National Review’s decision to fire John Derbyshire for his “offensive” but clearly accurate take on race relations has, thankfully, generated immense discussion. Let me add yet one more take on this messenger-killing episode. In a nutshell, silencing the Derb, or at least depriving him of his NR soapbox, is rational in the grand scheme of things. Make no mistake, I would have doubled his salary and honored him with a lavish banquet, and I hope thousands of NR subscribers cancel their subscriptions, but that said, there is a modicum of rationality in what the magazine did.
Let’s begin with the obvious: Every effort, no matter how well-intentioned, carefully planned, and expensive, has failed to transform blacks into whites. Statistically, blacks are about where they were in the 1960s, and what progress has occurred can be attributed to government coercion, policies like affirmative action, and make-work jobs. Moreover, nothing on the horizon hints at progress and if anything, the blackening of cities like Detroit, Newark, and Philadelphia suggests that things will only get worse as blacks increasingly take control of their own destiny.
Second, most whites—and this includes the likes of the self-described “respectable” conservatives who run the National Review—know that the black-into-white enterprise is hopeless. Just ask them about their plans to reduce black crime, black illegitimacy, and the racial gap in educational attainment. There is not a single area in which they can offer a solution that has not already been attempted. When pressed, they respond, like liberals, with cliché nostrums like “more funds for pre-school intervention.” And if pressed harder, the response is a lame “we have to do something!”
Third, going public with black pathologies, no matter how carefully documented and even admitted by blacks themselves, only inflames blacks. Honesty of the 2+2=4 kind has now become “white racism” and, in a concatenation of odd thinking, the mere fact of mentioning black shortcomings is now said to cause shortcomings. Like some invisible gamma rays, white thinking alone debilitates blacks. Blacks, of course, know that Derb’s views are commonplace among whites, so his Takimag essay is smoking-gun proof of this ubiquity.
Fourth, with this new, Takimag case of incapacitating “white racism” now out in the open, the inevitable call will be for yet more government intervention, yet more totalitarian dictates, and yet more of all the rest that has come to characterize “helping blacks.” No matter that every one of these suggested nostrums is either pointless or will only make matters worse. If Derb-type thinking gets around, blacks are going to raise an enormous, potentially violent stink and will have to be placated. The solution? Stamp out Derb-type thinking before it spreads! The medical parallel might be finding a single case of bubonic plague, then mobilizing a huge public health campaign: vaccinations, quarantines, alerts to hospitals, TV commercials on the disease’s early symptom etc.
The script here never varies, and can be seen in the latest episode, the Trayvon Martin case. This is why any reasonable white must react like a sensible public health official, with early, draconian intervention: lynch Zimmerman, punish the police chief, subject police officers to mandatory sensitive training, hold a public ceremony to honor this model student (a college scholarship in his name?) and, perhaps, establish a Trayvon Martin Memorial Park. Hopefully, that will quarantine the damage before it spreads and becomes more violent.
Since the Derb is a mathematically inclined man, let me state matters as a series of probabilities. The odds that his honest analysis will teach whites (even NR editors) something they did not already know: one out of a hundred, I’d guess. The odds of languishing black organizations like the NAACP and race hustlers like the Rev. Al using the Takimag column as proof of “America’s lingering toxic racism:” a near certainty. Odds of this black outrage being converted into a set of expensive but useless demands, e.g., hiring more black security personnel, more black-lead sensitivity training: again, a virtual certainty. We might just avoid another round of expensive, burdensome, useless programs if we slap down these Derb-like paroxysms of honesty.
Put into a larger perspective, quickly killing off the truth-bearing messenger is all part of today’s management program. This program frankly (though silently) acknowledges the hopelessness of making blacks into whites and so instead just settles for a semblance of domestic tranquility. If anything, it resembles how primitive people once managed the ever-present threat of droughts and plagues—an occasional human sacrifice to placate the easy-to-anger gods.