Saturday, January 2, 2021

David Brooks is Right

Image from Shutterstock via.

No, I'm not even kidding ("2020 Taught Us How to Fix This'): he goes (superficially, of course) through the evidence on techniques for overcoming racial bias (diversity training videos and the like) and finds that they mostly don't do much of anything good and sometimes do harm, putting up the backs of the biased and making them want to resist. The only thing that's effective, he concludes, is the idea that used to be pretty popular around 1963:

The superficial way to change minds and behavior doesn’t seem to work, to bridge either racial, partisan or class lines. Real change seems to involve putting bodies from different groups in the same room, on the same team and in the same neighborhood. That’s national service programs. That’s residential integration programs across all lines of difference. That’s workplace diversity, equity and inclusion — permanent physical integration, not training.

That's demanding integration. That's mandating affirmative action that's not afraid to name people by their races. That's saying, "We need some black folks in this school" or apartment building or suburban tract or law firm or architectural firm or factory floor or police force or boardroom. And South Asians and East Asians and Caribbean Islanders and Pacific Islanders and of course many people from the vast and hugely diverse land of Hispanophonia. And even then it will be iffy because there will be white people who can't get with the program, and moving them out or firing them will certainly make those individuals worse, and sending them out for diversity training won't make them better, so there will continue to be conflict. In a way it means giving up on much of a generation of white people—the Generation X-ers who formed the backbone of Trump support in the recent election, as Monsignor Douthat was predicting in September—as a bad job rather than continuing to hover anxiously over them and their whining about "reverse discrimination" or "identity politics" and treating them, as David Brooks has been doing for the past four years. as precious but terribly vulnerable flowers whose delicate emotions need to be protected at all costs:
Really? As opposed to the people who actually are disenfranchised? I thought facts didn't care about your feelings. Maybe those whose votes are suppressed and residences redlined and job prospects hemmed in by invisible walls and ceilings could teach them some coping strategies. 

Or, as Brooks doesn't quite manage to put it, you need to stop trying to fix racists and start trying to fix systemic racism. (He does recognize the existence of the latter, which puts him several thousand miles ahead of most of his old friends: "Part of the problem is that a lot of discrimination is structural; not in people’s attitudes but in organizational practices and the way society is set up.") Though he can't bring himself, in the course of the column, to use the words "black" or "African American" or "race" itself. That's part of the problem too.

Too bad Republican politicians and Supreme Court judges and opinionists like David Brooks over the past 60 years have worked so hard to make that illegal.

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