How I Saw the Light About Race
David Carlyle, American Renaissance, March 17, 2017
“How did it happen?”
“Two ways. Gradually, and then suddenly.”
This dialogue from Hemingway’s The Sun Always Rises comes to mind when I reflect on my own journey from “normie” to “race realist thought criminal.” The character in the novel is describing his bankruptcy. The evolution of my thinking about race was similar: acknowledging, accepting and incorporating into my worldview uncomfortable facts and truths about nature, Man, and the world, even when I accepted them reluctantly. While this process was gradual, I can also more or less point to the moment of satori, the “suddenly” following the “gradually,” after which my view of the world radically changed.
Growing up in New York City in the ’70s and ’80s, everyone was aware of race. There were neighborhoods you did not go into, situations where one kept up one’s guard, patterns in who qualified for school merit programs, and so forth. While the racial component of this was clear, very few people talked about it openly; one did not get “the talk” about race from one’s parents. Despite underlying racial awareness, one was almost certainly a liberal—though not strongly ideological—on political matters, which ensured that one was utterly unequipped to make sense of that awareness. Racial tensions and inequalities of outcome existed, but they were unfortunate accidents, attributable to historical circumstances that were improving through education and other policies, after which the underlying equality of all peoples would become evident.
In my home, support for left-wing politics was decidedly old school: Politics was fundamentally about class, labor, and economic fairness. To be a Democrat or a liberal meant to be for the working class, period. My family had a visceral aversion to identity politics based on anything other than class. A politics based on race or sex incited nothing less than fury in my father, and he passed that intuition on to me. While it was clear that certain groups had historically been wronged as groups, the solution was not to continue to treat them preferentially as groups. Rather, the solution was to treat people as individuals and ensure that everyone had the same opportunities. As a result, I cannot recall a time when I ever supported race-based affirmative action. Still, I had an unshakable belief in human equality: Once formerly oppressed groups were treated equally, outcomes would eventually equalize. This remained my basic ideological outlook throughout my youth.
After college, two developments resulted in a gradual shift in my politics and my understanding of the world: First, I lived abroad in a non-European country for many years, and later I attended graduate school back in the States. Living abroad had the paradoxical effect of both awaking in me a nationalist consciousness while further committing me to a race-blind and egalitarian view of the world. Living abroad in a country that was racially homogeneous, I learned that one could not define oneself for the world: One is inevitably defined by others. No matter how well one learns a foreign language or becomes familiar with a foreign culture, in a highly homogeneous country, you are always viewed as an outsider. I never considered myself particularly patriotic or nationalistic, but being relentlessly treated as an outsider sparked an awareness of, and pride in, being American.
At the same time, having mastered the local language and culture, I felt I should be treated as a local. After all, wasn’t that consistent with what I had been taught and believed my entire life? Moving to America, learning English and following local American customs turned everyone—from all races, ethnicities and cultures—into Americans, didn’t it? That was the basis of the Proposition Nation of which I was a part, and in which I wholeheartedly believed. Why was the opposite not true for an American abroad? On balance, however, I was convinced that we Americans had it right: Everyone should be able to become a member of any nation. Thus, my heightened sense of American identity was accompanied by a doubling down on my belief in the superiority of assimilation, race-blindness, and egalitarianism.
Graduate school back in the States was my first attempt at a somewhat systematic study of economics, and led me to rethink my previously left-leaning politics on questions of labor and class. As I suspect it is with many liberals, it was ignorance of economics that had enabled me to support left-wing policies. Reading and thinking about incentive structures, the morality of redistribution, systems that were more conducive to human freedom and flourishing, and the complexity of economic systems, I moved towards a free-market, free-trade, capitalist view of economics, although not, I should say, due to any such bias among my professors.
This shift in my economic thinking combined with a race-blind, individualistic view of cultural issues and my nascent patriotic bent resulting from my sojourn abroad to bring me mainstream, National Review-style conservatism. I immersed myself in the journals and magazines of the mainstream conservative and libertarian movement. While opening my mind to different points of view on cultural issues that I had never really thought through—abortion, guns, school choice—my encounter with mainstream conservatism did nothing to shake my egalitarian views on race or my belief in the Proposition Nation. And why would it have? No group is more steadfast in its faith in race-blindness, egalitarianism, and anti-racism than the mainstream conservative journals and think-tanks.
When 9/11 occurred, I initially supported the wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq, and agreed with the neo-conservative premise that the United States should be spreading democracy. Ultimately, the ideological battles and polemics over the Iraq War in the conservative journals made me aware that there was a radically different political point of view out there which was critical of the conservative movement, but from a position further to the right. It was an odd and disconcerting philosophy to me, because it didn’t fit in with the standard taxonomy of Right and Left. I did not initially seek out that strain of thinking, but I knew that it was out there, and that it was associated with shady and disreputable labels like “isolationist,” “populist,” “traditionalist,” “agrarian,” and “racist.” Given my politics, I had a hard time understanding how a group that was anti-war, anti-free trade, anti-free market, anti-egalitarian, and was vocal on certain issues traditionally associated (so I believed) with the Left—such as environmental protection—could be considered of the Right.
I ordered an issue of The American Conservative that included an in-depth article on environmentalism and animal welfare. This was in the early days of that publication, when it was still very much Pat Buchanan’s magazine. I eventually subscribed and, from there, immersed myself in paleo-conservatism. I encountered thinkers who were willing to question the Enlightenment, question egalitarianism, and essentially engage in a mode of thinking that was more open than anything on the mainstream Left or Right. They didn’t care about ideological labels or litmus tests, and would write about any issue—including race—with a fearless attitude, free of platitudes.
Eventually, my faith in racial equality became untenable. I associate this shift in my thinking with a particular passage in Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West or State of Emergency (I no longer recall which) in which he critiqued the concept of the Proposition Nation. He argued that America was no different than any other nation. Merely holding certain political tenets did not make one an American. If that were sufficient, why did anyone need to come here at all? America, Buchanan wrote, was created by a particular people, in a particular place, under particular circumstances. No other people could have created it, and no other people would be able to sustain it. I stopped reading, looked up from the page, and said to myself: “He’s right.”
Mr. Buchanan is far less racially explicit in his thinking than many people on the alternative, dissident right, and it may be that the passage was not as starkly laid out as I remember. Nevertheless, I mark that moment as the exact point at which I abandoned racial egalitarian beliefs. Around the same time that I was reading Mr. Buchanan’s books, unsurprisingly, I found my way to VDare and American Renaissance, and to writers such as Steve Sailer, Peter Brimelow, Jared Taylor, Lawrence Auster, and other dissident thinkers.
Once I became willing to look at the evidence and science concerning race, to then analyze nearly any issue through the lens of race and biology exposed the wrongheadedness of the mainstream explanations, both Left and Right. If racial differences were a matter of biological nature, was it not morally wrong—even evil—to teach people that disparate outcomes in crime, education, test scores, even in such innocuous things as hobbies and cultural activities, were the result of racism and intentional exclusion? Such teachings incited hatred, despair, and misguided resentment in people on the basis of falsehoods. Only honesty about racial differences can result in effective policies and peace among peoples.
If there is any lesson I would draw from my own experience, it is that all mainstream American politics are essentially liberal in their values: classical liberal ideas are so pervasive in American culture that it is difficult to see beyond them, even for people who consider themselves conservative. People of all political views are fundamentally informed by liberal ideology. What mainstream conservatism conserves is simply an older form of liberalism. This is unsurprising. The American project traces its ideological sources to Locke, Smith, Montesquieu and other classical liberal thinkers. Almost all American political ideologies derived from that starting point. American “conservatism” was, in its assumptions and basic tenets, a species of liberalism. Its economics is classical liberal economics. Egalitarianism, which is a cornerstone of mainstream conservatism, derives from classical liberalism. Siding with race realism and the alternative right requires escaping from the liberal assumptions underlying almost all American political thought.
My gradual—then sudden—journey to the alternative right is likely a familiar one, particularly to those of a certain generation. Today, the younger generation can reach an accurate understanding on race without the convoluted path I followed.