Friday, January 25, 2019


People's abilities are not determined by their race or gender.

One of the odd contradictions of conservative thought is the embracing of "individualism" on the one hand, and the use of stereotyping and prejudice on the other. Granted, not all conservatives embrace the latter, but this new "alt.right" movement is mostly made of racists who postulate that white people are inherently superior to other races.

They use statistics to "prove" this point, which of course, is another example of confusing correlation with causation. Oddly enough, there are a lot of people on the far-left who harbor similar racist views (although they would not consider them as such) arguing that certain races or genders or whatever should be given a "leg up" in life, because they are incapable of succeeding on their own merits.

The problem with this statistical view, whether it is being used by bleeding-heart liberals to justify affirmative action or by right-wing racists to justify discrimination, is that it neglects the actions of the individual. While you can point to statistics to argue that people of certain demographic groups succeed or fail more often than others, it is the actions of the individual that often determine whether or not that person succeeds or fails. And often it is these statistics that give individuals excuses to not try or to give up.

The video linked above is to a haunting tune, "Christo Redeemer" performed by Donald Byrd. I was researching his background and as I commented on that site:
I was amazed to read about him and find out that he has a Bachelor's degree in music from Wayne State, a Master's degree from the Manhattan school of music, a PhD. in Music education from Columbia, and even a Juris Doctor (law degree) from Howard (!!). He played with so many famous musicians and tutored and brought along many, including Herbie Hancock, who is playing the piano on this piece. It took me 14 years to get my law degree, and I never learned to play an instrument. Clearly Mr. Byrd is a smart and talented person, and stands as a refutation of any argument that black people are inferior in intellect or talent. Theories about racial superiority are just plain wrong.
This is not to say Mr. Byrd had an easy time of it. I am sure he faced many incidents of discrimination in his life. The point is, you have to take people on their individual merits, and not paint them with a broad brush based on their ethnicity, gender, or whatever.

Traditionally, conservatives have embraced this theory of individualism - the idea that people should be allowed to succeed or fail on their own merits. And indeed, many today profess these values and decry racial stereotyping. But lurking in the background, always, is this specter of racism that occasionally rears its ugly head, particularly today when an ill-advised tweet is discovered, or an elected official is photographed in blackface. It seems to some conservatives, individualism is a philosophy limited to whites only.

I am not sure what the point of all this is, only that if we are to be a racially-blind country, we need to be racially blind. So long as government forms have check-boxes for race (and people like Elizabeth Warren foolishly check off the wrong boxes) we will always be judging people by ethnicity, rather than on individual merit.

As a (former) registered government contractor, I was exhorted to sign up for special dispensation based on being a "small business" and would have obtained other dispensations for being a "woman-owned" or minority business, if I could qualify to check off the correct boxes. One contractor told me he put his business in his wife's name to qualify for special consideration on contracts (and hoped she never divorced him and took the business with her). It is a system that invites gaming. But it is an example of how we treat people as statistics, and not as individuals - from both sides of the political spectrum.

Of course, one could respect the argument of rugged individualism that the right promotes, if they were a tad more aggressive in denouncing the alt.right, the hate speech, and the rise of the new racism. But hey, they might vote, right? The left finds itself in a similar pickle - unable to denounce the far-left who pines for the days of Stalin, and thinks Maduro is just a misunderstood guy (no really, that's what Bernie thinks) - but hey, they might vote, right?