Treadmill, Expression of Sincere Opinion, or Racket?

I enjoyed reading the essay by Coleman Hughes at Quillette, “The Racism Treadmill”. Here’s a snippet:

In his controversial bestseller Enlightenment Now, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker notes a steep decline in racism. At the turn of the 20th century, lynchings occurred at a rate of three per week. Now, racially-motivated killings of blacks occur at a rate of zero to one per year.1 What’s more, racist attitudes that were once commonplace have now become fringe. A Gallup poll found that only 4 percent of Americans approved of marriages between blacks and whites in 1958. By 2013, that number had climbed to 87 percent, prompting pollsters to call it “one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history.”

Why can’t progressives admit that we’ve made progress? Pinker’s answer for what he dubs “progressophobia” is two-fold. First, our intuitions about whether trends have increased or decreased are shaped by what we can easily recall—news items, shocking events, personal experience, etc. Second, we are more sensitive to negative stimuli than we are to positive ones. These two bugs of human psychology—called the availability bias and the negativity bias, respectively—make us prone to doomsaying, inclined to mistake freak news events for trends, and blind to the slow march of progress.

But while psychological biases may sufficiently explain progressophobia on most other topics, our denialism about racial progress calls for a deeper explanation—an explanation in terms of widely-held beliefs about race and inequality.

I find myself without much to say about it other than a) Oh, to be young again! and b) I guess that stirring up a hornet’s nest is the way to get yourself noticed these days.

On the subject of racism I think that anti-black racism is real and it’s holding black people back in many ways. So is the counter-reaction to it. For the last century there’s been an ongoing debate between Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey. Garvey seems to have the upper hand now. Sadly, importing tens of millions of Mexican workers has rendered the persistent problem of anti-black racism intractable.

5 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    I agree that anti-black racism is real, but muted. But not all blacks are being held back. In fact, because of affirmative action, blacks with any talent and education have advantages over whites, especially in employment and admission to elite schools.

    On the other, the black underclass is immersed in violence and is isolated from the real world. This however is due to their genetics: very low IQ’s, in the 70s; zero ability to do any work but the most menial; strong tendency to impulsive violence; inability to plan ahead or set goals. And more.

    By the way, the underclass is not rich, but it most surely is not impoverished. They are drowning in public services and subsidies, especially states like Illinois.

    When all blacks were segregated, black communities had a mixture of talent levels. The underclass did not need Korean shop owners or Hindu doctors; the black middle class provided the services. Now under class blacks have no productive role models and no one to control their impulses.

    There is a sociological concept called “boiling off,” which refers to talented, ambitious people rising up out of an impoverished, limited environment and people.

  • I agree that anti-black racism is real, but muted. But not all blacks are being held back. In fact, because of affirmative action, blacks with any talent and education have advantages over whites, especially in employment and admission to elite schools.

    I agree with that paragraph. The unspoken scandal of that is the large percentage of African and Caribbean blacks who’ve benefited from the programs.

  • steve Link

    I generally avoid race conversations since they are a waste of time. However, just had an interesting conversation with several of my employees who are married to someone of another race about how their kids are being received at school. Lots more nasty, racial comments now than there were a few years ago. No need to be politically correct anymore and not make racial slurs. Even affecting the “favorable races” like Chinese and Vietnamese.


  • That makes me sad. I try to avoid intentionally making another unhappy, treading a sometimes narrow path. I’m generally not politically correct but I care about other people’s feelings, too. In this I try to model the behavior I’d like to see in others.

    Interracial marriage is a fraught topic. In principle I have no opposition to it and my experience has been that some of the most beautiful people in the world are of mixed race. To me marriage is for life and the honest truth is that interracial marriages may require more work by the participants to make work. It’s hard enough these days to make marriages work.

  • Andy Link

    My family experience is different than Steve’s. I have five extended family members who are in “interracial” marriages. For are black-white and the fifth (one brother) married a 2nd generation Japanese woman. My other brother, who lives in Germany, is marrying a Pole who is living in Germany. That doesn’t count as “interracial” in the US but does in other parts of the world.

    The irony is that 3/4 of our black family members are Trump supporters.

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