How We Faced Down Race Baiting

Here is one example:

Here is how we responded: Reckoning With Human Zoos

Here is another example (referenced link therin, and the following article that was so bad we decided against linking to it): Realism in Science and Scripture

Here is how I responded: How does the isolation of Tasmania impact recent universal ancestry?

Here is another example responded to by @jongarvey that was repeated over and over for literally years, even though I’m sure the person referenced knew better: The racist Adam | The Hump of the Camel

@jongarvey most recently (and quite helpfully) commented on this last year: Playing the racist card | The Hump of the Camel .

It is always hard to respond to race baiting. Usually it presents you with a lose-lose proposition, where you can’t really get around it without talking directly about race. But people are so bad at talking about race that it becomes a big morass, which is exactly what makes race baiting so effective in the end.

Basically, the conversation at times has gone like:

  1. Some scientist says that X is true, and we have a ton of evidence for it.

  2. I say well, that isn’t exactly right, because you forgot Y, so you should probably stop saying X.

  3. The first scientist responds, but Y is racist (or some variant of this).

  4. So now I’m in a serious bind. Y certain is not racist, but now my only path forward is to engage the emotionally charged topic of race, starting from the deficit of trying to live down a public accusation of racist ideas. Very early on in this, the first scientist slinks off, while I navigate the mine field.

  5. Now, in the aftermath, everyone forgets the first point I made, that X may not be actually that well supported by the evidence. Rather, people are debating back and forth whether or not my counter example Y is racist.

So, you can see, race baiting is incredibly effective at deflecting legitimate criticism. The cases we’ve seen it have been very charged.

My general approach, where I think it has worked out best, is where we take advantage of the moment, to really make progress in our understanding of race and racism. Independent of my scientific points on population genetics of Adam and Eve, these questions of race are really important.

When I have responded at my best (e.g. Reckoning With Human Zoos and How does the isolation of Tasmania impact recent universal ancestry?), it has been an opportunity to humanize the neglected and abused among us. It was meaningful and valuable to learn together about Ota Benga, and about Tasmania’s colonization. There is value in talking about these things in the end.

Race baiting, ultimately, is a profoundly dehumanizing way to exploit race and racism. The challenge is to respond in a humanizing way.


Nowadays this all revolves around critical race theory: the accusation of “shocking racism” against people outside the garden needs only to be made, not to be demonstrated in the motives of the accused, to divert the conversation, as Josh astutely observes above.

So the question is, “Is critical race theory a theory, or a weapon?” From my knowledge of sociology at undergraduate level, and my reading since, it was conceived as a weapon (being woefully thin on evidence for a theory), and gets used as one even when it falls into the hands of those not trained to use it. Lazy people have learned that firing off a revolver settles every domestic dispute.

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I am seriously surprised there were actually human zoos. I never heard about them even in history classes. I have heard about slave trade fairs, but human zoos just take it up a notch.

I agree.

I can now see why one must be cautious in responding to race-baiting tactics and I commend the diligent efforts you have made in doing so. From your responses to the several critical articles you received, I see reason and potentially high success in the approach you are taking.


At the moment, I’d say that goes both for CRT and also objections to CRT. My of experience of talking about actual issues of race and racism in focused ways is to be promptly be accused of CRT.

We are really bad at talking about race…


Scientists and medical professionals already know that different ancestries carry different risk factors and different genetics. For example, African Americans are seven times more likely to develop keloid scarring, and have a much higher chance of carrying the sickle cell trait. These are just facts. To a larger extent, all of us are genetically different at some level.

However, we are both different and equal. Those are not contradictory positions. Although we are all different, we are also all human and have equal rights as human beings. As an armchair moral philosopher, I see this as an extension of the Is/Ought problem and the Naturalistic fallacy. The differences in our genetics is simply an Is. Equality is about how we ought to treat each other.

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On a lighter note, a zoo in Spain, for some days during the 1980s, hired an actor who was present during work hours dressed in a suit, and sat at a desk which was situated in a cage. He ignored the audience and pretended to be reading and processing documents that were on the desk. The signage noted that this species was the most dangerous one.


That’s a different type of human zoo :slight_smile: .

19 posts were split to a new topic: Public Discourse on Race and Policing

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