Reagan’s ‘morning in America’ has acquired a different resonance

We have another of those really long-running threads, focused on the problem of race in America, and particularly the issues highlighted by events in Ferguson, Missouri. There’s no shortage of material, and it keeps going and going, hampered only by the limitation of the blog medium: in particular, that I automatically shut down all discussion threads after 3 months, to block spam. That’s not enough time!

So here’s another semi-open thread — talk about America’s race problem. Forever, or until it’s fixed.

Repost: There are no Marching Morons

I just saw a reference to Kornbluth’s story, The Marching Morons, and I’m also working up a talk on the perils of excessive adaptationism, and together they motived me to repost this article from Scienceblogs. It’s always bugged me: it’s saturated with the unthinking assumption that human diversity is hardwired and fixed, and built on a racially invariant biological foundation. And it largely went unquestioned by science fiction fans.

I was sent a link to this editorial by the science-fiction writer, Ben Bova. I like part of the sentiment, where he’s arguing that it’s worth the effort to try and change the world, but a substantial part of it bugs me.

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What exactly do you want, Jonathan Chait?

Chait is complaining about “political correctness”. Fine, complain away; there are even lines I would draw that partly coincide with the lines he draws. He begins with an anecdote about angry students who littered a conservative columnist’s hallway with defaced copies of a ‘satirical’ column, and threw eggs at his door.

Don’t throw eggs at people’s doors, OK?

There are things you shouldn’t do, like damaging property or sending death threats or harassing people to interfere with their lives in destructive ways. Sometimes people on the left do cross those lines; I’m happy to join Chait in deploring those acts.

But don’t call it “P.C.” That’s a term that raises my hackles straight from the onset: it’s the disparaging phrase used solely against liberals, judging them not by their actions but their purpose. Vandalism and harassment are not ideologically-specific tools, used only by the left; let’s deplore the tactics no matter who employs them, but as soon as you attach the P.C. label, I know right away that you are trying to target liberals only.

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Oh, Oregon

I was a graduate student in Eugene, Oregon, and I liked it. It’s a very liberal town, as is Portland, and we were only vaguely aware that the surrounding areas were extremely conservative. We also knew that there were areas to the south in particular that were flamingly racist and homophobic, and reading David Brin’s novel, The Postman, set in a future Oregon, it was completely unsurprising to have the antagonist be basically a white supremacist from down around the Rogue River. But that wasn’t us!

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Who’s the whitest of them all? And who cares?

Carl Zimmer writes about the muddled genetic state of race in the United States. We’re a mongrel nation, even if many people don’t want to admit it — but a recent analysis of data from the 23andme program shows a substantial mixing of races in the US. Well, except for Minnesota. Look how white we are up here!

The percentage of self-identified European Americans who have one percent or more of African ancestry.

The percentage of self-identified European Americans who have one percent or more of African ancestry.

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Own goal

David Duke, the ex(?)-Ku Klux Klan leader and wanna-be politician, leapt to the defense of Steve Scalise, the Republican who has spoken for a white supremacist organization. That’s self-defeating right there — I would hope that the Klan would never speak in my defense — but what he said.

In an interview with explaining his connection to current House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Duke said that he is exceptionally well-connected within the U.S. political class and that charges of racism against him are a product of the media’s “zionist” and “tribalist” mentality.

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