Yascha Mounk and Tomiwa Owolade discuss what we miss when we think of race as a binary.
Interviews like this are the reason I subscribe; thank you. This quote in particular stuck out to me as it is the antitheses of the anti-racist movement in the U.S "So a healthy kind of anti-racism would also necessarily need to question any kind of race essentialism and any kind of race generalization."
I wish U.S. progressives shared Owolade's intelligence and optimism. As it stands, we will suffer from the American brand of anti-racism and its purposeful division and strife for decades.
Fantastic interview. The dialogue was honest and spoke to nuance. The mindset of “get the whites to buy-in by guilt trip, ‘shroom trip, or simply trip out on every behavior perceived as racist won’t work and it was good to hear Mr. Owolade say it (in a much more benign and refined way, of course 😉).
In researching for a client in the healthcare space a month or so ago, I saw the data on health outcomes for people
classified as being of (non-Caribbean) African descent and Asian in the UK.
I’m an epidemiologist (by training) from America
When I saw the data with outcomes of “people of color” better than “white British” people, you can imagine how intrigued I was.
It made me want to go deeper.
Next stop, Tomiwa Owolade’s book!
The problem that we as humans have is a type of intellectual sloppiness. We believe - and it is a belief and not an understanding - that if we can name or label a thing or person we understand that thing or person. When we label someone as Black, Jewish, Irish, Mexican, etc., we believe that we understand the history and motivations of that person. The same holds true when we use the terms Conservative, Progressive, Woke, Racist, etc., to label ideas or people. What Owolade argues so well is that life is never that simple.
Is the human penchant for quickly labeling someone or something a vestige of our evolutionary past that is no longer adaptive? Or, is it still adaptive as long as we can distinguish between labeling and understanding?
Owolade is a sensible and thoughtful commentator on race and we are lucky to have him.
"the city with the largest share of black people is London. And the percentage of black people in London is something like 13 or 14%"
I'm surprised to read this actually. Watching British TV shows one might assume the UK was 30% black. I knew it wasn't that high, but never in a million years would I have guessed it was only 3% nationally (I just looked it up).
I think this ties into the issue with the French soccer team. It is easy to say "representation matters," but the thornier issue is how much representation is appropriate. If indigenous black Kenyans were only 20% of their national soccer team, and the rest was whites, Arabs, and Chinese, who were otherwise a small share of the general population, there is no doubt in my mind it would be a big issue there.
Of course, one can say, let the best man win on the field regardless of the racial demographics that result. I support that. But then it is untenable to insist that no other sphere of human endeavor may have racial demographics that don't perfectly reflect the general population.
I found it interesting that in giving a talk about race in the US to French students they asked if race in the US could be considered an ethnicity. I said no and then I thought about Black people in France. Of course Black people in France would have an ethnicity including a common language.
Are Americans curious about the world beyond the borders of the USA? In general, I would say the answer is no. I have a funny anecdote about this. I used to live in Chicago. Of course, I met (and dated) a great many Irish-Americans. They were (as a group) ferociously loyal to the Old Sod and knew almost nothing about it.