Yes to individuals, and individualism - but the most likely anti-racist identity is ... to be American.


See this WW II veteran thread about a white veteran caring about black soldiers.

Everybody has many identities: race, sex, age / dependency status, college educated or not, working or not, homeowner or not, married or not, criminal or not.

Two of the main ones are marriage and criminality.

Poor whites are far more often not married, and more often criminals.

I think there are more poor white kids whose parents aren't married than poor black kids with unmarried parents (numbers, not %). They're not poor because of racism, but because of poor behavior.

People need to be judged on their behavior, not their identities.

Blacks are probably more overrepresented in the NBA and college basketball, than Asians in the high SAT high schools.

Is the NBA racist against Hispanics and Asians? If not, by what criteria?

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A very interesting conversation!

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The map is not the territory, said Korzybski. Very true and very useful to remember. But maps can be helpful for orienting you. Also true. It depends what you put on your map and how tightly you hold it. I got to thinking about other ethnic groups after reading the reference to Italians above. Thinking about other tribe cultures that no one objects to, at least not now. Why? What is the difference? I ended up suspecting that the answers lay in understanding what we mean by assimilation. When are people of another culture assimilated enough that most are comfortable that assimilation has occurred. I suspect it has to do with speaking the language (ability to communicate) and accepting the basic economic construct. Other things are extraneous. But I don't know, of course. I also sense a tension in this conversation between the individual -- which is all we can really engage with on an emotional level -- and the group - which can only be seen statistically and as something from which any given individual will diverge. This tension is everywhere. It seems to me like an instance of holding two opposites in your mind at one time and not going insane. Individuals and the group(s) with which they identify. Both, and. Statistic and anecdote. Numbers and narrative. How do we hold both in our minds and not go insane? In any event, thank you -- all three! -- for a very enlightening and thoughtful discussion.

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Korzybski: the territory is not the map

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I confess that I wrote the comment before I read the conversation--this race debate bothers me tremendously. Does the question have to be either or? Could we be proud of our ancestors but at the same time accept a society that isn't sensitive to our skin colors--and more importantly, that doesn't establish its laws based on our skin colors? I think what's at stake is that a lot of black children are deprived of their opportunities to move up in the society because we let them be. I wish Bill Gates, Bloomberg, and the like, would join force to improve educational environment for kids in the impoverished communities by recruiting and paying the best teachers and as many as needed, by supporting the families so that they could work and have help raising their kids, by supporting churches and other community organizations so they could build a safe neighborhood; by supporting police--yes, the police that everybody criticizes--so that they could recruit the best people and provide effective training so they can slowly gain back the trust of the communities, the list goes on. I am not interested in fixing the race problems but I think we desperately need to work on ensuring ALL children are brought up in a nurturing environment. If--a huge IF--we can do a decent job on that, we will be moving toward a humanely stable society. And the race problems will solve themselves--unless interest groups don't want them to.

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Thanks guys for having the courage to share your experience, talents and views. It is too complex for me to well understand but I think blacks would benefit by changing a) having fewer abortions, b) shooting each other less, c) having fewer father-less homes, d) having school choice, e) stop supporting the pols that have been in place and foster this tragedy, f) reject policies and practices (eg preferred hiring) that cast the black as lesser and in need of pity, g) support those blacks (such as you three) who speak and act with courage and integrity.

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I don't think we ever really can ignore our personal or ethnic heritage. People who totally reject any grouping or communal history, generally obsess about that as much as those who champion it. It's like Faulkner's character in Absalom, Absalom: "I don't hate the South. I don't hate the South." The real point is, that while our personal heritage influences our lives, our character -- our elemental self-- can take various trajectories that need not be determined by a past or heritage we did not chose. As for communal endeavors, Americans seem to always be schizophrenic. On the one hand, you have the example of the Greatest Generation who understood what it was to work together ... to bowl together (Bowling in America). On the other hand, there is this fierce contradiction (which the WWII generation had as well), that one should "make it on one's own" and that the individual is supreme. We still pendulate between those views today, far more than Asian and European groupings do. We are each more than the sum of our parts.

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Does anyone here find it strange that the cultural left in this country tells us that sexual identity is not real and must always be questioned while "racial" categories are supposedly fixed and mutually exclusive?

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the individualism vs. traditionalism debate. Human history has primarily taken place in tribes, where culture, customs, and moral codes developed over thousands of years. As civilization developed, Western countries eventually figured out that prosperity was best achieved by recognizing the sovereignty of the individual and respecting each other’s dignity. As people saw commercial success accompany a stronger emphasis on individualism, tradition appeared more and more unnecessary in a modern society.

Though individualism is important in a large, interconnected society, we cannot escape the fact that we are raised in families and often grow up around people who speak the same language, look the same, and have similar life experiences. Culture and tradition help us navigate the intimate, daily interactions with neighbors, family, and friends, while individualism helps us navigate an interconnected world that requires cooperation with complete strangers. Both respect for culture and an individualistic mindset are good, but have their utility in different aspects of life.

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We are some 60 years removed from the "colored only" era, yet the notion that we live in some racial dystopia keeps gaining traction. Racializing society was a disaster the first time, and wanting to repeat that experiment is utter poison. The woke movement has created more ill feelings between and among people than it has solved. What else could one expect? When people who look like people who may have done something horrible centuries ago are taken to task, there is no possible positive outcome to be had from that. Foster simply represents the opposite spectrum of the racializing pendulum - while one side chooses to look at everything through that lens, he's looking at nothing that way. It may not productive but it's a far less contentious way of living.

For the past several years, Finland has been rated the world's happiest country. Followed by its Scandinavian and Nordic neighbors with places like Luxembourg and the Netherlands also on these lists. Aside from the obvious racial homogeneity of Finland and the rest, there are numerous other markers of social cohesion that are increasingly absent in the US: common values and a societal norms, a common religion, a common language spoken at work AND home, shared traditions, a history that is celebrated rather than torn down, and heroes of the past.

It is this level of cohesion that allows for the "free" things American politicians talk about, which has led me to say that "if you want the US to behave like Finland, then the US must tax like Finland and look like Finland." Instead, actors and events in American history are subject to the most ridiculous reductionism, as if having been born into a particular era is a sin in itself. While we are told diversity is our strength, we are never told that its true utility lies in harnessing different perspectives and experiences toward a unity of purpose.

Perhaps John should reconsider his reluctance in not referring to these times as a reign of terror. How are they different from previous versions? Perhaps people are not literally killed but having careers and reputations destroyed is a difference in degree. And it's not just the attacks on anyone who threatens delicate sensibilities; it's also the inculcation of bad feelings among those who otherwise may have those sentiments. Treating certain populations as perpetual victims does them no favors; it only sets them up for misery. Of course, it's about the people in those populations. It's about the folks who are doing the labeling, the ones who have made promoting and selling grievance a business just as surely as the promotion and sale of any goods or services.

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Aug 15, 2022·edited Aug 15, 2022

When I first listened to Glenn's conversation with Wai Wah Chin I thought her comment about representation came across as a bit flippant, but when I gave it some thought it seemed to make more sense. It's not like the kids at Stuyvesant are Olympic athletes representing their country. These kids are basically just representing themselves as far as getting a good education.

I definitely agree that there's a danger to obsessing over race, especially in a multi-racial country like the United States. But complete and total racial abolitionism also seems naïve to me for many of the reasons that Glenn and John offered up in the discussion with Kmele. Personally I identify as American more so than Asian American, but am definitely aware of the fact that ethnically I happen to be Chinese. Given that historically ethnicity and culture have been highly correlated, I think it's a bit much to expect that people will totally abandon those categories in terms of how they self-identity.

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Perhaps I shouldn't be so self-absorbed, but I dunno who else's experience to draw from. Both my Grandparents on my Father's side were Russian Jews who came over, presumably, to escape the pogroms of early 1900s. My Mom said Dad became Atheist in WWII. He couldn't countenance a G*d that could countenance what he saw. Mom was raised Christian (Baptist, I believe) but became Atheist. Dunno why.

Neither Mom nor Dad talked about the past much. Recall one line on a postcard about Dad talking about past. Not a lot else. I didn't understand the problems of being first-generation American until I thought about the two sons of my Supervisor, who immigrated from Turkey. Basically my Dad was 100% American, and brought over none-a the traditions of his parents.

Should-a I been given the opportunity to inherit the pride of Grandparent's culture?

Recently I've wondered. On the whole? I dunno I could miss something I've never had but, then again, I can't see where I could be better off than I am. And I believe I gained something of the struggles my Grandparents faced, indirectly, through my parents.

I'm 50% Fundamentalist Atheist, being raised that Way. Was in 60s and early 70s, before it became a fad. But I was raised in the Judeo-Christian culture here in America, so there is that.

In my limited experience, pride comes before the fall. Mebbe I was just unlucky.

From GS's comment:

"Yes, race can, not should, be an important part of an individual's self-conception if they so wish..."

Replace "race" with "religion" or anything else You want. Technically, I don't see the value in looking to the past. Either yesterday or decades. If You need to do that to have an identity, okay fine.

OTOH, I'm not certain that *anything* You've paid attention to in the past isn't buried somewhere in the subconscious mind. What You've been is necessarily where You are now. To focus on it? About as much point as dreaming of the future. Neither can be changed. Theoretically anyway, all I know to do is attempt to direct the change You become that goes on moment to moment. Never fail to fail, 'course.

All that to say... I guess my views correspond more to what Kmele Foster's said. Will hope to look into it more in the future. (Assuming there is one. ;-) Thank You to him and the two Professors. Much obliged. TYTY.

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I don’t identify with any particular race, ethnicity or religion. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t object if someone chose to make such distinctions - freedom to choose. Is a “color blind society “ still desirable? Be proud, study, work hard and succeed.

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Given the infinite combinations of DNA and experience people have the only accurate way we can define ourselves is as individuals. But each individual will also inevitably perceive themselves as part of some bigger group. The groups we identify with should reflect our cultural values, without making the mistake of ascribing those values to race. Race will never encapsulate a clear and unvarying set of characteristics that everyone in that group possesses any more than sex does. So these categories as identities are almost meaningless. Anyone can share the same cultural values you do. It’s not about being color-blind but simply not giving color a meaning that isn’t really there. So embrace love, respect, dignity, logic, empathy, jazz, classical, country, basketball, baseball, poetry, philosophy, fishing, tacos, pizza, fried chicken, painting, bourbon, beer and moonshine - they can all belong to you.

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A few things.

Reactionary. That word... what is "reactionary" today? We look up the word: someone who is reactionary is someone who seeks to undo political progress or revolution. But what is "progress"? And there is a certain negative connotation in the word. But is being "reactionary" in the sense of resisting political revolution always bad? If people were resisting the Cultural Revolution of Maoist China -- do we want to call them "reactionaries"? There is a myth of progress that seems to suggest that any new culture is better and that history is a linear straight line of Progress -- but that erroneous idea is just as bad as the idea that in the past was a golden age of culture. Not a fan of the word reactionary. Is that reactionary? Well, I think it would be progress to think about the past and future differently.

Sometimes, what is promoted as "progress" is degenerate. The ideologies most popular with Democrats today regarding race and sex -- those are degenerate. They aren't progress, regardless if the people talking about them consider themselves "Progressives." If some "conservatives" want to move the government closer toward one which applies its system of justice and system of welfare to individuals regardless of race or sex, that is not "reactionary"-- that is actually progressive. Using race(biological lineage and all its renditions) and sex as criteria for judging individuals is *traditional* -- it has been a popular tradition of humans since the beginning of recorded history. The measurement of progress is entirely dependent on a person's moral compass. For someone who opposes a new social movement -- its not likely from a perspective that they want to resist "progress" -- that judgement comes from the people who support the new social movement. For the person in opposition, they are likely thinking they are resisting decadence and degeneracy. Progress, I suspect, they still would have a vision of, but its not in the same direction as that social movement.

"There is no world government. I care about people in other parts of the world who might be starving. I care enough to give money to try to help them. But I'm not gonna fight and die for them. That's not my country. That's, in some sense, not my problem. At least not in the same sense."

I suspect, if aliens invaded our planet, you would maybe consider risking your life to defend it even if they happen to have chosen Russia to conquer first?

"The biggest applause line in my speech was when I said “I am a man of the West. Tolstoy is mine. Dickens is mine. Einstein is mine.” In other words, the fact that I descend from African slaves does not preclude me from joining with the great intellectual and cultural traditions of the milieu in which I am embedded, which is the West."

Are you not a man of Achebe? You are not a man of Sōseki Natsume? Why would you restrict your "identity" from embracing and appreciating the achievements and beauty of places outside the "West" -- which to me, is a very strange anachronism. Europe didn't just produce Einstein. It also produced Marx and Stalin. People around the world have embraced and enhanced and tweaked the ideals that became especially popular and powerful in Europe for a blink of time. Some people in the "North", and the "South" are bound to exhibit human virtue moreso than any random person in the "West." The worship of "Western Civilization" is, often, just a means for people with great unconscious insecurity in their own potential for virtue and glory to gain it vicariously through people who happen to have shared a similar shade of skin or shape of nose generations ago.

Pride in ethnicity, country, and civilization is often a fraudulent source of pride. Pride should come from a person's character and actions, not the character and actions of long dead others who have had no direct personal connection with the person. Its indulgent decadence to take pride in the black race, or the white race, or western civilization -- even "humanity". I am not humanity. I think I've done some pretty cool things, but I didn't invent fire. Besides, Prometheus gave humans that.

We can legitimately take pride in living out the greatest virtues that some people in "the West" exemplified(as have people outside "the West"). But to take pride in a Potemkin "Identity" of flags, genuflection, and shibboleths. That's comical and disgraceful. That is reactionary. When someone transcends those illusions of virtue --- that is progress.

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Aug 14, 2022·edited Aug 14, 2022

A small point: I know I might sound like a Platonist discussing ideal forms, but I think your use of the term “the left” is sloppy. I realize the woke identify as left, and the “right” loves to oblige that conceit, but I do not see identity politics as left politics at all. It is squarely the politics of the ruling elite, crafted by them, used by them, for them. It is an ideology and movement that is actively hostile to the ideas and interests of the working class and seeks to divide the working class by race, gender, and age, and to divide the working class from the middle and upper middle class. This ideology quite cleverly disguises itself as “progressive” but decidedly is a reactionary movement from the point of view of workers, including most importantly black workers.

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