Racial Double Standards

“We have every reason to believe that genes and environment combine to create the psychological profile that determines our cognition and behavior in each moment. In this narrow sense, we are all products of an unchosen past.”

This is a distillation of a Quillette article: “The High Price of Stale Grievances” by Coleman Hughes. 

First, here’s a reminder on my methodology, in case a stranger were to happen by… most of the content in this article is not original to me, and that includes the opinions stated. What I do is copy/paste articles and read through them carefully. I’ll often rearrange the content of the article to include sections like: key points, problem, solution, questions, favorite quotes, further reading, vocabulary, etc. At the very end, I’ll leave behind some of my personal takeaways.

In this article, Hughes spends some time exploring the double-standard of race-relations today.  He starts out by listing a few real-life  examples of this double-standard playing themselves out on social media, and then describing studies exploring racial double-standards. The primary question he asks is, “Why are blacks able to get away with this sort of behavior? If the situation were reversed, it would be recognized as obvious racism (white supremacy).” He observes that while the mainstream media is extremely good at denouncing racism, they are indeed terrible at facilitating a civil discussion about the the real issues plaguing black Americans and coming up with practical solutions.


  • Coleman Hughes is an undergraduate philosophy major at Columbia University. You can follow him on Twitter @coldxman
  • Hughes and a friend were hired to play in Rihanna’s back-up band. He learned that one of his friends was fired and replaced. He was a white Hispanic, and Rihanna’s artistic team had decided to go for an all-black aesthetic. If we reverse the races, it would have been seen as an unambiguous moral infraction.
  • No one questions the logic of using the past to justify current racial double-standards.
  • Black intellectuals say things like, “We were brought here against our will,” despite the fact that they have never seen a slave ship in their lives, let alone been on one. When metaphors are made explicit it’s easy to see that they are just metaphors. Yet many black intellectuals carry on as if they were literal truths.

Examples of Double Standards

#1 Exchange Between Dyson & Peterson

  • Michael Eric Dyson “If you have benefitted from 300 years of holding people in servitude, thinking that you did it all on your own…”Why can’t these people work harder?” Let me see…for 300 years you ain’t had no job! So the reality is for 300 years you hold people in the bands…you refuse to give them rights. Then all of a sudden, you ‘free’ them and say, “You’re now individuals.””
  • Dyson’s claims make no sense. No person has ever suffered 300 years of joblessness because no person has ever lived for 300 years. His ‘you’ refers not to identifiable, living humans, but to groups of long-deceased individuals with whom he shares nothing in common except a location on the color wheel. But by appropriating a grievance whose rightful owners died long ago, and by slipping between the metaphorical and the literal, Dyson was able to portray himself as a member of an abstract oppressed class and Peterson as a member of an abstract oppressor class. In his reply, Peterson put his finger on this rhetorical sleight-of-hand: “Who is this ‘you’ that you’re referring to?”
  • Black progressives use the myth of collective, intergenerational transfers of suffering to exempt themselves from the rules of civil discourse. Dyson, for instance, responded to Peterson’s criticism of the concept of ‘white privilege’ with the finger-wagging rebuke: “You’re a mean, mad white man!” Dyson will likely face no consequences. What would have happened to Peterson if he had called Dyson a “mean, mad black man”? Peterson would have received something less pleasant than a round of applause.

#2 Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates  “Between the World and Me”

  • “When 9/11 happened, I wanted nothing to do with any kind of patriotism, with the broad national ceremony of mourning. I had no sympathy for the firefighters, and something bordering on hatred for the police officers who had died.”
  • a black writer, expressions of unapologetic contempt for public servants are met with fawning praise

#3 New York Times columnist Bari Weiss—a young Jewish woman

  • Recently raked over the coals for tweeting about an Olympic ice-skater Mirai Nagasu. Accused of ‘othering’ an American citizen.
  • a white writer, an innocuous tweet provokes histrionic invective.

The thread running through these examples:

  • blacks are permitted to use language and behavior for which whites would be condemned.
  • appeals to historical oppression, and to a metaphorical ‘we,’ follow close behind.
  • People argue : how can Dyson and Coates be expected to abide by a so-called ‘politics of respectability’ in a country that routinely humiliates and subjugates them?

Studying Double Standards

  • Racial double-standards in college admissions systems
    • Asians and whites have to score higher on their SAT to have the same odds of being admitted
      • One justification : “the benefits of increased ethnic diversity on campuses outweigh the costs incurred by whites and Asians”
      • Rebuttal : This principle is anchored to an unthinking, reflexive bias towards blacks.
  • Most defenses of Affirmative Action use the history of white racism as a key link in their argumentative chain.
    • These historical facts are conveniently sidestepped:
      • Chinese-Americans were also lynched in the 19th century,
      • Japanese-Americans were barred from owning land in the early 20th
      • Over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly interned during World War II

Study #1 : Decide between two college applicants:

  • a black student with a higher GPA,
  • a white student with a tougher course load.
  • = participants chose the black applicant, citing the importance of GPA.
  • a white student with a higher GPA
  • a black student with tougher course load,
  • = participants still chose the black applicant, this time citing the importance of taking tougher classes.

In both cases, participants denied that race had anything to do with their decision.

Study #2 : Ask participants whether they would sacrifice an innocent person’s life to save the lives of one hundred.

  • Victim 1 : “Tyrone Payton”
  • Victim 2 : “Chip Ellsworth III”
  • Right-wing participants : equally likely to kill the innocent victim regardless of perceived race.
  • Left-wing participants : preferred sacrificing Chip over Tyrone.

Left-wing participants were completely unaware of their pro-black bias.

  • Calling it a ‘pro-black bias’ misses the mark. It’s actually an acknowledgement that modern-day blacks must be seen through the filter of history—and not as autonomous individuals living in the present. With this, blacks cease to be agents. This is the wrong stance to adopt towards any person.
  • Of course, in a philosophical sense, none of us can be the prime movers of our own behavior. We don’t choose our genes, and we don’t choose the environment into which we are born. This is true of all races. Why is it, then, that historical forces are only ever invoked to explain the behavior of blacks?
  • As a society, we’ve learned that what happened to your ancestors is supposed to be left behind when it comes time to judge an individual’s actions. We’ve learned that indulging in retributive justice creates an unending cycle of retributive violations.
  • Only a black intellectual, for instance, could write an op-ed arguing that black children should not befriend white children because “[h]istory has provided little reason for people of color to trust white people,” and get it published in the New York Times in 2017. An identical piece with the races reversed would rightly be relegated to fringe white supremacist forums.
  • Hughes is not satisfied with the defense ‘black people can’t be racist,’
  • Why are blacks the only ethnic group routinely and openly encouraged to nurse stale grievances back to life?

The Meta Double Standard

  • There’s a meta-double-standard in how we react to racial double-standards.
    • Compare :
    • Philadelphia Starbucks, two black men were arrested while waiting for a friend. #BoycottStarbucks trending on Twitter,
      • = Starbucks shut down 8,000 stores for a half-day of anti-bias training
    • Taco Bell infected 65 people in three different states with E. Coli, hospitalizing nine.
      • = Taco Bell shut down 15 restaurants.
      • = Chipotle shut down 43 restaurants (similar outbreak).

When a black person is treated unfairly, our society responds swiftly and robustly. Starbucks shut down fully 8,000 stores, which belies the idea that our society does not respond adequately to anti-black racism. To the contrary, we treat isolated incidents of alleged racism like nascent global pandemics.

Mainstream Media & Uncomfortable Racial Topics

Yes, mainstream media knows how to talk about anti-black racism. No, Mainstream media hasn’t figured out how to talk about uncomfortable race-related topics. Like:

  • Blacks make up 14 percent of the population but commit 52 percent of the homicides
  • Homicide is the leading cause of death for black men and boys age 15-34. This can’t be said of any other ethnicity/age group in the country.
  • 52 percent of America’s murder victims are black
  • Blacks living in the same Los Angeles neighborhoods as Hispanics are murdered at two to four times the rate
  • Social and psychological consequences of living in a community where known murderers roam free
  • Economic externalities of high crime rates—capital is scared away, businesses charge more to compensate for the increased risk of robbery
  • If you think that high-crime black neighborhoods are over-policed,
    • Do you have a solution that does not involve more policing?
    • If a solution is found, can we build the bipartisan coalition necessary to implement it?
    • Many on the Left cannot even bring themselves to mention the statistics needed to describe the problem.

We Need Civil Discourse

Does the specter of white supremacy loom so large as to render discussion of these issues and their policy implications anathema? They act as if they are content with this grim status quo, so long as we keep the abstract threat of white supremacy at bay. No one is happy with this status quo. Yet many on the Left replace honest disagreement on these topics with accusations of racism. You get the impression that the Left is content to sacrifice thousands of underprivileged black men and boys per year on the altar of progressive sensibilities.

Cracks in the reparations mindset are beginning to show themselves:

  • Whites are noticing that black leaders still use historical grievances to justify special dispensations for blacks who were born decades after the end of Jim Crow.
  • Asian students are noticing that applying to elite colleges is an uphill battle for them, and are understandably fighting for basic fairness in admissions standards.
  • The majority of blacks themselves are noticing that bias is not the main issue they face anymore, even as blacks who dare express this view are called race traitors.

The far Left responds by doubling down on the radical strain of black identity politics that caused these problems to begin with.

The far-Right responds with its own toxic strain of white identity politics.

In the midst of a breakdown in civil discourse, we must ask ourselves—are on a path towards a thriving multi-ethnic democracy? …or a balkanized hotbed of racial and political tribalism?


“Genes and environment combine to create the psychological profile that determines our cognition and behavior in each moment. In this narrow sense, we are all products of an unchosen past.”

“Beneath all of this lies the tacit claim that blacks are uniquely constrained by history in a way that Jewish-Americans, East Asian-Americans, Indian-Americans, and countless other historically marginalized ethnic groups are not.”

Questions Asked by Hughes

  • Is it unethical for an artist to curate the racial composition of a racially-themed performance?
  • Why can black people can get away with behavior that white people can’t? (Colman answers for progressives : “In the face of such a brutal past it is simply ignorant to complain about what modern-day blacks can get away with.”)
  • What do slavery and Jim Crow have to do with modern-day blacks, who experienced neither?
  • Do all black people have P.T.S.D from racism, as the Grammy and Emmy award-winning artist Donald Glover recently claimed?
  • Is ancestral suffering actually transmitted to descendants? If so, how? What exactly are historical ‘ties’ made of?
  • What does he mean by this quote? “Those who fall back on such appeals act as if they are content to live in a country where the state monopoly on violence—which has been a precondition for peace and prosperity in the developed world—has yet to fully penetrate high-crime communities of color.”

My Takeaways

Other than stating the obvious that “racism is bad, and we shouldn’t racist”, I’m not sure that I have very many personal takeaways from this article, other than to say that:

  • I like Hughe’s precise writing style, although he seems to ask a lot of rhetorical questions.
  • The mainstream media is terrible at facilitating an honest discussion about race and racism.

Reading List

  • Between the World and Me by Coates
  • We Were Eight Years in Power by Coates
  • Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker


  • anathema
  • belies

Featured Image : Pixabay

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