tk coleman and thomas sowell on oppression and intent versus outcome

i’m still working my way through the humancurrent when i’m all caught up on my other podcasts. i’m about halfway through all the episodes. sometimes it’s pretty painful to listen to because it’s soooooo white but the subject matter is so interesting to me.

episode 25 with tk coleman left me with two takeaway thoughts and here’s the first.

tk referenced an economist, thomas sowell (some quotes of his here), who had an idea about evaluating economy theory. in short, sowell believed that you had to evaluate policy based on its outcomes, not its intent. if you created a policy that didn’t create the outcomes you wanted, the policy isn’t working. it doesn’t matter how much of a good idea it was or how much evidence you had before implementation that it would work. if the outcomes aren’t what they were supposed to be, the policy doesn’t work.

tk carried that analogy over to oppression. he gave two examples, one about race and another about gender. in conversations about race, we often talk about “racists” as people who explicitly and intentionally discriminate. and, yes, those people do exist. but the majority of racism today doesn’t look like that (much of it is systemic and cultural). it mostly looks like unequal and inequitable outcomes. so lots of people who mean well and have good intentions can still be racist in their actions.

similarly, tk said that he knows lots of men who really love women, but when you look at their actions and behaviors towards women, there is a problem. they’re actually really condescending towards women. and extending that to my own experience, lots of women-loving men i know (straight and not), act (and sometimes explicitly think too) as if women are less capable than them.

i really wish more people thought and analyzed the system like sowell.

ps - i disagree and have strong critiques for a lot of what i’ve seen of sowell’s work, but i still agree with his thinking about outcomes versus intent. hrm…

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