What We Write Matters

Dilan Thampapillai, ABC, April 12, 2012

If there was ever a perfect example of why Australia needs racial vilification laws it would have to be John Derbyshire’s article advising his children to avoid African Americans.

John Derbyshire was a writer for the National Review, a prominent conservative magazine. His article, which was published in another magazine, ignited a storm of controversy in the United States.

If you can bring yourself to read the article, then consider the following questions:

How would an African American child feel if they read that article?

How would an African American parent or any other African American person or anyone of African descent or origin feel if they read that article?

Why did Derbyshire write and publish it?

I think it’s worth pointing out that speech acts do not occur in a vacuum. Our writings are not just read by the people who agree with our views. Once a piece of writing is posted on the internet it is out there and it has the capacity to harm.

Speech is after all multi-faceted. We can fashion and tailor our speech to persuade, impress, critique, ridicule and yes—even to discourage and intimidate.

Why did John Derbyshire write the article? Ostensibly, he wrote it to give his children his version of ‘the talk’ that African American parents have with their children. As some other writers have pointed out that ‘talk’ is also given by Afro-Caribbean parents in the UK. I suspect that a version of it might also be given by Aboriginal parents in Australia.

In the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s shooting there has been discussion about ‘the talk’ in the United States.

The talk is about how to behave when confronted by police officers or other authority figures. The talk has a special resonance in the United States given the number of incidents in which African American youths and men have been shot by police. Over-policing together with the incidence of ‘visible crime’ given their status as a visible minority where criminal activity by African Americans is concerned, has had an unfortunate flow-on effect onto many young African American males. It has resulted in some fatal incidents.

I also come from a visible minority. We have certainly talked about racism in the home, but I cannot recall hearing any version of ‘the talk’. I don’t think that any of my relatives or my white or non-white friends has heard it either. It is tragic that some families have to have this discussion.

If John Derbyshire wanted to give his children ‘the talk’ he could have done it at home and in private. He didn’t do that. He did it publicly via an opinion piece on an internet periodical called Taki’s Magazine because he wanted to share his thoughts with a wider audience. He would have known that some people would be receptive to his views. He would have known that his words would hurt some people. So why publish them? He wanted his words to have effect. To persuade, impress, reinforce existing beliefs, ridiculediscourage and intimidate.

In his article, Derbyshire spends a substantial amount of time talking about the intelligence of African Americans. His remarks are crude, he uses facts out of context and his tone is downright insulting. He makes no mention whatsoever of the history of race relations in the United States or the systemic problems that substantially explain the lower socio-economic status of many African Americans.

Derbyshire’s article is out there and it will do harm. I asked the question about how an African American child would feel if they read it because as someone who works in a university I know that success in education depends greatly on confidence. Amongst other things, Derbyshire’s article is designed to insult, intimidate and very seriously dent the confidence of any African American.

Confidence is crucial in the context of education. Students go through vulnerable periods during their development in high school and at university. How they perform during these times can often be a reflection of their self-esteem.

Put yourself in the shoes of an African American parent. Obviously, they would be offended, but surely the sentiment would be more than ‘mere offence’. Derbyshire’s article is basically saying that no matter what their child does, he thinks they won’t succeed, and even if they do succeed, his children won’t be offering them a genuine friendship on an equal basis. Maybe Derbyshire’s opinion doesn’t matter. Maybe his children don’t share his views.

Yet, Derbyshire would have written his article knowing that there is a demographic that is receptive to his views. A demographic that is hostile and threatening to varying degrees to African Americans and others. This is a demographic whose prejudices would have been affirmed and supported by the article. Sooner or later they will act on their prejudices because they feel that they are valid. It might not be an act of violence like the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but it will be something. It might be an act of discrimination, a job application tossed in a bin or a callous remark. Whatever it is it will cause distrust and loosen social bonds.

Derbyshire cannot be sued in the United States. The First Amendment protects articles like Derbyshire’s under the guise of free speech. Not that the right to free speech has ever been extended evenly in the United States. Racists have long enjoyed protection but their opponents such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and a host of civil rights activists certainly were not afforded an unimpeded free speech right by all of their countrymen.

At least in Australia we have laws that provide a right of action where serious racist speech is concerned. These laws in the Racial Discrimination Act are not criminal laws. They are personal injury laws that treat racist speech as type of cause of legal action that is akin to defamation. The distinction is crucial. Breaking criminal laws means that you might go to jail. Being found liable under the RDA might entail damages, which in the case of the RDA are modest, but you won’t lose your liberty.

Derbyshire’s article widely condemned from all sides of politics. He was eventually fired from the National Review. Free speech commentators might say that this is enough and justice was done. They will ignore the fact that the people who have been harmed by Derbyshire’s article don’t have a means of direct redress against him. I can certainly agree that his firing is some measure of justice. Yet, Derbyshire is getting off lightly.

Speech isn’t meaningless. If it was then none of us would bother writing opinion pieces. We have to be accountable—that’s good citizenship.

Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • The_Bobster

    Derbyshire’s article widely condemned from all sides of politics. He was eventually fired from the National Review.

    Eventually? Is “eventually” now measured in hours?

  • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

    How would an African American child feel if they read that article?

    A: We are free to disregard how African American children feel if they read the article. We just don’t care. We have Negro Fatigue Syndrome, and African American children are not our concern. If they read the article, they read it in our native English language, and not in their jungle voodoo giberish. That they can read at all came at too high of a sacrifice for White Humanity. The time and treasure over spent on forcing Diversity to learn our language should have been invested in White Humanity’s natural capacities for greatness, or in bigger prisons for our dangerous and noxious oversupply of African Americans who are immune from our charitable efforts on their behalves. We don’t care about their feelings, but we demand they show us gratitude and respect for all we’ve done to help them stay above their naturally wretched African condition in Africa.

    How would an African American parent or any other African American person or anyone of African descent or origin feel if they read that article?

    A: They would feel that Whitey finally came around to reality, but they would be “shocked, dismayed, sickened, horrified, and terrified” enough spot the main chance to mau mau Whitey for mo’ free stuff, cuz Amerika still sho’ be deeply divided and raciss all up ‘en heeah, and if we don’t do sump’n ’bout it sho’ nuff fast, dat mean ole Jim Crow and dems fire hoses and nooses sho’ be come’n next.

    Why did Derbyshire write and publish it?

    A: Why did Plato write and publish his Republic; Aristotle his Rhetoric and Ethics; Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Shakespeare their tragedies; Solon his Laws; Euclid his Elements; Virgil his Aeneid, St. John his Gospel, Dante his Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise; the Barons their Magna Carta; Cranmer his Book of Common Prayer; Milton his Paradise Lost; Gibbon his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Cervantes’s his Quixote; Burke his Reflections on the Revolution in France; Kipling, Brooke, Eliot their poems?

    Why did Thomas Jefferson write and publish his Summary View of the Rights of British America, Declaration of Independence, Notes on the State of Virginia and Kentucky Resolves; George Mason his Virginia Bill of Rights; Alexander Hamilton and George Mason their Federalist Papers; George Washington his Farewell Address; James Madison his U.S. Constitution and Virginia Resolves?

    Why did John C. Calhoun write and publish his Fort Hill Address; Francis Wardlaw the South Carolina Secession Ordinance; Raphael Semmes his Memoirs of Service Afloat during the War Between the States; Albert Taylor Bledsoe his Is Davis a Traitor; the Nashville’s Vanderbilt Agrarians their I’ll Take My Stand; Margaret Mitchell her Gone With the Wind and William Buckley his God and Man at Yale?

    Why Did Hinton Rowan Helper write and publish his Impending Crisis, Negroes in Negroland, and Nojoque; Charles Carroll his Negro the Beast; Thomas Dixon his Leopard Spots, Clansman, Traitor and Flaming Sword; Savitri Devi her Gold in the Furnace and Lighting and the Sun; Carlton Putnam his Race and Reason and Race and Reality; William Gayley Simpson his Which Way Western Man; Revilio Oliver his America’s Decline; Anthony Jacob his White Man, Think Again!

    Why is Dilan Thampapillai irrelevant and annoying?

    • Kent Wilson

      Diversity is a vile hate crime against God’s kingdom plan for our White privilege and violates White Humanity’s ordained destiny.

      Amen! Right on the money! When people realize that God’s plan as written in his Word is for each race to be the master of their own destiny THEN you have moral ground  to stand on when rejecting the putrid Anti-Christ doctrine of Diversity (remember the tower of Babel?) .

  • SarahConnor

    Well I am almost speechless this is so appalling. All I can say is I gave my two sons “the talk” before going to their two very liberal top universities about professors like this and how not to be intimidated by their false White guilt. I told them to stand tall and be proud of their White culture.

    This article also makes me wish I could tell John Derbyshire how much I admire him and that he is truly a hero! 

    • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

      You sound like a hot momma. What are you wearing right now?

    • Oil Can Harry

      You can write to Mr. Derbyshire at
       [email protected]

      However, he says in his latest piece that he’s been swamped with so many positive letters of support that he’s unable to answer them all. He has promised to read them all, though.

  • Oil Can Harry

    The idiocy of this article is beyond belief. The author actually claims that blacks perform poorly in schools because their confidence has been sapped by the likes of Derbyshire pointing out that they do poorly in schools!

    So if only race realists were censored the races would all show equal intelligence!

    He also falsely claims that M.L. King, Medgar Evers and ex-gay hustler Malcolm X were denied the right to free speech.

    My advice: replace the word “black” with “Aborigine” in Derbyshire’s piece and distribute it to every parent in Australia.  

    • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

      White school teachers in majority Diversity Sons of Obama schools are now taught that their racist White privilege causes the Achievement Gap.  Funny how the schools don’t fire all the White teachers with the expectation that the scores will soar and the Gap will close.

      Who would they blame if they didn’t have Whitey?

    • If news of black schools cheating was censored it would help show equal intelligence. Atlanta almost closed the achievment gap before they got caught.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I’m so sure Jamaal and Tyrone took time out from basketball and robbing liqour stores or stealing bicycles to take time out to read a white conservative man like John Derbyshire.  I’m sure his essay will be the reason they either end up in prison or dead before their 35. 

      • Oil Can Harry

        Conversation between black teens hanging out on street corner:

        Nayquan: “Yo, G! You peep da Derb’s latest piece in TakiMag?”

        Kyeesha: “Word, he be dissin’ us. Putting our bizness in da street an’ s**t. Das why I like reading Kathy Shadle and Steve Sailer instead.”

        Trayshawn: “Yo, the Derb’s column was so foul I think iss gonna hurt mah grades…”  

        So THAT’S why blacks have such poor school grades.

  • Author is “Dilan Thampapillai.”  Who knows, could be a distant relative of Rammesh Ponnuru.  Next thing you know, NR will be hiring “Dilan Thampapillai,” too.

  • Screamin_Ruffed_Grouse

    These laws in the Racial Discrimination Act are not criminal laws.  Being found
    liable under the RDA might entail damages, which in the case of the RDA
    are modest, but you won’t lose your liberty.

    No, you’ll just be intimidated into not engaging in government-disapproved speech under threat of being robbed of your hard earned money and property by force of law. No liberty lost there. None at all.

    How would an African American child feel if they read that article?

    How would an African American parent or any other African American
    person or anyone of African descent or origin feel if they read that

    I dunno, how will they feel when I offer them a great big cup of  Who Gives A S***?

    Here’s a novel thought: blacks can suck it up, spout their opinion if they choose, and deal with it just like everybody else.

    This writer obviously thinks blacks are poor pitiful little children who can’t cope with their own feelings or handle hearing anything they don’t like. I mean, he’s right and all… but dude, seriously? When it comes to people who have a low opinion of me, I much more respect people who just say so than condescending, patronizing fools like this guy. If I was black I’d want to punch him. Come to think of it…

    Poor little babies with hurt feelings. Boo F***’em Hoo.

  • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

    Some people and our young kids seem to take these things so lightly in our world today, and I find it disgraceful and one of the reasons it is spreading like wildfire is because of the tolerance and acceptance of things that we would NEVER tolerate just a few short decades ago. QED

    In other words, just as porn is so mainstream (sadly), so is the growing trend of racism. More and more Whites are coming around to the revived conventional wisdom that “Under the circumstances, racism really is the best option.” For some, racism just isn’t a stigma, but instead a survival strategy. What was once horrible, is now mainstream.

    The analogy with porn holds. It is an ironic analogy, because porn destroys, while racism conserves. Porn is disgusting- racism is invigorating. Celebrate change.

    And, as bad as the mainstreaming of porn is, the mainstreaming of Diversity is worse.

  • bluffcreek1967

    The writer of this article is so concerned about how Blacks would “feel” if they were to read Derbyshire’s words. But the point is not how this or that racial group “feels,” but whether what is written is true. People can be offended by almost anything in print. So, what does this mean? Should we, therefore, ban each and every book or published essay that has the slightest hint of anything “offensive”? We must remember that it is the nature of public opinion and political discourse to say disagreeable things and to voice one’s views in raw speech. In the case of Derbyshire, his article was somewhat irenic and not a blistering screed as some might assume it to be. He was simply telling the truth about Blacks (e.g., their low IQ’s and their volatile nature when in large groups). Anyone who has spent any serious time around Blacks knows that most, if not all, of what Derbyshire had written was grounded in reality.

    The writer of the article is also concerned about how a Black child would feel after reading Derbyshire’s article? This is an odd thing to be concerned about because I highly doubt any Black child would be reading Derbyshire or anything posted on a conservative blog/website. This would probably be true of not only Black children, but the overwhelming amount of Black parents. Blacks are simply not known to be readers as are Whites.

    But suppose a Black child reads Derbyshire’s article and brings it to his parent (most likely his mother because dad’s probably not around anymore). What should a Black parent advise his or her child? If the parent had any sense, they would admit that the behavior of Blacks has earned them much of this criticism. The parent would advise their own child to stay far away from Black crowds and to avoid the ghetto lifestyle. They would also teach them to respect the authorities and to shun any ‘attitude’ when dealing with them. Finally, they would tell their child that regardless of what a large percentage of Blacks do or don’t do, they alone are responsible for their choices in life. The Black child would be urged to stop hating and blaming the White Man for all his problems. I know, however, all of this is a pipe dream and highly unlikely to occur.       

    • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

      The writer presupposes that we are all supposed to be worried about how blacks feel. That presumption is fading the further we get from Brown v. Board and MLK, and the deeper we get into Obama and Holder’s “my people”.

      How do blacks feel about Brittny Watts, or the Knoxville Horror? Are any anguishing that I may have hurt feelings over the loss of Eve Carson or Eugenia Calle? Who contorts themselves for me?


      How may Africans in Africa care about the feelings of blacks?

      We throw off the burdensome yoke, and we absolve ourselves of any future worries about the blacks and their problems. If they haven’t caught up to civilization by now, then civilization should invest in itself only and let them root, hog, or die.

  • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

    My initial sentence really only meant the fetish aspect of each- porn is deviancy and exciting in its prurient aspect, and so is racism. Racism is transgression of the entire modern liberal tyranny, so it is exciting. Porn and racism both share an excitement in their deviancy from real decency in the case of porn, and enforced modern liberal decency in the case of racism, which is properly understood as Race Realism.

    But your complaint gave me cause to explore the issue more deeply, and that’s where I found the QED.

  • Kent Wilson

    Agreed Anon12. Pornography is a serious problem in our society as it debases everyone it touches. I saw a statistic somewhere the other day that 30% of Internet traffic is to porn sites.  We are all sinners, I’m not judging anyone on this, but we don’t need this stuff being streamed to our homes via the Internet and Cable making it so easy for people to get drawn into the Porn Abyss.

  • BO

    Personally, I’m more concerned about the futures of my children than the feelings of those who will hate them.

  • Xanthippe2

    “Racial vilification laws”?  Tsk, tsk, Dilan Thampapillai, that won’t do at all.  Surely they must be called “racial harmony laws” or “happy brotherhood and sisterhood laws” or some such euphemism. 

    But seriously, if you don’t want people to be offended you better work for mono-ethnic societies.  Clashing groups with different senses of humor, different abilities, and different sensibilities are going to lead to a lot more hurt feelings.

  • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

    Start noticing the difference between how blacks act in line and how Whites act, such as at the gas station, grocery store, or post office.

    When blacks get to the front, they look back to see how many Whites are behind them. If they see any, they slow down the proceedings as much as possible, moving everything along at the inexorably slow Colored People’s Time. They know that Whites are in a hurry, because our White privilege enables us to have full, productive, and meaningful lives. Blacks are taught that their role is to unburden us of our White privilege, so if they can rob several Whites of several precious minutes each, the blacks are fostering social justice by hurting us.

    When Whites get to the front of the line, they don’t look back to see how many blacks are behind them, because they already know- they’ve instantly sized up the situation and tried to make themselves invisible so as to not instigate an “unfortunate and isolated” incident of chimpout rage. Whites try to move the proceedings along as fast as possible, because they know that every second they spend in near blacks, is another second of Diversity risk and perilous endangerment.

    That’s the difference- blacks see it as their duty to harass Whites; Whites see it as their duty to flee blacks.

    We didn’t have these problems during the “hurtful and shameful” days of Jim Crow segregation. Downtown Macon was full of White shoppers back then. Now, everyone is hiding in North Macon and living in fear over the expanding black swarm of Diversity that they are starting to see in their neighborhoods. Even Idle Hour Estates is now integrated and endangered.

  • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

    When ever we are asked to worry about blacks and their feelings, all we need to do is ask how Eve Carson felt during her kidnapping and murder, and how Channon Christian felt during her kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder.

    “I don’t know or care how blacks feel, but I do want to hear them tell me what they think about how Eve and Channon felt.”

  • Dean_Wormers_Hot_Wife

    Hindu college students in America will admit that their parents are viciously racist against Muslims. It must create fun family dynamics, given how much time college professors spend forcing students to believe that racism is the Evil Incarnate.

    Asian Indian girls work harder at Westernizing themselves than any other ethnic. They all dress like rich White sorority girls.

    Part of being educated and Western today is to hate all things racist. Do they now hate their generous and indulgent parents for hating the dusky Muslims who hate them?

  • ArturoPendriago

    They closed the comments on the article.  Ninety percent were pro-white, pro-Derb.

  • JohnEngelman

    Dilan Thampapillai does not seem to have the street smarts to last several weeks in one of those cities. For several days and nights he would mingle with the natives, telling them how much sympathy he has for them, and reveling in self congratulations. Then, BAM! The truth would hit him with a 45 caliber bullet . 

  • JohnEngelman

    There should never be any taboos against stating facts and telling the truth. 

  • kjh64

    I don’t care how Blacks “feel”. The safety of me or my children would come first.

  • “What We Write Matters” only “matters” when it’s about non-whites.  Heads have been rolling for quite some time now so it only stands to reason, “writing” only goes one way.  You’d have to be deft not to see it.  What’d they say?  ‘The “Writing” is on the Wall”….