All posts filed under: Must Reads

What Divides Us Is Class, Not Race

Black lives matter. It’s become a rallying cry for those seeking social and racial justice. These three words express the idea, symbolized by the death of George Floyd, that race defines the fault line fracturing our society. Racism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It always has an economic context. When Brownshirts attacked Jewish shop owners in Nazi Germany, an opening act in one of history’s greatest genocides, they were acting on anti-Semitic propaganda that cast Jews as leeches sucking Germany’s lifeblood. This was an ugly and murderous lie. But it became attractive to those suffering amidst the reparations that had been imposed on Germany after World War I, and whose effects impoverished the country’s workers. The villains in today’s racism narrative tend to be cast as privileged, white middle-aged men—beneficiaries of a system that everyone can see is unfair. But the idea that the injustice baked into our economic systems can be reduced to race is false. For years, I was chief economist at one of Canada’s biggest banks. Since I stepped down from that …

Forget What Gender Activists Tell You. Here’s What Medical Transition Looks Like

At a recent gathering, a daughter’s friend told us, “I’m probably trans because I don’t like female puberty.” This instantly got my attention, because I have known this child for years, and I never saw any indication of her being trans. I innocently asked her why she would say that. Was it a joke, perhaps? She replied, “I don’t like my boobs growing, and Reddit says I’m probably trans.” That night, I tracked down these Reddit exchanges, and my jaw dropped when I saw how many people and organizations were heavily pushing the possibility of her being trans. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the way such attitudes have gone mainstream. This includes the pediatrician mom whose recent opinion piece for the New York Times was titled What I Learned as the Parent of a Transgender Child. For kids Googling this subject, the overall effect is the equivalent of one big glitter bomb going off on their screen. I write all this as a 47-year-old transgender man who transitioned five years ago. I’m …

Then They Came for Beethoven

This week, Vox published an article titled “How Beethoven’s 5th Symphony put the classism in classical music.” “Since its 1808 premiere, audiences have interpreted [its opening progression] as a metaphor for Beethoven’s personal resilience in the face of his oncoming deafness,” write Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding. But “for some in other groups—women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color—Beethoven’s symphony may be predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism.” In the article, and an accompanying podcast, the two men ask “how Beethoven’s symphony was transformed from a symbol of triumph and freedom into a symbol of exclusion, elitism, and gatekeeping.” The article has been widely mocked on social media—in part because the authors (both white men, from what I can tell) offer no real evidence for their claim. That’s odd given that they are purporting to redefine the cultural meaning of what is arguably the most well-known, widely performed, and beloved composition known to humankind. Hundreds of millions of people have fallen in love with this symphony over the past two centuries—many …

Anti-Racist Structuralists and Non-Racist Culturalists

As the long hot summer of 2020 draws to a close, many Americans may feel as though they are living through an unraveling: an uncontrolled pandemic, collapsing faith in public institutions, apocalyptic rhetoric, violence and looting, and—if the rhetoricians of Black Lives Matter are to be believed—a race war. The racial dimension of this crisis is particularly disturbing because Americans cannot agree on what racism is, still less how to oppose it. A new wave of activists insist that we must reject the approach adopted by the 1960s civil rights movement, best understood as non-racism. Non-racism encouraged integrated neighborhoods, inter-racial marriages, and equal opportunity in education and the workplace. It is what finally made Barack Obama’s presidency possible, 45 years after the March on Washington. Notwithstanding these advances, 38-year-old author and activist Ibram X. Kendi disdains non-racism because it is “neutral” and even illusory in the “racism struggle.” If you wish to oppose racism, he tells readers of his 2019 book How to Be an Antiracist, non-racism is insufficient: “The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not …

The Challenge of Marxism

I. The collapse of institutional liberalism For a generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, most Americans and Europeans regarded Marxism as an enemy that had been defeated once and for all. But they were wrong. A mere 30 years later, Marxism is back, and making an astonishingly successful bid to seize control of the most important American media companies, universities and schools, major corporations and philanthropic organizations, and even the courts, the government bureaucracy, and some churches. As American cities succumb to rioting, arson, and looting, it appears as though the liberal custodians of many of these institutions—from the New York Times to Princeton University—have despaired of regaining control of them, and are instead adopting a policy of accommodation. That is, they are attempting to appease their Marxist employees by giving in to some of their demands in the hope of not being swept away entirely. We don’t know what will happen for certain. But based on the experience of recent years, we can venture a pretty good guess. Institutional liberalism …

Think Cancel Culture Doesn’t Exist? My Own ‘Lived Experience’ Says Otherwise

Given the moral authority that many progressives assign to the lessons of “lived experience,” it seems counterintuitive that they are the ones now strenuously downplaying the scourge of cancel culture. No less a progressive icon than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently brushed off the phenomenon as just a bunch of entitled people being “challenged” and “held accountable” for their problematic views. New York Times columnist Charles Blow believes cancel culture doesn’t even exist, except to the extent it’s simply a desirable by-product of grass-roots activism: Once more: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CANCEL CULTURE. There is free speech. You can say and do as you pls, and others can choose never to deal this you, your company or your products EVER again. The rich and powerful are just upset that the masses can now organize their dissent. — Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) July 11, 2020 A common theme is that the faux-victims complaining about cancel culture are high-profile cynics, playing the martyr for the benefit of clicks and fans. Ocasio-Cortez describes the complainants as people who …

A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor

In Congress, on July 4th, 1776, came the “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Signed by 56 men, many of whom were considered national heroes just a few minutes ago, it opens with a long and elegant sentence whose first words every American child knows, or used to: “When in the Course of human events…” In Princeton, New Jersey, on July 4th, 2020, just two hours after my family and I sat around the festive table and read the Declaration aloud in celebration, a group of signatories now in the hundreds published a “Faculty Letter” to the president and other senior administrators at Princeton University. This letter begins with the following blunt sentence: “Anti-Blackness is foundational to America.” One important difference between the two documents might wrongly be dismissed as merely cosmetic. In 1776 there were “united States” but there was not yet the “United States”; in these past two months, by contrast, at a time when we are increasingly un-united, “black” has become “Black” while “white” remains “white.” I am friends …

America Exports Cancel Culture to the World

Recently, I was interviewed for a video for the Dutch media outlet NU.nl, a popular news website in the Netherlands. The topic was cancel culture, which refers to the social trend of ending (or attempting to end) an individual’s career or prominence to hold them to account for violating moral norms. The video was about the uses and abuses of this new trend, including how cancel culture has rightly jettisoned reprehensible individuals like Harvey Weinstein from polite society. On the other hand, it also discussed its excesses, such as the recent social media mobbing of J.K. Rowling. During my segment, I described how individuals use cancel culture to elevate their own social position. Three days after it was published, the video was taken down. I contacted the journalist who interviewed me, asking what happened. He replied that although the video gathered over 176,000 views and was positively received by viewers, his employer determined that it “didn’t meet their profile.” He then revealed that his supervisors believed the video was too sympathetic to the targets of …

JK Rowling is Right—Sex Is Real and It Is Not a “Spectrum”

JK Rowling recently drew fire on social media for tweeting the statements to the effect that “biological sex is real.” The tweets began when she mocked an opinion piece that used the term “people who menstruate” in place of “women” to account for the fact that transgender men also menstruate, and prefer not to be described as women. If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth. — J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 6, 2020 The backlash on Twitter has been swift and cacophonous, and headlines have followed. GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy group, issued a response on Twitter, calling Rowling’s tweets “inaccurate and cruel.” One commenter wrote “I know you know this because you have been told over and over and over again, but transgender men can menstruate. Non-binary people menstruate. I, a 37-year old woman …

Condemn this Violence without Equivocation

I thank God that the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd—an unarmed black man—by the white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was captured on video for all the world to see. That shocking episode provides irrefutable evidence—yet again—of the callous, corrupt, and inhumane practices that are being used by some of those to whom we have granted the fearsome authority and weighty responsibility of policing the streets of our cities. Chauvin’s behavior (and that of his fellow officers, who are depicted in the video standing idly by for what seems like an eternity, while Chauvin casually kneels on Floyd’s neck choking the life out of him) is contemptible, enraging, and entirely unacceptable. This would be true, of course, regardless of the victim’s or the policeman’s race. Yet, given our country’s history, when the murderous cop is white and the dead civilian is black, it is truer still. So, it is essential that those who committed this apparent crime be held accountable in a duly constituted court and, should they be found guilty, punished to …