The Racial Double Standard

Coleman Hughes, a black student at Columbia, goes there. His essay begins like this:

In the fall of 2016, I was hired to play in Rihanna’s back-up band at the MTV Video Music Awards. To my pleasant surprise, several of my friends had also gotten the call. We felt that this would be the gig of a lifetime: beautiful music, primetime TV, plus, if we were lucky, a chance to schmooze with celebrities backstage.

But as the date approached, I learned that one of my friends had been fired and replaced. The reason? He was a white Hispanic, and Rihanna’s artistic team had decided to go for an all-black aesthetic—aside from Rihanna’s steady guitarist, there would be no non-blacks on stage. Though I was disappointed on my friend’s behalf, I didn’t consider his firing as unjust at the time—and maybe it wasn’t. Is it unethical for an artist to curate the racial composition of a racially-themed performance? Perhaps; perhaps not. My personal bias leads me to favor artistic freedom, but as a society, we have yet to answer this question definitively.

One thing, however, is clear. If the races were reversed—if a black musician had been fired in order to achieve an all-white aesthetic—it would have made front page headlines. It would have been seen as an unambiguous moral infraction. The usual suspects would be outraged, calling for this event to be viewed in the context of the long history of slavery and Jim Crow in this country, and their reaction would widely be seen as justified. Public-shaming would be in order and heartfelt apologies would be made. MTV might even enact anti-bias trainings as a corrective.

Though the question seems naïve to some, it is in fact perfectly valid to ask why black people can get away with behavior that white people can’t. The progressive response to this question invariably contains some reference to history: blacks were taken from their homeland in chains, forced to work as chattel for 250 years, and then subjected to redlining, segregation, and lynchings for another century. In the face of such a brutal past, many would argue, it is simply ignorant to complain about what modern-day blacks can get away with.

Yet there we were—young black men born decades after anything that could rightly be called ‘oppression’ had ended—benefitting from a social license bequeathed to us by a history that we have only experienced through textbooks and folklore. And my white Hispanic friend (who could have had a tougher life than all of us, for all I know) paid the price. The underlying logic of using the past to justify racial double-standards in the present is rarely interrogated. What do slavery and Jim Crow have to do with modern-day blacks, who experienced neither? Do all black people have P.T.S.D from racism, as the Grammy and Emmy award-winning artist Donald Glover recently claimed? Is ancestral suffering actually transmitted to descendants? If so, how? What exactly are historical ‘ties’ made of?

Hughes goes on to lament the double standard the public applies to famous black writers. For example:

The celebrated journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates provides another example of the lower ethical standard to which black writers are held. In his #1 New York Times bestseller, Between the World and Me, Coates explained that the policemen and firemen who died on 9/11 “were not human to me,” but “menaces of nature.”1 This, it turned out, was because a friend of Coates had been killed by a black cop a few months earlier. In his recent essay collection, he doubled down on this pitiless sentiment: “When 9/11 happened, I wanted nothing to do with any kind of patriotism, with the broad national ceremony of mourning. I had no sympathy for the firefighters, and something bordering on hatred for the police officers who had died.”2 Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Bari Weiss—a young Jewish woman—was recently raked over the coals for tweeting, “Immigrants: They get the job done,” in praise of the Olympic ice-skater Mirai Nagasu, a second-generation Japanese-American. Accused of ‘othering’ an American citizen, Weiss came under so much fire that The Atlantic ran twoseparate pieces defending her. That The Atlantic saw it necessary to vigorously defend Weiss, but hasn’t had to lift a finger to defend Coates, whom they employ, evidences the racial double-standard at play. From a white writer, an innocuous tweet provokes histrionic invective. From a black writer, repeated expressions of unapologetic contempt for public servants who died trying to save the lives of others on September 11 are met with fawningpraise from leftwing periodicals, plus a National Book Award and a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant.

Hughes says this double standard is common in society:

But we make an exception for blacks. Indeed, what George Orwell wrote in 1945seems more apt today: “Almost any English intellectual would be scandalised by the claim that the white races are superior to the coloured, whereas the opposite claim would seem to him unexceptionable even if he disagreed with it.” Only a black intellectual, for instance, could write an op-ed arguing that black children should not befriend white children because “[h]istory has provided little reason for people of color to trust white people,” and get it published in the New York Times in 2017. An identical piece with the races reversed would rightly be relegated to fringe white supremacist forums. In defense of such racist drivel, it won’t suffice to repeat the platitude that ‘black people can’t be racist,’ as if redefining a word changes the ethical status of the thing that the word signifies. Progressives ought not dodge the question: Why are blacks the only ethnic group routinely and openly encouraged to nurse stale grievances back to life?

Read the whole thing. It’s very, very brave. Hughes is a black undergraduate at an Ivy League university, yet he has no been afraid to say what has been unsayable. That man has guts.

By the way, his essay is not merely an exercise in whataboutism. He addresses real philosophical and moral concerns in it. He focuses on blacks, but as a general matter, if you read the mainstream press, you’ll find there’s a tendency to treat gays and other minority groups favored by liberals with kid gloves — as if they were symbols, not real people, with the same virtues and vices that everybody else has. For example, in a previous job, I observed that some liberals in the newsroom viewed local Muslims through the lens of the culture war between liberals and conservatives, and did not want to hold them to the same standard with regard to extremist rhetoric, apparently because doing so might encourage conservatives in their own biases.

Another personal example: last year, I wrote several posts about Tommy Curry, a radical black nationalist who teaches philosophy at Texas A&M (see here and here). In his written work and spoken advocacy, Curry advocates what can only be described as anti-white hatred. Don’t take my word for it; go read the blogs I wrote, which quote generously from, and link to, Curry’s own work. A white man who spoke the same way about any racial minority would never have been hired by a university — A&M hired him knowing exactly what they were getting, because he had published — and would never be retained by one after his racism became known. I linked in one of the blogs to a podcast (subtitled, “White People Are The Problem”) on which Curry was a regular guest; on that particular episode, this philosophy professor argued that white people cannot be reasonable, because they are white.

Imagine being a white student in that man’s class.

But there is a different standard for bigots from the left. The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote a long piece about the fallout from my blogs, and positioned it as Curry having suffered because he wanted to “force a conversation about race and violence” — a conversation that people didn’t want to hear. The writer — no doubt reflecting the biases of his own professional class — could not seem to grasp why people would be really offended by the unapologetic racism of Tommy Curry’s writing and speaking. This is precisely the double standard that Coleman Hughes decries. It is lucrative for radicals like Curry, Coates, and others, but a just society should hold us all to the same standard of discourse and morality. This is one aspect of the Enlightenment that I am eager to defend. It’s not only morally right, but practically, observing it it is the only way we will be able to keep the peace in a pluralistic country.

I found Hughes’s essay via Prufrock, a free daily digest that comes to you in e-mail, to which you can and should subscribe by clicking here. 

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Apple CEO Tim Cook denies access to Facebook user data – CNET

“We’ve never been in the data business,” Cook told NPR , responding to a New York Times report Sunday that Facebook had agreements to provide access to large amounts of user data to at least 60 different device makers — including companies like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and “The things mentioned in the Times article about relationship statuses and all these kinds of stuff, this is so foreign to us, and not data that we have ever received at all or requested — zero,” Cook told NPR. “What we did was we integrated the ability to share in the operating system, make it simple to share a photo and that sort of thing,” Cook added.

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Facebook says device-integrated APIs allowed vendors to recreate…

Facebook gave 60+ device makers, including Apple, Amazon, and Samsung, deeper access to users’ personal info than previously known, through private APIs – The company formed data-sharing partnerships with Apple, Samsung and dozens of other device makers, raising new concerns about its privacy protections. Facebook says device-integrated APIs allowed vendors to recreate Facebook-like experiences, were governed by strict contracts, and are being faded out – The New York Times has today written a long piece about our device-integrated APIs – software we launched 10 years ago to help get Facebook onto mobile devices.

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How I Answer Readers’ Peskiest Apartment Questions

Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how news, features and opinion come together at The New York Times. What do you do when a neighbor’s snores keep you up at night ? A Times reader tormented by sleepless nights posed this question to me this year.

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Another Senseless, Illegal Killing in Gaza by Israeli Forces

Israeli forces killed a 21-year old Palestinian woman, a volunteer paramedic, in Gaza yesterday:

A young Palestinian woman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border fence on Friday, in another day of protests and violence, Palestinian medical sources said.

Razan al-Najjar, 21, was shot near Khan Yunis in the south of the territory, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, bringing the toll of Gazans killed by Israeli fire since the end of March to 123.

According to Qudra, Najjar was a volunteer with the ministry, wearing the white uniform of a medic when she was shot in the chest.

Targeting medical personnel is strictly prohibited even in war, and it is nothing less than criminal to gun down a paramedic while she is trying to assist others. All of the illegal shootings have been outrageous and excessive, but the killing of this young woman seems particularly perverse and absolutely indefensible. Ms. Najjar’s killing is just the latest in a series of illegal shootings of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza. As the report indicates, hers is the 123rd fatality from Israeli attacks on the protesters.

The New York Times had interviewed Ms. Najjar previously (video here), and they quote her in their story about her unlawful killing:

When we met her at a protest camp in Khan Younis last month, she said her father was proud of what she did.

“We have one goal,” she said, “to save lives and evacuate people. And to send a message to the world: Without weapons, we can do anything.”

Ms. Najjar was helping to tend to the many thousands of Palestinians that are being injured in the Gaza protests when she was shot to death. She posed no threat to anyone. How could she have? She was dressed as a medic, and yet she was murdered anyway. What else do we call the deliberate shooting of an unarmed woman as she helps treat injuries?

The U.S. response to these killings all along has been to shift blame away from Israel, the obviously culpable party, absurdly pin responsibility for everything on Hamas, and to shield Israel from the consequences of its forces’ actions. Yesterday was no different. The U.S. vetoed of a Kuwait-sponsored resolution that condemned Israel’s illegal use of force against Palestinian protesters:

Kuwait’s draft resolution condemned the use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by the Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians” and demanded a halt to such actions.

The U.S. was unusually isolated on both this resolution and the one our government sponsored. Just as the U.S. was the only member of the Security Council voting against the Kuwait-sponsored measure, it was the only voting for its own lopsided resolution. Reflexive U.S. support for anything and everything Israel does cannot possibly be in the American interest, and it is a disaster for the people of Palestine.

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Murdered by an Israeli sniper, Palestinian nurse Razan Al-Najjar is just an afterthought in the Western press

Let’s say Hamas fired a rocket that killed a young Israeli nurse while she was tending to the wounded from earlier rockets. Is there any doubt that the mainstream media would cover her death extensively, with photos, and interviews with friends and family? But when Israeli snipers murdered a 21-year-old Palestinian nurse named Razan Al-Najjar yesterday, the mainstream media was nearly silent. Today’s New York Times print edition only includes her as an afterthought, in a report by the usually reliable Rick Gladstone about Israel’s latest defeat at the United Nations. Gladstone’s article notes only that “A 21-year-old Palestinian health worker was killed. . .” Gladstone’s editors could not be bothered to add her name, or to change the passive sentence to report who actually killed her. By mid-morning in New York, the Times did start to rectify its error. A report went up, datelined KHUZAA, Gaza Strip, that includes basic background about this remarkable young woman, including an interview with her father, Ashram. A photograph shows desperate Gazans trying to carry her body to safety after the Israeli sniper shot her. The report did include a no comment from Israel’s military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who is normally voluble when he is inventing violence by Gazans.

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NY Times: Vulnerable Republicans Pushing Immigration Vote

Republicans facing difficult reelection campaigns have begun pushing for a vote on immigration to protect young undocumented immigrants, The New York Times reports. Members of the GOP from California, Florida, Colorado and Texas have all signed a petition calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to hold a vote on legislation that would protect Dreamers, as those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were known.

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The Diversity Staff at the University of Michigan Is Nearly 100 Full-Time Employees

Year after year, media note and sometimes bemoan the ballooning cost of higher education.

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There are various reasons for surging costs, but the primary one is the remarkable expansion of university administration in recent decades. As Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, wrote in the New York Times a few years ago:

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Universities are large and require administrators to function, of course. The problem is there seems to be no end to the expansion. This point was recently illustrated by Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Perry, who also is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, used the University of Michigan as an example to highlight the rise of “diversicrats” (diversity bureaucrats) on today’s campuses. The numbers are astonishing.

  1. The University of Michigan currently employs a diversity staff of nearly 100 (93) full-time diversity administrators, officers, directors, vice-provosts, deans, consultants, specialists, investigators, managers, executive assistants, administrative assistants, analysts, and coordinators.
  2. More than one-quarter (26) of these “diversicrats” earn annual salaries of more than $100,000, and the total payroll for this small army is $8.4 million. When you add to cash salaries an estimated 32.45% for UM’s very generous fringe benefit package for the average employee in this group (retirement, health care, dental insurance, life insurance, long-term disability, paid leave, paid vacation, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, etc.) the total employee compensation for this group tops $11 million per year. And of course that doesn’t count the cost of office space, telephones, computers and printers, printing, postage, programs, training, or travel expenses.

If you fell out of your chair upon realizing that the University of Michigan has a full-time diversity staff of nearly one hundred employees, one of whom earns more than the president of the United States, you can be forgiven. I nearly did too.

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