Several years ago, John Derbyshire wrote an interesting article for The American Conservative in which he spoke about catching “the Jew thing” — a sort of obsessive, humourless, conspiratorial anti-Semitism that has a marked tendency to infect certain members of the intellectual far-right.
“I resolved that I would do my best, so far as personal integrity allowed, not to get the Jew thing,” he wrote, before proceeding to review the latest work of Kevin MacDonald, a man who certainly has the Jew thing as outly and proudly as anyone alive today.
The great irony is that John Derbyshire has now been fired from his writing gig at National Review for an equally obsessive hang-up which we might as well call “the black thing.”
Since the February killing of Trayvon Martin — the unarmed African-American teenager who was shot dead by an allegedly overzealous, fair-skinned neighbour — America has plunged into yet another “discussion about race,” the new preferred term for the collective pondering of How This Sort of Thing is Allowed to Happen. Though such language may pleasantly imply an a honest effort at fact-finding and good-natured interracial dialogue, modern history has proven that such “discussions” are usually little more than an opportunity for both communities to haul out their most meticulously well-preserved arguments and cliched gripes, all of which exist to shut down race-based discussions as quickly and self-righteously as possible.
The favoured trope of this particular tragedy has been the so-called “talk” African-American parents are expected to give their children if they want them to survive adolescence — a talk, it’s implied, the Martin family apparently failed to give their son. The basic thesis of the talk is that the white authorities — especially the police — who rule urban America remain inherently and irrationally racist and suspicious of young blacks, and this is something young African-Americans need to be explicitly told, lest they inadvertently stumble into beatings and gunfights prompted only by the sort of frustrated irritability most of us display when subjected to a pointless confrontation with law enforcement.
It may well be true. Black or white, I think we all benefit from learning the correct, exaggeratedly polite protocols for interacting with cops, who do tend to operate in a suspicious little universe distinctly their own. But recent talk of “the talk” from educated black columnists in major American newspapers has a distinctively off-putting air of patronizing exasperation about it; an ostentatious resignation to the realities of a certain racist reality that’s so supremely self-evident and permanent there’s really nothing to do but lie back and take it.
Frustration over this is what prompted Mr. Derbyshire to author this editorial for Taki’s Magazine, an extraordinarily unsubtle piece entitled “The Talk: Nonblack version.”
We whites have a talk we give our kids, too, says Derb, and proceeds to prattle off a 15-point list of helpful tips for dealing with blacks. Most of these suggestions simply advise avoiding blacks altogether — don’t live in cities that blacks run, don’t go to the beach or carnival on black-heavy days, don’t offer assistance to blacks stranded on the side of the road, don’t venture into black neighbourhoods, and so on. He doesn’t raise these concerns with anything resembling self-criticism or irony; his talk is simply presented as a rational, common sense strategy for dealing with the fundamental racial realities of modern America in the same way the black “talk” is.
Living as I do on the west coast of Canada, I’ve known perhaps two blacks in my entire life, and thus have a fair share of detachment from the heated emotions of this particular issue. Yet the preoccupation — on both sides — with proudly “speaking bluntly” about the realities of their racial opposites still strikes me as an incredibly irritating and self-defeating tactic all the same.
The obsessive drive among among professional black activists to cram every mysterious white-on-black murder (even ones with as many clearly unknown variables as those in the Trayvon case) into some larger narrative of the Jim Crow legacy strikes me as a sheltered smallness of mind every bit as grating as white authors like Derbyshire, who haughtily spout crass and mean-spirited generalizations about African Americans for sympathetic readers in alterna-right publications and expect to be applauded for their “courage.”
In both cases, it’s a sort of hopeless, perversely self-satisfied basking in the supposed “hard truths” of an intractable social problem that invariably evolves into a pronounced, unpleasant personality trait — a “thing” as Derb might call it. Dressed up with cherry-picked statistics, anecdotal hypotheses and other pseudo-intellectual justifications for pre-determined conclusions, it might not fit the textbook definition of “classical racism,” if such a thing can be said to exist, but its practical consequences aren’t much different.