I’m never sure if people just skip the highlights posts, so instead: read the CityLab interview with Dread Scott about tomorrow’s slave rebellion reenactment “embodying the spirit of freedom and emancipation in the spaces that have this particular history”.
“If you have more than you spend, you’re rich,” says Derek Sivers. “If you spend more than you have, you’re not. If you live cheaply, it’s easy to be free.” I feel like this is not true, but leave it to more class- and race-conscious folks to pick apart.
When powerful white men use words like lynching and witch hunt to describe their perceived persecutions, it’s because there are no historical analogues to white male persecution. There’s no term for it because historically, there’s no such thing.
From When powerful white men use words… by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez
Toxic masculinity, like toxic racism, also prematurely kills men of all races, whenever we think it is unmanly to seek preventative care, unmanly to eat plant-based food, unmanly to admit we are stressed, unmanly to express we are hurting, unmanly to see a doctor—manly to take the pain and die like a man. Black men who have or who are pressured to have a traditional masculine role of provider may be experiencing more stress-related health issues, because they are more likely than white men to face problems in the job market. Now that I think about it, Dad’s health deteriorated when he was stressed from mistreatment on the job. So stressed, he resigned. He retired from his job but could not retire from racism.
From The Greatest White Privilege Is Life Itself by Ibram X. Kendi
I live in mortal terror of experiencing heart attack or stroke, so I almost didn’t read Jonathan M. Katz on suffering the latter, but kudos to him for writing about it while also acknowledging the privilege inherent in his access to health care.
Because the truth is that phrenology has never really been discredited. Granted people don’t typically go around measuring the bumps on people’s skulls any more, although who knows how the Quillette lads are currently planning to find genetically optimal brides. But when phrenology was first debunked, its foundational assumptions did not simply go away. Rather, they were dispersed across other disciplines. Actual bumpology might have been a scientific non-starter, but phrenology was nevertheless deeply influential on the development of modern anthropology, criminology, and evolutionary biology — as well as eugenics. The phrenological account of the mind continued to be influential, throughout the Victorian era, in popular psychiatry. It is in these assumptions that the contemporary heritage of phrenology consists.
From People keep trying to bring back phrenology by Tom Whyman
‘There a huge amount of whether you want to describe it as hostility, unconscious bias or racism. Not just in the countryside, but in the environmental field. There’s a very condescending and controlling attitude that this is a white space,’ says Collier. ‘They might be gracious enough to share it with us but they’re the gatekeeper. It’s very difficult to operate as a black-led organisation because you’re always met in a very infantilised way, that you’re a child to their adult. People won’t always acknowledge you or see you as an equal operating as a skilled professional in the field.’
From Land justice and the uncomfortable issue of race by Amy Hall
It was just the other day that Hanlon’s razor—“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”—came up, so my brain was primed to notice (in Daniel Harvey’s must-read email on racist algorithms) a reference to Grey’s law—“Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.”—which really is a pretty core concept to grasp in our era of the non-apology apology.
Companies are beginning to use facial recognition technology in job interviews and for god’s sake can we stop “disrupting” things with technology that don’t need to be disrupted? As pointed out on Twitter this effectively is a new phrenology.
In a world where we keep having light and motion sensors that can’t detect the skin of black people, a world where, say, autistic people might not have the same “language, tone and facial expressions” as neurotypicals, it’s absolutely untrue that algorithms somehow are “free of human bias”, since they are written by humans with biases.
If the algorithm in question compares the “language, tone and facial expressions” to those of successful employees, it’s just going to loop through the same types of people hired before the algorithm was involved, reinforcing whatever human biases already existed in the hiring system.
This sort of thing will just be used to let human decision-makers off the hook for biases. The algorithm did it, so it must be fair. No, none of this.
There’s a story I’ve told before mostly as an illustration of how certain meltdown situations in which I’ve found myself are kind of due to what I’ve termed the trauma of “undifferentiated emotional time” in my brain.
To wit: a trigger in the current moment can summon forth how I felt every other time I confronted that same trigger. The story I tell is about one day I found myself screaming at a high school student who outside my old nonprofit was feeding the goats through the fence.
When I verbally tore into that high school student, I was not responding to that individual person and that discrete instance of this happening.
Instead, I was responding to the entire four years of having to deal with people feeding the goats through the fence when they weren’t supposed to. The sheer force, the violence really, of my voice perhaps was proportional to the entire history of the potential threat to my animals, but it was not at all proportional to the specific instance before me. I called this “undifferentiated emotional time” because that’s what it feels like in retrospect: like four years of past incidents were happening again, all at once, along with the present moment.
Over my six years at the nonprofit, I’d yelled at all kinds of people for feeding the goats. I’d yelled at children, adults, and seniors. I’d yelled at individuals and groups. I’d yelled at English-speaking people and people who spoke other languages. I’d yelled at white people, Asian people, and black people.
That last is why I bring this up now, having just written about Nick Starr-Street–who, in addition to being autistic actually is just a pretty hateful man–and his targeting of black women hanging out at an apartment complex pool but not the white people also hanging out at the same pool.
It’s true, as I said, that I’ve yelled any anyone and everyone who ignored both common sense and our posted signs about not feeding the goats.
It’s also true that a middle-aged white guy yelling at what was a black high school girl lands in the real world in a unique and specific way. One worth calling out here.
The very fact of the racial dynamics in play actually is what led me to notice the nature of these particular meltdowns. I’d felt so ugly after the fact at having partaken, regardless of intent or realization at the time and in the moment, in the white supremacist dynamics of the wider culture of which I am a part, that it delivered a kind of shock treatment.
Prior to this incident, I hadn’t recognized the “undifferentiated emotional time” aspect of certain of my meltdowns. It was the ugliness of the specifics that made me see it.
There’s a real and actual thing happening in my brain in these “undifferentiated emotional time” moments, to be sure. I’m not disputing that and I wouldn’t dispute that. However, neurobiology isn’t an excuse for not being aware of how one’s behavior impacts the people around you, and that includes accounting for things like: to what degree does this behavior, no matter how often I might exhibit it without bias, happen in the specifics to punch down rather than up?
That matters, even if the specific person to whom I’m responding in fact is in the wrong with their own behavior. My trauma isn’t an excuse to contribute to that of another.
Nick Starr-Street not only tried to excuse his behavior by pointing to his autism, he outright claimed, “I don’t see race. I don’t see gender. I don’t see color. I don’t see any of that.”
This is implicitly nonsense, of course, but what’s more, those of us privileged by society due to our whiteness simply aren’t allowed to “not see color”. How we as white people behave, even when it isn’t why we are having that way, can effect people of color in ways for which we must accept responsibility.
(The lie is put to Starr-Street’s claim to “just see right and wrong” by the very fact that he doesn’t see the wrong in a ranting white man filing complaints about a group of black women.)
That doesn’t mean, in the story here, that the high school student shouldn’t have been approached and corrected. It doesn’t mean they should get a free pass, any more than any of the illicit goat-feeders. It just means that, autistic or not, it’s my responsibility to know that a middle-aged white man yelling at a black high school girl isn’t a thing that should happen.
It shouldn’t have taken that incident for me to be able to step outside this particular form of meltdown and thereby, hopefully, be better at recognizing them in the moment. It did, and I hope it keeps me aware in the future.
My point, really, is that being autistic (and so, in some ways, othered by society) isn’t an excuse for not doing the work you should be doing if other parts of your identity happen to be privileged by society. In fact, there might actually be aspects of your own atypicality that make it necessary for you to be even more mindful of how you inflict your privileges on others.
That’s on Nick Starr-Street.
That’s on me.