All posts filed under: Identity

Silicon Valley’s Cynical Treatment of Asian Engineers

Silicon Valley runs on Asians. This is a well-known aspect of the tech world in general, but it’s especially apparent in elite sub-sectors. Even by 2010, Asian Americans already had become a majority (50.1 percent) of all tech workers in the Bay Area: software engineers, data engineers, programmers, systems analysts, admins, and developers. Census Bureau statistics from the same year put white tech workers at 40.1 percent. Other races made up, in total, slightly less than 10 percent. I interviewed a Facebook product manager fresh out of university. He interacts daily with teams of software engineers at Facebook, coordinating and leading projects, and getting them in line. Among the four teams of five or so software engineers he works with on a daily basis, he told me, 15 out of the 20 are Chinese. “I don’t mean Chinese-American,” he clarified. “I mean Chinese-Chinese, like from China.” These Chinese engineers largely speak Mandarin during work, making the company billions as they write code with machine-gun efficiency. Or, as he puts it: “We’re at an American social …

The Accomplishments of Black Conservative Thought

The line between moral and empirical claims is a tricky one for debaters. In his thoughtful Quillette essay, “The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought,” Aaron Hanna—like me, a professor of Political Science—critiques some of the more sweeping theoretical claims of America’s intellectual tradition of black conservatism. However, he does not rebut (or necessarily attempt to rebut) many more empirical points made recently by scholars like Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury, and indeed myself. To a large extent, Hanna’s essay is a critical analysis of imperfect visions. He notes that the US black conservative tradition is often defined by two primary paradigms: Shelby Steele’s idea that an attraction to the idea of “victimhood” is thwarting black progress and Sowell’s idea that there are problems in “black culture” that limit competitiveness. Both men advocate personal responsibility and choice as the most reliable path to black advancement. In contrast to these visions, Hanna accurately notes, the dominant paradigm on the progressive Left is that oppression, or “systemic racism,” limits African American performance. Hanna’s essay identifies several flaws in all …

Historical Racism Is Not the Singular Cause of Racial Disparity

Even before the crescendo of Black Lives Matter last summer, the operative view among progressives was that historical racism is the overriding cause of racial disparities between black and white Americans today. The progressive ethos on race is neatly conveyed by the novelist William Faulkner’s remark: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” If the wide socio-economic gaps between whites and blacks in terms of income, wealth, health, incarceration, and education outcomes speak to the enduring legacy of slavery and segregation, large-scale efforts to improve the conditions of the country without regard for race seem insufficient to many. First, Americans must come to terms with the moral and political implications of living in a country that oppressed an entire class of citizens for hundreds of years on the arbitrary basis of ancestry, while flaunting democratic ideals of freedom and equality it was failing to uphold. Those who respond by pointing to the decline of anti-black racism since the civil rights movement or the subsequent success of other minority groups in the country are …

The Strange Rehabilitation of the Black Panther Party

Isn’t it a little late for the rehabilitation of the Black Panther Party (BPP)? After all, the organization that first caught the public’s attention in 1969 was already in its death throes by the early 1970s, beset by internal splits, criminal prosecutions, and violent faction-fighting. Yet, five decades later, the BPP is being energetically romanticized, its legacy is being whitewashed, and its leaders are being valorized in murals, documentaries, and major Hollywood productions that portray the movement and its leaders as revolutionary icons of righteous struggle. The most recent attempt to rehabilitate the BPP began in 2015, when Stanley Nelson’s hagiographic documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution received theatrical distribution, followed by a nationwide PBS broadcast the following year. Notwithstanding a devastating critique by Michael Moynihan in the Daily Beast, the film received a generally favorable critical reception from a credulous media class and was duly followed by further revisionist histories. The most recent and popular of these is Shaka King’s 2021 feature film, Judas and the Black Messiah. Daniel Kaluuya plays Fred …

Almost Four Decades After Its Birth, The Diversity Industry Thrives on Its Own Failures

Campus diversity advocates have pulled off their greatest coup to date: They have declared “diversity” to be a freestanding academic discipline, thus injecting their bureaucracy-heavy apparatus into the very heart of the academic enterprise. As of this month, Bentley University, a business-oriented liberal arts school in Waltham, Mass., will offer a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Sciences degree in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). By all accounts, this is the first undergraduate major dedicated to churning out more diversity bureaucrats and consultants. It will not be the last. The BA track in DEI studies will prepare students for non-profit and community-based work by focusing on “theoretical approaches to social justice,” according to Bentley. The “sciences” track emphasizes the “importance of DEI in organizational strategy,” for students heading into the private sector. Designing the new major was relatively easy, and would be easily replicable at other schools, its architects said. Bentley created just one new “foundational” course, while repackaging Bentley’s existing social justice-themed offerings under the DEI banner. “You may be surprised to find …

As a Gay Child in a Christian Cult, I Was Taught to Hate Myself. Then I Joined the Church of Social Justice—and Nothing Changed

I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, in a fundamentalist Christian community called The Lamb of God. What began in the mid-1970s as a small group of born-again hippies who played music, prayed together, and proselytized to whoever would listen about Jesus’s unconditional love and mercy, descended into authoritarianism in the 1980s after its founder linked up with the broader charismatic renewal movement that had been sweeping the nation. The Lamb of God’s doctrine became explicit—Christianity good; Islam, feminism, secular humanism, and Marxism bad; and the rules strict—complete submission of all members to the leadership, and of all wives to their husbands. My father was one of the five male leaders, or “coordinators.” My mother, though she had at one time been considered for the corresponding female role of “handmaid,” was never officially appointed to the position. This meant that she was excluded from the leadership’s official meetings, segregated by sex, in which coordinators and handmaids would discuss the goings-on of their underlings—who was having marital problems, who was doubting the faith, who …

How All My Politically Correct Bones Were Broken

In my first 10 years of college teaching, from the mid-60s to mid-70s, I modeled myself on my best teachers—men and women who questioned my ideas vigorously. They let me know that I mattered to them, they praised when praise was due, and they pushed me hard. Often I balked, and they continued to push. Indeed, the teachers who sternly, even at times angrily, called me out on my intellectual arrogance and sloppiness became mentors and, in several cases, lifelong friends. I think of one in particular, an English teacher to whom I’d brought a piece of freshman writing I’d ginned up only minutes before a mandatory conference. I knew it was junk when I carried it to his desk. He stunned me, growling, “You get the hell out of this office. And don’t come back until you respect yourself and me enough to do serious work.” The upshot—I admired his refusal of my bullshit. I went on to take all his classes. Today, such a teacher would be subject, at least, to sensitivity training …

Standing up to the Social-Justice Mobs Within the Jewish Community

A black and Jewish diversity officer, April Powers, recently resigned from her post at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), after a mob descended on her for not mentioning Islamophobia in a statement she’d issued about the rise in anti-Semitism. “I neglected to address the rise in Islamophobia, and deeply regret that omission,” Powers said. “As someone who is vehemently against Islamophobia and hate speech of any kind, I understand that intention is not impact and I am sorry.” Even just a few years ago, such a cancellation would have seemed bizarre and outrageous—especially the suggestion that the morality of one’s actions may be judged according to their “impact,” as subjectively assessed by third-party activists. Neither would we have understood why decrying one form of bigotry without mentioning another is problematic. We have just witnessed a series of news cycles in which we have all been invited to decry bigotry against blacks, Asians, members of the LGBT community, and other groups. Was each of these population-specific calls to action also problematic? pic.twitter.com/BrAxWF2twV …

On Victimhood and Culture—A Reply to Aaron Hanna

It was a pleasure to read Aaron Hanna’s recent essay, “The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought.” It is magnificently reasoned, informed, and fair. Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell have rarely been engaged so constructively. The Right can be too deferential and fails to subject their work to proper scrutiny, while the Left either pretends they don’t exist or dismisses them out of hand. I am, predictably, inclined towards the views of both writers, but have always considered them too often revered or despised, rather than truly considered. Hanna raises important questions and, notwithstanding my profound admiration for both Steele and Sowell (Steele was my inspiration and is the reason I am writing this response rather than a linguistics article right now), neither has been especially eager to respond to his respective critics. They have their stories and they stick to them, and both have been around too long to engage much in social media, which has a way of making a race writer get down to specifics. Nevertheless, I do question two of Hanna’s criticisms. …

The Bias Narrative versus the Development Narrative: Thinking About Persistent Racial Inequality in the United States

Quillette invited author and Brown University professor of economics Glenn Loury to respond to Aaron Hanna’s recent critique of black conservatives. He replied: I read Hanna’s long piece. It is very thoughtful and provocative. You are to be commended for publishing it. [Thomas] Sowell and [Shelby] Steele can speak for themselves. I hope one or both elects to do so. As for my part (as a fellow-traveller with those black conservatives) here is my answer. Attached was a transcript of a talk Professor Loury delivered at Pepperdine University on June 5th, 2021. It is not a direct reply to Hanna’s essay but we are reprinting Loury’s remarks below to further discussion of this important and timely topic. A video of the talk is embedded for those who prefer to watch the speech rather than read it. The text has been lightly edited. *     *     * The power of the narrative Let me be as provocative as I can. I want to talk about the power of narratives to shape racial politics in this …