Thank you for your letter about the racism and sexism you face in the rationality community. It was refreshing to read something so spontaneous, unguarded and indiscreet.
Specific language is superior to vague language. I applaud that you did not use the words "racism" and "sexism". That is my own word choice. You were concrete in your grievances, but you sent the details to me in confidence. Alas, it is not my prerogative to publicize your private life here. Instead, I will speak from my own experience.
It frustrates me when people say "I don't see people in terms of race". I empathize with where they're coming from. Talking about race isn't any fun when you belong to the ethnic majority. Racial pride slips easily into prejudice. It is risky even to tell jokes.
In such a situation, I understand the temptation to close your eyes, plug your ears and shout "Lalala". But pretending something doesn't exist doesn't make it go away. The map is not the territory.
The phrase keep your identity small is a good thing to tell yourself when your identity is trivial and superficial. It is a harmful, insensitive thing to tell a discriminated-against minority when you are a member of the majority.
Asian-Americans are overtly discriminated against. A year ago, at a time of social unrest, people took the opportunity to attack businesses in my city's Chinatown. The restaurants' windows are still boarded up. I took extra hours at my job for no pay to free up a coworker's hours so he could lead a nightly patrol.
A single night of broken glass isn't a big deal, historically-speaking. The United States hasn't imprisoned Asian-Americans in concentration camps since 1946. But it is absurd to say race doesn't matter in the United States when there are race quotas keeping Asian-Americans out of universities. Especially when you are in a formal academic context!
One of the great things Less Wrong does is provide refuge for people who grew up in conservative families, especially religious families.
The rationalist community is anti-conservative. Liberalism is a good thing when it motivates progress. Tradition should be thoughtfully questioned, but it should not be unthoughtfully disrespected.
The phrase "We should take what we can from religion and throw out the rest" jumps to my mind. On a utilitarian balance sheet, it looks good. But the cold numbers paper over a callous reality.
The Rationalist Community bears the torch lit by Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon worked for Elizabeth I of England in the first century of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Western power was constructed out of raw materials plundered from traditional communities.
For example, mindfulness meditation has been secularized and is being taught to many students with the religious framework removed. This is a good thing insofar as it produces calmer kids who can focus better.
But when you throw out the traditional framework it's easy to forget that meditative techniques were designed to produce mystical experiences. I experience energy surges and muscle spasms when I meditate. (This is perfectly normal if you're doing it right.) Meditation creates states of mind so powerful people used to think they were in the presence of God. I feel my sanity untangling while I stare into a Lovecraftian abyss. (Once again, this is perfectly normal if you're doing it right.) Secular mindfulness programs often throw out the safeguards protecting practitioners from Yog-Sothoth.
We can make a utilitarian argument for Chesterton's Fence. But we shouldn't have to. Thoughtfulness, courtesy and respect are a priori deontological values.
The rationalist community is very inclusive in some respects. Few communities are more hospitable to aspies, transpeople and mad scientists. At the same time, the rationalist community is overwhelmingly white, Western and AMAB (assigned male at birth). It is matter-of-course for such a homogeneous group to say…uninformed things…about non-white non-Western ciswomen.
Every extreme community is homogeneous in its own way. Breaking out of a bubble you don't know you're in is hard.