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Victor Davis Hanson’s Tuesday column “Facing Facts About Race,” published at the National Review Online website, continues to draw commentary. I passed some brief remarks myself here at VDARE.com the day it appeared.
Since most of the subsequent commentary points out the undeniable parallels between Prof. Hanson’s NRO column and one that I published on TakiMag last April titled “The Talk, Nonblack Version”—the piece that caused National Review to drop me from their contributor lists—I thought I’d say something more substantive.
The first thing I’ll say—I see no reason to strike a pose of false modesty—is that Prof. Hanson’s piece isn’t half as good as mine. As web opinion journalism, in fact, it isn’t very good at all.
For example: My piece contained 37 hyperlinks, most of them to sites supporting some statement of fact I made. Prof. Hanson’s piece contains no links at all. Nor did his NRO editors bother to add any. (The weekly columns I send in to VDARE.com always contain lots of links; but the VDARE editors invariably add more, and sometimes upgrade the ones I’ve included to better, more apt ones. That’sediting.)
And then, right there in Hanson’s paragraph 2, we get some wobbliness with the facts.
Pace the president, the Zimmerman case was not about Stand Your Ground laws.
Here’s what the President said:
I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the stand your ground laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.
Having said that, of course, the President indeed went ahead and talked about SYG anyway (apparently oblivious to the fact that these laws disproportionately favor blacks!). But he had at least conceded, albeit in passive-aggressive, self-referential Obamaese, that Florida’s SYG laws not having been used in George Zimmerman’s defense was a “fact.” Which is not what you would gather from reading Prof. Hanson.
There followed some Hanson speculations on the President’s reasons for speaking, none of them one-tenth as penetrating—let alone as witty—as Steve Sailer’s riff on the speech.
Then—The Talk! Prof. Hanson writes:
Attorney General Eric Holder earlier gave an address to the NAACP on the Zimmerman trial…Holder noted in lamentation that he had to repeat to his own son the lecture that his father long ago gave him. The sermon was about the dangers of police stereotyping of young black males.
That gives Prof. Hanson a segue into his version of “The Talk, Nonblack Version”—hence the comparisons with my April 2012 piece.
After suffering some similar experiences of his own, Prof. Hanson tells us, “I offered a similar lecture to my own son.”
He hastens to assure us that the lecture contained “constant reminders to judge a man on his merits, not on his class or race.”
Any individual black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonblack citizen. That is basic good manners and good citizenship . . . While always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals…
It does no good. You may as well not bother. I won’t, in future.
Prof. Hanson further assures us that: “The advice was born out of experience rather than subjective stereotyping.”
Actually, notions we infer from experience are closer to subjective stereotyping than to objective stereotyping, which relies on rigorous statistics, a branch of the mathematical sciences.
A careful study of differential crime rates by race, for instance, would lead one to objective stereotyping, a perfectly sound and rational foundation for action, one on which, in fact, quite large and important zones of human activity—industrial quality control, for example—depend for their efficacy.
I tried to base my own advice to my kids on objective stereotyping—the good, rational kind.
Prof. Hanson’s column actually perks up a bit after that—we’re about halfway—as he goes off into general observations about the racial situation in today’s U.S.A. Many of these observations are spot on:
There is no evidence in our increasingly self-segregated society that white liberals stand out as integrationists. [They] increasingly have the capital to school their children far from the inner city, to live largely apart from inner-city blacks, and in general to avoid the black underclass in the concrete as much as they profess liberal nostrums for it in the abstract.
True, even if not original: Joe Sobran said the same thing thirty years ago. Men more often need reminding than instructing, though. And I doubt any of the Young Republicans running NRO ever heard of Joe Sobran. “One of those old conservative guys? Eiuw!”
But there are still one or two nits I’d pick in that second half of Hanson’s column:
First, America is now a multiracial nation. The divide is not white versus black.
Wrong: So far as racial hostility is concerned, most of the divide iswhite versus black. The race issue in America is a tadpole, with black/nonblack the mighty head and everything else an inconsequential tail.
In per capita intensity of feeling, black hatred of nonblacks is about an 8 out of 10, nonblack dislike of blacks about a 3 or 4, and any other antagonism you care to name—Hispanic hostility to East Asians,Hmong feelings about Native Americans, whatever—well down below 1.
And in the sheer amount of sturm und drang generated, the conflict is,as I keep telling you, really just between two big blocs of white people who loathe each other, the liberal bloc recruiting nonwhites as not-much-trusted support troops—a Cold Civil War. As Prof. Hanson said, the liberal bloc personally avoids the great mass of blacks as much as they can—except when a latrine trench needs digging.
First out of the gate (I think) in responding to Prof. Hanson’s piece was professional black person Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic. After a couple of shots at spelling Prof. Hanson’s surname correctly (I wonder if he can read cursive?) Mr. Coates gets to his main point: the advice offered in Prof. Hanson’s Talk is “stupid.”
If I were to tell you that I only employ Asian-Americans to do my taxes because “Asian-Americans do better on the Math SAT,” you would not simply question my sensitivity, but my mental faculties.
No, I wouldn’t. I’d think it was a bit extreme to only employ As-Ams; but if I need to make a quick choice from half a dozen candidates to do my taxes, and the ceteris are all paribus, it would be logical and sensible to choose the candidate from a group exhibiting high average math skills.
(My own tax accountant, for the record, is of British and German ancestry. He’s been doing a great job for me over a decade and more. Thanks, guy!)
And people with intact mental faculties surely do behave like that. This is from Tom Wolfe’s eerily prescient 1987 novel Bonfire of the Vanities, Chapter 18:
“You don’t see too many black guys in Legal Aid.”
“That’s not true. There’s quite a few . . . But the big-time black wiseguys, the drug dealers, they don’t want a black lawyer representing them. The small-timers don’t, either. One time I was in the pens, and this black lawyer from the [assigned counsel pool] comes in looking for the client he’s been assigned, and he starts yelling out his name. You know the way they yell out the names in the pens. Anyway, the guy he’s been assigned is black, and he comes walking over to the bars, and he looks this guy in the eye and he says, ‘Get lost, mother—I want a Jew.’”
All right, it’s a novel. Wolfe’s a damn good journalist, though, and I’ll bet—I speak as someone who’s sat at dinner with the man several times—that episode was taken from life.
We then get some of what I think of privately as “ballistics tennis.”
One way to teach a person to play tennis would be to come at it through mathematical ballistics: train the student to solve chains of simultaneous differential equations in his head real fast so he’d know where to be when the ball arrives.
Another way is to supply a handful of general rules: A lob doesn’t have much spin…Hit it where they ain’t…Low ball, low backswing…Don’t over-run the ball…etc.
Coates wants his kids to play ballistics tennis:
When you start getting down to particular neighborhoods the advice gets even more specific—don’t cut through the woods to get to school, stay away from Jermaine Wilks, don’t got to Mondawmin on the first hot day of the year, etc.
Yo, Ta-Nehisi: Life’s too short! For much of it your kids just need a few easily-internalized rules, not AP calculus. Like: stay well clear of crowds of unfamiliar blacks.
Might application of those rules leave someone with hurt feelings? Probably. So in this pan we have some stranger’s hurt feelings. In the other pan, we have our kids’ safety. What’s the beam doing, Ta-Nehisi?
I’m not quite sure why they bothered with the kabuki. You are what your record says you are and at some point one must conclude that these are not one-offs, that the magazine which once blamed the Birmingham bombing on “a crazed Negro,” is dealing with something more systemic, something bone-deep.
That had me, as the kids tweet, ROFLMAO. That the staff at National Review nurse “bone-deep” ill will towards blacks is about as probable as that a Stockbridge, Mass. ladies’ quilting circle is secretly practicing cannibalism.
It is true, of course, that NR folk personally avoid blacks as much as they can. But since that is true of middle-class American non-blacks in general, they are not thus remarkable in any way.
It is also true that in my twelve years’ of association with the place, NRemployed , to the best of my recollection, just one black person…in the mail room.
I’d cut them some slack there, too, though. Any black intelligent and well-educated enough to do useful work for NR will b e Affirmative-Actioned up into far more interesting and remunerative work at a bigger organization—the Wall Street Journal, perhaps, or one of the cable TV operations. This also was foretold in my April 2012 column:
(15) Unfortunately the demand is greater than the supply, so IWSBs [i.e. intelligent and well-socialized blacks] are something of a luxury good, like antique furniture or corporate jets: boasted of by upper-class whites and wealthy organizations, coveted by the less prosperous.
NR falls into the “less prosperous” category.
The practical choice for a small “conservative” outfit like NR is to hire in substandard blacks for the sake of appearances, or to resign itself to an all-white workforce. It speaks well of the magazine’s honesty that they choose the latter course.
During my own spell there, National Review was as race-shy as an NPR staff cafeteria. Around the editorial table, the subject of race rarely came up.
That was the general tenor of the place, at least. Across the years there were some minor variations worth recording. They were driven from outside, though, not by editorial policy aforethought.
Generally speaking, National Review scurried along obediently, perhaps unconsciously, with the zeitgeist.
Let me try to explain that. Under systems of strict ideological control there are always alternating spells of greater or lesser strictness. Citizens of totalitarian countries develop exquisite sensitivity to these fluctuations.
To keep your feet in a totalitarian system you need to sense the ideological temperature to a fraction of a degree. Your career—in the worst of times, your actual life—depends on being able to do so.
“Shall there be a student dance this year?” I asked the college students I was teaching in post-Mao China. “No, not this year,” I was told. “Fengr bu hao.” [The wind is not right.]
So it is for the editors of a conservative magazine in Jim Snow America. Here you can apply our (mine and Peter Brimelow’s) theory of an “interglacial” period of comparatively frank talk about race, lasting from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s.
Thus I was able, as late as 2005, to publish a piece in the print National Review about Bruce Lahn’s findings on the geographic distribution of gene variants affecting brain ontogeny. I doubt the piece would have passed muster at any much later date. (Lahn himself, feeling the cold wind rising, changed his field of research shortly afterwards. So far as I can discover he has published nothing on brain evolution since 2008.)
By the beginning of this decade the glaciers had come rumbling back with a vengeance.
For example: Since January 2002 I had been submitting a monthly diary of random short comments to National Review Online. At the end of February 2011 I duly sent in my diary for that month. It included a segment on the destruction of Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance conference that month by the mayor of Charlotte, NC—an exceptionally nasty case of political bullying.
You can read the segment in my archives here. I had some measured words to say about the shameful, cowardly silence on the incident among conservative outlets, without any particular reference to NR. In fact, of course, I was hoping to break that shameful silence on NR’s behalf.
(There was silence among liberal outlets too, but that was to be expected. The only news coverage I could find was local. The Charlotte Observer, for example, did a story; but the story has since disappeared from their archives.)
When my diary was published on NRO, that entire segment was omitted. This rather made my point about the pusillanimity of official conservatism. But of course it only made it to me.
The notion that National Review is a hotbed of barely-disguised race realism is, therefore, beyond preposterous. Jared Taylor is more likely to be elected President of Equatorial Guinea than he is to be invited to address a National Review editorial dinner.
More’s the pity, say I. But the main point here: Ta-Nehisi Coates is a gibbering idiot.
Hey, Ta-Nehisi—we need that trench dug over here. Jump to it!
Next up was Andrew Sullivan. [It’s Not Racist … , DailyDish, July 23 2013]
He agreed with Coates that the Hanson piece was “stupid”…but wanted to top Coates’ judgment. It was, Sullivan declared, “spectacularly stupid.”
Nyah nyah, he’s stupid! No, he’s real stupid!
While I’ve been writing this and getting it posted, no doubt several other lefty bloggers have put their oar in. What are we up to now, I wonder? Sensationally stupid? World-shakingly stupid? Cosmicallystupid?
Hey—who wrote that on my locker?
Sullivan also took the ballistics tennis approach to the next level:
It puts the race/gender/age category before all other obvious contexts: neighborhood, street, school, college, inner city, distant suburb, daytime, night, crowded places, dark streets, and the actual observed behavior of the young black man.
That same page also listed “black guys” among Sullivan’s “turn-ons.” Nothing race-prejudiced about ol’ Andy!…although (judging by the “turn-offs” he lists on the pick-up site) the Fat Acceptance crowd may have a beef with him. As it were.
Just how much objectivity about the race issue should we expect from a guy who sits at home evenings hoping for strange black men to come round and bugger him?
Sullivan goes on to compare my April 2012 column unfavorably with Hanson’s. The comparison is weakened considerably by his opening with a lie.
The difference is that Derbyshire tells his children to avoid all“blacks,” while Hanson focuses on advising his children solely about young black men. Any young black men they don’t know.
Leaving aside the sarcasm quotes around “blacks”—unaccountably absent in the “turn-ons” section of that self-advertisement—the thing first stated there is false. Not only did I not advise that, I advised the opposite:
(13)…You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.
There is not much point arguing with Sullivan, though. Who reads him, anyway? Other, I mean, than “uncut guys with over 8 inches.” In the matter of Sullivan, at least, I agree with the late Larry Auster: the man is mentally diseased.
There is more commentary demanding counter-commentary, but my eyes are growing heavy. I am weary—after all these months, veryweary. I am weary of:
- instructing people in the difference between the words “some” and “all”;
- listening to people who think they can function in the world for 24 hours without committing an act of stereotyping;
- trying to explain the meaning of “average”;
- reading the effusions of plump (or in Sullivan’s case, buff) metropolitan elite types who have no clue what it is like to live in a downwardly-mobile lower-middle-class estate like The Retreat At Twin Lakes in Sanford, FL;
- responding on matters of race to people who won’t bother to acquaint themselves with the most elementary facts of biology and paleoanthropology;
- hearing that “more whites than blacks are on welfare” (in related news, an astonishingly small amount of welfare payments go to ambidextrous red-heads!) (and the thing is not even true as stated!!);
- or that blacks and nonblacks use drugs at the same rate but blacks get arrested at higher rates;
- taking lectures about racial diversity from celebrities who live in 99 percent-nonblack towns.
I’m weary of it all.
I’m signing off and going to drink some Old Crow.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimismand several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.