Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

No white pride here

I originally had a decent write up on this subject last month, but I lost it due to a PEBKAC issue. Anyway, I've felt the urge to write it up again, at least in part, so let's give it a shot... I'm afraid it's turned out somewhat worse the second time around, so like most of this blog reading will probably be restricted to myself in the future. Loosely structured ideas don't make for great reading by others. :)

First, to the supposed person who feels "proud" to be white (not talking about white supremacy, just ethnic pride in general), what do you mean by "white"? Because "white people" are pretty varied ethnically (just as Africans and Asians and Middle Easterners are). Are Saxons white? Are British white? And Normans white? Are Italians white? Are Greeks white? Are Croatians white? Are Slavs white? Are Russians white? Are Finnish white? Do these divisions make sense, what about others? Where do you stand on Jews? And what about "purity"? According to 23andMe I'm 100% European -- 98.5% of which is Northwestern European, and 63.1% of that "British & Irish". So, pretty white. But if you're only, say, 80% European, but your skin is more fair than dark or olive, are you white enough that you can have no problem feeling white pride?

I read the excellent A Field Guide To White Trash about a week ago and that helped spur me to write this. Just in America, there is a variety of ethnic groups of pretty different white people, who in the past fought each other in what we'd now call race wars. I'd like to go back in time and ask them if they feel "white pride" or something more specific like "Italian pride" sometime, or whether the concept of pride in their race just seems like an absurd idea to them, as it does to me, for reasons on what it means to feel pride. In any case, we must conclude that "white" is this generic ethnic cluster blob correlating with fairer skin. This is sort of okay because we're also clustering other ethnicities (like "blacks") into big ethnic blobs, though there is a caveat that in America, "black" is a much narrower subset of ethnic variation (due to slavery and subsequent mixing) than "African".

To me, personal pride should be reserved for accomplishments, not for existing. I think the root of confusion comes from the idiom of "feeling proud of" someone else, which is a sort of depersonalized pride. Parents feel this for their children, and it's a useful signal that the children can pick up on so they begin to understand "My parent is proud of me for doing x, therefore I should feel pride in myself for doing x." Adults can benefit from this approval signaling as well, we boost each others' self esteem in all sorts of ways.

The issue comes when you start mixing up feeling proud of someone else and turning that into feeling pride of yourself, then feeling pride directly. The stereotypical parent-living-through-their-child fits this idea. You get so caught up in other people's accomplishments, that because you share some sort of similarity to them, you begin to mix them up with your own accomplishments. You regress to saying "we did this, we did that" in a lot of your talk. For the modern universalist individual, and I'm unhappily guilty of it too at least in my language if not my actual feelings, this "we" has expanded so that it is often encompassing most if not all of humanity rather than a local tribe. We went to the moon, we will build a glorious future. I think the humanist version of this, that is the all-humanity version, is less dangerous than the less encompassing versions (we being your family, your school, your city, your state, your country, or your broad race) since by its nature it's non-exclusive and doesn't create a boundary for the Other to fall into, but it's still a rather annoying pattern.

So in one instance we can have a parent living through their descendants, feeling proud their student has succeeded and done well in a football match for instance, then translating that into feeling pride themselves for the same accomplishment. You could argue that there is pride to be felt in bringing them into the world and in raising them well enough that with your indirect help they have achieved their accomplishment, and I don't think that's necessarily unhealthy, but there's a stark difference between that and the parent that obsesses over and visibly displays the winning Trophy way more than even the child does.

In a similar instance we take pride in our ancestors. It's quite reasonable to marvel at the builders of Modern Civilization, who overwhelmingly happen to be white in some form or another. You can also admire the Romans for their Empire, and maybe you'd even call them white. But to translate that to white pride, is a mistake. You didn't accomplish any of that, you didn't even indirectly accomplish it in the way a parent indirectly helps their children accomplish things by the mere act of conception, or even in the super indirect way "society as a whole" helps its individuals accomplish things by not being alien monsters who kill any baby who doesn't come out of the womb a fully matured survivalist capable of living as a hermit on an island.

A corollary to all this is that if there is no white pride, there should be no white shame.

Now let me discuss supremacy a bit. White supremacy is even sillier than white pride, because if whites really were overall supreme, there wouldn't be any other races now since we (sic) whites would have purged them -- we had plenty of opportunities to do so over history, and it's not like full genocides are actually all that rare so at least in the act of genocide some ethnic groups have shown themselves superior. Personally, I'm grateful that I'm white, but I'm not proud (or ashamed) of it. It's not something I accomplished. The reason I'm grateful to be white is that, yes, whites have on average higher IQ than other ethnicities (but not all ethnicities, for example east Asians and Ashkenazi Jews) and I'd gladly trade capability in some aspect of being human (there is more to being human than IQ, even though IQ may be the most important) like athleticism or staying with a complex rhythm for more IQ. I would even give up dairy for a few more IQ points if I could.

I don't think one should be ungrateful to be another race, though, and certainly one shouldn't feel stupid if one is descended from, say, Nigerians who had the most advanced communication system until the modern electric age. Humans are diverse, and from the standpoint of power over the universe perhaps there is one subset of humanity that is overall superior, but that subset cannot be superior at everything directly, only indirectly through that mastery of the universe. For most of human history this was pretty damn irrelevant since this overall superiority could not have been by very much, nor was it certain to be one particular group (were the Romans, ethnically, really overall to any noticeable degree either superior or inferior to the Greeks (which itself is a fairly diverse group) under Alexander, or hell even the Egyptians during the great Pyramids Building era?) since there have been many large empires with quite different ethnic makeups. Plus in all cases, the big factors end up being driven by feedback loops everywhere that make first mover advantage huge. From the summaries I've read of arguments from Guns, Germs, and Steel I think this aspect of advantage-by-happenstance that compounds into even more advantage is what the author is getting at, though I think it is taken too far by supposing nothing else matters. Clearly, IQ being the single most important factor to predict one's ability to master the universe, a group of humans with one standard deviation higher average IQ than another group (normed to both groups) is going to do well no matter what combination of unfavorable / favorable environmental conditions you give each group. I think smart-fraction theory is a better theory than environmental happenstance, and I'd expect that given a favorable environment those groups with larger smart-fractions will perform even better than otherwise.

In conclusion... there's a lot more to be said on the merits of ethnic separation, admitting we (sic) evolved with tribal instincts and thus will not do well when integrated non-forcibly (unlike Singapore which used force and top-down control of things like who your neighbors are, and even then they're only integrating "Asians" from the same general part of the world), understanding the strengths and weaknesses of ethnic groups as broad as "white" and as narrow as "Tutsi", and ethnic solidarity to avoid self-genocide. But pride in something you are? Come on, get real, go out and accomplish something and take pride in that instead.

Edit: here's a related view, presented in comedy, that I totally agree with.

Posted on 2016-04-02 by Jach

Tags: philosophy, race


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