Over at the blog ‘Taki’s Magazine’, John Derbyshire, until today a regular blogger for the National Review and the National Review Online (NR and NRO) where he lets his full on racist flag fly high and proud. I’ll spare you the absolute worst of it and just point out the three paragraphs below. I’m bringing these up because part of why I left the Republican party 20 years ago. They are also the least vile of Derbyshire’s paean to the ol’ racism which, clearly, he misses.
(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) 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.
It was when I realized that this was the purpose I served for no small number of my conservative friends 20 years ago. I was their shield where they could, so they thought, invoke me in order to allow them to make very racist statements. I was the ‘black friend’ of “I’m not racist. I have a very good black friend and she agrees with me” fame. I didn’t enjoy that role, never asked for it and hated the feeling of being convenient instead of liked. I hated myself for staying around as long as I did.
(14) Be aware, however, that there is an issue of supply and demand here. Demand comes from organizations and businesses keen to display racial propriety by employing IWSBs, especially in positions at the interface with the general public—corporate sales reps, TV news presenters, press officers for government agencies, etc.—with corresponding depletion in less visible positions. There is also strong private demand from middle- and upper-class whites for personal bonds with IWSBs, for reasons given in the previous paragraph and also (next paragraph) as status markers.
Now, imagine going through your day with this nagging voice wondering if you are there because you are competent and/or well-liked or you’re there as a totem, a status marker, some ‘bling’ at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is instructive to note that to Derbyshire friendship with a BFTTR (Black Friend To The Rescue) is mostly about convenience and status. The pleasure of having a friend is something you get ‘for free’. If it weren’t for our utility, though, one imagines that Derbyshire and those that agree with him (and there are plenty who do) wouldn’t really go to the trouble of weeding through us black folks.
(15) Unfortunately the demand is greater than the supply, so IWSBs 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. To be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history. Try to curb your envy: it will be taken as prejudice (see paragraph 13).
Coveted? Envied? What world does Derbyshire live in? The link takes you to Barack Obama’s White House page. Because, you know, Obama has had the easiest Presidency ever.
Those of you who know me and the four of you who read my blog regularly have heard me say or write that I would very much prefer to deal with the straight-up racist than have to play the guessing game. This is why. This collapses my decision tree quite efficiently. If I had to deal with a John Derbyshire in my day-to-day life (and blessedly it’s been a while since I’ve had to be burdened with one) I would want to make our interactions as quick, efficient and rare as possible. What makes Derbyshire so odious, outside of his views, is that he openly calls for the kind of maddening gentility that makes dealing with his lot so incredibly tiring. You have this vague sense that you’re being looked down on, not taken seriously, dismissed as not possibly being as smart, educated, urbane or well-read as you actually are. Yet, the person is being civil and one thing I picked up early on from my parents is that my life will be considerably enhanced if I don’t immediately jump to ‘racism’ as the first and most convenient explanation for disappointments that happen in my life. There will be enough of them that will come along, they taught me, so there’s no need to go searching for them, they’ll find me.
Derbyshire also illustrates something else that my friends have heard me say and it is this; I think that, for the most part, Americans know they are not supposed to be bigots–of any sort–but I don’t know that many Americans know why they aren’t supposed to be bigots. I don’t know how many Americans, of any political stripe, could give a cogent account of why bigotry is an odious character trait and one that has to be resisted. We all have the temptations to bigotry. I think it is an unfortunate evolutionary hangover because xenophobia, in our original environment of adaptation, had way too much survival value *not* to have evolved. But we do not have to be victims of our evolutionary history. We have the power to make choices because of other artifacts of that same history. I want Americans to be taught, by the culture–that means the schools, the families, the religious institutions–why bigotry is wrong.
Quoting King saying, “I have a dream…one day we’ll be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin” isn’t an answer to bigotry and while it is, as much of what he wrote was, evocative and poetic the way that phrase is trotted out is too pat by half. I have a link to the full Derbyshire article below. If you can stomach the whole thing, do a little thought experiment. Imagine that John Derbyshire is interviewing me for a position. How many of you think I’m going to get a fair interview out of that man? If I have to work next to him do you think I’ll be treated as an equal even if I surpass his performance in every way? Am I really supposed to believe that a man who believes such things about the likes of me based solely upon some phenotypic traits is going to give me a fair shake? And I’m supposed to believe that this will happen without any kind of laws to spur our employer to have a highly vested interest in making sure that he can’t make his bigotry my problem?
My driven, Type-A personality was molded being an impressionable child during a period of American culture when most of what Mr. Derbyshire said was still uttered in public in polite company. If you were born before about 1975 chances are you heard some versions of this kind of talk. If you integrated the neighborhood you grew up in, as I did, you heard this kind of thing a lot. I was going to be taken seriously and I have tried, over the course of the last four decades, to hone my mind into the mental equivalent of a classically constructed katana. Fast, beautiful and devastatingly sharp.