Goodbye, John Derbyshire
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.)
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.