The Real Reason Not to Be Racist
And it’s not the misguided rationale that inspires the Left’s anti[white]racism, cancel culture, and endless moral panics about racial issues.
There is a real reason not to be racist, but it’s not the misguided rationale that inspires the Left’s anti[white]racism, cancel culture, or endless moral panics about racial issues.
For 21st-Century Americans, there are few religious taboos left to violate. All the old mores about sex, drugs, and rock and roll have fallen by the wayside. If he was still alive, George Carlin still could not legally say his infamous “seven words” bit on regular radio, but even if he did, almost nobody would care; those words pack nowhere near the punch today that they did back in 1973. But even though the old Church-lady style morality is gone, we now have a whole new set of blasphemy laws around racial and gender issues. Violate such norms, and the penalties can be catastrophic.
But are these new wokeist taboos helpful? Do they actually reduce racism or mitigate its harmful effects? What if they do the opposite, giving racist ideas all the allure of “forbidden fruit?” What if these blasphemy laws actually backfire and encourage curious and intelligent people to consider racist ideas more closely? What if, by steadfastly refusing to discuss or even acknowledge facts that contradict the politically-correct orthodoxy, mainstream Americans are inadvertently pushing young truth-seekers towards actual white supremacists for answers?
Group differences do exist, and people do notice them. As I said in my post on antisemitism, I don’t think it is healthy or helpful to hand-wave away people’s genuine questions and honest observations by heaping judgmental platitudes and knee-jerk condemnation on them. Doing so won’t stop them from wondering about these issues, but it will make them stop listening to you. And next time they have a good-faith question that they wish to raise about racial issues, they may raise it with an actual white supremacist, because at least he’ll listen. The white supremacist will certainly have his own ideological bent that skews his view of the world, and he will probably use a lot of fallacious reasoning (particularly the fallacy of division, the fallacy of composition, and the ecological fallacy — incidentally the same fallacies that plague DEI-motivated reasoning on the Left); but at least the white supremacist won’t condemn the genuine truth-seeker out of hand merely for broaching these topics.
Fortunately, there is another, better reason not to be racist than the one that motivates the Left’s recurring moral panics on the subject. And this other reason does not rely on appeals to authority or threats of punishment to give it weight. Instead, it appeals to what is best and most noble in people: their desire for Truth and Virtue.
The real reason not to be racist is this: there are some incredibly talented, capable, competent, intelligent, creative, virtuous, and benevolent people among every race. By pre-emptively rejecting them on racial grounds, you harm yourself, them, and the world at large.
To make this argument, I don’t need to cite some peer-reviewed circle-jerk publication full of fallacious reasoning and massaged data that supposedly shows group differences don’t actually exist — even though anyone with enough real-life experience and a functioning pair of eyes and ears can readily observe general patterns that differ among society’s various groups. I don’t need to pretend that the numbers in each and every field of human endeavor will align perfectly with the racial and ethnic demographics of the general population. None of that matters. All I need to know is that some people who are capable of excelling in any given field are found in every race and ethnicity. And if you meet enough people and sample the offerings of enough cultural groups, you will find this to be true.
By automatically treating people badly because you dislike their race or ethnicity, you harm yourself morally. If you believe that The Golden Rule (whether the Christian or Confucian or even the Kantian formulation) is at the bedrock of any legitimate moral system, then you put yourself on the wrong side of it by discriminating on the basis of race, because you can’t enjoy having that done to you — unless you’re a racial masochist like some of the white Gen-Z wokesters and older AWFLs. If you’ve been on the short end of the DEI stick and lost an opportunity that went to someone objectively less competent or qualified solely because she brandished the right intersectional identity markers, you already know how terrible that experience feels. That kind of racial discrimination sucks, regardless of whether it’s whites doing it to blacks or blacks (and self-hating whites) doing it to whites.
By discriminating on the basis of race, you also harm yourself because you miss out on all the good that you could otherwise gain from the people you pre-emptively reject on such grounds. Maybe I’m just a misanthropic cynic, but I think that truly good people are the exception, not the rule. Not to say most people are vicious, but there’s probably a bell-curve distribution when it comes to virtue, and most folks are probably only average in terms of their character: meaning that sometimes they act well, sometimes they act badly, and how well they act probably depends on whether they have peers and leaders encouraging them to do the right thing, as well as on how well their current incentives align with higher values. There are people who have great character and who readily display all the cardinal virtues in their actions and speech, but such people are both (1) relatively rare and (2) to be found among every race and ethnicity. Therefore, if you pre-emptively reject some of the good people out there because you don’t like their race, then you are depriving yourself of a scarce resource: virtuous people who could potentially have an extremely positive influence on your life.
It’s bad enough for you to do this to yourself, but if enough people discriminate against others in this way, as white people once did to black people in America (and as DEI initiatives are now conditioning Americans of every race to do to non-elite whites), society as a whole misses out on all the good that the virtuous and talented people of disfavored races could otherwise produce.
Take music, for example. Without black people, American popular music would be complete shite (instead of just being mostly shite, as it is today). No jazz, no blues, no gospel, and therefore, no R&B or rock and roll either. If not for Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, and the like, there would have been no Beatles, no Rolling Stones, no Jimi Hendrix Experience, no Led Zeppelin, and no Pink Floyd. And as for Jimi Hendrix, if I learned that he was actually an alien from some super-advanced civilization, I would absolutely believe it: even today, 50-plus years later, he still sounds like he was playing music from the future. Could a man with that artistic vision and skill be less of a human being than the white musicians he played with?
Or take standup comedy (though not like Henny Youngman would have you take it, please). Remove black people, Jews, Irish, and Italians, and there’s not much left. And before there was Dave Chappelle or Chris Rock or Robyn Harris or Eddie Murphy, and even before Richard Pryor really came into his own, there was Bill Cosby. And Bill Cosby’s To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With is standup and storytelling at its finest. It’s impossible to listen to that and honestly believe that the person who wrote and performed comedy at that level is somehow less artistically gifted than all the white comedians of his day.
Then there’s literature. It is my personal belief that Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is the best work of fiction by any writer, of any era or culture. (And I’ve read, like, 0.0001% of the fiction books that have ever been written, so I would obviously know — anyway, I’ll just say it’s the best one I’ve ever read.) The central themes of that novel are the same themes that define our own culture today, with things presently falling apart as the culture changes cataclysmically in a relatively short time, with all the challenges that ensue from that “future shock.” But even as Achebe captures the feeling of loss caused by the destruction of the old ways, he also takes care to show that these changes were trade-offs, with winners and losers even among the indigenous population. While most people would probably have preferred their ancestral customs to modernity, for others, the new culture was clearly better. The folk religion demanded some cruel sacrifices, like throwing baby twins into the “evil forest” to die alone, so if you were one-half of a pair of twins, you would be glad the British put a stop to that tradition. The conflicts in Thigs Fall Apart resist easy resolutions or pat judgments: while some people are clearly more villainous or more virtuous than others, the book contains sufficient context and nuance to make it not always easy to tell who is right and who is wrong, or to determine who deserves our sympathy and who does not. I’ve read Things Fall Apart a few times now and am always amazed by how much of myself and my own culture I see reflected in its characters and stories, even though the novel is about a foreign people living a completely different way of life. That realization, in turn, makes me appreciate how deep and wide our shared humanity really is, regardless of race.
So after reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, there’s no way that I could honestly think of myself as better than him, like he’s less of a human being than me, just because he’s a different race. I don’t need to invent alternative histories where sub-Saharan African civilizations attained the same technological advancements as the cultures of Europe or Asia or North Africa. Regardless of whether the Igbo had a written language prior to the arrival of Europeans, Things Fall Apart is absolutely a masterpiece, and Chinua Achebe is a literary genius with a deep understanding of human nature.
Same thing with Purple Hibiscus by fellow Igbo Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which provides a very interesting coda, thematically, to Things Fall Apart, and which also shares much of that earlier novel’s depth and insight. After reading Purple Hibiscus, I can’t think of its author as being anything less than fully and transcendently human.
That is the reason why it’s foolish and vicious to be racist. And by “racist,” I mean the definition that was pretty much universally used and agreed upon until the wokeists redefined it in the 2010s. “Racism” historically meant something like “the belief in race as the defining feature of human value, with some races being superior to others, and the practice, related to such belief, of allocating rights and opportunities and privileges on the basis of race, thereby giving some people more rights and opportunities and privileges than others merely because of racial identity.” I looked up the word “racist” in a copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary published in 1999, and it’s definition agrees substantially with the one I gave above (there is certainly nothing about “power plus prejudice” — which is intended to make only white people racist by definition, as if all whites have power and no blacks do — nor is there anything like Ibram Kendi’s circular definitions of “racism” that he uses to justify his grift). Using the traditional understanding of what counts as “racist,” racist practices really do make the world worse for everyone.
You’ve heard it quoted so many times it’s become practically cliché, but MLK’s famous phrase from his “I Have a Dream” speech aptly formulates the best method for eliminating the harms caused by racism: judge people “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Are there group differences? Certainly. But do these statistical differences allow you to conclude, in advance, anything about the character or competence of any individual person? Remember the joke about the statistician who drowned in a river that was only four feet deep . . . on average? Averages are useful only in describing groups, not individuals, and virtuous and talented people exist among every race and ethnicity.
If you reject entire races of people, you thereby reject all the good that the greats among them could have otherwise contributed to your life and to the world at large. Instead, celebrate human greatness wherever it’s found; by doing so, you will benefit yourself and others and be an instrument of good rather than ill. And that is the real reason not to be racist.
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