Can all our beliefs be based on evidence?

Jonny Scaramanga (a former British fundamentalist I interviewed here) wrote an interesting article about the way children may become persuaded of the truth of far fetched beliefs.

Jonny Scaramanga teaching a class
Jonny Scaramanga, former fundamentalist, activist and PhD student at the Institute of Education, University of London, studying student experiences of Accelerated Christian Education.

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Children are not that gullible, which makes indoctrination even more odious

I recently submitted an article on indoctrination for publication in an academic journal. I was attempting to explain what indoctrination looks like in practice in an educational environment, and along the way I made an assertion that I think most people would accept: “Young children … in most cases will believe whatever they are told”.

This is a widely assumed to be true, so I am grateful to my anonymous peer reviewer for pointing out that I was mistaken. The reviewer recommended I read a paper by Dan Sperber et al, “Epistemic vigilance”, which, happily, is freely available online. The section on children begins on page 371. The evidence suggests that children from very young ages use sophisticated techniques to work out who to trust.

Even at a very early age, children do not treat all communicated information as equally reliable. At 16 months, they notice when a familiar word is inappropriately used (Koenig and Echols, 2003). By the age of two, they often attempt to contradict and correct assertions that they believe to be false (e.g. Pea, 1982). These studies challenge the widespread assumption that young children are simply gullible.

Do young children have the cognitive resources to allocate trust on the basis of relevant evidence about an informant’s trustworthiness? Given the choice, three-year-olds seem to prefer informants who are both benevolent (Mascaro and Sperber, 2009) and competent (e.g. Clement ´ et al., 2004). In preferring benevolent informants, they take into account not only their own observations but also what they have been told about the informant’s moral character (Mascaro and Sperber, 2009), and in preferring competent informants, they take past accuracy into account (e.g. Clement ´ et al., 2004; Birch et al., 2008; Scofield and Behrend, 2008). By the age of four, they not only have appropriate preferences for reliable informants, but also show some grasp of what this reliability involves. For instance, they can predict that a dishonest informant will provide false information (Couillard and Woodward, 1999), or that an incompetent informant will be less reliable (Call and Tomasello, 1999; Lampinen and Smith, 1995; Clément et al., 2004). Moreover, they make such predictions despite the fact that unreliable informants typically present themselves as benevolent and competent.

The paper goes on to explain that four- and five-year-olds develop methods of spotting deception and also hypocrisy. Further, they are good at interpreting signals about what other people think about information (and the informers), and they use this to assist their own judgements about who is a trustworthy informant and what information is reliable. They’re also pretty good at spotting when someone intends to deceive them, and they know to ignore that information. From the age of four, children are particularly careful about who to trust.

All of which is not to say that children can’t be fooled, of course, but adults can be fooled too. It turns out children are not the trusting dopes they are sometimes depicted as.

But I know, and you know too, that if you stick a class of children in a room with a teacher who tells them that God made the Earth in six days six thousand years ago, most of them are going to believe it (and this was my point when I said that children generally believe what they are told). So what’s going on?

The answer, of course, is that children have excellent reasons to trust their teachers and their parents. Even in the most extreme cults, the vast majority of the verifiable information we learn from our parents in our formative years turns out to be true. Stoves are indeed hot and plug sockets are dangerous. Waiting for the green man does make it safer to cross the road. The food they recommend is generally good tasting and non-poisonous, and the things they recommend for entertainment are usually enjoyable. Up to the age of four, most of what we know about the world comes from parents, and most of it is right.

Then our parents hand us over to the care of teachers, which implicitly tells us that they are to be trusted. Our parents may also explicitly tell us to trust our teachers, with phrases like “You should listen to what your teacher says”. We trust our parents because they haven’t steered us wrong so far, and sure enough the teacher does seem to be reliable as well. She teaches us to read, which is very useful, and when we read signs using the methods she taught us, we arrive in the right places. She shows us that when we connect wires to metal contacts, the bulb lights up, and when we connect them to plastic, nothing happens.

Our parents and teachers tell us stories, and from quite early on they distinguish between true stories and those which are ‘only stories’. So when they tell us about Noah’s Ark, the exodus from Egypt, and the walls of Jericho, we trust them. We have every reason to do so—they have demonstrated their reliability. We would, as Sperber’s paper argues, be pretty good at telling if they were trying to deceive us, but of course they aren’t.

In short, when children are taught creationism by their parents and teachers, they accept it because this is the rational thing to do. Even the most committed skeptic cannot check everything out first hand. We all gain much of our knowledge from reliable others, and for most of us parents and teachers are the most reliable others we will ever know. It would be insane to trust them on everything except religion when religion is presented as true in the same way as all other knowledge taught at home or school. Of course the children believe you. That’s what you’re for. When you use that fact to make children believe things for which there is insufficient evidence, you are abusing your power and abusing their trust.

Presenting religious ideas as though we can believe them with the same confidence we can believe that clouds make rain or electricity flows through metal better than plastic is just immoral. I find it difficult to overstate how wrong this is. There are not many things I would call sacred, but the duty of care to children must be one of them. Ironically, I find myself wanting to use religious language to emphasise the gravity of this point. From the point of view of the Christian teacher, God has put these children in your care. It is despicable to use this position to present scientific and religious information as though they are both equally knowledge. Your job is to educate children, and you’re lying to them. It is the educational equivalent of a doctor poisoning patients.

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I think this raised quite important questions about the nature of faith and what our convictions should be grounded on.

Here was my response.

Hi Jonny.

I certainly agree it may be pretty harmful to teach far-fetched beliefs to children.

I don’t think, however, that one can generally say that fundies are being immoral for doing so.

Most I talked with are sincerely convinced that there are good arguments for a young earth or an exodus out of Egypt and that if it doesn’t belong to public knowledge, it is only because “godless” scientists “suppress the truth”.

Young earth creationism: poor dinosaurs are seeing the ark departing while the raging water is about to flood them.
Young earth creationism in all its glory.

So they teach what they are honesty convinced of and I think that very few of them teach things they know very well to be false.

Of course, I believe they are either utterly irrational or terribly uninformed. But that changes nothing to their sincerity.

Otherwise, I doubt it is possible to only believe in things we’ve evidence for.

Consider the proposition:

“We do not live in a simulation ran by beings we know nothing about.”

Brain in the vat: "I'm walking outside in the sun!"
Brain in a vat. My thought experiment here is far broader than that and include the possibility of being part of a simulation of beings radically different from everything we can conceive of. Or being fooled by a deceitful demon about whose abilities and psychology we know nothing.

Almost all human beings accept this.
Yet, I strongly doubt it is possible to bring up evidence for this without already making assumptions about reality, i.e. without begging the question.

As far as I can tell, nobody has ever come up with a satisfactory answer to the Muenchhausen dilemna,
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All justifications in pursuit of ‘certain’ knowledge have also to justify the means of their justification and doing so they have to justify anew the means of their justification. Therefore, there can be no end. We are faced with the hopeless situation of ‘infinite regression’.
One can justify with a circular argument, but this sacrifices its validity.

The brain is the most important organ you have. According to the brain.
Circular reasoning.

One can stop at self-evidence or common sense or fundamental principles or speaking ex cathedra or at any other evidence, but in doing so, the intention to install ‘certain’ justification is abandoned.

An English translation of a quote from the original German text by Albert is as follows:[8]

Here, one has a mere choice between:

An infinite regression, which appears because of the necessity to go ever further back, but is not practically feasible and does not, therefore, provide a certain foundation.
A logical circle in the deduction, which is caused by the fact that one, in the need to found, falls back on statements which had already appeared before as requiring a foundation, and which circle does not lead to any certain foundation either.
A break of searching at a certain point, which indeed appears principally feasible, but would mean a random suspension of the principle of sufficient reason.
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Consequently, I think there are some very basic beliefs we hold which cannot be justified.
This leads me to reject claims of knowing how things really are and to adopt a pragmatic view of our beliefs.
I view “faith” as hope in something highly desirable even if evidence is unavailable or insufficient.

According to that definition, it is my contention that everyone walks by faith.
I don’t have children but I think I would try to explain this to them as soon as they are old enough to grasp that (without hopefully making them too dizzy).
To my mind, these considerations lead to a humble pluralism rather than to a confident materialism.

I don’t, however, hold anything I said dogmatically and would be glad to see your objections, if you have some.

I certainly sympathize with the children of fundamentalists who go through terrible ordeals as you did.

Cheers.

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Openly condemning all forms of racial hatred?

Rebecca Trotter replied to my last post about anti-white hatred entitled “Racism has no color: an affront against political correctness.”

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OK, I’m going to push back at you a bit here. Imagine for a minute that in the past minority peoples had been forced to live in trees while white people were able to live in homes on the ground. Living in trees meant that it took more time and energy just to get to work, stores, entertainment and the like as they were all situated on the ground and climbing up and down trees is a lot of work. It also meant that the people living in trees had a significantly higher rate of skin cancer as they were closer to the sun. And occasionally, a child or even a whole house would fall out of the tree and die/be destroyed. The people living in the trees would also be stigmatized because, living in trees, they developed various ways of dealing with life which were foreign and distasteful to the ground dwellers.

Now, imagine that after several generations, society decided that they would no longer force people to live in trees. They weren’t going to help the people living in trees find and afford new homes on the ground, mind you. It was just that now, if a tree dweller could find a way to be successful enough, and was adventurous enough, they could join the white people living on the ground and enjoy the advantages of not having to climb up and down trees every time they needed to go somewhere or have their children and property endangered by gravity. As you can imagine, the migration out of the trees would probably be slow. For some time into the future the tree dwellers would continue to struggle to do well enough in life to actually get out of the trees. And some of them, particularly the youth, were angry about the state of their and their family’s lives. Now, the people who had always lived on the ground had their own problems. After all, living in a tree is hardly the only obstacle one can face in life. So while they agreed that having forced people to live in trees had been a bad idea and was no longer acceptable, they had their own problems and got tired of the grousing of the tree dwellers. After all, it wasn’t their fault that some people lived in trees. They weren’t responsible for creating the situation.

Imagine if a tree dweller said to a ground dweller, “living in a tree is destroying me and I can’t seem to find a way out! There are just so many obstacles to overcome and it’s all I can do to keep my family fed and safe and make it through each day. I hate living in a tree. It’s unfair that my people are living in trees while other people have always been able to live on the ground.” Do you really think that the tree dweller would be demanding a confession of guilt from the ground dweller? Or do you think that the tree dweller wants the ground dweller to hear of their struggle and have empathy? In this situation, would asking the ground dwelling people to help the tree dwellers overcome the problems that came with living in trees be a matter of asking them to carry the guilt of their fore-bearers who had created the unfair, harmful situation? Of course not! This idea that white people are being asked to carry guilt for what their forefathers did is a creation of the white imagination and not reality. What minorities want is for white people to stop dismissing and discounting their struggles and simply offer the same sort of empathy and assistance that any decent human being ought to offer to another who is struggling. They would like some acknowledgment from white people that being born a “ground dweller”, so to speak, means that there are certain struggles that we generally don’t have to deal with. What is being asked for is NOT guilt. What is being asked for is basic empathy and a willingness to do what we are able to do to help the “tree dwellers” move past the challenges which were left by our forefathers. Claiming that it’s about imputing guilt is a convenient way to wave off any sense of responsibility for our fellow man.

I also want to push back regarding your interaction with your Moroccan co-worker. Now, I agree that any act of bullying or violence, for whatever reason, is unacceptable. I would guess that your co-worker teaches her own children not to engage in such behaviors as well. However, I would also guess that your co-worker has personally witnessed, in a way that you have not, people who did not have the strength of spirit to deal with the obstacles and challenges that being a minority person entails. Not everyone has the character or strength of a saint. In real life, people do get to a place of bitterness, anger and despair that leads them to lash out at others. Particularly others who are, in their eyes, identified with the people who benefit from the way things are. (And whose children will witness and may repeat the bitterness their parents carry.) These people obviously cannot be given free reign to act on their anger and hatred. But no doubt your Moroccan co-worker is keenly aware of what brings a person to the point of doing that. And while I am certain she does not approve of people lashing out violently, no matter how downtrodden and angry they are, she does understand why it happens in a way that a person who has not seen it happen up close and personal do not. (And I’m not even getting into the way that when a white person behaves terribly, it is often ascribed to mental illness or getting caught up in crowd. Meanwhile a person of color behaving terribly is usually attributed to their culture and seen as a reflection of their community.)

On the other hand, the people who created this situation were not doing so because they had been pushed to the point of being crushed by the circumstances they were facing in life. They were doing so in order to maintain power and order. They were doing so out of convenience or because they did not feel the people they were pushing into untenable circumstances deserved any better. They did so because they did not want to risk having to do with less so that others could have what they needed. IOW, what drove people to create the situation of inequality is not really comparable in any way to what drive a person living on the losing end of their actions to lash out. And no doubt, for your Moroccan co-worker to hear the two situations painted as equivalent is offensive. A poor person who steals from their employer is still stealing and ought not do so, but their actions are not morally comparable to a dictator that steals his nations’ resources for his own benefit and leaves the people desperate and impoverished. And that, I believe, is why your co-worker responded so negatively.

Also, one of the things that I have become aware of is that we white people have an expectation that minority people would be sympathetic to and concerned about our negative experiences when it comes to race while we ourselves are frequently dismissive and skeptical of their negative experiences. It’s a bit like a sighted person complaining about the cost of prescription glasses to a blind person who, after all, can get by with sunglasses which don’t cost nearly as much. It just shows a lack of awareness on our part. I apologize if this sounds dismissive to you, but let me give you an illustration of how this plays out in real life. Here in the USA the practice of setting aside jobs, college admissions or scholarships for people of color is hugely controversial. White conservatives in particular consider it to be the ultimate hypocrisy as they see it as a form of reverse racism and aren’t we supposed to be getting rid of racism? So, let’s just accept the sake of discussion that they are completely right about this. Affirmative action (as this practice is called) is racism against white people and ought not be allowed in a society which is committed to equality for all people. And let’s just say, for the sake of our discussion, that this sentiment is widely shared by people of color as well. Even with all this being the case, it is quite likely that a white person condemning affirmative action to a person of color will be met with anger and hostility. Why?

The thing is that affirmative action is a form of discrimination that literally affects maybe 10,000 white people every year. And that’s a generous guess. The real number is probably much less than that. On the other hand, here in the USA, we have a situation where approximately 13% of drug users and drug dealers are African American, yet 60% of drug prisoners are African American. And that affects hundreds of thousands of African Americans each year.

Pot calling the kettle black.
Black people are much more affected by the War On Drug than white consumers.

And not only is the actual number of people affected by this racist system far, far larger than the number of people affected by affirmative action, because such a small percent of Americans are African American (12-14%), nearly every African American is affected by this racist system in some way. Plus, white people who lose out on a job or college admission due to affirmative action then have to find another job or school. Black people who are jailed for drug offenses not only lose their freedom for years on end, once they are out, they are virtually unemployable, have a hard time finding housing, can’t vote and in many places are unable to get any welfare benefits or educational assistance.

The end result is that white people are really, really upset by the racism of affirmative action, which affects almost no body, isn’t life destroying and isn’t widespread, yet the much bigger and more destructive racism of our “justice” system is hardly on most white people’s radar. In fact, when the problem is raised, most white people reflexively blame black people for the problem. Thus even a person of color who disagrees with affirmative action is likely to have much sympathy for white people who are harmed by it.

When white people insist that the discrimination they experience is a really, really big deal while simultaneously refusing to pour just as much energy and resources into fighting the much more devastating discrimination experienced by people of color, it will rub people of color the wrong way. To say the least. When we then try to get them to join us in being outraged over discrimination experienced by white people, well, let’s just say that we white people are lucky that bazooka’s are illegal.

The thing with “PC” is that while it is often poorly and foolishly executed, at it’s heart it is simply an attempt to get white people to move past our programmed self-centered views and show some consideration for and awareness of how our words, actions and attitude affect and appear to people of color. That’s it. We struggle with it because we have this idea that while our forebearers obviously left a mess that continues to affect minorities, we believe that we ourselves are unaffected. And that’s just not so. That we experience demands that something be done to fix the mess left behind as charges of guilt and object to being asked to consider the perspectives of the “other” as unreasonable whitewashing is evidence of the way that this pernicious evil practiced by those who went before us has caused us harm that we must also struggle to overcome.

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My answer follows.

Hi Rebecca.

Thanks for your long and thoughtful reply.

I really liked your metaphor about the tree-dwellers and ground-dwellers and think it is a great (albeit sad) description of the situation in America and other Western countries.
I think there are several things I’d like to say in response.

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1) I used “racism” as a synonym for “racial hatred” as this use is widespread in Europe, at least among common people.

I didn’t mean institutionalized racism.

What I was saying is that anti-white hatred is as real as any other kind of racial hatred and that it must be as firmly opposed.

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2) You say that white people are oblivious to the inequalities other races suffer from.

You further say that if a gruesome crime is committed by a “colored” individual, white folks tend to assume it is not just due to mental illness but to his being black.

I don’t know the situation in the US in 2015. If this is still the case, this is very saddening indeed.
In modern France, this attitude is no longer widespread among the younger generations.
The large majority certainly stands for equal rights regardless of skin color.
And if after a psychopathic crime someone were to say “You see! These Blacks are crazy!” he’d spawn disgust and disdain against him.

Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is still widespread towards Muslims, especially after the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo. This is extremely unjust, preoccupying and revolting. Yet, this is not driven by feelings of racial superiority but by an ethnocentric conviction that our Western civilization is good whereas other cultures are savage and evil.

3) I completely agree there are laws in the US which are systematically very harmful to minorities.

The “war on drug” disgusts, horrifies and infuriates me. There’s absolutely no denial on my part that this wicked enterprise is massively ruining the life of young black men.

Overwhelming Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrets.
The prohibition of drugs has a terrible effect on the lives of countless young black persons.

Given all the financial interests related to this crusade, it’s perhaps never going to be abolished.

I find this monstrous and long for this evil to be undone.
I do believe, however, that my being white does not attribute me any kind of guilt, all the more so since I want it to cease as soon as possible.

I can’t honestly think of any kind of reasoning which would justify that alleged logical connection:

“Marc is white => Marc is partially responsible for the war on drugs destroying the lives of countless black persons”

I appreciate the fact you emphasized it’s not a question of feeling guilty but one of feeling empathy towards those who are still suffering  from the consequences of past abuses.

I do agree it is our moral duty as Christians and as human beings to act in an empathic way towards them.

4) Your analogy about stealing is an interesting one.

I certainly accept the fact that the moral culpability of members of a poor (and  formerly oppressed) ethnic minority who have to steal for surviving might be far lower than that of members of the dominant group engaging in the same type of activity.
However, this isn’t what I meant there.

I had in mind gratuitous crimes driven by sheer hatred.

As for example a gang of Arabs who wanted to rape a white woman after having screamed to the husband: “We’ll fuck your white whore!”.

It is my contention that from the standpoint of the victim and her suffering, this act is as heinous as the reverse situation where a white gang attempts to rape a black woman after having screamed “We’ll fuck your black whore!”

So, I think it’s perfectly in order to loudly say in the first case: “This is racial hatred. This is wrong. We need to reject that as well in order to build up a stable society. The past and present crimes of white institutions doesn’t justify in any way, shape or form this kind of heinous deeds.

and I could draw on French-speaking black rappers making these points.

5) Let me give you a personal analogy to drive this point home.
It does not involve races but another situation of institutionalized ethnic discrimination.

I’m a Germanic Frenchman coming from a region which has been historically bilingual French-German (I speak roughly half of the time in French and half of the time in German to my father).

France has always had a very repressive policy towards regions having a non-French culture (I documented this sad state of affairs here).

An intense propaganda has been carried out for convincing people that they ought to ONLY speak French to their children and that the languages spoken by their ancestors belong to the past.
Children speaking in dialect in the schoolyards were severely punished and oftentimes even beaten.
Any kind of administrative act and public meeting had to be performed in French.

People speaking in dialect or speaking in French with a strong accent were systematically mocked and even bullied by many (ethnic) French people.

Consequently, in my region, German has inexorably declined to such an extent that nowadays, people younger than I (I’m 30 years old) only speak French. It seems now doomed to disappear.

While modern Britain finances bilingual schools English/Welsh and does everything it can for allowing this language to survive, France of 2015 consistently refuses to compensate for the cultural genocides of the past by allowing bilingualism in private schools and administrations.
No, countless politicians hold fast to the dogma that French is the only tongue which ought to be used. Many of them still view dialects as a threat (which is disgustingly absurd since in many cases they’re spoken by less than 10% of the local population).

Now, does that situation mean that someone bullying a French person for defending French is less heinous than a French person bullying someone for defending a dialect?
It is true that in the second case, the misdeed is built upon a history of institutionalized discrimination.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that both acts should be exposed and condemned.

I’m far from being a saint in that respect. A while ago, a Frenchman started an action against Anglicisms invading the French language.
This made me angry and I reacted with harsh words: “What? You destroyed the language of our ancestors and you dare to complain about your language being modified to a small extent by English influence?…”
He answered me that he’s for the preservation of all languages and has never endorsed French repression against dialects.

I then understood I had been  unjust while attacking him and saying he was responsible for the destruction of our tongue just by virtue of his being French and loving the French language.
So I went to him and sincerely apologized.

While being an activist defending dialects and combating current French policies, I now openly condemn any hateful assertion about French people coming from my fellow Lorrains and Alsatians (i.e. the inhabitants of my homeland.)

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6) To your mind, how does Jesus view the situation?

Suppose that a black and a white woman get (or got) gang-raped owing to their skin color.
Does he feel any less angry (or compassionate) in one case rather than in the other?

At the very least, I believe that His compassion is the same in both situations.

Jesus: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.  Jewish woman: certainly he doesn't mean the Romans?  Jewish man: I hope not.
Jesus preaching love towards our enemies. Has there been any progress during the last two thousand years in that respect?

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To conclude, I contend that:

a) racial hatred against white people truly exists and it has real physical consequences
b) acts driven by racial hatred should be called for what they are and firmly condemned no matter who the victims and perpetrators are
c) holding this position doesn’t amount to being a white supremacist.

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I hope we can have a nice conversation despite our fundamental disagreements about this particular problem. In many of the things I went into, I was not necessarily criticizing your personal views but was making general points.

We should keep in mind that I can’t automatically translate the current situation in France to America and you can’t automatically assume to know how things in Western Continental Europe look like.

(That’s not an accusation, just a remark. )

There are many historical and cultural concepts which greatly differ (for instance, Arabs tend to be much more often victims of discrimination than Blacks in France).

I do believe we should all strive for a society where ethnicity no longer plays any role in terms of advantages and hurdles for living one’s life. I’m convinced this demands fighting impartially hate towards innocent people who never asked to be born with their skin color.

I think that issues concerning the shape reparations should take and positive discrimination are very complex ones and I have not (yet) any firm position in that respect.

Cheers and blessings.

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Racism has no color: an affront against political correctness.

Rebecca Trotter, a Facebook friend of mine, wrote an incredibly insightful comment on one of my last posts I want to reproduce here.

(You can visit her own blog here).

It was about my pointing out that anti-white racism is real and should be combated as much as any other kind of racism.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything she wrote, I find her thoughts really profound.

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I have come to think that part of the reason we have failed in the Western world to handle the problem of race productively is because we don’t really understand the problem we are dealing with. We tend to think of racism as interpersonal animus motivated by an irrational dislike for certain races. So the answer must be to fight this interpersonal animus where ever it shows up. However, as we have seen, this isn’t all that effective.

We want white tenants in our white community.
Racism and discrimination in America.

The thing is that back when racism was motivated by this sort of irrational hostility towards a group of people based on race, people didn’t just walk around being nasty to certain groups. They actually set policy which had as its goal putting certain groups at a disadvantage and not allowing them to escape that disadvantage. Often this was done openly for the benefit of the dominant group. For example, it was quite common for discussions of employment to revolve around the need to protect jobs for white men, thus justifying discriminating against women and people of color. We tend to think that these discussions from the past aren’t particularly relevant to the present since we no longer engage in that sort of thinking. However, that doesn’t mean that the problems created by the past go away all by themselves. A good example of this is housing discrimination. After WWII, while white Americans were able to buy houses using the GI Bill, neighborhoods where African Americans were allowed to buy homes were excluded from eligibility for GI loans and other conventional forms of financing. When African Americans figured out ways to buy homes anyways, realtors and bankers engaged in shady practices which resulted in many African Americans losing their homes and those who didn’t were left with homes that were worth less than people had paid for them. Those who lost their homes or never could manage to get a house, were forced into unsafe, poorly serviced neighborhoods. And this is how we ended up with our crime ridden inner cities. We forced people to live there and then blamed them for not being able to overcome all the obstacles placed in their way. So that’s a problem which we created and which is still with us today. But because we think that racism is only about whether one particular person is nice to another particular person, we don’t really understand how unsafe minority communities are the result of racism, much less what to do about it. A lot of people don’t even understand why we might have an obligation to do something, in fact. So we don’t.

Then there’s the fact that people rarely dislike other groups of people for purely irrational reasons anymore. Generally, they have reasons they dislike other people. They don’t like the way they act, talk, dress, their attitudes, their morals, etc, etc, etc. So a lot of people feel like they are being forced to pretend that what they find unacceptable is not problematic for the sake of PC. However, what I have learned is that the things that people are most likely to point to as legitimate reasons for disapproving of another group of people was the direct result of a wrong done to them or their people and a set of insurmountable obstacles they were facing. For example, I have known some of these infamous black men who have children with multiple women, wind up in jail, etc, etc. Every single one of them suffered horrendous abuse growing up. (I am completely convinced that it should be possible to look at any pathologies present in any given African American family and trace them directly back to their people’s experiences during slavery. Women who were raped by their owners did not go on to have healthy relationships with other men. Men beaten by their owners and overseers did not go on to raise their children with patience and time-outs.) All of these men were raised without dads. (The US government went through a period where it would not provide assistance to families with a man in the home. So we’re not innocent in creating that situation.) All of them had witnessed terrible violence both inside and outside the home while growing up. They usually desperately want the love and approval of a woman, but have poor relationship skills and they are attracted to women with similar trauma histories who also have poor relationship skills. These men didn’t just wake up from comfortable lives one day and decide to act an ass. They needed help long before they got to the point of impregnating people and causing trouble. But we have nothing but contempt for these men.

Two black boys in a poor suburb.
Black ghetto produced by a wicked housing policy.

At the end of the day, I think that we simply have not faced the depth of the damage done by our racist past. What we see as increasing levels of pathology, immorality and the like are actually the fruit of seeds planted in our societies long ago reaching harvest time. I think that once we understand the problems that way, we can start finding practical solutions that will make a real difference. But Americans are obscenely immature. Any solution that starts with having compassion on someone who they don’t think deserves compassion is a no-go. Poor Americans vote Republican because they believe in a world where good people get rewarded and bad people get punished. It’s a fantasy, but one that they put their trust in because, after all, they are good people. So if those who share their belief that good people should be rewarded are in charge, they will be rewarded. Or at least they will be able to take some satisfaction in knowing that the bad people (who just so happen to be disproportionately African American) get punished.

Anyhow, sorry this is super long, but it’s a complex topic and one that I’m convinced is generally poorly understood.

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There is absolutely no doubt that the white dominant class in America committed atrocious crimes whose consequences can still be felt.

I certainly want justice to be achieved and the wounds of the past to be healed.

Interestingly enough, France has a similar history concerning the housing policy.

After World War II, French capitalists fostered a massive immigration of workers from their Arabic and black African colonies. They did that because this manpower could be paid much less than the salary they would have had to give to Europeans. They decided to put all of them into public housing apartments plagued by poverty and bad life standards.

The ethnic tensions experienced by modern France are a direct result of this shameful policy.

It was sheer madness to have massively imported workers with a very different cultural background, concentrated them within poor suburbs with awful life conditions, discriminated them and then expected that everything would be just fine.

That said, I must also emphasize that I reject the idea of a collective culpability of the white race (if there really is such a thing in the first place).

I once discussed with a former colleague from Morocco and I told her:

Racism hasn’t any color. The seeds of hatred, intolerance, bigotry and xenophobia can take root everywhere” and I then went on evoking the case of French children being bullied in schoolyards owing to their being white.

She became really angry.

“But haven’t you seen what France did to us? Aren’t you aware of all the horrors they inflicted to us during the colonial time?”

I wasn’t willing to engage an unproductive verbal fight and so I just left.

"Colored" rowdies are kicking a white victim who has fallen on the ground.
Anti-white racism during a demonstration.
The victims are left-wing French people who were, ironically enough, protesting against inequalities. The racist character of the aggressions is recognized by even mainstream left-wing medias.

While she isn’t an evil person by any means, her words (reflecting what countless people think) are extremely offensive from a moral standpoint.

To see how, let us first consider what a Jewish prophet loudly proclaimed 1600 years ago.

The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
Ezechiel 18:20 preaching against the notion of an inherited guilt.

This ancient text is extremely strong in that it went against the widespread concept that children of wicked people should be retributed for the misdeeds of their parents or that their current suffering was a divine punishment (a notion which can, incidentally, be found in other Biblical passages).

More than twenty centuries later, this very notion hasn’t been erased everywhere, alas.

The conversation I had with my former colleague is a sad example of this state of affairs.

If punishing children for the crimes of their parents is morally abhorrent, how much more horrendous is it to bully and hurt someone just because he or she has the same skin color as a group of oppressors.

It is depressing that if anyone dares to speak out about the reality of anti-whit racism, the Slaves of Political Correctness (SPC) shoot from the hip and become morally indignant.

I’m convinced that far from promoting peace, their fanatical denial of this phenomenon fosters a vicious circle of hatred.

Indeed, white folks who have been victim of such hateful acts are likely to join far-right groups after having been ignored or even ridiculed by all mainline politically correct parties.

The racist is the other man.  Really? Are you sure?
The racist is the other man.
Really? Are you sure?

I’m persuaded that a society where skin color no longer plays any role can only be created through a battle against every kind of hate regardless of its source and object.

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