No need to plead guilty
Feature I wrote for the Critic about the Harvard academic Peggy McIntosh and the concept of ‘White Privilege’ which she popularised in 1989. It was published in December 2019.
The concept of “white privilege” is some-times credited to the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois, but the phrase didn’t enter the lexicon until it was used in a 1989 paper by the feminist academic Peggy McIntosh. “As a white person, I realised I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage,” she wrote in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” With the American accent very firmly on “white” rather than “privilege” or any other aspect of class which British ears would so much more readily hear.
Not only is McIntosh white, she is, by any measure, astonishingly privileged. She grew up in an affluent suburb of New Jersey where the median income was four times the national average, and her father, who was a high-ranking scientist at Bell Laboratories, owned patents in several valuable electronic inventions.
After attending Radcliffe, UCL and Harvard, where she earned a PhD, Peggy married Dr Kenneth McIntosh, the son of a Columbia professor. According to William Ray, a Canadian journalist who wrote about her for the online magazine Quillette last year: “Peggy McIntosh was born into the very cream of America’s aristocratic elite, and has remained ensconced there ever since.”
But when McIntosh writes about her “privilege” she doesn’t mean in this conventional, upper-class sense. Rather, she is referring to the advantages she enjoys in virtue of being white and which, in her view, all white people share. The “knapsack” she unpacks isn’t a $1,000 Burberry backpack of the kind Peggy and Kenneth might take on a hike in the Adirondacks. No, it’s a bag full of useful things that all white people carry with them, regardless of how disadvantaged their upbringing.
So what’s in the “invisible knapsack”? All told, Peggy finds 26 benefits she enjoys thanks to her ethnicity. True, some of these “privileges” can plausibly be ascribed to all white people. Number 15, for instance, is, “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group,” although that’s exactly what she’s doing in this article. But others are laughably Peggy-specific, such as number eight: “If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.”
And some of them so clearly apply to members of her affluent peer group that they’re almost comically revealing — like number two: “If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.”
It seems pretty obvious that Peggy McIntosh has confused class privilege with racial privilege. That is, she has led such a pampered existence and had so little contact with people outside her Harvard-Radcliffe bubble that she assumes all whites enjoy the same advantages as her — and not just in the United States, but across the Western world. Which is pretty offensive if you’re a victim of America’s opioid epidemic known as the “white death” because it disproportionately affects white people in the American South. One wonders how many victims Dr McIntosh has known? A survey of white adults born after World War II showed that between 1980 and 2000, just 18.4 per cent of white Baptists and 21.8 per cent of Irish Protestants — the main white ethnic groups to settle in the South — managed to get college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1 per cent. Among those Americans of Chinese and Indian descent, the average was 61.9 per cent.
In England, working-class whites are doing equally badly when it comes to higher education. A 2015 report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that white British pupils in the lowest socio-economic quintile are 10 per cent less likely to participate in higher education than any other ethnic group in that quintile. But it isn’t just whites from disadvantaged backgrounds who are struggling. According to the Department for Education, whites in general made less progress in England’s schools in 2018 than Asians, blacks or Chinese.
When it comes to income, whites are also lagging behind some other ethnic groups. In 2016, white Americans had a median household income of $67,865, lower than Indonesian Americans ($71,616), Pakistani Americans ($72,389), Malaysian Americans ($72,443), Sri Lankan Americans ($73,856), Filipino Americans ($84,620), Taiwanese Americans ($90,1221) and Indian Americans ($110,026).
The same picture is emerging in the UK, where 42 per cent of Indian households have a weekly income of £1,000 or above, compared to 26 per cent of white British households. If whites are born with a knapsack full of advantages over all non-whites, as Peggy McIntosh maintains, they appear to be squandering them on an epic scale. Is that what she means by “invisible”?
You’d think that would be an end to it. Surely even the most extreme racial activist could see through McIntosh’s exercise in narcissistic self-flagellation? But no. The reality of “white privilege” is now so widely accepted in the US that anyone who denies it risks being branded a racist.
It has become embedded in universities in the form of critical race theory and whiteness studies – a recent conference at Edinburgh University on “Resisting Whiteness” banned white people from speaking – and is the central pillar underpinning America’s $8 Billion-a-year “equity, diversity and inclusion” industry. Employees of public bureaucracies across the Anglosphere are forced to undergo regular “unconscious bias” training where they’re bombarded with a tsunami of gobbledygook, all revolving around the idea that white people have privileges no other ethnic group enjoys, sometimes at enormous expense to the taxpayer.
For instance, the schools chancellor of New York recently introduced mandatory “anti-bias and equity training” for the city’s 75,000 teachers at a cost of $23 million a year. To complement this initiative, top officials in New York’s Department of Education were taught that “the characteristics of white supremacy” include “perfectionism”, “worship of the written word”, “individualism” and “objectivity”. And it’s all thanks to a WASP princess with a Harvard PhD.
One of the main planks of the case for “white privilege” is the discrepancy in outcomes between whites and blacks. Logically, this is a bad argument because, as we’ve seen, whites trail behind many other ethnic groups, so even if they do fare better than blacks that doesn’t make them the most privileged group. Given the success of Indians across the Anglosphere, it would make more sense to talk about “brown privilege”. (Indian pupils are, on average, 14.2 months ahead of white pupils in England’s schools by the time they reach the age of 16.)
But even if we ignore the terrible reasoning here, is it true that whites are doing better than blacks? The answer is “yes” when it comes to some yardsticks, “no” when it comes to others. For instance, it’s true that African-Americans continue to face discrimination in the housing and labour markets, although never less so than today.
According to a recent report by the American Enterprise Institute, 57 per cent of black Americans now belong to the upper or middle class, compared to 38 per cent in 1960, and the share of black men in poverty fell from 41 per cent in 1960 to 18 per cent in 2016. But if we look at education, African-Americans are beginning to outperform whites. Black women, for instance, have higher college-attendance rates than white men and, according to the New York Times, out-earn their white counterparts when they graduate.
Black Lives Matter activists point to the recent spate of shootings of unarmed black men as evidence of “white privilege”, such as the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 (although the shooter was a dual heritage Hispanic man). But according to the African-American Harvard Economist Roland Fryer, blacks and Hispanics are no more likely to be shot by police officers than whites (although they are more likely to experience the non-lethal use of force, even taking contextual factors into account). In fact, the odds of an unarmed black man being shot dead by a police officer are about the same as being struck by lightning.
What about the psychic wound of slavery? Surely this is a sin that all white people are guilty of? That’s the reasoning behind the demand for reparations made by the African-American intellectual Ta-Nehesi Coates and Elizabeth Warren, the frontrunner in the race to be the Democratic presidential candidate. The claim that all white people are uniquely privileged and have a moral obligation to renounce that privilege and atone for it is based in no small part on the role played by Britain and America in the North Atlantic slave trade. This is what accounts for the exceptionalism of whites — why they are uniquely privileged.
But hang on. The idea that whites as a race participated in the slave trade or benefitted from slavery is ridiculous. In 1860, less than five per cent of whites in the American South owned slaves and, according to the black historian John Hope Franklin, three-quarters of white Southerners had no economic interest in the maintenance of slavery. The percentage of the population of Great Britain and Ireland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who were slaveowners or beneficiaries of the slave trade is even smaller. As Doug Stokes of Exeter University has pointed out, stigmatizing an entire ethnic group because of the sins of a small minority is a textbook example of racism.
The transatlantic slave trade is certainly a stain on the history of Britain and America, but they were hardly the only countries guilty of participating in this practice. Between the 16th Century and the middle of the 18th Century, over a million Europeans were bought and sold in the slave markets of the Barbary Coast of North Africa, encompassing Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. According to the African-American economist Thomas Sowell: “More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or the 13 colonies from which it was formed.”
The only exceptional thing about Britain and America when it comes to the obscenity of slavery is that both countries devoted considerable blood and treasure to ending it, whether it was the Royal Navy in the North Atlantic, or the Union Army in the American civil war.
So if “white privilege” is a myth, and a poisonously racist one at that, why do so many educated, intelligent, nice people believe in it? How did this idea become embedded in the consciousness of rich white liberals? And make no mistake, it’s a concept that enjoys much more currency among affluent whites than poor blacks. One of the most striking developments in American politics of the last 20 years is that white liberals are now to the left of black Democrats on the issue of discrimination.
According to a Pew survey in 2017, 79.2 per cent of white liberals agree that “racial discrimination is the main reason why black people can’t get ahead these days,” with only 18.8 per cent agreeing that “blacks who can’t get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition.” Among black Democrats, by contrast, 59.9 per cent agree with the first statement, compared to 32 per cent who agreed with the second.
What accounts for this degree of “allyship”, given that white liberals do not, on the face of it, stand to gain from dismantling “white privilege”? I don’t think it’s prompted by guilt, at least not entirely. After all, if powerful white liberals are genuinely consumed with guilt about their superior status — if they believe the exalted positions they occupy in institutions such as the New York Times and the BBC is morally indefensible — they could always check their privilege and resign. But they never do.
A case in point is Cassian Harrison, the editor of BBC Four, who told the Edinburgh International Television Festival last year that no one wants to watch white men explaining stuff on TV any more. “There’s a mode of programming that involves a presenter, usually white, middle-aged and male, standing on a hill and ‘telling you like it is,’” he said. “We all recognise the era of that has passed.” But having engaged in some ritual racial self-flagellation, Harrison, a middle-aged white male, didn’t renounce his £170,000 salary and resign in favour of a black successor. Like many white liberals, Harrison beat himself up for his un-earned privilege and then carried on as before, seemingly untroubled by conscience.
The same is true of Peggy McIntosh. After having penned her seminal essay drawing attention to the injustice of whites’ elevated status, she didn’t then give up any of her privileges. As William Ray wrote:
One is left to wonder why, given her stated conviction that she has unfairly benefited from her skin colour, there seems to be no record of her involvement in any charity or civil rights work. If she did take to the streets in support of some cause or other, she left no trace that I can see. Nor, as far as I can tell, has she spent any time teaching the underprivileged or working directly to better anyone’s condition but her own. Instead, she has contented herself with a generous six-figure salary, and has not shown any particular eagerness to hand her position over to a more deserving person of colour.
So if these exercises in racial self-flagellation are empty gestures, what’s the point of them? According to the journalist and author Reihan Salam, the purpose of the ritual is to let other highly-educated, well-paid whites know that you’re on the same rung of the status ladder as them. It’s the twenty-first-century equivalent of Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption, a way of communicating to the Brahmin left that you’re a member of the club:
It is almost as though we’re living through a strange sort of ethnogenesis in which those who see themselves as (for lack of a better term) upper-whites are doing everything they can to disaffiliate themselves from those they’ve deemed lower-whites. Note that to be “upper” or “lower” isn’t just about class status, though of course that’s always hovering in the background. Rather, it is about the supposed nobility that flows from racial self-flagellation.
In other words, the reason Peggy McIntosh unpacked her ‘“invisible knapsack” — and the reason so many from the same social strata have followed in her footsteps — was to advertise her elevated social status. It’s not enough for rich liberals to live in beautiful homes, go on holiday in places like Tuscany and pilot their children through elite universities and graduate schools. No, to really underline just how much better they are than the rest of us, they must decry their “white privilege” too, thereby proving they are morally as well as socially superior. In effect, it was a $1,000 backpack after all, but one made from organic materials and bearing a “Fairtrade” kitemark.
The irony of all this coded status-signalling by limousine liberals is that it helps their political opponents. White working-class voters outside metropolitan areas, whether in Britain or America, understand perfectly what members of the identitarian left mean when they denounce “white privilege” — it’s an example of “upper-whites”, to use Salam’s term, expressing their contempt for “lower-whites”, i.e. them. This was succinctly put by a Trump voter in Indiana, interviewed by the Guardian in 2016. She explained that “the whole idea” of “white privilege” irritates whites outside the bicoastal elites “because they’ve never experienced it on a level that they understand. You hear privilege and you think money and opportunity and they don’t have it.” She continued: “And you’ve got people calling them stupid and deplorable. Well how long do you think you can call people stupid and deplorable before they get mad?”
As this voter made clear, if you’re a 45-year-old white person struggling to hold down two minimum-wage jobs so you can feed your partner and kids and keep a roof over their heads, nothing could be more guaranteed to make you vote for Donald Trump or the Brexit Party than being told you’re “privileged” by a privately-educated, upper-class socialist with a PhD in gender studies.
Which begs the question: Should we stop objecting to this idiocy? If you don’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be the next Prime Minister or Elizabeth Warren the next President, should you welcome this toxic identitarianism? That’s the view of Steve Bannon, who pointed out that when the left talks about “race-identity politics” it helps his side: “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em … I want them to talk about race and identity … every day.”
Tempting though it is to just sit back and allow the left to self-harm, we shouldn’t do that. Racial politics is so ugly, and so fundamentally dangerous, as we know from the history of the twentieth century, that we have to expose concepts like “white privilege” for the toxic nonsense that they are. Those of us who live in Britain and America – among the least racist, most tolerant societies on earth – have a duty to stand up to this tsunami of gobbledygook before it sweeps us all away.
Universities don’t need to be lectured about racism
Column for the Spectator about an Equality and Human Rights Commission report wildly exaggerating the problem of racism at Britain’s universities. It was published on 2nd November 2019.
I’ve been contacted by a professor at a leading Russell Group university who is worried about the spread of progressive dogma in the UK’s higher education sector. He highlighted last week’s report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which claimed that around a quarter of students from ethnic minority backgrounds at Britain’s universities have experienced racial harassment. He fears that this will be used by left-wing activists on campus as ‘proof’ that the higher education sector is ‘systemically racist’ and lead to further calls to ‘decolonise the curriculum’. He’s also concerned that he’ll have to spend more time at ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ workshops, where he’s lectured by privately educated white men in their early twenties about ‘unconscious bias’, as well as dealing with vexatious complaints from social justice warriors in his department. ‘Britain’s universities are in the grip of their own version of China’s cultural revolution,’ he says.
The EHRC report is called ‘Tackling racial harassment: Universities challenged’ and purports to show just how unwelcoming higher education institutions are for people of colour. According to the report, 24 per cent of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students, and an even higher proportion of staff, have experienced racial harassment. Pavita Cooper, an EHRC Commissioner who’s written a foreword to the report, says we must do more to protect people of colour from ‘feeling unsafe’ and take ‘visible action’ to ‘prevent and tackle’ racial harassment.
But what does the EHRC mean by ‘racial harassment’? In the executive summary, the report’s authors admit the incidents complained of are, in many cases, ‘microaggressions’. In the United States, commonplace ‘microaggressions’ include saying the country is a ‘melting pot’, claiming to judge people by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin (a speech crime known as ‘colour–blind racism’), and arguing that ‘diversity training’ is unnecessary.
There’s nothing quite that OTT in the EHRC report, but its examples of ‘microaggressions’ include lecturers ‘screwing up their faces’ on seeing hard-to-pronounce ethnic names on the register, adopting the wrong ‘-attitude’ when talking to a person of colour, and inappropriate ‘body language’. That’s not what most people consider ‘racial harassment’ — and the EHRC acknowledges that such acts may not be intended to offend and don’t meet the definition of harassment in the 2010 Equality Act. Never-theless, it recommends various statutory and regulatory measures to force university administrators to punish anyone guilty of these sins, such as broadening the legal definition of harassment, withholding research funding from institutions if they don’t enforce a new code drawn up by the EHRC, and making it easier for ‘victims’ of harassment to sue.
At my informant’s place, these recommendations have already prompted the vice-chancellor to bombard his staff with yet more anti-racist gobble-degook — ‘the moronic inferno of virtue-signalling’, he calls it. And his vice-chancellor is relatively sane compared with most.
What’s so absurd about all this is that Britain’s universities are among the least racist places on earth. Roughly 20 per cent of students are BAME, compared with 18 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds across the whole of the UK’s population, and the percentage among academic staff is 15 per cent, compared with 13 per cent of the population. But the data that really give the lie to this nonsense can be found in the EHRC report. My professor discovered that if you drill down into the detail, you find that each university received an average of 2.3 total staff complaints of racial harassment and 3.6 total student complaints in the past four years. Britain’s universities employ 670,000 staff and teach 2.3 million students, so that means 0.05 per cent of staff and 0.02 per cent of students actually lodged official complaints. ‘Almost statistically insignificant,’ he says.
He is so exasperated that he asked if I knew of any jobs going in right-of-centre thinktanks. Unfortunately I don’t, not least because the Charity Commission has been making their lives more and more difficult. I urged him to stay put and fight the good fight. But with the ever-growing army of left-wing diversocrats fanning out across the sector, it’s a war he doesn’t expect to win.
Budweiser flags up how Pride has been taken over by woke corporations
Column I wrote for the Spectator about the hijacking of Pride by virtue-signalling corporations. It was published on 8th June 2019.
Maurice Bowra, the flamboyant warden of Wadham College from 1938 to 1970, once argued against the legalisation of homosexuality on the grounds that it would take all the fun out of it. Without the risk of being picked up by the police, cruising up and down the Cowley Road at one in the morning would become rather tedious. He referred to the secret club of powerful homosexuals in the British establishment as the ‘homintern’ and prided himself on being a high-ranking officer. He liked the fact that there was something exotic and clandestine about his sexuality and dreaded the risk of embourgeoisement if the law was changed.
Easy for Bowra to say, of course, protected as he was by wealth and privilege. And he may not have really meant it. But you can’t help wondering what he would have made of Pride, the month-long celebration of LGBT identities that now takes place every summer. Talk about gentrification! Every element of the festival is plastered with a corporate logo, so desperate are multinationals to convey how on board they are with the ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ agenda. Procter & Gamble is celebrating its 25th anniversary of ‘LGBT+ inclusion’, while Virgin Atlantic got the jump on its less-woke competitors by announcing earlier this year that it would be replacing the second world war pin-up girl that has adorned its planes for 35 years with a more diverse group of figures, including a gay man wearing a one-piece red bathing suit.
But the rainbow-coloured biscuit must go to Budweiser UK. The lager manufacturer has decided to produce a range of plastic beer cups with Pride’s nine official ‘flags’ on them, each representing a different section of the LGBT community. There’s ‘Genderfluid Pride’, for instance, a combination of pink, blue, white, purple and black, and ‘Asexual Pride’, where black is for ‘asexuals who don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone’ and white represents ‘non-asexual allies’.
As a marketing exercise, Budweiser’s ‘Fly the Flag’ campaign cannot be aimed at those people who happen to fall into these categories because there simply aren’t enough of them. In the US, the Williams Institute estimates that about 0.66 per cent of the population is transgender, but that is a voluminous number compared with some of the more niche groups represented by the Budweiser cups. For instance, the black stripe on the yellow, white, purple and black cup symbolising ‘Non-Binary Pride’ is intended to represent ‘those who feel they are without gender entirely’. Another flag labelled ‘Intersex Pride’ is aimed at people ‘whose biological sex can’t be classified as clearly male or female’. About one person in 2,000 fall into that particular medical category.
So is the target audience beer drinkers whom Budweiser thinks will approve of the support it’s showing to these groups? I doubt the company has done any research to establish how large that demographic is. Rather, it’s a mandatory exercise in virtue signalling, something every large company now feels it has to do to demonstrate its alignment with progressive orthodoxy. But why? To attract woke applicants from good universities? Because someone in the corporate and social responsibility department has suggested it and no one dares contradict them for fear of being labelled homophobic, transphobic or bi-phobic? Because the fiftysomething CEO wants to be able to tell his blue-haired 16-year-old daughter that he’s doing his bit to fight bigotry and oppression? Or is he planning to give a set of the rainbow cups to his wife so she can show them off to her friends at the local country club?
Probably all of the above, but there’s also a strong hint of religious observance in it, with all members of the Brahmin class, and those aspiring to join, feeling obliged to express the same progressive pieties. Which brings me back to Maurice Bowra. Over the past 100 years, the attitude of polite society towards homosexuality and other expressions of sexual and gender non-conformity has shifted 180 degrees. Being LGBT is now the height of respectability, while being a white ‘cishet’ male is morally suspect. These days, a man is more likely to get into trouble for making a pass at a girl than a boy, particularly if he works for a woke corporation like Budweiser. It’s easy to become a bit Bufton Tufton about this, but perhaps men like me should take a leaf out of Bowra’s book. It’s time to start thinking of ourselves as a glamorous, underground minority who can only reveal our sexual preferences in private. Welcome to the ‘heterotern’.
The fanatical thinking that’s on its way to Britain’s schools
Column I wrote for the Spectator about how the racial self-flagellation cult has penetrated New York’s public school system and is beginning to cross The Atlantic.
For anyone who isn’t following the long march of racial self-flagellation through America’s institutions, last week’s revelations about the excesses of New York City’s education tsar will come as a shock. Schools chancellor Richard Carranza has introduced mandatory ‘anti-bias and equity training’ for the city’s 75,000 teachers at a cost of $23 million a year. During these ‘workshops’ the teachers are told that ‘worship of the written word’, ‘individualism’ and ‘objectivity’ are all hallmarks of ‘white supremacy culture’ and that it is better to focus on middle class black students than poor white ones.
To give you an idea of what these struggle sessions are like, take the experience of a Jewish superintendent of schools, as reported in the New York Post. At a training meeting last year, she was asked ‘What lived experience inspires you as a leader to fight for equity?’ and responded by telling the group about members of her family who’d lost their lives in the Holocaust. That had taught her about the dangers of racism, she said.
Unfortunately, this was judged to be politically incorrect and she was attacked by a black superintendent for being insufficiently woke. ‘This is not about being Jewish!’ she was told. ‘It’s about black and brown boys of colour only. You better check yourself.’ This blinkered, identarian approach is by no means confined to New York. Carranza himself was the superintendent of San Francisco’s Unified School District, which has its own Office of Equity dedicated to spreading neo-Marxist mumbo jumbo about why ‘students of colour’ are underachieving, and schools of education across America have become madrassas for indoctrinating teachers. At the University of Washington’s Secondary Teacher Education Programme, students are segregated according to race, sexuality and gender and asked to rank themselves in the intersectional hierarchy of oppression. If they’re unlucky enough to be white, they’re invited to explore how whiteness, colonialism and America’s ‘systemic racism’ has benefitted them, and then expected to apologise to the minority students who duly berate them for being privileged.
Has this fanatical, racialised thinking crossed the Atlantic? It’s not as ubiquitous yet, but it’s definitely spreading and the rot has started at the top. At the Department for Education, all 4,700 employees undergo mandatory ‘unconscious bias’ training which, among other things, involves being taught that saying ‘The country is full — we can’t take any more migrants’ is ‘as offensive as it is inaccurate, since migration is a two-way process’. May was designated ‘conversations about race’ month, with white employees encouraged to become ‘allies’ of the department’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network in order ‘to understand how to have meaningful conversations… about… how to prioritise action on race-related issues’. A recent blog by the director-general for strategy complained that senior meetings at the Department ‘are easily the whitest moments in my week’.
There can be little doubt that England’s teachers will, in due course, prove as enthusiastic about such woke gobbledegook as their Whitehall overlords. One factor that has allowed this ideology to embed itself in US schools is the left-wing bias of the staff. In 2016, 50 per cent of teachers voted for Hillary, 29 per cent for Trump. For the UK the skew is even greater. At the last election, 60 per cent of teachers voted Labour compared to 12 per cent for the Conservatives. That is hardly surprising, given the rampant left-wing bias of our university’s education departments, where the vast majority of teachers receive their training.
Needless to say, the view that Britain’s schools are riddled with systemic racism and sexism is belied by the facts. Roughly 20 per cent of students in further education are from black or minority ethnic backgrounds (BME) — slightly higher than the percentage of the entire population of 17- to 24-year-olds who are BME (18 per cent) — and 40,000 more women than men enrolled at universities last year.
The group least likely to go to university in England are white working-class boys, which isn’t surprising, seeing as they achieve worse exam results than any other demographic. It is prejudice against them that the DfE should be trying to eliminate, not the imaginary problems of so-called victim groups.
The mind-readers who know we’re all racists inside
Column I wrote for the Spectator about the Guardian’s report on racism in Britain. It was published on 8th December 2018.
For months I’ve been looking forward to the Guardian’s much-heralded report on racism in Britain, which was unveiled this week. As a nation, we suffer from our fair share of divisions, with new fault lines opening up all the time, but our record when it comes to race relations is pretty good. Surely, a newspaper that prides itself on being guided by the evidence would reflect this?
We’re often told by members of the identitarian left that Britain is more racist than most other countries, but I didn’t expect the Guardian to fall for that. When comparing different countries, one way of gauging the level of racism is to ask whether people in that country would object if a person of another race moved in next door. By that metric, Britain is one of the least racist countries in the world. Less than 5 per cent of Britons say they would object, compared with more than 50 per cent of Jordanians.
We’re also told that racism is on the rise in this country, but, again, the data doesn’t bear that out. For more than 30 years, the British Social Attitudes Survey has been asking people what their reaction would be if a close relative were to marry someone black or Asian. In 1983, when the question was first asked, more than half the respondents said they would feel at least a little discomfort. In 2013, that had declined to less than 25 per cent. It’s set to fall further, too, since young people are less likely to object to inter-ethnic marriage within their families than older people.
There are other, more objective ways of assessing how racist a country is and Britain is faring well by those metrics, too. For instance, roughly 20 per cent of people in further education are from black or minority ethnic backgrounds, which is slightly higher that the percentage of 17- to 24-year-olds who are BME (18 per cent) and considerably higher than it was 15 years ago (13 per cent). The percentage of British-born Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the higher managerial and professional class is almost exactly the same as the percentage of British-born whites and the median household income of British Indians is set to eclipse that of white Britons.
I could go on. No matter how you cut it, Britain is one of the best countries in the world to live in if you’re not white — not entirely free of racism, but less racist than nearly everywhere else. So imagine how surprised I was — shocked, I tell you — when I saw the headline on the Guardian’s report: ‘Racism in Britain: the stark truth uncovered.’ Eh?
The ‘stark truth’, it turns out, is not that Britain is racist in any straightforward sense — it plainly isn’t, as the facts makes clear. Rather, white Britons suffer from ‘unconscious bias’.
If you’re a member of the Social Justice left with a vested interest in promoting a grievance narrative about Britain’s ‘systematic racism’ this is a wonderfully convenient concept since it enables you to say that the British are just as racist as ever in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. The data from the British Social Attitudes Survey going back 35 years? Worthless, obviously, because it just measures how racist people think they are, not how racist they are in their unconscious. The international comparisons? Totally unreliable, too, because the surveyors only ask people about their professed beliefs and that tells us nothing — nothing! — about the dark recesses of their minds.
The difficulty with this sleight of hand is that it’s nigh on impossible to measure ‘unconscious bias’. A group of psychologists at Harvard came up with something called the ‘implicit association test’ 20 years ago which flashes up a quick succession of images and asks the subjects to react without giving them time to think. But this test has proved notoriously unreliable, with the same people clocking up wildly different scores each time they take it, and no correlation between how they do on the test and how discriminatory they are in real life.
The Guardian’s version of this is to ask BME people whether they perceive the behaviour of white Britons to be motivated by unconscious bias — and, not surprisingly, plenty of them do, not least because for years they’ve been bombarded by left-wing multiculturalists telling them how disgustingly racist we all are.
If you want a bit of light relief in the pre-Brexit gloom, take a look at the report. But if you want to know how racist Britain really is, stick to the data.
Why is a BBC executive calling for the removal of middle-aged white men from television?
Column I wrote for the Spectator about the bizarre statement by a senior BBC executive that the era of white men on television ‘telling you like it is’ is over. It was published on 1st September 2018.
Cassian Harrison, the editor of BBC Four, told the Edinburgh International Television Festival last week that no one wants to watch white men explaining stuff on TV any more. ‘There’s a mode of programming that involves a presenter, usually white, middle-aged and male, standing on a hill and “telling you like it is”,’ he said. ‘We all recognise the era of that has passed.’
I’ve been puzzling over this. Why would one of the Beeb’s most senior executives, himself a white, middle-aged man, say something likely to antagonise such a large number of the people who pay his £170,000 salary, i.e. licence payers? After all, 87.2 per cent of the UK’s population is white and I imagine the same is true of the 26 million households that forked out £150.50 for a TV licence in the past year. So, when Cassian Harrison says ‘we all’ agree that time’s up for white men, I don’t think he’s speaking on behalf of all the licence payers. Nor is he speaking for viewers more generally. Let’s not forget that the most popular British television programme of last year, with 14 million viewers, was Blue Planet II, which involved a white male (David Attenborough) standing in front of a camera and explaining stuff.
I can think of three possible explanations for this bizarre statement, although I should stress that I’ve never met the editor of BBC Four so what follows is purely speculative. First of all, there’s the most charitable one, which is that he genuinely believes there aren’t enough black and brown faces on the BBC and for a variety of reasons he thinks there should be more. For instance, he might argue that Britain is a multi-ethnic society and the BBC’s on-screen talent should reflect that diversity, not least because talent is distributed randomly across different ethnic groups. Few people would argue with that. But it’s a bit of a leap to go from that to saying there should be no white men on the BBC when almost nine out of ten Britons are white and half of them are men. To be fair, Harrison didn’t exactly say that — maybe he really did just mean a moratorium on ‘middle-aged’ white men, leaving room for the 92-year-old Attenborough. But even so, that would still mean tens of millions of Britons are unrepresented.
A second possibility is that he was sending a signal to his current employers, as well as those who might employ him in the future, that he has fully embraced the left-wing identitarianism that is fast becoming the official ideology of the liberal establishment. According to this new progressive orthodoxy, white people — more specifically, able-bodied, straight white men who don’t think they are women in the wrong bodies — are ‘privileged’ and it’s high time they stepped aside and made way for those they’ve been ‘oppressing’ for thousands of years, such as women, people of colour, lesbians, gays, the differently abled, men who think they’re women in the wrong bodies, etc. Not that the panjandrums at the apex of the liberal establishment have any intention of checking their privilege, even though they tick all the ‘wrong’ boxes, but that’s a minor detail. The important thing is that if you want to convince these gatekeepers that you’re one of them, and a safe person to appoint to a highly paid public office, you have to demonstrate your fluency in the language of the identitarian left. It’s the equivalent of a 16th-century courtier hoping to impress Philip II of Spain by advertising his Catholic piety.
The third possibility is that Harrison was simply trying to get across that he’s a member of the media’s Brahmin class. An American journalist called Reihan Salam wrote a brilliant piece in the Atlantic a couple of weeks ago about why anti-white rhetoric has become so widespread among white liberal elites. His explanation is that, for white people, racial self-flagellation has become a high-status indicator. ‘It is almost as though we’re living through a strange sort of ethnogenesis, in which those who see themselves as (for lack of a better term) upper-whites are doing everything they can to disaffiliate themselves from those they’ve deemed lower-whites,’ he wrote. In this light, Harrison was advertising his status as an ‘upper-white’ by attacking his own racial group, something a ‘lower-white’ would never do. You know the type — the kind of knuckle-dragging troglodyte who voted ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum.
I wonder which explanation, if any, is correct? I hope to reach a conclusion by the time my next TV licence fee is due.
The problem with deciding that popular culture is ‘problematic’
Column I wrote for the Spectator about the controversy that erupted over a screening of Zulu in Folkestone. Published on 30th June 2018.
A controversy has erupted in Folkestone over a forthcoming screening of Zulu, the classic British war film. A charity has arranged to show the film at the Silver Screen Cinema on Saturday to raise money for members of the armed forces and their families, but the event may have to be cancelled following a letter to the town’s mayor signed by 28 locals objecting to Zulu’s ‘racist overtones’. ‘The film glorifies the myth that was created in 1879 after the humiliation of the British military defeat at the battle of Isandlwana,’ they write. ‘The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was, in reality, little more than a footnote after a far more important and far more gory battle earlier in the day, 11 miles away at Isandlwana.’
The Folkestone letter writers may not know it, but they are part of a growing movement to cleanse popular culture of its politically incorrect content. It is known as ‘the awokening’. In America, numerous films and TV programmes have been criticised for being insufficiently ‘woke’ — that is, failing to advertise their awareness of the systematic biases and challenges facing marginalised communities. I’m not talking about The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s silent epic which has long been condemned for its sympathetic portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, but much more recent fare, such as Friends. The long-running 1990s sitcom is now considered ‘problematic’ — woke-speak for ‘completely unacceptable’ — because, among other things, it poked fun at one of its characters for being an overweight adolescent. That falls under the banner of ‘fat shaming’, one of the deadliest sins in the woke decalogue.
Another example: Sex and the City. In the eyes of one critic, the four main protagonists are ‘largely oblivious to their own privilege as rich cisgender white women with enviable careers living in super-desirable Manhattan apartments’. To rectify this, a Twitter meme has been created called ‘#Woke-Charlotte’ in which one of the characters pops up to scold the others whenever they say anything ‘troubling’ or ‘not OK’. For instance, when Carrie describes bisexuality as ‘a lay-over on the way to Gay Town’, Woke Charlotte is immediately on hand to admonish her. ‘Bisexuality is a real sexual orientation,’ she says. ‘It’s not “just a phase” and as a sex columnist you have a responsibility to educate yourself on queer issues.’
But it isn’t just the pop culture of yesteryear that is targeted by woke crusaders. Last year, a 35-year-old Indian-American comedian named Hari Kondabolu criticised the makers of The Simpsons for trafficking in ‘soft racism’ in the form of Apu, the eager-to-please, south Asian convenience store owner. Kondabolu set out his argument in a documentary called The Problem With Apu, and the writers of the show responded in an episode entitled ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’ that includes a scene in which Marge reads Lisa an updated edition of a book she loved as a child but which has been rewritten to expunge its ‘racist stereotypes’. Lisa is bored by the new version and tells Marge the authors should have left the book as it was. ‘Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect,’ she says. ‘What can you do?’
Lisa’s dismissal of Kondabolu’s attack on the grounds that it’s applying today’s moral standards to cultural touchstones of the past is right, I think. Regardless of whether you share the identity politics of the woke critics — and I don’t, obviously — it is nonsensical to condemn the creators of popular entertainment in the past for not being sufficiently aware of our present-day sensitivities. To go further and suggest that certain films and TV programmes should no longer be shown on the grounds that they might cause offence is ridiculously censorious. It rests on the assumption that exposure to this ‘problematic’ material is somehow harmful to contemporary audiences.
In reality, no one is so fragile that they’re likely to be ‘triggered’ by a 1960s film or 1990s sitcom. My 14-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son spend hours watching Friends, in spite of being considerably more woke than their father. Like most people, they’re perfectly capable of placing the series in its historical context and enjoying it without approving of it in every particular. They don’t need protecting from its fat-shaming scenes any more than the resident of a Kent seaside town do from the ‘racist overtones’ of Zulu. Let’s hope the mayor of Folkestone is as robust in his response to these modern-day Mary Whitehouses as Lisa Simpson.
The trouble with diversity training? It’s complete hokum
This is a column I wrote for the Spectator about America’s $8 billion-a-year diversity training business. It was published on 8th July 2017.
Is diversity training snake oil? According to its proponents, women and minorities are not competing with white men on a level playing field when it comes to career advancement because of the ‘unconscious bias’ of their white male colleagues. The solution, if you’re the CEO of a large company, is to pay a ‘diversity consultant’ to train your managers to recognise and eliminate this bias. In America, it’s an $8 billion-a-year industry, yet a recent study in Australia suggests that, whatever’s holding back women and minorities, it isn’t unconscious bias.
The Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government has just published the results of a randomised control tria involving 21,000 employees of the Australian Public Service to see if the introduction of ‘blind recruiting’ would help promote gender equality and diversity. The employees were asked to short-list candidates for a managerial position, with half of them being given their names and other identity markers and the other half not. If these public servants are suffering from unconscious bias, you would expect the ‘blindfolded’ group to be more likely to shortlist female and minority candidates and less likely to shortlist white men. In fact, the reverse happened.
The participants in the study were 2.9 per cent more likely to shortlist female applicants and 3.2 per cent less likely to shortlist male applicants when their identities were made clear. Minority males were 5.8 per cent more likely to be shortlisted and minority females 8.6 per cent more likely when their identities were known and candidates who were lucky enough to be both female and from a minority background were virtually guaranteed a job. The APS employees were suffering from bias, alright, but it was bias in the other direction. It was only when the participants were forced to judge the job applicants on their merits, rather than gender or skin colour, that the white males got a fair shout.
Is this study an outlier? Surely, an $8 billion-a-year industry couldn’t be based on complete hokum, could it? Unconscious bias, also referred to as ‘implicit bias’, was first detected 20 years ago by two psychologists who developed something called the ‘Implicit Association Test’. Versions of this test are used in nearly all diversity training courses, but the original, which has a special shrine devoted to it on Harvard University’s website, has been taken over 17 million times. Trouble is, it falls short of the standards that most widely-used psychological tests are expected to meet – and that’s a pretty low bar in a field that’s already teeming with snake oil salesmen.
The original test asks people to react to words and images flashing up on a computer screen by hitting keys equating to ‘good’ and ‘bad’. It gets quite complicated, but the gist of it is you’re asked to hit ‘good’ when you see a black face and words and images associated with blackness, ‘bad’ when you see the white equivalent, and then you’re asked to do the opposite, and then go back to what you were first asked to do, and so on. Turns out that over the course of the test most white people take longer to associate black with ‘good’ than white. Now, common sense tells you the white participants are terrified of being labelled politically incorrect so take longer to get it right when there’s a black face on the screen. But according to the test’s architects, what this really reveals is that white people are screaming racists. (Similar tests are used to establish sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.)
There are plenty of other reasons to doubt the validity of the test. For one thing, when people take it more than once, their scores are often wildly different – so you might be a little bit racist one day, but a lot racist the next. In addition, the evidence showing a correlation between a high score and racial discrimination is sketchy at best. There’s a long-running dispute about this in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, with critics of the test pouring scorn on its defenders. In one particularly torturous bit of reasoning, the test’s proponents cited a study showing white people being nice to black people as evidence of unconscious bias. They were ‘over-compensating’, apparently.
I’m getting some of this info from a brilliant article in New York magazine by Jesse Singal entitled ‘Psychology’s favourite tool for measuring racism isn’t up to the job’. Next time your boss suggests you undergo diversity training, tell her to read it.
Inventing Victimhood: Universities Too Often Serve as “Hate Crime Hoax” Mills by Andy Ngo, City Journal, 26th June 2019
America’s White Saviors by Zach Goldberg, The Tablet, 5th June 2019
The Disturbing Thing I Learned While Studying White Privilege and Liberals by Erin Colley, Vice, 7th May 2019
‘Complex intersections of race and class: Among social liberals, learning about White privilege reduces sympathy, increases blame, and decreases external attributions for White people struggling with poverty‘, E. Cooley, J.L. Brown-Iannuzzi, R.F. Lei,W. Cipolli III, Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29th April 2019
White privilege lessons are sometimes used to increase awareness of racism. However, little research has investigated the consequences of these lessons. Across 2 studies (N = 1,189), we hypothesized that White privilege lessons may both highlight structural privilege based on race, and simultaneously decrease sympathy for other challenges some White people endure (e.g., poverty)—especially among social liberals who may be particularly receptive to structural explanations of inequality. Indeed, both studies revealed that while social liberals were overall more sympathetic to poor people than social conservatives, reading about White privilege decreased their sympathy for a poor White (vs. Black) person. Moreover, these shifts in sympathy were associated with greater punishment/blame and fewer external attributions for a poor White person’s plight. We conclude that, among social liberals, White privilege lessons may increase beliefs that poor White people have failed to take advantage of their racial privilege—leading to negative social evaluations.
Hate Crime Hoaxes are Real. But so are Hate Crimes by Cathy Young, The Bulwark, 1st March 2019
Why the left is consumed with hate by Shelby Steele, Wall St Journal, 23rd September 2018
‘Does “Privilege Checking” Make Us Less Racist, or More? Generation and Political Orientation Matter‘, L.C.E. Brad, T.J. Spisz, C.G. Tanega, Race and Social Problems, 8th September 2018
In recent years, White-dominated communities have begun to attend more to issues of diversity and inclusion. To this effect, many communities have instituted formal diversity training sessions. Frequently, these include exercises designed to facilitate White people’s awareness of how whiteness shapes their experiences. We investigated how generation and political orientation might shape individuals’ responses to such interventions in a context in which commitments to social justice compete with concerns with abstract liberalism. A national online sample responded to a racial privilege checklist (or a control checklist), then expressed attitudes about an Airbnb.com policy that enables hosts’ racial discrimination against guests. The present evidence indicates that while a White privilege salience exercise may increase anti-racist attitudes in moderate and liberal Pre-Millennials, it is associated with a backlash effect in Millennial conservatives and moderates, who express more racist attitudes when White privilege is salient compared with a control condition. We discuss potential mechanisms, as well as implications for diversity initiatives and limitations.
The problem with ‘White Fragility’ theory by Johnathan Church, Quillette, 18th August 2018
Stop white men explaining stuff, says BBC boss, The Times, 24th August 2018
The Utility of White-Bashing: It’s a rhetoric that serves a purpose—which is why it’s not likely to disappear, by Reihan Salam, The Atlantic, 6th August 2018
The New Racism, Part II: The Sociologist’s Toolkit: Justifying Racism Through Language by John Staddon, The James G Martin Center for Academic Renewal, 3rd August 2018
Yes, anti-white racism exists by David French, The National Review, 2nd August 2018
The unbearable whiteness of baseball by Michael Powell, Globe and Mail, 30th July 2018
A Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism by Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 23rd July 2017
Black American culture and the racial wealth gap by Coleman Hughes, Quillette, 18th July 2018
Fewer Births than Deaths Among Whites in Majority of U.S. Sates, New York Times, 20th June 2018
White Power, Political Correctness and Black Free-Thinkers by Remi Adekoya, Allinbritain.org, 18th June 2018
‘Experimental evidence for tipping points in social convention‘, D. Centola, J, Becker, D. Brackbill, A, Baronchelli, Science, 8th Jun 2018
Theoretical models of critical mass have shown how minority groups can initiate social change dynamics in the emergence of new social conventions. Here, we study an artificial system of social conventions in which human subjects interact to establish a new coordination equilibrium. The findings provide direct empirical demonstration of the existence of a tipping point in the dynamics of changing social conventions. When minority groups reached the critical mass—that is, the critical group size for initiating social change—they were consistently able to overturn the established behavior. The size of the required critical mass is expected to vary based on theoretically identifiable features of a social setting. Our results show that the theoretically predicted dynamics of critical mass do in fact emerge as expected within an empirical system of social coordination.
The High Price of Stale Grievances by Coleman Hughes, Quillette, 5th June 2018
The Racism Treadmill by Coleman Hughes, Quillette, 14th may 2018
‘Privilege and Broadening Participation in Physics‘, L. Burko, Bulletin of the American Physical Society, 18th April 2018
Recently, Scherr and Robertson published a highly visible article in the ‘Race and Physics Teaching” special collection of The Physics Teacher, titled ‘Unveiling Privilege to Broaden Participation.’ These authors argue that factors contributing to the underrepresentation of women and people of color in physics can be seen as manifestations of White and/or male privilege and that “White male privilege pervades the discipline of physics as well as the classrooms in which physics is taught and learned.” We review and critique some of the arguments, including (1) “Physics is portrayed in textbooks as \ldots independent of all social or political contexts, rather than as being shaped by the culture of the European Enlightenment (among other cultures) or the conditions during specific international conflicts;” (2) “Physics strongly values male-socialized traits such as independence, competition, and individual victories. Objectivity and rationality themselves, the foundations of scientific ideology, are also male-socialized traits;” (3) “Conceptualizing Nature as governed by laws can suggest that it is ruled by a lawmaker, who is often implicitly conceptualized as a male authority;” and (4) “We need to be willing to open up the space of what counts as physics.”
White guilt and black power: The creation of the structural racism myth by Tarjinder Wilkinson. Allinbritain.org, 30th March 2018
‘Towards a truer multicultural science education: how whiteness impacts science education‘, P.T. Le and C.E. Matias, Cultural Studies of Science Education, 13th March 2018
The hope for multicultural, culturally competent, and diverse perspectives in science education falls short if theoretical considerations of whiteness are not entertained. Since whiteness is characterized as a hegemonic racial dominance that has become so natural it is almost invisible, this paper identifies how whiteness operates in science education such that it falls short of its goal for cultural diversity. Because literature in science education has yet to fully entertain whiteness ideology, this paper offers one of the first theoretical postulations. Drawing from the fields of education, legal studies, and sociology, this paper employs critical whiteness studies as both a theoretical lens and an analytic tool to re-interpret how whiteness might impact science education. Doing so allows the field to reconsider benign, routine, or normative practices and protocol that may influence how future scientists of Color experience the field. In sum, we seek to have the field consider the theoretical frames of whiteness and how it might influence how we engage in science education such that our hope for diversity never fully materializes
The psychopathology of the progressive mind by Udham Singh, Allinbritain.org, 5th March 2018
‘Black men making it in America‘, W.B. Wilcox, W.R. Wang, R.B. Mincy, The American Enterprise Institute, 2018
Over the last decade, much of the racial news and academic research on black men in America has been sobering, if not downright depressing. But negative news isn’t the only story about race or even about black males in the United States. In Black Men Making It in America, we report some good news:
- Black men’s economic standing. More than one-in-two black men (57%) have made it into the middle class or higher as adults today, up from 38% in 1960, according to a new analysis of Census data. And the share of black men who are poor has fallen from 41% in 1960 to 18% in 2016. So, a substantial share of black men in America are realizing the American Dream—at least financially—and a clear majority are not poor.
- The institutional engines of black men’s success. As expected, higher education and full-time work look like engines of success for black men in America. But three other institutions that tend to get less attention in our current discussions of race—the U.S. military, the black church, and marriage—also appear to play significant roles in black men’s success. For instance, black men who served in the military are more likely than those who did not to be in the middle class when they reach mid-life (54% vs. 45%), according to our new analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79). Black men who frequently attended church services at a young age are also more likely to reach the middle class or higher when they are in their fifties: 53% of those men who attended church as young men made it, compared to 43% who did not. Finally, about 70% of married black men are in the middle class, compared to only 20% of never-married black men and 44% of divorced black men.
- The importance of individual agency. Black men who score above average in their sense of agency— measured by reports that they feel like they are determining the course of their own lives versus feeling like they do not have control over the direction of their lives—as young men or teenagers in the late 1970s are more likely to be prosperous later in life. Specifically, 52% of black men who had a higher sense of agency as young men made it into at least the middle class when they reached age 50, compared to 44% of their peers who did not have that sense of agency.
At the same time, we find that another institutions – the criminal justice system – stands as an obstacle to success for black men in America.
- Contact with the criminal justice system. By midlife, only 28% of black men who had contact with the criminal justice system when they were young have moved into the middle or upper class, compared to 52% of black men who had no contact with the criminal justice system at a younger age.
The Great Awokening: What happens to culture in an era of identity politics? by Molly Fischer, New York, 18th January 2018
‘Reconciling Results on Racial Differences in Police Shootings‘, R.G. Fryer, Harvard University, 2018
‘An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force‘ R.G. Fryer, Harvard University, 2017
This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.
How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power by Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York Times, 6th October 2017
Psychology’s favourite tool for measuring racism isn’t up to the job by Jesse Singal, New York, 11th January 2017
Fragmented future by Steve Salier, The American Conservative, 15th January 2017
Lena Dunham Posts Video Celebrating the “Extinction of White Men” on Twitter, Brietbart, 3rd November 2016
‘A Meta-Analysis of Procedures to Change Implicit Measures‘, P. Forscher, C. Lai. J. Axt, C. Ebersole, M. Herman, P. Devine, Brian Nosek, PsArXiv Preprints, 15th August 2016
Using a novel technique known as network meta-analysis, we synthesized evidence from 492 studies (87,418 participants) to investigate the effectiveness of procedures in changing implicit measures, which we define as response biases on implicit tasks. We also evaluated these procedures’ effects on explicit and behavioral measures. We found that implicit measures can be changed, but effects are often relatively weak (|ds| < .30). Most studies focused on producing short-term changes with brief, single-session manipulations. Procedures that associate sets of concepts, invoke goals or motivations, or tax mental resources changed implicit measures the most, whereas procedures that induced threat, affirmation, or specific moods/emotions changed implicit measures the least. Bias tests suggested that implicit effects could be inflated relative to their true population values. Procedures changed explicit measures less consistently and to a smaller degree than implicit measures and generally produced trivial changes in behavior. Finally, changes in implicit measures did not mediate changes in explicit measures or behavior. Our findings suggest that changes in implicit measures are possible, but those changes do not necessarily translate into changes in explicit measures or behavior.
‘Not a real period? Social and material constructions of menstruation‘, K.A. Hasson, Gender and Society, 5th October 2015
Despite a great deal of feminist work that has highlighted its social construction, menstruation seems a self-evidently “natural” bodily process. Yet, how menstruation is defined or what “counts” as menstruation is rarely questioned. Examining menstruation alongside technologies that alter it highlights these definitional questions. In this article, I examine menstrual suppression through an analysis of medical journal articles and FDA advisory committee transcripts, paired with websites used to market menstrual suppression to consumers. Across these contexts (clinical research, FDA regulation, and advertising), new definitions of menstruation converged on a distinction between bleeding that occurs when women are taking hormonal birth control and when they are not. The case of menstrual suppression birth control pills provides an opportunity to study the work of redefining a biological process understood as quintessentially natural and deeply significant for gendered embodiment, as well as a challenge to consider both the social and material construction of gendered bodies.
‘The perilous whiteness of pumpkins‘, L.J. Powell and E.S.D. Engelhardt, GeoHumanities, 21st August 2015
This article examines the symbolic whiteness associated with pumpkins in the contemporary United States. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, a widely circulated essay in McSweeney’s on “Decorative Gourd Season,” pumpkins in aspirational lifestyle magazines, and the reality television show Punkin Chunkin provide entry points into whiteness–pumpkin connections. Such analysis illuminates how class, gender, place, and especially race are employed in popular media and marketing of food and flavor; it suggests complicated interplay among food, leisure, labor, nostalgia, and race. Pumpkins in popular culture also reveal contemporary racial and class coding of rural versus urban places. Accumulation of critical, relational, and contextual analyses, including things seemingly as innocuous as pumpkins, points the way to a food studies of humanities and geography. When considered vis-à-vis violence and activism that incorporated pumpkins, these analyses point toward the perils of equating pumpkins and whiteness.