Talking Taboo

Hold my Drink Podcast Blog, Episode 33

My friend wrote me in distress. What started as a pleasant morning in sunny San Diego devolved into a bitter argument that lingered on in his heart. How can we live free of dogma when dogma is intertwined into the very fabric of family relationships, he asked.

This particular incident started with the passing of a blue lives rally on a leisurely weekend drive. The contentious conversation on policing and race has not only affected national public discourse, but also has made its way into our relationships on a micro level. He reached out to me not just because we write together on this and other crises in our current national unraveling, but because he knew that as a wife of a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO), I could relate. All of a sudden, the thin blue line flag that we hung to commemorate fallen officers in Dallas, made us a target. Almost overnight, we were labeled “white supremacists” and slept with a fire extinguisher next to the bed after numerous trespasses.

Wilfred Reilly speaks truth into this chaos. He tempers the discourse with objective reality and collects data on these and other narratives to moderate the collective outrage. Of course, in a world of subjective lived experiences masquerading as universal truth, his message is often submerged, especially among the proponents of Critical Race Theory (who are sometimes referred to as “Crits” in this discussion). These proponents, he notes, are a narrow but loud band of namely white elites.

Into this chaos emerge new slogans and a redefinition of old terms that further muddy the waters. For example, the term racism has morphed into competing definitions that often speak across each other. And what about the confluence in our national discourse on equity and equality? We often use these terms interchangeably, but they mean very different things across the ideological spectrum. Reilly suggests three solutions to any discussion. First, define your terms. This is a basic debate strategy. Second, uncover facts and explore the data. And third, when all else fails, don’t engage bullies.

Easier said than done we know, and in our discussion, we add a few more ingredients into the mix. With 300,000 words in the English language, relying on the 30 or so slogan words that dominate the public narrative seems reductive. Slogan words turn us into avatars and caricatures of our tribal affinities, robbing us of our authentic selves. Authenticity is kryptonite to a revolutionary movement that leans on the masses, dumbing us all down with select words that keep us in the good graces of our targeted in-group. Only objective thought and conversation can move us beyond the tribal.

Specifically, we ask why are we hyper-focused only on oppression, a ubiquitous and deliberate slogan word, in the black American story and in our public discourse? We are in a moment when black thought and circumstance is hemmed in by a handful of slogans that dismiss complexity and nuance. Reilly’s response was so insightful and yet so simple – There is nothing a revolutionary hates more than a competent leader who wants to make moral changes to the system. When the goal of the revolutionary is to replace the system, mere reform is unacceptable. Reform, versus overhaul, may actually mean we won’t need Kendi’s prescribed Department of Equity and revolutionaries are not in the business of fixing the system, but crushing it.

Reilly’s 3-pronged prescription for discourse seems so elementary, and yet it would involve introducing uncomfortable complexities into our dialogue. We long for the simple comforts of our beloved slogans. However, as Reilly notes, as long as we make some topics taboo through the weaponization of slogans and language, and remain cowed to speak openly and objectively, nonsense will prevail.


In the Hold my Drink — navigating the news and politics with a chaser of civility — and Counterweight podcast, Episode 33, we speak with Wilfred Reilly, a Political Science Professor at Kentucky State University and author of the book Taboo. Reilly is a master of assessing and debunking current narratives on race and identity with quantitative and comparative analysis using factual data. In essence, he gives language and insight around many issues that have become taboo in our society, including policing and race in America. In this episode we discuss the taboo, the spread of critical social justice theories and Reilly’s optimism that we can move beyond this moment of cultural revolution with an emphasis on objective reality. All discussed with a chaser of civility of course, and some Kentucky bourbon libations.

Hold My Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we discuss what it takes to imagine a new American identity, together.

Find us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or watch the conversation unfold on YouTube, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


What Wilfred is Reading

Maverick: Jason Riley on the Life and Times of Thomas Sowell, Hoover Institute, YouTube

How Informed are Americans about Race and Policing?Skeptic Research Center, February 20, 2021

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Resigns After Months of Money Controversies, The Federalist, Jordan Davidson

The Infinity War Comic Series, Marvel

What Jen & Wink are Reading

Taboo: 10 Facts [You Can’t Talk About], Wilfred Reilly

Did the BLM Protests Against the Police Lead to the 2020 Spike in Homicides?Quillette, Wilfred Reilly

Crime Against Asians Isn’t Due to White Supremacy, Commentary, Wilfred Reilly

Star Trek (1969) Season 3, Episode 21, The Cloud Minders


Wilfred Reilly is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University, and the author of the books "Taboo: 10 Facts You Can't Talk About,' "Hate Crime Hoax," and "The $50,000,000 Question." He is currently working on the upcoming project "Alt-Wrongs: an American Case against Racial Nationalism," as well as sketching out a book looking at the transgender, gender-fluid, and Otherkin communities and the idea of flexible identity. Reilly has published pieces in Academic Questions, Commentary, Quillette, and a number of other journals and magazines. His research interests include international relations and the prevention of war, contemporary American race relations, and the use of modern quantitative methods to test "sacred cow" theories such as the existence of widespread white privilege. Off work, he enjoys dogs, archery, basketball, Asian cooking, and beer. Reilly has been described, by himself, as "the greatest mind of a generation."