Extradimensional Cephalopod, Ethics Alarms’ mysterious, erudite, squid-like commenter, offers this fascinating, if puzzling, perspective on the Rachel Dolezal scandal. I think he’s agreeing with my conclusion that this episode exposes the absurdity and corrupting effects of the progressive obsession with race. I don’t know that this was really told to him by a “space alien elementary school teacher,” but it may well have been said by someone who self-identified as one, and if so, what difference, at this point, does it make?
Here is EC’s Comment of the Day on the post, Further Observations On The NAACP’s Self-Made African-American Exec.
It’s time for another Earth history lesson, as told by a space alien elementary school teacher.
Humans are often silly, and the fact that they have inherited a lot of silly words, silly ideas, and silly institutions from silly humans of the past makes it harder for them to realize they are being silly and stop. Everyone involved in this transracial situation seems to have a problem, because they appear to think that the word “black” has any importance, although many people on this site have correctly identified the problem. People inhabit bodies, and there are empirical facts about those bodies. We can use words to describe those facts. The structure of a person’s body at the time they first awaken is involuntary, independent of their choices, and therefore cannot be used to infer anything about their character. Furthermore, people are people, and their preferences and feelings should be taken into account when we figure out how best to treat them with respect. When many people have many similar preferences and feelings, we say they have a “culture.”
Many humans in the past thought that the empirical facts about people’s bodies were inextricably linked with their culture, and to make matters worse, their own cultures called on them to disrespect the cultures of others, probably a memetic holdover from when humans were competing tribes. These past humans used physical appearance as a cue to determine how they should treat others, and they used the same words to describe facts about people’s bodies that they did to describe people’s cultures and feelings, making it harder for people to think of others’ feelings independently from their physiology. Some of these false equivalences became self-fulfilling prophecies, such as when people with Appearance A were shunned by people with Appearance B because Appearance A was associated with danger. Shunned people become desperate, and desperate people become dangerous.
What the humans have been slowly learning is that other than where legitimate logistical issues become relevant, physical form does not have any direct effect on the ethics that apply to a situation. It does have an indirect effect, when physiology affects a person’s culture through the self-fulfilling prophecies imposed by the larger, silly society around them, and a person’s culture does have an effect on how best to treat them ethically and with respect. However, self-fulfilling prophecies can be subverted through effort and the individualization of interaction, also referred to as empathy. Learning the nuances of a specific person’s feelings allows one to better treat them with respect and obviates the need to refer to permanent aspects of their physiology for cues. (Small changes to physiology which indicate emotion are still relevant.) When people are treated as individuals, they can more easily change the way they feel and act.
Some people are uncomfortable with their physical forms in a wide variety of ways, for a wider variety of reasons. It is polite not to aggravate them by raising distressing details unnecessarily, but the details remain until effort is expended to remedy them. Some people, partially overlapping with the first group, want society to treat them differently than how society tends to do so. The problems arise when silly humans package together a collection of preferences and feelings (a “culture”) with a physical form, project the culture onto people with that form, and use the same word for both. Now not only does society think that the way a person should be treated is based on the person’s physiology, but the person doesn’t even know how to ask to be treated differently other than to say, “treat me like I have a different physical form,” which does sound silly, but only because humanity failed to develop the proper words to make the request. In a society without the fixation on physiology as a cultural cue, there would be no objections to a person adopting a cultural role or image that is statistically unusual for their physiology, because cultural images would not be considered refutable facts, or anything that a person could be either saddled with or forbidden from, except based on their own demonstrated character. However, in contemporary human society with the widespread culture-physiology association, sometimes a person’s discomfort with their physical form may influence their desire to be treated differently by society, or vice versa.
The danger in connecting two basic concepts with a single word and failing to have a separate word for each basic concept to clarify the distinction is vividly demonstrated in the short story “Three Worlds Collide” by Eliezer Yudkowsky. In it, one sapient species must stave off overpopulation and historically has done so by devouring their numerous young. This process is so integral to the survival of their species, that “baby-eating” is synonymous with goodness, rightness, and ethics. This conceptual conflation prevented any technology from being developed in order to prevent the painful demise of many sapient beings because it didn’t occur to any member of their species that eating babies might not be “baby-eating.”
In order for humans to stop being silly, they need analysis, which refers to critical thinking, or the differentiation of ideas, as well as synthesis, which refers to imagination, or the blending together of ideas and experiences to create new concepts and paradigms. It wouldn’t hurt for them to be less sloppy with words, either.
And now, a word from a sometimes-helpful, sometimes-dangerous agent of the deconstruction of emotion and the nullification of significance, at a time when its broken clock is right on the dot.
You say that I’m confusing, that I tie your mind in knots.
The reason that you’re dizzy’s I’m untangling your thoughts.
It’s tragically amusing, people think they’ve got such smarts,
Then they try with only “is”s to conclude so many “ought”s!”
–Barren [sic] Blauschwartz, Void Element Demon
6 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: Further Observations On The NAACP’s Self-Made African-American Exec”
“Some of these false equivalences became self-fulfilling prophecies, such as when people with Appearance A were shunned by people with Appearance B because Appearance A was associated with danger. “….except that they’re NOT false equivalencies. Unfortunately, black males, taken as a per-capita statistical average, ARE more dangerous than white males. Where many in the black community go wrong in attempting to normalize relations between the races is defending and excusing the bad apples in their group. This destroys their credibility and polarizes the whites unwilling to pander to bullshit artists, and entrenches the behavior of the bad apples. If you want people to be treated as individuals, start with making them individually accountable for their behavior.
I’m not sure if anything that you said contradicts anything I said. Are you saying that (physically) black males are on average more dangerous because of their physiology, or that (culturally) black males on average possess experiences and values which lead them to become dangerous?
If it’s the former, then you would be asserting that a (by definition) racist statement is empirically true, and if it were true, then that would partially defeat the purpose of the racial equality movement in the first place.
If it’s the latter, then you are merely concurring with my statement about self-fulfilling prophecies: due to historical prejudice, people with a particular appearance have not only inherited economic disadvantages but also have inherited a culture born of oppression and desperation, and that does make them more dangerous on average. This culture must change if any “progress” is to be made, and that requires effort from within and support from without. You’re absolutely right about individual accountability.
It’s reasonable to make educated guesses about people based on their appearance, so long as you continuously give them the chance to prove you wrong. Appearance and culture can be related, and often are, but they are not the same. Bad things happen when people think of Appearance A as having an “if and only if” relationship with Culture Beta.
I’m not entirely sure either. Probably a little of both, and others. I think that you have to be a little dimwitted to swallow the lie that institutional racism is as prevalent as the race-hustlers make it out to be, to interpret every slight as racism, and to believe that this gives you carte blanche to riot, loot, rape, rob, and pillage. Then again, there are plenty of whites who apparently believe this too, so stupidity is obviously an equal-opportunity affliction. Nonetheless, I believe that a massive cultural paradigm shift could rectify this situation, but that, as you stated, it must come from within. Race-peddlers keep sending the message that it’s white America that is responsible for their plight. It isn’t, but more importantly, saying so tells their audience that there’s no point in changing the behavior that keeps them mired in poverty and criminality. Any reasonable person judges others on their individual merit, but blacks must understand that the stereotypes DO have substance. To me, this is a message of hope. If I were black (and there are plenty of blacks who agree), knowing that it’s a matter of perception means that I have the power to change minds with exemplary behavior, and influence others in my group to do the same. This is what makes people like Jackson and Sharpton criminally negligent. They have a platform to send this message to their people, but instead they enrich themselves by keeping a sense of helplessness alive in those they claim to be the champions of. How utterly sick and perverse! Earthlings do lots of things that are bad for them, even when they know it’s bad for them. Let’s take alcoholism as an example. This is a very complicated and tenacious affliction, with a convoluted trail of environmental and physiological origins. None of these causes matter at all to the afflicted individual if he or she wants to extricate themselves from this mess. They don’t matter because the individual is powerless to change them. Needed energy is instead focused on accepting full responsibility for one’s plight. This, and only this, provides a way out.
“… and if it were true, then that would partially defeat the purpose of the racial equality movement in the first place. ”
I believe in equality before the law, NOT equality of outcomes. There are people who misinterpret the proper meaning of equality, and they seem to believe that, because blacks are as a group more economically and socially disadvantaged, it necessarily follows that this is either by design, or due to lower capacity. They have to believe it’s either one or the other. If it’s the former, quotas and affirmative action serve only to breed animosity, followed by genuine attempts to give whites a compensatory advantage (your self-fulfilling prophesy), and if it’s the latter, then they don’t really see them as equals. Why blacks see these smug, condescending lunatics as benefactors, I’ll never understand.
Thanks, Jack. The “space alien elementary school teacher” is just a description of the voice I’m using to articulate the situation, which is admittedly largely based on how I see the matter.
I did my best, but I guess I wasn’t as clear as I intended to be. In retrospect, it was fairly prescient of me to add the lyrics at the end, but I’m still surprised that my breakdown of the situation didn’t resonate with all of the analysis-users here as much as I had intended.
“Many humans in the past thought that the empirical facts about people’s bodies were inextricably linked with their culture, and to make matters worse, their own cultures called on them to disrespect the cultures of others.”
That, and we know now that people will tend to associate with others like them and form “us vs. them” alliances in just about any situation, even if the thing that makes them “alike” is an arbitrary designation invented just for the purpose of a social experiment, and even if the subjects know that they’re in a social experiment.
When I was in Middle School they tried to divide each grade into two teams, (based on homerooms) complete with mascots, in hopes that competition between the groups would inspire better grades. It actually inspired real gang fights, and the whole idea was soon dropped.