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Welcome to another episode of Conversations with Coleman. If you're hearing this, then you're on the public feed, which means you'll get episodes a week after they come out and you'll hear advertisements, you can gain access to the subscriber feed by going to Coleman's use dog and becoming a supporter. This means you'll have access to episodes a week early, you'll never hear ads and you'll get access to bonus Q&A episodes. You can also support me by liking and subscribing on YouTube and sharing the show with friends and family.


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Welcome to another episode of Conversations with Coleman. A few notes before I introduce today's guest. In the recent episode with Shelby and Eli Steel, we discussed their documentary on Michael Brown being rejected by Amazon for no apparent reason. This was true at the time we were speaking, but sometime after our conversation, Amazon reversed their decision and allowed the documentary onto their platform. So I just wanted to clear up that confusion. Secondly, in my recent episode with Dr. Michael Sanchez, Michael claimed that the Taser is a single use weapon at one point, and we had some police officers write in to say that this is actually no longer true.


And most Tasers issue nowadays can fire multiple times. All right, so my guest today is Amy Chua. Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School. Her books include World on Fire, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, The Triple Package and Political Tribes. She made Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people in 2011 and has been a guest on many TV shows, including Good Morning America, The Today Show and Real Time with Bill Maher. Amy and I talk about tribalism, we talk about highly successful minority groups, we talk about how ethnic tensions have undermined US foreign policy.


We talk about the sources of racial and ethnic disparity. We talk about whether race should be used as a category on which to base social policy. We talk about colorblindness and much more so without further ado, Amy Chua.


Amy Chua, thanks so much for coming on my podcast. Thanks for having me, Coleman.


So I've been following your work for years now. You've written many great books, all of them are there. The kind of books that provide insights that are timeless but also seem to be always timely, at least in the past 10 years, of what's going on in America and around the world. And, you know, you deal with questions of tribal identity, political tribalism, ethnic groups in conflict and the wider implications of ethnic groups or of ethnic sectarianism for capitalism and democracy.


And so it's and you take an angle on it that I always find to be very interesting and underrepresented in the mainstream commentary on all of these issues. So let's just start by. Defining deceptively simple term, which is tribalism, what is tribalism? OK, so that's my most recent book, which is called Political Tribalism. And I all I mean, it really is that so first of all, human beings are tribal creatures just like primates. And by that, I just mean that we need to belong to groups.


You can barely find a hermit and it all on all of the planet. And once we connect to a group, we tend to want to defend it and cling to it and think of that group as better in every way. And so I go through all these kind of more scientific and anthropological definitions. But that's really all I mean. And I don't think that there's necessarily anything wrong with tribalism. Sports can be very tribal. I am a very tribal person.


I can tell you family is very tribal. But what I've been writing about is what happens when tribalism takes over a political system. That's when things get problematic, because then facts and policies and debates don't matter. Everybody just sees everything through their group's lens and basically just wants to take down the other side no matter what. And you really can't get a dialogue or any advances. So that's kind of like where I'm coming at it from. Yeah. And you've talked about areas, especially in foreign policy, where American ignorance or blindness to the presence of sectarian conflicts in different places in the world have led us to just horrible foreign policy blunders based on a misunderstanding of what is motivating the typical person.


You talk about Iraq and Vietnam. So can you just talk about what the standard narrative is from the US foreign policy establishment and how that was mistaken?


Yeah, you know, it's funny, a long time ago when I wrote my first book, it was called World on Fire How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. That was when I first tapped into this phenomenon that I called market dominant minorities. And this is something that most Americans and most Westerners just are really unfamiliar with. And this but it happens to be a phenomenon that is pervasive in Iraq and Vietnam and actually all over the developing world.


And what I'm talking about is countries where there's a tiny outside ethnic minority, usually like the three percent Chinese in Indonesia. Indonesia is a huge country, but the Chinese only make up three percent of the population and yet they control 70 percent of the economy and climate. I don't mean a stereotype. They actually control that. And Indians are market dominant minority and at East Africa and obviously whites in South Africa, the Lebanese and the Caribbean and yes, in its own way, the Shia side, the Sunnis in Iraq were this kind of a form of market dominant minority that is for hundreds of years, even though they were only about 10 or 15 percent of the population, they actually controlled a disproportionate amount of Iraq's economy, not always by entrepreneurialism, sometimes just because of authoritarianism.


And so I started noticing because of my own family's background about 20 years ago, that when you just democratize and put in markets and democracy in countries like Iraq or Vietnam that have totally different ethnic dynamics than the United States, you don't just get peace and prosperity. So to answer your question back, I don't even know if you are born. But right after 9/11, the idea really actually after the Berlin Wall came down, this is in eighteen nineteen eighty nine.


It was like, OK, communism failed. OK, so communism and authoritarianism are out. So the answer to everything has got to be capitalism and democracy. And this is when Francis Fukuyama, at the end of history, swept in and there was this huge euphoria that markets and democracy are the answer to everything. And basically, I have been writing ever since my first book and all the way to my current book. But you know what? It's not that easy.


Democracy and certain conditions can be very destabilizing and specifically in countries like Vietnam, where people don't even know this. But they had there was a one percent Chinese minority in Vietnam that control like almost the entire private sector. And I think for a lot of Americans, it's a little bit it's like, oh, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese are all kind of the same. But in fact, in Vietnam, there was this hugely resented Chinese my. I've already called the war that had been favored by the French colonialists that controlled everything.


So what what people don't really realize is the Vietnam War wasn't just really these communists fighting against the populous. It was also a majority of the Vietnamese fighting against these Chinese capitalists that were basically most of the capitalist. So anyway, that's just a preview. Like in my book, I explain how the US comes in thinking democracy is the panacea to everything, and then, bam, they just get not what they expected. And elections actually give rise to this kind of it gives voice to this majority that is very resentful, like the Shia in Iraq, and they use their new power when they come into power, not to build bridges and for sensible economic policies, but basically for revenge.


And that's exactly what happened in a country like Iraq. We put in these elections in two thousand and three and oh, my gosh, what happened is the Shia there, like now that we're in power, it's payback time. And they targeted the Sunni minority that had been basically they're their enemies for their persecutors for four centuries. It seems like that's a point that's so obviously true and important that it should be it should occupy much more space in these conversations.


But it just seems like why is there a blind spot when just from people's experiences, you can tell how much behavior is motivated by these small tribal tensions? Yeah, well, I know exactly why. In the case of the United States or the West or even Canada, we are used to a certain kind of racial or ethnic dynamic because our major group or ethnic divide in this country has been basically the dynamic has been really economically and politically dominant white majority, and then all these persecuted minorities, whether it's African-Americans or Native Americans or Asian Americans.


So for most of our history, what we're really used to this, what we see Tibetans in China being persecuted, we get it or, you know, the minority being persecuted, we get it. What we're used to persecuted and economically and politically disenfranchised minorities. But when it comes to minorities that are really rich minorities that control huge parts of the economy, Westerners and especially Americans get super uncomfortable. They're like, oh, my God, this must be a stereotype.


We can't talk about this. And they were actually really unfamiliar with this dynamic. And that's one reason we just shoved under the rug. The other reason is America actually putting aside the African-American population. You know, we really have had a very exceptionally successful history of ethnic assimilation, certainly among the European minority. So we had waves and waves of immigrants. And first they all fought and then the Irish, then the Italians and the Greeks. So I think there was a naiveté for us.


We're like, hey, we're going to put in elections in Iraq. And yeah, we know the Kurds and Shias and Kurds and Sunnis are different. But once we have democracy, then we'll have intermarriage and everybody will assimilate. And that's just absolutely unrealistic and ridiculous. Actually, if you look at the histories and you point out in the book how during the era of the British Empire, the Brits were extremely conscious of the sectarian divides wherever they went, where Americans have just had this strange mindset.


I think you're right that we don't understand how unusual it is to even pay lip service to notions of universal brotherhood. And, you know, being an American is an idea whether or not these are realized. We don't understand that no one else in the world even has tried to do so. We naively assume everywhere is like us. Exactly. And we focus on the tensions. But you're absolutely right. This you know, it's funny, a lot of people think that the United States is similar to Great Britain and there obviously many parallels.


But that was one of my favorite points to bring out. The British were so ethnically conscious during their whole colonial rule, they did this divide and conquer thing. So I'm not saying one is better than the other because, I mean, they messes, but it's what allowed them to basically be in power for several centuries in India, in the Caribbean. I mean, they they they had booklets about all the different caste systems in all these different countries.


They knew it was completely different from our framework and they played them in a very Machiavellian way and were very successful. So, yeah, I thought that was an interesting different. Yeah.


Other thing that occurred to me is, as you were talking, is the I think unfortunately and strangely titled essay by Thomas so called Arjun's Generic. Have you heard of this essay?


I haven't heard of that essay, but I know it's work. Yeah, the title is. But but he has a lot of you know, a lot of my work actually draws on a lot of his work. He was the first person to blurbed my book when I was an absolute unknown person. But what do you. Basically, all the examples of market dominant minorities that you just gave, he basically talks about in this essay and he wonders whether some of the hatred of Jews has not been an economic resentment of successful minorities, especially minorities, groups who become successful in parts of the economy, where the value that they're bringing is not readily visible like a merchant, they're not building something themselves.


But if you understand economics, you understand that they're bringing as much value as they're charging and profit. And then it's the Lebanese in certain places, the Indians in certain places. And his point is that this is a generic human phenomenon that often leads to riots, persecutions and even genocides that we misunderstand as mere racism. But that's actually racism caused by deeper economic resentments.


Yeah, it's a really controversial issue. And the Jews in particular, it's complicated. I know his argument, but in fact, there are all these periods in human history going back to biblical times where I actually researched this when Jews were not successful, when the Jews were in their shtetls in Russia. And actually I discovered that in biblical times they were not particularly successful. So there's been an unusual case. There definitely have been periods where they are the classic market dominant minority in countries like Romania and Lithuania between the first and Second World Wars.


So I actually kind of talk about Jews very specifically and several of my books. And lots of times there's more than one reason. It's not like if you boil it down to it's always just economic resentment. That's not the case. But yeah, I mean, we have a lot of overlap in our work.


Yeah. So related topic, what do people mean by the phrase model, minority myth and what's your view of that meme?


I'm constantly getting in trouble for this on this topic and it's so frustrating. So I think what people mean is they're referring to Asian-Americans and the idea is that Asians, No one, are so diverse as this term Asian-American to include soup or poor Cambodian Americans among Americans, but also Chinese and Japanese. And the complaint is like when I published this Tigerman book, people just didn't get it because it was sort of supposed to be kind of a satirical memoir, but about the super strict Chinese bomb.


And they're like, oh, she's entrenching the stereotype of the model minority, meaning this minority that is works really hard and they do math and they play violin and they're automatically successful. And the complaint is, if you just generalize and say all Asians are like that, No. One, you missed how many Asian-Americans are really poor and struggling. And number two, you don't acknowledge the kinds of discrimination against the Asian-American space. And so that's kind of the way that argument goes.


I sort of object to its overuse this term because while acknowledging this is definitely a problem, I never like it when it's like, oh, my gosh. Um, like if some Asians in this book, The Triple Package, I actually write about how Taiwanese Americans and Chinese Americans are among the most successful groups in America, along with Indian Americans, but also along with Nigerian Americans and Cuban Americans. At this moment in history, in terms of really crude metrics like per capita income, education, corporate representation.


And immediately there was like, how can you say that? You just re entrenching the model minority stereotype? And I'm like, you know, to me it's like more facts, the better. Let's get all the information out there. And the question is why? Why are some groups why do we have the statistic? We can unpack it and see that. Look, actually, other Asian Americans aren't doing so well. And what's even more interesting, Golman, if you it's very, very much about the immigrant experience.


So Asian-Americans, if you take these aggregate statistics, they there are these glass ceiling problems like they don't especially East Asian Americans don't do great like at the highest corporate levels, but their SAT scores are something like one hundred and forty points above the national media. But what's interesting is you break out the Asian-Americans so that you have first generation. That is these are the immigrants and then the immigrants, kids and then the grandkids of the immigrants, the third generation.


What's fascinating is by the. You get to the third generation. They do not outperform any Americans. So what I find interesting is that shows it's not something genetic in Asian-Americans, it's not something natural in them, and it's not even cultural in the sense that it's like they carry it around with them. But a lot of it is very much about the immigrant experience and it's generational, this kind of drive and motivation. AIDS usually by the third generation in almost any immigrant.


Yeah, no, that accords with everything that I've seen with my eyes in my own family. And I think, of course, with a lot of people's experiences.


Are you from an immigrant family? On my mother's side immigrated from Puerto Rico. Oh, just yeah. Her parents immigrated. So she was I used to joke that she was a tiger mom.


You know, she was just looking at you. But we can we don't have to go there. So I think with the model minority myth, I think there is another element that is motivating the the resistance to the discussion in the triple package, where you talk about various different ethnic groups. You mentioned Nigeriens, Chinese and so on and so forth. To point out the success of any particular ethnic group seems to many people to be saying that racism doesn't exist against ethnic groups that are less successful or that what explains racial or ethnic disparity is something other than the one allowable explanation, which is systemic racism.


And part of this is just a function of how coarse our discourse about this subject is. Like we talk about races, for example, Asians, when I've seen polling that indicates most quote unquote, Asians don't identify as Asians, they identify as the particular country. And but the more you begin to study actual ethnic groups, which is sort of how most people live, you begin to see how normal it is to see large disparities between groups that, to an outsider, might look the same, and therefore, discrimination may not be the primary explanation for disparate outcomes.


So how do you see your what your research, how your research. What implications it has for the wider discussion of racial disparity that has been ongoing but is especially pressing today?


Yeah, know when we wrote this book, The Triple Package, you know, it did well, but, oh, my gosh, we got so much blowback. And I started my life like I don't think I've written a book that hasn't been wildly controversial and I never quite get it because I feel like you really read this book. Know, it says, look, we did the research and we're looking at why at this moment certain groups are doing better than others.


And, well, it's not genetic. We show that again, it's not like certain. It's all one race. We actually show that so many Caribbean Americans and and Nigerian Americans are at the very top of the list outperforming whites, actually, and also the fact that it changes over time.


So it's not religion should be good news. Let's look at what have these groups doing so that maybe other groups can learn from it. But we hit exactly the wall that you described. It was like, bam, you're blaming the poor. You're saying that there's no racism there, even though, like on our first page, we have this first page, like third page, this huge caveat. We are saying obviously this is not a sole explanation, obviously, for many groups of racism plays a huge role.


And what's interesting is I have noticed a lot of people criticizing this. We're actually very privileged people who it's almost like an automatic thing. Structural racism explains everything. And I got a huge number of a lot of historically black colleges and universities love this book. And I was so surprised they reached out to me. And they're like, this is so interesting because we are. So just to explain to your readers in this kind of different book, it's not about foreign policy.


We look at why certain groups in America are outperforming everybody else. And we include we kind of look at the snapshot, who's doing super well and was surprising. It included like Iranian Americans and Mormon Americans and Jewish Americans and, you know, again, Cuban-Americans. So what connects these people? And we found three characteristics that we call the triple package. And the first is the sense of like exceptionality in the group. We call it a superiority complex, like we're we're the chosen people or we come from this ancient civilization.


And the specking was so the it's almost like the opposite of a superiority complex. The second trait was insecurity. This idea that, oh, my gosh, we're not being respected. We're outsiders. People are looking down on us. And the third feature was impulse control. And we we said this is so bizarre in all of the groups that are so outperforming whites and also other groups, they seem to have we feature a superiority complex simultaneous with a sense of insecurity, often coming from being immigrants, that creates this kind of chip on your shoulder feeling like we've got to show everybody we're not getting the respect and then this sense of impulse control, the self discipline thing.


So I would get emails of people saying this is so instructive because we want to reform our education. We want to how we raise our children to seek out other groups are succeeding. We can learn from this. So it was interesting that on the one hand, you're getting usually far more privileged, knee jerk people don't talk about this cultural racism, they said. And then on the other hand, people like you from actually underprivileged places, you know, charter schools, they're like, this is so interesting.


We would love to know why certain groups do so well so that we can instill these things in our children. And also, it's so great to know that it's not genetic and that anyone could learn them. I guess Sotomayor's example of a triple package person, because you don't have to belong to any group to have these features. A single mother can do it.


Yeah, no, I think normal people like being told that they're in control of their destiny. And with regard to the I'm not so surprised that the pushback to your book came more from people in elite spaces rather than like historically black universities and colleges. Because I guess one reason is. My father and sister went to HQ and I remember I was talking to my sister once telling her about how much knee jerk woak, anti intellectual ism there was at Columbia where I went.


And she said, that's funny because at Spellman, there was almost none of that and everyone is black or analysis of it was that. There's nothing to be gained by playing up your black activism, your knee jerk reaction to what is perceived as racism because there's no white people around. So so if everyone is black, it just cancels out that variable as a mechanism for attaining social status.


It's so interesting, I got to tell you. So I teach at Yale Law School and I teach this class that's actually one of the most popular classes called international business transactions. And there's always 80 people and there's like a weight was one hundred. But I have a lot of super progressive people who come into this class, both conservatives and liberals and a lot of immigrants, kids and going to it's slightly different, but similar feature they'll immigrants kids will come to be or immigrants and they'll say, oh, my gosh, you know, I, I feel so guilty like I might want to be like in the corporate sector or I might want to succeed or I might want to be a partner in a law firm or maybe be a judge.


But there's all this pressure from usually privileged people who can afford you and they're like, oh, that's elitist. You can't go to the corporate sector. You know, you can't try to clerk for a judge because that's all elitism and hierarchy. So you have people I have people that are like my dad, this poor Iraqi refugee, and I'd like to buy him a house. And but I can't mention that here at Yale Law School because that would be called out.


And so it's just so ironic, this phenomenon of where a lot of this pressure is coming from. It's often from the people that can afford to say these things.


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I actually know people in my immediate circle of friends at Columbia who went out on whatever it's called, when you're trying to get into consulting, you know, the crazy period of hard tests.


Oh, yeah, but who who would tell their very closest friends, please don't tell anyone that I'm going out for this, because in that context, it's it hurts your reputation, which is crazy, because if you really are progressive, you want to see the world change.


You want underprivileged kids to be partners in law firms to be at the top of corporations, to be the judges. And it's so backwards that nobody can do this. Right. And I mean, there should be room for all ways of reform. Right.


So in my research and thinking about these issues, I've come across and thought a lot about the difference between a race conscious policy approach to these issues and a colorblind policy approach. And putting aside the notion of colorblindness as an actual possibility from a subjective point of view for a person, if we're just talking about whether policy should be blind to these important group differences between people. Or whether we should adopt a kind of the Singapore model of of just unapologetically enshrining ethnic quotas into housing policy and politics, which seems to work, which seems to be a functional equilibrium for them.


How do you think about policy with regard to the issue of ethnic tension? Should it be should be explicitly recognized groups and treat them differently or have quotas to. Should we just kind of have a formula race blind process your work? And I am so admiring that you have the guts to go out and say what you do. I mean, this is I teach on one of the most liberal campuses in the on the planet. And it's like, I can't believe you're not canceled.


So my own work, because I started in the foreign policy sphere, I didn't start in the affirmative action America sphere. I have finally come at this from a different angle than you are not like I don't have like a strong view that this is. So, for example, my first idea is like when it's countries like Iraq and we're about to invade, my first principle is let's at least know the difference between these different ethnic groups, because it's whatever your policy is going to be, whether it's race blind or sectarian blind or whatever, let's at least know the ethnic dynamics because we are in a really mess this up.


If we don't in terms of what you actually do when you go into these countries with ethnic conflict, I want to be the first to say that it's not easy, like there are failures of totally race blind policies and then there are failures where people go in and they are really trying to like engineer all the different ethnic groups and those blow up. So I think it's very difficult. The way I look at America is I don't know if this is a directly it's probably not directly responsive to you, but I have been saying so there are these real liberals and that might be I don't know if this is where you come out, but it's kind of like let's not think of America in terms of all these different races.


And, you know, I think that might be a great world where we could get to that one day. But to me, because I study tribalism at this moment in history, I think that's kind of like telling people, stop liking your favorite sports teams, stop liking the Patriots or the Dallas Cowboys. And just like all sports to get together because humans just tend to want to have these folks. So but what I see America as being is I I have this term super group and we're very unique.


We always there are a lot of things wrong with our country, but we forget what's sort of amazing. So to be a super group, it's super easy. You need to satisfy two requirements. First, you need a very strong, overarching national identity. You'll like American brands, but to be a super group, you also have to satisfy a second condition, and that is that you let all these different subgroups flourish. So I think that what's amazing about America is that at our best and I don't think we are at our best right now, but at our best, this is a country where you can be Puerto Rican, American or Irish, American or Korean, American or Japanese, American or Lithuanian, American, and still incredibly patriotic at the same time.


So what I'm getting to is that I see some of the debates that you are sometimes in or like Mark Lilla, whom I like a lot. And I think that to me, I think that what's amazing about America is that we don't need to choose between a strong, overarching national identity and multiculturalism. We can have both because our over arching national identity is ethnically and religiously neutral. And if you think about any other country like China, it's not a super group because it's got this really strong, overarching identity.


The Chinese are so proud, 90 percent, but it's an ethnic identity. And so if you're a Tibetan member of the Tibetan minority of the Uyghur minority, you have no standing. You cannot voice your identity. And interestingly, in France, which is actually very similar, we think to us they're not a super group either because they're just like China. They've got this strong overarching French identity, the race blind, if you will. It's like it's just French, but they don't allow people to express their religious identity, ethnic identity.


They really try to you can't wear the signs of religious, the burqini band. And a lot of people think that that has caused more friction and more tension there as from a position as you because you kind of know what you're talking about here, because I'm comparative. I'm always looking at us versus China versus Iraq versus France. I can't say which whether I think this policy or that policy universally would always be better.


Yeah, I think this is such an interesting area. To me, because you mentioned France. If Singapore is the paradigm for an unapologetically race conscious model, then Francis is the paradigm for an unapologetically colorblind and race blind model where you can't even if you want to, if you're an academic in France, you can't even study racial disparities. It's illegal, right?


Exactly. I think that's kind of a polar opposite problem. And they they have problems. I mean, there's a lot of unrest and a lot of people trace that to to that kind of suppression, not allowing these subgroup identities to flourish.


It seems to me there has to be some kind of middle ground where we establish a firewall, where it's OK to be unapologetically rooted in your tribe, whatever that is, you know, with what you wear, for example, in a religious context. But then on the other side of that firewall, there are at least in the West, I hesitate to criticize a model in a country that I don't fully understand, because it could be that you got if you get rid of race consciousness in Singapore, all hell breaks loose.


And this is one of the lessons of your writing, is that you can't just impose an abstract idea on a place that's different and hope that things are going to go well. But in America, I think it makes sense for there to be a firewall between matters of ethics and politics and procedural justice on the one hand and then everywhere else where I'm happy for people to express their deep cultural attachments. Right.


And because I teach the law schools, I my husband and I wrote a piece in the Atlantic called Tribalism and the Constitution. And one of the things that I find most disturbing right now is so I'm a huge fan of the US Constitution because that, I think is the glue. Right. And I know how imperfect this thing is. I know that we have repeatedly failed to live up to the principles in the Constitution. But I'm always telling my students we need to distinguish between saying we have this really impressive constitution with these values that have held this country together, that we have shamefully failed to live up to those principles, that we got to do better than say one thing or saying what I'm increasingly hearing your generation, which is this constitution, is a racist document.


It was written by a bunch of white male rapists, and we shouldn't even pay attention to it because that is actually our one hope. When you're talking about what can be this neutral thing that connects us all together. It's these values in the Constitution. And what I see teaching on a campus is that there are threats to the Constitution now, which is simultaneously a threat to our national identity coming from the both the left and the right. And that's what makes this such a scary moment from the left.


It's what I was saying. It's like, oh, you know, all the founding fathers are we don't we don't respect them. Just to me, it's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I mean, I'm all in favor of not whitewashing our history, but just to throw the constitution out. What's going to be let's look at look at these developing countries I study that literally fall apart. And then from the right, you start to see people.


This is the extreme of what you're talking about, this kind of white nationalism, or they're they're also losing this identity of a neutral racial and ethnic identity and say, you know what, I actually think America should be defined by what, Protestantism or something that's ethnic. It's you people in that direction. You're also basically turn your back on what's sort of unique about our Constitution. So I see the threat to the Constitution at this moment at coming from both extremes of the political spectrum.


Yeah, this is such an interesting issue in America because and this is a point that I'm getting from Eric Kaufman's book, White Shift. Every ethnic group has symbolic attachments that are just sacred and and ways of expressing pride, whether that's in a concept of the motherland or in a concept of having overcome historical oppression. There's a story every ethnic group tells themselves about who they are and what that means. And it provides people an enormous sense of meaning. So there's ethnic pride on the one hand, and then there is patriotism on the other hand, and it's difficult to tell the difference between those things.


Sometimes we might like to think of them as completely separate concepts, but I think they tap into similar psychological mechanisms in the brain. And and Eric Kaufman's point in this book. Was that for many white Americans, especially white Protestants, people who are descended from what you would call the white Protestant core of the country? The the symbols of ethnic attachment, because it's taboo for very understandable reasons to say, oh, I'm proud that I'm white as a black person or as an Asian person, might those things get replaced by symbols of national identity like the flag?


So when you wonder how a person could a person who burns the flag on video has their life completely deranged by death threats when part of what that flag stands for in principle is the right to burn it in a country that prides itself on free speech. Part of the way to explain that is in terms of these ethnic symbols having been substituted for these national symbols. Do you buy that or.


Well, you know, I know his work a little bit, and I guess I like you. I don't want to say anything about something I haven't fully thought through. But what I thought you were going to go is that, you know, it goes back to your first question about tribalism. It is human nature to want to be proud of who you are. And right now, we're in this real kind of weird moment. We're all white people who are supposed to just say, and the worst thing, I apologize for being white.


And I think that's not psychologically that's sustainable. And I think one thing is you said every group has decried what happened in the last 20, 30 years, again, for understandable reasons, is the white people almost became the only group that you can't take pride in your background. And again, I understand exactly why white supremacy, but it's asking a lot of people to just say, like, you acknowledge that you're the worst group on Earth, you can't give up.


And I think what's happened is that pushed a lot of people underground and a lot of it is morphed in a more into a more toxic form of white nationalism. That, in a way, has to do is a response to the idea. Like, you know, we're it's just human nature to want to be proud of your group. So I thought a lot about these issues, too. Obviously, JD Vance has written about a lot. He was my my student.


Right. Hillbilly. Yeah. Yeah. So you brought up something really interesting that I want to talk to you about, which is. Political tribes, you know, the red tribe and the blue tribe and what brought this out and what you just said is white Americans on the left, especially in the younger generation. Seem confusing vis a vis the paradigm we've been talking about in this whole podcast, which is that everyone likes to have pride in their group.


I think that's a that's just a fact of human psychology. It's a generalization has exceptions, but it's true. So then we come across a phenomenon that doesn't fit the model, which is white people constantly talking about how horrible white people are.


And so. I've been confused about that for a long time, and there's a few ways to explain it, you can sort of. John McWhorter explains it in terms of, you know, the same mechanism that gets Christians to enjoy thinking about original sin. There's some psychology of sin and guilt that is meaningful to people. But I think there's another explanation which is compatible with that, but which is also very useful, which is that. They don't actually mean what they're saying, literally.


And when they say white people are awful, what they're actually saying something different, they're saying white people from the red tribe, which I view as a totally different tribe than my own. You know, Republicans, the wider culture of American conservatives import any stereotype you want here relating to Budweiser or NASCAR. So what they really mean is those people are horrible. And so in a way, they're no different than every other group that is expressing pride. It's just you have to do a little bit of work on the translation.


And absolutely.


And I write about this at the end, too. And it's interesting because I've studied as an academic what is an ethnic group and all the definition. And a lot of it has to do with I mean, it's really hard to define, but in rate of intermarriage between two groups is is one simple? Like if you have like zero rate of intermarriage between these two groups, that's more evidence that you're two separate ethnic groups. And what I wrote in this book is that just because of really it's this class difference among the wife and education difference, the difference now between basically Trump's base, the those whites, but state whites and the coastal elite whites, it's almost like an ethnic difference now common because it is so much more likely that a white person who attends Columbia will marry somebody from a South Asian background or a Korean American background or Nigerian American background, then for that person to marry someone from Appalachia with no education.


So I think as I have been interested in this, this idea of the it's a subset of what you're talking about, coastal elites. As you know, early on we talked about market dominant minorities. This term that I coined in 2003, three to be this really represented minority in developing countries that are viewed as controlling the levers of power and everything. So I wrote recently that we're seeing for the first time in our history this phenomenon where it's almost like the coastal elites are viewed now by a lot of people in the rest of the country as this little snobby minority.


They control Wall Street, they control D.C., they control the Ivy League, they control Silicon Valley, they control Hollywood, and they look down on the rest of us. And so so I kind of have written about how the twenty sixteen election that brought Donald Trump to power is in some ways more like an election that we would see in a developing country where you have a very, you know, a lot of frustration among a a majority, often, including a lot of poorer members against what they see as the snobby outsider elite that basically cares more about the poor in Africa than they do about the poor in their own country.


Yeah, I was reading an amazing essay by by Scott Alexander, who writes the blog, The Slate Star Codecs blog. And he pointed out that the difference between the reaction of the American left when Osama bin Laden died and when Margaret Thatcher died, so when Osama died, if you're on the left. It's you know, you sort of remain silent. You definitely don't celebrate because. We all acknowledge he was a horrible person, but to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden marks you as someone who was unsophisticated.


And the thing you're supposed to think if you're in that tribe was no human death should be celebrated. Sure, it has to be done. But no, no death had to be celebrated. Whereas if you were on the right, you could just say, I'm glad Osama is dead. You could just celebrate that. And then when Margaret Thatcher died, what Scott noticed was that the same people who are talking about every death being a tragedy were just saying, ding dong, the witch is dead.


And the wider point of this essay was not that there was anything unique about the hypocrisy of the left, because he went on to point out similar hypocrisies on the right. But it was to make a point about political triable bias in America between, you might call them reds and blues and how that has actually become deeper in some cases than the kinds of bias we spend more time worrying about racial and gender based bias. No doubt very real problems. But it's is precisely the kinds of bias that you don't even view as bias because they're so entrenched, that can become problematic.


How you paid attention to any of the research on implicit bias between Republicans and Democrats and how in certain instances has been measured as higher than between racial groups and so forth?


Not not recently. I did all that when I was writing this book, but in a way getting at the same issue again, because I'm so we just don't what makes different ethnic groups and it's often language and what you wear and how you behave. And you think about the, again, red state, white and coastal elite, this politically, this kind of language that we talk, you know, we have to say Latin X, not Latino, they can't.


It really is like a different language. And sometimes it's almost like a gotcha because it's like if you're some poor person going up in a farm in the middle of whatever Kentucky, you're not going to know. It's so complicated. I'm a professor at Yale and I have to, like, navigate all this changing vocabulary constantly.


I'll do you one better. You don't have to go to the farm. If I walked out in New York and talk to talk to every Dominican or Puerto Rican looking person I met, it would be hours before I met one that knew the word Latin NEC's or voluntarily said it. Absolutely.


Or even I have a student who was Super Left-Wing and she was talking. She's very in favor of use the term business. Oh, I totally called out. You can't use that term. You incarcerated people ever. So so back to what you were talking about and exactly what that bias. But it is like a different language and it's statement which is like you talk that way, you can't use our language, you're on the output. And if you think about how many, even just the way people dress or obviously even just like health, there's this.


So it's just fascinating. I kind of am coming at this from a different direction, the different and I think it explains in some ways by Donald Trump. I wrote about this in a Politico essay. You know, a lot of people like I don't get it. How could these poor people in Appalachia vote for a rich guy who lives in New York? And to me was so obvious, his persona is more like them. I'm going to eat burgers.


I'm going to watch wrestling. And I you know what? I'm going to deliberately be not politically correct. And I don't read what it's like. And and and the fact that he's always being called out for saying things, you know, all of my friends are like, oh, my God, this is going to bring him down. But what so many people in the middle of America, they're like, that's what happens to me all the time.


I'm always in trouble for saying the wrong thing. So I think that these kind of markers of cultural markers are markers are are really interesting to observe. And reinforcing your point about these two different tribes within the white population. Yeah, I remember a few months ago over drinks with a friend that I'd actually popped into my head that it's easier. What's happening in the country with politics makes more sense if you just imagine that Republicans and Democrats were Shia and Sunni, just like two groups that or any other two groups that just have a deep ethnic and historical or religious hatred of one another.


And then so much of what's going on in the country, in the media and in politics just begins to make sense. Absolutely. And studies show this like it used to be like 50 years ago, you would a Democrat would be perfectly fine having his or her daughter marry a Republican or a Republican parents would be fine if their children dated somebody from the other political party. Right now, the polls are so interesting. It's like it's like 90 percent of Democrats say that they would be disown their child if they married a Republican or Trump.


So it's just like you're saying, it is like this. It feels almost like an ancient enmity, but it's a relatively recent vintage.


Yeah. So how should we view this? Because at the beginning of the conversation, you said that tribalism is I'm paraphrasing, but it's not bad inherently. It's just sort of the way of things. It's how we're built. So does it not make sense then to worry about political tribalism or to try to fight it?


Oh, so I say that tribalism inherently is not that like tribalism and sports or tribalism and family like so tribal about my friends. But I do think it's horrible, very bad when tribalism infects the political system. I basically it's exactly what you said. I think that's what happened in countries like Iraq, in countries like Afghanistan. Know that's what happened. And we can't let that happen here. You know, I give a lot of talk, at least three covid around the country and people would say, OK, if that's true, what is?


Our model out there and model country that you could point to that we can follow was to help us overcome our political tribalism. And I always I know they're always thinking Canada, you know, and I always say, no, we are the best model. We're in a terrible moment right now. Like, it's getting increasingly difficult to be optimistic. But if you just sit back and look at what we have is a structure like basically the DNA of the country, we actually have the best framework.


Again, it goes back to the fact that our Constitution is ethnically and religiously neutral. We have the possibility of a national identity that is open, not does it belong to any one ethnic group. And so I think it's a terrible problem right now where you see movement on both the left and the right kind of undermining that. So I definitely think that we're this is a moment that we are it's a perilous moment that we we have to you know, that's one of the reasons I decide to do your your show.


Like, I think it gives me hope that different voices can still talk and be very popular because I do find it so different teaching even at the Yale Law School, even if I'm just like three years ago, completely different to be so much more careful what I can say and what I can do. And that's it's almost like it's very dangerous when half the country views the other half, not just as people they want to argue with, but literally as evil, un-American people, because that's a recipe for civil war.


Yeah, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about this before the end of our time. There's a lot of conversation about cancel culture right now. And I signed a letter, the Harper's letter, that broke whatever tiny sector of the Internet pays attention to such things and. So you're on a campus and you're you're someone who's work for reasons that somewhat mystified me as well, has has has been consistently viewed as controversial. So have you a do you think cancer culture is a real thing?


B, have you encountered it and in what form?


It's a real thing. All the critics are right that it's often less powerful, less prominent people that really get canceled. But I have experienced it firsthand. And it is no matter how established you are, it is extremely unpleasant. I will maybe end on a kind of optimistic note. So I got into a huge controversy because I wrote a Wall Street Journal piece talking about the positive mentorship of half an hour before all the scandal stuff came out and the accusations came out.


That was in twenty sixteen. And by the way, my daughter had been hired before that year before that, having nothing to do with me. And I suppose that in the Wall Street Journal. But that was there was a huge eruption at the Yale Law School and I was definitely counseled for at least a year and still canceled by a large portion of the population. And they'll never take my classes. But when I came back, I was told by the dean, you know, you got to watch out because you you have to issue an apology.


And I said, I'm not going to issue an apology for something I did do. Tell people to dress like bottles is ridiculous. Have you ever seen a courthouse? You have to wear a suit. So she is like, OK, you don't apologize, then you may get boycotts and only three or four people may take your class, even though I previously had among the most popular classes. So that would have been canceled culture. So I was like, fine, I will just teach a class with three people because I the one thing I will not do is apologize for something I didn't do.


So we we advertise the class and it sure, in a way even the administration administrators don't know. One hundred twenty people signed up for the class. OK, so so then I was like, oh my God. And they're like, well these could be boycotts. So I went into my first class thinking that they were all going to get up and walk out, but they didn't, they didn't catch the class at twenty five I'd the waitlist. So my point here is I think that there is a huge silent majority that just wants to be able to debate that doesn't want to do this.


But every time you it's just you because you don't say these things. If you don't, you'll get you'll get shamed and you'll get you'll get pushed out of the tribe. And for a lot of people, they don't want to deal with that. It's too it's just too much trouble. So they kind of go along. But I do think that with strong leadership, I hate that term. But like I just laid out the rules of my class. I advertised it and I was like, do not take this class if you don't want to engage in lively political debate with all views.


And I see it out there again, my colleagues were like, oh, my God, maybe you're getting in trouble. And I was like, that's ridiculous. They want to keep us out. But you and I and again, I think there were probably a lot of students that would not take my class because of that. But she ordered students didn't want to take that. So so I it's the way to and I think that there it is a real phenomenon, that subculture.


And it's like I will not say things now because I don't want to deal with the trouble. On the other hand, I am an optimist because I'm still standing, I'm still teaching, my classes are still overflowing. So I think that you kind of stand up for your principles. You still have your show and it's getting better and better. So so in that sense, I know what the critics are saying. It's not like you're blotted out forever.


But I do think a lot of people you have to you're not taking into account all the people that feel they can't say anything because of the phenomenon. Well, thank you.


This has been one of my favorite podcasts so far. And before you leave, can you just tell people where to find you and what what you're working on now?


Yeah, so stupid me. Every time I'm controversial, I'm on my emails like it's on the website and you get yelled out to you, I have a Twitter account, but I'm not a good tweeter, just horrible Amy. And it's my daughter that runs my Facebook. I'm on the wrong generation, but I am available and I love talking about these things. And I'm working on a new two new books. I alternate between this political cultural things and then these more personal things.


And at the moment I have a top secret project that's more on the personal side, so I can't wait. All right. Thank you so much, Collin.