Of all the comments I read during the brouhaha over my April 5th Taki’s Mag column, one in particular stuck in my mind. I forgot to bookmark it and can’t recall where I read it, so I’m working from memory here. The gist was:
Multiracial societies are so boring. People waste so much time talking about race. In a monoracial society, that time is freed up for talk about money, sport, sex, politics.…
I think it’s a good point. An American or a Brit might justifiably cast the occasional envious glance at Japan, Iceland, Hungary, Uruguay, or any of the other nations whose citizens can pass from one year’s end to the next without attending a diversity sensitivity training seminar, watching ethnic-leadership hucksters whining on TV about “discrimination,” or having his intellect insulted by jurisprudential preposterosities such as “disparate impact.”
The occasional envious glance is all we can afford, though. The USA has been multiracial from the start, and we have never had any choice but to make the best of it, unless you think the American Colonization Society had realistic hopes of success (I don’t). Black and white Americans are stuck with each other, like an unhappy married couple in a Strindberg play.
(Britain is a different case: In one of history’s greatest acts of collective folly, the Brits voluntarily opened up their unique, ancient, introverted national culture to a rabble of Third World sadists and cultists. They are now choking on their folly, and it’s hard to have much sympathy.)
How has the USA done at making the best of it? Not too badly, I’d say, at least in the past few decades. You can even make an argument that the point we’ve arrived at is, in the many-dimensional space of social possibilities, a local maximum.
To puritanical souls such as myself, though, who are constitutionally unable to see the emperor’s new clothes, the current settlement—if it is a settlement—is irksome because it rests on a pack of lies: the lie that poverty causes crime, the lie that white people’s malice causes black poverty, the lie that race is a mere “social construct” with no biological reality, and so on.
We Puritans prefer to think that realistic candor will ultimately deliver a better result—a more stable and unified society—than all the formulaic lying, especially as advances in the biological sciences uncover more and more unwelcome truths to vex our self-deceptions. This is the point of view I myself have tried to propagate, plainly with only mixed success.
A good, evenhanded summary of the candor-and-realism point of view is now available from The Ulster Institute for Social Research. It is a little (142 pages) handbook titled Race and Equality: The Nature of the Debate by John Harvey, a retired British scholar. Very calmly and without any polemic, Harvey lays out what is known and unknown about the topics in his title. I can’t improve on the brief summary Harvey gives in his introduction:
In Chapter 1 our starting point is the concept of human equality, since this underlies so much social and political discussion.…Chapter 2 looks at genetic influences on the species as a whole, and on the behavior of individuals. It also considers what is meant by the differences between groups. Chapter 3 includes an introduction to the processes of evolution and examines the evidence for racial variation in species other than man. Chapter 4 is concerned specifically with human evolution over its tens of thousands of years.…Chapter 5 considers medicine and race, and the rapidly expanding use of DNA analysis in genealogy.…Chapter 6 looks at a selection of modern studies reporting on human racial variation. Chapter 7 suggests three underlying processes which may help to explain racial behavior, and Chapter 8 shows how the concept of race can provide students of human affairs with a powerful explanatory tool.…
It is, as I said, a handbook, going briskly through all the main points of interest: twin studies, genetic bottlenecks, “market-dominant minorities,” and so on.
If I have a quibble, it is that Harvey should have given the Lewontin Fallacy a good kick as he passed through his material. One still hears this fallacy from ignorant or willfully deceptive people, though it is very easily demolished. Harvey could have also given a thumbnail description of the Fixation Index, which isn’t that hard to understand. Henry Harpending does it with only a few nifty diagrams.
That’s only me quibbling, though. Race and Equality is a good contribution to the possibility of a rational discussion of this—for Americans—unavoidable issue, a blessed contrast to the girlish flushing and shrieking, the moral posturing and indignant denouncing, the staged temper tantrums and willful illogic of what passes for conversation about race in our society today.
John Harvey’s book won’t be of much interest to a Japanese person or an Icelander. Then again, they can afford not to be interested in race.