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Monday, December 14, 2009

Did Stacy McCain make a racist statement?

McCain claims it is not racist to be averse to your sibling marrying a black person. Patterico thinks it is racist to say that this isn't racist. I see McCain as making a statement that preferences in personal relationships are simply beyond the kind of judgment of right and wrong that the aspersion of "racism" implies, and in this I think he is pretty much right, but his statement of this position is underqualified.

Here is the comment I left at Patterico's:
Obviously McCain was making a distinction between believing in equal liberty rights and equal opportunity on the one hand, and believing that equal liberty to find love means a right to find it with ME, which McCain extended one step by saying “with my sister.”

We all understand this distinction. It is what liberty means. We have the liberty to find mutually desired positions in life. Employers who want to pay for my productivity should not be barred from hiring me (no Jim Crow), but nobody should FORCE anyone to hire me, or anyone else (no affirmative action).

On the other hand, McCain was treading close to stereotypical racism: “My racist family won’t accept you.” But EVERY ethnic group has historically shown this kind of exlusiveness towards outsiders, and it is not generally called racism. Only with blacks is family preference for one’s own group called racism.

In a technical sense, it certainly has to do with race, and can on that basis be called racist, but is it properly called racist in the pejorative meaning of the word?

Consider an example. I once saw a television segment in which a couple of Vietnamese or Cambodian girls from Detroit called their parents racist for trying to keep them away from the black gang-banger boyfriends they were now attached to. The refugee parents had tried to protect their girls by warning them not to fall in with the degraded black culture that the parents were forced by economic circumstance to live amidst.

That surrounding culture used charges of racism as a lever to pry these girls out of their parents’ grip. The girls believed that their parents were WRONG (racist in some pejorative sense) for trying to keep them from falling in with the blacks they lived amidst. As a result, well you could see that these girls still had some sweetness, but they were living the life of gang trash sluts. They was waggin they heads, talkin about they parents bein all racist n all, cuddlin up to they boyfriends, talking black English, the whole nine yards.

Were their parents racist for trying and failing to keep these girls from throwing their lives away on the culture into whose midst these families were unfortunately dropped? Of course not. They were not motivated by race, but by cultural difference. They were motivated by what they knew from their own culture was required for their girls to grow up to live decent lives. If the blacks of Detroit shared the values and culture of Southeast Asia, the parents would have had nothing to be horrified at. But the fact is, they were surrounded by dangers for them and their girls that they could only be horrified at.

To pretend that their horror was about race, instead of about the culture that actually did ensnare their girls and bring them down to the very lowest level of society ever seen on planet earth, would be foul. Obviously they were motivated by the terrible reality of what they saw themselves plunked into the middle of, not some empty prejudice, as “racism” implies.

Now if their girls had found some black men who DID share the values of Southeast Asia, who strove for education and work and family, carried forth with honesty and generosity and a will to productivity, those parents would obviously be much happier. They would consider that a much more acceptable result. i.e. They are NOT racist, and as people from many different cultures have long done, they would end up accepting their daughters being with these outsiders.

The problem with McCain’s statement is that it is not fully qualified. Not wanting your sister, or your daughter, to be with a black man, is not racism, so long as the way one ENDS UP feeling about that relationship depends on the individual. That is what defines racism in the pejorative sense: failure to give priority to the information one has about a person as an individual, as one has a chance to acquire it.

Rational accounting of information can never be wrong (can never be racist in any pejorative sense). Thus if all you know about someone is that he is black, and you are familiar with the crime statistics that show blacks committing all kinds of crime at 5 to 6 times the rate of whites, it is only rational to be especially wary of this person possibly turning out to be a criminal.

Once you have individual information, that trumps group based information. Once you have learned that this particular black can’t run as fast as your mother, you jettison your group-based prior expectation that he is probably a faster-than-average runner.

Trying to exempt blacks from the normal process of overcoming cultural hurdles with other groups by labeling those hurdles “racism” whenever they involve blacks is just another immoral and counterproductive kind of affirmative action. Everyone understands the desire to try to give blacks a hand up, to make up for the hand holding them down in the past, but it doesn’t work. It’s a cheat, enabling the worst at the expense of the best. It’s like when Mayor Lindsey tried to help blacks by cutting back on enforcement of black crime, leading to the explosion of black crime that utterly destroyed Harlem until Giuliani rebuilt law enforcement thirty years later.

In the Detroit example, the phony racism charge gave a couple of black thugs a couple of beautiful Asian girls to turn into their bitches, where support for cultural judgment would have screened out the trash, allowing these girls to find decent men and decent lives amidst this different population they were dropped into.

Sorry to say it Patterico, but your underqualified judgment of McCain’s statement plays into that. McCain’s statement needs to be properly qualified. WHEN isn’t it racist to not want to see your sister or daughter with a black man? When ultimate judgment gives way to individual information.

The affirmative action wing of our society gets that backwards. Blacks are treated with kid gloves based on group information (which actually calls for treating blacks with suspicion), and this persists in the face of individual information, with systematic efforts to promote individual blacks ahead of individual merit, to the detriment of everyone.

Obama shows how far this mindset has penetrated. Large numbers of people actually voted for him because he is black, allowing a very bad man, a radical, radical leftist, to become president of the United States!

McCain might well want to go further and say that we simply shouldn't try to untangle what is and is not racism when it comes to personal preferences instead of public policy, and that might well be right. My own opinion is that racism per se--judgments that are really about race, instead of about behavioral expectations based on the statistical correlates of race--is a phantasm that rarely if ever actually exists. What DOES exist is failure to properly prioritize individual over group information, and it is especially common in the affirmative action direction.

In the area of public policy, it makes sense to call this racism. Advancing blacks and women and now Muslims ahead of merit is RACIST, and SEXIST and INSANE, respectively. But does it make any sense to call this thinking racist when the subject is personal relationships and personal preferences? If a person of one race wants to spend his own time trying to help people of a different race, or he wants to try to help his own ethnic group, is it society's business either way?

Probably it would be a healthy thing for our society to stop searching personal relationships for signs of racism. Even when people declare themselves racist in a superficial sense--"I don't want my sister in bed with that black trash"--it will almost always be in reference either to the particular black as an individual (that he is trash), or to rational cultural expectations that have yet to be replaced by individual information.

People should be called out for racism when they make overbroad statements based rational race-based expectations. High black crime rates don't make all blacks criminals, and they do not warrant assuming all blacks are criminals, even if they do justify particular wariness until individual character is known. When people fail to give proper priority to individual information as it becomes known, that should also be called out.

But people should also defend themselves against charges of racism when their rational expectations based on race are called racist, and they should defend their more nuanced judgments about individual worth from second guessing by racism police, who indict themselves on this front with their abdication of real judgment as they seek out any manipulative grounds to claim victimization and due.

There is a conflict of interest on the part of racism accusers, who have a long history of searching out leverage. That conflict of interest should cause all such charges to be discounted if they do not clearly have a solid basis. The predominant racism in society today is on the affirmative action side, while 99% of what gets called racism is not.

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