Bryan, this is a great discussion of collective guilt and how it relates to the absurdity of "anti-racism" today, but it doesn't really address old-school racism itself. How does collective guilt explain the "I don't like people of race X" racism? Most people of that thinking don't hate race X because they think they're all 'guilty' of something, they think they're inferior. I think you need to do a better job drawing a line between collective guilt and some kind of collective judgement (i.e. old-fashioned racism).

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I moved to Baltimore, a majority black city in a heavily black metro, for a job out of college. When I got older and married I realized I needed to get out of Baltimore to raise a family. In addition to my lived experience, based on my Charles Murray knowledge, I figured Baltimore was a lost cause with no hope for the future due to its demographics.

That's "racist". But I don't regret it. Census figures indicate that a lot of people reached the same conclusion I did. And property values indicate an even sharper contrast.

I've tried to think of what "Civil Rights" was supposed to accomplish. In as non-cynical a light as I can. I think what it was meant to do was to allow the top 10% of so of the black population to assimilate with bourgeois whites on the grounds that they were more like those whites than ghetto blacks. But we couldn't come right out and say that for a variety of reasons.

We can even take class out of this. Asians and whites have a much easier time getting along then Whites and Blacks (or Asians and Blacks), but even then there is a degree of preferring ones own race. The biggest scandal today is that white liberals have made it clear they get very uncomfortable when Asians are greater then 20% of a given social grouping.

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The way to explain "I don't like people of race X" racism in terms of collective guilt is to question why they don't like people of race X usually the answer will be some wrongdoings of people of that race(collective guilt), for example I don't like blue people because they eat to much oranges.

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Apr 12, 2022·edited Apr 12, 2022

It's probably important to define what one means by "racism" since its definition is always evolving. AFAIK there are only two officially-sanctioned versions of racism -- "systemic" and "the other kind". If this matter were less sacrosanct and the motte-and-bailey less useful, we'd probably have categorized at least 10 different conceptions of racism by now.

I could ask:

Is it racist to believe FBI crime stats by race? Is it only racist to bring them up, or to talk about them out loud? Is it racist that the FBI even categorizes criminal offenders by race, or would it be racist not to? Is it racist to aspire to colorblindness, or is colorblindness the only way to not be racist? Is everyone at least somewhat racist, or only a maligned group known as "racists" (and is this group 5% of the population, or 50%)? Can someone of any race be racist? Can one be racist against white people? Can one be racist against his own race?

I could go on.

In practice I conceptualize racism as a type of heresy committed when one breaches Western culture's current set of quasi-religious and only half-spoken taboos regarding race (which can nonetheless be applied retroactively to past figures). And also, by its own definition, the preceding sentence was probably racist.

As a Christian, I merely aspire to the Golden Rule while usually trying not to be caught in violation of secular taboos as a practical matter.

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I don't think that people should be judged in the legal sense for being a member of a race or class of people. But people can't help but develop stereotypes and judge people prematurely on the basis of shallow characteristics because they correlate with other characteristics. I can't help but think of someone with blue hair and 10 facial piercings as unlikely to be a Christian or conservative. I can withhold judgment and not say that out loud but my stereotype is not voluntary. We can try to eliminate stereotypes, but we can't do that by providing data because data may confirm some stereotypes. We can try to behave as though people are the same legally and in social interactions -- which works pretty well.

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I do not regard collective guilt as intellectually absurd. Guilt is the basis for blame and punishment. The function of ascriptions of guilt is to modify behavior in a positive, beneficial direction. Blaming and punishing the individual agent works to the extent that such agents are self-interested: the guilty individual is loath to repeat his act for fear that punishment will be visited on his future self, and bystanders--self-interested individual observers--are similarly given an incentive to avoid such behavior. This system would work even better if people were more strongly self-interested—if they cared even more than they do about their future selves—but they care enough to make it work pretty well.

Now, by the same token, collective guilt, blame, and punishment might work—not perfectly, but well enough to be worthwhile--so long as it was confined to groups of individuals who strongly affected each other’s behavior. The prospect of group punishment must incline the individual members to refrain from the guilty behavior, either because they intrinsically care very much about their fellow members’ well-being or because they expect that their fellows, having borne the collective punishment, will turn on them and punish them. (Such a group probably must be able to expel a member whose behavior does not show the presumed concern to avoid the collective punishment.)

In a more primitive setting, group blame and punishment were probably worthwhile; each individual belonged to a family, a clan, a tribe, a nation, and there were scant means of effecting inter-group justice on an individual basis. Now that economic and cultural development has made individual justice more practicable, there is a case for abandoning collective guilt. But the case is not airtight; there might, for example, be a case for retaining *national guilt*, since the structures of international justice are not very robust.

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That might work up to about Dunbar's number, but that is much, much smaller than any race.

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Yes, "racial guilt" does seem absurd. But the argument in support of that conclusion that relies on the premise that *all collective guilt* is absurd is weak, due to the weakness of the premise.

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This was already addressed in the article - if you join the mafia, you get punished. Institutional guilt, not national guilt.

Nations are huge and diverse. You can't punish random Russians for Putin's war. But you can totally punish members of the government & military to the extent of their involvement. And anybody who voted for him should feel some guilt.

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I like the general thrust of your argument, but I would push back in two directions, where in both, I feel like things can not be as "black and white" (heh), as you make them out to be:

First, collective guilt as applied to a "race" is nonsensical as you point out, but it is not, when applied to a "society". Societies do have a collective memory and culture. So if you belong to a society that has caused harm, you should feel guilt for that. At the risk of veering close to invoking Godwin's law I will illustrate with the example of modern German societies' relation to the Nazi atrocities: Modern germans understand that they have a direct connection to the culture that allowed such things to happen, and they have a responsibility to compensate in their current culture to counteract a) the harm that was caused by their 'ancestor' culture, and b) the possibility that their current, closely related culture could again cause similar harm. White western culture in general, or white American culture slightly more specifically is less well defined than German culture, but I would think that we can look at our history in a similar way.

Secondly, your argument against affirmative action fails if we incorporate the above insight, but it also fails if you look at it from an economic view: If a group suffers racism, presumably there is an economic impact of that to a member of the group. Then, doesn't it make sense to try and compensate them for that impact? I agree that this is very messy to measure in the first place, and then almost imposable to implement compensation in non distorting ways, but that doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't try? I place a question mark there, because I am not sure of my own view on the subject, but I do believe it should be an open topic of discussion.

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Everything Bryan said about race is true of ‘society’ as well. ‘Societies’ are just arbitrarily defined as and no more a matter of choice than one’s race. Germans today should no more feel guilty about things done before they were born by people who happened to belong to the same society (they didn’t really, of course; people living in different eras live in different societies, and the idea of ‘societal’ continuity across time is at least as dubious as racial continuity) than they should about things done by people of the same race.

I really don’t see how the critique of racial guilt from a moral individualist standpoint isn’t perfectly applicable to ‘society.’

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I agree re society - people can choose a point on the collectivist-indvidualist spectrum, but it's cheating to cherry-pick, taking credit for good things but not for bad.

But re affirmitive action, at some point we have to have a statute of limitation, not just legally, but ethically. There's no square inch of ground on Earth that hasn't been stolen from the rightful owners multiple times (Antarctica excepted). There's no person whose ancestors hasn't committed crimes that indirectly benefit them today.

We can't and shouldn't attempt to right all historical wrongs - that way leads to endless conflict and retribution. Once the directly affected parties are not just dead but no longer in living memory, it's too long.

Each person and and each generation needs to start with a clean slate.

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Apr 16, 2022·edited Apr 16, 2022

re affirmative action, I am only talking about compensating for direct effects of *current* racism in that section, not repartitions or anything. In the discussion about cultural guilt I did make reference to compensating for past wrongs, so understand how you conflated the two, and really, there isn't a bright line between the ideas. But overall I agree with you that looking at historical wrongs should be considered (those who don't know their history, etc), but not addressed in a concrete economic sense. English is an imprecise language, and I shouldn't have used 'compensate' in both the social and economic meanings.

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It is inconsistent. You should feel neither guilt nor pride, as far as I’m concerned. You can like your society, you can believe it’s superior to other societies, want to promote its values to other societies because you believe they’re salutary, but you really never should feel pride or shame in it.

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What about the version of racism that simply says that some races are superior/inferior to other races? This seems pretty clearly to be true. By any reasonable standard of what it means to be a good person, some races do better on average than others. I would like to see an argument against this version of racism, but I don't think I've ever seen a serious attempt at one.

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Suppose you do some experiments and find blue people are on average marginally better at chopping tomatoes than pink people. This is a weak statistical trend. If you are hiring for a job as a chef, you directly measure the tomato chopping ability of the applicants. Seeing the skin colour is some evidence, but really not very much.

If purple people commit more robberies, you say "lets punish all robbers". Not "lets punish all purple people.

And of course avoid the classic mistake where you go from "this person is slightly worse at task X" to "this person is inferior scum who doesn't deserve to live."

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I agree with all of this. But none of this precludes the conclusion that blues are overall better than pinks at the group level (assuming that pinks don't have some other advantage to compensate for their deficiency in chopping tomatoes), which is racist.

And of course in the real world, there are more significant differences than just tomato-chopping ability.

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People find notions of collective guilt compelling because people really do think and feel things according to their perceptions of collectives. That is to say, humans are hard-wired to think of people in terms of their group affiliations, often more than we think of them as individuals, and as such the idea of "collective guilt" can be very compelling for average Joe in a great number of situations.

Perhaps you can get a child (or even an adult) to say "I don't believe in collective guilt", but the things humans feel deep in their monkey brains and what they state abstractly to an interlocutor are often quite different.

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"Almost everyone can see that collective guilt is wrong in simple hypotheticals."

No they don't. Practically every American supports collective guilt -see, for example, the culture war against Russia.

I also don't see anything wrong with collective guilt. It's not about "fault", it's about incentives.

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But real world example are neither simple nor hypothetical.

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There are many things considered racism nowadays that have little to do with guilt.

Like having a preference for a certain ethnicity when selecting candidates on a dating site. Or when imitating a foreign accent. Of when generalizing an ethnic group.

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If you want to understand something, you need to to look at it from multiple angles, not just one.

What you have done, is start from an assumption that racism is bad, and then found some examples of it being bad, and then said there, now everything is wrapped up, it is bad.

What must be done if we are being more HONEST is look at some other factors:

a) what GOOD does racism do?

b) what FUNCTION does it provide?

c) why is it NECESSARY?

Because if it delivers positive outcomes, or has positive aspects, and is intimately tied to survival, and indeed is NECESSARY for survival, what possible argument can stand against it?

So we must begin by looking at life itself, in its various forms, and seeing how these forms manage to replicate themselves across generations in consistent form.

When we do that what do we see? A lifeform of type B, is not made from mixing a parent of type A and B, or two type As, or any other combination except two parents of type B.

To get a child that represents its parents in form, it must be OF its parents in form, and they must be of the same KIND as each other.

A Golden Haired Retriever pup is made from mating two GHR parents, not two PitBulls, nor a PitBull and a GHR.

What else is necessary for a life-form continuing? What else is required for their births to be sustainable across generations? CONTROL OF RESOURCES. Successful defence of an ecological niche against competition. When you flood a field with rabbits, there is less grass for the sheep, and the sheep population will reduce.

Does it begin to make sense yet? Any human group NOT displaying sufficient racism, or without sufficient power and resources to make their racism effective is DELETED FROM EXISTENCE across successive generations.

And what is it to be against what is required for a people to survive? GENOCIDAL racism.

And what is it to be against what one's own people require to survive? GENOCIDAL suicidal racism. i.e. it requires a person to be insane, or so foolish to have been led by propaganda and explanations that cover but 10% of an issue and taken in by them.

Racism is 100% defendable on the factual reality that it is necessary. Like drinking water.

If you want a balanced view then, it must be WHERE TO DRAW LIMITS. One man sitting at a lake and trying to drink all the water for himself, would harm himself. Water is required for life, but one does not have to drink every drop available, and so too it is with racism. Not enough is deadly to oneself. Too much is deadly for others. White people at present, PROVABLE by the extent they are giving up their land and self-determination (minorities don't possess it in sustainable form), suffer from having too little of it, helped along by articles like this. Other's arguably have too much of it, as one can see by their encroachment on White founded societies and willingness to take from them, which renders a genocidal outcome on Whites.

Anyone on the side of racism, who thinks it is bad, is kidding themselves.. or rather has been kid.

Racism is necessary. No people's survive without it. Especially not many people whose existence is typified by recessive genes.

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I agree (of course; I'm not a monster), but you're framing this from the viewpoint of justice.

Most historical racism (except maybe against Jews, because of the crucifixion) hasn't been about perceived justice, but about percived inferiority.

And the proper response to that is - slightly - different:

1 - Inferiority in what? People measure one another on a multitude of different axes - even if there are real differences in mean characteristics between races (there clearly are many such differences between any pair of races - few dispute that races vary in height, eye color, hairniess, albedo; it would be shocking if they don't differ in other ways as well), who is to say how we weigh the importance of each difference? Race A may be (on average) better than race B at J, K, and L, and worse at X Y and Z. And between two races differences in each of J, K, L, X, Y, and Z have a different sign, different mean and different standard deviation. We don't have any way to summarize these and say one race is "inferior" to the other in general terms.

2 - Much more imporant, each person is an individual and not a representative of the mean characteristics of their race. Proportions may differ, but every race has their share of genius and idiocy, virtue and sin. Even if left-handed people are twice as likely as righties to commit murder, that's no argument for condemning innocent lefties. At all.

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I would definitely say that Jews were considered _morally_ inferior in history. Definitely "not as good".

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Apr 13, 2022·edited Apr 13, 2022

How can you make an argument against racism without first defining your terms? There's only a few things people call "racism" to which your argument would apply; things like not looking at an individual's job application because of the average performance of his ethnicity.

Your argument doesn't apply to the most salient meaning of racism in the modern age: race-based exclusionary behaviors (e.g. immigration policies on the basis of race). You can't convincingly argue that exclusionary immigration is collective punishment without also implicitly arguing that, for example, it's collective punishment against non-family members not to let them live in your home. Or collective punishment against ugly people not to sleep with them. There's all sorts of exclusionary behaviors done every day for deeply human, psycho-social reasons, and unless you're willing to say all these things are "wrong" as well, I don't think your collective guilt argument works against most race-based exclusionary behaviors.

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In the example of someone not hiring an individual, I was trying to draw the distinction between using race as a proxy for certain attributes you care about in the hiring process vs using race as the attribute itself that you care about in the hiring process. In the former, you truly only care that the applicant has certain skills, and it's a form of collective punishment to reject someone on the basis that others of their race don't have those skills. In the latter, you don't care about the skills; you simply care that they are not your tribe.

I agree it's not a clean distinction, but my broader point is that Bryan's argument against racism is far too powerful---it's inadvertently also an argument against most kinds of choices people make and most preferences they hold.

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i think this is interesting and compelling for certain personality types and ideologies (ie, Farmer style people to reference Robin hanson), but i dont think this is compelling for people that are "foragers" or very pro equality/ anti dominance

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"Collective guilt is 'wrong'." "Ironclad"? Ahh...yes. Is that you, Roberto?

The search for a normative ethics is never ending: cf. "Memorandum" by Arthur Allen Leff, 29 Stan. L. Rev. 879, 1976-1977

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Indeed, the collective guilt "antiracism" of Kendi and DiAngelo have striking similarities to the collective racial arguments of the progressive eugenicists (including prominent economists,who explicitly rejected individualism) of the early 1900's. I explore that on my Substack here: https://paultaylor.substack.com/p/part-12-conclusion-how-the-history?s=w

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