Joseph Kay, American Renaissance, August 27, 2018
A recent New York Times story recounted the long and troubled racial history of America’s public swimming pools. The article was predictable: blacks attempting to use the pools, and whites resisting, often with force. This account reminded me of an old, currently unspeakable expression, “a Chinaman’s chance.” The origins of this term are murky, but most likely refer to a California law, the California Crimes and Punishment Act of 1850 that barred “all races other than the Caucasian,” (including blacks) from testifying in their own defense in a criminal case. This meant whites could physically attack a Chinese person (or black) almost without risk of punishment because only the attacker’s testimony counted. “A Chinaman’s chance” meant that in court he was defenseless against a white assailant.
What brought this phrase to mind is that under the current racial etiquette, there is still one party who is defenseless: the Caucasian. Whites are barred from offering truthful defenses for statements or actions that at least some blacks consider hostile. The very act of defending something blacks (or their white allies) find objectionable, is “racist,” regardless of objective reality. The stronger the basis for the defense, the greater the offense. In the case of public swimming pools, whites cannot claim that the evidence shows blacks bring violence and uncomfortable disorderly behavior or that they may pose health hazards. In short, whites who prefer all-white swimming pools have a Chinaman’s chance when trying to refute black accusations of “racism.”
The stricture against fighting back applies more generally to nearly all race-related conflict. White parents in New York City go to extreme lengths to keep their children in all-white (or Asian) grade schools but never openly admit the hard truth that black-dominated schools are violent places where little learning takes place. Whites instead claim that the white school is more convenient, junior’s siblings are already enrolled, or that the facility offers exceptional enrichments programs. It makes no difference if the largely black school likewise offers excellent programs or has low student/teacher ratios. Everybody knows the truth.
If whites are accused of racism for avoiding a “bad” black school, it is taboo to mention clearly established facts such as school violence or dismal test scores. White parents may even boast of their commitment to diversity and history of supporting black civil rights. But just mention the word “IQ,” no matter how delicately, and you may be told to take anti-bias training.
It’s rational to avoid speaking the truth. The consequences of being a “racist” are too great to make honest opposition worthwhile. At most, factual opposition to black demands may be ever-so-delicately conveyed to elected leaders or bureaucrats, but they, too, face the same pressures to avoid race-related realities. No city councilman representing white parents can acknowledge reality. Nor will the mass media report events honestly. Just as in the Times account of public swimming pools, they will accuse whites of wanting to deprive blacks of a decent education for no other reason than innate bigotry.
This is not to say whites can’t fight back, but resistance can seldom be straightforward. Stealthy options may entail re-locating to white suburban schools, enrolling junior in an “un-diverse” private academy, homeschooling, or hiring tutors. These non-confrontational options are the wisest in today’s political environment where the black political agenda, no matter how detrimental to blacks themselves, enjoys such monolithic government and mass-media support. A meeting of whites to organize open resistance to forced school integration would be seen as the equivalent of a KKK rally.
Self-imposed silence and even surrender goes far beyond coerced school integration. It is hard to imagine any race related issue — crime, welfare dependency, illegitimacy, demands for racial preferences, racial gerrymandering — about which whites dare speak honestly. After 1850, the California Chinese undoubtedly took similar prudent measures: avoid whites as much as possible, never get into arguments, run if threatened with violence, and never fight back if conflict is unavoidable, since this will only fuel more violence.
The upshot is that discussing sensitive racial issues becomes a monologue (occasionally called “an honest conversation”) in which aggrieved blacks excoriate whitey, while whitey — like California Chinamen of yore — remains passive and apologetic. Whites dare not challenge even the most outrageous accusations that attribute every black tribulation to invisible and undetectable white racism. Blacks no doubt interpret this passivity as proof; silence is an admission of guilt.
In this environment, the tiny number of whites who do offer reasonable, fact-based opposition are dangerous heretics who obviously lack instruction in proper racial etiquette. Whites display their virtue and loyalty to the etiquette by silencing such “racists” even more vigorously than blacks might. But many also fear a backlash. If enough whites worry that blacks will rise up, 1960s-style, if forced to face racial facts, the stakes are even higher and all dissidents must be hushed.
Those mid-19th century California Chinamen who wanted to fight back regardless of the consequences were undoubtedly warned by fellow Chinese of a white backlash, so the community enforced inaction in the face of provocations. At most, legally defenseless Chinese could organize Chinese Benevolent Organizations that offered some protection against outsiders.
White passivity can be understood in the context of a theory of public opinion advanced by the German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman called “the spiral of silence.” The gist of the theory is that individuals fear isolation and being judged deviant, and therefore embrace opinions they believe to be widely held. Imagine the closet atheist in a militantly religious society. Everybody is afraid of being called a crackpot even if popular opinion is clearly wrong-headed. Deviancy (now made easy to discover thanks to the internet), means not just fewer friendships and dinner invitations but often media attack, vilification, and the end of a career.
The “spiral” means that as ever more people adopt the perceived dominant opinion, it appears to grow in authority. People voluntarily join the surging mob even if they privately reject its consensus. The spectacle of an occasional heretic burning at the stake is added encouragement. Frank discussions of race become unlikely because everyone knows the punishment for dissent.
However, the spiral of silence can work in reverse. A major public figure may violate the taboo, or disconfirming events may pile up to the point that enough ordinary people may do so. Even conformists jump off the bandwagon once these see others doing it. You may recall how the old Soviet Empire collapsed: Criticism exploded almost overnight as people realized that it was no longer dangerous to speak openly. As more people denounced communism, yet more joined the chorus until the defenders of the old order were the ones who feared being ostracized for their now “crackpot” Marxist views.
I suspect the possibility of this spiral of silence in reverse explains today’s ever more intensive pressure to uphold racial dogma. True believers sense that racial orthodoxies increasingly ring so hollow that the entire edifice might collapse if even a single heretic managed to get a public soapbox. We should take heart: No expert predicted the abrupt downfall of the Evil Empire. It is not easy constantly to defend dozens of lies.