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Bob Smietana

It takes a great deal of inner strength to write those words and to act them out. Too many people of faith (and I am one of them) decide that when someone has offended us, our job is to rebuke, smite, or otherwise put them in their place. To turn the other cheek doesn't mean being a victim; more likely it means mastering your reaction, to live out the truth you know rather than act on the emotions you feel.

I'll have to get a copy of that book.

Dane

truly inspiring passage.and by reading this little passage,I CAN safely predict the whole book must be well up to this remarkable level of inspiration,if not above.Thank you for sharing it and thank you for your inspiration,Mr Gladwell.

Liz

Wow, thanks for sharing this excerpt. I've been looking to find some new books to read and after seeing yours more than a few times in the bookstore (I'm indecisive), now I've decided my next purchase would be yours, and now, your mothers. Thanks again.

Petey

"Do you stand by that? Is it, in your view, "racist" to publish on the demographics of intelligence?"

No. But it IS racist to be Steve Sailer.

kandice

Just checking out the site...
Must admit I'm a little shocked at how many people are going to "check out" the books. They are both amazing and once you start you will not be able to put them down. They are absolutly amazing and highly recommended, to anyone who is here, and has not read them.

jeff

Excellent example of racist speech, but I feel mixed about putting the focus on the pain caused by the idiot boy and not the exceptional example of patience, tolerance, and maturity shown by your mother. Wow.

carolita

When I lived in Paris, every now and then I'd be astonished when I realized I'd just been subjected to racism. It was so unexpected, I was so oblivious, that it would take some time for me to realize that it had just happened.

(To the French, I looked "Arab," and walking with a white friend and pushing her baby carriage, made people automatically assume I was the nanny, not a friend, for example. Then there was the time I showed up as a candidate for an apartment, and felt a strange derision coming from the landlord (who had been nice to me on the phone), now nearly laughing at my intent to rent his place, but was being super nice to all the white French applicants who didn't even have references -- which I did have.) It's a strange combination of feelings -- it feels like shame, and yet you understand rationally that you have nothing to be ashamed of. It's a terrible thing.

It made me think that anyone who hasn't been subjected to racist treatment should really try it sometime. It's certainly a bracing, humbling experience. I cannot imagine wanting to be called the 'N-word' under any circumstances.

carolita

(not that I think anyone SHOULD be treated to racist behavior (see above comment) -- but I guess if everyone knew how it felt, maybe they'd refrain from inflicting such pain on other people out of compassion) (or so I'd hope)

When my classmates called me "nigger-lips" in junior high, my mother suggested calling them "jew-noses" (sorry for my Mom, folks), but I couldn't imagine making them feel as bad as they'd just made me -- I just wanted them to stop. (Unfortunately, the black kids joined them, and I was stuck with that name for years!)

lova

I agree with the comment above that narrating perosnal stories of racial harassment is as stressful as it gets. I would rather bury it in the back of my mind and dismiss the agression as the act of an idiotic person. I took upon your suggestion and took the Harvard "Implicit project" test. To my surprise, the test concluded that I had "a slight automatic preference for white people" especially considering that I am a black person from Madagascar and that I have been subject to racial slurs as well.

different jeff

I am still confused by Gladwell's statement that a scene of mocking a religious service was the most offensive thing he'd seen in a movie in forever.
Perhaps his mother's religiousity offers some clue. Maybe religion is something he is emotional about.

But to apply his own standards for offensiveness, it seems pretty harmless.

Content: Cohen spoke in tongues and danced about with others who were behaving similarly.
Intention: Mockery. But not discernablly more so than any other part of the film.
Conviction: Seemed rather silly, not really vehement.

I would just love a further explanation of the reaction. It is possible I have forgotten some trigger-moment from the scene.
But I wonder if the reaction is not more telling about the viewer in this case. Why is it okay to poke fun at feminists, Southern gentility, impoverished Europeans, etc., but not at Jesus or this particular band of his followers?

different jeff

A second look at the post in question:
"Since when is it okay to invade someone's house of worship, and make fun of their most sacred religious rituals?"

Is it an invasion when you are invited and those you have just invaded sign waivers? I assume they spotted the cameras as well.
They behaved "ecstatically" or "oddly" or whatever term you'd like to use, all on their own. Borat's not-recently rivaled mockery of them consisted of doing the same thing, with just a little bit extra.

I'd love to also hear Gladwell's reaction to "Jesus Camp." It did much the same thing, only under the pretext of journalistic objectivity (at least to hear the critics talk about it.)

It is hardly low comedy to show people behaving strangely when they know they are being observed. Only the most clever comedians can mock someone without them being aware they are being mocked.
See Pam and Tim's wind-ups of Gareth on the original Office.

To some drinking grape juice to wash down a ritz cracker is a sacred institution. But it is unrealistic (and patronizing and prudish) to expect me to respect that institution just because you hold it sacred.


KFairfield

Thanks, Malcolm, for posting this very moving piece. Thanks, Mr. Sailer, for responding as I have now come to expect.

JewishAtheist

I wish people would respond to Mr. Sailor with facts rather than names. The American Psychological Association established a special task force in response to the publication of The Bell Curve concluded: "The task force agrees that there do exist large differences between the average IQ scores of blacks and whites, and that these differences cannot be attributed to biases in test construction, nor does it 'simply reflect differences in socio-economic status.'" (Wikipedia.)

Whether the APA is correct or not is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. What I want to know is would Mr. Gladwell consider the APA task force a racist group? If not, why not?

KFairfield

I wish Mr. Sailer would simply show some consideration. I find many of his points to be quite provocative, and I thoroughly enjoy his website (even those positions I disagree with). However, it's the attitude and tone in his replies to this blog that I find reprehensible. There seems to be some crusade against Mr. Gladwell and his success.

Christopher Horn

Derek Besner is a cognitive psychologist at the University of Waterloo. Some time ago his research concluded that "thinking follows language", that is, we express ideas verbally prior to understanding ideas cognitively.

Runs contrary to our expectation, right? We casually assume that ideas are generated in our minds, then we talk about them, unlike Besner's finding that it works the other way around.

I haven't read too much of Besner's work. Nevertheless, his discovery that "thinking follows language" has been quite helpful for problem solving in my professional life. When I'm struggling to break through on a problem, I'll talk it with a peer, my manager, the 1-up manager, our assistant, the mail guy, whomever.

Today I'm wondering, in the context of racism, if perhaps thinking doesn't follow language as well. Sometimes intellectual-types bristle at the banning of hate speech, preferring instead to change "hearts and minds", since attitudes are more important than words.

Maybe not. Maybe, as in Besner's research, the real secret is to get rid of the words, and the hearts and minds will follow.

The horrible story from Malcolm's mother raises a question of course: what is to be done about a young child so lacking in respect for his elders?

Perhaps a good start, if Besner's research applies, is to separate the boy from the word - and perhaps his mind would follow.

So to Malcolm's original suggestion, about revisiting the n-word, how about if we don't - good things might well result from that.

albatross

Christopher Horn:

I wonder about that. Certainly a child can be taught not to say rude things. (The n-word is basically a four-letter word at this point, used largely for shock value or as a way to provoke a fight, but among some people as part of a foul-mouthed vocabulary used among friends.)

But would eliminating the words eliminate the nasty feelings? We have this phenomenon of cycling through euphemisms or terms over time in our society, partly to try to force people to change perceptions. It mostly hasn't worked. Whether you call the child a moron, or mentally retarded, or developmentally delayed, or developmentally disabled, the other kids in the school will still know that he's different, and will probably still tease him if they can get away with it. For some bizarre reason, we've seen the term for Oriental become Asian (which loses lots of detail, since Indians are also Asian). It didn't destroy the distinction in peoples' minds between the two groups, since they look and sound and act so differently. We similarly transitioned from negro to colored to black to (for some people) African-American. Has this changed anything? (Clearly, racial attitudes have changed. Did the change in acceptable words change anything?)

I suspect that eliminating words makes it harder to communicate or think about subtle or hard-to-see things. (This is one reason it's important to learn the technical vocabulary of a field you want to work in, and one reason why mathematical notation is so crucial to many fields.) But racial differences are obvious, so much so that small children inevitably notice them and ask funny but potentially touchy questions. ("Why is Mr Johnson brown, Daddy?")

The boy in the story learned the n-word, almost certainly from his parents. I wonder if he had any idea how hurtful it was.

Cindy

Are you upset about what you perceive to be a misinterpretation of data or that Leonardo DiCaprio is set to play Malcolm in a movie?
I feel that someone is being slandered here, and its not the psychometricians.....

Aaron

JewishAtheist,

Interesting that you fail to leave the last line of the paragraph from Wikipedia on the task force out: "There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation."

There was an interesting article in the NYTimes Magazine recently (I think the one linked in my name, but I'm not a subscriber) that talked about language development among different classes. If I remember correctly, people in lower class homes spoke to their children about 3 or 4 times less frequently than in middle class families. It's factors like that which hadn't been explored previously (e.g., in the Bell Curve).

Stever Sailer,

"Malcolm was engaging in hate speech against social scientists. He is using the most damaging slur in the contemporary lexicon - the R word - to smear all honest psychometricians."

Oh, please. That is just ridiculous.

1. "Racist" is far from the most damaging slur in use today.

2. It is NOT true that Malcolm was speaking about ALL psychometricians. Using hyperbole to complain about someone else's language choices seems questionable, at best. (I took out the word "honest" from your sentence, because using that word like you did is not honest.)

3. Malcolm did not mention psychometrics. Not once. There is a difference between saying that some random guy in a bar calling all blacks dumb is a racist, and making "slurs" about scientists.

4. Maybe if you cry harder, someone will listen to you. (Yes, that may have been unfair, but your bringing baggage into this discussion from other fights is not helping in any way.)

Christopher Horn

Albatross,

Your argument about people "cycling through derogatory terms" has some validity - indeed, I quoted Steven Pinker making essentially the same argument on the prior thread on this topic. I am certainly torn on this question.

However, when I previously quoted Pinker, I had forgotten about Besner's insight about thinking following language. Racial bias/hatred has been a blight on civilized society for a long long time, and as we stamp out each successive iteration of expressing malice toward another race, we can (dismally) be certain that new variants of that weed will no doubt continue to spring up.

And yet. For that particular boy, in the particular situation of abusing Joyce Gladwell, separating him from HIS word might matter. We can imagine that the next iteration of 'his' word might take some time to come into common use, in the meantime maybe that boy's mind moves in a different direction, based on different words that guide his thinking in the meantime.

In any event, albatross, you certainly make good points. (I more or less made similar ones myself!). But as my own thinking follows not only language but also writing, I am growing in the idea that there may be something to separating the boy from the word, as much as that may initially seem fruitless or against our notions of intellectual freedom.

JewishAtheist

Aaron:

"Interesting that you fail to leave the last line of the paragraph from Wikipedia on the task force out: 'There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation.'"

I assure you, I'm not trying to argue one way or the other on the genetic issue. Frankly, I hope supporters of The Bell Curve are wrong.

Still, it appears to me that under Gladwell's definition of racism, the APA taskforce is racist. I think a lot of people would agree with him. This is troubling because it prevents honest debate about what is essentially a factual question.

Assuming the APA task force is correct that "there do exist large differences between the average IQ scores of blacks and whites," that IQ is meaningful, and that Mr. Gladwell's definition of racism is reasonable, we'd have the strange situation where the truth is racist. It recalls Stephen Colbert's line about the facts being biased.

I think this points to a problem with Mr. Gladwell's definition of racism. To my mind, someone who hates African-Americans is racist. Someone who discriminates against African-Americans is racist. People who discuss varying distributions of traits across races but bear no ill-will are not racist.

JNR

Questions to provoke, if not offend: Call me nihilistic or relativistic, (I shant be offended) but what more than reltaive integration to the metanarrative does an IQ test measure? Can one give offense without intending to do so? Can one accept an offense without intending to do so? Is one per se worse than the other? (Isnt "per se" a myth?) By what, other than sequence? Doesnt it seem like Racism has been transformed from bad to evil (e.g. use the "N" word and you must go to the Rev. Jackson for forgivenss and your pennance) and doesnt that just reflect the relative acceptance and power of Secular Humanism as a new religion? Is it offensive per se to call Secular Humanism a religion (or at least a religious belief)?

Aaron

JewishAtheist,

Why I think the last line of that paragraph is interesting is why I don't think that Mr. Gladwell is saying that the "truth" is "racist".

I think racism comes from thinking that something must be true about a person or persons if they belong to a specific race. So, given what the APA task force says, if I say that blacks are not as intelligent as whites because of the color of their skin (or because of genetic factors that go into their race), I am a racist.

I think the argument could be made that some people are using this information in a way that doesn't link up with the pejorative use of "racist". I don't, however, think that anything Mr. Gladwell said could reasonably be construed to mean that the APA is racist.

I think that Mr. Gladwell's point about intention is useful in thinking about that. I'm not sure he's saying what you think he is.

I think that, combined with other people's thoughts about IQ tests, are what makes people disagree with the assumptions you list.

JewishAtheist

"So, given what the APA task force says, if I say that blacks are not as intelligent as whites because of the color of their skin (or because of genetic factors that go into their race), I am a racist."

The APA did not argue that the cause of the disparity is not genetic; they simply stated that there is no evidence it is. In the absence of any other explanation (and remember, they ruled out bias in the test and socio-economic status) it's reasonable to make that assumption, particularly since IQ is known to be heritable.

"I think that Mr. Gladwell's point about intention is useful in thinking about that."

I agree. I'm sure he would agree the APA is not racist. I'm simply pointing out that the definition he gave is a little sloppy. One who bears no ill-will towards African Americans but nonetheless believes it's likely that population has a lower average IQ is not a racist.

Dilettante

Re: Steve Sailer.

White social scientists wouldn't know what hate speech was if it bit them in the ass. Sorry, but you don't get to be the victim too.

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