Feed on

Here is some from Slate Star, and note the observations about the Voxers:

Racism is a uniquely divisive issue. Minorities hear it and think of Klansmen trying to kill them. White people hear it and think of witch-hunters trying to get them fired. A single death in a random Midwestern town has turned half the country into experts on ballistics because it involved race. Bring up race, and people will change their opinion in the opposite direction suggested by the evidence just to spite you for having a different opinion about it than they do.

Once you’ve said words like “racism” or “racial bias”, this dynamic is already in play and you have lost control of the conversation from then on. If you mention the word and then suggest that we should do something about the police bribery or whatever, then ten percent are going to yell “HOW DARE YOU IMPUGN OUR OFFICERS’ HONOR, YOU POLITICALLY CORRECT FASCIST”, another ten percent are going to yell “HOW DARE YOU DERAIL THE CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE, YOU WHITE SUPREMACIST ASSHOLE”, and the other eighty percent are going to be yelling so loud at each other they can’t even hear you. By the time all the fires have been put out and all the rubble cleared, it’s a pretty good bet that nobody is in the mood to hear about policy ideas for reducing the impact of police on lower-income individuals anymore.

Klein ends his piece by interviewing a professor who states that “Liberals sometimes overstate the extent of overt racism as a direct explanation of justice system disparities.” He acts like this is some sort of inexplicable quirk of the liberal mind. I wonder whether it might have more to do with liberals reading things like the recent Vox article, “America’s Criminal Justice System Is Racist”, which declares the thesis “There is no reason to be subtle on this point: the American criminal justice system is racist”, then goes on to repeat the phrase “America’s criminal justice system is racist” five times in the next five paragraphs. It never mentions that possibility that any of this racism is anything but overt.

If, like Robin Hanson, you believe in the metaphor of tugging policy ropes sideways, then I can’t think of any worse way to ensure that everyone will be tugging against you in every direction than trying to focus the discussion about race.

That’s why I limited my review to direct bias within the justice system itself, and why I think other ways of framing the issue are less productive.

The rest is here.

One Response to “On Race and Our Ability to Talk About It”

  1. Doug M says:

    It is a corollary to Goodwin’s law: ““if you mention Adolf Hitler or Nazis within a discussion thread, you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.”

    Once you say “racist”, there is no more room for rational discussion.

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