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“Social justice:” what we are seeing, and what should we do?

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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14 May 2018 05:55
 

Haidt and Harris think that Yale, Evergreen and Middlebury are the new normal on universities across the country, threatening free speech.  Murray, for Sam, is a “canary in the coal mine.”  I happen to think these three represent a fringe movement that has eclipsed a tiny minority of campuses, and it’s a long way from sweeping the country.  But given the flattening of the public space caused by media like the Internet, the problem is there, and it is being magnified.  So it behooves us to take a closer look at just what the problem is, how big a problem it is, and then what to do about it (if there is anything we can do about it).

So what is the problem?  Instead of defining it, let’s illustrate it. This is the problem.  Activists like this are the problem.  What they stand for, and how they institutionalize what they stand for, is the problem.  What’s worse: this problem is so hard to see because in their minds, and in their public declarations, things like this are what they nominally stand against.  Positively, they stand for “social justice.” But let’s not be confused.  What they are really fighting for is a new set of rights, ones that emerge from the injustices lingering in the application of old ones, to be sure, but a new set nonetheless.  For them, “social justice” means implementing this new set of rights.  But what does that mean?  What are these new rights, and what are the old ones?

First, the old rights. The old rights are those in enshrined in the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act—equal treatment before the law, equal treatment in commerce, in education, etc.; equal treatment irrespective of race, sex, and age.  And more broadly, also, equality of respect and recognition, not just civil status.  Some of these rights are legal or institutional, like hiring practices and rules in the marketplace.  Others are informal, like the cultural norm against calling a black man a “nigger,” or the debate over a logo like the Washington Redskins.  But in any case, law, institution or norm, these rights deal with equal treatment, equal respect, and equal recognition, all pertaining to social status.  And note: they mainly work on the level of behavior. That is, they prescribe what people can and can’t do when interacting with each other.  In this sense they are civil rights: a set of rights designed to protect status by insuring everyone behaves in certain ways, ways insuring equal status is protected.  This equal status means everyone can more or less expect and enjoy the same opportunities in a broadly tolerant and diverse society.

(Although there is still progress to be made, in most respects, the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act have done their job, for they have permeated our society to such an extent that it is usually difficult to violate them without punishment.  In other words, the legal, institutional, and cultural enforcement of racism and sexism has been dismantled, and now it’s a matter of making sure this dismantlement reaches everyone, everywhere.  The remaining problems are therefore local, not systemic—brush fires here and there, not the whole forest aflame.  This aside is important to contextualize the difference between the new and old rights).

Now, the new rights.  The new rights are quite different, and they emerge out of the failure of the old rights to remedy all inequities, leaving some brush fires burning, as it were.  Instead of addressing status (protecting it with what people can and can’t do to each other), these new rights address feelings.  Feelings of alienation.  Feelings of isolation.  Feelings of exclusion.  Feelings of powerlessness.  Feelings of offense.  In this respect, the new rights the “new Yale activists” stand for are much broader than the old rights, and they call for a new set of prohibited behaviors.  Instead of not discriminating against a Native American in a job interview, for instance, one must not say or do something that will offend him, or make him feel more marginalized, or more excluded, or more isolated, etc.  Hence the issue over the Redskin logo: it is a form of behavior that harms, but the harm it causes can no longer be captured under the old, more institutional and legal rights, so new right is needed—enter “cultural appropriation.”  Ditto for a Halloween costume, or a question about ethnicity—hence a “microaggression.”  ‘Violations’ like these can’t be captured under the old set of civil rights, so the possibility, even the necessity, of a new set of rights emerges.  “Safe spaces” emerge to protect these rights, enforcing as they do new rules of how to speak and act.  And so on and so forth with what’s happening on campuses.  This process of defining a new class of rights has yet, to my knowledge, to be articulated explicitly, but it is what the likes of “the Yale activists” are fighting for.  One need only observe the issue that started that protest.  In any case, at the basis of their protest seems to be a new set of rights they want to see put in place, rights that address feelings, and therefore rights that lead to new sets of behavioral prohibitions that protect these feelings.  Only nominally are they liberal social activists protecting traditional civil rights.

Now, I suggest the new rights (however inarticulately) being proposed haven’t been formed in a vacuum.  Rather, they follow quite naturally from the conceptual apparatus of their parents, out of concepts like “the matrix of domination,” “intersectionality,” “heteronormativity,” “ableism,” “cultural appropriation,” “white privilege,” “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces,” “microaggressions,” “phrase validation,” etc.  This conceptual apparatus was built on the belief that traditional civil rights have failed.  That is, it was built to assert the systemic persistence of racism and sexism et. al. (there is now an –ism for most differences), and since the legal, institutional and cultural enforcement of racism, sexism, etc. has been dismantled, these concepts assert new mechanisms for their persistence.  Since behavior is now effectively prohibited and punished—at least in principle—the only medium left for systemic oppression is feelings.  As long as people identify in a certain way—indeed, as long as people are certain things (female, black, poor)— it will always be possible, by virtue of that identification, to feel excluded, to feel marginalized, or to feel powerless, if in fact any real inequities still exist.  For by virtue of that identification alone, it will always be possible to lose civil status, and that is upsetting.  In this way, systemic oppression can’t but exist—or so the conceptual apparatus of the cultural left asserts.  As long as there is any inequality of outcomes, anyone who identifies with a victim of that unequal outcome will feel like a victim herself, at least potentially.  For these Yale activists, that potentially is enough.  The new rights protect against it happening.  They are designed to protect the feelings that come with identifying with classes of people for which inequality of outcomes still exist.

So the old rights protect civil status and the new rights protect feelings that come with identifying with those who still don’t fully enjoy equal civil status.  That, to me, is what is at stake with the Yale activists.  They aren’t so much about suppressing free speech as about proposing a new set of rights in a system set up—in their eyes, at least—against them.  Based on the conceptual apparatus they’ve inherited, they can’t but see the system as the problem, hence their unwillingness to engage by the same set of rules as everyone else within that system.  In this respect, the suppression of free speech is but a symptom of a deeper problem—the advocacy of a new set of rights hostile to the old ones.  For in their eyes, the old ones have failed.  This conflict, I think, is what we see emerging on college campuses, where free speech is only the tip of the iceberg.  Underneath the water are currents that have been at work in social work departments, education departments, and English departments for at least a generation—to wit, the development of a conceptual apparatus asserting that nothing but systemic problems still exist; an apparatus that in its very formulation makes these systemic problems inevitable.  As long as some real problems exist, this apparatus can be made persuasive, and it is this persuasiveness that threatens to eclipse classical American liberalism, the liberalism of civil rights represented by Erika Christakus and Bret Weinstein.  This, I think, is the problem we’re seeing.

A new generation raised in an entirely new way is inheriting the conceptual apparatus of their parents, and Yale, Evergreen and Middlebury are the first indicators of what this inheritance might look like.  That is the problem I see: an unholy mix of adolescence profoundly lacking in emotional fortitude channeled through a social-metaphysical fantasy.  If what’s already happened on the right is any indication, the stakes in this could get pretty high.  I have no idea what to do about it, but we need to come to grips with what is going on.  For what it’s worth, this thread is one attempt to do that.

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 10:38 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
EN
 
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EN
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14 May 2018 07:13
 

It’s hard for me to determine how big an issue this really is. Generally we are moving toward a society in which sensitivity to others is more at the center of an inquiry.  How much of that is to be laid at the feet of a few universities, I’m not sure.  Nor am I sure that this is always a bad thing, although as with every swing of the social pendulum, it can at times go too far. I think people should just keep speaking their minds about issues and we’ll see where it ends up.  Not sure what else to do.

 
GAD
 
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14 May 2018 07:21
 
EN - 14 May 2018 07:13 AM

It’s hard for me to determine how big an issue this really is. Generally we are moving toward a society in which sensitivity to others is more at the center of an inquiry.  How much of that is to be laid at the feet of a few universities, I’m not sure.  Nor am I sure that this is always a bad thing, although as with every swing of the social pendulum, it can at times go too far. I think people should just keep speaking their minds about issues and we’ll see where it ends up.  Not sure what else to do.

Well, it’s all that is in the media every single fricking day and people (many here) buy it as a huge issue in society.

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 08:19 by GAD]
 
 
icehorse
 
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14 May 2018 07:30
 

There are a lot of enormous issues on the table these days. The Oligarchy, climate change, nukes and so on. The most crucial tool we have to fight these problems is free speech. To me, defending free speech is the “meta- cause”.

I don’t know how wide spread the “feelings first” movement is, but where it’s surfaced, one of its tactics is to curtail free speech. The following is copied from a related thread:

Here are some data points related to the “how wide spread is it?” question. I acknowledge some bias and that collectively this list does not really provide proof as much as maybe indicators?:

- 1/3 of of the universities in North America have speech codes (which restrict speech beyond what’s in the law).
- You can find dozens of videos that show the “alt-left”(?) engaged in heckler’s veto-esque activities against speakers not speaking “The Truth”.
- You can find dozens of articles in the media giving attention to these alt-left ideas.
- Here is a partial list of folks who have expressed concern: Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haight. Camille Paglia, Douglas Murray, Christina Hoff Sommers, Jordan Peterson, Gad Saad, Mark Steyn, Lindsay Shepherd, Ben Shapiro, the administration at the University of Chicago. FIRE, Lauren Southern, Michelle Rempel,  Heather MacDonald, Ella Whelan, and others.
- We see movements like metoo and BLM that employ the kinds of tactics we’re discussing.

(Nice OP BTW, I think the “feelings first” orientation is potentially a powerful way to summarize this issue.)

 
 
mapadofu
 
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14 May 2018 10:47
 

Analytic, you already know that that first video presents an emotionally fraught confrontation that will tend to elicit an emotional reaction in us as we watch it, and thus distort our perception of its importance.

For contrast here’s a panel discussion from MLK Day 2018 https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/live-at-politics-and-prose/id597491563?mt=2

In my opinion, these authors/thinkers/activists present a pretty reasonable set of ideas that are worth engaging with even if you don’t agree 100%.

The main rejoinder I’d expect from some who listen to it is that some of them (all of them?) represent the “old gaurd”, and not the “next wave” that Analytic sees coming.  At the very least this presents a proof by example that for now not everyone who is publicly engaged with the issues around equality is off their rockers.

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 11:03 by mapadofu]
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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14 May 2018 11:16
 

Analytic, you already know that that first video presents an emotionally fraught confrontation that will tend to elicit an emotional reaction in us as we watch it, and thus distort our perception of its importance.

With respect, anyone incapable of watching that video and setting aside their own emotional reaction in order to come to a reasoned judgment will be even less able to do this when the chips are down in real life on an important political issue.  If their perceptions are that distorted by the video, then perhaps they should voluntarily step back from important political conversations.

In any case, the video accurately captures the emotions that drove (and are driving) events like those at Yale, Middlebury, and Evergreen, and not just because it is a video of what actually happened at Yale.  The situation was worse at Evergreen, and far worse at Middlebury, which sent one faculty to the hospital.  It also conveys the beliefs this new generation of social activists have.  They themselves articulate them.  Beside, if the point of the essay is what is happening on college campuses, how is a video of what actually happened on one not relevant to illustrating what’s at issue?

The main rejoinder I’d expect from some who listen to it is that some of them (all of them?) represent the “old gaurd”, and not the “next wave” that Analytic sees coming.  At the very least this presents a proof by example that for now not everyone who is publicly engaged with the issues around equality is off their rockers.

I hope you are not suggesting this was implied, since nothing in the essay states or implies everyone engaged in the issues around equality nowadays is “off their rockers.”  As you acknowledge, it draws the distinction between those who are and those who aren’t, specifically the Yale kids who are and Christakus and Weinstein who are not.  Again, the video makes this distinction too.  In so far as the type the Yale kids represent are making policy, that is the problem.  That’s all the essay states.

The question of their prevalence (as raised by icehorse) is a related but separate topic (thanks, by the way, icehorse).

 

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 11:39 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Jan_CAN
 
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14 May 2018 12:09
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 11:16 AM

Analytic, you already know that that first video presents an emotionally fraught confrontation that will tend to elicit an emotional reaction in us as we watch it, and thus distort our perception of its importance.

With respect, anyone incapable of watching that video and setting aside their own emotional reaction in order to come to a reasoned judgment will be even less able to do this when the chips are down in real life on an important political issue.  If their perceptions are that distorted by the video, then perhaps they should voluntarily step back from important political conversations.

To indicate that only one position can be considered “reasoned judgment”, and that those with differing perceptions or have come to different conclusions regarding the implications “should voluntarily step back from important political conversations”, are you not doing exactly what you purport to be against?

And it does not appear that you have set aside your own emotional reaction.

 

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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14 May 2018 12:34
 
Jan_CAN - 14 May 2018 12:09 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 11:16 AM

Analytic, you already know that that first video presents an emotionally fraught confrontation that will tend to elicit an emotional reaction in us as we watch it, and thus distort our perception of its importance.

With respect, anyone incapable of watching that video and setting aside their own emotional reaction in order to come to a reasoned judgment will be even less able to do this when the chips are down in real life on an important political issue.  If their perceptions are that distorted by the video, then perhaps they should voluntarily step back from important political conversations.

To indicate that only one position can be considered “reasoned judgment”, and that those with differing perceptions or have come to different conclusions regarding the implications “should voluntarily step back from important political conversations”, are you not doing exactly what you purport to be against?

And it does not appear that you have set aside your own emotional reaction.

What?

Which position have I indicated as ‘the only one a “reasoned judgment” could make’? 

No position on specific issues pertaining to “social justice”—presumably what mapadofu brings up with the link—is implied in the essay, and in my reply to him, I didn’t defend one.  I have no position on “social justice” to defend, other than it’s a good thing to have.

So what then—that only an unbiased observer would conclude the events in the video represent a problem?  Is that the position? But mapadofu didn’t challenge the interpretation of the video.  He did not suggest that the events in the video don’t represent a problem.  He suggested it was knowingly posted despite its tendency to bias.  I responded to its tendency to bias.  I did not say an unbiased interpretation would only conclude it represents a problem.  It so happens I don’t think any such thing.

If mapadofu (or you, for that matter) thinks those Yale students don’t represent a problem, that’s a valid argument, and I wouldn’t accuse anyone of being emotionally biased for making it, any more than I’d accept the accusation that I’m biased for saying that they do.  But in any case, that’s not the point mapadofu made, nor is it the one I responded to, so your point about my emotional reaction is doubly moot.

 

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 13:14 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Jan_CAN
 
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14 May 2018 13:49
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 12:34 PM
Jan_CAN - 14 May 2018 12:09 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 11:16 AM

Analytic, you already know that that first video presents an emotionally fraught confrontation that will tend to elicit an emotional reaction in us as we watch it, and thus distort our perception of its importance.

With respect, anyone incapable of watching that video and setting aside their own emotional reaction in order to come to a reasoned judgment will be even less able to do this when the chips are down in real life on an important political issue.  If their perceptions are that distorted by the video, then perhaps they should voluntarily step back from important political conversations.

To indicate that only one position can be considered “reasoned judgment”, and that those with differing perceptions or have come to different conclusions regarding the implications “should voluntarily step back from important political conversations”, are you not doing exactly what you purport to be against?

And it does not appear that you have set aside your own emotional reaction.

What?

Which position have I indicated as ‘the only one a “reasoned judgment” could make’? 

No position on specific issues pertaining to “social justice”—presumably what mapadofu brings up with the link—is implied in the essay, and in my reply to him, I didn’t defend one.  I have no position on “social justice” to defend, other than it’s a good thing to have.

So what then—that only an unbiased observer would conclude the events in the video represent a problem?  Is that the position? But mapadofu didn’t challenge the interpretation of the video.  He did not suggest that the events in the video don’t represent a problem.  He suggested it was knowingly posted despite its tendency to bias.  I responded to its tendency to bias.  I did not say an unbiased interpretation would only conclude it represents a problem.  It so happens I don’t think any such thing.

If mapadofu (or you, for that matter) thinks those Yale students don’t represent a problem, that’s a valid argument, and I wouldn’t accuse anyone of being emotionally biased for making it, any more than I’d accept the accusation that I’m biased for saying that they do.  But in any case, that’s not the point mapadofu made, nor is it the one I responded to, so your point about my emotional reaction is doubly moot.

I took issue with the first paragraph (post #5), because it seemed rather like an unfair ‘put-down’ (i.e. due to different perspectives of the video’s importance), which I thought had the potential to inhibit others from expressing their views.  As there seems to be misunderstanding going on here, and this is your thread, it is probably best if I just bow out.

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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14 May 2018 14:28
 
Jan_CAN - 14 May 2018 01:49 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 12:34 PM
Jan_CAN - 14 May 2018 12:09 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 11:16 AM

Analytic, you already know that that first video presents an emotionally fraught confrontation that will tend to elicit an emotional reaction in us as we watch it, and thus distort our perception of its importance.

With respect, anyone incapable of watching that video and setting aside their own emotional reaction in order to come to a reasoned judgment will be even less able to do this when the chips are down in real life on an important political issue.  If their perceptions are that distorted by the video, then perhaps they should voluntarily step back from important political conversations.

To indicate that only one position can be considered “reasoned judgment”, and that those with differing perceptions or have come to different conclusions regarding the implications “should voluntarily step back from important political conversations”, are you not doing exactly what you purport to be against?

And it does not appear that you have set aside your own emotional reaction.

What?

Which position have I indicated as ‘the only one a “reasoned judgment” could make’? 

No position on specific issues pertaining to “social justice”—presumably what mapadofu brings up with the link—is implied in the essay, and in my reply to him, I didn’t defend one.  I have no position on “social justice” to defend, other than it’s a good thing to have.

So what then—that only an unbiased observer would conclude the events in the video represent a problem?  Is that the position? But mapadofu didn’t challenge the interpretation of the video.  He did not suggest that the events in the video don’t represent a problem.  He suggested it was knowingly posted despite its tendency to bias.  I responded to its tendency to bias.  I did not say an unbiased interpretation would only conclude it represents a problem.  It so happens I don’t think any such thing.

If mapadofu (or you, for that matter) thinks those Yale students don’t represent a problem, that’s a valid argument, and I wouldn’t accuse anyone of being emotionally biased for making it, any more than I’d accept the accusation that I’m biased for saying that they do.  But in any case, that’s not the point mapadofu made, nor is it the one I responded to, so your point about my emotional reaction is doubly moot.

I took issue with the first paragraph (post #5), because it seemed rather like an unfair ‘put-down’ (i.e. due to different perspectives of the video’s importance), which I thought had the potential to inhibit others from expressing their views.  As there seems to be misunderstanding going on here, and this is your thread, it is probably best if I just bow out.

Yes, there does seem to be a misunderstanding.  While I suppose that paragraph doesn’t paint people who let their emotions get the better of them and cloud their judgment in a flattering light, it doesn’t put them down either.  All it suggests is that they shouldn’t insist on being part of conversations that require people to be as fair and unbiased as possible—whatever that can mean in practice.  So yes, it could be construed as exclusionary, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable exclusion for people to initiate themselves.  For note: it doesn’t say they shouldn’t be part of the conversation, only that they themselves should reconsider.  As far as I’m concerned, anyone is welcome to a conversation, no matter how biased, emotional or otherwise.

In any case, I’m sorry to see you go. I’m sure there are multiple perspectives on the significance of the video, and I would have valued your input.
 

 

 
Jan_CAN
 
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14 May 2018 14:41
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 02:28 PM

Yes, there does seem to be a misunderstanding.  While I suppose that paragraph doesn’t paint people who let their emotions get the better of them and cloud their judgment in a flattering light, it doesn’t put them down either.  All it suggests is that they shouldn’t insist on being part of conversations that require people to be as fair and unbiased as possible—whatever that can mean in practice.  So yes, it could be construed as exclusionary, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable exclusion for people to initiate themselves.  For note: it doesn’t say they shouldn’t be part of the conversation, only that they themselves should reconsider.  As far as I’m concerned, anyone is welcome to a conversation, no matter how biased, emotional or otherwise.

In any case, I’m sorry to see you go. I’m sure there are multiple perspectives on the significance of the video, and I would have valued your input.

I had initially interpreted your earlier comments to be specifically directed at mapadofu, but see now I misunderstood.  (I usually try to make sure I understand something before I post, and I thought I did.)  Anyway, sometimes people are just on different ‘wavelengths’.  Thanks (and sorry for the derail) ... perhaps I’ll join in at a later time.

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 14:54 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
mapadofu
 
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14 May 2018 18:48
 

I don’t know what to think Analytic, I think your post in another thread, reproduced below, shows quite a bit of perception on how our information sources don’t always lead us to the most rigorous, statistically justified, conclusions.

Maybe you are a rock.  I find the video exciting, in the stimulating my amygdala sense; one brave professor is standing up to an angry mob, there’s tension in the air.  The drama: will it go south? when? how?  how will he extricate himself?  As you might infer, I identify with Dr. Christakis, and also get a sense of moral indignation in opposition to the students.  It is a lot of drama, and not a lot of intellectual heft.

No, this doesn’t by itself invalidate your observations or what not, but I don’t see the harm in pointing out the rhetorical impact of what you selected to link to.

I think one of the most problematic—if not the most problematic—feature of such a finely tuned informational nervous system is the apparent equivalency of events.  As humans, we suck at frequencies.  We are biased against their accurate estimation, and even when not biased our ways of estimating them aren’t all that reliable.  The Internet magnifies this problem, like the newly spawned 24-hour news coverage in the late 80’s and early 90’s magnified events in that time, leading to policies that were either pointless or perhaps even counterproductive (sex offender laws are a case in point).  Now, once something enters the Twitter-sphere or the Facebook echo chamber—once it hits electronic media—calling the cops on a black student is as salient as nuking North Korea. To some extent, this has always been a problem when information is reported in any media, electronic or otherwise, but the nature of electronic media like the Internet means the barrage is constant and less pre-selected by people who have contextualized the news with some sense of its probability, even if only implied in reporting it or not in the first place.  Everything is news now, and everything seems just a probable as anything else in this flattened out electronic world.  The burden on the average person to consume intelligently is to my mind almost insurmountable, and no amount of self-regulation by Facebook and Google is going to change that.

TheAnalyticPhilosopher , Post #1, “Now We Know”, Halls of Psychology

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 19:54 by mapadofu]
 
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14 May 2018 19:13
 

As I understand it, here is one of the key points that many activists might dispute:

(Although there is still progress to be made, in most respects, the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act have done their job, for they have permeated our society to such an extent that it is usually difficult to violate them without punishment.  In other words, the legal, institutional, and cultural enforcement of racism and sexism has been dismantled, and now it’s a matter of making sure this dismantlement reaches everyone, everywhere.  The remaining problems are therefore local, not systemic—brush fires here and there, not the whole forest aflame.  This aside is important to contextualize the difference between the new and old rights).

Especially the 2nd to last sentence.  I figure that everyone would have to agree that overt, formal, institutional racial discrimination has been largely eliminated.  However, I don’t think that everyone would agree that the problems are down to “brush fires here and there”.  I see a semantic separation here—you’ve identified “systemic” with the the set of formal, legal, organizational forms of racism; I get the sense that social justice activists use “systemic” in a sense more towards “pervasive throughout society”.  This of course is a real difference in the assessment of how widespread the problem is.

Though difficult to conclusively prove, I’m pretty sympathetic to the position that there is systemic racism (in the pervasive sense).  I believe that we are still incurring the harm done by intentional housing discrimination and the segregation that resulted from it, even though the really blatant versions of it have stopped decades ago.  Similarly, I’m pretty well convinced that there is a overall bias in the criminal justice system that tends to levy harsher punishments more often on African-American defendants, and that it is a racial matter, and not just a function of their socioeconomic distribution (which itself is a lingering effect of the times when more blatant discrimination was carried out).

These effects are harder to put a finger on; it would be better if they were localized, bright, identifiable “brush fires”.  Instead we have a nebulous haze, that I’m not sure how to address.  I can relate this back to some points made in the OP: it might be the case that some of the more extreme positions arise from scrambling to find some kind of approach to address what they perceive as blatantly manifest social inequity, but there aren’t any equally obvious causes/levers to be found.

[ Edited: 14 May 2018 19:58 by mapadofu]
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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15 May 2018 02:21
 

mapadofu

My own post quoted back to me is well taken, but note the essay addresses its main point in the first paragraph, where it contextualizes the problems on college campuses with a frequency, thus estimating the magnitude of the problem, thus “unflattening” it out, as it were—a reference even used.  So while I agree with the point, it’s already covered; the frequency has already been estimated.  Granted, the estimation is rough, but icehorse has done some legwork there.  More could be said, for sure, but space is limited in a post (it may already be too long).

As for the “rhetorical impact” and lack of “intellectual heft,” if that video was intended to represent the merits or not of the views of the Yale activists or the issues they were protesting, and not the fact that their type and their protests is a problem, then your point about potential bias would be well taken.  But the “drama” of a sole professor amidst a mob so riled up over such an issue is precisely the problem.  So again, it seems not only apt to offer the video: offering the video aptly illustrates what’s being talked about.  In fact, one would probably be biased if they are not as moved as you were by the video—a video, again, that is tame by comparison to what happened at Middlebury.  So where you see “rhetorical impact” to watch out for I see “authentic depiction” that is necessary—because it depicts the very problem the essay is about.  That’s why it was chosen.  I don’t know how else to make this point, unless to say that the potential for “bias” you see in the video is what people are supposed to see.  The video wasn’t intended to open a discussion on the merits of a social justice issue (in this case the Halloween costumes), just illustrate what’s going on college campuses.

Now, one can disagree that what the video depicts is a problem.  One can say, that is, that those Yale kids should be exemplary because the issue is so important; that their outrage was the only recourse in a system rigged against them; that there is nothing wrong with what they did or how they did it—that sort of thing.  I just don’t see how showing the video is going to bias anyone one way or another on that, since it accurately portrays what is there to interpret and judge.

I figure that everyone would have to agree that overt, formal, institutional racial discrimination has been largely eliminated.  However, I don’t think that everyone would agree that the problems are down to “brush fires here and there”.  I see a semantic separation here—you’ve identified “systemic” with the the set of formal, legal, organizational forms of racism; I get the sense that social justice activists use “systemic” in a sense more towards “pervasive throughout society”.

A poster recently expressed her frustration over ‘semantic’ disagreements, and its one I share.  If one wants to say something is “pervasive throughout society”, then say “pervasive throughout society”, then open the floor to how pervasive—to empirically operationalizing what that means.  Calling it “systematic” seems to confuse the issue because “systematic” refers to mechanisms guaranteeing the outcomes in question, and would guarantee them even if one eliminated the pervasiveness once.  That can only occur if there are laws, norms, and institutions in place, and currently there are not.  What we have, we both seem to think, are the residues of past laws et al. created to produce racial inequality.  That is, we are seeing the “lingering effect of the times” when systematic racism existed, effects still holding some people back in some areas.  “Brush fires here and there” expresses this idea.  It doesn’t mean that some of those fires aren’t big.  It certainly doesn’t mean the problems remaining are trivial.  But it could mean (which admittedly, could have been stated directly) that most of what we see now in racial disparities are more the result of class and opportunity, not race per se—problems that are “still incurring” because of the harm done by past racial discrimination.  “Brush fires here and there” in any case forces the discussion back toward operationalizing how pervasive the discrimination is instead of mechanizing its incidence into something “systematic”—again, an notion that means more than “pervasive,” and for good reason.  In the proper use of the term, there is no more systematic racism (or if there is, no one to my knowledge has done a good job of explaining its current mechanism).

It sounds like was are saying some of the same things here.  Does this address the points you were making?

 

[ Edited: 15 May 2018 03:11 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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15 May 2018 02:43
 
Jan_CAN - 14 May 2018 02:41 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 May 2018 02:28 PM

Yes, there does seem to be a misunderstanding.  While I suppose that paragraph doesn’t paint people who let their emotions get the better of them and cloud their judgment in a flattering light, it doesn’t put them down either.  All it suggests is that they shouldn’t insist on being part of conversations that require people to be as fair and unbiased as possible—whatever that can mean in practice.  So yes, it could be construed as exclusionary, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable exclusion for people to initiate themselves.  For note: it doesn’t say they shouldn’t be part of the conversation, only that they themselves should reconsider.  As far as I’m concerned, anyone is welcome to a conversation, no matter how biased, emotional or otherwise.

In any case, I’m sorry to see you go. I’m sure there are multiple perspectives on the significance of the video, and I would have valued your input.

I had initially interpreted your earlier comments to be specifically directed at mapadofu, but see now I misunderstood.  (I usually try to make sure I understand something before I post, and I thought I did.)  Anyway, sometimes people are just on different ‘wavelengths’.  Thanks (and sorry for the derail) ... perhaps I’ll join in at a later time.

Please do, especially if you have thoughts on why the Yale students don’t represent a problem.  I disagree, but any occasion to expand on why—as any disagreement offers—would be welcome.  There is definitely much to discuss as to what those students represent.

(No worries).

 
mapadofu
 
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mapadofu
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15 May 2018 03:27
 

Analytic— you’ve introduced “systematic” into a discussion that had been around “systemic”.

The quoted passage includes “systemic” and the term I mostly hear from activists is “systemic racism”, a usage that comports with the dictionary definition.  In your most recent response you’ve brought in the term “systematic” which of course is something different, but isn’t what I thought we we were talking about.

 
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