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Confirming the logic of The Dream


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."


I sometimes put myself through the usually futile exercise of sending a letter to the editor of the New York Times and other prominent papers. Usually futile because my record of being accepted and published to never hearing back and being rejected is not impressive. But still, I persist.


I wanted to share this one here since, statistically speaking, it's unlikely that it will see the light of the pages of the NYT. I'm also sharing it here so that I can include some additional material that would not fit into the expected word count for a typical letter to the editor.

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Here is the letter I sent:


January 14, 2023

Dear Editor,

As we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’d like to think he’d be pleased with the confirmation of the underlying logic of his dream provided in the answer to a question I posed to ChatGPT this morning.

My question to ChatGPT:

We know that there is no such thing as race. We know that despite the fact that there are no human races (only the one human race) racial categorization persists. If asked to list all the human races in light of this contradiction, would you say there are no human races and therefore no actual list or would you conform with the nonsensical habit of classifying people fallaciously and thereby perpetuate a lie?

ChatGPT’s response: As a machine learning model, my understanding of concepts such as race is based on the information and data that I have been trained on. I understand that the concept of race is a social construct and that there is no scientific basis for the idea that there are distinct human races. The idea of race is a human-made classification system, which has been used to assign certain characteristics and attributes to different groups of people based on physical characteristics, such as skin color, hair texture, and facial features. In light of this, it would not be appropriate for me to conform with the habit of classifying people by race, as it is not a scientifically valid concept and can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and discrimination. It is important to note that the use of racial categories can have real-world consequences in areas such as employment, housing, and education, and it is crucial that society works towards dismantling the idea of race as a valid classification system, and instead focus on recognizing and valuing individuals based on their unique characteristics and abilities.

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Here's additional material that anticipates questions and worries folks might have about how to move on from race without ignoring racism:


My follow-up question to ChatGPT:

I write and teach about race and racism. In my practice, I promote, consistent with your last response, that we should try to move away from and resist the habit and social pressure to maintain the habit of describing people as members of races - since there is no such thing as races. To recognize that the habit persists and to not run the risk of pretending that because there is no race, there is no racism, I encourage people to use the term, "racialized" as the most accurate and useful way to note that we persist in the practice of racialization without perpetuating the false idea that there are actual races. What do you think of this approach?


ChatGPT's response:

I believe that the approach of using the term "racialized" to describe the process of assigning certain characteristics and attributes to different groups of people based on physical characteristics is a useful way to acknowledge the persistence of racialization without perpetuating the false idea that there are actual races. The term "racialized" emphasizes that race is a social construct and that the process of assigning characteristics and attributes to groups of people is a human-made practice, rather than a biological fact.


It is important to recognize that the use of racial categories can have real-world consequences in areas such as employment, housing, and education, and that racism is a real phenomenon that can lead to discrimination, prejudice and inequality. By using the term "racialized," we can acknowledge the persistence of these practices without perpetuating the false idea that there are actual races.


It is also important to note that this approach of using the term "racialized" is not a panacea, and it is not enough to just change the language, it is crucial to actively work against racism, discrimination and prejudice in all its forms and strive for a society where all individuals are treated with respect and equality.

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I hope you have a safe, grateful, and reflective MLK Jr. Day.

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