Sam Harris Podcast #207

I got maybe a 1/2 of the way thru. (It is over 1 hour and52 min. long.)

So far, I agree with most of his points (he makes a lot of points), and I disagree with some. The latter is more interesting to me.

The 1st I disagree about was a statement about the phrase “All Lives Matter” being considered racist is nuts. I figured out almost 5 years ago that:

"The protest chant “Black Lives Matter” does not negate or discount the truism that “All Lives Matter”, but the truism in response to the protest DOES discount the protest, in the context of the social realities for black Americans in our society." TimB, 7/24/2015
Next I have some problems with the lengths he goes to support the idea that the effects of actual and systemic racism and racial bias, are rather minimal, in reality. He explains that only 1 in 10K arrests results in a cop killing someone. And he suggests that most of these are not products of racism. It seems that he may think that few of them have an element of racism.

I agree with his point that we MUST NOT call out racism where it does NOT exist. But I think he may be promoting the idea that it is best not to call it out at all. He is very scared that we are venturing into the area where tyranny can take advantage of exaggerations of victimhood (or perhaps even if they are simply perceived to be exaggerations.) I think that is correct. The forces of tyranny may well do that.

But I think that we must call out the truth, and hope for the best. Because otherwise, you are supporting the status quo. And the status quo is unjust. Sure use discretion and take care to speak accurately. Sure don’t support violence that can only lead to excuses for the T rump to reach his dream of becoming a world class Tin Pot Dictator. But we must also see the world from black persons’ perspectives as best we can. I am not sure of Sam Harris’s ability to do that very well.

He talks about saying that naturally calling the cops when you have a break in, being called “white privilege” is crazy. But I didn’t hear him talk about the perspective of black people hesitating to call the cops because they fear the cops almost as much as a home invader. I suppose he would say that their fear is exaggerated. But is it? If it IS, then where does that fear come from? Only from exaggerations of racial bias done by liberal media or liberals in general? It sure seems reality based to me.

Maybe I will listen to the 2nd half some time in the future.


I looked into Sam’s claim that over 10 million arrests are made each year, and cops only kill around 1,000 people per year, hence 1 in 10,000.

True, but deceptive, I think.

Mr. Harris neglected to explain that less than 5% of arrests are for violent offenses. So if you look at the ratio of cops arresting violent offenders per killing someone, the ratio becomes 1 in 500.

Hey, not bad, eh? Only 1 killing per violent offense arrest in every 500 arrests. Not so bad, perhaps, but not 1 in 10,000.

And somehow, we keep seeing videos of black men being killed during arrests for Non-violent offenses.


Sam Harris, come to the CFI Forums to have a rational conversation on race and policing. Your podcast is not a conversation. It is a monologue.

I think you said that everything must start with rational conversation. You can come here anonymously and start such conversations.

(There will be the occasional irrational response, but, if you haven’t noticed, humans tend to be irrational at times. Some more than others. And there are a few here that tend more often toward the irrational. But most, I think tend toward the rational. And it is not the cesspool of irrationality that I hear sites like Twitter are.)

Come to the CFI Forums, Sam Harris. You can also confront the irrational with pure rationality if you wish.

Put your mouth where your mouth says it should be… in rational dialogue, instead of in “maintain-the-status-quo” monologue.

Why not? Are you scared? Would it be a waste of your time and talents as it would not be making you any money? But it is such a critical issue. Maybe your words here could promote the rational conversations that you say are the critical ingredient. Is that not incentive enough?

I will try to listen to this sometime.

Hopefully I don’t interpret what he says differently than any of you.

3point, I trust however you interpret it. You have shown enough to me to recognize that you have a good head and heart. Harris says a lot that is clearly true and valid. He is very bright and very calm in his speaking voice.

Personally I think that makes him all the more insidious when he is WRONG.

Thanks or sharing this - an acquaintance of mine offered this podcast as a way to have an honest conversation and now that I’ve listened to it, it doesn’t sit very well with me. I had some serious problems with some of his arguments and like an idiot I tried to look a little deeper into Sam (I’m genuinely not familiar with him or his work) and stumbled across the reddit thread on the episode. At first I thought, ok, this isn’t my field, so maybe he’s right and the data speaks for itself and I am wrong to feel conflicted, I mean look at all these people that agree with him. But then I sat on it and thought, no.

The whole podcast felt like a way to say Look, it’s not me, a way for people to loudly exhale and say “SEE I KNEW I WASN’T RACIST and neither is the world I live in!”. This veer away from the normal we know is scary because it upsets the current system and while he admits that in it’s relatively current state is harmful for vulnerable and disadvantaged people, he doesn’t see the harm in perpetuating it in the name of the status quo. Sam is fully insulated in academia, how can he look at flawed data sets and then say that we are the crazy ones for believing in this?

But isn’t this idea of optics the problem? Sam is accomplished author that lives in academia, surrounded by a cancel-proof following. In the beginning of his monologue he even posits that personal experience shouldn’t matter, black or white. Isn’t that the root of this problem? The whole time he is gently saying that just because black people say that they experience this, doesn’t make it true. But if he has never experienced it and some carefully selected date from the institution perpetuating the violence, says it is, does that make it true?

He gets so close but then always stops short of mentioning the racial disparities in social policy. The phrase black on black crime in it self is problematic because it boils it only down to race. If you flipped that around you’d also see that the data proves that white on white crime is a problem. If he could only take it one step further he’d see that the unseen mechanisms in the system directly contribute to this crime he’s talking about - red lining is harmful. That lopsided school resource allocation is harmful. A general lack of access is harmful. Ok, sure Sam, the #s reflect that there is more crime in black neighborhoods. But why is that?

His data dive that suggests that black people are not as likely to be shot by the police as white people are should be examined further. He seems to operate in a vacuum - knowing that on this entire planet, American police are in the top 5 in deaths, doesn’t sit right. America is the anomaly, other wealthy countries do not have this problem and he seems to say that these are just normal stats: per the Prison Initiative’s data set, America has 1099 deaths compated to 36 in Canada, 21 in Australia, 11 in Germany. Yes, America’s population is much much greater. But it boils down to 33 deaths/10mil people for America, 9.8 deaths/10mil Canadians and that is a huge disparity. Now there are a lot of exterior factors here that matter, like gun ownership and laws, but again Sam only goes so far into one concept, then addresses it superficially and moves on. His argument is centered around normalcy, and living in a state that thinks this is normal is problematic.

I’ll be honest - this isn’t my field of expertise, and it doesn’t even seem to be his field of expertise. We can all discuss this topic and we should - the heart of his argument seems to be that we can’t talk anymore because of hurt feelings. But I’ll be dammed if I’m going to let his monologue gaslight me to real issues and feelings. An entire group of people are saying “please listen, please believe us” , and his general response seems to be “you’re doing this wrong and you’re ruining it for the rest of us”. Just like any time someone says that they need to add more diverse voices to the table, they are insinuating that the table belongs to them. Stick to spiritualism Sam.

Thanks Marie. I’ve been having trouble explaining this one to a few people, so always nice to meet someone who gets it. I saw this going around facebook. Author is unknown, and I don’t like the intro, but it is a nice bullet point format, showing the trope, then the logic and/or data that counters it.


Ok white friends, I’m about to lay some hardcore truth on you right now, and many of you are not going to like it. Some of you are going to get immediately defensive. But before you comment from an emotional place, I encourage you to stop, re-read this post, do a little bit of research about casual racism and white privilege and then come back and re-read the post again. After that, if you still want to comment, please feel free.
Ok, here we go…
Many of you are the problem. Yes, you read that right. Many of you are the reason why these riots are happening. Many of you are the reason why it’s come to this. This is especially true if you’ve ever (but especially in the last week) said any of the following;

  1. “It’s awful but…” - No. No buts. In the English language, the word “But” is often used to deflect or to justify behaviour. Police murdering black people in the street is awful. Period. End of discussion.
  2. “I support the movement but not these disruptive protests…” - No, you don’t. Right now, the movement is taking the form of disruptive protests. They’re the same thing. You either want police to stop murdering black people in the street, or you don’t. If you do, then support the protests — even if you find them disruptive and frustrating — because that’s black people fighting for their lives.
  3. “All lives/White lives matter too…” - no one said they didn’t. The conversation is specifically about black lives right now because police are murdering them in the street. Until police stop doing that, and White people stop dismissing it, it’s not “All lives matter,” it’s “MOST lives matter.” It’s not “ALL Lives” until Black Lives Matter too. Stay focussed.
  4. “There are good cops…” - No one said there weren’t. There are three categories of cops; Good cops, bad cops and complacent cops. Good cops are marching with the protesters. They’re sharing the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. They’re trying to change the system from within the system. There are many levels of Bad cops. The most obvious one is those officers that are murdering black people in the street. Bad cops are also sharing the hashtags “blue lives matter.” Bad cops are trying to shift the focus. Bad cops don’t stop their colleagues when they murder black people in the streets. Complacent cops just show up, follow orders and try not to take sides. Complacent cops are bad cops.
  5. “I don’t support the looting and destruction…” - no one says you have to, but please stop acting like looting nullifies the entire protest. And definitely stop acting like looting is “just as bad.” That’s like comparing someone stealing your car to someone murdering your child. They’re not equally bad. Stop pretending they are. Police murdering black people in the street is definitely worse than robbing a Target.
  6. “Just because I’m white doesn’t mean my life has been easy…” Of course not. Everyone struggles. But being white has never been one of those struggles. Being poor has been a struggle. Being a woman has been a struggle. Being gay has been a struggle. But being white has never been a struggle. The same can’t be said for people of colour. I could go on and on about white privilege, but it would be so much easier if you educated yourself instead. This isn’t about how you, a white, cisgender, straight man has suffered in your life. This is about police murdering black people in the street. Stop trying to make it about you.
  7. “I really wish they would protest peacefully…” - of course you do. They’re easier to ignore that way. People of colour have been peacefully protesting for hundreds of years. It hasn’t been all that successful. The reason riots and violent demonstrations work is because it makes people — especially white people — uncomfortable. We can’t ignore them when they’re waving torches in our faces. It scares us. It puts us on edge, which is precisely where we need to be. People only pay attention to the extreme. If you have trouble recalling a single one of the hundreds of peaceful protests that BLM held across North America last year, but you can still recall, with crystal clarity, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, then you’ve just proved my point.
  8. “I don’t see colour…” — Congratulations, you’re lying to yourself. Of course, you see colour. And that’s good! Black people want you to see their colour. Their colours are beautiful and the very foundation of who they are. If you don’t see their colour, then you also don’t see their culture. If you don’t see colour, then you erase their very identity. If you don’t see their colour, then you also can’t see the pattern of violence they’re confronted with every day. If you don’t see colour, then you’re blind to more than just racial injustice. You’re blind to the world.
  9. “They shouldn’t have committed a crime…” - This one is a big one for me. Consider me triggered. A boy who steals a can of pop from a 711 does not deserve to be shot in the back three times. A man illegally selling CD’s on a street corner doesn’t deserve to be shot to death in front of a record store. A man who runs a red light does not deserve to be shot while reaching for his registration. This isn’t about their crimes; this is about bad policing. Stay on topic.
  10. “Black people kill white people too…” yes, murderers exist in every race and walk of life. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking police brutality, and the reality is, black officers are not murdering unarmed white men in the street. That seems to be almost exclusively white officer behaviour. Stop gaslighting.
    *Additions based on comments to this post;
  11. “Black people kill other black people…” - Yes, they do, just like white people kill other white people and Latinos kill other latinos etc. Crime related violence does not adhere to any imaginary racial boundaries or allegiances. But, we’re not talking about criminal violence right now. We’re not discussing drug violence or gang violence or sexual violence or domestic violence or bar brawls or whatever random type of violence you’d like to bring up. The conversation is specifically about POLICE BRUTALITY. Say it with me. Police. Brutality. Any other form of violence you bring up is entirely irrelevant. Please stay on topic.
  12. “I support black people, but I can’t support the violence…” — In other words, you would prefer people of colour continue to be murdered by police, rather than have them rise up violently against their oppressors. Got it. That’s not support.
  13. “It’s not about race. We are all human beings…” yes, except people of colour often aren’t treated like human beings. For instance, they’re being murdered in the streets like animals. On video. While people watch. While people do nothing.
  14. “The looting and arson distract from their message. It’s their fault for not controlling it…”  If you’d like to lay blame, how about we start by blaming the police who frequently murder unarmed people of colour. If they didn’t frequently murder unarmed people of colour, the protest wouldn’t be necessary. The protest wouldn’t have turned into a riot, the riot wouldn’t have turned violent, and looting wouldn’t have happened. Blaming the oppressed for not better “controlling” their social unrest is asinine.
  15. “More white people are killed by cops than black people. Here are the statistics…” - I love when people do research! Thank you for that! But those stats that you’re proudly flashing around aren’t an accurate reflection of the issue. According to data, there are approx. 234,370,202 white people In the United States. Comparatively, that same data states that there are 40,610,815 “Black” Americans. So, when your stats show 1,398 white people have been killed by officers since 2017 and only 543 Black people, what those statistics really show is .0005% of white people were killed by police in those 3.5 years, while .0011% of black people were killed by police. That means black people were killed at a higher rate. 220% higher, to be exact. Math has no racial bias. Those aren’t great stats. Stop using them to defend your position.
  16. “Black people commit more crime…” - Do they really, though? According to data released in 2017, there were 475,900 black prisoners in state and federal prisons and 436,500 white prisoners. That’s a difference of about 9%. So for argument’s sake, let’s say those numbers are an accurate reflection of the amount of crime committed. If people of colour commit only 9% more crime, why are they killed by police at a rate of 220% higher?
  17. “Well, the same stats you mentioned shows that even though they’re only 12% of the population, they commit 54% of the crime.” - Good Catch! You’re right. But those numbers don’t actually reflect the amount of crime committed. That’s why I said to assume they’re correct. Those numbers only reveal how many people are incarcerated. The reality is, while those numbers are all we have to go on, they don’t tell the complete story either. In the United States specifically, socioeconomic racism, which was designed to keep POC in poverty through district red-lining, lower quality of education and other systemic obstacles, is a huge component. Thanks to redlining (look it up) and other zoning and banking practices, the quality of education in “black” neighbourhoods are significantly lower, which means the average income for POC in those neighbours is lower and the unemployment much higher. Also, thanks to redlining, the unemployment rate, and lower-income rates, crime in those neighbourhoods tends to be higher. That means those neighbourhoods are patrolled by police more often. Thanks to racial bias, POC are followed, stopped, harassed and arrested more frequently than the white people who live in those same neighbourhoods. What all of this means is that, when POC are arrested more frequently, they often can’t afford fancy lawyers to help them. They usually end up with Public Defenders, who are often overworked, and they often encourage POC to plead guilty in exchange for less time. Then there’s the fact that, because white people make up 73% of the population, they also tend to make up a bigger percentage of Jurors. There’s lots of factors to consider. So don’t assume that just because they make up 54% of the people in jail, that they make up 54% of the crime. The entire system is broken. That’s part of the problem.
  18. “You’re promoting violence and destruction, shame on you…”. - I don’t remember encouraging anyone to riot. I also don’t remember encouraging anyone to loot or commit arson. The truth is, looting and arson is certainly not my preferred form of protest. But it’s important to remember that protesters haven’t committed most of the violent behaviour. Civil unrest tends to cause chaos and confusion. That chaos provides the perfect opportunity for poor-intentioned people to do poor-intentioned things. That doesn’t mean the civil unrest should stop. I don’t condone the violence. I just don’t think it should dominate the conversation. If you want to focus on the violence, try focusing on those officers who’ve killed POC in the street. You’re focusing on the wrong violence.
    If any of you are guilty of saying any of the above, then I have unsettling news for you. YOU are the reason it’s come to this. YOU are the reason peaceful protests haven’t worked. They haven’t worked because YOU haven’t been listening. YOU haven’t been learning. These violent riots are happening because YOU have left people of colour, no other choice.
    These riots are happening because no matter how people of colour have said it, taking a knee, marching the streets, bumper stickers, Banners, signs, or chants, YOU still don’t get it.
    That doesn’t mean you’re bad people. That doesn’t mean you’re racist. It only means you’re white. And that’s not a crime, any more than being black is. The difference is, police aren’t going to shoot you in the street for it.
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I am impressed with your perspective, Marie. (And not solely because it tends to match my own.)

I think that Harris has let himself be biased by yearning for a return to the status quo (the status quo being to pay some lip service to the problems, and trying to implement some reforms that will ultimately be undermined, but which will provide more time to pretend that there has been some meaningful resolution.)

You say that this is not your field of expertise. Clearly, I think, it is also not Sam Harris’s. We all have to be our own experts, I think, in figuring this issue out. We who are not black, have to be particularly skilled in seeing the world from an entirely alternate perspective. That, I think, requires some understanding of black history from the most depraved atrocities of the past to the systemically perpetuated atrocities of the present. But it also requires persons who are well skilled at empathy. Qualities of intellectual honesty and intellectual integrity would also be helpful.


If there were Emmy’s, or some such, awarded for excellence in posting, I would nominate you for the one in the category of “TRUTH IN POSTING” for post # 330574.

Hallelujah!!! TRUTH!!! I love it!

(Tho on point #4, I would add “complicit” Cops as being among the “Bad Cops”.) It rankles me that EVERY TIME cops screw up, they get together on the report so that it appears that nothing out of order happened. And when I say EVERY TIME, I mean that every time, that opposing objective outside evidence comes to be known, we see that the initial report was falsified with the participation of all the cops who were at the event.

I’ve been trying to look up the data set he used, and found some other resources instead:

Does anyone know where he got his data?

At this site, is the text of the podcast. As you read thru it, there are underlined parts that you can click that takes you to a site that supposedly support his argument at that point in his monologue.

So the underlines take you to, for instance, newspaper sites some of which have pay walls, and here is an example of one that should have some database info:



Unfortunately, the credit goes to anonymous on that list

It just leads me to consider whether Mr. Harris may be receiving some sort of non-transparent incentive for attempting to sway opinion back toward the status quo.

Perhaps, in spite of this, however, the Pandemic has somehow given enough people pause, to come to the consensus that; that, … is no longer tenable.

Great response from David Smalley. Facts, philosophy, even a multi point plan

Okay, someone check my logic on this one. Sam Harris, Making Sense podcast #265. A recent book out by a black guy who speaks against the “woke” Left making too big a deal about racism. I think you can get to 30 minutes without being a subscriber.

There, he gives an example of someone who said a private school with mostly white kids in it “is racism”. Okay, maybe that person was wrong. But then McWhorter goes on to say why, and how wrong this woman is, but in the middle of it, he says, paraphrasing, “sure, there are black kids in that neighborhood who are disadvantaged and can’t get into that school because of things that have happened in the past, but…” and goes back to his narrative.

To me, he described systemic racism, then said, “but that’s not racism”. He’s right, that’s why we are calling it “systemic racism”. But he is trying to gloss over the one, by saying the other doesn’t exist like it used to. Which is also “systemic racism”.

From what I understand, the school is not exclusively for whites. May i risk an hypothesis ? In this neighborhood, the school fees are at such a level that poor families cannot afford them ?

Another hypothesis: The entry standards are at a high level and the children of poor families are less well prepared to pass the tests ?

Those hypotheses are fine. The school was not a very good example of racism, so McWhorter was correct in critiquing that, but he literally begs off a follow-up question and claims he did it out of respect, then claims to know what she would have said. Anyway, yes, it’s a private school, and America can have those. The kids there, the teachers, whomever else, I doubt any of them are racist.

The second one is the systemic part. It’s also correct in its not-racist reasoning, that it’s about economics and generational poverty. The school would not be a special school for higher achievers if it accommodated disadvantaged kids. They have that right.

What is not asked is who is disadvantaged and why? McWhorter brushes off “some historical reasons” for them. This can be asked at any level, statistically, demographically, or just take a random kid and ask why that kid is performing less well than others.

The woke answer is a history of disadvantages and prejudices. The anti-woke answer is that it is something the kid is doing or could overcome with more effort. McWhorter does not make a case for his side, or at best a very weak one. Mostly he critiques the other side.

Here, i fully agree!

But the color is not the only factor. And poverty is due to the capitalism system. Now it is true that a poor black worker has the draw of his color even if his problems are similar to the ones of a poor white worker.

That seems to be central to McWhorter’s argument, which is not an argument at all to me. It would be like saying, sure, we should send rockets to the moon, but why is that guy focusing only on the fuel? What’s his problem? We have other problems.

Here are the first 35 minutes, for non-subscribers. It’s an hour long and the straw-manning gets worse. At one point Sam admits he doesn’t have a reference for what he says, then says something like “if this is true, then, that’s bad”, and several slippery slope arguments.

What’s sad is, they keep agreeing something needs to be done, but that’s always a phrase within a paragraph of what “they” are doing wrong. Near the end, McWhorter points out the progress made in the last 50 years, where saying racist things was done in Congress, then it was something you could say and just be thought of as annoying, to now, where you can lose friends and jobs if you do it. He says, that progress shows that the need for CRT analysis is no longer necessary, that we’ve reached the point where overt racism is horrible, therefore we don’t need continuing analysis or education. That’s a misunderstanding of history if you ask me.

I fully agree once more.