The recent pillorying of John Derbyshire and Bob Weissberg after being accused of making tactless remarks about race recalled a question that’s been bothering me for decades. Why should we think that race is the only untouchable subject or the only issue that, to use George Will’s misleading phrase, we as a society agreed to turn into a “stone, cold, dead, closed question”?
Yes, I know there used to be slavery and segregation, and then a civil-rights movement came along that raised our spirits to new, hitherto uncharted levels of tolerance. Because of this experience we agreed—or someone agreed for us (I was never asked my opinion)—not to discuss the forbidden subject in such a way that black spokesmen or their white liberal proxies in the media would find objectionable. I suppose this agreement was made in the same way as the one binding those who leave the state of nature and enter civil society in Hobbes’s magisterial work Leviathan. There the newcomers don’t have to agree to anything explicitly, but by hanging around, they implicitly consent to the arrangements that someone else set down for them. In a similar manner I have agreed not to broach forbidden subjects by not leaving a country the MSM rules.
With the towering prohibition against expressing politically incorrect views about race, why would anyone be naïve enough to believe that the demand for total consent will ever stop? The same bullying tactics that have been applied here have been extended to everything else that the left and its obliging conservative-movement collaborators have tried to keep from being mentioned. The left trots out the same victim narratives to shut us up about gender differences, our preference for heterosexual over homosexual family organization, or whatever else they deem unmentionable at a given moment. My friend, distinguished classicist Chris Kopff, says that at the university where he works it’s Christianity—not racism—that gets singled out as the villain. Anyone linked to Christian belief has to answer for the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and many other iniquities that are traced back to Christianity’s inherent intolerance.
Those whom Pat Buchanan describes as the “kennel-fed conservatives” are desperate to curry favor with the media and centrist Republicans. These survivors rail against that ole debbil white racism, which appears to agonize them as much as it does the left. This Sturm und Drang allows them to address other moral issues such as getting Mitt elected president. These establishment conservatives may even occasionally suggest something that is indelicate about gender differences or declare their sympathy for heterosexual relations, and so far they have been able to pull this off without getting instantly zapped. These get-along types also get steamed up that others are noticing cognitive differences between racial groups. After all, can’t we all do equally well in our propositional nation that was founded on the principle of equality?
My suggestion to those who wish to believe these statistically and historically questionable assumptions is to take up their argument with God or nature. This is not the way the world seems to operate, and those who wish to make counterarguments should be allowed to do their thing. The other side should be equally free to present a refutation on the basis of empirical evidence.
As PC demands get ratcheted up, I wonder whether those who are buying time (perhaps until they retire) understand the silliness of throwing people under the bus to stop a runaway vehicle. The left is not going to be stopped in its tracks by signs of weakness. As the French say, l’appétit vient en mangeant. Either our side permits open discussion—especially discussion of what the left doesn’t want to have discussed—or we simply agree to capitulate every time the left calls someone a racist, anti-Semite, anti-transsexual, or whatever. Although we should treat each other, including other races, with as much civility as circumstances permit, to me it is obscene that we should be kept from serious discussions of socially relevant empirical data because some media thugs may beat up someone who transgresses their no-nos.
I’m also not sure that noticing racial differences is less justified that observing other ones. We assume this priority because the media has usually come down harder on dissent here than they have with other verbal taboos. But that may be owing to the fact that other victim narratives have been piled on to the black and feminist ones, which gained momentum in the 1950s and 1960s. And in that period there was visible discrimination against blacks, particularly in Southern states, where they have always been most numerous. As Derbyshire and others have pointed out, this narrative should already be wearing thin. Other developments have overtaken it: desperate efforts by the government and private sector to provide blacks with compensatory justice, widespread violence among black youth, a conspicuously disintegrating black family structure, and increased restrictions on what members of other races are allowed to say about blacks. Then there are the publicized torrents of invectives against whites coming from black spokesmen and white liberals.
Given these problems, I’m not sure there is any moral or intellectual justification (if there ever was) for forbidding an honest discussion of innate racial differences as well as other group differences that may have genetic sources. It is not clear to me that these genetic disparities may be the most critical for understanding key behavioral differences, but it seems ridiculous to exclude them from public or scholarly discussion. The reason we do is our fear of suffering the wrath of the increasingly totalitarian left.
In places such as Germany, the left now unleashes collective violence on “fascist” targets rather than simply knocking them out of the public arena. It may reach that stage here no less than in Europe unless the right is willing to stand up for intellectual freedom. By the “right,” I don’t mean those “kennel-fed” publicists who are throwing people under the bus.
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