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Racist Birds and Woke Conservatories: Ken Ham’s Colorblind Racism Knows No (Logical) Bounds | Righting America

by William Trollinger 

A black woodpecker with a red plume stands at a tree.
An acorn woodpecker in an affluent section of Los Angeles. 2023: Genaro Molina, LATimes.

Ken Ham’s obsession with denying structural racism has gone completely off the rails. 

Take, for example, his bizarre response to a Los Angeles Times article that discusses how there are remarkable contrasts in bird species in different parts of Los Angeles, as “wealthier, and typically whiter, areas attract a larger and more diverse population of birds.” Drawing upon an article in Ornithological Applications, the author points out that 

the difference in bird populations [in Los Angeles] is a lasting consequence of racist home lending practices from decades ago, as well as modern wealth disparities.

So here we have a fascinating, sobering, and powerful article that draws upon a wonderfully researched study. More than this, it builds upon decades of scholarly work that has demonstrated the long-term impact of historical redlining and contemporary maldistribution of wealth in America.   

Ok, this is one response to this article. Then there’s the response from Ken Ham. In an Answers in Genesis (AiG) blog post entitled “Is the Los Angeles Bird Population Racist?” – no, I am not joking – Ham argues that 

those who look at the world only through the lens of so-called race will see racism everywhere – even observing “remarkably segregated” birds! Such ideas are permeating our culture.

What? What is Ham talking about? Does noticing the effects of historic housing discrimination equal birds that are racist? Is this what counts as a logical argument in the world of AiG apologetics

Not satisfied with inanities about racist birds, Ham goes on to assert that:

This kind of thinking can now be found everywhere – from bird studies like this to which classical music is selected for students to learn to play. I was recently speaking with a piano and voice teacher who has a passion for high-quality music education. He shared that progressivism has completely overwhelmed the fine arts, including music, to the point where the standard canon of Western classical music (think Bach, Beethoven, Handel, etc.) is being ignored in favor of only [Ham’s emphasis] minority or underprivileged group music (so music isn’t selected based on merit or even historic value but on intersectionality).

There is so much to be said here:

  • In contrast with the nicely researched LA Times article, there is no evidence here, there is no listing of all the conservatories that teach only “minority or underprivileged group music,” there is no listing of all the major symphony orchestras that play only “minority or underprivileged group music.” This article was supposedly “written with the assistance of AiG’s research team”; surely this research team had an hour or two to list all of the conservatories and all of the major symphony orchestras that have eliminated from their syllabi and from their repertoires music by white male composers.
  • In contrast with Ham and his “research” team, I spent 15 minutes on the website of the famous Juilliard School. There I found a statement by the Dean of the Music Division, in which he notes that we are “taking important steps to broaden our knowledge by creating a faculty-research list of works by Black composers to embrace and work toward a more representative world of classical music.” So is that the problem? Noticing that for centuries the classical music world shut out composers (and conductors) who were people of color (not to mention women)? That is to say, is the point that Ham and AiG hate seeing anyone disturbing the white male (and unrepresentative) classical music world?
  • And it is here where Ham’s racism becomes more blatant. Once that you decide to intentionally include classical music by people who have been traditionally left out (that is, people of color and  women) you will end up with music that “isn’t selected based on merit or even historic value but on intersectionality.” Not very subtle, Ken.

(Side note: according to article #29 (!!) in the AiG Statement of Faith, “the concepts of ‘social justice,’ ‘intersectionality’ (my emphasis), and ‘critical race theory’ as defined in modern terminology are anti-biblical and destructive to human flourishing (Ezekiel 18:1-20; James 2: 8-9).” Of course these Bible verses have virtually nothing to say about rejecting social justice, intersectionality, and critical race theory . . . and I say of course because article #29 is not about aligning with biblical faith, but, instead, about aligning with MAGA politics.)  

In a recent talk at the First Baptist Church in Columbia, Missouri, historian Jemar Tisby – speaking to a predominantly white audience – asserted that 

If I could get all the White Christians in the room – all of you, all together – and I could teach you one thing, it would be that racism is not solely an issue of attitudes or interpersonal relationships, but racism has its doing in institutional manifestations . . . [But] that’s controversial for a lot of people. That’s what they’re arguing against when they cry ‘critical race theory’ or ‘wokeism.’ They don’t want to deal with the systemic aspects of racism.”

Yep. That’s Ken Ham and AiG. They are resolutely determined not to see systemic racism. 

Instead, how about those racist birds and woke conservatories?