I am writing you today regarding the emergence of what is being called the ‘alt-right’.
In particular, I would like to express my sincerest conviction that although many ‘alt-right’ grievances fall well outside the tradition of liberal humanism and are incompatible with the multiculturalist and egalitarian values that I hold in common with you, and which I believe must never be forsaken, there nevertheless remain many legitimate grievances fueling the emotive core of the alt-right — grievances which have been persistently ignored and denigrated for decades and which, if not soon granted equal footing in the arena of moral claims, may soon pose a direct challenge to the legitimacy of a civil rights discourse that to this day refuses to entertain these grievances on the grounds that they appear prima facie ‘guilty by association’.
As a matter of groundwork, I would like to remind you of the timeless wisdom that all knowledge is fallible, and that none of us are immune to becoming hopelessly beholden to myopic, fractally-wrong lines of reasoning that defy even our noblest of intentions. Evolutionary logic tells us that in order to believe something, no matter how objectively true it may be, it must first and foremost incur some survival utility. As social animals, survival utility in humans does not necessarily call for objective truth; in fact, it is often more closely linked to social utility, cognitive coherence and personal narratives of righteousness. Case in point: Religious dogma.
This in mind, I would like to engage the reader in a thought experiment before presenting my main thesis. The purpose of this is to convey the importance of opening one’s mind to ideas that conflict with one’s own narrative and worldview:
Imagine you are the captain of a large oceanliner. You are in charge of the ship’s course, making sure it is going in the right direction and that it won’t hit any icebergs. Though this is your foremost concern, in reality you are mostly engaged in making sure your passengers are happy and that operations are running smoothly. Though you have an impeccable reputation and are confident that you know the seas like the palm of your hand, you are human all the same, imperfect and fallible. Your understanding is finite and prone to reductivism; your frame of reference is locked to that of a celebrated captain looking out over beautiful seas from the ship’s beautiful helm.
Nevertheless, you can’t be at the helm at every hour. While you sleep at night, some of your crew are assigned, perhaps by lottery to which you are mostly ignorant, to man the lookout tower to scan the horizon for icebergs. (After all, you are usually too busy to engage much at all with anybody beside your immediate subordinates.) One night, a young lookout you’ve neither heard of nor met before barges into your night chamber and insists, quite out of turn, that the ship is not only on the wrong course, but may well be headed directly for an iceberg that, the lookout claims, looks so small as to be entirely negligible but which protrudes massively beneath the ocean’s surface. He says that if we don’t change the ship’s course, all will be lost.
What do you do? Tell him to scram and let you sleep? Do you mull over his opinion? Do you overcome your complacency and ascend the lookout tower with him—in the middle of the night—in an effort to try to see the iceberg from his perspective? It is a slow-moving, slow-steering ship. To alter its course would make many of the ship’s passengers very upset and would delay their arrival to the promised destination. You’re exhausted and proud, and you really don’t want to go out in your pajamas in the middle of the night to climb that lookout tower. Climbing the lookout tower is beneath you. Then again, you must never forget that the stakes are astronomical.
I am asking you to climb the lookout tower, and talk to people who who exist outside of the milieu and frame of reference which you have grown so comfortable in. What could the ‘alt-right’ possibly be so angry about? Is their naysaying simply the result of the ethnic identity they have latched their egos onto losing its unearned privilege?
I believe that if we are to remain dispassionately committed to the pursuit of real, enduring equality and harmony between peoples, we must begin adapting our worldviews to what is fast becoming an open secret—that there are indeed meaningful variations in allele frequencies between different human populations (regardless of how these populations are delineated; regardless of how fuzzy these delineations are), and that a great consilience of evidence suggests that these alleles exist as limiting factors in the expression of meaningful, life-outcome-influencing neurocognitive and psychosocial traits.
While I strongly oppose any claims of positive knowledge concerning the precise socioeconomic utilities of specific alleles and the precise nature of the black box that is ‘human intelligence’, let alone any justifications of racial discrimination on the basis of clumsy probabilities, I nevertheless find that it behooves me to speak out against our society’s headlong plunge down the ostrich hole of adhering inflexibly to the presupposition that disparities between human populations are caused by a smorgasbord of ad hoc external factors, a great many of which, it is imputed, are reducible to a pervasive climate of ‘white racism’ and ‘white privilege’.
Importantly, I don’t mean to argue that overt non-institutional racial discrimination and implicit racial bias don’t exist and aren’t problems—they certainly does exist, and they are problems that weighs heavily on my heart of hearts. However, this does not prove that racial discrimination is the root cause of disparities between human populations; nor does it disprove that there are meaningful differences between human populations which persist, and seem likely to continue to persist, in spite of our most titanic efforts to ‘level the playing field’. Thus, it would be wrong both practically and morally to deem an entire people culpable—white people—by imputing some baseless hatred in their collective essence as being the root cause of all observed racial disparities. A more parsimonious — and judicious — alternative explanation can be had by humoring the possibility that racial discrimination exists as an intrinsic, however imperfect, expression of a basic cognitive faculty—that of data-compression, also known as inductive logic—be it based on some confluence of transmitted knowledge or first-hand experience and intuition.
It is on these grounds that I believe we must end the war on ‘white racism’; we must cease to regard the hopeful post-war presupposition that human evolution ended when human history began—or else that it is ‘too gradual to matter’ — as inviolable and to be upheld at any cost. I would here define ‘antiracism’ as the sum of all cultural and institutional policies predicated on the presupposition that disparities between human populations are reducible solely to external factors, all-consuming ‘white racism’ being chief among them. This includes public policies conceived of for the express purpose of externally and disparately elevating—or ‘buttressing’—the moral esteem of one population over another, such as through the normalization of sociocultural double standards. I would go on to say that we must also cease to hold one people collectively accountable for the diminished relative socioeconomic condition of the other. We must cease the unequal, mono-directional enforcement of civil and human rights laws such as by using racial quotas, or any of its proxies, or the enforcement of hate speech legislation for only one people. We must lift the de facto restriction on private individuals from exercising on the own subjective faculties of discrimination. Put in more general terms, all public policy must be informed by a decidedly agnostic stance on questions of diversity in traits between human population; the benefit of doubt should be given no safe harbor in either absolute, and we must eschew presumptions of causality altogether.
I do not intend to present these as political grievances; rather, they are grievances about our society’s tenuous consensus on epistemological and cultural norms insinuated by the presupposition of racial sameness. Basically, white people should enjoy all the same rights as other peoples, and ‘race’ ought not be a privileged category with regards to combating discrimination; rather, racial discrimination should be regarded as a subset of a more universal faculty of discrimination—lookism. Until we are all willing to embrace bagism as conceived of by John Lennon, it is deeply unwise and unfair to improvise ad hoc anti-discrimination measures only for some forms of discrimination to the neglect of others.
The unrivaled popularity that the presupposition of racial sameness has enjoyed, even in spite of mounting incidental evidence to the contrary, is neither because it is true nor because its influential firebrands of the post-war era were stupid. Rather, it is because of the monopoly it is perceived to hold over the moral high ground—that we should collectively deny, or at least mitigate, the existence of differences between human populations even if they do in fact exist. That is to say that although I would absolutely agree with this sentiment if it were the only alternative to full-blown fascism, the ‘mission creep’ in the war against ‘white racism’—this war without endgame and which seems amply willing to ‘crack a few eggs to make an omelet’—must be brought to a close as swiftly and gently as possible. Not only is it grossly unfair to white people, and therefore divisive, but there are compelling universalist moral arguments to be made that it is a war that cannot be won and which needlessly fans the flames of long-term human suffering for all peoples. (In short: Our culture encourages the wrong people to reproduce. This is unsustainable, and creates the preconditions for human misery.)
Even if our goal is to create paradise on earth any way we can for all humanity—and it should be—we cannot do so by ignoring reality, just as we cannot land on the moon with bad physics. Simply stated, a ‘fake it till we make it’ strategy in the hopes of all humanity hybridizing into a monolithic race is doomed to fail. We will always stratify socioeconomically — and genetically — by dint of assortive mating and the human tendency to perceive the differentiation of all things into a bell curve. I do not mean to sound pessimistic. Quite to the contrary, by aspiring to a better approximate understanding of physical reality, we become better equipped for realizing our vision of a better, more equal and harmonious world.
Despite my unequivocal belief that the society-wide rigid adherence to the dogma of racial sameness would be, even if false, a moral imperative if it were the only thing keeping us from full-blown fascism, I strongly believe the reality is far less stark, and that the real danger would be to continue on our current unsustainable collision course. Although society does indeed face a very real risk of backsliding into fascism and racial supremacism—and I say this as one highly sensitive to the modal nature of mass psychology and our human tendency to define ourselves by negation and see the world in terms of binary oppositions—I nevertheless reject the idea that to assume a decidedly agnostic posture on whether ‘race’ correlates with stubbornly-inalterable native intelligence is incompatible with the goals and values we share in common. Simply stated, all public policy must be informed from an agnostic perspective regarding human differences, and individuals must be permitted to think what they want about race and decide for themselves whether we are all different or all the same. There has been ample time for reconciliations—as much reconciliation as there ever will be—and the hitherto impermeable color lines have blurred. The war on racism must end. I say this as a proponent of multiculturalism who sees colorblind cooperation as an historical inevitability. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The loser now will be later to win.” In 2017, it is the hegemonic antiracist morality that has become the bane of mankind.
Though the risk of moral backsliding warrants serious caution, I would argue that we would be risking far more by continuing as we have been regarding ‘race’. The real danger is not of backsliding into fascism, but to continue on our current collision course by escalating the war on ‘white racism’. Not only is such a war palpably unsustainable, it is also self-defeating in its divisiveness, its willful divorce from the reality we must contend with, and it risks forfeiting the moral high ground, sacrificing all that we have worked towards as a species—as epitomized by the Open Society Policy Center—at the altar of our own self-satisfaction as the status quo continues to slip out from under us. Make no mistake: We are at a tipping point, and catastrophe must be averted. The war on ‘white racism’ and ‘white privilege’ must end. It is a war without endgame, and unless mutual understanding is found, the war will be lost altogether.
I am not saying that human populations should be treated differently as a response to an awareness of approximate differences between them. I am not saying that whites—or any other group—should occupy a superior political strata, nor am I saying that the territorial integrity of nations should be abandoned to make way for a white ethnostate. To the contrary, I am saying that we should not treat peoples differently based on highly dubious presumptions of sameness, especially one which also implies a presumption of collective white guilt. As the famous cliché goes, the only way to end racial discrimination is to end racial discrimination. In essence, I am arguing for equality, mutual understanding, and a science-based approach to improving the welfare of all.
I believe that the drive for absolute racial equality we have witnessed in the past decades has been an absolutely necessary epoch in human history. However, such a reckoning based on half-truths will be doomed to deliver diminishing returns. When it comes to questions of the essential sameness or inherent differentness between human races, reality is far more nuanced than we would hope. The cup is neither half empty nor half full, but both half-empty and half full. All peoples should be given equal status as humans, and none should be scapegoated for the shortcomings of others.
What I am suggesting is that the UN Declarations on Race and Racial Prejudice must be updated to account for even just the possibility that all mankind is not the same, interchangeable blank slate, and even just the possibility that efforts to socially engineer mankind into a monolithic, homogeneous race are doomed to fail. This might mean reaffirming a baseline of universal human rights, but recognizing that peoples’ capacities for cooperation are ultimately incommensurable. This can, and absolutely should, be done in the spirit of the original post-war zeal for human unity. We must build a skyscraper that can sway in the wind, not a Tower of Babel that will soon come crashing down.