All posts filed under: Identity

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 …

Standing Up to the Gender Ideologues: a Quillette Editorial

On June 23rd, Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts put out a carefully worded five-paragraph media statement regarding German-born textile artist Jess de Wahls. “We have apologised to Jess de Wahls for the way we have treated her and do so again publicly now,” read the RA communiqué. “We had no right to judge her views … This betrayed our most important core value—the protection of free speech.” The controverted speech in question was contained in a 2019 blog post, in which de Wahls wrote that “a woman is an adult human female (not an identity or feeling),” and that trans women are “biological males [who] choose to live as a woman, or believe they actually are women.” These are statements that almost every person knows to be true, but which have become unfashionable to say out loud in highly progressive subcultures. And so, when a handful of people raised a fuss about de Wahls’ work being sold in the RA gift shop, Academy officials not only purged de Wahl from their inventory earlier this month, …

The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought

I. Can we choose to be optimistic or pessimistic about our future prospects? Can we choose our appetite for risk or our attitude toward conformity? Can we choose to bolster our self-esteem if we know that low self-esteem is causing us grief? Few of us believe we are entirely free to conduct a sober, sophisticated cost-benefit analysis every time we face an important decision in life, whether it’s how much to study for a final exam, when to end a long-term relationship, or if we should order one last drink before the bar closes. Similarly, few of us believe we live in an entirely deterministic world in which we are free only to rationalize our behavior after the fact. So, how free are we? Science provides us with plenty of empirical evidence to suggest we are not as free as our most exuberant defenders of human freedom assume, but it will likely be a few more decades, if not longer, before neuroscientists, endocrinologists, evolutionary biologists, sociologists, psychologists, and scientists of as-yet-unnamed disciplines identify precisely where …

The ‘Gender Supremacist’ Threat to the Progressive Alliance: Part One of a Three-Part Series

There have always been conflicts within the LGBT+ community. But the recent capture of Western political and cultural institutions by a faction of radicalized transgender activists presents a more existential type of crisis. The backlash against this clique’s overreach, which we are already beginning to observe, won’t be felt merely by the LGBT+ movement in whose name these activists present their demands, but by progressive causes more generally. Gender supremacists (as I call them) seek to entirely replace sex with gender as a legal category, an unpopular project that is squandering decades of hard-won LGBT+ social capital; contradicts the arguments that led to our most important policy victories; alienates our allies (especially in the women’s movement); and redefines gays and lesbians in a way that effectively erases us out of existence. To be clear: Trans people should have the same rights as everyone else to live openly, freely, and safely. Gender identity and expression deserve legal protection under human-rights and anti-hate-crime laws. I am not arguing that the LGBT+ community’s component groups and their progressive …

Tocqueville and Us

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. ~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness Come around to my way of thinking. Don’t you want to, want to get along? ~Urge Overkill, “Sister Havana” The University of Michigan just signaled its plan to fight racism: “Over the next three years, the university will hire at least 20 faculty members with expertise in racial inequality and structural racism.” The key words here are “at least”; count on more than 20. Corporations like Microsoft, Disney, and Genentech now routinely browbeat managers and employees into moral conformity by way of “diversity training.” The Biden administration has reactivated “racial justice” and “equity” programs across federal agencies and at the unit level of the armed forces. The self-flagellation in such powerful American institutions only perplexes those who love their country for all it has overcome and still see it as a beacon of freedom and prosperity. A few brave souls have decried these academic, corporate, and federal policies to the detriment of their careers. But, in response, the agents …

When Sons Become Daughters: It’s Time to Admit That Reflexive ‘Affirmation’ Has Been a Mistake

What follows is the seventh and final instalment of When Sons Become Daughters, a Quillette series that explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl—and explains why so many of these mothers and fathers believe they can’t discuss their fears and concerns with their own children, therapists, doctors, friends, and relatives. To find out more about how the author collected and reported information, please refer to his introductory essay in this series. “What are your preferred pronouns?” I ask Rene Jax, somewhat in jest. The answer: “Your Imperial Majesty. Look, you call me what you want. I don’t care. My friends say I’m half this and half that.” Rene (a real name, unlike the pseudonyms I’ve generally been using to describe others) is a 60-year-old male-to-female post-operative transsexual who looks both like a woman (hair, clothing, style of glasses) and a man (hands, Adam’s apple, jawline). My question felt farcical to both of us because Rene has written openly about the pathway that led to transition—and then to regret. …

Why Is the Society for American Archaeology Promoting Indigenous Creationism?

In April, one of us—Elizabeth Weiss—gave a talk, titled Has Creationism Crept Back into Archaeology?, at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). The 87-year-old SAA identifies itself as “an international organization dedicated to research about the interpretation and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas.” The SAA board of directors includes professors, curators, and government archaeologists, all of whom presumably appreciate the importance of studying artifacts and human remains as a means to understanding the history of our species. The subject of the April 15th talk, co-authored with James W. Springer (who also co-authored this essay), was the threat of religious literalism being used as a means to insist on the repatriation of human remains (mainly skeletons) and artifacts to presumed descendent populations—i.e., present-day Indigenous communities whose members live near the location where such remains are discovered. However, our use of the term “repatriation” more broadly encompasses the new laws, ideological claims, and policies that serve to give Indigenous claimants control over remains and artifacts, as well as over …