What’s really lacking is a willingness to admit that the reason Black kids aren’t getting admitted to top universities without racially discriminatory policies favoring them is that Black kids aren’t being prepared by the primary education system to be successful in top universities.

I mean maybe some “traditional” metrics for admission unfairly overlook some minority students. But grades and SAT scores and basic literacy really do predict college success, and Black students are lagging on these metrics. You can’t fix this by offering a slot at Harvard to an unprepared 17 year old - the damage of lousy education is done by that point. You’re just going to end up with students in over their heads among better prepared students racking up debt (and indeed Black students have much higher college dropout rates and higher average debt).

I can’t find it at the moment, but there was a study of UC outcomes post the 96 amendment that found that basically, the end of RBAA has significantly reduced Black admissions… but hadn’t changed Black graduation much at all. In other words, most of the students who were getting in “because of” RBAA were washing out.

The problem hasn’t been “anti-Black racism in college admissions” for half a century at this point, so explicitly pro-minority discrimination at college admission was never going to be more than a band aid.

Any serious proposal to improve minority outcomes in post-secondary education needs to start at correcting the abysmal performance of minority education at the primary and secondary levels. That’s a much harder but to crack, but the only one that’s going to work.

Expand full comment

If the country really wanted to help Black kids’ education, they would provide additional funding for reading aides, mentors and teachers in grades 1 to 3.

Expand full comment

And even that isn't going to make up for the deficits that they come to school with.

Expand full comment

No, but it will help more than remedial classes in higher ed.

Expand full comment

Yes, the extent to which universities are expected to compensate for lousy K-12 provisions is handwaved away with talk of "equity". It's taken as axiomatic that colleges should have remedial classes, reading centers, etc: rather than asking why these students are so woefully unprepared.

Expand full comment

And that, of course, drives tuiton costs up.

Expand full comment

And of course, keeping kids in remote schools for 12+ months during the pandemic because opening them (even after teachers were vaccinated) was white supremacy, as happened in many deep blue school districts, means that even fewer underrepresented minorities will be prepared to go to top tier universities.

It would be really nice if we could funnel our anti-racist energies into fixing our primary and secondary schools so that they provide a good education to all kids.

Expand full comment

A friend said, upon hearing of school closings for 2 weeks to bend the curve, "No problem".

No problem for his grandkids whose parents both had Ph.Ds.

But as someone who graduated from an inner city school, I knew that even two weeks away from learning would have a profound effect on those whose academics lagged.

It is indeed a form of racism to fail to acknowledge the real issues and deal with them.

Expand full comment

Absolutely, and what got me was how many of those very educated people simply refused to even entertain this possibility. There was just no intellectual humility to be found.

Expand full comment

What a long, strange trip it's been, this reckoning with race these last 60-70 years. I remember when I became aware of RBAA in the early 1980's. I thought in those long ago times it (RBAA) made a lot of sense, even if most of the folks I worked with didn't agree. I'm not so sure it makes sense in 2022.

When someone suggests to me that no...in fact we've made little progress towards a less racist culture, I can't take them seriously....because I was there, all those long years ago.

It's a monster of a problem, complicated, painful, a real struggle, and results a mixed bag. but we're a work in progress, and I still have hopes for us.

I'll close with this: Loudly proclaiming that....if you don't agree with us or my ideas, you're a racist. Or casually claiming that millions of fellow citizens are Fascists!!! isn't helping the cause: It's offensive; it's insulting; and it's obnoxious. It not how to win friends and influence people.

Expand full comment

I never would have imagined even ten years ago that schools would require a statement of fealty to left-wing ideology as a condition of admittance. Worth taking a moment to dwell on how appalling this is.

I wish I could say I'm surprised to see that these ideologues explicitly say they'll resort to one unconstitutional measure after another until the end of time. We should be very clear that there is nothing "liberal" about the succession ideology.

Expand full comment

The statement thing is absolutely dystopian.

In the GDR, doctoral students had to hand in an essay showing that they had vastly expanded their knowledge of Marxism-Leninism during their time as graduate students - otherwise their doctoral thesis wouldn't be accepted.

I can't see how the current thing is any different.

Expand full comment

It is not different as far as I can see. Same coercive, totalitarian Marxist approach to exercising power.

Expand full comment

Your readers (I speak for all) are unlikely to complain about you dedicating a post to a single article when what you're really doing is illustrating a widespread trend using the power of example.

I will grant Derrick Bell et al. the reality that people do tend to react with instinctive fear or suspicion toward any sort of "other," and our inherent compulsion to form tribes makes skin color a very easy way to draw these shitty but, in survival terms, once-necessary or at least once-sometimes-helpful lines.

But to go from that premise to "The United States is terminally racist" isn't only cynical beyond measure, it's basically somewhere between carte blanche to behave like a racist and outright exhortations to do so. I find it impossible to believe that anyone using words like "Whiteness" as an explicit slur is expecting comity from the people they see as their political or other adversaries.

Meanwhile, poor black people have been treated to the sight of rich white people forking over untold millions of dollars to rich white grifters like Robin DiAngelo and Tema Okun rather than giving that money to people who could use it. If I were in their shoes, I'd be pissed off and inclined to think, "Well, if they're that fake about it, fuck it, I'll just grift away myself."

The resentment and insincerity driving all of this couldn't be more obvious, yet we're still in a "Don't be the bad person in the room by making sense" phase,

Expand full comment
Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

Racism is Forever aka Everything is Oppression is one of the foundational dogmas of leftist academia (along w the Blank Slate). Of course the professional activist class will scream and scheme and fling promiscuous bigotry accusations at half the country because the end of AA is a direct assault on their perpetual project to rule us all as a vanguard class of philosopher-kings aka racial commissars. Leftist academia is a direct outgrowth of the Crit Theory will-to-power which was best exemplified by Herbert Marcuse and his desire to "liberate" society through heavy doses of "critical consciousness"--which is why his descendants can only suggest repeated applications of indoctrination as the solution to every setback. Theirs is a theological project, not empirical or scholarly, and certainly not with the best interests of poor black children in mind.

Expand full comment

LOL Marcuse tried to synthesize Freud and Marx, not Nietzsche and Marx! As Brian Leiter has pointed out, Marcuse was <a href="https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2021/02/condescenion-from-below-watch-matt-taibbi-edition.html">basically a Millian</a>>

Here is an interview with Marcuse from 1978:


Expand full comment

i never said marcuse tried to synthesize nietzsche, i just used the term "will to power" is not the same thing. i know all about his silly fantasy to turn homo sapiens into bonobos so we cd all fuck our way to "liberation" which intersected w reality as little as any other marxist fantasy does.

and why wd i care that brian leiter is protecting his academic turf? i dont need a prof to tell me what an aspiring totalitarian sounds like.

we can disagree as many people do about marcuse, but he is certainly History's least grateful refugee, having been rescued from the Nazis only to denounce his host country.

his entire career was just sour grapes after his beloved marxist religion turned into one giant bacchanal of mass murder.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment


Expand full comment

I think when U of Michigan talks about people lacking "competitive academic qualifications" it most likely comes down to the fundamentals: reading, writing, and math. (Not coincidentally, subjects that the SAT and ACT focus on.) Not how many niche electives you took, even if they are APs.

So, I would say solutions to this problem need to focus on improving the education of Black and Hispanic/Latino students in those fundamentals, starting as early as possible. Talking about high school ethnic studies requirements in this context is just laughable. (Even if you can make a decent case for such courses on other principles.)

That kind of improvement, nationwide, is a Herculean task, and I don't know the best way to accomplish it. But it's still the task that needs focusing on.

Expand full comment

My experience: I am really only close with Pacific Islander and Native American communities (which I say for the sake of everyone reading this since all the ones I know call themselves Indian except for twitter).

The policies designed to help are almost always anti productive and prevent normal natural development sequences taking place inside the community itself. It’s like if someone saw an oyster trying to make a pearl and said “just think of how good a pearl would be made if I removed this irritant” not realizing the irritant is what makes the pearl.

You can’t jump from A to Z without hitting the letters from B to Y along the way or you end up building something that won’t sustain itself.

When rich white people come in to save the day it’s now not just a question of if you should do something to make more money and live a better life (and even that is fraught) it’s like you’re bending the knee and saying someone is better than you and makes the whole situation slightly toxic because now you feel like you were handed something you earned. I won’t a relatively prestigious scholarship and I always felt like I hadn’t earned it because I had a deep suspicion they had given it to me because they needed someone who wasn’t Asian and I was the smartest kid that year in our white trash congressional district. It made me feel like a fraud. Native Americans especially are living in a world where from their perspective, it’s like if a small population of Jews were walking around a world where Hitler won and now they have to live spending money with swastikas on it and all the Germans want to know why they wont send their kids to the premiere universities because at least they say they are upset about the whole thing now. It’s not quite the same thing but to the Navajo I know it might as well be. Participating in the system to say the history of the system was okay. Thats the really hard thing to disentangle. I saw a Navajo mother teaching her teenage daughter to hitch hike between drilling rigs to prostitute herself because at least that wasn’t giving yourself over to a system that said your enemy was right to destroy you. My driller was Navajo and gave her a ride and tried to talk them into just going home. I think he almost had them convinced until I opened my dumb mouth to offer to just give them some of my money for just going home. It was freezing cold and I’d given the daughter my coat and the mom made her hand it back to me.

The genetics argument just doesn’t make sense when you consider things like how being Mormon makes you smarter or how white people were doing all the same things people point to as problems in other communities on a time scale that doesn’t allow all white people to share a common ancestor for a sudden superior intelligence trait. It’s that the societal super structure these things track that have the causal relationships are so close to genetics that the parts that show it can’t be genetic seem like noise. I felt the slightest twinge of feeling like I had to betray my culture to get a degree and I can’t imagine what it’s like for others.

My brother is visibly not just a white guy and he caught so much shit from all his cousins for being good with computers. I was told I was gay for liking math and I am a white guy. There are certain communities and where it’s a betrayal to perform well in education and I even sort of get why. I’m not going to become part of a system of fake experts that does things like show up and shut down entire industries on science that turns out to be wrong decades later.

The whole thing is a mess, but the fundamental problem from what I’ve seen is: how do you have educational opportunities present that give people the ability to succeed without it feeling like a betrayal or a threat to the community.

Expand full comment

The debate over affirmative action is red herring. The education achievement gap starting in elementary school is the bigger problem that decades of research and billions of dollars has failed to solve. This isn’t because people don’t know what causes the problem it’s because policymaking is captured by vested interest especially teachers unions and now universities. Reality is that most public universities outside the state flagships are open enrollment, nonselective places where you can easily pursue a decent education as long as you graduated high school with a C average. And since the market is so bad for academic jobs you may even end up with a professor who attended an Ivy League university because this is the only job they could get.! When universities like that lack diversity it’s not the admissions, it’s the demand. Universities need to be asking themselves why so many students are not interested in the product that they offer, and why so many of those students are men from working class backgrounds.

Expand full comment

Not sure I'll ever understand why the path to a more inclusive tolerant society is race reification.

Expand full comment

Even more baffling to me is professing to simultaneously hold the beliefs that (1) race has no biological reality and is purely socially constructed and (2) teaching people to be color-blind is laughably wrong to the point of being harmful. Because it certainly seems like if #1 is true, then the way to deal with racial discrimination is #2, just like we've for all practical purposes wiped out discrimination based on illegitimacy, left-handedness, astrological signs, etc. entirely through society adopting a "blindness" frame on those issues.

Expand full comment

The biological reality of race has been demonstrated many times. However, since it is not a PC idea, the science just gets ignored. A few useful data points.

See “Genetic Structure, Self-Identified Race/Ethnicity, and Confounding in Case-Control Association Studies” (NCBI/PMC). Risch was able identify race with 99.86% accuracy. Not bad for something that doesn’t exist. Note that Risch did not look skin color genes at all. Quote

“We have analyzed genetic data for 326 microsatellite markers that were typed uniformly in a large multiethnic population-based sample of individuals as part of a study of the genetics of hypertension (Family Blood Pressure Program). Subjects identified themselves as belonging to one of four major racial/ethnic groups (white, African American, East Asian, and Hispanic) and were recruited from 15 different geographic locales within the United States and Taiwan. Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population. Implications of this genetic structure for case-control association studies are discussed.”

Take a look at “The Inconvenient Science of Racial DNA Profiling”. A scientist by the name of Tony Frudakis was able to identify the race of a serial killer in a police investigation in Louisiana. The police in Louisiana were looking for a white male killer based on (mis)information received early in the case. They were wrong. Frudakis examined DNA samples collected in the investigation and told the police that the killer was probably 85% Black and 15% Native American. Based on this new information the police starting examining new suspects and found the actual killer (who matched Frudakis’s description rather well). Tony Frudakis found that race could be determined from genes with 100% accuracy. Not bad for something that doesn’t exist.

Take a look at “How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of 'Race'” by David Reich in the NYT. If race didn’t exist it would not be trivial to identify race from genes. But it is. Quotes

“Groundbreaking advances in DNA sequencing technology have been made over the last two decades. These advances enable us to measure with exquisite accuracy what fraction of an individual’s genetic ancestry traces back to, say, West Africa 500 years ago — before the mixing in the Americas of the West African and European gene pools that were almost completely isolated for the last 70,000 years. With the help of these tools, we are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.”


“Recent research on the human genome challenges the basic assumption that human races have no biological basis. In this article, we provide a theoretical synthesis that accepts the existence of genetic clusters consistent with certain racial classifications as well as the validity of the genomic research that has identified the clusters, without diminishing the social character of their context, meaning, production, or consequences.”

It turns of the Razib Kahn has commented on this. See ““To classify humanity is not that hard””. Quote

“The idea that human phylogeny is impossible is in the air, I have heard it from many intelligent people. I have no idea why people would be skeptical of it, the way it is presented by many scholars makes the implication clear that phylogeny is impossible, that differences are trivial. Both these are false impressions. I do not believe that the fact that mixed-race people’s real problems obtaining organs with the appropriate tissue match is a trivial affair. Human genetic differences have plenty of concrete impacts which are not socially constructed.”

A number of companies (23andMe, Ancestry.com, etc.) can easily identify the ancestors of anyone using a tiny DNA sample. If race had no biologial basis, this would be impossible. But, of course, it is very possible.

It turns out that Stephen Hsu has commented on this. See “Metric on the space of genomes and the scientific basis for race”. Quote

“Now plot the genome of each human as a point on our lattice. Not surprisingly, there are readily identifiable clusters of points, corresponding to traditional continental ethnic groups: Europeans, Africans, Asians, Native Americans, etc. (See, for example, Risch et al., Am. J. Hum. Genet. 76:268–275, 2005.) Of course, we can get into endless arguments about how we define European or Asian, and of course there is substructure within the clusters, but it is rather obvious that there are identifiable groupings, and as the Risch study shows, they correspond very well to self-identified notions of race.”

Well over two hundred years ago, Blumenbach found that he could classify skulls by race. It sad but true, that our understanding of our own species has declined (in some respects), since then.

There is actually a funny version of this. Quote

“Forensic anthropology and the concept of race: if races don't exist, why are forensic anthropologists so good at identifying them?”

Why indeed. If race had no biological significance, then it would be impossible to determine race from skeletons. But, of course, it frequently is.

Expand full comment

I have some knowledge about Yale’s commitment to New Haven’s education

In a recent email to the President of Yale, I asked him how many of Yale’s professional class sent their kids to Hillhouse High.

Hillhouse is an underperforming (which is being generous) public high school in New Haven.

Peter sent back a nice email but did not respond to the question

That Yales’s professors and administrators send money to New Haven schools, sit on committees, and send in students volunteer is nice but when an actual commitment is in front of them- sending THEIR kids to Hillhouse- well, that’s a bridge way too far.

Expand full comment

"[the lack of qualified minority candidates] reflect, in part, the fact that certain groups have gotten a raw deal as a result of the nation’s very racist past and need more help to catch up with everyone else. It has nothing to do with being black per se — certain recent black immigrant groups are flourishing (those from Nigeria and Ghana in particular), doing better than many non-black ethnic groups, in part because they simply aren’t lugging this baggage around. It’s the subgroups that have been locked in intergenerational cycles of poverty that are the ones most likely to be shut out of higher education."

This talk of "baggage" is hogwash. Nigerian immigrants in particular *were* subject to absolutely horrendous brutality, and within living memory, not 150 years ago; the vast majority of Nigerian immigrants during the 20th century came between 1960 and 2000 as a result of horrific religious and ethnic persecution in Nigeria under various military governments. A significant chunk were Igbo people fleeing the aftermath of the Biafra war, which was very nearly genocidal. If anyone should have "cultural baggage" its people fleeing from genocide, right? And yet somehow the results don't bear that out.

No, African Americans have had every prestigious university desperately begging for more recruits for, conservatively, 40 years. Everything with cultural cachet in this country has been begging for ambitious, capable, hungry African-American people to step up for more than a generation. Philanthropies have poured millions of dollars per year into outreach, uplift, investment, opportunity, enrichment, and encouragement, to no serious effect. Government policy has set up ethnic spoils in significant quantities for them, in ways which in other circumstances would almost certainly draw Civil Rights lawsuits. These "cycles of intergenerational poverty" haven't been the result of white peoples' boots for generations; the only thing keeping black people down in the U.S. today is themselves.

Expand full comment

Emigrants tend to be selected from the section of the population in a country with the most resources (and therefore education) and obviously the most willingness to go and try something new. So you do have to be careful assuming too much from the comparison, because obviously the most educated and talented black Americans are also very accomplished, and if you just sliced those off you might see that same effect.

Expand full comment

It's amazing to me the degree to which Americans....I mean those fully socialized in the US.....of a liberal/progressive mindset think that people from Africa have been practically spared a hideous history.

That Africans enslaved Africans and sold them as slaves for profit....not just the Atlantic slave trade, but the much older one to the Middle East is somehow forgotten, as is the deep tribal hatreds and animosity very much still around.

And let's not even mention......the "C" word......colonialism

Expand full comment

I think that the point of the measures proposed by the Inside Higher Ed piece is that Black kids will be funneled into AP classes on African American Studies, so that even if they don't have other AP classes, this will make them AP students, and recognizable as Black to the admissions office--at least when this strategy is combined with an admissions essay that addresses racial justice, which really means revealing one's racial identity in the essay, so that the admissions office will see that this is a Black student. Admissions will then be able to give special weight to students who have done well in AP African American Studies and who have written especially well about racial justice, with the idea being that these will be the Black students (even if the essay is badly written, the fact that the author is Black will far outweigh this). And so affirmative action can continue even after it's been ruled unconstitutional.

Expand full comment

A call for honest-to-God struggle sessions verbatim! At least the Groups and their favored representatives tell me what they are.

Expand full comment

Inside Higher Ed is even more vapid than the Chronicle of Higher Education. Has been for at least a decade.

Expand full comment

I read Inside Higher Ed when I want reassurance that I was lucky to get out of academia.

Expand full comment

> There’s an ingrained breezy entitlement in some liberal intellectual spaces that mucks everything up. If people don’t agree with our preferred racial justice policies, it’s because they’re racist. Okay, whatever, they’re racist — what are you going to do about it? Ummmm, more ethnic studies? Wait, so your argument is that affirmative action is on its deathbed because society is too racist, but you think ethnic studies is part of the answer instead?

Well, the strategy seems to be, "if we can convince people at large that our plan is correct (via courses on, for example, racial justice" and get those people into positions of power, down the line there will be powerful people in institutions who will be friendly to more important reforms, as well as, hopefully, assisting the small number of black and latino students who will be their classmates and students. (You would be surprised to see how horrifically racist many white students can be to black and latino students, and over time it can be sufficiently demoralizing to lead to people dropping out. I'm not talking microaggressions, I'm talking just straight-up racism. Some unpleasant examples can be found in the book "Why are all the black kids sitting together at the cafeteria".)

And to a certain extent, it's... working? Several years ago, you would not have seen any mainstream publication talking about, as you point out, unpopular ideas like privilege, prison abolition, critical race theory, etc. and now it's everywhere. The gamble/hope is that by getting the message out there, you'll be able to change these popularity numbers. In short, the belief is, "our policies are unpopular because they are misunderstood; we need to do a better job explaining them and their consequences, and then people will agree."

Unfortunately for them, there is a certain contingent among this class that seems to view the task of explaining policies to average voters with a certain amount of condescension. It's not enough to bask in your own moral superiority - if you genuinely believe that people will change their minds once you explain to them concepts like structural racism, then you have to walk them through all their questions and concerns, even when they seem silly, even when it's a ton of work and you have to find all the data and go through each part of the argument. You have to give them specific examples and policy proposals (which can be found in books like "The New Jim Crow" and "The Whiteness of Wealth"). As you rightly point out, the fact that many African Americans are not convinced of the appropriateness of affirmative action means that the burden is on the pro-AA people to explain why they believe it's important and not unfair.

There's something fascinating in how these "liberal intellectual spaces," as you call them, have gotten so far in spreading their message, and nevertheless end up kneecapped by many of their own cultural norms.

Expand full comment

“ And to a certain extent, it's... working? Several years ago, you would not have seen any mainstream publication talking about, as you point out, unpopular ideas like privilege, prison abolition, critical race theory, etc. and now it's everywhere”

But RBAA has been a live issue of debate since the 90s, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any more popular. It hasn’t totally lost at the Supreme Court level, but it’s been somewhat backed into a corner, and it’s a consistent loser at the ballot box.

Expand full comment
Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

Fair point about the loss of support, but now I'm curious: did RBAA lose support in the 90s compared to the 60s-70s? And if so, what happened? I don't have any data on what the general populace believed, but at least legally the argument was that RBAA was acceptable for a limited time to 'make up' for the effects of racism.

In any case, the overall point was more that the "liberal intellectual spaces" have succeeded in introducing many of their ideas and language to a broader and younger audience, and members of that audience are motivated to 'evangelize' and enact change. It's possible they will succeed in changing the conversation in the future, even if right now they are losing the GP.

Expand full comment

Gratz v Bollinger and Grutter v Bollinger in 2003 are generally regarded as the the inflection point that determined that AA to “make up for” historical racism was unconstitutional, but AA to achieve the same bad of “diversity” was allowable so long as it was evaluated on an individual basis.

And 96 is when the California amendment passed.

I’d say the decade from 95 to 05 was pretty critical for AA starting to lose ground (or maybe not “become less popular” so much as “become more widely known and therefore people started agitating against it”).

Expand full comment

I would like to point out that this "younger audience" has to be one-a *the* most delusional generations that's ever been conceived. So it figures.

Expand full comment

I went to college- at University of Michigan in the 80's, and RBAA was not widely popular at the time.

Expand full comment

I just wanted to appreciate this comment and note my own mixed feelings on things like RBAA. I don’t think RBAA is all that unfair, I just think it’s both ineffective and unpopular, and I think the lack of popularity is due to people understanding quite well how and why it fails to work (at least today). It stigmatizes black college grads, it puts kids in situations they’re not prepared for, and I think everyone (black, white, whatever) can see that the problem is far upstream of college.

But my meh feelings on RBAA and worse for stuff like “abolish the police” don’t mean I don’t understand the strength of structural racism. I don’t think it’s the only factor, although the history of racism in America is integral to the history of many of the cultural problems holding back black progress today. That doesn’t make for an easy solution, any more than you could deal with the US Mafia by pointing to its roots in poverty and violent trauma in Sicily. At some point people have to change their behavior. But it’s useless to pretend that the history didn’t happen, too.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

> (walk me through structural racism? Really?)

Why is this idea so strange to you? Many people, including black and hispanic people, don't find the idea of "racism without explicit prejudice" intuitive in the slightest. Not least because it relies on an understanding of law and policy that requires more advanced education. The notion that structural racism exists is necessary to even begin discussing any of the other downstream effects of critical race theory. There's a reason that people cite book-length texts like "The New Jim Crow" to explain concepts like "even if you are not putting race in the laws, the laws can still unfairly affect black and hispanic people."

> The unwashed masses are not too stupid to understand the message spread by liberal intellectuals; it's the liberal intellectuals who are too stupid to understand how their brilliant ideas harm the poor - especially poor black & Hispanic families.

There are liberal intellectuals from poor black and Hispanic families. I'm Hispanic myself. I'm an immigrant who grew up in a majority-Hispanic-immigrant community, and I know a fair amount of people from poor communities who did well in school and on tests and got to go to these elite institutions. The low-income black/Hispanic people I know who went didn't find critical race theory stupid. In fact, many of them found it enlightening and continue to work in that framework.

That's not to say that every poor black or Hispanic student, if given the opportunity to go to an elite college and study these topics, would be convinced. But surely if we say "liberal intellectuals like these ideas, unlike poor black and Hispanic families," it's worth pointing out that very few (but not zero) liberal intellectuals come from these backgrounds due to poverty, racism, opportunity cost of studying humanities/social science contra something like medicine. But nevertheless, many advocates for critical race theory *are* black or Hispanic *and* from low-income communities. They're not likely to be the most famous ones, because of challenges within academia that make it harder for the work of poor scholars to be published and noticed and promoted. But the "poor black/Hispanic people vs liberal intellectual" divide is a false dilemma - there are poor black and Hispanic intellectuals who find these theories convincing.

And also...

> The unwashed masses are not too stupid to understand the message spread by liberal intellectuals;

Who said anything about 'stupid'? Here is an example: I don't understand linear algebra. Is it because I'm too stupid to understand it? Or is it because I never took a class like that in high school or college, and now as an adult, learning it on my own requires an immense investment of time that I simply don't have?

Many of the ideas of critical race theory require a lot of time to set up and explain. Most people, especially working people, will not really have the time to go through this on their own. Unless you got to learn this through college or you're extremely motivated to learn about the subject, you won't have the time or energy to do the readings. It has nothing to do with stupidity and everything to do with time and energy, of which the working class has precious little.

Some people are trying to make ideas behind critical race theory more accessible using metaphors and different language and visualizations. This is similar to those YouTube channels that try to teach concepts like trigonometry and calculus with graph visualizations. You can very successfully get the 'big idea' from these visualizations. But to go beyond (e.g. to debate, understand, implement policy initiatives) the 'big idea' requires more and more time and energy. And this applies to, frankly, any serious policy consideration: substitute anarcho-capitalism, neoliberalism, supply-side economics, socialism, third way politics.

What the 'liberal intellectuals' are doing is trying to create visualizations and metaphors that make concepts that they took several years studying to make them more understandable to people who do not have the time or desire to read a 500 page book on how structural racism works and different theoretical approaches to dismantling it. That's where the "make the concepts more understandable" comes from. (And frankly, that's where Tumblr has done a lot to spread these ideas in a near-viral fashion.) It has nothing to do with stupidity or intelligence, any more than the average working class voter not knowing the ins and outs of anarcho-capitalist theory has to do with stupidity or intelligence.

As for the rest of your post, I agree that the effects of crime on poor minority communities is devastating and severely hampers the ability of people in those communities to accumulate wealth, get an education, and secure a good job for themselves. I did not mention 'defund the police' or my stance on it at any point, so I'm not sure why you're bringing that up.

Expand full comment


"What the 'liberal intellectuals' are doing is trying to create visualizations and metaphors that make concepts that they took several years studying to make them more understandable..."

I think if it takes several years to brainwash somebody into thinking CRT has any basis in reality, then maybe it's not worth the trouble.

Expand full comment

Is studying libertarian philosophy and the economics to support it “brainwashing”? Or is it something that is perhaps more nuanced and complicated than can really be explained in a Vox article? I’m not convinced libertarians are right, but I’ve also never read their foundational texts. I only know a pop version of it. Perhaps I could be persuaded to change my mind to it - or any other position- if I read well-founded arguments in its favor instead of tweets or Editorials.

What are some positions that you think are immediately obvious that don’t require deeper study?

Expand full comment

It is brainwashing these days because it is presented as gospel truth, with dissent not permitted.

Expand full comment

I agree that too many professors, journalists, and activists try to present their beliefs as settled truth. Frankly, I believe this actually hurts them. It gives the impression that they are not actually as secure in their beliefs as they think they are, if they believe that people are so easily swayed that the only way to protect them is via preventing contact with 'bad' ideas.

I first learned about critical race theory ten years ago reading academic blogs run and commented on by adults. I had never heard of the concepts before and found many of them illuminating in explaining things about the world. But because the position was a minority position, it meant that these people had to advocate for their position with people who could not be assumed to know what any of the terms meant. There was a tremendous amount of research, discussion, and even creativity.

Unfortunately, I also saw some very bad conversational norms right from the very beginning. The whole "you can't expect me to educate you" idea was always stupid and self-defeating. I think positionality has some merit to it, but people ended up using it as a way of pulling rank on others ("well, I am a {$OPPRESSED_GROUP}, and you are {$LESSER_OPPRESSION_VALUE}, so you are unequipped to have these conversation").

Once it hit Tumblr and Twitter, as far as I'm concerned, these toxic social norms became locked in and all nuance evaporated. Not least of all because the audience changed from people in their 30s and 40s to teenagers and 20-year-olds. And they succeeded in making it the primary lens through which to view race on Tumblr.

I wish this attitude were different, because I don't believe it is to critical race theory's credit that many of its most devoted believers rarely interact with anyone who doesn't agree with them already. All theories need to evolve and change with the times and with more understanding of the world. Unfortunately, as Singal's blog is testament, they've instead adopted a beleaguered attitude that prevents them from hearing thoughtful critique that isn't already being framed in their language. I find that a crying shame.

Expand full comment

I'm impressed by Your elucidation of the issue.

Unfortunately for You, I've seen too many PhDs who *thought* they knew a lot more than they actually did.

Are You still in academia by any chance?

I think the issue of structural racism isn't obvious, but it would benefit from a lot *less* "study."

Expand full comment

I appreciate this newsletter for Singals' intellectual curiosity and generosity, even to people he doesn't agree with. I follow his podcast Blocked and Reported for the same reason. I try to extent the same generosity to other people. There used to be a spirit, on the internet, of rubbing elbows with people who thought very differently from oneself, and still being able to keep company with them. I think it's a good goal to aim for.

I am not in academia though I did try to enter once. I do have many friends and 'colleagues' who are in academia and a number that have left as well. I agree that being a PhD is no guarantee that one will be an intelligent, thoughtful person.

> I think the issue of structural racism isn't obvious, but it would benefit from a lot *less* "study."

Could you elaborate on this? Are you saying that you think the issue of structural racism would be ameliorated if people knew less about? Like a sort of observer's paradox - the more we observe racism, the worse effects the racism will have?

Expand full comment

Aren't there black and hispanic kids getting in to highly selective schools without the need for affirmative action? Wouldn't people want to see what they and their families are doing? I suspect that would be considered racist......

Expand full comment

The real problem is:

“[T]overall pool of potential minority applicants with competitive academic qualifications remains very small—both in absolute terms and relative to the number of qualified non-minority and wealthier applicants.”

AA obscures how deep & widespread are the inequities in K-12 public education. There is systemic racism in the US and it is in the public education system.

Expand full comment