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The article says that the ideal anti-racism is one, "grounded in the idea that there is a single human race to which we all belong—and that all the ways of dividing us up, though they may be important to understand our present reality, should not be given moral weight."

I agree that the ideal of racial separatism is a dead-end and that a vision of our common humanity should be the ends of anti-racism. But I think the passing comment, "though they may be important to understand our present reality," underplays the degree to which fixing problems of a genuine racial character--either because of present discrimination or because of the accumulated and/or codified policy choices of the past that lead to present day racial inequities--is more difficult if we pretend that we are all just equal humans. In other words, I accept your conclusion, but I hope that readers do not also conclude that color-blindness along the way is required in order to reach it.

I further agree that simply calling out racial disparities/anecdotes (even particularly horrifying ones) does not adequately deal with the complexities at play in most situations.

As I see it, we need to be able to progress down something akin to the following analytical path to be rigorously anti-racist:

1) Is there a problem in society that is of a genuine racial character? In other words, is the problem a direct result of some insidious focus on race, either in the present or past? Rigorous causal analysis is important here. Is this correlation or causation? Are there confounding causes (e.g., is this really a class problem masquerading as a race problem?) Is it a combination of many problems at the same time, some racial some not, and if so, can we isolate the root causes of the problems and address them?

2) Assuming we could identify a problem that is genuinely caused by some form of racism (intentional or not), is the best way to solve the problem by focusing on race when prescribing a solution? Here, your mention of the neighborhoods that were red-lined is instructive. If we simply treat a past harm with a genuine racial character as analogous to the present reality, we will not end up actually remediating that harm. But there might be an actual way to remediate that past harm, and it is hard to imagine what it would be apart from focusing specifically on race. Of course, this is an incredibly complex process because we will disagree about the best ways to solve any given problem. But, if our goal is an integrated racial pluralism rooted in our common humanity in which race is not a determining factor of access to opportunity, then we must be able to have the conversations along the way.

John McWhorter's discussion about getting more children of color into magnet schools in NYC is a good example of what I am talking about here. We shouldn't just get rid of the tests. But we also shouldn't ignore the fact that students of color are under-represented in those schools. We should figure out how to teach students to do better at those tests so that they have the opportunity to get in.

This is particularly important in the legal context where the status quo Equal Protection jurisprudence usually does not allow for focus on race at all UNLESS it can be shown there was specific individual discrimination. Some call this approach, "The Color Blind Constitutionalism." In it, the harm to be avoided is focus on race at all: race is poison. So, if the government decides to use race in some public policy as a way to remediate some harm from the past of a racial nature, then this focus on race is itself the harm. Chief Justice John Roberts saying that, "the only way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race" typifies this way of thinking. Perhaps they are right that the best way to fix social problems is not to focus on race. But I disagree. I think to be anti-racist we need to engage in something akin to the above listed reasoning process. And, if we can identify a way to remediate some racial harm by focusing on race, then we should be able to do it if the political will is present.

I agree that much of the anti-racism crowd of today puts the cart before the horse in the way it seizes on anecdotes and decontextualized statistics as justification for whatever policy they want at any given time (e.g., defund the police, etc). But I think we also need to recognize that focusing on race--not as a way to divide but to diagnose and then treat--will be critical as we work in a genuinely anti-racist way to solve problems that are truly of a racial character.

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How should we approach cases where remediation of one group collides with the rights/opportunities of another? In the Asian American case mentioned it seems like negative rights are in direct opposition to positive rights. All people should have freedom FROM discrimination, domination, prejudice, yet they should also have freedom TO pursue opportunities of employment, education, housing. Not all cases are zero-sum but the insistence on quotas in limited capacity spaces will always be perceived as such.

Proponents of outcome egalitarianism seem all too ready to infringe upon rights of groups. I completely agree historically disadvantaged groups at present still face undue discrimination. Yet focusing on outcomes without any anchor to the fairness of the procedural process might not just be backwards but likely to provoke backlash.

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Is your concern more that there would be a backlash because of a perception of discrimination or that there is an inevitable conflict between remediating inequities in groups to, for example, Black admission to an elite magnet school, and protecting the rights of some other group (such as Asian Americans)?

If the latter, I think that instead of abolishing the test, we should work over time to make students in under-represented groups better able to meet admissions requirements along with instituting a holistic application review in place of a single test is not the same as implementing quotas. I agree that quotas discriminate. The genuine conflict between the positive right to a resources for which there is limited supply and the negative right not to be discriminated against when competing for those resources ought to be resolved in favor ensuring there is no negative discrimination.

The people who think their negative right to be free from discrimination, however, have to answer why they believe their negative rights are violated when a test score is not the sole determining factor for admission at some elite school. Why should this be the case?

The question that is begged behind the use of a test as the sole or major focus for admissions requirements into an elite school is: is this test providing the best way to measure who deserves a spot at an elite educational institution? I think those who want to get rid of the tests and implement quotas go too far. Instead, we should put programs in place to help students do better on the test (perhaps this means providing them a better education altogether). In the end, however, I don't think that the test should be the only criteria for admission. Instead, other factors like background (including someone's race/SES) should matter. Non-academic endeavors should also play a role. Moving from a test score admission system to a more holistic system that considers race as a factor is not the same as violation of some negative right to be free from discrimination.

We can disagree about whether my admission requirements are the best ones to use, but my argument is less that these criteria are for sure the best ones and more that no one is entitled to admission at a selective school based on a test alone AND that race is a permissible factor that can and should be added to the total mix of information used to make admissions decisions to elite schools.

I think that as long as a similar process can be developed for other affirmatively remedial programs that attempt to allocate access to some limited resource based on group membership, then the explicit consideration of race should be permissible.

I don't see why perception should play into the policy analysis (just the political analysis for how to win the public opinion battle necessary to have the power to implement remedial programs), nor do I agree that negative perception is inevitable because every now and then people change their minds. Growing up I thought affirmative action programs were necessarily reverse discrimination programs. Now I think that is just wrong.

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Great comment. I'd add that the Republican party has built their entire vote suppression program around race. In the Zoom meeting Coleman correctly pointed out that it's a proxy for likely Democrats, which they would use for gerrymandering anyway. But until Republicans seriously compete for the votes of Black people they will continue that strategy. The last credible Republican politician who said anything worth hearing on race was Jack Kemp.

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George Bush had good relations with minority communities, never did race baiting (unless I missed something?) and appointed talented minority candidates to the highest levels of government. Since the Tea Party onwards, decency and common sense has taken a backseat in the Republican party.

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Good points. I didn't like Bush's policies but never thought he was racist.

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Thank you for the (as usual) thoughtful commentary. Kind of reminds me how during the Salem Witch Trials there was spectral evidence, what you can't see but is assumed and that could decide their fate. Some of the conversations around antiracism have seemed like that to me. Spectral evidence that there is a racist hiding in there and one tweet or one photo or one dumb joke 20 years ago is a smoking gun. Hopefully we can find a way back to this.

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Thank you Mr Hughes for this article! I would wager that privately, most liberals would agree with you and prefer Dr King’s vision of of togetherness and “being judged by the content of our character” rather than today’s race-consciousness. It would create a more authentic, longer lasting, and effective anti-racism than we see today

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founding

Thank you for a great article. It reminds me of the so-called Danish Black Lives Matter movement (Not recognised by the American one). During the large demonstration in Copenhagen (Our capital) the leader of the movement said that white people and black people should not mix together in the demonstration, but stay on each their side of the protest. It's very interesting to learn where these ideas come from.

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It seems to me that the very first step in getting out of the racial box is to abdicate responsibility for whatever racial identity you have inherited. As long as one claims a racial inheritance, one is bound to some degree to honor that. Moreover this gives rise to the cottage industry of racial authentication. The baggage of racial authentication is why we even bother to talk about the very specific subjects associated with black American life, which of course extends through this racial inheritance all the way back to 1619 if some are to be taken seriously.

There are people walking amongst us who are of Type O blood. They are a majority of that biological type on the planet. Yet you will not likely hear any revisionist histories of what this blood type must signify in our political and cultural moment. We have that very real, biologically and scientifically proven way to sort ourselves. Yet we don't. Have we transcended blood type? Are we no longer sortable into such groups? We will always be sortable into groups and the psychological research of a gent named Tajfel suggests that the merest random sorting will devolve us into groupthink. As they said in the Matrix, "the mind makes it real". So too, the proper mindset can make it unreal. Let that begin with yourself.

So the question is how do you go about your life in abdication of your racial identity. I suppose that if you are a vegan, you already have the discipline. You can accept, for any number of reasons, that your diet for your entire life has been improper. So you do a reverse weaning. Some people can do it immediately. Some need help. Some can never resist bacon.

Every concept in your head about race may very well be bacon. You're never going to get rid of all the pigs in the world. So get over yourself. But you can refuse to answer the call. The best of us can do so without contempt for our fellows, nor with a sense of eternal futility.

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There is no way to move forward on issues involving race unless social class is taken into account. Of course middle class whites have a low murder rate and a low incarceration rate. If you want to make valid comparisons compare poor whites with poor blacks. And of course Blacks are twice as likely to be poor in comparison to whites. Unless this country deals with poverty and its damaging impact on Blacks and whites there will be no hope for progress on race.

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"Social class" is the true third rail of politics. No one wants to talk about class. And that's why we can't have nice things: the billionaires have taken them all for themselves, with our blessing.

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Thought provoking article with some good points. One thing I’d like to push back on is the statistic pointing to incarceration rates of black men ages 18-29 since 2001. It’s a cherry picked statistic. Firstly, it doesn’t include jails or juvenile facilities where hundreds of thousands more people are incarcerated. Secondly, pointing to anything involving mass incarceration and using it as evidence that we’ve made progress on race relations in this country seems misinformed. That same set of data points out that the imprisonment rate of black males is six times that of white males. Technically the statistic cited is progress, but how meaningful is that progress when over 30 percent of people imprisoned in this country are black while only making up 12 percent of the overall population? Surely there are other examples of true progress that could’ve been used...

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True. But Blacks commit murder at 6 to 8 times the rate of Whites and the sentences for murder are long relative to other crimes. The same is true for shootings and robberies. According to the two major data sources for crime that we have in our country - the National Crime Victimization Survey and the FBI Uniform Crime statistics, blacks commit serious violent offenses at much higher rates than whites. (I am not talking about drug offenses here). This difference is large enough to explain the difference in incarceration rates. There are socio-economic explanations for the high crime rates, but the police can't fix those problems. The American criminal justice system has many, many flaws. But constantly harping on racial bias (as the liberals do) to the exclusion of all other factors does not advance the debate, it just makes the issue more polarizing.

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So I couldn’t find any statistics on the murder rates you mentioned, but I found the National Crime Victimization Survey (https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv18st.pdf), it says that in 2018 Black Americans were responsible for 24 percent of violent crimes. The most recent data I found states that 38 percent of the prison population is comprised of black Americans. Putting aside the fact that the classification of “violent crime” casts a wide net and can include crimes where no actual violence was committed, (i.e. being the getaway driver for an armed robbery, or breaking and entering using a tool that could be classified as a weapon), this higher rate of violent crime committed by black people does not “explain the difference in incarceration rates.”

Furthermore, ignoring the way drug laws are enforced does nothing to help understand the racial bias that exists in our criminal justice system. Whites and blacks use drugs at the same rates, but blacks are imprisoned at 5-7 times the rate of whites for drug related offenses. Nearly 80 percent of those in federal prison for drug related offenses, and 60 percent in state prisons are black or Hispanic (https://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/race-and-drug-war). The reason “liberals” “harp on racial bias” is because racial bias in policing, enforcement, and sentencing is an undeniable fact and the war on drugs is a key part of it. I’ve been working as an investigator for a public defense office in Brooklyn for 3 years. Black and brown communities live under a constant state of surveillance and harassment by police here. It’s only something you can understand if you experience it first hand, although there’s tons of reading you can do that would help you get there.

None of this conversation even begins to deal with the root causes of high rates of violent crimes in black communities. It’s related to all aspects of life: education, environment, housing, economics, etc. And each one of those areas has its own racial biases they have to deal with, all of which are rooted in our deeply racist history. Racism didn’t end in 1964, and neither did it’s consequences. I’d like to share a quote from John Erlichman, key advisor and top aide for domestic affairs to Nixon:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and criminalizing both heavily we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” (https://harpers.org/archive/2016/04/legalize-it-all/)

The Nixon administration then established the DEA which has waged a completely senseless “war on drugs” which has primarily impacted black and brown communities. Do you think racist politicians just stopped finding ways to criminalize blackness? It has remained in the best interest of republicans to suppress the black vote ever since they embraced racism as part of their culture, and the criminal justice system system has proven to be a great tool to accomplish this. A republican presidential nominee hasn’t won over 15 percent of the black vote since 1960 (https://www.google.com/amp/s/blackdemographics.com/culture/black-politics/ ). However, the tough on crime approach has been bipartisan. This week the “liberals” you claim harp on racial bias in our criminal justice system nominated the author of the 1994 Crime Bill and a career prosecutor as the presidential and vice presidential nominees. I kind of went off track here, but that’s because there is simply so much ground to cover when discussing racism in our criminal justice system.

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Thanks for sharing your views. I will be responding in a general way to your comments, I am not disputing any insights you have as a result of your work. It seems that according to the latest figures, the Black prison population is 33%, not 38% and the imprisonment rate for Black Americans have declined by 34% since 2006.

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/05/06/share-of-black-white-hispanic-americans-in-prison-2018-vs-2006/

Of course even 33% is a lot higher than 24%, but please remember the National Crime Victimization Survey does not include murders and homicide is disproportionately committed by Black people. Additionally, homicides attract much longer sentences than most other crimes. These two factors combined can explain all or part of the additional incarceration rate for Blacks. The FBI homicide data are discussed here

https://www.hks.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/centers/wiener/programs/pcj/files/PoliceandPublicDiscourseBlackonBlackViolence.pdf

I have a question for you. Among liberals, it is taken for a fact that if Blacks are 13% of the population but are 33% of incarcerated people, that it clear evidence of racism. (and anybody who disputes this is himself racist or is probably an evil Republican). Why is that? What is the difficulty in acknowledging that much or most of this difference is accounted for by differences in rates of offending between different communities? (even if racism also plays a role, particularly in drug offenses). When it comes to drug offenses, a big issue (historically) is the sentencing disparity between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. I agree that this policy was bad, but there was a context. Crack cocaine was directly associated with criminal behavior and violence to a much greater degree than powder cocaine. This article analysis some of these issues.

https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/garthwaite/htm/Education_Crack.pdf

It is a fact that in America, the cops are able to get away with behavior (irrespective of race) that won't be tolerated in any other liberal democracy. But in New York City, an astonishingly high percentage of shootings and murders are committed by Blacks and Hispanics and only a very small percentage are committed by Whites. (FBI Crime Statistics).

You say Joe Biden was associated with the 1994 Crime Bill and that was a very bad thing. People forget that at the time crime was at a very high level and this was a central concern not just among Whites but also among Blacks. In fact, support for the crime bill was probably stronger among Blacks. The following article is a discussion of these issues.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/09/joe-biden-crime-bill-and-americans-short-memory/597547/

On racial disparities in other areas, I agree that racist policies in the past are one major reason for the racial disparities that we see today. Discrimination that continues today is also an additional reason. But this is far from being the whole story. Please read Coleman Hughes articles on Quitelle on racial disparities and racism - you may agree or disagree with the arguments, but one thing is for certain. No liberal publication in USA will publish those articles, even though they are quite well argued. The Left doesn't want to learn the arguments of the other side - it might create cognitive dissonance! (I am not saying the Right does, but being a liberal, I have only followed the Left).

Americans (and not only Republicans) had many nasty views in the 1960's. But things changed! The US is one of the few countries where a person from a long discriminated against minority community won a direct Presidential election twice. There are countless ways in which American society has changed since the mid-1960's but a section of the Liberals (the Left?) talk about the country as if we are still stuck in the 1960's. The world's most successful multiracial, multicultural and multireligious liberal democracy (excluding Canada) is described as a white supremacist society. That's not even funny, man! Most immigrant groups, brown, yellow, black or white have done well in USA. White progressives are often surprised to learn that African-Americans themselves don't share their pessimistic assessment. (I am not quoting the opinion polling on this, too many links already).

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Let me first say that I find this thread to be a total breath of fresh air. From what I've seen thus far, this community has tapped into individuals who are truly interested in truth and reason. Individuals who respect civility and facts, who assume the best of one another, and who are willing to listen and learn.

This essay, as well as Sinchan's final paragraph in the latest comment, particularly resonate with me. The line of argumentation on race relations coming from journalists, researchers, and academics on the far left ignores so much to reach its conclusions and earn its soundbites (e.g., the unsolvable problem of "systemic racism", "abolishing the police", "Department of Anti-Racism"). It indeed makes me wonder how such well-educated individuals who I'm sure apply strict standards of reason to their beliefs in other aspects of life can form such short-sighted, narrow views of the world.

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Thanks Brendan. It would make more sense if you keep in mind that "anti-racism" often feels like a cult. And people who are caught in this cult find some entertainment and meaning by mortgaging their common sense and reasoning to cult leaders like Ibrahim Kendi and Robin Di'Angelo. (Of course this might be too harsh because many people who believe in these doctrines are genuinely well meaning and decent people. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions). However shallow liberals find these books (and they ARE very shallow and promote a racialist view of society), you are not allowed to say that.

On why the Left is so critical of America and liberal democracy, there can be a more positive reason for that. Maybe the Left is really passionate about creating a more just society and therefore they are impatient at the existing injustices or cruelties in American society. But I am not sure this positive interpretation is correct. I think (just like the Communists), the radicals on the Left want to delegitimize the institutions of liberal democracy. Every person and every institution is racist - so what is the difference between America and a third world dictatorship? We are as bad as China or anywhere else, so why should we care about Hong Kong or Taiwan? They pretend as if slavery was a sin unique to Western civilization. There were large slave trades in History (Babary slave trade) in which white people were traded as slaves. We must defend our values and our institutions from both the radical Left as well as the radical Right.

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I'm a 97 year old woman, a Jew who grew up in a Jewish/Irish/Protestant neighbor in Prov RI adjacent to a Black one - and absorbed the usual messages - and didn't believe them enough to become a racist - at least that's what I think. I had six children and my family now includes a Boston Irish grandson and his Irish/Italian daughter; a Holocaust survivor and our GGsons; Native American grandchildren and a NA GGson whose mother is Laotian; and a WASP grandson - mine is an inclusive family.

A little more than a year ago I moved into an assisted-living apartment house where many/most of the CNAs are Black women/men - none of the residents is a person of color or non-caucasian. Because the sound in the public rooms is too much for my hearing aids and it's quiet enough in my apartment to enable conversation - my first friends were my CNAs and these friendships have endured and increased. On both sides our friendships are considered real. More recently, I began making friends among the residents.

You are described as believing in color-blindness - I was a designer - a very visual person - I cannot NOT see any kind of color including skin color. I've read Kendi and Coates and MacWhorter - names I remember but others as well.

I think my experience is unusual but not unique - earlier in my life I became acquainted with the families of my childrens' friends because they attended both traditional and alternative public schools.

IMO we need to begin dealing with the youngest children in public schools - if they survive - AND their families - helping them to realize their capabilities. $$$$$$$$ Yeah! But a lot less than it takes to deal with the many different kinds of dysfunction taxpayers pay for now.

Each of us who knows what you and I believe is necessary needs to make the effort to engage in the civil discourse - a phrase I often borrow from Joyce Vance.

I'm glad I encountered you this morning. You are also described as a Conservative and I'm a self-described Democratic Socialist . Betcha we'd speak civilly even in person.

L&B&L

Ida G Millman

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