Friday, June 30, 2017

When anti-racists say they are racist, they mean you are

The original anti-racists—not the first people to fight racism, but the people who developed the race reductionist approach called Critical Race Theory—taught that all white people are racist because they grow up in a racist society. If you think about that, you'll know in a second it's nonsense because every society produces rebels. But the original anti-racists were not rebels. They were Ivy Leaguers who wanted to reach the top of the class pyramid, so they rejected the anti-capitalism of King and Malcolm X.

Science says their belief is wrong. There've been several tests to measure racism. None conclude that all white people are racist. Project Implicit's race test suggests a higher percentage of white people have measurable racism than any other test I know of, but Project Implicit is criticized by many people who think it suggests people are more racist than they actually are. Project Implicit's creators agree that could be so.

But anti-racists hate Project Implicit because it suggests a large minority of white people prefer black folks, and a smaller minority have no preference. In the discussion at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat (a gift that keeps on giving), Cheryl S. said,
Ah, the Project Implicit test. Like Chad, I’ll never get those minutes back, but here:
Here is your result:
Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for African Americans over European Americans.
Which I do have (and the test knows that because it asked me and I told it so), but since I’m white, I also harbor implicit, deeply rooted and societally based racism, so this don’t mean nothing. Also, in addition to all the flaws pointed out in the article @jayn linked, there is a significant flaw in the test (it times things, which may be meaningless if you’ve taught a test taker a system and then change it), plus all the photos were of men. In other words, this is the Myers-Briggs of racism testing, which is to say it’s meaningless drivel and proves precisely nothing except that people like taking stupid tests.
The research I've seen suggests the test is not amenable to gaming—I know my attempts to game it have failed—so there are two possibilities:

1. Cheryl S. is right about her racism, and Project Implicit failed her.
2. Cheryl S. is wrong about her racism, but a basic human rule applies: faith trumps facts.

I don't know Cheryl S., so I can't speculate. I'm fine with either possibility.

But if her faith requires her to feel she's harboring racism, don't assume she gets satisfaction from flagellating herself. A different mechanism is at work. Anti-racism's roots are in the religious theory of social justice, and their model of racism is that it's a sin passed from parent to child. When white anti-racists insist they are racists, they are not just saying they are sinners. They are saying they have been saved, but you are still damned.