White guy calls for the end of identity politics

In the New York Times, Mark Lilla identifies Hillary Clinton’s outreach to people of color as triggering the backlash that caused Donald Trump to be elected: But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them.

Defining race

Abstracted from a Google+ discussion: Technically, race refers to physical characteristics only. When people talk about race, they usually (pedantically speaking) mean ethnicity. Ethnicity includes physical racial characteristics, but also incorporates culture, nationality, language, religion, and so on. But if you’re not being a pedantic ass, you’ll use ‘race’ in its everyday sense as meaning ethnicity. With that out of the way, here’s the key part: What defines you as white (or black or Asian or…) is whether you can pass as that thing.

Rachel Dolezal

So, about that whole Rachel Dolezal thing… 1. Her parents were quoted as saying “Our daughter is primarily German and Czech and of European descent.” They themselves have white skin, and they have photos of her showing that she had white skin. Well, that proves nothing. Craig Cobb also looked totally caucasian, and was a white supremacist too — but hilariously, it turned out he was 14 percent African heritage. (There’s video of him finding out, if you want to enjoy some schadenfreude.

Starbucks serves up fine white whine

When I started working at my current employer, I attended a full day diversity training session. It covered race, gender, sexuality, religion — all the things people often shy away from talking about. It was interesting, and at the end almost everyone thought it had been worthwhile. When I heard about the Starbucks #RaceTogether campaign, however, I suspected it wouldn’t go well, for several reasons. First of all, context. Someone going to a work-mandated training session is hopefully going to be at least willing to listen to things they may not want to hear, and will have prepared themselves accordingly.

Deconstructing “race science”

After I posted a quote from Ta Nehesi-Coates about The Bell Curve, a poster asked (paraphrased): OK, so that study is flawed, but how do we know that the various races are intellectually equal? My answer is basically that “race” doesn’t correspond to any systematic genetic difference that might mean anything when compared to measured intelligence, assuming we could even define and measure intelligence. But I feel like that answer needs more unpacking and detail around it, so here goes.

Colorado part 2: Boulder and mountains

We got a good deal on a rental car, and planned to drive to Boulder and up into the mountains. The car was from Hertz, and came with their GPS system “NeverLost”. Its software is terrible, mostly because the system doesn’t respond quickly enough to anything. For example, if you miss a turn into a side street, it will recalculate — and then tell you to take the next suitable street, which we had invariably passed by the time it finished working out what to do next.


Turner County High School in Ashburn, Georgia had its first racially integrated prom—on Saturday. That’s last Saturday. As in, 2007. But there was still a separate whites-only prom. Baby steps, I guess.


Republican Strom Thurmond, who espoused racial segregation, had a mixed-race daughter. Republican mayor of Spokane James West opposed gay rights, but enjoyed gay rites, trawling Internet chat rooms to find male lovers. He may also have molested a few children, but is still denying that.

Jews and Palestinians, together at last

A scientific investigation discovered that Jews are genetically so close to other Middle Eastern racial groups that there is absolutely no basis for defining Jewishness on the basis of genetic difference or matriarchal descent. Jews and Palestinians are racially the same. So far, so painfully obvious to everyone except the people concerned. However, the journal which published the study has faced such howls of protest from outraged Jews that it has actually written to subscribers asking them to tear out the article from their copies and destroy it.