Thursday, February 16, 2012

imagine being wrong

Robin Hanson says
[O]ne is supposed to believe that racists are so obviously and extremely crazy that it is impossible for a reasonable person to see things from their point of view. Pretending to believe this signals to your associates confidence in your shared anti-racist position, and so is a signal of group loyalty.
This reminded me of an amusing, although extremely frustrating at the time, incident in a high school literature class discussion in which I ignored (or was oblivious to) this rule long enough to essentially say "I can understand how people who grow up in certain environments can end up racist." Of course, the rest of the class instantly attacked me, with surprising virulence and shocked faces, as a racist (and this false impression lasted longer than the hour...)

Too much group loyalty leads to unproductive conversation. Acknowledging differences between races and sexes doesn't imply racism or sexism. Acknowledging that there are reasons aside from insanity why people might be racist or sexist does not imply racism or sexism. Admitting that different races exist in the first place most certainly doesn't imply racism.

If you want to solve these problems, you have to look them in the eye long enough and honestly enough to understand the complex intertwined factors involved. Economists are particularly good at that. Maybe that's why we're so widely hated :)

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