Footnotes for Don't Label Me
* “Laura and I brought Lily home that day.”
Note: This is how Ms. Lil looked at the time.
* “Given that I teach “moral courage” – doing the right thing in the face of our fears – I had to try.”
Note: To further this mission, I’ll soon post an online course for professional educators so that they, in turn, may teach moral courage in their schools. Stay tuned.
* “One of my books made the case that my faith of Islam has to be reformed.”
Source: Irshad Manji, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004).
* “My follow-up book was a re-interpretation of Islam for liberal-minded Muslims.”
Source: Irshad Manji, Allah, Liberty & Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011).
* Strident atheists joined the chorus of the offended, some anointing me the latest apologist of a ‘pedophile’ prophet.”
Note: In June 2011, shortly after the book came out, I received the first many such accusations. This one had the virtue of being short and direct: “I am a proud atheist and you are a pathetic child who worships Mo the ho, history’s worst pedophile. If I believed in hell I would tell you to burn in it.”
* “Evidently, feelings can do the thinking of those who are rational as much as those who are faithful.”
Note: Justin E. H. Smith, professor of history and philosophy of science at the Sorbonne, examines the irrationality of the French Revolutionaries who ushered in the Enlightenment. “The Good Fight” podcast hosted by Yascha Mounk, on September 26, 2018, 15:12.
* "The following week, I woke up to an exuberant email."
Source: Email dated April 9, 2018.
* “Historically, to ‘respect’ meant to ‘re-spectate’ – to turn back and see again.”
* “The title of that poem? Outwitted.”
Source: Edwin Markham, The Shoes of Happiness: And Other Poems (Garden City/New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1919).
* "They wrangle the levers of mass culture, especially social media, to exploit the mistrust that already exists among people."
Source and note: Consider three such state leaders, besides Donald Trump:
* Brazil's Jair Balsonaro:
Tai Nalon, "Did WhatsApp help Bolsonaro win the Brazilian Presidency?" The Washington Post, November 1, 2018.
Brian Mier, "Psyops: Images from Bolsonaro's illegal WhatsApp campaign," Brasil Wire, October 21, 2018 and
* India's Narendra Modi:
Swati Chaturvedi, I Am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP's Digital Army (New Delhi: Juggernaut, 2016).
* Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman:
Katie Benner, Mark Mazzetti, Ben Hubbard and Mike Isaac, "Saudis' Image Makers: A Troll Army and a Twitter Insider," The New York Times, October 20, 2018.
* "There are enough wrongful deportations to fight."
Lily in the Field: Old, Blind and Badass
* "Maybe it's wrong to compare your behavior to a human's."
Note: Alexandra Horowitz, professor of animal behavior and psychology, grapples honestly with this question in Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know (New York: Scribner, 2009).
For example, she writes, "Professionally, I am wary of anthropomorphizing animals, attributing to them the feelings, thoughts, and desires that we use to describe ourselves... And yet. Most of the questions my students have about animals remain quietly unanswered in [scientific] texts." Horowitz goes on to acknowledge that "[s]cience, as practiced and reified in texts, rarely addresses our experiences of living with and attempting to understand the minds of our animals" (pp. 3-4).
Our Division Problem
* "From its birth, this nation's common denominator has been diversity."
Note: Rest assured, I don't mean this in a doe-eyed way. Instead, I mean it as a hard-nosed reality: From the get-go, America has needed immigrant labor to fuel commerce, which in turn means that capitalism has served to curtail the spread of white supremacy.
As the public policy analyst Will Wilkinson explains in Vox, "[T]he project of fashioning an ethno-religious American identity has always been in conflict with a dominant and defining American impulse: to get rich. The United States has always been a distinctly commercial republic with expansionary, imperial impulses. High demand for workers and settlers led early on to a variegated population that encouraged the idea, largely traceable to Tom Paine, that American national identity is civic and ideological rather than racial and ethnic."
* "The word itself comes from the Latin, 'to turn aside.'"
Source: Etymology Online
* "No argument, Lil, that the colonists were themselves colonizers. Of native people. Of black people. Of women and of poor white men."
Source and note: Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (New York: Harper & Row, 1980).
Far from ranting, Zinn acknowledges the nuance of history -- and of good historiography. "In the long run," he writes, "the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run, the victims themselves, desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims." Thus, "My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners... [T]he lines are not always clear." (p. 10)
* "Just before voting on the Constitution, the framers listened to a letter from Benjamin Franklin."
Source: Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), p. 457.
* "... Cass Sunstein describe this funky formula as 'the framers' greatest innovation.'"
Source: Cass R. Sunstein, Why Societies Need Dissent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 150.
* "Among the factors that unite: 'being open to alternative viewpoints.'"
Source: "New Harris Poll Survey in Partnership with WNYC Reveals What Unites Americans in 2018," June 19, 2018. Listen to the poll's executive editor, Michael D'Antonio and political scientist Christina Greer discuss the findings with WNYC host Brian Lehrer.
* "In this country, brown, black, and multiracial babies outnumber white babies."
Source: D'vera Cohn, "It's official: Minority babies are the majority among the nation's infants, but only just," Pew Research Center, June 23, 2016.
* "Take Storm Lake, Iowa."
Source: Art Cullen, co-owner and editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Storm Lake Times, interviewed by NPR host Bob Garfield, "On the Media" podcast, April 16, 2017, 8:07.
* "... her farming community has become home to workers from Mexico, Central America and the Middle East."
Source: Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (New York: Scribner, 2018), p. 123.
* "That's because a generation from now, white people as a whole will be a minority like everyone else."
Source and note: This point is buried, but nonetheless divulged, by the U.S. Census Bureau in a press release dated March 13, 2018.
Key quote: "Net international migration is projected to overtake natural increase in 2030 as the primary driver of population growth in the United States. The Census Bureau goes on to describe this development as a "demographic first."
* "The more Americans learn about this inevitability, Richeson says, the more attitudes swerve toward conservatism. But not only among white Americans."
Source: Jennifer Richeson, Maureen Craig, and Julian M. Rucker, "Racial and Political Dynamics of an Approaching 'Majority-Minority' United States," The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, April 25, 2018, p. 10. For a digestible understanding of Richeson's work, listen to her entire interview on "The Ezra Klein Show" podcast, July 23, 2018.
* "'When you expose Asian Americans, black Americans to similar [information] about the growth in the Hispanic population, they also show a shift to more support for conservative policy positions...'"
Source and note: Jennifer Richeson, "The Ezra Klein Show" podcast, July 23, 2018, 15:48.
Richeson adds that when her control groups of Asian Americans and black Americans were reminded of the rise in Hispanic numbers, she noticed "more warmth directed toward Republicans."
* "It's basic group psychology, Richeson emphasizes."
Source: Jennifer Richeson, "The Ezra Klein Show" podcast, July 23, 2018, 15:15.
* "We wield enormous power in American culture, yet we excuse our excesses by claiming to be powerless and therefore incapable of oppressing those who think differently than we do."
Note: I define "power" later in the book. For now, let me note how routinely advocates of diversity tell me that people of color can't be racist because they don't have power. But that idea is refuted by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness. In her debut column for The New York Times, Alexander made the point that American culture rests with those of us who seek equality. "Viewed from the broad sweep of history," she wrote, "Donald Trump is the resistance. We are not... [T]he struggle for human freedom and dignity extends back centuries and is likely to continue for generations to come."
For a deep dive into the fear-reaching cultural power that liberals and progressives wield -- in Britain and beyond -- watch David Goodhart discuss his book, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics.
* "The rest of us would be free to take a flying leap into our ancestors' 'shit holes' of origin."
Source: Seung Min Kim and Matthew Nussbaum, "White House doesn't deny Trump's 'shit hole' immigration remark," Politico, January 11, 2018.
* "Hate gets turbo-charged when those of us who bang the drum for inclusion drum out reasonable folks -- merely because their opinions don't match ours."
Note: Someone whom I consider reasonable is the Columbia University professor Mark Lilla, who wrote The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics. Google him and you'll see that he's got an open mind. Yet he's been vilified merely for urging Democrats to move beyond the politics of identity. The Yale scholar Beverly Gage characterizes his book this way: "trolling disguised as erudition." Meanwhile, fellow Columbia professor Katherine Franke accused Lilla of "Making White Supremacy Respectable. Again."
Who else is "reasonable" yet demonized by segments of the diversity movement? I'd include professors Randall Kennedy of Harvard University and John McWhorter of Columbia University.
Rivals Versus Enemies
* "In each party, more Americans wanted an openly gay president than an evangelical Christian one."
Source and note: NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies, April 26-30, 2015.
It's worth noting that the arch-conservative American Family Association has also acknowledged mainstream Christian support for LGBT Americans. According to the July 2018 edition of the AFA Journal, "Even adding Hispanic and black Protestants to the list of conservative religious groups, opposition to same-sex marriage is declining."
* "Most people from both parties endorsed affirmative action in college admissions."
Source: "The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider: Part Four," Pew Research Center, October 5, 2017.
* "'Republicans are also en route to accepting same-sex marriage at 'similar rates to Democrats,' writes The Economist."
Source: "The partisan divide in America is widening; but on some issues, and across party lines, agreement is growing," The Economist, November 22, 2017.
* "In 2018, Gallup confirmed that support for legal immigration had reached its highest level ever."
Source: Megan Brenan, "Record-High 75% of Americans Say Immigration Is Good Thing," Gallup, June 21, 2018.
* "Additional polls revealed that most people who'd frowned on immigrants a decade ago embrace them today."
Source and note: Thomas Edsall, "Trump Against the Liberal Tide," The New York Times, May 31, 2018.
Key passages: "In a series of surveys for NBC/WSJ, Public Opinion Strategies asked voters to make a choice...
- A. “Immigration adds to our character and strengthens the United States because it brings diversity, new workers, and new creative talent to this country.”
- B. “Immigration detracts from our character and weakens the United States because it puts too many burdens on government services, causes language barriers, and creates housing problems.”
The percentage of all voters choosing A has grown steadily from 41 in 2005 to 47 in 2010 to 54 in 2013 to 64 in 2017. Democrats have led the charge, going from 42 percent in 2005 to 81 percent in 2017, but equally significant are the shifts that Public Opinion Strategies found among Republican constituencies [Irshad's italics]:
In 2010, a majority, 54 percent, of white Southerners agreed that immigration weakens the country; by 2017, a majority, 53 percent, said immigration strengthens the country. Similarly, 59 percent of women without college degrees said immigration hurts the country; by 2017, 53 percent said immigration helps the nation.
* "Research has shown that some people will hide their distaste for a diverse American in order to look like they're part of the popular consensus."
Note: This phenomenon is widely called the "Bradley Effect." Several years ago, the statistician Nate Silver called the Bradley effect a "persistent myth." Given Silver's wildly missed call in the 2016 presidential election, one must wonder if he's come to accept the validity of the Bradley Effect.
* "When the time's right -- when you sense that you've got back-up from people as brow-beaten as you -- you'll retaliate against your shamers."
Note: The #MeToo movement exemplifies this point. Why don't more women speak up about their individual experiences? Because they've been shamed into silence and seclusion. But what happens when they're not longer isolated; when, that is, they have back-up or empathy from others?
To quote from one of Brené Brown's blockbuster TED Talks: "Empathy's the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too." (18:55-19:10)
Two more leading researchers of shame are June Tangney and Ronda L. Dearing. In their book Shame and Guilt, they make the point that one can be made to feel guilty about a bad act. But feeling shamed is about being considered a bad person -- from head to toe. That's when individuals become defensive. And when they socialize with other defensive individuals, we can expect recrimination far more than reflection.
* "Near as I can tell, much of today's polarized politics stems from the shaming that the diversity movement's been doing -- not only to authentic racists, but to anyone who's got an honest disagreement with us."
Source and note: Sam Tanenhaus, "Trump Force One," The Prospect, November 11, 2016.
Key quote: "It may be true that Trumpism amounts to little more than 'a smelly soup of billionaire populism and yahoo nationalism—all flavoured with a tangy dollop of old-timey racism,” as David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, put it in July last year. But Trump’s supporters have been hearing such insults for many years now, directed at themselves. And nothing so unites rich and poor, the favoured and the unlucky, as the feeling that they are being ridiculed by the same people."
* "Chief among them: moderate Republicans."
Source and note: Henry Olsen, "The NeverTrump Dilemma," Ethics and Public Policy Center, June 27, 2018.
Olsen defines moderate Republicans as ”a group of generally loyal Republicans who have more liberal views about immigration and more positive views towards trade than Trump loyalists." He adds, "About half of them voted for Trump more as a vote against Clinton than as a vote for him. That’s 12 percent of Trump’s vote—7.5 million people, representing about 6 percent of the total electorate—whose loyalties are split between a party whose ideals they support and a president whom they distrust and whose policies they sometimes oppose. Lose this group and both GOP and Trump defeat is certain."
* "According to Mason, whenever we the people form our personal identities as a reaction against the other side, 'We act like we disagree more than we actually do.'"
Source: Lilliana Mason interviewed by David McRaney on the "You Are Not So Smart" podcast, August 4, 2018, 35:37-36:19.
* "Policy isn't the issue for these voters. The emotions we set off in them are."
Note: For excellent insights on the primacy of emotion in politics, and in life, read Drew Weston, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (New York: Public Affairs Books, 2011) and Arlie Hochschild, Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.
For a primer on the force of emotion in global affairs, read Dominique Moïsi, The Geo-Politics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World (New York: Random House, 2010).
* "Michelle Goldberg, a columnist with The New York Times, dangles a heavyweight hint."
Source: Brooklyn Book Festival panel discussion on free speech, C-SPAN, September 17, 2017, 47:55-48:10.
Who Gets Respect?
* More African Americans live in the Midwest than in any other area outside the South."
Source and note: Sonya Rastongi et al., "The Black Population: 2010," U.S. Census Bureau (published September 2011).
From the press release for this report: "Of all respondents who reported black in 2010, 55 percent lived in the South, 18 percent in the Midwest, 17 percent in the Northeast and 10 percent in the West."
* "Robert Putnam, the famous sociologist, reports that too much diversity too fast can 'shock' longtime residents of any community."
Source: Robert Putnam, "E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-First Century," Scandinavian Political Studies, Vol. 30 No 2 (2007), p. 139.
Note: A reader named Pim Trommelen points out that Putnam is a political scientist, not a sociologist. I accept his claim.
* "Arthur Brooks, a behavioral economist, explains it like so..."
Source: Arthur Brooks interviewed by Ezra Klein on "The Ezra Klein Show" podcast, July 17, 2017, 35:36.
* "Without worth, you're invisible -- the worst of all fates..."
Source: Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2018), pp. 34-35.
* "... shame stalks the rural poor -- often because urbanites can't be bothered to know them as fellow Americans..."
Source: Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (New York: Scribner, 2018), p. 122.
* "They've never really been accepted as 'one of us' by the emperors of cultured America..."
Source: James C. Cobb interviewed by Gregory Rodriguez, "Why Has America Been So Reluctant to 'Own' the South?" Zócalo Public Square, September 13, 2018.
* "... Trump claimed that Americans 'are tired of being ripped off by everybody in the world.'"
Source: Donald Trump's campaign kick-off speech, June 16, 2015, 33:48.
How Labels Distort
* "In Indonesia, young Muslim women threw their bodies onto mine to protect me from face-smashing militants who showed up on roaring motorbikes and swung iron rods, lasso-like."
Source: Bret Stephens, "Lady Gaga Versus Global Jihad," Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2012.
* "In the Netherlands, my supporters organized themselves into my shields as jihadists from Belgium from Belgium crashed our gathering at Amsterdam's main community center."
Source: View this video that's posted to my YouTube channel.
* "Journalists take advantage of my user-friendly identities... She's also a lesbian!"
Source: Listen, for example, to Brian Lehrer, host of "The Brian Lehrer Show," WNYC, June 20, 2011, 0:32.
* "It's just that facts alone don't add up to truth."
Source: Brooke Gladstone, The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time (New York: Workman Publishing, 2017), p. 2.
* "Bruce Lee believed in 'harmonious individuality.'"
Source and note: Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee podcast #9, especially 30:50 onwards. As she says elsewhere in the podcast, "Being an individual does not have to mean you're separate from your community or your environment. Separation is a false concept."
For a detailed overview of Bruce Lee's philosophy, read Matthew Polly, Bruce Lee: A Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018). For a compelling multi-media treatment of Bruce Lee's beliefs, see this Google Arts & Culture exhibit about him.
* "Bruce Lee said, 'Be like water, my friend.'"
* "'Let justice roll down like waters... and righteousness like a mighty stream.'"
A Dog-Loving Muslim Pundamentalist?
* "The ethnic box that Hollywood executives stuffed him into restricted their imaginations as well as his opportunities."
Source: Google Arts & Culture, "Bruce Lee: A Voice For The Marginalized." The curators of this exhibit describe it as a "look into the prejudice Bruce faced in his career, and the barriers he broke throughout his life."
* "In ancient Chinese philosophy, the word 'Tao,' pronounced 'Dow,' means 'the way' -- the way our universe works."
Note: For a brief yet powerful introduction to this concept, read Alan Watts, What is Tao? (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2010). For a deep dive, read D. T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010). Download the book's Introduction free of charge. And for a decidedly contemporary take on Tao, read angel Kyodo williams, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace (New York: Viking Press, 2000).
* "Lee told Black Belt Magazine that 'truth exists outside all molds.'"
Source: Bruce Lee, "Liberate Yourself from Classical Karate," Black Belt, September 1971, Vol. 9, No. 9, p. 24.
* "'Beware of confining yourself to a particular belief and denying all else,' the thirteenth-century philosopher Ibn Arabi cautioned, 'for much good would elude you...'"
Source: Pir Valayat Inayat Khan, Awakening: A Sufi Experience (New York: Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam, 2000), p. viii.
People Aren't Things
* "People are 'huge waves of happenings," in the language of the physicist Carlo Rovelli."
Source: Carlo Rovelli interviewed by Krista Tippett, "On Being" podcast, March 16, 2017, 15:30.
* "'You meet one Jesuit, you meet one Jesuit,' jokes Father James Martin, one of America's spunkiest priests."
Source: James Martin interviewed by Krista Tippett, "On Being" podcast, December 1, 2016, 23:50.
* "She'd later write that, to him, 'I was a thing; not a nobody but a body.'"
Source: Salma Hayek, "Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too," The New York Times, December 12, 2017.
* "Garner suited the officers' need for a body, any body, to satisfy their quota."
Source: Matt Taibbi interviewed by Terry Gross on "Fresh Air," NPR, October 23, 2017, 35:00-36:30
* "He visualized a 'beloved community' in which more of us are seen for our innate worth, not for our potential to add to a body count."
Source and note: Website of The King Library and Archives, "The King Philosophy."
Specifically, "The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for [Dr. King] a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence."
* "... 'when one rises about the early childhood years, he begins to love people for their own sake.'"
Source: Martin Luther King Jr., "Conquering Self-Centeredness," sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Aug. 11, 1957.
* "Love that's reserved only for people who agree with you isn't love. It's narcissism."
Source: Brie Loskota, executive director of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, interviewed by me, November 20, 2017.
* "I'm sorry... Perhaps we can hug you and move on from there.'"
Source: Jelani Cobb, Brooklyn Book Festival panel discussion on free speech, C-SPAN, September 17, 2017, 46:57.
* "This 'happens more in the first hug and hello than with a big argument from smarty-pants me,' Sarah Silverman discovered."
Source: Sarah Silverman interviewed by Bill Maher, "Real Time with Bill Maher," HBO, November 10, 2017, 6:08.
* "Victor Tan Chen, a sociologist, writes that grace 'is about refusing to divide the world into camps of the deserving and undeserving.'"
Source: Victor Tan Chen, "The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy," The Atlantic, December 21, 2016.
* "... President Trump literally winked at Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki."
Source: Sky News coverage of the Helsinki Summit, July 16, 2018.
* "... Obama announced that the 'reality of people who are different than us' must be a central concern in any democracy."
Source: Barack Obama's speech in Johannesburg, July 17, 2018, 1:08:40-1:09:15.
* "'There are different ways to go about it, though...'"
Source: Victor Tan Chen, "The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy," The Atlantic, December 21, 2016.
* "But in a 5-4 decision, it also said that race could be one of many factor in admitting students -- as long as universities invest the time and energy to ensure that diversity of appearance results in diversity of viewpoint."
Source and note: David J. Bodenhamer, The Revolutionary Constitution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 185. To research this case further, look up "Regents of the University of California v. Bakke."
* "On YouTube, I can watch screaming matches at campuses throughout America."
Note: Google "SJW screaming matches at American campuses" and see what comes up.
* "Rohith Vemula was a young PhD student in India."
Source: My telling of this story has been compiled by comparing and contrasting coverage by various India-based news outlets in early 2016, including The Times of India, The Indian Express and The Hindu.
The Way Forward
* "Zadie Smith, the novelist, says that we're all 'internally plural.'"
Source: Zadie Smith, "On Optimism and Despair," The New York Review of Books, December 22, 2016.
* "He spares no one his mockery, not even a sexual assault survivor whom he earlier lauded as 'a very fine woman.'"
Source: Video of Donald Trump, September 28, 2018.
* "'Shame! Shame! Shame!'"
Source: Terry Tang, "Arizona protestors rally by Flake's office over Kavanagh," Associated Press, September 28, 2018.