John Derbyshire, giving the “Talk” for non-black kids
The mild and tolerant racism I’ve owned up to, and which seems (from these Implicit Association studies) to be very common, is not usually a problem in people’s personal social lives. It’s never been a problem in my life. I’ve always got on pretty well with persons of all races…. But then, of course, as an individual, one can “navigate” through life, making choices that avoid difficult quandaries, by just the kinds of strategies outlined in my article.
John Derbyshire, talking about the “Talk.”
It was just last month that everyone was waiting to see if that guy who gave my last name a bad name would be arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin. John Derbyshire noticed that there were a lot of “whiny articles by black writers about ‘The Talk’ that black parents must give to their children, to help them avoid sudden death at the hands of white authority figures.” He answered with “The Talk: Nonblack Version” in Taki’s Magazine, because non-black kids need to know how to avoid sudden death, too, and there’s no way he was going to let the black writers do all the whining.
Derbyshire is not a man to keep his biases to himself. By his own admission, he sees African Americans through a lens of “mild and tolerant racism” (see the quote at the top of the post, from an interview in Gawker). His main interest in them seems to be a morbid fascination with race-ranking statistics and tabloid news stories. About the best thing he can say about American multiracial society is that we’re stuck with each other and better make the best of it, “like an unhappy married couple in a Strindberg play.” But it’s oppressive, having to deal with “the prissy horrified shrieking at commonplace observations and plain facts, the deception and (far worse) self-deception about human nature and human differences, the grovelling and self-abasement before inferior civilizations,” not to mention the “weasely lies and hypocrisy and preening moral vanity,” the “bullying and witch-hunting,” etc., etc. (⇓ sources of this stuff, and more ⇓). The whole arrangement is nonstop misery for the poor guy, but at least he’s got a nice magazine soapbox so he tell everyone about it.
The man is so wise he learns from the experience he avoids
As Derbyshire said to Gawker, he manages by using “the kinds of strategies outlined in [his] article.” It boils down to one simple strategy, really — avoid black people. That does seem to be the sensible thing for him to do, but it makes him hard to take seriously as an authority on the folks he’s avoiding. Maybe that’s why his kids “weren’t very receptive” to his advice, with “even some disgust in [his] daughter’s case.” After all those years of stewing in his own fear and loathing, the old man obviously has no clue about dealing with black people.
But Derbyshire isn’t giving simple-minded advice about how the kids should handle themselves. That might be ok for the black parents, who tell their kids things like, keep your hands out of your pockets so folks don’t think you have a gun. Derbyshire’s talk is much more high concept, all the way up to the “civilizationally consequential” fact that the Fields Metal in mathematics seems to be beyond the reach of the African genotype. But mainly Derbyshire is dealing in data. “Any fool can open his mouth and push out a string of words,” he says, “and every fool does. Give me some facts, some evidence, some credentialed research.”
But how does a data-driven Afrophobe get to the point where he can say, “in my experience, around five percent” of blacks are “ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us”? It sounds almost like he realized, after years of near-fatal commuting, that if he gets on a subway with more than about 20 black dudes, someone usually leaves on a stretcher. But who would keep riding those trains long enough to get the percentages? (Son, you’re old enough now to go out into the world and collect mushrooms, but remember this: 5% of the red-spotted mushrooms you collect will send you to the hospital puking your guts out. Gosh, dad, how many red-spotted mushrooms did it take to figure that out?)
It must be more a matter of inconvenience than violence. Maybe the story is that about 1 in 20 times he deals with a black waiter or teller or ticket agent or whatever, he is inconvenienced, ferociously. But black isn’t the only thing all those interactions have in common. Derbyshire is up in there every time. Later in the piece, he invokes this reservoir of black hostility to explain why a white person should be braced for rudeness when they approach a counter staffed by blacks. If that’s what Derbyshire experiences, there’s a simpler explanation — an Occam’s razor no-brainer, really: the “hostility-based magnifying effect” is old Derb himself.
It’s the part about how half “will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event” where the thing really goes off the rails. What is going on in this man’s life that generates “events” where a ferociously hostile black person emerges, galvanizes about half of the black bystanders, and they proceed to inconvenience whitey. It sounds more paranoia than anything else.