Last week, the National Review’s Racist Emeritus, John Derbyshire, posted yet another one of his lovely little screeds on why “the blacks” are simply inferior and how to avoid dealing with their infantile grunting posing as language couched in a series of “rules of engagement” written to his sons. ABL completely demolishes Derbyshire here at ABLC, as does Freddie de Boer over at Balloon Juice, and there’s many, many reasons as to why the Derb is full of completely racist garbage.
My problem is with the people defending him. This is where the real battle lies, apparently. The Wingers are mounting the Defense Of The Derb in various forms and guises, with various levels of gusto. Vox Day goes all in, calling out the National Review crew rapidly distancing itself from Derb:
Apparently these various National Review writers want Americans to remain trapped in the same clueless, post-racial, Orwellian delusion they have inhabited for the last fifty years. And yet, John Derbyshire’s article that has inspired such rabid ritual denunciation is little more than a calm and perfectly reasonable collection of observable realities of race in America.
Dan Riehl too wonders what the big deal is. After all, what’s the point of getting upset over racism?
It may not be pretty to read, or come close to some ideal, but how much of what Derbyshire wrote is mostly true in a still too significant portion of America’s population, black, or white? And why is the left intent on only dealing with it by screaming and freaking out, when only a calmer, more sensible conversation over time is the only positive way in which to deal with it? It’s as if the left, not the right, is absolutely determined to ensure that racial division will always exist in America? Why is that?
What you might not notice is that this is a skirmish on the fringes of the Trayvon Martin controversy, which has turned into a stalemate, so that now frustrated people are in scalp-taking mode. The NBC producer got taken out by conservatives and now, for some strange reason, NR‘s John Derbyshire just volunteers himself as a target for the Left?
Groan. I consider these race/IQ arguments to be the intellectual equivalent of a World War I battlefield on the Western Front – lots of noise and craters, many bodies piled up, but little intellectual progress in either direction.
Yeah, you see, Derb may be wrong but there’s of course the “kernel of truth” there. It’s why Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom just can’t see any reason to fire Derb at all.
So. First, let me say this: Derb’s article is “controversial” in the same way Juan Williams’ noting that he gets a bit frightened on a plane when he sees Arabs in the row in front of him tugging at their vests was controversial. Meaning, it was honest — and as such, it was not sufficiently filtered for a media climate where political correctness still provides the parameters for what is and isn’t acceptable.
Goldstein especially goes on to say that in effect anyone who is upset over this doesn’t want to engage in a conversation on race, because what Derbyshire said is what wingnuts mean when they say they want to have a conversation about race: Why are black people such a blight on our white society?
And to varying degrees all of these guys think they’re in the right here, because the Left is “shouting this down” and it means they are closed-minded and don’t want to address the awful honest truth about “the Blacks”. After all, Derbyshire was simply making an observation and he’s entitled to his opinion. How can anyone be a racist doing that?
Funny thing is, my opinion is that Derbyshire is clearly a racist, as are the people defending him, and the honest truth is that there are plenty of folks who don’t want to talk about race because they can only start from the position that pretty much everything in America went wrong once the South lost the Civil War. If your conversation has to be framed in terms that I am genetically, intellectually, socially or emotionally inferior to you because I’m not white, then no, we’re not having a “conversation on race”, we’re having a conversation on why you’re a racist.
I am not very careful about what I say, having grown up in the era before Political Correctness, and never having internalized the necessary restraints. I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going.
But that’s a conversation worth having, actually. And it’s one these folks don’t want to hear. Certainly Derb’s employers don’t want to talk about it too much, but Rich Lowry canned him anyway.
Anyone who has read Derb in our pages knows he’s a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer. I direct anyone who doubts his talents to his delightful first novel, “Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream,” or any one of his “Straggler” columns in the books section of NR. Derb is also maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative. His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. 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.
And yet for years Derb was happy to have these views, and the National Review was glad to employ him for a very long time while he had those views. That’s another uncomfortable conversation the right doesn’t wish to engage in, why it took this long for Derb to get the axe and why they condoned his racist views up until now as the nation’s “premier” conservative publication of ideas.
So yes, the whole Derbtastrophe is actually very illuminating as to why there’s not a larger conversation about race in America. One that the right has been avoiding for a very, very long time.
Zandar is ABLC's Cincinnati-area correspondent, covering Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana politics and all the nearly endless unintentional comedy the Tri-State area brings. He's proprietor of Zandar vs. The Stupid, where he's been blogging since 2008, and you can also find him at Balloon Juice and The Reaction as a contributor, or you can yell at him on Twitter at @ZandarVTS.
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