How does racism hurt white people?

Question: How does racism hurt white people?

Answers:

  1. Racism sharply reduces white people’s chance opportunities in life to acquire new knowledge or new perspectives from intelligent or wise people.*
  2. Racism causes white people to overestimate their abilities and to underestimate their own weaknesses. It prevents them from knowing themselves and stunts their personal growth.
  3. Racism reduces white people’s chances of receiving help from others in times of desperation.
  4. Racism compromises white people’s physical safety.**
  5. Racism prevents white people from empathizing with and understanding human beings.

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White people dismiss non-white knowledge before they can question it.

If a white person takes what a person of colour says seriously, it does not imply that the white person does not question the claims of the person of colour. If a white person takes what a person of colour says seriously, it means that the white person does not dismiss the claims of the person of colour. “Dismissing” includes the white person considering what a person of colour has said and then rejecting it because he has never experienced it himself and has never heard of such a thing before, and then reconsidering it later only because enough people of colour started telling him the same thing.

That you have never experienced something yourself is not a valid reason to reject another person’s experience. If you are white and a person of colour mentions something that you have never experienced before, it does not mean that the person of colour must be lying or hallucinating. It could mean that you are not omniscient, and not more knowledgeable about everything than any person of colour. Given these two possibilities—either you are (i) not omniscient and not more knowledgeable about everything than any person of colour, or (ii) the person of colour must be lying or hallucinating—there is a higher probability that you are ignorant about something, and the person of colour is telling the truth and not suffering from hallucinations.

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Evolutionary psychologists invent narratives based on faulty assumptions.

In Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around? The fault, dear Darwin, lies not in our ancestors, but in ourselves., Sharon Begley (Newsweek) writes:

These have not been easy days for evolutionary psychology. For years the loudest critics have been social scientists, feminists and liberals offended by the argument that humans are preprogrammed to rape, to kill unfaithful girlfriends and the like. (This was a reprise of the bitter sociobiology debates of the 1970s and 1980s. When Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson proposed that there exists a biologically based human nature, and that it included such traits as militarism and male domination of women, left-wing activists—including eminent biologists in his own department—assailed it as an attempt “to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race, or sex” analogous to the scientific justification for Nazi eugenics.) When Thornhill appeared on the Today show to talk about his rape book, for instance, he was paired with a sex-crimes prosecutor, leaving the impression that do-gooders might not like his thesis but offering no hint of how scientifically unsound it is.

(The theory of evolution by natural selection is not part of the set of faulty assumptions, of course. The faulty assumptions made by evolutionary psychologists concern humans’ evolutionary past, the human brain, and some basic facts about non-Anglo countries that some didn’t bother checking.)


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Libertarianism is rational for rich white people only.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that is fiscally conservative, but socially liberal—except when it concerns social issues that involve money or property. Stereotypically, libertarianism is self-consistent only in a toy universe abstracted away from the messiness and social inequalities of the real world.

Several years ago, a libertarian introduced to me a flash video that was intended to promote libertarianism. I was amazed to find that the unrealistic abstraction and idealism that is stereotypical of libertarianism was manifested even in the video’s visuals. An unintentional visual self-parody, the video—The Philosophy of Liberty—illustrates libertarianism with abstract stick figures representing people devoid of race, gender, and historical context.

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Understanding racism requires recognizing faulty logic.

Truth is fundamental to justice, and the ability to reason is critical to discovering truth. One (white) anti-racist, Macon D, has severe deficits in the fundamentals of reasoning, and consequently, he has difficulties in understanding racism and implementing anti-racist thinking. Because of his ignorance of logic, Macon D continues to systematically ignore criticisms by people of colour and remains convinced of his intellectual and anti-racist integrity. Macon D uses circular reasoning, he believes that the Law of Non-Contradiction does not apply to him, and he is influenced by the Appeal to Belief.

Truth is fundamental to justice.

Racism is more than just obvious manifestations of racial hatred, such as the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and the political right. Racism includes systemic racism, and implicit biases and assumptions that permeate and uphold our way of life. Understanding racism requires critical thinking skills to question what society teaches us, and it requires metacognitive skills to monitor and self-examine our own biases and assumptions. To understand racism, it is not sufficient to concentrate on activating good feelings within ourselves towards people of colour. Most racist thoughts are not hateful thoughts towards people of colour. Most racist thoughts are preconceived ideas built into a faulty worldview that Western society assumes to be true.

In other words, challenging racism is more than just philanthropy. Challenging racism—and challenging injustice in general—is part of a larger, epistemological project to find unadulterated truth.

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An anti-gay political group distorts psychology research.

Psychologist says group distorting her same-sex research:

Nov. 12–A national group that advocates “treatment” of homosexuality is being criticized for allegedly distorting a Utah researcher’s work to advance the theory that people choose their sexual orientation — a controversial notion rejected by mainstream psychology.

Lisa Diamond, a University of Utah psychologist whose sexual-identity studies suggest a degree of “fluidity” in the sexual preferences of women, said in an interview Tuesday that the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH, misrepresents her findings. Position papers, some penned by NARTH President A. Dean Byrd, an adjunct professor in the U.’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, point to Diamond’s research as evidence that gays’ sexual orientation can be straightened out through treatment — much to Diamond’s dismay.

“If NARTH had read the study more carefully they would find that it is not supported by my data at all. I bent over backward to make it difficult for my work to be misused, and to no avail. When people are motivated to twist something for political purposes, they’ll find a way to do it,” Diamond says in a videotaped interview posted on the Internet.

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Common White Fallacy #6: Unfalsifiable belief systems about race

A common fallacy of white people is to have a belief system about a non-white racial or ethnic group that cannot be falsified. Wikipedia defines falsifiability as follows:

Falsifiability (or “refutability”) is the logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment. That something is “falsifiable” does not mean it is false; rather, that if it is false, then this can be shown by observation or experiment.

In other words, it is not uncommon for a white person to have an unfalsifiable belief system about race, and when shown evidence that refutes a held belief, the given white person engages in absurd rationalizations that “protects” the belief system from any possibility of refutability. For most white people, to be called racist entails being called a bad person, and since the self-concept of oneself as bad is unacceptable for most people, the given white person cannot accept the possibility that he is racist.

Often, the following scenario occurs:

  1. A white person believes some generalization about people of colour, i.e., all people of race R have property P.
  2. A person of colour of race R tells the white person that she does not have property P.
  3. The white person makes some accepting or concilliatory noises towards the person of colour, but then continues to believe that all people of race R have property P.

An example of this is when a white person makes the claim that all black people listen to rap music. If a black person says that she does not listen to rap (but listens to classical music instead, for example), the white person may accept the claim, but then rationalize, “but then you’re not really black.” This white person’s belief system about what kind of music all black people listen to becomes unfalsifiable, because if there is any black person who refutes the generalization, that person suddenly becomes “not black”, and the white person’s sweeping generalization is preserved.

Now this is a relatively obvious example. The white person will not always offer the rationalization that the person is “not really” a member of the group the white person generalized about. (This specific fallacy is known as the no true Scotsman fallacy.) Sometimes the white person will read the dissenting comment as an anomaly or even an alternative opinion that somehow does not interact with the validity of his generalization.*

Unfalsifiable belief systems are problematic, because they are prior assumptions that cannot be tested with reality. Of course, beliefs like “all people of race R have property of Pcan be tested and are falsifiable, but when the person who has the belief rejects any evidence that could possibility refute it, the person’s belief system is unfalsifiable and he cannot be reasoned with. Unfortunately, white people are often unconscious that they are making these kinds of invalid rationalizations to preserve their self-concept as a non-racist (or anti-racist) person.

Ironically, some of these white people believe that white people are more “rational” than non-white people when discussing race, because they are unable to see their own irrationality.


* This is also referred to as “not listening” to people of colour or not taking people of colour seriously.


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