed hierarchy.”

5. "“Why is Ebonics broken English but English is not broken German? Why is Ebonics a dialect of English if English is not a dialect of Latin?" - I read this as acknowledging that Black people speak differently.

6. Whites are more likely to drive drunk - previous post

7. "To be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals. When we see cultural difference, we are seeing cultural difference—nothing more, nothing less."

-sourced from quotes on goodreads unless otherwise stated

The overall impression is that differences exist but should not affect outcomes. If the outcome is affected, then policy should be adjusted. In cases where that can't necessarily happen, then the cause of the difference should be examined and addressed. That's what you bring up near the end of the essay and Kendi is happy to justify affirmative action by saying that racism has led Black people to starting behind. Here's how I'd look at some situations if I always asked myself what Kendi would say:

I'm not comfortable with talking about some specific innate racial differences, but think it's obvious that there's inherent group differences in physical strength between men and women. This leads to more men than women being able to pass physical tests required for firefighters. While I'd say that it's inherent group differences that cause this discrepancy in successful firefighter applications, Kendi would say that the *physical test* is causing the discrepancy. Ultimately, we're both right since if you remove either the group differences or changed the physical test, women would not fail at a higher rate.

(As an aside, sexism in physical standards for firefighters pops up regularly in the culture war and actual law. Brenda Berkman won the original lawsuit against NYC in 1982 since the test was deemed non job-related and I'm sure her case would show this way of thinking)

Mormons (sorry, "followers of LDS denominations") are vastly overrepresented in some government organizations such as the CIA. The CIA screens for drug use (policy) and most Mormons haven't even tried a diet soda (inherent group difference). They also want to recruit people with overseas experience (policy) and Mormons are sent overseas on missions (group difference). So with that in mind we can either say that Mormons excel in the CIA application process due to group differences or say that the CIA has pro-Mormon standards. It's just a matter of framing.

A final example is that my warehouse job has several Bahamian employees but Haitians new hires don't last a month before getting fired for something. The obvious underlying difference between these immigrants from Caribbean islands is linguistic. Everything is in English (and Spanish), so the Bahamians can listen to directions. No one is able to tell a Haitian new hire to arret before they run into a railing. You can either say the Haitians fail because the lack of English makes them ill-equipped or you can say that the Haitians fail because the warehouse's lack of French signage makes it anti-Haitian. Neither explanation is factually wrong - it's just a matter of framing.

Kendi would say that fire departments are sexist, that the CIA is pro-Mormon and my workplace is anti-Haitian. You might argue that fire departments want strong people or that the CIA wants bilingual teetotalers or that my warehouse management doesn't know French, but Kendi would point out those are all technically choices leading to disparate outcomes. He wouldn't necessarily dispute strength differences, drug use differences or language differences. (For the original example, it's a choice to punish clamming. Kendi would focus on that rather than try to explain why one group illegally clams)

Edit: For an example of someone else trying to think Kendi-ishly, here is an antiracist dietician talking about lactose intolerance


She acknowledges that there are group differences in how different races digest milk and therefore disparate outcomes in calcium consumption during school lunches. Therefore schools should replace dairy with something else that provides calcium.

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Apr 21Liked by Yassine Meskhout

This general argument and its effects on educational policy is the gist of “The Cult of Smart” by Freddie deboer. Great read

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Apr 19Liked by Yassine Meskhout

For most of us old school liberals who've dedicated part of our lives and careers to eradicating invidious discrimination, the first step is identifying the problem. It's often hard and unpleasant, as it requires a harsh view of reality that we would prefer not to admit or accept. But without it, we indulging in fantasy fixes that accomplish nothing because they ignore the real problem in favor of problems that align with acceptable orthodoxies.

Calling bullshit is necessary, but rarely makes one any friends and, at least these days, doesn't seem to accomplish much as the unduly passionate don't want to hear it. Oh well, all we can do is try.

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Apr 19Liked by Yassine Meskhout

Interesting piece. Collective intelligence, like collective guilt or innocence, is bs.

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"Progressives consistently exhibit a very bizarre combination of presenting racial minorities as both uniquely victimized and materially unaffected"

Somewhat disagree. It's true that they don't want to scream 13/52 or 13/90 to rally against environmental racism, but it's not necessary disbelief it. If you find such progressive in good faith discussion they certainly can talk about it. And I'm pretty sure they do believe it

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I've never encountered a progressive who has been willing to assert anything similar to "[race] has lower IQ and higher impulsivity because of [environmental factor]". The filter tends to be on that first clause. I'm aware of only one major progressive scientist who acknowledges the heritability of IQ and other traits and her name escapes me at the moment.

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Apr 24·edited Apr 24Liked by Yassine Meskhout

Does Vaush counts? https://youtu.be/psf_rK8DIcs?si=hiNQOaxGwPG6x3xc&t=730

I think Contrapoints talked about plenty in now delisted videos about Baltimore

I could probably find you conversations on discord we both in that have quotes like "I'm actually quite happy to believe that genes influence outcomes, but I think it's a bit of a leap of logic to go from there to concluding that racism doesn't exist"

You thought of Kathryn Paige Harden?

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Credit to Vaush on this point, but he explicitly points out how much of a leftist taboo this is. Kathryn Paige Harden is the progressive scientist I had in mind.

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> an overwhelming of who we are

Typo, I think it's missing the word "amount".

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language is organic, I like it as is

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