Trayvon Martin

Goodbye, John Derbyshire

02106c7f42aae2b7418b05930fc1f692John Derbyshire's career is over.

The polemecist, novelist, and National Review writer -- who long ago made the admission that he was a "homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one" -- last week published a not-at-all mild or tolerant article in the online journal Taki's Magazine entitled "The Talk: Nonblack Version." The article is a response to the dozen or so other articles published since the killing of Trayvon Martin in which black American parents discuss "the talk" they must have with their children about dealing with white authority figures. (The talk goes something like this: Do as you're told servilely, even if you think you're being treated unfairly, or else you might wind up in trouble far greater than your alleged misdeeds would warrant.)

Writes Derbyshire:

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

Among your fellow citizens are forty million who identify as black, and whom I shall refer to as black ...

As with any population of such a size, there is great variation among blacks in every human trait (except, obviously, the trait of identifying oneself as black). They come fat, thin, tall, short, dumb, smart, introverted, extroverted, honest, crooked, athletic, sedentary, fastidious, sloppy, amiable, and obnoxious. There are black geniuses and black morons. There are black saints and black psychopaths. In a population of forty million, you will find almost any human type ...

... and because of this variance, Derbyshire explains, it is important for his children to treat each individual black person with the same courtesy and kindness accorded to strangers of any hue.


As you go through life ... you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random -- for example, not restricted only to black convicted murders or to black investment bankers -- the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means -- the averages -- of many traits are very different for black and white Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences. ...

Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior ...

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.

Which is why Derbyshire wishes his children to avoid "concentrations of blacks not known to you personally," black neighborhoods, beaches and amusement parks frequented by blacks, concerts and other events frequented by blacks, and depart public events at which large numbers of black people show up. Which is really five ways of saying the same thing, which Derbyshire nevertheless thought necessary to separate into bullet points. Perhaps he ran out of things to say.

But no! Derbyshire continues:

Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

Most of the rest of Derbyshire's screed deals with the alleged relative stupidity of black people. Nevertheless, Derbyshire admits the existence of "intelligent and well-socialized blacks," which he abbreviates as "IWSBs," and about whom he writes:

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.

... 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).

The reactions from Derbyshire's fellow conservatives and National Review collegues were swift and brutal. (Even though a perusal of their own published opinions suggests that they agree with most or all of Derbyshire's points, if not with his method of expressing them.) Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism, called Derbyshire's article "fundamentally indefensible and offensive." National Review editor Rick Lowry decried Derbyshire's "appalling view." Asked if he wanted to associate with such "racist trash" as Derbyshire, National Review writer Ramesh Ponnuru tweeted "I know I don't." And in the article containing these very condemnations, Matt K. Lewis, of the right-wing, Daily Caller wrote:

I believe in free speech — especially unpopular speech. But that doesn’t mean National Review has to subsidize it. And it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t condemn it.

Some people aren’t worth the fighting for. Some things are indefensible. This is one of those cases.

The National Review announced Derbyshire's firing in a post on Saturday night, and it seems unlikely anyone other than Taki's Magazine will ever publish his polemics again. It's a shame, in a way, that we'll never know what kind of conversation he might have had with his children about gay people. Though we may obtain hints here, and here, and here.

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  1. the part about IWSBs in particular reads like something out of The Onion.

    (and also reminds me of an article from Stuff White People Like. the entry was called Educated Black People or something like that).

    What a POS DPSW (opposite of IWSB ;-) )

    Posted by: redball | Apr 8, 2012 5:57:07 PM

  2. yeah pity Canada. that awful country with LGBT Equality, universal healthcare, lower rates of gun violence and a higher standards of quality of life, literacy levels, education standards and cultural equality.

    i said prove me wrong, "Manotaur" - this is the point where you show the incredible work that you and your fellow Conservative/Independents are doing.

    i called your bluff. this is the part where you grow some balls and show yourself and the work you're doing with your fellow conservatives.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 8, 2012 5:58:02 PM

  3. To whomever:

    I just wanna put this out there. I'm as gay as gay gets, and in my life I've lived in three predominantly white municipalities in Florida (Lakeland, Fort Lauderdale, and the gay ghetto of Wilton Manors) and two "ethnic" neighborhoods in New York City (the predominantly Latin neighborhood of Bushwick, and the very, very black neighborhood of Clinton Hill). Not only are the "ethnic" neighborhoods safer and friendlier than my old white hoods; they are the only places in the above list in which I've never been targeted by anti-gay thugs.

    In fact, I'm living in very-black Clinton Hill now, and I don't intend to move. I'm just one block from the allegedly fearsome neighborhoods of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, and I've never been happier anywhere. My neighbors are lovely folks, many of whom went out of their ways to make my partner and I feel welcome when we moved in.

    I hope John Derbyshire and his kids have the opportunity to spend time here some day. They'd leave with lots to think about.

    - BKT

    Posted by: Brandon K. Thorp | Apr 8, 2012 6:01:15 PM

  4. Cheers to BKT!

    And I concur - I'm a Brooklynite 6 months of the year. I not only feel safe, I feel welcomed.
    I also came out while i was in highschool, a city school where "white" was in the minority.

    the roadblocks to equality are not "blacks" or non-whites, but bigoted white conservatives who wield power over the gay doormats they call family and friends.

    GOProud's 2012 agenda has NOTHING about LGBT Equality on it. That's why republicans dont' support Equality - Gay republicans don't have the balls to do it, so why should straight ones?

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 8, 2012 6:06:15 PM

  5. Kiwi, you know Manotaurd can't provide you with any evidence to the contrary because none exists. Good luck being a "moderate" here in 2012 America as a gay person. Moderate being the dog-whistle term for "yes, we will put up with the rightwing bullsh!te that there is a valid argument against gays being treated equally under the law". Whatever. As Kiwi said, a "far leftist" in America is a Centrist in practically any other 1st world country. Get a clue gay republicans and moderates: either support the people who don't want you dead or silenced or be happy as a house slave. whatever, fools.

    Posted by: wtf | Apr 8, 2012 6:08:18 PM

  6. @H8STR8S
    "Here in Ca., the blacks voted for prop. 8 at 70%."

    Wasn't that figure later revised downward to 58%? I'm sure I read that in one of the Daily Kos dairies.

    The 58% figure is definitely too high, and maybe even higher than other racial/ethnic groups in Cali., but it is still SIGNIFICANTLY lower than 70%.

    Andy, that 70% figure appears on this blog too often for you not to know that many of your readers believe this misinformation.
    When are you going to do a post or something explaining the truth about the percentage of blacks who voted for Prop. 8?

    Posted by: elg | Apr 8, 2012 6:08:46 PM

  7. "LittleKiwi" - I am a moderate independent, so I don't have any "fellow conservatives." The fact that you lump an independent in with conservatives is ample proof of your left wing, sorry...centrist bias. All I pointed to was one example that refuted your initial claim, and you yet again prove your conceit by ignoring it. I suspect that nothing shall satisfy your single-minded selfrighteousness, which is the real "sack of bulls**t on your shoulders," I must point out for others safety.

    Critical thinking is beyond your ability, and for that, you have my utmost pity.

    Posted by: Manotaur | Apr 8, 2012 6:17:57 PM

  8. @WTF

    Manotaurd, that's funny! Have you considered taking your act on the road?

    Posted by: Manotaur | Apr 8, 2012 6:24:54 PM

  9. Thank you, BKT . . . I also grew up in, and later, as an adult, resided in predominately white municipalities, as well all Black neighborhoods, again both as a child and an adult and found more acceptance with my Black neighbors than my white neighbors.

    In 1974 when I joined the military, at least the part of the country I was processed in, and where I was later posted for my permanent party, the enlisted men were also predominately black . . . and yet my fears and concerns as a gay man in the military were much more pronounced around whites than blacks. That may have been because while I got teased by Blacks for not having a girlfriend . . . it was the white men in my unit that poked and prodded, and threatened.

    I have also attended Black churches in the south where I practically grew up, and felt ten times more love than when I attended the white church that dis-fellowshipped me two times.

    I cannot imagine Derbyshire ever willingly going to the "very Black Clinton Hill" and even if he did it is doubtful he would leave with much to think about. The experience would no doubt provide him with a harrowing story of the time he escaped a mob of Black people bent on his destruction. But that may be because my imagination is not very good.

    I will say this: I am not one of those people who does not think people can change . . . but they have got to want to change. And sometimes the unexpected happens . . . like Derbyshire's racist friends and colleagues turning against him. Maybe he will have time to reflect on the self-righteousness of others, and may in that reflection to self-reflect on his own self-righteousness and fears.

    You never know.

    Thank you for not only posting the Derbyshire story, but your contribution to the discussion, BKT.

    Posted by: Ricco | Apr 8, 2012 6:25:37 PM

  10. @ELG
    If I am misinformed, I take it back. All of it. I spent my life in conservative white neighborhoods not by choice and fighting for civil rights against the grain. I felt absolutely betrayed when those numbers came out. I listen to Pacifica and they did nothing to dispell this misinformation. I can only go on the info I have. Parenthetically I may add however that the only time I'm ever called a fag is when I'm out on my bike dressed skimpy and some latino yells it at me while driving away in a car. Never up close to my face. I have never been called a faggot or heard the word used in my conservative white neighborhoods.
    I will look for revised numbers on the prop. 8 vote, now I know they exist. If they were true, could you see how I came to the position I arrived at? Do you understand how betrayed I feel after taking lumps for them, to have my right to wed taken away?
    I don't doubt my own family voted for prop. 8. They are neanderthals none of whom I've spoken with in about 20 years. I have no problem admitting this. Why do you think I H8Str8s?
    I don't doubt there is a lot of homophobia amongst whites that I have not been exposed to. I have been exposed to homophobia from coloured people and maybe that has coloured my viewpoint. Perhaps I have had extraordinary experiences. it is possible.

    Posted by: H8Str8s | Apr 8, 2012 6:27:18 PM

  11. WOW! There are a whole lot of folks posting here who need to get back on their meds. When a hot topic comes up all the knees jerk, Some to the right and some to the left. One thing is obvious: civil discourse goes out the window.

    Posted by: jack | Apr 8, 2012 6:34:13 PM

  12. "Manotard" - i called your bluff. this is the point where you show yourself and the incredible pro-Equality work that you and your chosen political allies are doing.

    you don't need to pity me. i'm not the one unable to put a face to what i say.
    you can provide the URL where you show me the pro-Equality work you and your fellow "moderates" are doing.

    that'll satisfy me, actually.

    here, i'll go first:

    prove what you say is true. i can :D

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 8, 2012 6:36:19 PM

  13. the point H8STR8 misses is that his own white family won't support him as a gay man, and yet he chooses to be more angry at "blacks and latinos", to whom he's a complete stranger.

    thank you for proving my point.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 8, 2012 6:42:08 PM

  14. @littlekiwi
    You know you can't do your pro-equality work without famers growing food for you. Those farmers can have gay-equality without people like you. Everybody makes life choices and we all must be doing different things for society to work. Whether or not everyone would like to do pro-equality work, it is a fact not everyone can. Can you accept people do little things every day in small ways to improve equality? Even I would try to be a good representative for the gay community if I had to interact with a straight person. That is pro-equality work of a very subtle nature. Some people do pro-equality work by being out at work and doing their job conscientously. Being perceived as a hard-working "moral" gay person is pro-equality work.
    O.K., you have been able to swing your life in such a way you do highly visible pro-equality work. Congratulations in your life choices. Can't you see not everyone is in a position to do the same? You cheapen the work you do by using it as a social weapon. Are you even sincere or do you just want to be able to lord it over other gay people?
    Why don't you stop demanding everybody be exactly like you?

    Posted by: H8Str8s | Apr 8, 2012 6:48:56 PM

  15. H8STR8TS . . . Most of us . . .No, I will speak for myself . . . that I have been through a lot as a gay man, in the military, in the White south, fundamentalist Christians, a large family that loved me until I told them I was gay.

    I could be brutally murdered and my family would not see justice for my death the way Trayvon's family is seeking justice for him. They would only say that that's what comes from living the life-style I lived.

    Of course, they do not understand that my style of life is downright boring, as boring, hopefully more loving, than their own.

    When I decided to become a Christian, I was a new creature in Christ, and that all that was old passed away . . . yet the pastor of the church I attended, and the elders, told all the young single guys that I was gay, so they felt awkward around me.

    I have members in my Christian family that think gays should be denied homes, jobs, and health insurance.

    These experiences made me bitter toward Christian's and toward straights. One of the things that turned me around on straights, and balanced (just a tiny bit) my attitudes about Christians was how badly I was treated by gays because I had questions about faith and my orientation.

    Intolerance is all around us. You can be bitter, and a hater, but know this . . . it is your decision. You are making the choice.

    Posted by: Ricco | Apr 8, 2012 6:49:59 PM

  16. @littlekiwi
    my handle is h8str8s, not h8blacksandlatinos. I hate my own family more than I hate any other group. I don't know why you think I hate blacks and latinos. I feer them as homophobes and feel betrayed. I will do no more civil rights work until I have my rights back and I will not then, if they had nothing to do with restoring them. They hurt me after I helped them. I don't see why I should help them anymore. But I don't advocate stomping them. I advocate stomping my family.

    Posted by: H8Str8s | Apr 8, 2012 6:54:14 PM

  17. @ricco
    I don't believe in freewill either. My choices are a direct result of my genetic make-up and my life experiences. I could no more make another choice than I could levitate. The concept of freewill does violence to science. I worship knowledge, not the great sky genie.

    Posted by: H8Str8s | Apr 8, 2012 6:57:54 PM

  18. Regarding The Talk... Do these black parents tell their sons to not commit crimes and to not break the law? I walked in in my roommate watching a basketball documentary and all the black guys were saying they would steal and do whatever it takes to make money. Of course getting a job never crossed their minds nor their lips.

    Posted by: Michael | Apr 8, 2012 7:13:08 PM

  19. I am white, gay, extremely liberal and live in a predominantly black neighborhood in a major city. It is known as the ghetto. I do not consider myself a racist and I don't know who this man is but most of what he said is accurate. I have observed many of the same traits and behaviors he described.

    Am I a racist if I say black people litter constantly? Since I see them doing it on a near daily basis, I don't think so. It's a fact in my mind and I pick up their trash so my neighborhood will remain relatively clean. Do white people litter? I'm sure they do but I have not witnessed it.

    Posted by: Donny | Apr 8, 2012 7:34:40 PM

  20. @michael: of course they do. The Talk is simply the black american survival strategies that black parents teach their children ON TOP OF the normal stuff that EVERY parent teaches their child.

    Posted by: redball | Apr 8, 2012 7:38:56 PM

  21. Wow.

    Posted by: Alexx | Apr 8, 2012 7:44:33 PM

  22. @Donny
    Yes, in fact, littlekiwi is going to call you a racist for pointing out the truth. He calls me a bigot because I have the temerity to point out that the majority of blacks and latinos voted for prop. 8 in Ca. and the minority of whites did. It is a fact that all the various sets of statistics show. Yes, some show a greater and some show a lesser majority. But it is a majority.

    Posted by: H8Str8s | Apr 8, 2012 7:53:55 PM

  23. I'll call all your bluffs. Bet you can't put a face to your comments. Folks sure are proud of their "opinions" - until visibility comes into play....

    "I see blacks littering"

    and i see whites looking for things to complain about blacks about because they can't point to the positive work they and their own white families are doing in the world.

    but hey, i'm always open to be being proven wrong. so prove it.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Apr 8, 2012 8:02:50 PM

  24. Boy, where they quick to pounce! I wonder why they decided to publish in the first place. Derbyshire's been around forever. This reminds me of the 'talk' that mothers give their kids to not talk to strangers and the even stronger 'talk' mothers give their kids if they know a gay man lives in the neighborhood. If you are a gay man you should know not to approach any child you don't have a relationship with already for any reason, even to help them.

    Posted by: anon | Apr 8, 2012 9:05:42 PM

  25. So "Manotar" and "H8Str8s" are you planning to write to the "National Review" to complain about Ther Derb being fired?

    You really should, you know.

    And be sure to show us the letter.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Apr 8, 2012 9:16:02 PM

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