a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Can Software Make You Less Racist?


Funny, I have been going through police dispatch reports lately, and you would not believe the amount of 911 calls that basically boil down to “there’s a brown person on our block.” That’s bad, worse was when I heard a cop on the radio last month trying to describe to dispatch why he was going to pull over and shake down a pedestrian, he sort of stumbled, paused, and finally said “he looks like he’s from the (brown part of town)”


Highly unlikely based on the data I’ve seen, plus the last few hundred years of history. It seems your entire viewpoint here is based on your opposition to same sex marriage?

I believe treating fellow human beings with respect and dignity is far more important than concerns about harming the abstract concept of marriage. I think it’s irresponsible to put abstract concepts on a pedestal and use that as a justification to deny others happiness.

When a “concept” is endangered, I’m always going to come down on the side of real human beings. I would argue that broadening marriage to include same sex couples makes it a more inclusive and more loving institution, which is central to the concept of marriage. After all, without love, what kind of marriage do you have? :two_hearts:

By denying other people, other real actual human beings, public recognition of the love they share, you are doing more damage to the “institution” of marriage than any same sex couple ever could. Love is important, you say, but only the right kind of love, by the right kind of people. What kind of love is that?

If this boils down to “my God can beat up your God”, then so be it. My God will see your God on the playground at 3pm and we’ll find out who’s right. Be there or be square!


Jeff, to quote Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it?

In order to understand if we are harming marriage, we need to understand what marriage is, what the purpose of it is, what function does it serve. Love is not central to the concept of marriage. Love has never been a requirement for marriage. People get married who are not in love, people fall out of love and stay married, and people can fall in love while they are married. Falling out of love has never been legal grounds for divorce. However, the inability or unwillingness to consummate the union has always been grounds for divorce or annulment. And to consummate a marriage, you need a functioning man and a woman. You ask “without love, what kind of marriage do you have?” The answer is simple: a loveless marriage. But it is still a marriage. Without a man and woman, there is not a marriage at all. A man, a woman, and children are central to marriage, not love. As I wrote above children are the very reason marriage exists at all.

(Another reason we know that marriage is about children is that same-sex marriage advocates were not satisfied with civic unions that gave them every legal benefit of marriage except adoption. We could have created new contracts - “love unions” - that were identical to marriage in every way except for children, and this would not have been satisfactory.)

Why is marriage a permanent contract? Why don’t we have term-limited marriage contracts? Why is marriage an exclusive contract? Why is infidelity grounds for divorce? If marriage is about love between consulting adults, why should it be permanent? Why should it be limited to two people? Are you against plural marriage? If so, are you denying happiness to people who love more than one person? These questions and many more must be thought about and answered before we can honestly say what will or will not harm marriage.

Now regardless of what marriage is, perhaps you don’t care about it and its purpose, only the desires of consenting adults. As you stated, you come down on the “side of real human beings” over the institution of marriage. This is a fine sentiment, but there are other human beings you have forgotten about: children. Children are the reason marriage exists in the first place, not the emotional well-being or self-actualization of adults. Same-sex marriage necessarily entails same-sex adoption, and worse, the production of children to specifically satisfy the emotional needs, the happiness, of same-sex couples – the commodification of children. To knowingly, willfully, purposefully deprive a child of his natural mother or father is, to put it mildly, not a nice thing to do. It is certainly not “treating a fellow human being with respect and dignity.”

It takes nothing away from the nobility of adoptive parents or single parents to recognize this. No single mother looking out for the best interests of her child, is pleased the child does not have a father in his life. Adoptive parents recognize that their child has experienced a loss, the very reason the child is available to be adopted. To purposely create that loss, however, is a morally suspect act – unless – unless one believes that men and women, as male and female members of the species bring nothing to the table, and furthermore that blood relationship is meaningless – that a mother is as happy to take home a random baby from the hospital nursery as she is her own blood.

And it is not only the produced children of same-sex couples that are harmed. By undermining marriage itself, by necessarily destroying motherhood and fatherhood, same-sex marriage harms all children. Broadcasting that fathers are dispensable leads to more divorce, more single parents, more fatherless boys.

As for “my God will see your God on the playground”, reason, logic, history and biology are more than sufficient to make the case that same-sex marriage changes everything. The implications of same-sex marriage cannot be logically denied. The destruction of motherhood and fatherhood, the destruction of the concept of male and female, the commodification of children, the acceptance of plural marriage, all follow inexorably. These implications may be welcomed or feared, but they cannot be logically denied.


This post follows a disconcertingly propagandist formula:

  1. Introduce the topic of racism using an example (Neg. Shouldn’t be allowed to vote) which most readers would indeed consider racist
  2. Later, introduce a more controversial (in other words, conceivably less racist or non-racist) example, that is Nextdoor users posting along the lines of “Dark-skinned man broke in to car”
  3. Present Nextdoor’s censorship as a common-sense solution which no sane person could possibly disagree
  4. Present the censorship of any public discourse that is any way even remotely “racist”, even when the poster discloses their real name and address, as a positive force in society.

Hello Silicon Valley… we are a big country, and not everyone shares the same values. Thank you for reading.


No, children are the reason sex exists. And sex has been doing quite well for itself so far as an institution.

It isn’t, and never was. Look around you. Read about divorce rates.

“I no longer wish to be married” is grounds for divorce as well.

No, they do not.


Jeff, I am glad to see you recognize that children are the reason sex exists, though I imagine stating this today among one’s friends and co-workers might impair one’s social standing. However, sex is a biological function, not a human institution, and children being the reason for sex in no way negates the proposition that children are the reason that marriage exists. These two things are not mutually exclusive. What, then, is the origin of marriage, if not children? Why has marriage across all time and culture, even culture that celebrated homosexual love, been the union of a man and a woman? Why has failure to consummate been grounds for divorce if children are not the reason for marriage?

And yes, marriage is a permanent contract, despite the fact that many marriage contracts are broken. Try going home and asking your wife: “honey, how would you feel if we had a 3 year term on our marriage? If we both like the way things are going, we can renew the contract for another 3 year term after that. This is how I deal with my internet service provider, why should our arrangement be any different?” I would be prepared to be slapped in the face.

A marriage contract is unique in this regard. No other contract is valid with a lifetime term of the participants. Now it is certainly true that no-fault divorce has considerably weakened marriage, but no one, yet, is suggesting term limited marriages. Why is that? Because a term limit obviously makes the entire concept of marriage meaningless. (Just as same-sex “marriage” does, by the way).

You dismiss my argument that same-sex “marriage” makes acceptance of plural marriage, among other things, inevitable. But you make no case. How will you defend marriage against a man and two women who want to be married? A threesome that can, according to the news last week, actually produce a child that shares all of their DNA? What arguments will you present to them to deny them happiness and their “right” to marriage? In order to make any reasonable argument you must have some working definition of what marriage is, and why their particular union should be denied the status of marriage. You have summarily jettisoned at least two of the pillars of the traditional definition of marriage. Are you confidant that you can stand firmly on those that remain? Do you even know what they are? Perhaps more importantly, why would you even want to defend marriage against plural unions?


Great update on Nextdoor:

The point was to add friction to the process—to make users stop and think just enough to be purposeful in their actions, without making Nextdoor so laborious to use that it drove them away.

Exactly the way I design software as well: https://blog.codinghorror.com/training-your-users/

There is more to do:

Not everyone feels that way. Neighbors for Racial Justice believes that Nextdoor isn’t doing enough. From a technical perspective, they’re right—both Mohit and Tolia tell me this. For one, although a significant number of members use the service on their phones, Nextdoor hasn’t fully rolled out similar measures to prevent people from describing potential miscreants only by race in its iOS and Android apps yet. (The company says it has completed a design.) Also, much of the discussion that occurs in the crime and safety category doesn’t happen in the company’s carefully calibrated posts — it takes place in the comments that respond to those posts. Nextdoor hasn’t yet found a way to monitor those conversation threads for racial profiling. “We need to figure out a way to create friction in those modalities as well,” says Tolia.


I also got this when signing up for Airbnb, which was nice.

(I had some kind of problem with my old account and I could no longer log into it, so I had to create a new one…)


Statistically speaking, old people are significantly less progressive, even on issues that I consider extremely clear cut, like is it OK for a relative to marry someone of a different race? I mean, who answers that with a “no”?

Considering 65 and older is far and away the biggest bar on this chart, I’m going with my original hypothesis.

(Also quite sad is “republican” at 16%. That’s awful. So a 65+ year old republican…)


More news on this front, from June of this year. Big jump from boomers which is nice to see.