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Keeping up with the FITs, 12/8
Michael Hobbes questions self-censorship stats; Sheena Mason questions racial categories; Haidt and Lukianoff on Woke HR; Andrew Sullivan on Roe; Yascha Mounk queries John McWhorter; I review him
A cartoonishly biased survey from 2018 found that 60% of students have refrained from expressing their political views, I am not kidding, once or more during their time in college (again: how this is not 100%).
His point is that people who hold back political views are not necessarily feeling intimidated. They may be just being polite. That describes me in situations with friends. Although once or twice I’ve disturbed dinner by getting into an argument, there are many, many more times where I have held back. I just complain to my wife afterward about the stupid things that were said that I let pass.
But I am skeptical that the trends on college campuses reflect an increase in the desire to be polite.
The thing called “race” does not exist, but people imagine it does, and this sustains it. “Race” needs to be abolished.
Ironically, this appears on a Substack called The Journal of Free Black Thought. The journal’s title implicitly takes race for granted.
I think that the place to start eliminating race is with government statistics. Stop having people check a box that signifies their self-identified race.
Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff offer advice to corporations trying to avoid being harassed by young Woke employees. One of their eight suggestions:
While elite colleges offer the promise of bright and hard-working employees, the problems we covered in our book are generally more severe at elite private colleges. You might want to consider hiring from large state schools, and ones from regions of the country other than the West Coast or Northeast. . .
You might want to go still further and consider hiring people who have not attended college at all, if you can put in place standards that still guarantee hard-working employees with relevant skills. We believe that the numbers of bright, hard-working, and talented people choosing to skip college or to learn through a less traditional alternative will increase in the coming years, while the ability of elite college graduates to work well with those who do not share their beliefs will continue to decline.
But one of my own most traumatic experiences was speaking a couple of years ago to a group of over 100 students from non-elite colleges. I made a pitch for free speech, and in the Q&A afterward I got a lot of pushback. I concluded that critical theory has a very strong hold on college culture everywhere.
In Roe, the Court tried to jumpstart a consensus and failed to secure it, with public opinion very similar now to where it was half a century ago. In Obergefell, the Court waited until there was majority support, which arrived, according to Gallup, in 2011, and the Court then validated a still-growing societal consensus four years later.
I think he missed the big cultural shift that preceded and enabled Roe, and which was at least as dramatic as the shift that preceded Obergefell. My thoughts:
I think that Roe and Obergefell both reflect changes in attitudes about sexual morality.
As of 1960, premarital sex was still widely viewed as wrong. For a young unmarried woman to get pregnant was getting "caught" doing this wrong thing, and abortion was a cover-up. Laws against abortion were consistent with reinforcing the norm against premarital sex.
Very rapidly during the 1960s, premarital sex became widely accepted. To the extent that laws outlawing abortion are punishment for premarital sex, by 1973 they punished something that was no longer considered a crime. I think that tolerance for premarital sex is what made Roe possible, and I don't see that changing.
Today, I would speculate that the minority who are adamantly anti-abortion are comparable in numbers to the minority who are adamantly against gay sex. The anti-abortion forces are better organized and more relentless, and of course even they understand that they cannot base their case on hostility to premarital sex. They are sincere in their claim that abortion is murder, but many more people see it as birth control. If Roe falls, I predict that the political fallout will be bad for anti-abortion politicians. They are better off seen as unsuccessfully flailing against the courts than seen as taking us back to "Ode to Billy Joe."
Mounk: How is it that black people are being hurt by this?
McWhorter: A quick example is what anti-racism means in education, where the idea is that school boards and teachers propose that to be anti-racist, you can’t submit black people to real challenges, because the sorts of things that involve real challenges are white things such as precision, punctuality and having to raise your hand; that those are wrong, that you need to turn your whole field upside down in order to adjust to the presence of people of color, such that, for example, a classics department makes Latin and Greek optional.
That’s all harmful to black people, because it’s treating black Americans as if they aren’t as bright. In arguing that it’s racist to submit black people to standardized tests because black kids often aren’t as good at them, you’re effectively saying black kids shouldn’t be subjected to a test of abstract cognitive skill. I can imagine Strom Thurmond saying that
What I wish to note is that Mounk asks Devil’s Advocate questions, instead of trying to ask hostile questions as a way of virtue signaling.
I review McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism.
Antiracists have not consciously set out to create a religion. As McWhorter concedes, they would object to their movement being characterized as such. How, then, should it be characterized? For example, is antiracism just another reform cause of the sort we have seen often in American history?
I argue that it seems to differ in that it has a greater focus on punishment than on enacting a specific agenda.