An email I sent to P, in which I critiqued your least-favorite blogger

P-funk has been sending me emails lately with his views on society and class in Brazil, a topic whereupon my ignorance is almost total.  So I keep trying to change the subject.  Something he said yesterday reminded me of a recent posting on Steve Sailer’s blog, so I took the opportunity to introduce him to that site and my reservations about it.  With P’s permission, I copy the message below.  

i don’t know if you’d opted out of the gang of four by the time i started mentioning steve sailer’s blog, or if you noticed any of sailer’s pieces in THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE.  anyway, virtually everything sailer writes leaves you thinking, “hmm, from a certain perspective, that could be considered racist.”  reading his blog is an interesting experience; you read one post, think “that’s an interesting idea, but from a certain perspective it could be considered racist.”  then you read the next post, think “that’s also interesting, and could also be considered racist from a certain perspective, but not from the same perspective as would make the other one look racist.”  read the next post, the next one, and the next one, each time you see a different way in which it could be considered racist.  it’s like that thing science teachers do to explain how the moon can revolve around its own axis and always have the same face towards the earth.  face a chair, step sideways.  keep your eyes on the chair as you keep moving sideways around the chair.  soon you’ll be back where you’ve started.  you’ll have circled the chair, but also you’ll have spun yourself all the way around. 

likewise, sailer is fixed on inherited differences among groups of people, on the idea that these differences have enormous power to explain why groups live in different conditions.  he tends to dismiss any effort to achieve equality, or even any effort to identify non-biological causes for differences among groups, as symptomatic of scientific illiteracy at best and dishonesty at worst.  that fixation sends him revolving around the question of race like the moon around the earth or the student around the chair.  as the moon might face opposite directions at opposite points in its orbit, yet always face the earth,  so sailer can directly contradict himself, yet always seem racist.  consider this paragraph:

“(2) The less relevant that written tests are to a particular career, the more that entrenched whites will stress exams as a way to keep black men out. For example, Irish-American firemen and cops fought for segregation for years, and have since battled for colorblind testing. Why? Because Irish-Americans and African-Americans tend to possess such similar talents (e.g., strength, size, courage, street smarts, a commanding personality, and a touch of blarney) that they’re natural rivals for fire and police jobs. One advantage the Irish possess, however, is in generally scoring higher on written exams, so they swear by testing.” sailer published that in NATIONAL REVIEW in 1996; you can find the article at http://www.isteve.com/blackath.htm

there, he’s arguing that the inherited traits that distinguish the irish as a group from african americans as a group are such that it gives the irish an unjust advantage over african americans for fire departments to use IQ testing to select applicants.  yet when the federal government tried in april 2006 to stop the city of virginia beach from using a standardized test to select potential firefighters, sailer responded with a blog post entitled “so now, math is racist!”  you’ll have to scroll through a whole month of postings to find this one, but it was a month that really epitomized sailer, with postings on the duke lacrosse case, higher rates of drowning among black than among white youth, and a posting called “D’Brickashaw Ferguson: Black or Mormon?”  as well as calls for walling off the southern border and denunciation of the invasion of iraq.  http://isteve.blogspot.com/2006_04_01_archive.html   

anyway, i bring all of this up because yesterday he posted a review of a book about the tendency throughout history of conquest to go southward.  he points out that there is a strong pattern around the world of the male lines within populations, as traced through the Y chromosome, to show affinities to groups originating to the north of that population’s center, while female lines, as traced through mitochondrial DNA, show an equally strong affinity to groups based in the south.  the conclusion sailer draws from this pattern is that northern men conquered their southern neighbors and took their women.  i wonder how reliable this is, and how it relates to what you’re describing in brazil.  i haven’t read the book sailer is reviewing, but his post suggests that the pattern is typical around the northern hemisphere.  he doesn’t say anything about the southern hemisphere, or about a transequatorial country like brazil.
http://isteve.blogspot.com/2007/08/i-review-michael-h-harts-answer-to.html

frank and vinney are pretty well sick of my comments on sailer, whose writing i find strangely fascinating.  would you object if i posted this email on the blog the three of us have been running?  it might inspire them to put up more postings, just to drive this one off the front page.  

>Subject: RE: If I had 10,000 light-skinned blacks playing Jazz …
>Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2007 22:16:40 -0400
>
>… our troubles with Dave Brubeck would be over very quickly.
>
>I would not be surprised if Brazil were similar with gradations —
>though there are more than you can imagine. They deal with white, black
>and native, and have mixes of all possible combinations. And then, like
>any place with white people, the whiter the white people (northern
>european and blonde/blue as opposed to southern eurpoean and
>brown/brown) also factors into class. Heck, it does here.
>
>The thing that was so odd to the person who wrote that article years
>back was that such a tiny percentage of Brazilians considered themselves
>black, and yet the magazine specifically aimed at black Brazilians was a
>booming hit when it came out. So, unless every single copy was bought by
>a pure straight-outta-Africa black person, it would seem that a lot of
>people who don’t like to check the black box for a poll or census know
>themselves to be black, and are even interested in blackness.
>
>Lisa, stay away from that light-skinned black person!
>Marge
>

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2 Comments

  1. lefalcon

     /  August 16, 2007

    In the U.S., people think about race in terms of airtight compartments. In Brazil, people fall somewhere on a racial spectrum. That’s the basic difference. Anyway, race doesn’t really exist: It’s socially-constructed. Just like sexuality. When a dog humps somebody’s leg, he’s doing it because of his conditioning. It’s odd that so many people are training animals to hump human legs.

  2. lefalcon

     /  August 18, 2007

    Motherfucker, please!

    You ain’t bad.

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