Tag: sociology

Debunking Dyson

K. Tymon Zhou | United States

How do you justify identity politics? Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown university sociology professor, uses history as a justification. Identity politics, in Dyson’s view, is a defensive response to historical injustices. During a recent interview, he declared that “When I check history, I think white people invented race.”  Dyson attacks his critics as historically ignorant, living in the “United States of Amnesia.” Dyson’s claim has a degree of validity. The United States has been historically dominated by whites. However, Dyson’s claim presents a false narrative that white Americans are uniquely guilty.

The idea that any one demographic group “invented” race is patently absurd.  Sociologists recognize that humans  instinctively gravitate towards group identities. Dyson’s claim that whites invented race as a group identity denies this universal principle. Henry Tajfel, a British social psychologist, demonstrated this in a 1970’s experiment.   Tajfel and his team organized a group of teens into completely arbitrary categories. The teens were told they were divided by artistic preference. Despite this arbitrary categorization, the teens persistently choose to give fake money to members of their own group. Group favoritism is a natural product of group identity, forming in-groups and out-groups. Consequently, cultural and philosophical justifications for racism are only mere outgrowths of this primal instinct. This extends beyond racial identity.  Non-European cultures created hierarchies of in-groups and out-groups within their own societies. West African slavery was centered on kinship, not racial identity. Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Aztecs and Mayans enslaved prisoners of war. Such examples demonstrate that group identity resulting in oppression is hardly unique to whites.

Even if one accepts Dyson’s premise that whites invented race, there are gaps in his argument. If race is a white invention, then why did American minorities embrace the concept? In the 1830s, Cherokee Native Americans embraced slavery, asserting that they were equal to whites and superior to African-Americans. As Paul Chatt Smith, a museum curator at the National Museum of the American Indian, explains:

The Five Civilized Tribes were deeply committed to slavery, established their own racialized black codes, immediately reestablished slavery when they arrived in Indian territory, rebuilt their nations with slave labor, crushed slave rebellions, and enthusiastically sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

If the idea of Native Americans owning slaves is shocking, African-Americans owning slaves is downright horrifying. Although, the number of African-American slave-holders was minuscule, a number became wealthy through slave labor. William Ellison, a black South Carolina planter, died owning 900 acres and 63 slaves in 1860. Ellison’s story is a perverse corruption of the American dream; he was born into slavery, but seems to have fully embraced the racial hierarchy of antebellum America. Moreover, free African-Americans were willing to fight for the Confederacy. The Louisiana Native Guards was formed by free African Americans.They asserted their loyalty to the southern cause:

  The free colored population [native] of Louisiana … own slaves, and they are dearly attached to their native land … and they are ready to shed their blood for her defense. They have no sympathy for abolitionism; no love for the North, but they have plenty for Louisiana … They will fight for her in 1861 as they fought [to defend New Orleans from the British] in 1814-1815.”

These examples demonstrate that whites were not alone in their racism. It had enshrouded and penetrated all segments of American society. One can make the argument that only a minority of Native Americans or African-Americans owned slaves.  However, the same was true of the American South, with only 25% of Southerners owning slaves. If one forgives the Cherokee and African-American slave-owners, one also must forgive their white peers.

These complex historical circumstances do not diminish the scope of injustice but it demonstrates that history is not a race-centered morality play. In Dyson’s narrative, whites alone are responsible for racial injustice. In reality, whites were acting on a universal group instinct in establishing in-groups and out-groups.  They were not alone in accepting racist dogmas and prejudices. Indeed, Dr. Dyson lives in the United States of Amnesia, not his opponents.

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The Wage Gap Is Real, And We Should Keep It Around

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

America’s run-of-the-mill slightly progressive feminist will bring up the same ailment of industrial society regardless of whether or not he or she is an actual radical leftist. This ailment is the wage gap. It is the feminist exhibit A of why the patriarchy is in full force and working day and night to oppress women.

The argument goes something like this: The average earnings of all men compared to the average earnings of all women adds up to somewhere between a 100 to 80 to a 100 to 70 ratio. From this, a progressive may argue that a woman earns something like 77 cents on the dollar that a man makes. And thus, they argue that is bad because people deserve equal pay for equal work.

At face value, this sounds like an egregious act of systemic sexism we need to hastily work on demolishing. This would be the case if there were not such a clear logical jump here.

The jump is that people think that a disparity in mean incomes means disparities in each and every individual field of work, yet this is not the case. There are no figures that indicate on a widespread scale, women are not being paid the same for equal work. Surely, this may be happening in some scattered instances, but that is not the statistic that feminists will bring up.

What they do is compare the means of the incomes between genders, and show that there is a 100 to 77 ratio or so. I believe that this does exist (and this ratio would continue to exist even if I suspended my belief). I do believe that the mean incomes between men and women indicate such a gap, yet I do not see what we should do about it if anything.

Should we get rid of it? Should we take action and make sure that the mean incomes between men and women get to a 1 to 1 proportion? I think this would be disastrous because this is the classic case of ensuring equality of outcome.

I am a proponent of gender equality, for more reasons than my female friends not hating me. A country that allows opportunities for everyone regardless of gender will have a higher standard of living, which benefits even the most sexist individuals. Social acceptance is nice too, though.

But the wage gap is not indicative of inequality of opportunity. It is indicative of inequality of outcome, which, last I checked, is something very dangerous to become upset about.

Let’s say I concede that sure, men and women should be equal at the end of the race. But why just men and women? If two men have incomes that are different, how is that just by the same standards? How is it just that any two sections of human we can divide ourselves into are unequal at the end of the game in any way?

The “equality of outcome” doctrine has been one of the most dangerous doctrines to meet humanity, considering the events of the 19th century. The Jewish population had been collecting usury for hundreds of years, giving them a leg-up on the European Christian’s they lived among.

When economic crisis his Germany after World War 1, a successful group became the perfect scapegoats. The Jews became the haves. The Germans became the have-nots. And now history has the Holocaust.

To the East, we saw the Soviet Union demonize and massacre the Kulaks for having more food than the rest after eliminating the bourgeoisie.

One may snicker at these examples, but they are what comes of the idea of “we must end as equals.” Taken to the logical conclusion, the proposition for equality of outcome leads to various forms of redistributive totalitarianism, and that is not a fun place to end up. That is why I have serious hesitations with the demonization of the wage gap.

When we see inequality of outcome, we must look at what the cause of such inequality is. If it turns out that it was unjust (inequality from the start) than something should be done about it. If it was not due to injustice, then we should take a closer look before we jump to removing the cause. Because attempting to remove the cause could come with dire consequences.

Many argue that the wage gap comes from societal expectations we have of women. We expect them to go into nursing and teaching (which tend to pay lower) so they do that. The issue with this approach is that it is impossible to explain how much of the representation of women in these fields is due to societal pressures and how much is due to female choice.

Do women choose these positions in society, or is it the patriarchal hegemon that forcefully places them here. Well, we should look at broadly who men and women are. Men and women are different, and that is quite clear. I cannot give birth. But why would the differences end there?

There is lots of literature on the personality differences between the genders. This study, which has over two thousand academic citations, can probably shed light onto the important gender differences that are creating the wage gap that we see.

Males were found to be more assertive and had slightly higher self-esteem than females. Females were higher than males in extraversion, anxiety, trust, and, especially, tender-mindedness (e.g., nurturance).

Keep in mind, when discussing a large group like this, differences do not mean that every single member of a group will be x while the other will be y. Not every man is going to be higher in self-esteem than every female. There will be more men super high in self-esteem than women, though. This is how social science works, so don’t strawman me as I cite extremely credible and well-accepted scientific literature.

The personality traits that we will find most important are those of assertiveness and nurturance. Men have more extra assertive people than women do, which means that when one is fighting for that top CEO position that pays well, we should expect men to achieve those more often because of their assertive nature.

Women tend to lean more towards nurturance than men, which means we can expect them to go towards careers where they can bring up children and help those in need. We look at the real world, and these predictions are reflected. And now we have a wage gap.

Why do such differences exist? I am not an evolutionary psychologist, but it makes sense that these traits continue across time. Women need to take care of children when they are first born, so over thousands of years, this nurturing trait would have been ingrained deeper and deeper. At the same time, because women are choosy breeders, men need to compete and be more assertive. Hence, the assertiveness trait developed.

So the wage gap either exists because of a patriarchy, which has an effect that is possible to measure, or because of evolutionarily ingrained personality traits that are widely accepted by academia. One of these makes a lot of sense, and the other seems like an apparition dreamed up so as to give people a reason to complain.

Let us look at this feminist end game of a 1 to 1 wage ratio. This would mean forcing men and women to both be something that they’re not. Instead of denying or trying to reduce differences, we should celebrate them. Men and women both have traits and characteristics that represent themselves in their respective genders more often than they do in the other. There are good reasons for the existence of such traits.

So let us not engage in the fatal fight against thousands of years of evolution for the sake of misguided feminist rhetoric.

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