Erasing Racism

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Growing up in the 1960s, it seemed obvious that by the time I was a mature adult, several things would be commonplace.

  1. Women would be considered equal to men in all ways, and treated with greater respect, and the honor they deserve for being the bearers of life itself.
  2. Immigrants, people of different lifestyles and ways of thinking, even those with great physical and mental challenges would be treated with greater patience and consideration.
  3. All people heavily skinned with melanin would be not only treated with greater respect, but also with a high degree of accommodation because of the hundreds of years that a lighter skinned society imposed upon their ancestors.
  4. We would all have access to flying cars, live to be 200, and look forward to a vacation on one of our moon’s many colonies.

Strangely enough, none of these things have come true.

Now I’m old, training to be a cantankerous pale-skinned boomer, and it’s only a matter of time before this body turns cold.

This series of articles is going to be my last gasp attempt at doing something, anything, to make one of those “obvious” expectations become real.

Stay tuned.

Steve Tusok

Stump the Prof

Hey! How’s school going?

Stuck up professors who pretend to know everything are seriously sick.

A self-anointed expert is the last thing that I need when I’m feeling down, the world is crumbling around me, and nothing but madness is raining on my life. And that stuffed shirt stands up there as if they know all the answers.

They don’t.

To prove it I’m going to post a series of questions that your prof can’t answer. These are sort of the benchmark questions that have anything to do with behavior.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a biology class, or psychology, sociology, economics, anthro, or a whole lot of other classes that have to do with how people (animals) behave. These questions apply to all of them.

So let me know if you already have some that you’d like to include. But as far as I know, no one has ever put together a list like this.

So, next time you get in front of your know-it-all prof, and you’re feeling fiesty. Hit them with a question that they can’t answer. Maybe they’ll leave you alone, especially when you want to be left alone.

Karate Chop Call to Action to End Racism

The martial arts teach us to use our opponent’s energy for our own purposes.

If an opponent is coming towards you with great force, don’t try to stop them with your impression of a brick wall. Instead, become a graceful river, stepping aside at the last moment and using your foot to trip them.

The same can be true for our fight against racism. Many are trying to stop the banks, the police, the government, acting as a brick wall. And failing.

Let’s use our combined forces to not only disarm our opponents, but to turn them to our side. Let’s use the force our opponents already have, and by applying the smallest amount of force in a strategic area, find that they are no longer fighting us face to face, but side by side.

Our opponents are scientific organizations. There are many, but the few that sit at the top of the global pyramid of science are the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (both in the US), and the Royal Institution in the UK. There are more, and if my words have any influence I’ll add them as we go along.

It was in the cause of science that the concept of “race” was created. Scientists since Darwin have known that mankind is composed of only one race, yet these organizations continue to subsidize and validate studies that contain information relying on race.

To put this into perspective, it would be the same thing if these scientific organizations continued to allow research into “bodily humours” to be published. The ideas of bodily humours were debunked centuries ago, yet imagine if someone claimed to learn something about them today. They would be laughed at.

And so should all research using race as a factor. The concept is invalid, therefore all the research done in its name is also invalid. It is up to us to petition these organizations and force them to admit the truth, admit the science, and admit what they’ve known all these years.

Race is a social construct with no scientific validity. All information including race as a variable must be reexamined, and thrown out if necessary.

What’s the benefit to being a river instead of a brick wall?

For one thing, fewer people will get hurt. For another, we should see the greatest amount of change in the shortest amount of time.

What kind of change?

It’s true that at first glance, changing the minds of mostly old pale men in the sciences doesn’t amount to much, but there is a powerful ripple effect.

For one, academic lawyers can no longer claim race as a factor in their legal theories. In turn, this means that politicians (mostly lawyers) can no longer truly justify laws that institutionalize racism. It means that reporters and bureaucrats will no longer ask people for their race for their stories or statistics. It also means that doctors will no longer be trained thinking that different races have distinct diseases.

Yes, everything here will take time. A long time.

But the good news is that once we have turned the very head of society, its scientific organizations, we will then have a society that will take a new direction. It has taken over 500 years for us to institutionalize racism to the modern extent. I know it won’t take than long for us to correct the mistake. But it won’t be tomorrow.

Please help. Please join.

Feel free to tweet me @JustSLD
or comment here.
At any rate, we have to do this together or not at all.

Where Institutional Racism Comes From

I wrote an earlier essay discussing “What’s Wrong with Racism.”

Fundamentally, there wouldn’t be any racism if there wasn’t any benefit to being a racist. But there are racists, which means there must be some benefit to being a racist.

This is the same essay, but relying on more science and logic than easy emotional observations.

First, and most fundamentally, it’s smart to choose your friends based on reliable characteristics like their bank account or how much they smile. Choosing your friends based on something that has nothing to do with their values as a person is foolish.

And that is what racists are doing who choose to evaluate other people based on whether they are melanin rich, melanin poor, and neutral.

There is absolutely no relationship between how much melanin someone has in their skin, and pretty much every other human characteristic you can suggest except one: the ability to avoid melanoma.

The second most important thing is to realize that no matter what group you belong to, the people in your group are going to vary more from each other than your group as a whole compared to any other group. Let me put this another way.

In your group, no matter what human characteristic you select, there will be extreme examples within your group (light and dark, tall and short, thin and wide) than if you compare your whole group to another. Let me know if you want more examples with greater detail.

Finally, the third thing that actually drives racism is something so fundamental to human nature that we can see it appear in even the smallest of groups. This is the need to divide up humanity into us versus others. You are always part of your own “in” group – and everyone else is “out.”

So we look for any easy characteristic to separate ourselves from others. Language, skin tone, eating habits, facial features, you name it. And we convince ourselves that these outsiders are truly different from ourselves.

We are so convinced that we put our fears into customs, traditions, even our laws and institutions. Thus our fundamental fears create institutional racism.

There you have it. Racism truly is bad. It’s bad because it is a product of fear and laziness. It’s bad because it gets baked into our institutions. And it’s bad because we exclude so many smart and talented people from sharing our lives and our burdens.

So please join me, and help me in my cause to stop racism at its source.

Where’s that? Read the next post (in case you haven’t already guessed) and help in any way you can.

Right of Left and Left of Right

Over the decades I’ve learnt that challenging someone’s assumptions automatically makes me a member of the “other side.” As a result, I’m seen as being right of left and left of right. Or, in other words, I’m always wrong.

My daughter is the best example of this phenomenon. I love her dearly, and I’m sure she is fond of me. But when I gently ask her for definitions within an argument for social justice, or ask her to consider her opponent’s point of view, she almost immediately thinks of me as trying to argue for the other side.

The daughter is afraid of the police, and extremely jaded as to the benefits of government, especially for social programs. In many ways I agree with her, but I also know that true progress can’t be made unless we fully understand the problems involved. And a complete understanding can’t be realized unless we can get inside the mind of all the actors. All of them.

As a society, we can’t alleviate hate and violence unless we understand the hater and the violent. We can’t prevent the next Hitler, Putin or Trump unless we can effectively sit inside their head and see what they see.

We don’t have to agree with any of this, but we do have to understand.

So, be aware, that if you join me on this journey to justice for all, it’s going to be a balancing act between warring factions. We’ll be walking along a knife’s edge, and everyone will be telling us we’re wrong.

And that’s all right.

Definitions are Boring

In order to be good at anything, in order to truly succeed in any endeavor, one must complete small steps that, by themselves, look to be extremely boring. This includes: learning to use a screwdriver, finding true love, making exquisite eros, doing great science, or winning the war.

In order to win the war against racism, we must undertake some very boring steps. Of these, agreeing on our definitions is the most critical. It’s laying the foundation of our building; shaky foundation, shaky home.

Definitions don’t have to be complicated. Many scholars like complex definitions because it helps ensure their own jobs, as if they know what they are doing.

The opposite is true. If one knows exactly what something is, then it becomes easier to define, not harder.

For the first shot, I suggest these:

Culture. It’s what we expect from someone given the situation. If we were of one culture, then we would expect everyone, no matter what their age or skin tone, to act as we expect in every situation. From greeting each other on the street to what we’d say if they moved in next door.

Racism. It’s what someone has if they believe in the concept of race. I’m not going to define “race” here because it’s a nonsense concept with no validity. Science has repeated this for many decades, yet scientific organizations refuse to incorporate the knowledge into their own affairs. More on this later. You are a racist if you believe in more than one form of human. You can be of any skin tone, any age, any religion.

Institutional Racism. This deserves its own definition because the institution may not “believe” anything since its composed of many people with different beliefs. But we can derive an institution’s racism by its actions. If an institution acts in such a way such that its influence affects some set of people significantly differently than another set, then it’s racist. Notice I’m not saying it may be racist based on skin tones. It could be anything else we can measure. Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated. But of all the definitions I’m tackling here, it’s the most complex.

Skin Tone or Skin Color. This one is easy. We must use a method that is simple, easily measured, and ties directly into some physical / biological component. Melanin is the most likely culprit, and since it comes in two forms (eumelanin, pheomelanin) it wouldn’t hurt to measure those as well. Frankly, I find it easiest to put people into three categories: Melanin plus (or rich), Melanin minus (deficient), and Melanin neutral – the average for all humanity.

Black. This is the color black with a capital B. It’s taken root lately to try and differentiate that class of people who are Melanin rich (M+) from previous terms. That they are someone of a distinct culture is obvious, if only because the mainstream culture has treated (mistreated) them differently for centuries. That they would seek to identify and differentiate themselves from the mainstream by some sort of term is natural. That it should be such a generic word as a color seems rather a poor marketing choice. None-the-less, the word is meant to define a culture. That it can be convoluted to argue that this group of people is a different “race” than everyone else, it should be discouraged. As such, Black should only be taken to mean someone who identifies with a culture that has been oppressed for 500 years. It should not be taken to mean anything about their skin tones or their human abilities. The fact that it is easy to convolute the two is what gives me great concern.

There you have it. A few simple definitions. I look forward to discussing these with you, and working on others as the need arises. At least, with these in our toolkit, we can start making slow progress towards a world without racism.

Thanks for reading.