On “white people”

Even though I already had a couple links on Sarah Jeong in quick hits, I really loved this piece from Zack Beauchamp on “white people.”

But to some conservatives, like National Review’s David French and New York magazine’s Andrew Sullivan, Jeong’s tweets are bigger than her: They reveal a rot in the progressive movement, that “social justice warriors” have become totally okay with racism so long as it’s directed at white people.

“The neo-Marxist analysis of society, in which we are all mere appendages of various groups of oppressors and oppressed, and in which the oppressed definitionally cannot be at fault, is now the governing philosophy of almost all liberal media,” Sullivan writes. “That’s how … the New York Times can hire and defend someone who expresses racial hatred.” (Note: The liberal media is not neo-Marxist.)

Both French and Sullivan singled out a tweet I had sent defending Jeong — “a lot of people on the internet today confusing the expressive way anti-racists and minorities talk about ‘white people’ with actual race-based hatred, for some unfathomable reason” —as an exemplar of the problem. Sullivan explains:

I don’t think the New York Times should fire her — in part because they largely share her views on race, gender, and oppression. Their entire hiring and editorial process is based on them. In their mind, Jeong was merely caught defending herself. As Vox writer Zack Beauchamp put it: “A lot of people on the internet today [are] confusing the expressive way antiracists and minorities talk about ‘white people’ with actual race-based hatred, for some unfathomable reason.” I have to say that word “expressive” made me chuckle out loud. (But would Beauchamp, I wonder, feel the same way if anti-racists talked about Jews in the same manner Jeong talks about whites? Aren’t Jews included in the category of whites?)

The basic thrust of both Sullivan and French’s argument is that if you subbed in any group other than “white people” for what Jeong wrote, then it would be obviously offensive. “#cancelblackpeople probably wouldn’t fly at the New York Times, would it?” Sullivan asks, rhetorically.

“It is simply false to excuse anti-white racism on the grounds that people of color lack power,” French writes. “But this argument confuses the gravity of an offense with the existence of the offense. A powerless person’s hate may not harm the powerful, but it is still hate.”

The problem here, though, is assuming that Jeong’s words were meant literally: that when Jeong wrote “#cancelwhitepeople,” for example, she was literally calling for white genocide. Or when she said “white men are bullshit,” she meant each and every white man is the human equivalent of bull feces. This is expressly Sullivan’s position: He calls her language “eliminationist,” a term most commonly used to describe Nazi rhetoric referring to Jews during the Holocaust.

To anyone who’s even passingly familiar with the way the social justice left talks, this is just clearly untrue. “White people” is a shorthand in these communities, one that’s used to capture the way that many whites still act in clueless and/or racist ways. It’s typically used satirically and hyperbolically to emphasize how white people continue to benefit (even unknowingly) from their skin color, or to point out the ways in which a power structure that favors white people continues to exist.

I get that white people who aren’t familiar might find this discomforting…

What makes these quasi-satirical generalizations about “white people” different from actual racism is, yes, the underlying power structure in American society. There is no sense of threat associated with Jeong making a joke about how white people have dog-like opinions. But when white people have said the same about minorities, it has historically been a pretext for violence or justification for exclusionary politics.  [emphasis mine]

Yes!!  I’m pretty sure I myself on occasion mutter an exasperated, “white people!” Do I hate white people and look to discriminate against them?  Pretty sure the answer is no.  Rather, I mean, “those damn white people who are so motivated by racial animus and xenophobia and yet think white people face discrimination” or “those white people who benefit so much from structural inequalities in our society, but want to blame whatever problems befall them on minorities.”  But, honestly, “white people!” is a handy shorthand.  And for those on the right to pretend otherwise is some combination of grossly disingenuous and grossly ignorant of historical and social context.

White people!

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Quick hits (part I)

1) There’s some stuff that I know so well and have heard so many times, fertilitythat it is easy to forget that it is actually not as widespread knowledge as I think.  Damn, people are ignorant on the reality of human !

The study, published in the journal Human Fertility, was based on a survey of 1,215 students at a university in Melbourne, Australia.

Most study participants said they wanted to have children, but many women said they plan to postpone childbearing until after they complete their education, advance in their careers, have access to child care and jobs that could be combined with having children, and have traveled and done other things that may be difficult with children.

“Our study shows university students overwhelmingly want to be parents, but most have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception,” said Dr. Eugénie Prior of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority in Melbourne, who led the study.

Only 38 percent of men and 45 percent of women stated correctly that a woman’s fertility declines between 35 and 39 years of age, and only 18 percent of men and 17 percent of women knew that men’s fertility declines between 45 and 49, the authors said.

Many study participants thought male fertility starts to decline before 45, but about a quarter of men and nearly a third of women thought male fertility starts to decline only at 50. Many respondents also thought female fertility starts to decline before age 30, but about a third of men and women thought female fertility starts to decline only at 40.

Participants also overestimated the chances that a 40-year-old woman will be successful in having a baby after one round of in vitro fertilization.

2) The case for getting rid of borders completely.

3) Unsurprisingly, sharks make terrible pets.  Also, how does this WSJ editorial not mention Bond villains‽ (Yes, notice the punctuation there!)

4) Hell yeah it’s time to stop job applicant drug testing.  Again, unsurprisingly, the research connecting any of this to job performance is really weak.

5) I did enjoy this interesting profile of white workers in a chicken-processing plant where the vast majority of workers are Hispanic.  Also, if that’s you, just learn to speak Spanish.

6) This NYT feature on the mystery of the tick-borne allergy to meat is terrific.  Also, the microbiome!

7) I don’t doubt at all that it is easy to fool AI grading of student essays with paragraphs like this:

“History by mimic has not, and presumably never will be precipitously but blithely ensconced. Society will always encompass imaginativeness; many of scrutinizations but a few for an amanuensis. The perjured imaginativeness lies in the area of theory of knowledge but also the field of literature. Instead of enthralling the analysis, grounds constitutes both a disparaging quip and a diligent explanation.”

But, I suspect that the AI would be 90% accurate for 90% of my students.  There really are just some basics of good writing (that sadly, so many are lacking).

8) We maybe had a chance to do something about climate change back in the 80’s and didn’t.  That said– I think the huge amount of cheap energy stored in the ground always made that unlikely.

9) How medical providers use the rules to help charge a ton and we all pay for it (the “why you can’t get an affordable MRI” version).

10) Love this from Annie Lowery, “Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure: Growing inequality in the United States shows that the game is rigged.”

Bezos and Amazon are in many ways ideal exemplars of the triumph of capital over labor, like the Waltons and Walmart and Rockefeller and Standard Oil before them. That the gap between executives at top companies and employees around the country is so large is in and of itself shocking. Bezos has argued that there is not enough philanthropic need on earth for him to spend his billions on. (The Amazon founder, unlike Gates or Zuckerberg, has given away only a tiny fraction of his fortune.) “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” he said this spring. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.”

In contrast, half of Amazon’s employees make less than $28,446 a year, per the company’s legal filings.* Some workers have complained of getting timed six-minute bathroom breaks. (Amazon said it does not track or limit employee bathroom use.) Warehouse workers need to pick goods and pack boxes at closely monitored speeds, handling up to 1,000 items and walking as many as 15 miles per shift. Contractors have repeatedly complained of wage-and-hour violations and argued that the company retaliates against whistleblowers. An Amazon temp died on the floor just a few years ago.

The impoverishment of the latter and the wealth of the former are linked by policy. Take taxes. The idea of America’s progressive income-tax system is that rich workers should pay higher tax rates than poor workers, with the top rate of 37 percent hitting earnings over $500,000. (The top marginal tax rate was 92 percent as recently as 1953.) But Bezos takes a paltry salary, in relative terms, given the number of shares he owns. That means his gains are subject to capital-gains taxes, which top out at just 20 percent; like Warren Buffett, it is possible he pays effective tax rates lower than his secretary does.

11) More good stuff from Pope Francis: the death penalty is never okay:

12) Some research in support of the traditional lecture approach to teaching:

Recent studies conclude that teachers are important for student learning but it remains uncertain what actually determines effective teaching. This study directly peers into the black box of educational production by investigating the relationship between lecture style teaching and student achievement. Based on matched student–teacher data for the US, the estimation strategy exploits between-subject variation to control for unobserved student traits. Results indicate that traditional lecture style teaching is associated with significantly higher student achievement. No support for detrimental effects of lecture style teaching can be found even when evaluating possible selection biases due to unobservable teacher characteristics.

13) Chait on Republicans and health care:

The new Trumpcare plans will be cheap for people who are healthy enough to qualify. But they don’t cover much. If you find you’re having a baby, or need a weekend stay at a hospital, or even something as exotic as prescription drugs, you’re out of luck. The Journal editorial page insists this will all be fine, because “not everyone needs all benefits,” and also, “[t]he HHS rule also stipulates that issuers must prominently display a notice that the coverage isn’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act. Everyone will know what they’re buying.” Right, because everybody in America is already aware of what the essential benefits of Obamacare contain, and thus what their absence implies. Anyway, insurers are definitely going to make sure you’re aware of all the shortfalls and gaps in the product they’re selling you.

What is striking about the Trump-era Republican health agenda is the lack of policy ambition. Having spent years insisting they had an army of wonks who could design a better alternative to the Obamacare “train wreck,” the Republican plan of attack has dissolved into a rearguard sabotage campaign with no pretense of doing anything to help the poor and sick afford medical care. Health care remains a policy ground with which conservative-movement dogma cannot grapple.

14a) Loved this on the Sarah Jeong tweet controversy:

But others were quick to say that the statements Jeong made could be skewed as racist only if the culture, history and current sociopolitical context of the United States were ignored. [emphasis mine]

“Part of the reason it was so easy for the outrage to be manufactured in the first place was it was completely decontextualized and ahistorified,” said Nolan L. Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Arizona who will publish a book in the fall about racial attitudes held by white college students. “Then it was easy to drum up anger and say it looks like she hates white people. That only makes sense if you are willfully ignorant of 400 to 500 years’ history and contemporary social context and also the context from which the tweets were sent.”

It is likely true, as many have pointed out, that if any minority group were substituted in the place of white people into Jeong’s statements, she would not have kept her job. Some edited Jeong’s tweets to hammer home that idea, replacing the words “white people” in her tweets with “black people” and “Jewish people.”

But Cabrera said the idea was “a complete false equivalence,” noting that whiteness isn’t a cultural identity the way being black, Japanese American or Jewish is. Cabrera listed off examples of government policies that targeted various racial groups, including the Chinese Exclusion Act and Operation Wetback, calling racism a “systemic reality” that necessarily favors white people.

14b) And this from the Verge:

But as the editors of The Verge, we want to be clear: this abusive backlash is dishonest and outrageous. The trolls engaged in this campaign are using the same tactics that exploded during Gamergate, and they have been employed in recent years by even broader audiences amid a rise in hostility toward journalists. From cries about “ethics in journalism” to “fake news,” journalists have been increasingly targeted by people acting in bad faith [emphasis mine] who do not care about the work they do, the challenges they face, or the actual context of their statements.

Online trolls and harassers want us, the Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.

15) And I liked this take on racist/homophobic tweets from baseball players.

16) How California’s birds are adapting to climate change:

Of 32,000 birds recorded in California mountain ranges in the old and new surveys — from thumb-sized Calliope hummingbirds to the spectacular pileated woodpecker — Dr. Tingley and his colleagues discovered that most species now nest about a week earlier than they did 70 to 100 years ago.

That slight advance in timing translates into nesting temperatures about two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the birds would encounter had they not moved up their breeding time — almost exactly counterbalancing the two-degree rise in average temperatures recorded over the last century.

17) I don’t know that Sarah will even stick with soccer long enough for her to start heading the ball, but if she does…

And according to a study published Tuesday in Radiology, female players are more sensitive to the impact than males.

The study authors found that female amateur soccer players who frequently head balls showed more white matter brain alterations than their male counterparts. The study included 49 women and 49 men, ages 18 to 50, and examined MRI imaging of players’ brains. Each female player was compared to a male player of a similar age and with other similar characteristics including frequency of heading exposure.

Lead author Michael Lipton, a neuroradiologist and neuroscientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says white matter in the brain can be compared to fiber optic cable, which connects a network of computer. White matter is made up thread-like axon nerve fibers that connect neurons to each other, and their protective covering, myelin.

Heading causes these brain tissues to become disorganized, Lipton says. His previous research found that these abnormalities accompany poorer cognitive functionassociated with memory or attention issues when associated with heading.

“The most important finding here is that we see that in women’s brains, actually looking at brain tissue, there seems to be a greater sensitivity to repetitive, very low-level injury relative to men,” he says.

An important note about this research, Lipton says, is that it isn’t about concussions. Instead, it’s measuring “sub-concussive injuries,” or repeated impacts that don’t cause any immediate, acknowledged problem for the player, but could be problematic in the long-term.

18) I must it really bugs me that nobody seems to be talking about the McGlockton “stand your ground” shooting in Florida.  This deserves protests!

19) I’m thinking of planting an apple tree or two in my yard, and so it was time for a little more apple research.  I finally found an answer to a question that’s been bugging me… why the hell do Red Delicious apples even still exist.  Short answer: export market (and the difficulty of switching to new cultivars) Still doesn’t explain why these poor excuses for apples are always in my grocery stores.

Almost everyone agrees: The Red Delicious is a crime against the apple. The fruit makes for a joyless snack, despite the false promise of its name, with a bitter skin that gives way to crumbling, mealy flesh. The Red Delicious is a bit like a Styrofoam prop: It looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth. Maybe that’s why the New York Apple Association suggests people use their Red Delicious in holiday wreaths and centerpieces. They sure look nice, but they taste like inanimate objects.

The Red Delicious looks picturesque, but really has no business in the mouth.

As fruits go, the Red Delicious has an unparalleled power to inspire visceral disgust. (There are whole Reddit threads devoted to bashing it.) And yet the variety is ubiquitous. Though it’s no longer the most popular apple in America—since its heyday in the 1980s, it’s been overtaken by newer, tastier varieties—the Delicious remains the most heavily produced apple in the United States. Which means that, even though we’ve long since caught on, you can still find the red scourge everywhere.

This raises some important questions. Why do we keep growing 2.7 billion pounds of Red Delicious apples every year? And are growers still excited by the Delicious or are they stuck between a declining market and an orchard they can’t afford to tear up?

20) This is infuriating, “Arrested, Jailed and Charged With a Felony. For Voting.”  In North Carolina.  The willingness of Republicans to ruin people’s lives to score political points is just disgusting.

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