Friday 19 February 2021

Getting to the top of the list


The SNP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) recently decided to reserve the top spot on the 8 regional list seats for someone who was either disabled or an ethnic minority (BAME). It also decided that it would allow candidates to self-identify as BAME or disabled. This is extraordinary because it shows the SNP moving towards the ultra-woke position of transracialism and transableism.

The logic of allowing people to define themselves as men or women without regard to anatomy or any other objective characteristic is that being a man, or a woman is subjective. But once this is allowed the next step is to allow people to define themselves as black even though they lack the objective characteristics such as skin colour or ancestry that would normally be associated with this. If I can define myself as a woman even though I lack the anatomy and chromosomes of a woman, then why can’t I define myself as black even though both my parents were white.

The same logic applies to disability. If I can define myself as black though my objective ancestry is white, why can’t I define myself as disabled (e.g. I have one leg) even though I in fact have two legs. Likewise, I could define myself as schizophrenic even though no doctor has diagnosed me as having the symptoms of schizophrenia. This might seem absurd, but it merely follows the logic of allowing someone to self-define as a woman without there being any medical diagnosis either of gender dysphoria or of having female anatomy.

But the extension of the logic of transgender to other areas has proved controversial. In 2017 the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia published an article by Rebecca Tuvel In Defense of Transracialism and was subsequently accused of transphobia and racism.  Even in academia the idea of transracialism has been a step too far.

The SNP might deny that they are believers in either transracialism or transableism, but it follows logically from its decision to allow someone to self-identify as BAME or disabled. If someone applies to be head of the SNP list because of being black the SNP official administering the decision will not be able to ask “Are you really black?” because it will be a matter of self-identity. To question someone’s self-identification about their ethnicity or disability would be the equivalent of questioning someone about their gender identity. But this means that the SNP must suppose that someone who self-identifies as black really is black even if the candidate neither appears to be black nor has black parents.

Likewise if a candidate says he is disabled it follows merely from his self-identification that he really is disabled, because to question that the candidate defines himself as one-legged by the fact that he appears to have two legs would be to doubt the self-identification in the same way as doubting a person’s self-identification as a woman because of a lack of female anatomy.

The SNP position is that the person really is BAME or disabled even though they lack all of the objective characteristics of a BAME or disabled person. The SNP isn’t merely saying that such a person says the he is BAME or disabled, it is saying that he really is these things. If the SNP admitted that a BAME or disabled candidate who self-defined as such might really not be these things, it would be to question the whole logic of allowing self-identification as a method of determining truth. For this reason, the SNP must allow that someone without black parents can really be black and that someone with two legs can really have one or that someone with good mental health might have schizophrenia.

Of course, the SNP might argue that we are just trying to be kind to BAME and disabled people by not subjecting them to intrusive tests. But being an MSP is a lucrative position. It is reasonable to assume that someone who is neither BAME nor disabled might pretend that they are. How is the SNP to weed out those who are pretending? Can I self-identify as an SNP supporter? I'm also willing to pretend to be disabled black man so long as they give me the job. If anyone denied I was an SNP supporting disabled black man I would get Mr Yousaf to prosecute them.

But this is our problem. How are we to tell the difference between a transgender person who really is transgender and someone who is merely pretending to be transgender? What objective test could we use to determine that this person really is transgender and this one is not? We cannot use physical appearance, we cannot use chromosomes. All we are left with is the person’s assertion. But so long as the person pretending maintains the pretence there is no way of telling them apart.  

To weed out those candidates who are merely pretending to be BAME or disabled we must rely on objective characteristics, ancestry, appearance and medical diagnosis. But that is to admit that self-identification is not a reliable method of determining ethnicity or disability. But if it is not reliable, why use it? Worse if it is not a reliable method of determining ethnicity or disability why do we suppose is a reliable method of determining sex?

The reason transracialism has been so controversial is that it annuls race as an objective characteristic. But this has the consequence of making for instance Black Lives Matters self-refuting because how are we to determine which lives are black? It also annuls racism. What if the policeman who murdered George Floyd defined himself as black? There would no longer be a racial motivation for his crime. We would no longer be able to blame white people for historically oppressing black people, because we would not know how these people racially defined themselves. If race becomes a matter of self-identification, then anyone could avoid the charge of racism by changing his self-definition. We could all then say whichever forbidden words we pleased and sing along to rap songs.

More importantly if race were no longer to be a matter of skin colour and ancestry there would be nothing for us to be racist about. How can I be prejudiced against a black person if I cannot know he is black? I cannot know it because race would be a matter of self-identification rather than skin colour.

So too the concept of disability dissolves if it becomes a matter of self-identification. If society provides extra resources or parking spaces for disabled people and these become available to anyone who defines themselves as disabled, then there will be no extra resources and no more parking spaces because the term disabled will apply to anyone who chooses it and it will be impossible to judge from appearance if someone is disabled or even if they have one leg or two.

If anyone can define themselves as black or disabled it would follow too that anyone can define themselves as Scottish. Why should being resident in this particular corner of the world called Scotland prevent self-identification as Scottish? But if any person in the whole world can define themselves as Scottish, then Scottish comes to mean human being. But if that is the case why is this small group of humanity trying to become independent from the rest of humanity? If on the other hand being Scottish is an objective characteristic only available to people with these characteristics, why does the SNP suppose that being BAME, disabled or indeed a woman is a matter of self-identification?

To suppose that human characteristics are a matter of self-identification is to abolish truth. If I can define myself as being black when I am white, I could equally define myself as being well when in fact I am infected with Covid. But this is to abolish medical science in a pandemic. If truth were a matter of self-identification there would be no science, because science requires an objective shared space rather than how we identify. But once this becomes clear the whole concept of defining what someone is by how they identify becomes untenable.