Race And Conservatism Debated At The Robert A. Taft Club (No Thanks To The Leadership Institute)

Kevin Carter, VDARE.com, September 9, 2006

[Previously by Kevin Carter: Brainwashing Backfires In Academe]

Last Wednesday, August 30, the Robert A. Taft Club, which describes itself as “a monthly meeting group of traditionalist conservatives and libertarians in the Washington, DC area”, hosted a debate on the subject: “Race and Conservatism” featuring Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance magazine, John Derbyshire, a contributing editor at National Review, and black conservative Kevin Martin, associated with the National Center for Public Policy Research.

The event provided a rare opportunity for a frank discussion on race–but it almost didn’t happen. In the past, the national headquarters for the Leadership Institute had always been happy to host the Taft Club. But this time it abruptly decided to cancel with barely more than a day’s notice.

Apparently, the Southern Poverty Law Center had alerted the Leadership Institute to the fact that the infamous “white supremacist” Jared Taylor would be involved. But LI didn’t back down until the One People’s Project–that other leftwing “watchdog” group–declared they were going to show up at the event. (We found out later that they merely sent a spy. You can find their take on the event here.)

Well, the irony of the situation couldn’t have been greater. For those of you who don’t know, LI is an organization ostensibly dedicated to training and “empowering” young conservatives. It makes much of how it never gives in to the left. [Contact the Leadership Institute]

In the end, the event was simply moved across the street. The controversy probably boosted attendance, as some of the young conservatives at LI came to find out what all the fuss was about–even I’m told, walking out a speech by Grover Norquist so they wouldn’t miss anything.

As Jared Taylor remarked in his opening statement, [Listen (MP3), courtesy of Amren.com] the fundamental question in the debate was essentially “whether and to what extent conservatives should talk about race.

His answer was that everyone should talk about race, not just conservatives, because “there are so many things we can’t understand if we don’t”. Everyday, he pointed out, we make decisions by looking at the facts and weighing the evidence, “but when it comes to race or ethnicity, however, this kind of decision making is essentially taboo.”

Taylor then asked the audience to imagine a “hypothetical” situation where large numbers of people wish to live among us, and that these newcomers are, compared to ourselves, four times more likely to commit murder, twice as likely to drop out of high school, twice as likely to have illegitimate children, etc.

Taylor, of course, was speaking of Hispanics (as VDARE.COM readers doubtless recognized). He lamented that “you would think that this kind of analysis . . . would be legitimate, and yet of course, it is not. We are not allowed to engage in this kind of discussion when it comes to immigration policy.”

Taylor then moved on to discuss the reality of racial differences in intelligence. He demonstrated to the audience how the science on race can explain “a great deal that is otherwise inexplicable.” The refusal to discuss these racial differences, Taylor contended, has had a terrible effect on race relations, because it in fact “teaches blacks, and increasingly Hispanics as well, to hate whites”–because, if realistic discussion of race is banned, white “racism” and white oppression become the only rational explanation for black and Hispanic failure.

Kevin Martin was the next to speak. He opened by lamenting how difficult it is to be a Republican in the black community. He blamed most of the problems that blacks face on the fact that “self-appointed leaders” like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have conditioned blacks to believe in a culture of victimization that prevents them from ever taking responsibility for their own problems.

Nevertheless, Martin seemed to blame the media for most of the negative stereotypes about blacks. His speech was also full of the usual banalities, such as “we’re all members of one race: the human race,” etc. Nevertheless, Martin should be praised for rejecting the culture of victimhood that he described.

John Derbyshire spoke last, [listen (MP3) (transcript)]. After admitting that Establishment conservatives don’t usually talk much about race, he jokingly cited Karl Rove’s recent speech to La Raza as evidence that they will talk about it sometimes–“they just don’t talk about their own race.”

Humor aside, however, Derbyshire’s remarks were quite insightful. After telling the audience that he could actually remember the early days of the Civil Rights movement, he explained that everyone who took part in it truly believed that if it was successful, “the result would be an America where race did not matter.”

The dream, Derbyshire said, was essentially that, once the legal restrictions were removed, blacks would, be proportionately represented in all walks of life. And this, Derbyshire observed, simply didn’t happen. Instead, he noted, the result has been increasing racial separation, as blacks and whites no longer watch the same movies or TV shows or even give the same names to their children.

The main result, he lamented, has been “this whole rickety apparatus of affirmative action, discrimination lawsuits, corporate shakedowns, profiling protests and speech codes. It’s not a pretty sight.”

Yet Derbyshire, to his credit, did not simply wring his hands and pretend not to know why the dream died. “I have,” he said, “rather reluctantly come to agree with Jared Taylor here on one thing: that something is going here that liberal orthodoxy does not explain.”

Mentioning his various conversations with geneticists, he explained that we’re now at the point where we can confidently say that there are group differences and that we’ll probably know much more about them in the coming years.

Surprisingly, during the question and answer session, no one ever questioned the reality of racial differences. Kevin Martin did at times verge on criticism, but his attempts probably tended to reinforce rather than undermine the racial realist position–at one point, for example, he said “I don’t give a damn what a study says,” because, he argued, studies had been used to “prove” evolution.

Yet while Derbyshire professed to agree with Taylor that we should talk more honestly and openly about race, he rather hypocritically defended mainstream conservatives for refusing to do so. When someone asked him how many conservative writers and thinkers were aware of the facts about racial differences, he simply answered that he couldn’t speak for other people.

It’s interesting to note, however, that Taft Club organizer Marcus Epstein said he’d invited several other Establishment conservatives to speak, most of whom initially agreed to come but then backed out when they discovered Jared Taylor would be on the platform.

One wonders why they wouldn’t be more eager to disprove his views if they’re so confident that they’re wrong.

What did seem to be at issue, however, was precisely what Jared Taylor and Steve Sailer have debated before on VDARE.COM, the morality, or rather the viability, of white nationalism. Derbyshire, specifically citing Sailer, argued that the prospect of white nationalism emerging as a major force in the future was slim, partly because immigration, a principle source of white anxiety, would probably soon be curtailed, [Peter Brimelow writes: Maybe!] but more generally because whites don’t really see non-whites as a threat.

Lest there be any doubt as to where he stood, Derbyshire concluded by declaring his preference for Sailer’s “citizenist” approach.

What did the audience think of all this? It’s difficult to say. Few seemed to be repelled by what they heard, and at least two of the young conservatives from LI told me afterwards in private conversation that they were deeply impressed with Taylor’s arguments.

How did Sailer’s citizenism fare? I’m not sure, but I know I’ve never bought into it. Citizenism is a useful debating tactic in today’s PC world, but that’s about all its good for. In the end, it’s just another version of the same colorblind, utopian thinking that’s made the current immigration nightmare possible.

Moreover, as Taylor pointed out in the debate, even if immigration stopped tomorrow, whites would probably still become a minority in the United States because of differential birthrates. In other words, citizenism might help us close the borders, but it won’t be much help to whites afterwards.

Yet regardless of what views you might have found most compelling, if you attended the Robert A. Taft Club that night, you had a rare opportunity to see them publicly debated.

The kind of intellectual combat and disregard for contemporary taboos were precisely what made the conservative movement great to begin with.

The fact that the people at the Leadership Institute shied away from such a spectacle ought to tip us off as to why that movement is now in such disarray.

Kevin Carter [email him] graduated with a degree in economics this spring and now lives in the Washington D.C. area.

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