David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

America Isn’t a Colorblind Meritocracy. Why Are So Many of Us Still Pretending it Is?

What will it take for the United States to overcome entrenched issues pertaining to race and socioeconomic status? According to poet and educator Clint Smith, the U.S. needs to be honest with itself about cultural myths (meritocracy, equal treatment by authorities, etc.) that don't actually exist.

Clint Smith: I think in this country we have an issue with being honest with ourselves. We have an issue with being honest about who we are, what has transpired in the course of our history to marginalize groups of people. And I think what often happens is that we get a diluted or myopic or a very one-dimensional perspective on what is taking place over the course of our nation’s history. I remember receiving the news when Tamir Rice was killed, the 12-year-old boy in Cleveland who was shot for, in part, playing with a toy gun. The police killed him within two seconds of pulling up in the car. And it immediately brought me back to a moment in my own childhood when I was playing with the water guns and my father came and told me that I couldn’t do that. That that was unacceptable. And I didn’t really understand. I was frustrated. I was embarrassed that my father would do that in front of my friends. I knew that he was the strict dad. I called him after Tamir Rice had been killed and I had a conversation and I told him I understand now. I understand now in a way that I didn’t understand before. And thank you even when I was kicking and screaming and saying that you were mean and strict and wouldn’t let me, you know, have fun or be a kid. I recognized that these were hard decisions for you to make.

So many people in black community, you know, black men in particular grew up having the talk and getting the talk, so to speak, from their parents. But I remember having conversations with some of my white friends and realizing that there was no notion of ever having to have a conversation about how to interact with police about who you are in the context of the larger criminal justice system. We can’t move forward, I think, and have an honest conversation about race in this country unless we’re grounding these conversations in an understanding of how each of, us among our differences, navigate the world and understand, you know, potentially see the same thing, but understand it differently. We have this sort of rugged individualism, this meritocracy, you know, that we are told we exist in when that’s not really the case. And that, you know, we have a lot of different people who are starting from very different places in life as a result of their class, as a result of their gender, as a result of their race. And we have a difficult time as Americans, I think, contextualizing that and understanding the sort of socio-historical realities that have shaped our contemporary existence. And so I think it’s hard for us to be honest about where we are if we’re not honest about where we’ve come from.


What will it take for the United States to overcome entrenched issues pertaining to race and socioeconomic status? According to Clint Smith, a National Poetry Slam champion and doctoral candidate at Harvard, the U.S. needs to be honest with itself about cultural myths (meritocracy, equal treatment by authorities, etc.) that don't actually exist. The killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice had a profound impact on Smith and further opened his eyes to the different social experiences and challenges faced by African-Americans. If the goal is to achieve a truer form of equality and egalitarianism, half the country needs to stop blindly pretending those differences aren't there.

LIVE TOMORROW | Jordan Klepper: Comedians vs. the apocalypse

Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

LGBTQ+ community sees spike in first-time depression in wake of coronavirus​

Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
  • Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
  • The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Keep reading Show less

The mind-blowing science of black holes

What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.

  • When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
  • A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
  • Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less