How to use genomic information for evil


The combination of access to genetic data and computer programming must be an irresistible temptation to racists. Someone tried to distribute a code fragment that would allow a program to look up gene data on 23andMe and use it to limit who would be allowed to use the program.

Dubbed Genetic Access Control, the program—which was posted to GitHub on Monday—would act as a login for sites and scan the genetic information of 23andMe users who make their data available, much like how websites currently request access to your Facebook profile prior to entry. The coder in question cited a few “possible uses” for Genetic Access Control, ranging from “Groups defined by ethnic background, e.g. Black Panthers or NAACP members,” to “Safer online dating sites that only partner people with a low likelihood of offspring with two recessive genes for congenital diseases.”

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Changing lanes while black

I’ve been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. It’s powerful — I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and had to read a bit more, and then I had a tough time getting back to sleep afterwards. There’s this bit where he’s talking about the terror he felt on being pulled over by the police in PG County, and the dread he felt at the arbitrary abuse by police of black people at traffic stops, and his friend who was gunned down by a policeman, and I am marveling at this strange world I’ve never had to experience. When I’ve been pulled over, what I feel is annoyance, and a bit of self-blaming, and concern that I might get a ticket, nothing more. Driving while white is easy.

Then this morning I get up and the first news I see is that the dash-cam video of Sandra Bland’s arrest has been released.

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The ear of David Brooks


David Brooks read Ta-Nehisi Coates new book, Between the World and Me. His response to Coates is quite possibly the most Brooksian thing I’ve ever read.

I think you distort American history. This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame. There’s a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children’s Zone for every K.K.K. — and usually vastly more than one. Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America.

In your anger at the tone of innocence some people adopt to describe the American dream, you reject the dream itself as flimflam. But a dream sullied is not a lie. The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.

This dream is a secular faith that has unified people across every known divide. It has unleashed ennobling energies and mobilized heroic social reform movements. By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future.

Maybe you will find my reactions irksome. Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change. In any case, you’ve filled my ears unforgettably.

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So true it hurts

Didn’t Martin Luther King make this same point many years ago?

White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals. You are “you,” I am “one of them.” Whites are often not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, so what does not affect them locally has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally. They have no need, nor often any real desire, to think in terms of a group. They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it.

What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

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Language lesson


I’ve mentioned before this curious trait in my hate mail: I’m ‘accused’ of being Jewish. It’s discombobulating because, to my knowledge, I have no Jewish ancestry at all, and because I don’t find the accusation to be at all insulting…although clearly my correspondents do.

Over the last year or two, though, it’s changed. Nowadays I commonly get accused of being a Cultural Marxist. Check out this roundup of cultural marxist memes to see what it means. Once again, it’s mostly meaningless, and the only thing it tells you is that whoever is flinging the term around is a racist and anti-Semite.

No more compliments, thank you very much


I’m not happy with this kind of speculation.

If South’d won Civil War? Slaves would’ve soon been freed anyway, South would now be banana republic, & North the greatest civilisation ever

And it was intended as a compliment?

No, such a thought never entered my head. My tweet was intended as a compliment to all that is best in America.

No, it isn’t. It’s an ahistorical mess.

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Our colleague here at FtB, Tauriq Moosa, had enough of the nonstop harassment on Twitter, and has left the medium. This is a real loss; his was an entertaining, humane, and vigorous voice, which is probably why the #GamerGate goons targeted him and did their damnedest to drive him offline. And they claim to be on the side of ethics…while Tauriq’s greatest crime was to write a balanced review of a game (he liked it, and also stated some of its problems with race) which prompted all these people who say they are trying to improve ethics in game journalism to stomp all over him. They couldn’t come up with any actual ethical issues, and really just didn’t like a review that treated a game as less than perfection.

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