All the Meditation in the World Can’t Fix Your Racist Opinions

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Image from Bari Weiss in The New York Times

Everyone knows about meditation and its benefits. After a quick Google search, some of the benefits of meditation are listed as stress management, gaining a new perspective on stressful situations, and increasing self-awareness. Benefits not gifted to master mediator Sam Harris.

About a month ago, Harris released yet another episode of his podcast focused on racial equality and protesting. Harris has come a long way, noting the existence of generational wealth gaps and the century of racist policies after the emancipation of slavery, but is that enough? Not really, because in that same podcast, Harris also tells us that there was no racial motivation in the murder of George Floyd or that there is an issue with police brutality.

Sam Harris has a long history of being unintentionally racist and intentionally dismissing explicit systemic racism in our country. For someone who has likely made millions off a meditation course, introspection and questioning internal biases are a limited practice for Harris.

In this 2017 podcast, episode #42, Harris describes himself as part of the new center, a dedication to being neither leftwing nor rightwing. Other members of the “new center” include Dave Rubin, Tim Pool, and Stefan Molyneux.

Sam tells the audience a myriad of opinions he holds like:

  • Black Lives Matter will set back race relations a whole generation, and their message is “dangerously and offensively irrational.”
  • The unjust murder of Michael Brown is justified.
  • Michael Brown’s behavior warranted being shot six times.

The opening 5 minutes of episode #73 of the interview with conservative think-tanker Charles Murray set the tone of the whole episode and let the audience know how much intellectual rigor Sam was going to apply to the conversation.

“Human Intelligence itself is a taboo topic. People do not want to hear that intelligence is a real thing and that some people have more of it than others. They do not want to hear that IQ tests really measure it. They don’t want to hear that differences in IQ matter because they are highly predictive of differential success in life, and not just for things like educational attainment and wealth but for things like out of wedlock birth and mortality. People don’t want to hear that a person’s intelligence is, in large, measured due to his or her genes. That there seems to be very little, we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence, even in childhood. It is not that the environment does not matter, but genes appear to be 50–80% of the story. People do not want to hear this, and they certainly do not want to hear that average IQs differ across different races and ethnic groups. Now for better or worse, these are all facts. In fact, there is almost nothing in psychological science for which there is more evidence than these claims. About IQ, about the validity of testing for it, about its importance in the real world, about its heritability, and about its differential expression in different populations. Again this is what a dispassionate look at decades of research suggests.”

Harris goes on to talk about how criticism of The Bell Curve is all bad and just political correctness and moral panic. Panic that destroyed Murray’s career.

Harris and Murray’s discredit of The Bell Curve’s criticisms as the PC culture death cult without acknowledging any of the actual arguments brought up by dissenters is typical of conservative grifters. The Bell Curve, simply put, is a lousy piece of conservative propaganda and nothing more.

An excellent and in-depth analysis of The Bell Curve can be found here, from Youtuber Shaun. It shows the main points of the Bell Curve (below) and the scientific responses to it.

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Image from Shaun on Youtube

My personal favorite is Race, Genetics, and Pseudoscience: An Explainer (2019). The most glaring issue of Murray’s work was its sources from Richard Lynn, Kenneth Owen, J Philippe Rushton, and Mankind Quarterly/The Pioneer Fund. All incredibly racist people and organizations.

Murray also states he is not for eugenics but just against being against it, nice meme.

Finally, we come to episode #207, where Harris espouses his views which have shifted slightly, but primarily the content of his character is still that of a dismissive anti-SJW.

Of course, this episode is in response to the murder of George Floyd, the most polarizing event of the year and maybe since 9/11. On the issue Sam has this to say:

“…any sane person will feel they have witnessed an unjust murder,” BUT then Harris wants to “ask a few questions” (oof).

  1. Does the murder of George Floyd prove that we have a problem with racism in the US?

OR if Floyd was white, would he have died?

2. Do all of the past videos of black men being killed by cops prove, or even suggest, that there is an epidemic of police violence directed especially at black men?

3. Is that violence motivated by racism?

Sam says that some believe the answer is so apparent that even him posing these questions would be obscene. Sam’s answer to all of these is no, but with a caveat.

Fast forward; that caveat is that white people are murdered more by cops but that black people are more likely to be beaten and abused.

Harris gives us the excuse that things ONLY look bad and that things are better than ever. Harris also claims that cops murdering people have to be put into context. The murder of Floyd is one of those hard to interpret videos. Way to go, Sam, a real grey area right there.

Harris also provides evidence that racially motivated police brutality does not exist in the example of Tony Timpo, a white man who was similarly killed by cops callously. “Hey, it’s not racist because a cop also negligently killed and made fun of one of their victims, who was white.” Real high-level thinking there Sam.

After some time, Harris finally lets the mask slip, and goes right for every internet racist’s favorite phrase, those two magic words: “Thirteen-Fifty.”


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Image from SomethinHerp on iFunny

It only gets worse. Harris then explains the core of the problem in America.

“The story of crime in America is overwhelmingly the story of black on black crime, and in part the story of black on white crime.”

Listen to the rational Sam Harris, because the black people are gonna get ya! Regardless of your race.

Sam justifies all his illuminated takes by referencing John McWhorter. This seems like an academically veiled attempt of the “I have a black friend” argument, except this time it’s “I have a black friend who also thinks racism isn’t really that bad, it’s just the sensitive SJW’s causing a ruckus.”

Upon researching McWhorter, his opinions on the matters could be interpreted as biased. Having worked for the Manhattan Institute, the conservative thinktank that popularized and pushed the theory of Broken Windows Policing, has a significant impact on one’s political views.

After more research, I gathered that all the talking point Sam had were from a McWhorter article.

Unlike Sam, McWhorter attempts to balance his argument, including Roland Fryer’s research that showed white people getting killed by cops more but black people getting physically abused regardless of suspect behavior. Not quite the 13/50 that Sam pulled.

In an interview with Tim Ferriss, Sam is talking about COVID and anxiety. He discusses buying an iPad that came from China in the early stages of the outbreak. He’s wearing gloves but not a mask; he’s wiping the device down with alcohol pads but nothing else. He then realizes that he isn’t taking this seriously. He’s flooded with anxiety over the scope of our collective situation after realizing the disjointed conflicting behaviors he was exuding.

Harris remarks on how difficult it had been for him to convince himself that the problem was worth responding to. How difficult it is to change his own behavior and for others around him to change their behaviors in an effective way.

Harris realized he doesn’t have his shit together.

This is an incredible moment of clarity and introspection, but that’s where it stays. Harris doesn’t seem to be under the impression that this revelation he discovered could be transferable to other behaviors and beliefs of his.

Harris’s conviction reminds me of a fantastic article by Ibram X. Kendi titled The American Nightmare appropriately. In it, Kendi discusses Frederick Hoffman’s Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro. Kendi goes on to say :

“History ignored you… Racist America ignored you. The state did not want you to breathe. But your loved ones did not ignore you. They did not ignore your nightmare. They share the same nightmare.”

Sam Harris and his refusal to acknowledge racism only add to The American Nightmare that African Americans in this country can’t escape from. Having such a large platform makes Harris’s bad takes all the worse.

Sam Harris has shown the capability of introspection but has yet to convince himself that police brutality disproportionately affects black people and that it is worth responding to effectively.

Politics, philosophy, culture and sometimes writing.

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