Not my America

I hope your breakfast is settled now, because here’s a video of Jared Taylor being interviewed by Jorge Ramos. In case you don’t know who Taylor is, he’s an unpleasant and pretentious leader of white supremacists — if you’ll watch the video (I don’t blame you if you don’t), you’ll see an unctuous, smiling glad-hander trying to sell hate as if it is pancakes. He’s a slimy, smarmy, sneering snake of a man, a slithering sibilant walking among us with little humanity in his smirking skull. But hey, watch and learn.

I only made it a third of the way through; I applaude Ramos’ persistence. But I have to address a few of Taylor’s assumptions.

Homogeneous countries have less violence. That’s a weird claim, because even if it were true, I’d want to know why. He’s going to constantly harp on the idea that Mexico is homogenous, just to get a dig in at Ramos, but the thing is that Mexico’s violent crime rate is higher than that of the more ethnically diverse USA. A good part of that is the drug war that the US has fostered. Maybe it’s not race, or conflicts between races, that cause the major problems?

I’d also like to point out that the US has more right-wing terrorism — that the people we ought to fear are not our Hispanic neighbors, but the people who argue that we need to provoke violence with our Hispanic neighbors. People like Jared Taylor. The real problem isn’t diversity, but the minority who so hate others with different skin color that they think oppression, discrimination, and forcible ejection are calm, reasonable, rational responses.

Mexico is just as racist as we are. He tries hard to bait Ramos by claiming that he just wants the US to be like Mexico, which he tries to pretend is some kind of uniform brown skin tone with no racial differences. But that’s not true! Mexican internal race relations are complex — there are rankings based on skin color, and different attitudes towards people who look more “Indian” vs. “Spanish”. I don’t know if there are people like Taylor who would argue for the superiority of the population who look more European (there probably are, given human nature), but at least I’m unaware of any prominent figures arguing for expulsion of all mestizos. If there is less conflict, it seems to me it has to be because people are more aware the deep history and obvious diversity of the Mexican people, making a simple binary distinction that demonizes one group harder to do. The US has a long history of treating anyone with “one drop” of black heritage as inferior. We’ve taken a range and turned it into a black and white distinction.

“Us” and “Them”. Taylor often claims he just wants to make his country safe for “us” against the invading hordes of “them”, those immigrants. He mentions that his family came over to North America from England in the 18th century — hey, so did my paternal line! But here’s the deal: his “us” includes people with Northern European ancestry (like me!), but no one else. I just have to say that I feel no intellectual kinship with Jared Taylor. I do not want to be part of his “us”. Skin color is nothing but a granfalloon, and to automatically assume that people with a similar genetic lineage are closer to you than someone with shared ideals is a mistake. He is part of a “them” to me — the racist club that excludes others. I am part of an egalitarian club that is inclusive and open to everyone with similar ideals. Jared Taylor would probably call me a “race traitor” because I can find common cause with my fellow Americans without worrying about what color skin they have, or what language they spoke while growing up.

Diversity makes us weaker. Pure madness. I’m looking at the scientific enterprise in America, and here’s a curious fact for you: of the 6 American Nobelists in 2016, every single one of them was an immigrant. Stop by an “American” research lab sometime, and you’ll find it is well-stocked with people from all kinds of exotic places — often only the PI was born in this country, while all the grad students and post-docs and technicians are British, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Malaysian, Nigerian, Indian. And quite often the PI isn’t American-born, either. Science is international. It becomes strongest when we don’t impose artificial barriers of race.

I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of Michio Kaku, but here’s an antidote to Jared Taylor, and it’s something on which Kaku and I agree 100%. Diversity has been one of the strongest tools we have in building the American scientific enterprise. We have grown by being attractive to people all around the world, gathering together new ideas, combining them in novel arrangements, and taking advantage of the brightest brains, which, it turns out, are all the same color.

What scares me is that the American public school system is doing such a poor job of educating students — guaranteed to get worse as long as we consider people like Betsy DeVos to be tenable candidates for running it — and at the same time we are now driving away the intelligent people who would otherwise be happy to come here and learn and teach. I refuse to be grouped with an “us” that so ignorantly insists on a racist delusion that is entirely destructive to a reality that has benefited us so much over the decades.

When the Jared Taylors of the USA destroy an environment that has formed me and led to new ideas and new strengths, I won’t identify with it anymore. I’ll find a new “us”. Canada is looking more like my people than the theocratic, racist cult that’s taking over here.


  1. starfleetdude says

    What scares me is that the American public school system is doing such a poor job of educating students

    As the cool kids say these days, link?

  2. Becca Stareyes says

    Re: “us” and “them”. I’m an American of mostly Irish descent. When my mother’s ancestors came over here, they were decidedly ‘them’: the Irish might be pale skinned and English-speaking*, but they had the wrong kind of religion and they probably ate weird things.

    But successive waves of immigrants came, and Irish-Americans seemed more and more acceptable by comparison, and assimilated into the rest of white American culture, so became part of ‘us’. (I still get that little feeling of irony when I see Catholics not defending religious freedom: you all do know that ‘well, we meant only the right religions’ was first used against you?)

    It is important for me to remember that. ‘Us’ and ‘them are not immutable categories, and anyone who plays the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ game should watch out.

    * Albeit because England occupied Ireland so long that English became a useful language to have.

  3. cartomancer says

    One has to wonder at a version of history that sees diversity as a disadvantage. Pretty much without exception the great cultural flowerings and ferments of the world have been facilitated by cultural exchange, diversity and mixing.

    I’ll start with what I’m most familiar with. The Homeric epics are products of cultural mixing – the language they are written in is a synthetic art-language combining dialect forms from across the Greek world. The characters have roots in ancient near-eastern culture. The alphabet the epics were preserved in came from the Phoenicians.

    The mixing of Greek and Middle-eastern cultures in the Hellenistic world gave rise to great art (of which the Graeco-Buddhist sculptures of Pakistan are just one example), Alexandrine science, possibly even the traditions of sculpture that influenced China’s Terracotta Army.

    The secret of the Roman Empire’s success was its ability to incorporate diverse peoples and extend its citizenship. Many of the later Emperors were foreigners, particularly the “good” Emperors of the second century. Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius were from Spain. Diocletian from Croatia. Philip the Arab was from Syria.

    The “Renaissance of the Twelfth Century” was sparked by contact between the Latin, Arabic and Greek-speaking worlds. Its most productive centres of learning were places like Cordoba and Sicily, where cultures and languages mixed freely. Greek, Arabic and Jewish intellectuals revolutionised European learning, paving the way for the Quattrocento Renaissance and creating the University as we know it. Which has always been an international institution – the very word “nation” in our modern sense comes from the collegiate societies of medieval universities that supposedly represented the interests of students of foreign origin.

    And so on…

  4. cartomancer says

    Indian cultural influence in Tang China too, whence Buddhism came to the lands of the Chinese Empire. The Tang dynasty is often thought of as the high water mark of classical Chinese culture. This is not unrelated.

  5. says

    @cartomancer, #5

    One has to wonder at a version of history that sees diversity as a disadvantage.

    I’m guessing those guys read Gobineau, H.S. Chamberlain and/or Spengler or any of their myriad of epigons. Particularly Spengler is still very popular amongst the New Right, which these assholes descend from.

    Obviously none of them reads any more recent academic research on the history of the Roman Empire, or indeed any Empire (Although I guess you could point me to old research on the Roman Empire that has already mentioned all this). The Habsburg and Ottoman Empires are two more recent examples of how they thrived on cultural diversity and were very adept at managing it.

  6. cartomancer says

    Though, as PZ alludes to, this has nothing to do with genetic diversity. This is about diversity of cultures and ideas. Genetic diversity is neither here nor there when it comes to cultural achievement.

  7. says

    The way he pronounces “hhhwhite” alone runs shivers down my spine. I want to add something else to his argument that more diverse societies have a higher rate of violence. Well, that’s precisely because of assholes like him!

    I mean, he mentions “Africa” as a place of more violence because of more diversity, but most ethnic violence in African countries has its roots in relatively recent political mobilisation that introduced the categories it uses to promote violence in the first place. Thus, it’s precisely the other way round: he’s the one trying to make people see difference, then tell them that’s a bad thing to make them violent. Then he acts as if he was only the messenger.


  8. secondtofirstworld says

    The way you described a desire in the last paragraph is exactly one of the reasons I migrated. I’ve seen our Betsy DeVos, and how a centralized and nationalized approach failed, and how teachers started to rebel, and how system proved ineffective year after year in PISA tests.

    During this current tenure, they lost the super majority (and have to rely on the far right for votes to keep it going), and the secretary of education got her position halved, sharing it with a like minded Christian Democrat.

    Yet, there’s one effective antidote for bigotry that I know: learning languages. It seems banal on the surface, but actually different languages require different internal systems on how they operate, necessitating a change in how one thinks, forcing an opening into not just a language, but the different cultures it represents. Taylor ignores that, because he only speaks and understands English, and is only open to information that fits into his narrative.

    The biggest difference is however, that my culture has only democracy for less than 30 years, yours is 240 years old without any dictatorships. The potential is there to defend these values in the various ways various cultures know how to do, an actual diversity.

  9. cartomancer says

    Bernardo Soares, #7

    Although he was, by inclination and training, a legal and constitutional historian, you can find a fair bit of praise for Roman cultural diversity in Theodor Mommsen’s seminal History of Rome (and, especially, his later work on the Provinces).

  10. cartomancer says

    Bernardo Soares, #11

    No, it wasn’t. It was aimed at forestalling any possible misinterpretation that may arise from what I said earlier.

  11. raven says

    Homogeneous countries have less violence. That’s a weird claim, because even if it were true, I’d want to know why.

    There are hardly any homogeneous countries in the world.

    The UK? Celtic Scots, Celtic Welsh, Celtic Northern Irish, English, Muslims, Indians, assorted Europeans, Asians.
    Israel? Ashkenazi, Sephardics, Middle Eastern Jews, Palestinians, xians, Jews, Muslims, secular Jews, Ultra Orthodox Jews and everything in between.
    Korea? I seem to remember North and South Korea fought a war and don’t seem to get along too well.

    He’s going to constantly harp on the idea that Mexico is homogenous,

    LOL. Mexico is anything but homogeneous.
    I’ve met Mexican Mayan and Mixtec Indians who spoke less Spanish than I did.
    Various tribes of Indians. Mestizos. European whites. Blacks. A million Americans live in Mexico. A lot of Central Americans have migrated into Mexico.

  12. raven says

    Diversity makes us weaker.

    It’s the opposite.
    The Roman Empire was mentioned above in this thread.
    They had everything from Swedish mercenaries to African Blacks. Their secret was to conquer and assimilate everyone.

    Hybrid vigor. Basically, outbreeding is good, inbreeding is bad.

  13. peptron says

    On the plus side : in the last days there has been a suddent surge in Iranian admitions in Quebec universities, some of the best researchers in the world. And one of them is working on international food security. They say that nothing good can come out of Trump. Well, he sends us the best profesionnals and sientists that America can offer. It really helps us as we don’t need to advertise as much anymore.

  14. magistramarla says

    Raven @ 16 & 17
    My absolutely gorgeous daughter-in-law is from Mexico. Her background is Italian and Mayan on one side and Spanish and Aztec on the other. Her wonderfully diverse background combined with my son’s wonderfully diverse background (Cherokee, Scottish, English, Irish, German) has produced a bright and extremely handsome little boy – my grandson. I hope that they have a little girl at some point – she will be beautiful.
    This brings me to another point that you made – hybrid vigor. My husband holds a biology degree, along with several other science degrees. He has mentioned hybrid vigor for years, and he always encouraged our children to befriend and date people from diverse backgrounds.Our son certainly took heed of his father’s encouragement.

  15. unclefrogy says

    thank you for not making it a requirement that we listen to that interview I have always dislike that kind of attitude and my tolerance to it that has gotten worse as I have aged. I do find their attempt to rationalize their hate kind of pathetic. The holes and contradictions are not very hard to find. They are so selective that it is impossible follow them and find their reflection in any reality you just have to forgo any questions and take it on faith

    Though I have been educated by the catholic church I, all praise to the nameless, have not received the “gift of faith” so their arguments do not convince.

    uncle frogy

  16. says

    “When you’ve got everything exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with people like you?”

    Move the goalposts until they’ve got a new group of people who aren’t “like them,” of course. If they were to ever succeed in eliminating or enslaving every non-white on the planet, they’d just start discriminating between the various “white” races – Northern vs Southern European descent, etc.

  17. bargearse says

    Homogeneous countries have less violence

    But we always find new ways to separate people into distinct groups and commit violence on each other, even in the sort of places this clown would consider homogeneous. As an example I defy pretty much any non-Rwandan to be able to explain the difference between a Hutu & Tutsi yet they still killed each other in the thousands.

  18. lee101 says

    PZ: “I’ll find a new “us”. Canada is looking more like my people than the theocratic, racist cult that’s taking over here.”

    I understand and empathize with the thought of leaving what the US is rapidly sinking into for a more civilized place like Canada. At the same time, I greatly fear the prospect of all the good people, those who can, leaving. I’d like to believe that, like Churchill said, for the good people of this country willing to oppose tyranny and take a stand for truth, “this was their finest hour”. I’d like to believe Japanese admiral Yamamoto’s comment about the attack on Pearl Harbor: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

    I’d like to believe these things. I also know the difference between desire and truth. Whatever you do and wherever you go, PZ, thank you for all you’ve done.

  19. secondtofirstworld says

    @Sarah A #22:

    There was an ongoing debate last year, whether the fallout of the 1956 Revolution can be viewed as a similar refugee crisis to the one, that is currently happening in Europe. The local government, which is very pro-Trump and pro-Putin said that it can’t because those were different circumstances, and the people did not differ much from those who chose to receive them… which is an outright lie.

    The current legal discussion about the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 and its revision in 1965 happened exactly because of white refugees fleeing communism. The first iteration of the law was in sync with containment, namely that in practice turn away all applicants, and the 1965 revision happened in anticipation on how immigrants from regimes can be contained to a certain number. After they approved on the ’56 revolution refugees, the number was set at 100 thousand, and it’s the same today. However, the claim these refugees weren’t different is categorically untrue. Even those who agreed with acceptance held the view, they have to be assimilated as quickly as possible, with them forgetting the roots they had, and thus, in effect, become Americans. So the local governments desire to vacate refugee rights, and assimilate those they still let in, isn’t in any way different from what the Eisenhower administration did.

    On the other hand, if you read up on the discrimination of black people on the real estate market, you may find, that they had similar restrictions on immigrants from Eastern Europe. There was a difference between white and white a century ago. Not that certain politicians here in Western Europe are any better. The guys and gals who now ring the bell on the perceived dangers of Islam are the same, who were against the expansion of the European Union 2 decades ago. Great Britain hasn’t even left the EU yet, but just a few days ago, a man harassed a woman and her child for speaking Polish, ignoring the fact, that Polish people live there since the ’40s. In the eyes of these people we are lesser beings who contribute less to their lifestyle, despite statistics proving the opposite. I don’t view this as a question of if, but when.

    On the bright side, the independent judges and lawyers have attacked such discriminatory steps, so the desired “white paradise” will be far from their reach.

  20. says

    Raven #16:

    LOL. Mexico is anything but homogeneous.
    I’ve met Mexican Mayan and Mixtec Indians who spoke less Spanish than I did.
    Various tribes of Indians. Mestizos. European whites. Blacks. A million Americans live in Mexico. A lot of Central Americans have migrated into Mexico.

    … Chinese. Jews. German Mennonites. 70 separate tribal languages. Spaniards. “Arabes” (as most Middle Easterners are called in Mexico.)

    But then, the old saying applies: “All blacks/Chinese/brown people/Jews/… look alike.”

  21. sirbedevere says

    Diversity, and immigration in particular, provide us with benefits we simply can’t get otherwise. In a department meeting at the first university where I had my first teaching job it was bought up that the mathematics department (not my department) had just received accreditation for a PhD program. And 100% of the applicants were from overseas.

  22. gijoel says

    @22 Kind of rhetorical Sarah. But I absolutely agree with you. People like that need an other to rail against. Someone who doesn’t fit into their narrow categories. Categories that are based on immutable things about yourself such as colour, or heritage. That way they don’t have to make an effort to achieve anything of note.

  23. Meg Thornton says

    When you consider the people who have the best right to use “us” and “them” terminology about immigrants in the USA (and Australia, for that matter) are the indigenous inhabitants, who generally aren’t pale-skinned or of Northern European descent, it becomes crystal clear just how specious such arguments about racial homogeneity are. Particularly when applied by the descendants of immigrants who stole the land they’re living on from the native inhabitants, speaking about keeping the land safe from “illegal immigrants”.

    A theory: the reason conservative racists in the USA and Australia are always so concerned about immigrants is because they’re scared some day someone else will have the same bright idea the British colonisers originally had about annexing the territory currently known as the USA or Australia into their empire… and the British/British-invited descendants of immigrants won’t have a political or moral leg to stand on, because hey, there’s already a precedent!

  24. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    “1860’s the ideal period of history” why am I not surprised he chose That decade. A time of peace and prosperity and so homogeneous. Yuk *spit*

  25. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says


    There are hardly any homogeneous countries in the world.

    *ahem* Japan is extremely homogeneous and racist against Korean immigrants. Very peaceful yet I doubt it is the homogeneity as cause. Still, a single instance cannot justify a generalization.
    Nationalism is what Japan is guilty of. I for one disagree on that approach.

  26. robro says

    I read in an article recently about businesses that foster diversity being more successful. I can’t find that, but here’s a Forbes article from 2014 on the subject. Here’s the Guardian from 2013 on the business value in gender diversity.

    It’s sadly ironic that these men who claim to be interested in promoting American business so undervalue one of its greatest assets.

  27. secondtofirstworld says

    @slithey tove #32:

    The issue is way more complicated, than it being simple nationalism or even ultranationalism, and it doesn’t target just Koreans either. Before the Bretton Woods agreement, there was no country in the world that did not think economic expansion is only possible through conquest and colonization.

    Japan was literally ripped out of feudalism on a fast track to then-contemporary times, but back then (and unfortunately also today) decision makers tend to forget we advance technologically way faster, than we do emotionally, which allows us to face our mistakes. Much like Austria, Japan did not have to face its past, so them it’s completely normal to deny genocide or unlawful human experimentation as something of a legend based on the knowledge, that unlike the Nazis, they had actively tried to destroy existing records of wrongdoing.

    They’re xenophobic, but to a very little extent, their discrimination against Zainichi Koreans is somewhat justified, in that they actively support North Korea. Yet I wouldn’t call them homogeneous as they have found a peaceful way to integrate foreigners without forcefully assimilating them by exporting their culture and customs. Even though political dynasties exist, whose grandparents served in the war or supported it, or worse, profited from it, Japan still is the only country that knows what kind of a devastation one bomb can bring, so the reality of them abolishing Article 7 and rearming themselves is pretty slim, they don’t fight to the death anymore.

    Lastly, the fallout of the end of the Pacific War affected both the surviving victims of the atomic bombs, and the Japanese citizens who were born outside of Japan. The legendary actor, Shinichi Sonny Chiba spoke about it: he was born in Manchuria, and after the war ended, he had to move to a country he has never been to. Since the ones who moved away were mostly poor, the then view of main islander Japanese were that these people are barbaric, uneducated, and not true Japanese. He was bullied and beaten in school, and although he learned to act, he couldn’t land a job until the 1960s. So it wasn’t and still isn’t a simply “we just hate other people attitude”. As long as the Ainu are not recognized fully as aboriginals, and burakumin still exists, discrimination on the internal level won’t go away.

  28. Ogvorbis: A bear of very little brains. says

    Many years ago, I was interviewed for a documentary about immigration in northeastern Pennsylvania. One of the things I stressed was that EVERY group of immigrants to NEPA faced discrimination and accusations of ‘failing to assimilate’. The German farmers who came to NEPA were denigrated as ‘beer-swilling reprobate drunkards’ by the English-descended settlers. The Irish were ‘whisky-drinking Papist sots’ according to the Germans and the English. The Italians were ‘swarthy Mediterranean Papists’ according to the Irish, the English and the Germans. The Polacks, the Hunkies, the Ukes, were all attacked by all the settlers already there.

    Baer, at the time President of the Reading Company, stated, during hearings held in Scranton about the United Mine Workers and the anthracite industry, stated, “They cannot suffer. Why, they don’t even speak English!”

    One of our local representatives in the US Congress made a name for himself trying to make it illegal to have any financial transaction with anyone not in the US legally — effectively outlawing being Hispanic in Hazleton. Congressman Barletta routinely brags about how his great-grandparents were able to avoid US immigration when they came to America. And he sees no irony.

    Catholics were long considered a threat to America — what if they want Catholic prayers in school?!?! There were repeated anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia, New York, and other cities before the Civil War.

    During the Civil War, one of the few areas in the non-Confederate (or Confederate-leaning) US to be placed under martial law was Northeast Pennsylvania. Why? Anthracite was important to the Union war effort and the government was sure that the immigrants were not true Americans and would not support the war effort. They were insufficiently homogenized into American culture and were thus assumed to be the enemy.

    I spoke for about an hour, on camera, and they used about fifteen minutes of my talk.

    And yes, I did point out that people from Central and South America, and the Caribbean, were facing exactly the same discrimination and accusations as the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, of the ones decrying the evil immigrants taking over America. Completely missing that it happened to every single other group.