John Derbyshire, Eric Holder, and the aims of racial fearmongering [UPDATED]
This started as a comment, but I’m going to post it here so that you all can discuss while I recover from my rancid stomach ailment.
So. First, let me say this: Derb’s article is “controversial” in the same way Juan Williams’ noting that he gets a bit frightened on a plane when he sees Arabs in the row in front of him tugging at their vests was controversial. Meaning, it was honest — and as such, it was not sufficiently filtered for a media climate where political correctness still provides the parameters for what is and isn’t acceptable.
Eric Holder famously noted that we’re afraid to talk about race in this country. Derbyshire proved he, at least, isn’t. And his comrades are crawling over themselves to gain distance.
And the reason is, Holder, the left, the “pragmatic” right — they don’t really want to talk about such things. They only want to talk about the need to talk about such things, while simultaneously demonizing any real attempts to do so. An easier way to bank some cheap grace you won’t find in a PC-soaked society.
Some of what Derbyshire said in his article I didn’t agree with; some of what he argued I take no position on, because I’d need to see the evidence cited expanded on a bit and given a more rigorous test; and as a practical rhetorical matter, I think Derbyshire did himself no favors by singling out blacks. But what is indisputable is that the article is set up as a talk he’d have with his kids about race, and the opinions he’s formed — and that he’d pass on to his children — are his, while the reasons he’s developed them he sourced w/ links. That is, he tried (within the constraints of the format) to show his work.
That his article brought out some unsavory types in the comments — WHY WON’T DERBYSHIRE TAKE ON THE KIKES? — has less to do with his article and more to do with certain people who are always drawn to such pieces.
It was in many respects a brave article — and that can be true whether you believe Derbyshire a racist or not. But given that it was written in the context of bounties on George Zimmerman, or Spike Lee Tweeting out home addresses, or Al Sharpton — who is invited to Easter breakfast at the WH — actively working to incite violence and subvert the justice system, well, it expresses a kind of anxiety that exists in the culture right now.
Derbyshire set his article up by noting that in any large population, there will be trends; he sought to take a look at the trends and reach conclusions based on them. Whether or not you believe the conclusions he reached are valid or not is almost immaterial. Because what was truly important about his article was the citation of the trends —- which, sad to say, we’ve been taught studiously to ignore. Funny how people who yell “SCIENCE!” and want to put conservatives in re-education camps fear actual data, isn’t it?
We can expect the left to express howling outrage over such a piece. The subject matter itself is not to be broached — but if it is, it had better reach a pre-determined conclusion emphasizing the goodness and righteousness and social effectiveness of the left’s pet identity politics / multicultarlist schemes. That this doesn’t means it needs to be shouted down, and its arguments not even considered.
That many on the right are hurrying to run away from Derbyshire is also, however, completely predictable. These are the people who are giving us Mitt Romney, and who — while they talk about the evils of identity politics, or the problem with race-based affirmative action, or the ruse of “multiculturalism” as a social ordering mechanism — haven’t the courage of their convictions: they will talk in generalities (and be called racists for their troubles, any way), but when it comes down to citing specifics, their first instinct is to show the left how they, unlike throwbacks like Derbyshire, are one of the good ones.
This of course reinforces the left’s control over the social narrative, whereby they — by virtue of their leftism — are champions for racial and ethnic minorities, while those on the right are guilty of racism until they prove otherwise.
Me? I already know I’m not a racist, and so I just feel sorry for those who think they can hurt me by calling me one. I’m not afraid to talk about this stuff, and in fact I’ve been saying we need to for years now. So much the government has done — mostly from the left, but some of it on the right — to “help” blacks has been all about helping themselves secure a voting bloc. And even if we allow that, early on, the intentions of liberal social engineers were good, there’s simply no excuse for not reviewing how the policies have worked or not worked, or what has been the trajectory of the black experience in the US since the end of slavery.
I’ve often recommended America in Black and White to readers — the “progressives” HATE that book and its reliance on numbers and its scientific and historical approach to data — because it gives lie to the entirety of their racialist agenda and shows the outright failures of their policies, which often times have had the precise opposite effect of what was intended with their implementation.
At any rate, Derbyshire should be commended for broaching the subject, even if you wish to condemn him for the opinions he draws from the data. And of course, all the typical caveats exist — anecdotes aren’t data, etc., — just as what is also true is that Derbyshire was writing an article, not a dissertation or monograph or scholarly journal piece.
If we are really interested in “having the conversation,” we need to have somebody who is willing to start it. Derbyshire did. And the reaction has been to denounce it or run from it.
That speaks to where we are as a society.
update: As does this. We aren’t “losing more slowly.” We’ve lost.
The bottom line is this: if Derbyshire’s facts are correct, then what is “indefensible” and “racist” are the facts themselves. My guess is, there are variables Derbyshire excludes; wouldn’t the proper response be to take him at his word — that the advice he offers has been culled from his analysis — and answer the analysis by examining the rigor of the facts used to generate it?
If we are no longer free to examine facts and draw conclusions — and have the right to draw the wrong conclusions, and be corrected by way of an intellectual give and take — that what on earth does that say about any commitment to knowledge and learning?
What is indefensible, it seems to me, is NR’s pretending to be a magazine dedicated to conservative thought when what it really is is a magazine dedicated nowadays to GOP politics. Or at the very least, it filters its editorial decisions through that rather vulgar lens.