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The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

INSTITUTIONAL RACISM

The comments on my recent posts have prompted me to say something about the meaning of the phrase “institutional racism” and its synonym “structural racism.” These phrases were introduced into discussions of public policy to capture the fact that there are some bureaucratic or institutional or structural features of a society that systematically disadvantage certain groups – racial or gender or ethnic or otherwise – entirely independently of the conscious or unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of individuals who occupy defined positions in social structures and institutions. This notion can be traced back at least as far as Marx’s analysis of capitalism and probably farther still.

 

The idea is that in a bureaucratic system facially neutral rules which are administered in a consciously and deliberately neutral fashion can sometimes, despite this apparent neutrality, operate to produce results which in other circumstances might be produced by the deliberate discriminatory intentions of biased individuals.

 

Let me give three examples, two from my own personal experience, the third an extremely important case about which I wrote at some length in my book Autobiography of an Ex White Man. In 1992, I was appointed codirector of a little Institute at the University of Massachusetts and managed to raise almost $1 million for a program I designed. The program was intended to help minority high school students in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts to come to the University. The Massachusetts Board of Education had laid down a number of admissions requirements for students coming to the University, one of which was that they were to have completed four years of high school mathematics. There were a number of high schools in Springfield, one of which was in the predominantly black and Latino neighborhood of the city. Many years earlier, teachers concerned about the lack of mathematics preparation of middle school students entering this high school had decided to divide the first year mathematics course into two parts and teach it in the freshman and sophomore high school years. This was done out of a genuine concern for the education of the students and in time became simply a routine part of the curriculum in that high school. Students eager to attend the University of Massachusetts 20 miles to the north dutifully took four years of math, but when they came to apply for admission, they discovered that their four years, which they had successfully completed, only counted as three and therefore they were not eligible for admission. I discovered that a very good support organization for Hispanic students on the UMass campus had begun the practice of offering a summer school course in fourth year high school mathematics so that students from that high school could be offered provisional admission to the University conditional upon their completing this required fourth-year in the summer before they were due to enter. Everybody involved in this process at both the high school and the university level was enthusiastically in support of the educational ambitions of the students but what had begun in years past as a positive accommodation to the needs of a group of underprepared middle school students had become a structural impediment to the higher education ambitions of that same group of students. The actions of the on-campus student support office was thus what has come to be called “affirmative action,” meaning by this phrase not a relaxation of the standards but an affirmative accommodation to a structural disadvantage that had come to be built into the educational system.

 

I became aware of my second example several years later when I took over the newly established program in Afro-American Studies at UMass. In those days, and perhaps  to this day for all I know, the Mellon Foundation offered a large number of very attractive fellowships for students applying to graduate study in the Arts and Sciences. Since I was perpetually in search of money to support our graduate students, I became very excited when I learned of these fellowships and was puzzled that none of our graduate students had won one of them. When I investigated a little further, I discovered why. The Mellon Foundation, purely for bureaucratic reasons, required that applicants for the fellowships take the Graduate Record Exam when it was given in September rather than what it was given in December. At elite colleges and universities which routinely sent students on for graduate study, it was customary for promising students to be spotted in the junior or even sophomore year and to be encouraged to think about postgraduate study. Their advisors tended to know about the Mellon fellowships and counseled their students to take the GRE in September. But at second and third tier schools and also in the historically black colleges and universities this structure of support tended to be absent and it was not until the senior year that students doing quite well would be encouraged to apply for doctoral programs. By the time that encouragement occurred, the September GRE had already been given so the students took the December GRE, which meant that they were ineligible for the Mellon fellowships. When I learned all of this, I called the Mellon Foundation. The person to whom I spoke assured me – and I believed her – that the Foundation was eager to have African-American students apply but she was completely ignorant of the reason why students from historically black schools almost never did. I tried to persuade her that the Mellon Foundation should affirmatively reach out to those schools and urge them to have their promising students take the September GRE’s but she seemed to think that that would somehow violate the principle of neutrality with which they operated.

 

My third example is quite important and has very broad implications for the economic disadvantages experienced by African-American families. In order to illustrate it, I constructed an elaborate hypothetical numerical example which I laid out in detail in my book and which I will not try to repeat here. As everybody I am sure knows, black household income is significantly lower than white household income, even correcting for level of educational attainment, but the gap has been narrowing in recent decades and we can hope that it will continue to do so. The gap between the wealth of black families and white families is absolutely astonishing and is so much greater than the income gap as to be seemingly incomprehensible. Shades of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, it is all too easy to blame this gap on the social dysfunction of black families or on the absence of strong character or whatever. Here is a somewhat different explanation of at least some of that gap which points to the effect of what I have been calling institutional or structural racism.

 

Particularly in the lower economic half of American Society, the principal unit of family wealth is the equity in a privately owned home. In a family which has owned its home for several decades, this can amount to some hundreds of thousands of dollars. Three quarters of a century ago or more, the American government adopted deliberate tax policies aimed at encouraging private home ownership. The Federal Housing Authority guaranteed home mortgage loans. The Internal Revenue Service permitted families to deduct both the interest on a home mortgage loan and the state and local real estate taxes from federal income tax returns, a deduction that dramatically reduced the amount of tax families owed. In the early days after World War II, the FHA in its published guidelines overtly and deliberately discriminated against black families seeking to own homes, with the result that relatively few of them were able to buy homes like the white families with equivalent incomes. Eventually, many decades ago now, this discriminatory policy was abolished and it has been easy for those unsympathetic to the economic problems of black families to point to this fact as evidence that it is no longer the case that there is any discrimination built into the housing market. (Let me forestall the obvious comments at this point by saying that I am not at all denying the existence to this day of deliberate, overt, blatantly racist discrimination against black families seeking to own homes. I am trying to explain how even in the absence of such attitudes something that can be called structural racism or institutional racism can become built into a bureaucratic system.)

 

In the example that I constructed in my book, I followed two men, one black and one white, who came out of the Army in 1945 each with a small nest egg of $500. I then asked what the result would be over 30 or 40 years in the wealth of the two men as they married, got jobs paying exactly the same wage, had two children each and lived their lives. It was quite easy to show that the white family, by virtue of having been able to buy a house, ended up 30 or 40 years later with considerable wealth in the form of equity in the house, equity which they could access through home loans or remortgaging to underwrite their children’s college education. The black family, earning exactly the same income but paying rent and therefore unable to accumulate equity, was quite unable to underwrite their children’s educational ambitions. Forty years later, ignorant and thoughtless observers trying to understand why the white children had college educations and good careers and the black children did not would appeal to all sorts of fanciful theories about black family values and deferred gratification and whether or not the mothers listened to Mozart while they were pregnant whereas the real explanation was the natural consequence, a generation and a half later of deliberately discriminatory institutional practices that had long since been eliminated but whose structural consequences persisted.

74 comments:

Achim Kriechel (A.K.) said...

A very good description and that also shows very well what wavelength social processes can have until something really changes.

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marcel proust said...

Interesting, on-topic, op-ed by neo-conservative, former Dubya speechwriter Michael Gerson

Another Anonymous said...

Prof. Wolff,

Just a few observations regarding your post.

The institutional disparities which you cite are of course the legacy of the “peculiar institution” which dominated this country prior to the Civil War, and which has had, and continues to have, adverse financial consequences for the descendants of those who were the victims of slavery. No one with any common sense and objectivity would deny this. And African-Americans have been, and continue to be, the victims of intentionally racist attitudes and policies which were institutionalized by those in power. Nonetheless, I believe the terminology “institutional racism” or “structural racism” is an unfortunate choice of words, which raises the hackles of many Americans who in fact are not racist and do not harbor racist sentiments. The term “racism” is, of course, a pejorative term, and the phrases “institutional racism” and “structural racism” imply that all Americans who are the beneficiaries of America’s past mistreatment of African-Americans – and I do not deny that I and other Americans are the beneficiaries of that mistreatment – are therefore themselves racist, an implication that I, and many other Americans, resent. I believe “institutional bias” or “structural bias” would have been a better choice of terminology, but “institutional racism” has become the terminology de jour, and offends many Americans who are not racist, subconsciously or otherwise.


Further, words matter, and the choice of “institutional racism” affects the attitudes of those who hear it. Unlike many people, I was not offended by the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.” I do not interpret it to mean, as I have read and heard many white Americans claim, that Black lives are more important than Caucasian lives, that all lives matter. The phrase means just the opposite – that, contrary to American history, Black lives matter as much as Caucasian lives. However, I have encountered, and the professor whom I referred to in my comment to the previous post, an attitude that because of “institutional racism,” it is now pay-back time, that this is a zero sum game in which Caucasians benefited in the past at the expense of African-Americans, and now the tables are turned and it is time for African-Americans to benefit at the expense of Caucasian Americans. And the more this attitude becomes expressed in our society, the more Caucasian Americans are going to push back. The unfortunate election of Trump was, I believe, in part attributable to that push-back.

As I noted in my comment on the previous post, the question is how do we even the historical chessboard to compensate for the inequities of the past. And I do not believe the solution is either taking the extra Queen and two bishops away from the white players, or giving a Queen and two bishops to the black players is the solution. And, in fact, there may not be a good solution. We may be condemned to muddling through by providing lucrative employment and educational opportunities to African-Americans so that, over time (a long time), the chess board becomes a more level playing field. But, as David Palmeter pointed out in a previous comment, this will take a very long time. Trying to accelerate the process by fostering a “it’s pay-back time” attitude is only going to have disastrous consequences for our democracy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this very straightforward explanation. I have always been a bit surprised by how much resistance the very idea of institutional racism sometimes faces. Some people not only deny that it happens to be occurring, but go so far as to suggest the very notion is somehow incoherent, since only people, not institutions, can have biases. But it is of course trivially true that institutions can have biases built into their rules, regulations, and so on. Sometimes this is because the rules themselves have racial undertones (e.g. the law that lethal self-defense is permissible if you find a person sufficiently “threatening” by your own lights of who is and is not threatening) and sometimes the rules simply interact with external circumstances in a way that makes the result unjust racially (like your GRE’s must be taken in November example). In both cases the institution, not necessarily the people participating within it, is biased. It seems willful to claim this is not even a coherent possibility.

LFC said...

Prof Wolff says that this post was prompted by comments on his recent posts (in the plural). In fact, however, the comments on his post of a couple of days ago on socialism had, as I recall, little to do with race. It's only the comments on the critical race theory post, i.e. the immediately prreding one, that deal w the issue.

LFC said...

Typo: preceding

Ahmed Fares said...

There isn’t a whole lot you can get in a major East Coast city for $8. Meals at most lunch spots, once you include tax, will run higher than that (a Shake Shack double costs $8.09, for example).

But that amount—a measly $8—is making the rounds thanks to a Boston Globe spotlight investigation that delves into the city’s history of racism.

Citing a study from 2015, “The Color of Wealth,” the Boston Globe listed the median wealth of a series of Bostonians based on their racial and ethnic backgrounds. The median net worth for white households in Boston, for example, was $247,500. For Caribbean-born black people, it was $12,000.

But for blacks native to the U.S., the median net worth of an entire household was just $8. Some readers thought it was a typo, prompting the Globe to publish another article explaining that it wasn’t.


That was no typo: The median net worth of black Bostonians really is $8

Here is the Fed study:

The Color of Wealth in Boston

james wilson said...

Robert Meister has a very interesting —extended and complex—discussion of perpetrators, beneficiaries, and victims in his 2011 book “ After Evil: A Politics of Human Rights.” He looks at quite a number of cases including the US, South Africa, Israel, Ireland. His main line of discussion is an exploration of how “Unlike earlier versions of human rights that sought to hasten the advance of social equality, today’s commitment to human rights often seeks to postpone large-scale redistribuion. It is generally more defensive than utopian, standing for the avoidance of evil rather than a vision of the good.”

He further notes, in many places, that the avoidance of evil is something imposed more often than not on the victims of past evil and that those who take upon themselves the “duty” to prevent that evil will use violence, including bombing campaigns and the like, to block those they imagine might do evil. In short, in his view, contemporary “human rights discourse” is an ideology of the powerful who claim that they have a right to protect.

I hope this is relevant to the ongoing discussion.

DJL said...

I have always been a bit perplexed by some of the examples used in descriptions of 'institutional/structural racism', and the cases in this post elicit much the same reaction (especially the first two, which certainly result in racial disparities but which are not intrinsically racist). Not long ago Brian Leiter posted an interesting article on this issue on his blog, which I found rather helpful. Here it is in case anyone is interested:

https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2021/01/an-intelligent-discussion-of-systemic-racism.html

LFC said...

From the opening of the post:

there are some bureaucratic or institutional or structural features of a society that systematically disadvantage certain groups – racial or gender or ethnic or otherwise – entirely independently of the conscious or unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of individuals who occupy defined positions in social structures and institutions.

Of course there are also structural features that disadvantage certain groups and do reflect the beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of individuals.

The whole of web of Jim Crow laws was structural racism that was undergirded by individual attitudes. Redlining and other forms of housing discrimination, ditto. Certain features of the "criminal justice" system, ditto.

Then there's the issue of schools. Everyone knows that Brown v. Bd. outlawed de jure segregation in schools (i.e., dual school systems, as they were called), though it took a long time (to put it mildly) for the decision to be implemented. Some cities managed to create reasonably integrated schools; many others drew lines between city and suburbs in such a way as to create urban inner-city schools whose students were almost entirely African American. In Milliken v. Bradley, the Sup Ct held that this situation could not be remedied by cross-district (city-suburb) busing, except on a purely voluntary basis. The extent to which this reflects what one would call structural racism may be somewhat debatable, but the result is that de facto school segregation (in some or many cases reflecting neighborhood segregation) remains a feature of many areas in the U.S. And the Sup Ct is still dealing with these issues (see a case out of Seattle not too many years ago, I don't have the cite offhand, in which Roberts and Breyer took strikingly different approaches and interpreted the underlying point and implications of Brown and the successor cases very differently).

Another Anonymous said...

LFC,

The case you are referring to is Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007). The case involved two school districts, one in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the other in Seattle. Each of the school districts had adopted programs which assigned students to different schools based on their race, in an effort to achieve a balanced school populations of White and Black students. In both cases, parent organizations objected that assigning students to schools based on their race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Before you jump to the conclusion that parents who objected to the program must have been racist, one of the parents in the Seattle School District objected because her son suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, and had been making good progress at the school he was attending. The new student assignment program had assigned hm to a different school as a result of a racial tie-breaker. If you were this student’s parent, would you not share the same concerns that your child’s educational needs would suffer in order to achieve a balanced racial student make=up? Would you regard yourself as racist for putting your child’s educational needs above a social objective of forced integration, in a school district where there had not been a history of segregation?

An important legal point regarding the case was that the Seattle School District had never been charged with enforcing de jure segregation, i.e., segregation enforced by law, as had been the case in Brown v. Topeka Bd. of Education. In the case of the Kentucky school district, although it had once been under a desegregation order, it had succeeded in desegregating its schools and the order had been lifted.

At the lower court levels, the District and Circuit Courts had rejected the challenges to the student assignment programs, holding that they were narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed both decisions, holding that the assignment of students based om race violated the Equal Protection Clause Justice Roberts wrote the plurality opinion (a plurality opinion because although it was 5-4 decision, Justice Kennedy joined the judgment only, not the full opinion).

Now, does the fact that Justice Roberts reversed the lower courts’ decisions which allowed this forced integration in the absence of de jure segregation mean that he must be a racist? Here is an excerpt from his Opinion:

“The parties and their amici debate which side is more faithful to the heritage of Brown, but the position of the plaintiffs in Brown was spelled out in their brief and could not have been clearer: “[T]he Fourteenth Amendment prevents states from according differential treatment to American children on the basis of their color or race.” … What do the racial classifications at issue here do, if not accord differential treatment on the basis of race? As counsel who appeared before the Court for the plaintiffs in Brown … put it [Thurgood Marshall, later Justice Marshall]: ‘We have one fundamental contention which we will seek to develop in the course of this argument, and that contention is that no State has any authority under the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens.’ … There is no ambiguity in that statement. And it was that position that prevailed in this Court, which emphasized in its remedial opinion that what was “[a]t stake is the personal interest of the plaintiffs in admission to public schools as soon as practicable on a nondiscriminatory basis … .”

“Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. … The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” The sentiments of a racist?
(Continued)

Another Anonymous said...

In a concurring opinion, one of the Justices wrote:

“What was wrong in 1954 cannot be right today. Whatever else the Court’s rejection of the segregationists’ arguments in Brown might have established, it certainly made clear that state and local governments cannot take from the Constitution a right to make decisions on the basis of race by adverse possession. The fact that state and local governments had been discriminating on the basis of race for a long time ws irrelevant to the Brown Court. The fact that racial discrimination was preferable to the relevant communities was irrelevant to the Brown Court. … The same principles guide today’s decision. None of the considerations trumpeted by the dissent is relevant to the constitutionality of the school boards’ race-based plans because no contextual detail – or collection of contextual details … can ‘provide refuge from the principle that under our Constitution, the government may not make distinctions on the basis of race.’ …

“In place of the color-blind Constitution, the dissent would permit measures to kepp the races together and proscribe measures to keep the races apart. … Although no such distinction is apparent in the Fourteenth Amendment, the dissent would constitutionalize today’s faddish social theories that embrace that distinction. The Constitution is not that malleable. Even if current social theories favor classroom racial engineering as necessary to ‘solve the problems at hand,’ … the Constitution enshrines principles independent of social theories. …” (Footnotes omitted.) The words of a clandestine racist giving lip-service to grand constitutional principles? This concurring opinion was written by Justice Thomas.

Another Justice wrote a concurring opinion which stated, in relevant part:

“The Nation’s schools strive to teach that our strength comes from people of different races, creeds and cultures, and cultures uniting in commitment to the freedom of all. In these cases two school districts in different parts of the country seek to teach that principle by having classrooms that reflect the racial makeup of the surrounding community. That the school districts consider these plans to be necessary should remind us our highest aspirations are yet unfulfilled. But the solutions mandated by these school districts must themselves be lawful. To make race matter now so that it might not matter later may entrench the vry prejudices we seek to overcome. In my view the state-mandated racial classifications at issue, official labels proclaiming the race of all persons in a broad class of citizens – elementary school students in one case, high school students in another – are unconstitutional as the cases now come to us.”

The words of a racist in sheep’s clothing? They were written by Justice Kennedy, the author of the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodge, which granted constitutional protection to gay marriages.

This decision can be said to have continued the existence of institutional racism, but can it be said that by so doing the Justices who wrote and concurred in the Opinion are racists?

Another Anonymous said...

Wow. General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, slaps down Rep. Gaetz regarding Critical Race Theory:

https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/06/23/general-mark-milley-critical-race-theory-matt-gaetz-vpx.cnn


LFC said...

Don't have time now to plow through every word you've written, but I never said Roberts' opinion here was racist. I said he and Breyer had different views of what Brown and its progeny (as lawyers say) stand for. Breyer expressed the view that Brown is basically about "subordination" and its effects. Roberts took a narrower view of what Brown means. That's all I said.

Another Anonymous said...

My point was not addressed at your comment, per se. It was addressed to the implication which I referred to in a prior comment that those who do not alleviate the problem of "institutional racism" and have benefited from its existence are thereby automatically deemed to be racists themselves. I believe that the manner in which some use the phrase "institutional racism," they intend to make just such an implication. It was certainly the implication which was being made by the "sensitivity training expert" I referred to in the anecdote about the professor who was charged with discrimination because she used the word "Negro" in her classroom.

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

In the mid 1960's black activists asked whites to stop using the word "negro" because they found it offensive. I changed my vocabulary instantly, my parents, who were less concerned about such issues, changed theirs in a week or so, my grandfather, who could not have cared less about such issues, changed his in a year or two.

That someone still uses the word "negro" fify-five years later indicates an extraordinary lack of sensitivity to the feelings of African-Americans. Is she necessarily racist in the sense that she hates, actively discriminates against or finds black people to be inferior?

No, not necessarily and probably we should find a new word to refer to people like her instead of cheaply labeling her a racist.

In her classic book, Eichmann in Jersualem, Hannah Arendt points out that Eichmann himself did not hate Jews nor was he especially anti-semite. I'm not claiming that using the word "negro" is in the same ethical level as murdering 6 million human beings (who Eichmann did not hate), but just pointing out that people can do a lot of harm to another group of human beings without being classical bigots full of hatred.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

In the professor's defense, she was 79 years old when this occurred. And it seems to me particularly cruel to drag someone over the coals (which is what the University in question did) for the single use of an ethnic reference. Moreover, the NASCP has not changed its acronym to remove the reference to "colored people." The spiritual "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is still referred to as the "Negro National Anthem." (I credit Prof. Wolff with this information, with whom I communicated by email regarding this case several years ago, before I began commenting on his blog.)

Finally, there is no question in my mind that the New Jersey Policy is an unconstitutional violation of the 1st Amendment. Although the professor's lawsuits in which I raise this claim have been dismissed because s/he could not deal with the harassment any longer (that's a long story), I am making the same argument for another professor from the same university who was terminated for allegedly violating the Policy (not via any alleged ethnic slur). The case is currently pending in the 3re circuit Court of Appeals, and I expect to prevail.

Another Anonymus said...

Obvious error: NAACP

Another Anonymous said...

On the subject of the 1st Amendment and free speech, kudos to the Supreme Court for its 8-1 decision yesterday upholding a high school student’s right to issue a profanity laden social media message when she was not at school. In all likelihood, had a professor at the university in question done the same thing while no on the university’s premises, s/he could be charged with violating the New Jersey Policy in question.

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

No doubt that the righteous zeal of political correctness can be excessively punitive.

Anonymous said...

@DJL (June 23, 2021 at 5:28 PM)

I reacted to this post in pretty much the same way. Thank you for the link to Leiter's post.

I find Leiter's closing remarks very pertinent:

'A weakness of the term “systemic racism,” however, is that it conflates the three types of mechanisms, making “racism” both the explanans and explanandum: it becomes both the explanation and the thing being explained. Such conflation also leads to distortions on both sides of the political spectrum, generating more heat than light.'

To say nothing of gems like "dog whistle".

- The Old Another Anonymous

Another Anonymous said...

The Old Another Anonymous,

Can you identify when you first posted as “Another Anonymous” in order to justify referring to yourself as “The Old Another Anonymous”?

I first posted as “Another Anonymous” on June 5, at 2:30 A.M. Did you post as “Another Anonymous” prior to that? I am not threatening litigation, e.g., copyright infringement. I just want to know in order to decide if I must change my moniker to “The New Another Anonymous,” or “Another Anonymous Jr.”

Anonymous said...

@Another Anonymous,

I've posted here before as "Another Anonymous" and as "AnonyMouse" and without identifying myself in any other way. Occasionally I've also commented using my Blogger handle. But I can't say when exactly (my memory is not as good as it used to be).

For me it is indifferent if you post as "Another Anonymous" or “The New Another Anonymous,” or “Another Anonymous Jr.” The point is to make it clear two persons may be posting under similar nom-de-plumes.

"The Old Another Anonymous" (yours truly) and "Another Anonymous" (yourself) does that, but you can pick any other name you might prefer.

Sounds good?

Another Anonymous said...

The Old Other Anonymous,

Sounds good. I will continue to post as "Another Anonymous."

I am pleased that we were able to resolve this critical issue amicably, without a resort to the courts or weapons of choice.

LFC said...

I just learned via what is basically a neighborhood list-serve email that the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission in the county where I live will be hosting a virtual discussion on "the legacy of racism in homeownership" (to quote the subtitle). I wasn't even aware that my county had a Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission. (But then, I don't follow the local scene as closely as I probably should, to put it mildly.)

Another Anonymous said...

Last night I happened to catch an interview of Abigail Disney on Amanpour & Co. on PBS. It was an amazing and eye-opening interview of an amazing woman. For those of you who have commented recently about the inequity of the American tax and inheritance laws, this interview is a must see.

Abigail is the grand-daughter of Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s brother and co-owner of the Disney theme parks. She has a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from Columbia. (I have been unable to find in what discipline she obtained her doctorate.) She produced the documentary Pray The Devil Back To Hell, about the Liberian civil war. She is worth somewhere in the vicinity of $120 million. During the interview, she is highly critical of the American tax and inheritance laws. She explains how the inheritance laws in many cases result in lost, meaningless lives, and describes how she had to extract herself from such a life. She describes how the tax laws favor the super-rich, and how they are destroying our democracy. She has now dedicated her life to philanthropy. You can watch the interview at the link below:

https://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/abigail-disney-dynasties-are-very-bad-democracy-ztv7oa/

s. wallerstein said...

Here's an interview with the notorious Charles Murray carried out by black conservative Glenn Loury.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqgUclg7-Lk&t=25s

Most of us would call Murray a "racist". Yet he is certainly not a racist in the way some of my white classmates were back in the 1950's in junior high in suburban New Jersey. He doesn't hate black nor, he claims, does he consider them to be inferior to whites.

Maybe we'd say that Murray is objectively a racist. That is, although he does not have racist intentions, the effect of his research is racist or contributes to promoting racism.

However, it may be that we need a whole new vocabulary to refer to people like Murray.

Danny said...

'The comments on my recent posts have prompted me to say something about the meaning of the phrase “institutional racism” and its synonym “structural racism.”'

..indeed.

Danny said...

'In her classic book, Eichmann in Jersualem, Hannah Arendt points out that Eichmann himself did not hate Jews nor was he especially anti-semite.'

Just obsessed with killing them, eh? I'm familiar with this German high official who was hanged by the State of Israel. Without doing any orignal research here, I wonder if Arendt was fooled by Eichmann. What is the dominant scholarly opinion amongst historians? The 'a mindless bureaucrat' thing seems such a silly argument.. I would first have to check out for myself if the myth is truth, that this can actually be Arendt’s argument..

Danny said...

as to how the net wealth of a typical Black family in America is around one-tenth that of a white family, it’s no surprise, if it's something like that -- surely, many scholars have examined the Black-white gap in household wealth over the decades.

I'm fascinated by differences of this sort between countries, though. If we want to actually help poor people then let's be real, not one nickel goes to anybody in the United States. There is Haiti, for starters.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

As you state, the nature of racism and evaluating whether an individual is racist is a very complicated exercise.

I have a question. What would one conclude from the fact that a Caucasian American is married to an Asian woman? Does that indicate anything about whether the husband is, or could be, racist? Is it possible that one could not be racist towards Asians, but still be racist towards African-Americans? Is this factor irrelevant in drawing any conclusions? Is there a sexuality factor that neutralizes any inferences about the husband’s racial attitudes generally? I remember when I was growing up in New Jersey during the 1950’s hearing my mother and sister comment on the fact that a lot of American servicemen who had served during World War II and the Korean War (actually, a conflict) and married Japanese and Korean women, that they were primarily motivated by the fact that Asian women are generally more subservient than American women.

Yesterday I watched the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for his murder of George Floyd. Most people watching the 9 minute video of Chauvin pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck concluded that he had to be racist. It certainly looks that way, as he ignored the pleas of the spectators, many of whom were Black, pleading for him to lift his knee.

Prior to the sentence being issued, Chauvin’s mother made a statement to the court, in which she denied that her son is racist, describing him as a good-hearted and loving person, not the monster the media has made him out to be. Now, these of course, could just be the words of a mother defending her son – I suppose even Eichman’s mother might say such things about him.

However, I recently learned something about Chauvin of which I was not previously aware. He was married to a Hmong woman. Many members of the Hmong community emigrated from Laos and Vietnam after the Vietnamese war. Many became settled in Minnesota. Kellie May Xiong Chauvin is a very attractive woman, so that may neutralize any inferences regarding Chauvin’s attitudes about race. She won the award for Mrs. Minnesota in 2019. She filed for divorce 3 days after the death of George Floyd. Here is what she said about Chauvin in 2018, however: “Under all that uniform, he’s just a softie. He’s such a gentleman. He still opens the door for me, still puts my coat on for me. After my divorce, I had a list of must haves if I were ever to be in a relationship, and he fit all of them.”

So, is Derek Chauvin a racist? Impossible to say. Was the 22-year sentence for killing George Floyd too lenient, as many are claiming. All I know is that I would not want to be spending the next 19 years of my life (even if I were 19 years younger) where he will be spending his, in constant fear for my life – imprisoned police officers are easy targets, surrounded by convicted felons who were once arrested by police.

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

They put imprisoned police officers into the general prison population?

I have no idea what happens in the U.S. In Chile there's a special jail for imprisoned police and military personnel accused of human rights violations, which has better living conditions although it's not a luxury hotel, as is claimed at times. Any jailed police officer in Chile, for whatever offense, would be separated from the general prison population for the reasons you outline above.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

It is possible that given Chauvin's vulnerability he may be separated from the general population. But there is no guarantee, and even if this occurs, that means he will have little to no interaction with other humans for 19 years.

aaall said...

The judge likely chose the harshest sentence with which he felt comfortable considering the possibility of that (or any) sentence being reversed on appeal. Likely ad - seg or SHU initially.

His lawyer made a really stupid comment with the "what iffs."

We should keep in mind that he had an excessive force complaint for almost every year he was on the Force and is currently under indictment by the feds for a similar use of force.

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

You know from previous conversations that I'm fairly skeptical about normal concepts of moral responsibility and free will.

I haven't followed the case in much detail, but if Chauvin is a sociopath and a danger towards others, he should be locked up as should all sociopathic offenders.

If he's psychologically normal and just had a moment of homicidal fury ( as I suppose that anyone can have), he, like anyone else in his situation, cop or not, should be sentenced to some kind of rehabilitation, along with community service, maybe 19 years emptying bed pans in a public hospital for the minimum wage.

That means that society has to develop programs of rehabilitation, but I believe that that is possible if money and energy go into that.

s. wallerstein said...

aaall,

Our comments crossed. As I said, I haven't followed the case closely, but you say that Chauvin has numerous complaints of excessive use of force, which means that he is a danger towards others and thus, in my mind, should be imprisoned, not sentenced to community service.

LFC said...

According to the commentary I heard, the judge took into account a couple of "aggravating factors," as they're called, in adjusting the sentence upward from the 12.5 years that the Minnesota guidelines prescribe for second-degree murder. The prosecution had asked for 30 years. The sentence of 22.5 years means Chauvin will be eligible for parole in 15 years (according to Wiki). (Eligible for parole, of course, does not mean he will necessarily get it.)

LFC said...

p.s. The Wiki entry for Chauvin, even on a quick glance, is quite informative. Some of his past actions (i.e., before the murder of Floyd) suggest a racial angle, to put it telegraphically.

marcel proust said...

Completely off topic, but there is neither an open thread nor a more recent post to attach this to...

This review of Jordan Peterson's oeuvre seems like a worthwhile rip-off of your review of Allan Bloom's work. At least it starts out that way. I've not yet read it all the way through.

DJL said...

Worth pointing out that during Chauvin's trial no evidence was produced to suggest, let alone prove, that his criminal misconduct reflected any racial animus. In fact, the 'racial angle' was not a factor in the prosecution's case (not that it was actually needed in order to convict him on the charges they brought against him).

LFC said...

At least part of the reason such evidence was not offered was apparently that the judge barred it, or some of it (as unduly prejudicial to the defendant).

I'll help but don't nudge said...

Provided one has the intellectual discipline to separate systemic and institutional racism from individual racism, which includes not presuming that a given individual benefits from institutional racism without consideration of the mechanisms at play in individual cases, I find the terms unexceptionable. There are individuals who profit from their moral supervenience theories, which purport to explain how the institutional descends to the individual, and from the associated merchandise, however.

Another Anonymous said...

I'll help but don't nudge,

Judging from the obscurity of your writing, you must be an admirer of Hegel.

LFC said...

I don't find his/her comment particularly obscure. Unfortunately I can't get into a substantive exchange right now. I'd expect Another Anonymous to agree w the comment, once he deciphers it.

Another Anonymous said...

LFC,

If what “don’t nudge” wrote translates into something along the lines that whether a particular individual is racist must be determined on an individual basis, and cannot be assumed by virtue of the existence of what is referred to as “institutional racism,” or “systemic racism,” then I agree with what s/he is saying. But s/he is saying it using rather obscure and theoretical terminology – at least for my tastes.

Ridiculousicculus said...

james wilson - did you take any classes w/Bob Meister at UCSC?

aaall said...

Highfalutin language aside (and I believe AA misses the important part), it's entirely reasonable to assume that any given member of group X has benefited to at least some extent from institutions designed to benefit group X. Of course, the whole point of recognizing and analyzing such structures is to cure them, not obsess over the fee fees of the dominant group including those members who allowed themselves to be conned. LBJ explained all this back in the day.

don't nudge said...

Not so fast aaall,

It's not unreasonable to assume that a random member of group X has benefited from institutions designed to benefit group X, but this begs the question whether those institutions were so designed to begin with. Those institutions might inadvertently disadvantage some other group Y. Maybe the "fee fees" concern this point.

And supposing there is a factual basis for this not unreasonable supposition, why does a parallel moral theory hold that a random member of group X is blameworthy? That's an additional moral evaluation. The "fee fees" could concern that point.

Or maybe the "fee fees" concern the presumption that there is any obsession over the fee fees of the dominant group (and again one must pass from the now dominant group to the individual, first factually, then morally to make the indispensable jibe), when there are some random members who agree that the whole point of recognizing and analyzing such structures is to cure them. It just that the assumption that X benefits says nothing about the moral culpability of X. That requires additional work.

Another Anonymous said...

aaall,

Sorry, I do not agree with you, nor with “don’t nudge’s” statement. He wrote: “There are individuals who profit from their moral supervenience theories, which purport to explain how the institutional descends to the individual, and from the associated merchandise, however.” His use of the possessive “their” attributes to unknown individuals the belief in the superiority of one race over another because this is the dominant viewpoint in the society. But this presumes that every unknown individual in fact shares that view, and benefits from it. This is indirectly stating that everyone in a society in which “institutional racism” exists not only benefits from that perspective, but shares it. LBJ never said that. He himself did not share it. I do not share it. And I know a lot of other people who do not share it – regardless whether they have or have not benefited from it.

don't nudge said...

Another Anonymous, no it makes no such attribution. It asserts that there are some individuals who profit from two parallel claims: one factual--it may even be true as aaall points out, that an institution that benefits group X (or disadvantages Y more than it disadvantages X) benefits each random member of X; the second moral, that the random X ought to be held responsible for the institution that benefits X, or that disadvantages Y more than it disadvantages X.

aaall is right, the point is to do something about it. It's silly to write these pseudo formulas, or to be miffed that some people profit from the confusion (I have to assume I lack any self-awareness, even as I write this).

I prefer speaking in terms of opportunity, or lost opportunity. Systems and institutions usually result in even fewer opportunities for Ys than for Xs, generally speaking. In that relative sense X benefits, though it's an exaggeration to suggest that the random X is guaranteed a windfall.

Another Anonymous said...

Don’t nudge,

I take serious issue with what you have written. When you state that in a society which either benefits group X over group Y, or, alternatively, disadvantages group X less than grout Y, that it follows that such a society “benefits each random member of X” and that this is a “factual” statement, I disagree. To state that a propositions is true of any random member of the society, is equivalent to stating that it benefit every member of the society, because any random member means any member, and a statement which purports to be true of any “random” member must necessarily be true of every member, because every member is a random member. And with regard to the question of systemic racism in American society, this assertion amounts to reverse racism, because it attributes to every member of American society that every member has benefited from the institutional racism towards African-Americans. And then to claim that every random member of the society who is not a member of Y “ought to be held responsible for the institution that benefits X” is a guilt trip that I, and many Caucasian Americans, reject.

This is a serious point, which many on the liberal left (of which I regard myself as a member) subscribe to, that all Caucasian members of our society, regardless their personal circumstances, have benefited from the institutional racism – which I do not deny exists – which has disadvantaged African-Americans. It does not follow from this that it has advantaged every Caucasian member of American society. I, in fact, and many others, vehemently reject this latter assertion as it applies to me. In my case, as I have said in a prior post, I am not racist, and do not ascribe to racist stereotypes of African-Americans. And I, and many others, do not accept the claim that they have unfairly benefited from the systemic, historical disadvantage with which African-Americans have been burdened – a burden which I condemn and deplore. However, I reject, as do many other Caucasian Americans, that I, personally, have thereby benefited from “white privilege.” For example, it could be argued that because Blacks were prohibited from learning to read during slavery, and that these educational deficits continue to have residual effects on the African-American community, that if these deficits did not exist – if African-Americans had had the same educational opportunities as Caucasian Americans, that the place at the college I attended might have been taken by an African-American, rather than by me. And, therefore, I have benefited from their inferior educational opportunities. However, even if this were the case, I, by virtue of the work ethic by which I was raised – a work ethic which has nothing to do with the fact that African-Americans have been oppressed in this country – I, by virtue of that work ethic, would have been admitted to some college, perhaps not the college I actually attended, but, I am positive – given the number of colleges which existed in this country, and continue to exist – I would have been admitted to some college. And at that college, by virtue of my work ethic, I would have excelled, as I did at the college I actually attended. And after graduation, my work ethic would have propelled me to excel at my chosen profession – even if my salary in that profession was not what it might have been had I attended a more prestigious college. And, in fact, in my personal experience, I have seen African-Americans who have come from disadvantaged backgrounds excel, because they had the same work ethic, a work ethic which values education.
(Continued)

Another Anonymous said...

It is by virtue of that work ethic, which has nothing to do with the history of slavery in this country, or with the history of post Reconstruction Jim Crow laws in this country, that I, and many other Caucasians, have succeeded. And I, and they – like the professor whom I alluded to in a prior post who denied that s/he benefited from white privilege, because nothing had been handed to the professor on a silver platter – object to the assumption that we have benefited from white privilege, at the expense of African-Americans. And although I agree that I, and others, have a responsibility to what we can to resist and seek to modify that institutional racism, I will not walk around with a sense of guilt that I am, personally, responsible for that institutional racism, or that I, personally, have benefited from that institutional racism. And to insist that by virtue of the fact that my skin is white, that I have necessarily benefited from the mistreatment of African-Americans, is itself a form of reverse racism - drawing conclusions about me simply based on the color of my skin. And the more that this reverse racism is advocated for, the more it is going to alienate Caucasian Americans and polarize this country.

LFC said...

AA,
I'm not bothering to follow all the ins and outs here, but I think you are misreading the phrase "moral supervenience," as 'don't nudge' suggests above. The word "supervenience" does not really mean "superiority."

The word "supervenience" occurs, among other places, in discussions of the philosophy of science and philosophy of mind w particular reference to issues of causation and reductionism. At least, that's the context in which I believe I first encountered the word being used (when I read A. Wendt's Social Theory of International Politics). Wendt defines supervenience as describing "a non-causal, non-reductive relationship of one class of facts on another..." (p. 156) So (paraphrasing Wendt, who is drawing in turn on others), the mind supervenes on the brain b.c two people w identical brain states will be in identical mind states, but it's not a straightforward causal relationship b.c the same mind state can be "realized" or produced by various different brain states.

'Don't nudge's' reference to "moral supervenience theories" in this context is a very unnecessarily fancy way of referring to the view that the existence of racist institutions or arrangements makes (all) individuals who may or do benefit from such arrangements morally blameworthy as individuals (whether anyone actually holds this view, or many people do, is a separate question), and his reference to "merchandise" is presumably a rather snide way of referring to people who have written books advancing that view (assuming any have).

It's possible that some recent works (such as I. Kendi's for example) may advance the view that 'don't nudge' is criticizing here, but I haven't read Kendi. I've read Coates's Between the World and Me, which is more of a memoir than an argument, but I don't think the "moral supervenience" theory is much in evidence there, since Coates focuses a lot on individual attitudes w.o always tying them explicitly to institutions. (The person who shoves his young son b.c he's moving too slowly on an escalator is evidencing a racist or racially-tinged attitude w.o any explicit reference to institutional racism.) I never read his famous article on reparations, however, so I'm not sure exactly what form his argument takes there. But it is possible to argue for reparations w.o relying on a theory of individual moral culpability in a direct way.

LFC said...

AA,

In your most recent comments, you're continuing to misread 'don't nudge,' whose position is actually not that far from your own, as best I can tell.

'don't nudge' did not say "every random member of X benefits." He said "it may even be true" that every random member of X benefits. "It may even be true" is very different from "it is true," and it's clear that 'don't nudge' is skeptical of the "claims" (his word) that all random members of X are morally culpable when institutional arrangements may benefit them.

So your positions are not far apart, is my conclusion, and you're arguing w someone who really doesn't substantially disagree w you.

don't nudge said...

LFC, more or less. Thanks for attempting to disabuse AA of some misreading. I didn't mean "supervenience" so precisely, since the moral argument never seems to be stated so precisely. It has a certain form. There is a demographic X, and institution that benefits at most members X (but not necessarily all), and there are individuals. There is a non-moral assertion (which need not follow) that the institution benefits every individual in the demographic X. Maybe true, or not. Then there is a moral claim, which is that each individual in X is responsible, or responsible in some way. The claim doesn't follow either--without additional argument, who knows. It's effective rhetorically--look at AA's response. Anyway, I shouldn't degrade the level of discourse here, and I lack the energy and interest at this point.

Another Anonymous said...

LFC,

Thank you for your alternative interpretation of “don’t nudge’s” comment. You may be right. But I had the sense that in saying “it may be the case” was a statement of fact, s/he was stating that it was the case. But if that is not his/her view, it is certainly the view of many who are advancing the concept of “white privilege.” (I have just seen “don’t nudge’s” last posting, which agrees with LFC’s interpretation.)

On a separate note, something happened in the Supreme Court yesterday which received little notice, but for those of us who predicted that with the appointments of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Court would take a sharp turn to the right, what happened yesterday was rather surprising. Yesterday, the Court, by a vote of 7 to 2, declined to review a case relating to the right of a transgender male to use the male restroom at a high school in Virginia. The Court let stand the decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which held that the high school’s requirement that the student use a unisex bathroom, rather than the boy’s rest room, violated his rights under Title IX. None of the Trump appointees voted to hear the case on appeal. Only Alito and Thomas voted to hear the case. The fact that not a single one of the recently appointed conservative Justices joined Alito and Thomas is, to say the least, rather surprising – and perhaps a good sign for those of us who feared the worst. (Although not all is honky-dory – the ruling earlier this week by the Court on a 6-3 vote that unions do not have the right to enter work places in order to promote unionism, without compensating the employer for a “taking” of the employer’s property, has dealt a serious blow to union organizing efforts.)

(And for those who may think the acronym “AA” means I am an alcoholic, I am not.)

don't nudge said...

LFC I should say that I'm a moral skeptic, not only about what I called a "claim" (perhaps an insinuation). As for the rest, I'd like to think I follow RPW and Leiter, maybe Leiter more so than RPW. At least I recall that Leiter will call out charlatans.

LFC said...

don't nudge (and AA),
Your comments noted. Thanks.
Already spent too much time here today, so that's all from me for now.

Another Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the perspective that White Americans have all benefited from “white privilege” and are in fact responsible for institutional racism, and must atone for it, is gaining currency in the African-American community, and among certain academics and liberal thinkers. Over the past week-end, I saw an interview of Nikole Hannah Jones, author of The 1619 Project, by Christiane Amanpour. Ms. Jones was expressing the view that African-American who engage in looting are justified in doing so, because they are expressing themselves in the only way in which the suppressive white society will listen to them. After all, she said, it is just property, whereas white police officers are taking the lives of young Blacks. Well, in many cases it is the property of a family business, often Asian immigrants, who have worked very hard to make a life for themselves in the United States, who have lost everything to Black looters who know nothing about the racial views of the property owners whom they lost. Amanpour, to my disgust, was fawning all over her, lauding Ms. Jones for all the journalism awards she has won, including a Pulitzer Prize. In my opinion, providing intellectual cover for looting is despicable. This is different from a slave revolt by, for example, Nat Turner, who justifiably killed the people who had enslaved and tortured him.

During the Black Live Matter protests, I heard an interview on NPR with James Butler, an African-American law professor, spouting the same rationalization, excusing looting by African-Americans. He teaches criminal law at Georgetown Law School. So I emailed him, taking him to task for giving legal cover for looting and indicated he should be fired – stating that it was inexcusable for a criminal law professor to justify the destruction of property regardless what the reason. He responded with an angry email, claiming I had misinterpreted what he had said. So, I listened to a recording of the interview again, to confirm that he had said what I claimed he had said. He had, and I sent him another email telling him that I had listened to his interview again, and that I had not misinterpreted him. He never responded.

This belief that all White Americans have benefited from “white privilege” and that it justifies retaliation by African-Americans is gaining more and more traction in certain circles, even among some academics, and it is, in my opinion, reprehensible and dangerous.

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

It's not just an issue with looting by African-Americans.

Here in Chile we had widespread looting in 2019 as a result of a huge massive social upheaval and no one on the left will ever condemn it. The looters generally went after the big chain stores and supermarkets, but not always. Some small or medium size stores were looted and completely trashed as were subway stations.

So too in the south of Chile, Mapuche Native-American activists often burn houses of white settlers, some of them rich, some not so rich and no one on the left will condemn it.

Politics is generally about force and power. Nice guys finish last in politics.

The 2019 social upheaval, with all the looting, vandalism and arson, forced Chilean elites to accept a Constitutional Convention (which will begin next week) to draft a new Constitution to replace the 1980 Constitution drawn up during the Pinochet dictatorship. So if the end justifies the means, in this case the means are justified.

Do the ends justify the means. Sometimes. There is no fixed rule.

don't nudge said...

The university is just the place for such viewpoints. I don't see how they help to improve anyone's circumstances. Not much economic innovation or imagination there, I'm afraid. That's probably why they get airtime--they are systemically otiose.

Christiane Amanpour is another matter. Not as interesting an interviewer as Charlie Rose was.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

Thank you for the information about looting in Chile. I suppose it is safe to assume that some form of looting to advance social causes occurs everywhere.

Do the ends sometimes justify the means. I would agree that it one is sure that destruction of property (e.g., aerial bombing of the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz) can be justified if one can be highly certain that in the absence of such property destruction, innocent lives will be lost. One cannot always be certain that collateral damage will not result in the loss of innocent life.

Things get a lot trickier when the means are the deliberate taking of life in order to save life, e.g., the train/overpass kind of ethical thought experiments which, if memory serves, Prof. Wolff dislikes. But 9/11, and the use of torture, have made such questions important. I have thought about the scenario in which a terrorist is in custody who claims to know the location of a nuclear device, and the time that it is set to detonate. Is torture morally justifiable under such circumstances. I would say yes, but only if certain conditions are verifiable to a high degree of certainty: that the terrorist is not lying, and offers information which proves that s/he knows what s/he is claiming; that it is certain that if the nuclear device is not disarmed, large numbers of people will die (the second condition may be self evident). What if there is no way of ascertaining whether the terrorist will in fact tell the truth under torture? There is no way to confirm this. I believe that if the first condition is satisfied, then torture would be justified, even if it turns out that the terrorist lies under torture Does this make me a ruthless, immoral s.o.b.? I would be curious what others think. (I promise, no hard feelings – as if this would matter.)

“don’t nudge”

I actually like many of Amanpour’s interviews. I did enjoy Charlie Rose, particularly when he had a panel of several guests who exchanged viewpoints, something which Amanpour does not do as much. But I was very disappointed in him when the sexual harassment scandal broke. He also annoyed me because he had a habit of interrupting his guests and talking over them. I feel confident that Amanpour is not engaging in sexual harassment, only because women are less frequently (but not invariably) the aggressor in such situations. But remember Michael Crichton’s book “Disclosure” ? I in fact had a client whose female supervisor was sexually harassing him and he was a nervous wreck.

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

You're a movie fan so you've undoubtedly seen Dirty Harry.

I don't recall the exact details, but there's a psychokiller terrorizing San Francisco and he has little girl buried alive who will die soon if she is not dug out. Harry finds the killer and politely asks him where the girl is. The psycho laughs at him. Harry breaks one of his arms. More mocking laughter. Harry breaks the other arm and then starts on his legs and the guy screaming in pain tells Harry where the girl is and her life is saved.

I'm sure all of us justify Harry's actions.

There's a similar case in the Stanford Encyclopedia article on torture.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/#CaseStudBeat

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

Yes, I do remember that movie. It was titled “Scorpio,” and was the first in the Dirty Harry series. The villain was superbly played by Andy Robinson. I remember his maniacal laugh. He did not reprise that role (well, he was killed at the end), or play comparable villains in other movies, to the best of my knowledge. Actually, in the movie “Mask,” which starred Cher and Eric Stolz as her disfigured son (based on a true story), Robinson played a doctor.

So, you think there would be a consensus that sometimes torture can be justified. Hopefully the terrorist/nuclear device scenario that I have hypothesized never occurs.

aaall said...

s.w. as I recall Harry shot him in the lower leg (plot problem as a clean through and through in the calf with a .44 mag seems unlikely - bones, blood vessels). He then interrogated him while grinding his foot into the leg (recall Harry had previously sunk a switchblade in his thigh). The girl was already dead.

We should keep in mind that most of the demonstrations were peaceful and looting often involved lumpen opportunists. There have been a few far right agents provocateurs indicted for arson and other vandalism. There is nothing new about attempts to rationalize looting. It happened back in the1960s, etc. Nothing new here. It does seem the Right has managed to strike a nerve.

LBJ understood that if one can make certain folks feel they are better then certain others you can pick their pockets, etc. and they will still vote for you. Race too often trumps class.

When my great great grandmother's estate was probated a line referred to one of her slaves as an "old woman of no value." The past is another country. Here's a speech given on the Senate floor in 1900:

"We did not disfranchise the negroes until 1895... He is not meddling with politics, for he found that the more he meddled with them the worse off he got. As to his “rights”—I will not discuss them now. We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. I would to God the last one of them was in Africa and that none of them had ever been brought to our shores. But I will not pursue the subject further."

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/55/



Another Anonymous said...

aaall,

The fact that there is nothing new in the occurrence of looting during generally peaceful protests decrying social inequities does not make them defensible. And what is new are the arguments which I am seeing and hearing by certain academicians and “woke” journalists and social commentators that such looting is defensible, as the expression of angst by the voiceless and unheard. I find that deplorable.

A lot of horrible, despicable things were said on the Senate floor, before and after the Civil War, about the inferiority of the Black race. Reading John C. Calhoun’s orations justifying slavery as the white man’s burden to civilize, feed and house the otherwise uncivilized members of the Black race is enough to make one sick. These reprehensible views are not shared by most Americans today, although I do not deny that some benighted, racist Americans do harbor such sentiments. That does not make the rest of us who despise such views racist by virtue of the existence of institutional racism, and the fact that your great, great grandmother owned slaves does not make you racist.

s. wallerstein said...

aaall,

I have no doubt that your memory is sharper than mine. In fact, I forget so many things that I'm surprised that I recall what the movie is about.

aaall said...

AA, my point was that I have been hearing rationalizations and apologies for looting from a few on the left for decades and apocalypse now from the Right for as long. "Cities burning," "cancel culture," and now "CRT" are memes du jour - kayfabe - designed to rile the rubes and distract the rest of us from the creeping fascism which is the real problem. Nothing new here.

I believe it useful and best to generalize and learn from genealogy not personalize and certainly not feel guilty about a past I had no part in. Besides, things balance out...sort of. I had a fifth great aunt killed by Indians while the family was in the process of stealing their land and my great grandfather served in the Union cavalry. The probate records are an indication just how institutionalized as well as dehumanizing slavery was. You mention Calhoun in the 1830s, I referenced Tillman in 1900. This was Wallace in 1962:

"In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

And he carried Michigan and Maryland in the 1972 Democratic primaries.

Of course the number of racists and their electoral significance are two different things. Because of our outdated Constitution, a handful of racists in the right place are all that is needed. Biden out polled Trump by ~ eight million votes and won the presidency by ~ 44,000 votes.

I see on the Innertubes that the governor of South Dakota is sending National Guard troops to Texas at the request of Texas' governor to guard the border. They will be funded by a private donor.

That seems to be a problem. BLM, Kende and Jones are shiny things, invoked to distract.

Another Anonymous said...

aaall,

I think Henry Louis Gates should do your genealogy on Finding Your Roots.

LFC said...

aaall,

I'm not *entirely* sure what you meant by your reference to LBJ in your comment @ 4:01 a.m., but I'm assuming you were referring to his insight into how Southern politicians opposed to civil rights (including the landmark civil rights legislation LBJ signed) used race as a wedge issue, as we would say today, to appeal to poor and working-class white voters who might otherwise have voted more 'progressively'. Or did you mean something else?

james wilson said...

Ridiculousicculus said...
james wilson - did you take any classes w/Bob Meister at UCSC?

the answer is, i did not; I think he’s quite a bit younger than me.

But to branch onto a different path regarding the role of race in the US, some of you might enjoy this discussion, featuring the author and some critics, of Ira Katznelson’s “Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Times’

https://vimeo.com/78858363

aaall said...

LFC, basically yeah, we are apes after all.

AA, as today demonstrated, ending any possibility of liberal democracy is the goal. Plutocrats don't rally care about giving social conservatives more then what it takes to keep them on board until they are no longer needed.

笑笑 said...

It looks like we're past Peak Woke. The ronin scholar Policy Tensor called it correctly on June 23.