Monday, April 9, 2012

The Decline of the West

I was wondering if my Right Wing Acquaintance Number 1 would have anything to say about the firing of John Derbyshire from National Review Online for writing a toxic racist article for another web magazine. He didn't disappoint: this morning on Facebook, RWA1 linked to NRO Editor Rich Lowry's post announcing Derbyshire's dismissal. But he also made no comment on it. "Just the antidote to euphoria"? "Good riddance to bad rubbish"? "The most brutal enforcement of liberal orthodoxy I have seen in fifty years"? I can only speculate.

If you have managed to remain ignorant of this matter, John Derbyshire is a self-described racist and homophobe, though he claims to be a "mild and tolerant one" (what a relief!), who's been on the NRO masthead for several years now. Last week, at a site called Taki's Magazine, Derbyshire emitted an article entitled "The Talk: Non-Black Version," responding to numerous black writers who'd been writing, in the wake of Trayvon Martin's murder, about the talk black parents give their children on how to survive in a racist, white-dominated society. In order to establish the balance that is so vital in serious discourse today, Derbyshire sought to provide other "nonblack" parents with a survival guide for their children, in a world that is increasingly menaced by what Roy Edroso mockingly calls Ooga-Booga, the engulfing African hordes with their hiphop, hoodies and low-riding pants.

I can't tell you too much about Derbyshire, but guys like him are Edroso's beat, and he helpfully provides a rough guide to his coverage. During the past few days I've learned a bit about him, though, such as that he's an immigrant from England, married to a Chinese woman, and has two children. In his talk he imagines telling them, "Your own ancestry is mixed north-European and northeast-Asian, but blacks will take you to be white." I'm not so sure of that -- it'll depend on how they look -- and certainly other white racists won't take them to be white, a point Derbyshire passes over in discreet silence. (Remember that Asian American kids are currently the most-bullied ethnicity in American schools.)

Derbyshire is also one of those stereotype-breaking rightwingers, the kind sometimes called "maverick": he has a science and math background, and has written some books on mathematical topics for a general audience; he's hostile to Creationism and Intelligent Design, and so on. On race he affects a standard scientific-racist stance, very much like Andrew Sullivan's. I wouldn't have guessed his mathematical knowledge from "The Talk," though. His remarks on IQ are questionable, of course, and it's worth following the links he puts in to indicate that he has evidence to back up his generalizations. For instance, a reference to "the hostility many blacks feel toward whites" is linked to a single page of hostile remarks by mostly older black people who came of age during the Jim Crow era, which would tend to skew their view of the white majority. In his point (9),
A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that whites have it coming.
the link is to a single Youtube video, which is repellent to be sure but doesn't add up to five percent. Numerous people reacted to that paragraph just as I did, by noticing that it was just as true if you reversed the racial categories: A small cohort of whites is ferociously hostile to blacks and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm them.

But that applies to about all of Derbyshire's "statistical common sense" generalizations. Given the pervasiveness of white racism in the United States, it is perfectly reasonable for black people to be wary of white people. Let me reverse some more of Derbyshire's dicta, then: Do not act the Good Samaritan to whites in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway. If accosted by a strange white on the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving. If you are at some public event at which the number of whites suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible. Unfortunately such good advice is difficult to carry out in practice, because white people are everywhere.

It took almost no time for Derbyshire's cohorts at NRO to express their shock and dismay at his piece. I still don't quite see why. It was in the tradition of its late founder, William F. Buckley Jr., who defended Jim Crow for years in the magazine's pages, in essentially the same terms: blacks were essentially savages, intellectually and culturally inferior, and the white race was entitled to defend their culture, "because, for the time being, it is the advanced race." But Buckley also cut loose other right-wing racists, like Pat Buchanan and Joseph Sobran, who became embarrassments to him. Derbyshire had expressed his racism just as blatantly at NRO before, and emerged unscathed. So what's the complaint?

The Gawker called Derbyshire's article "the most racist article possible"; someone's led a sheltered life. (This is a better piece from the Gawker, which includes an exchange with the editor of Taki's that danced around the question of why they chose to publish racists like Derbyshire, Patrick Buchanan, and Steve Sailer. This piece by the same editor may be an explanation by itself, starting with "prancing queens and other such clown minorities trying to steal a bigger slice of the freebie pie" and going on from there. Derbyshire's clearly their cup of tea.)

The Right is evidently divided over Derbyshire's firing, which is why I'm curious to know what RWA1 thinks about it. Many agree with Lowry on the importance of maintaining NR's high intellectual and moral standards:
We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer.
Others (via) have attacked Lowry for caving in to the harpies of the PC left. And Lowry's rationale is equivalent to NPR's for firing Juan Williams when he made similar remarks about Muslims on Fox News: It's a free country, and Williams could say whatever he wanted, just not on NPR. RWA1 was furious over the firing of Williams, which merely freed him to accept a lucrative contract at Fox. I also opposed Williams's firing, as did Glenn Greenwald and probably other dirty Reds, and I don't think Lowry should have fired Derbyshire either; but then it's not my magazine. I asked RWA1 about this in comments on his link, but he hasn't replied, which is his right. I suspect he's torn. But I'm still curious.