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Jordan Pine

Spot the Fallacy: The Heartbeat of Racism?

I'm picking another hot & trending topic for the latest iteration of this game. (For more on the game, see here.)

Today's selection is a pair of tweets.

Sen. Tim Scott: "Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country."

Ibram X. Kendi (in reply): "The heartbeat of racism is denial. We can hear the heartbeat clearly."

Spot the fallacy.

As always, I also welcome any arguments on this topic (Right or Left) that we can assess together using logic and reason. I've found that's a great way to identify and eliminate other logical fallacies that are common when debating these issues. At least, the process always helps me clarify my thinking!

asked on Saturday, May 01, 2021 10:57:53 AM by Jordan Pine

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Jordan Pine writes:

P.S. Scott was responding to people like Kendi. A revised dialogue that included the initial argument he is referencing would look like the below.

Kendi: Racism in America is institutional, structural and systemic. (source)

Scott: Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.

Kendi: The heartbeat of racism is denial. We can hear the heartbeat clearly.

posted on Saturday, May 01, 2021 01:24:51 PM
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Anon writes:
[To Jordan Pine]

It's not clear that Scott was replying to the specific argument of Kendi - rather, he was addressing the wider argument, propagated by many thinkers and politicians, that institutional racism persists in the US. In this particular case, Kendi's actual response contained an identifiable logical fallacy.

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, May 01, 2021 02:19:06 PM
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Jordan Pine writes:
[To Anon]

True. It wasn't direct, as I made it, but Kendi is out front in making that assertion. So it's probable he was someone Scott had in mind.

In any case, I added the first part to help make it clearer what fallacy Kendi is committing. You said it's identifiable and described it generally. What is "it" specifically? If you get it, you win! :-)

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, May 01, 2021 08:21:25 PM
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Anon writes:
[To Jordan Pine]

Ok, I might this wrong, because there are so many fallacies out there, but the closest one I can find is ad hominem (circumstantial): " Suggesting that the person who is making the argument is biased or predisposed to take a particular stance, and therefore, the argument is necessarily invalid."

Salesman: This car gets better than average gas mileage and is one of the most reliable cars according to Consumer Reports.

Will: I doubt it—you obviously just want to sell me that car.

Kendi attempts to invalidate Scott's statement, because of its supposed predisposition to conform to Republican dogma and, presumably, make the pro-America case seem more racially diverse.

I feel there is a better fallacy out there, though. 

[ login to reply ] posted on Sunday, May 02, 2021 04:54:08 AM
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Bill writes:

I don't see a fallacy at all. The Scott quote as reported here is a conclusion with no argument. The Kendi statement as quoted is a poetic statement with no argument. A fallacy is a faulty argument, and, if there is no argument, there's no fallacy. 

posted on Sunday, May 02, 2021 10:59:48 AM
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Jordan Pine writes:
[To Bill]

Thank you for playing! I submit that there is an argument here. It became an argument when Kendi responded to Scott on Twitter, attempting to rebut his tweet. (Or, to be fair, when Scott "sub-tweeted" Kendi by posting his tweet.)

To simplify, the argument goes like this:

  • Person A: America is shot through with racism.
  • Person B: No, that's not true. America is not a racist country at all.
  • Person A: Your denial is proof of my claim.

Spot a fallacy?

[ login to reply ] posted on Sunday, May 02, 2021 11:56:36 AM
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Jordan Pine writes:

No one replied with the fallacy I was thinking about, which is shifting of the burden of proof.

That said, we need a better name for the logical fallacy that says denying a claim is proof of a claim. People often use the Salem Witch Trials as an analogy. Apparently, during that time, the accused had two options: admit she was a witch and hope to be shown mercy, or deny it and be hanged.

Kendi is doing something like this with racism. You can either admit to racism and hope to be shown mercy, or deny it and be condemned. Maybe we can call this variation of shifting the burden of truth the Salem Denial fallacy? :-)

posted on Thursday, May 06, 2021 04:49:22 PM

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Answers

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Bill
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I just see simple contradiction, which (as Monty Python noted) is not argument. If I saw the whole context, maybe there'd be an argument there. To each their own. 

answered on Sunday, May 02, 2021 12:06:46 PM by Bill

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Rationalissimo
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This is probably what is going on in Kendi's mind:

P1) The existence of racism in the US is so obvious, anyone who questions it is in denial

Implicit P) Denial of racism is itself racist

P2) The aforementioned statement questions the existence of racism

C1) This statement is in denial and;

C2) This statement is an example of racism (the "heartbeat" of it, in that racist systems deny their punishing impact on minorities in order to self-perpetuate)

Less of a fallacy, maybe faulty premises though (you could question P1 and the implicit premise too).

Note that neither party attempts to develop their stance here; they're just giving opinions (and if we probe Kendi's mind, the above syllogism could explain his deeper thought-process, but for now, it's left unstated).

answered on Saturday, May 01, 2021 03:31:29 PM by Rationalissimo

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Bill writes:

Exactly. 

posted on Sunday, May 02, 2021 10:42:41 AM
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Anon
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I think the heartbeat argument commits the logical fallacy here - I do not know what this fallacy is called, but Ibram X. Kendi is not directly addressing the senator's argument, that America isn't a racist country, with statistics and data. Rather, he is making some kind of an ad hominem attack against it.

answered on Saturday, May 01, 2021 01:10:08 PM by Anon

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