Racism as Lookism

The heart of my entire critique, which is hard for me to convey and hard for you to understand, rests on the idea that racism is a subset of lookism. Discrimination against black people, as it exists in our era, is functionally equivalent to discrimination against what we might generalize as “ugly” people. That is, all that is being discriminated against is loci of traits rather than discrete ‘races’. There is zero institutional or civic discrimination against blacks today, even though it may be true that there is lots of implicit bias and microaggressions against blacks in spheres of life where socioeconomic performance cannot be compromised. (However, I would say there’s lots of equal-and-opposite discrimination in spheres of life where anything goes, such as the humanities where black “swagger” is sanctified.) Also, please bear in mind that the subtle, interpersonal discrimindiscrim inationblacks that still exists today among all white people is not flatly because they’re of the category of ancestry we call ‘black’, but rather because of all the little traits all taken at once. It is no wonder why there are such variable degrees of discrimination. If you get a black guy with soft features like Ben Carson—and he proves his mettle—then he’ll do just fine in society.

The subtle, pervasive “microaggressive” discrimination isn’t about “racial category” — it’s about the physiognomic characteristics which just so happen to correlate with racial identification but more directly correlate with actual behavioral tendencies–regardless of the root cause of said behavioral tendencies.

Discrimination against blacks, in the entire Western world of 2017, is limited to peer-to-peer interactions, such as with who we befriend or ally ourselves to. While a big part of this is with regards to seeing oneself in the other, when it comes to the things that matter in life, it is in my opinion more a matter of how reliably useful—and usefulness is largely determined by how willing a person is to cooperate and abnegate their own interests in favor of group interests—one proves his or herself to be. It is unfair that merit is so often disguised behind ‘ugliness’, but it is no less unfair to presuppose merit to exist in somebody just because they’re a certain kind of ugly.

If you have an asymmetric face, or crooked teeth, or are short, or deviate from the mean appearance in any way whatsoever—factors which we all have no control over—then you will be deprived of vast socioeconomic and psychosocial resources throughout your entire life. You will be the invisible—people will forget your name and your face. Your ability to focus on schoolwork will be diminished, your ability to function socially properly will be impaired, you will have fewer friends (and even fewer friends with, have more difficulty getting a job, more difficult in getting a mate, people will have little interest in you. However, this tendency toward lookism did not come out of thin air.

I would contend that his tendency to ‘judge a book by its cover’ is an evolutionary adaptation caused by the pressing need to make quick, preliminary judgments and to parse massive amounts of, well, faces and other physical attributes. Quantifiable, statistically meaningful correlations do exist between “what shines above” and “what lurks below”, both between phenotypes and cognitive parameters within race as well as between races. To say that such correlations should be humored within a race but not between races is absurd, and violates the entire antiracist obsession with the truth that racial boundaries are extremely fuzzy.

“Last hired, first fired” and “being excluded form insular, psychosocially-privileged cliques” applies to blacks in no way different than it applies to people with ugly faces, short people, people with eyes too close together or too at a part, people with low cheekbones, protruding jawbones, weak jawline, gorilla-like jawline, protruding brow, small head, et c.

I don’t mean to suggest that lookist/racist discrimination isn’t disproportionate for both blacks and whites—it is—but it is still not without evolutionary origin in response to real imperatives to parse real differences. It is not ‘baseless racial hatred’—it is pragmatic self-interest.

Even if we implemented a bagism-inspired system (it’s possible in the future, we all had optic nerve computers that could replace every person we encounter with an identical-looking avatar), where human interaction was reduced to nothing but inputs and outputs, then the ‘appearance’ of everyone we meet would reduce to some panel of three-digit attributes and reputation scores. Throughout human history hereto, these “reputation scores” have been conveyed through outward characteristics (IE: facial features, parameters of beauty), being interpreted through the lens of one’s life experiences, as well as based on what characteristics seem to be valued by others. This has been very imperfect, and this is why sometimes even talented people have to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps in order to get the status in society that really ought to be allocated to them. A colorblind augmented reality with reputation scores based on the individual rather than the reputation of external attributes that only loosely correlate with their meaningful, behavioral attributes would be superior to our sloppy lookist discrimination, but it will still be dogged with its own dystopic problems.

I’ve bandied around this argument before, analogizing to a certain kind of ugliness, and the shallow response I usually get is often “Well, ugly white people didn’t go through slavery!”, with the idea being that there’s this unbroken chain of hardship going back centuries if not millennia, and the ‘rungs on the ladder’ have been to far apart this whole time for people(s) to ever move upward. However, the same could be said about short people. Shortness is genetically heritable, like race, and will concretely limit your upward mobility throughout life and spanning generations. You might then say “Well, slavery is totally different, black people had their cultures ripped out from under them!” To this I would respond that there’s no clear demarcation between slavery and ‘gainful employment’. Throughout history, slavery, serfdom, indentured servitude, employment, wage slavery, debt slavery—they have all blurred together. I would argue that there was just such a vast gulf in ‘having their shit together’ between whites and blacks that the way they socioeconomically related to one another was, four hundred years ago, sort of fated to end up with such a starkly disproportionate balance of power, with one lording over the other. For example, the British conquest of India shows how political slavery can happen naturally over a long period of time as a natural consequence of one party becoming utterly dependent on and indebted to another.

You might suggest, then, that we have economic affirmative action across the board, but this is problematic because a) it’s being suggested mostly as a proxy for race and b) it is still an imprecise measure of real privileged status in society, which I might suggest as being ‘beauty privilege’, though even this might be more aptly reduced to ‘IQ privilege’. This, however, is an outlandish conclusion and would likely tear at the fabric of humanity.

Race must not be a privileged category. Intervention against discrimination must be uniform like bagism, or we must cede the right to discriminate—to exercise one’s own faculty of inductive logic—to individuals. I believe we could at least have colorblind policies, and enforce the equal protection clause of the US Constitution such as by ending racial quotas and ad hoc ‘diversity initiatives’. I, moreover, think that universal free higher education would be both feasible and laudable—and, importantly, non-discriminatory.

Racism is a subset of lookism, and it exists not without reason. If we are to solve the problem, we must not pretend it doesn’t exist and that we all just have to snap our fingers and stop discriminating.

“For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”
– Matthew 13:12

Racial identification is a natural tendency. Nevertheless, it is neither praiseworthy nor necessary.

Racial discrimination, similarly, is a natural cognitive faculty based on shades of familiarity and the mind’s overarching need for data compression, IE: inductive logic. Thus, racial discrimination and ‘identities’ must be accommodated for.

I absolutely agree that each one of us should actively try to overcome our racial bases (and our lookist tendencies, for that matter, of which racism is a subset). However, some of them will stubbornly weigh heavy on us, especially for those of us who do not have the thought-temporal resources to redirect our biases.

I say this because when I’m busy and hard at work, I’ve observed that I am far less capable of overcoming my racial biases. However, when I am on an extended holiday, hitchhiking for weeks on end for example, I am able to see the inner spirit–an image of my self–in every person I encounter.

2 thoughts on “Racism as Lookism

  1. you’re seriously suggesting that discrimination on the basis of race has nothing to do with *behavior*, merely with physical appearance? that sounds implausible at best. (also, if there is a general factor of bodily function, related to sexual fitness, it certainly will include physical appearance *and* be related to IQ (and hence behavior))


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