Saturday, July 1, 2017

An Honest Conversation about Race

I write about rhetoric. I sometimes call out bad arguments. I did that recently for Tami Lahren and her remarks on abortion. I intended to do that again for RageAfterStorm, a popular German alt-right youtuber.

 

Rage is part of a recent influx of young females into the alt-right youtube scene. I have seen a few cropping up since my chat with Tara "Reality Calls" McCarthy. Overall I think this is a good thing, as the Social Justice Warrior crowd has been due for some competition in the social media world. It is also a good sign for the alt-right movement, as all marketers know that nothing is better for advertising than attractive young women. Most of them aren't terribly original or insightful, but at least they are easier on the eyes than Pat Buchanan. Here's a collage from our friends on /pol/ (Some, like Coulter and Malkin, are not so recent and some do not self-identify as alt-right):


Rage recently did a video about race and IQ. Unfortunately her video got pulled from YouTube. Basically she made the argument that the high rate of criminality in the black community is caused by their lower than average IQ. This is a common belief among alt-right commenters such as Tara McCarthy and Jared Taylor.

I had planned to write a long post debunking this claim but instead I'll just offer a few sentences before continuing with my main point. While there is a general correlation between lower IQ and higher rates of criminality, it is inaccurate to suggest that a group's average lower IQ is the primary cause of its rate of criminality. Evidencing this is the fact that black Americans had far lower rates of crime before the Civil Rights act. Black Americans also had far lower rates of divorce and illegitimacy in the earlier half of the 20th century. There is little evidence that a sudden change in IQ led to the dysfunction we started seeing in the black community in the 1960's. It is instead more probable that cultural change led to the spike in criminality.

One of the things I find most distasteful about the alt-right is their proclivity for abusing research about IQ and human biology. Low IQ == crime is an alt-right sacred cow that one can easily debunk with a bit of research. There are actually numerous examples of relatively low IQ communities that also have lower rates of crime than higher IQ groups. Crime is a consequence of social and cultural systems. Low IQ societies with strong social systems (such as religion) can often enjoy low rates of crime.

Now I understand why many alt-right people fall into this type of thinking about IQ. After decades of brow beating from the Left, the pendulum is simply swinging back. Having been forbidden from even talking about IQ for so long it is understandable that right wingers are making a kind of idol of it. Positioning themselves as edgy truth-tellers, alt-right commenters are twisting research about IQ to push an emotionally satisfying simplistic narrative.

That isn't to say they get it entirely wrong. Race does matter. We should speak honestly about crime and race. Black crime in America is a huge problem. However we need to be really careful before we start blaming things on genetics or IQ. While there is decent evidence showing differences in IQ between races, the link between genetics and crime is far more tenuous. If the alt-right is essentially a white nationalist movement, it should seriously consider whether the best way to win people over is with the argument that nonwhites are genetically inferior (more prone to commit crime). In an earlier era of history this might have been effective. In the current year, I doubt it.

My time living in Japan has made me more open-minded on the idea of ethnic nationalism. I believe the alt-right can be an important part of the political conversation in western nations. I really don’t have a problem with white people wanting to preserve their historical homelands. It seems that the alt-right is applying two contradictory arguments though: 1. We should limit the number of brown people coming into our countries because brown people are idiots and criminals who will make our nations worse 2. We should limit the number of brown people coming into our countries because this is our homeland and those people already have their own.

To me argument #2 is much stronger. Argument #1 I don't think has much mass appeal in modern western nations. For one it immediately turns off 99% of nonwhites. To that some alt-right people would say, "who cares what nonwhites think?" and I would respond, "the politicians whose votes they use to keep the borders open." Furthermore, Virtually all white people have nonwhite friends, a nonwhite bartender, a nonwhite coworker, a nonwhite brother-in-law, etc. They don't feel comfortable associating with a movement that brands people they care about as inferior. Argument #2 is much more defensible. Few people criticize the Japanese, the Chinese, the Kenyans, or the Chileans for preserving their homelands. It is intuitive for both whites and nonwhites living in western nations.

Even though I think the alt-right gets a lot wrong about race, I am still glad to see them at least talking about it openly. If we really want to have an honest conversation about race, we need to be willing to hear controversial points of view, and we need to be civil when people get it wrong. We need the freedom to make mistakes, to bounce ideas off of one another without fear of being lynched by some internet hate mob. I give Rage props for being part of the conversation and putting herself out there. That takes more guts than many of her critics will ever show.