Why John Derbyshire Hasn’t Been Fired (Yet)

Elspeth Reeve, Atlantic Wire, April 6, 2012

National Review columnist John Derbyshire doesn’t write the most racist stuff on the Internet—not even close! But Derbyshire does effectively demonstrate, year after year, exactly how racist you can be and still get published by people who consider themselves intellectuals. Derbyshire has shocked the internet—even the conservative internet—with an essay for Taki’s Magazine about how he had a talk with his children warning them about the danger of running into black people in public places and the necessity of befriending the few nice ones out there for the public relations benefits. Gawker’s Maureen O’Connor asks, “How can John Derbyshire even have a career?” The reason is because John Derbyshire is very valuable.

Or at least up to now he has been. On Friday, fellow National Review contributor Josh Barro, writing for Forbes, is shocked that Derbyshire hasn’t been fired yet. In the last hour or so, more of his National Reviewcolleagues have been criticizing the piece. Responding to The Atlantic’s Matt O’Brien’s question on Twitter, “Does @NRO want to be associated with someone who publishes racist trash like this?” senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru responded, “I know I don’t.” And Jonah Goldberg, the editor of National Review Online, tweeted, “For the record, I find my colleague John Derbyshire’s piece fundamentally indefensible and offensive. I wish he hadn’t written it.”

But that has not been the case with Derbyshire’s body of work up to now. And we have a theory why: The truth about intellectual magazines is that not all of their readers are as enlightened and forward-thinking and clear-eyed as the people who produce them imagine themselves to be. So the trick to pull off is how to give what those less enlightened readers want—and thereby secure their money either through subscriptions orcontributions—while still maintaining an air of respectability. Think of how your PBS station always trots out the stars-of-the01970s concerts and River Dance whenever pledge drive comes around. That’s where Derbyshire comes in.

You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “No offense, but…” which always precedes something offensive wrapped in an “I’m just telling it like it is” attitude. In certain parts of the country, there’s a similar use of the phrase, “I’m not racist, but…” which always signifies that the speaker is about to say something racist. Derbyshire’s specialty is the fancy-pants version of “I’m not racist, but…” In his latest essay, ”The Talk: Nonblack Version,” Derbyshire lists several key “fact”s that he thinks his kid should know. Among them:

 (9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that whites have it coming.

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

{Snip}

Editor’s note: Mr. Derbyshire now has no job but still has a wife and two children. In the last day or so a “contribute” button has appeared on his personal home page. We think we know why. Please be generous.

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.