This blog is obviously blunt about racial issues, more so than is generally considered good manners. In polite society, people simply do not speak honestly about race and IQ, or race and crime, and so on.
This is particularly true of people who come from my type of background. I went to an extremely liberal secondary school, and attended an Ivy League college where the vast majority of professors were liberal. I’m half-Japanese and half-white, so it would be silly for me to subscribe to any sort of racialist ideology due to ethnic loyalty. And, as a halfbreed, I’m less naturally inclined towards racial partisanship.
But a good part of the reason I feel free to speak honestly on such matters is that I’ve had black friends, one in particular, and I’ve found that they are generally far more outspoken about race than most whites would ever dare be.
A lot of white people will claim to have had black friends. You know, the fellow on their soccer team they’re friendly with at the games. The coworker with whom they’ve had a couple of meals and with whom they’ve shared a few jokes. The friend from high school whom they smoked marijuana with. But the odds are they weren’t quite comfortable enough with each other to be completely honest about their opinions on race.
I had a close black friend, let’s call him George Smith, for 31 years, from 1981 to 2012. We even roomed together for two years back in the mid-80’s before we each got married. I’ve written about him before, in The coolest guy I ever met. Every word in that post is true: he was, unquestionably, incredibly cool. To this day, if George’s name comes up for some reason, I tell people, you’d have to see him to believe him. And the people who’ve met him never disagree.
But, in a sense, the post linked above was also a whitewash: I didn’t mention his attitudes about race and politics. (I suggest you read that post before you read this one.)
What I will say in this post will make him sound worse than he is (just as the post linked above probably made him sound better than he is). You may even wonder why we stayed friends. But he was a good friend over the years, extremely enjoyable company, and he did me many favors–more on that later.
When I first met George, he said several charmingly self-deprecatory things about race. But I learned fairly quickly that that was something he did for whites he first met, and that he was in fact quite partisan on all matters racial and political. Looking back, I should have called him on some of the things he said. But, while never a liberal myself, I had always been taught that “racism”–only possible in one direction, of course–was the worst sin one could commit. So I was always careful, especially early on, to watch what I said.
George felt no such compunctions. He would uninhibitedly say whatever came into his mind about race or politics. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would constantly invoke racism as an explanation for every black dysfunction. But he said all sorts of things that he would undoubtedly have construed as despicably racist had the equivalent sentiments come out of a white person’s mouth.
Once when we were watching television in 1982, a couple of Reagan Cabinet members were shown walking into the National Cathedral. George said, “I hope a bomb goes off.” My guess is, were George to hear a similar sentiment voiced about Eric Holder or Barack Obama, he would immediately think, what an ugly racist.
One time, referring to Castro, he said, “Fidel’s okay by me.” I’d heard pro-Castro sentiments from some of the knee-jerk liberals I’d gone to secondary school with, but was surprised to hear it from George. I wondered, but did not ask, what he would think if Reagan had put his political opponents in jail for criticizing him.
Once, shortly after I met him, he said, “I know if I ever met William F. Buckley, he’d beat me in an argument. But still, I’d know I was right.” At the time, it occurred to me that George was giving away more than he intended with that statement: it was essentially a confession that with him, politics was less a matter of logic and more one of belief–of being a True Believer, so to speak.
Later on, when we were rooming together, I would occasionally hear him yell out while watching a boxing match on TV, “Come on, beat that white boy!” I didn’t say anything at the time, but years later, when I no longer felt obliged to censor myself, I asked him what his reaction would have been had I yelled out, without knowing anything about the boxers other than their races, “Come on, beat that black boy!” He replied, “I don’t know. You should have done it, it would have been an interesting experiment.” I said, “We both know exactly what your reaction would have been. You would have bristled and thought, what a horrible racist.”
George always rooted for blacks over whites. In 1999, we went to Seville to watch the world track and field championships. While there, we happened to meet Roger Black, the great (white) British 400 meter runner. George, in public mode, told Black that he had been rooting for the British 4 x 400 runners over the boastful Americans in 1996. As we walked away, I scoffed, what a bunch of crap–when was the last time you actually rooted for a white guy over a black guy? George just shrugged, tacitly acknowledging the lie.
George liked to bet, and I had one big advantage over him: I knew he would always be willing to place a bet on a black over a white, regardless of whether the black should be favored.
Once, when we were rooming together, he came back from a business trip to Tokyo, and remarked, “I don’t find Japanese women attractive. Flat chests, flat asses, bad teeth…..nah, not attractive.” (I suspect part of the reason he said this was because by this point it had become painfully obvious that in all the time we had spent chasing girls together, I shown no interest in black women, and he was, at some level, getting back at me.) My initial reaction to his statement was, well, tastes are subjective, I can’t blame George for not finding Asians attractive, especially since I don’t find black women attractive.
But, it’s one thing to not chase after a racial group, another to spell out exactly why one finds them unattractive. I never would have dreamed of saying to George, “You know, there’s something about that really dark skin that I just find sort of alien. And frankly, those wide nostrils and thick lips and prognathous faces don’t do a thing for me.”
One time when we were at a party in the mid-80’s, someone told George that the Japanese were really racist against blacks. Upon hearing this, he muttered, “Pin dick motherfuckers.” I don’t really blame George for saying this: lots of people, when insulted, lash out with the most scathing physical insult they can think of.
But I also don’t really blame angry whites who–after, say, witnessing the latest riot–use the most scathing physical insult they can against blacks: calling them apes. But George, of course, would be horrified and infuriated to hear any white refer to blacks that way, no matter the circumstance. In fact, I remember him once bitterly explaining to me that calling black people monkeys was an insult whites sometimes used. (As if I might not have realized that.)
In 1988, we got together for dinner one night with our wives in Manhattan. The subject of politics came up, and both George and his wife said they planned to vote for Jesse Jackson. This was after it had come out that Jackson had boasted to a black audience that as a young man he used to spit in the food of white customers, and after he had referred to New York as “Hymietown.” This didn’t seem to trouble George or his wife.
Four years later, when I said to George and his wife that I was going to vote for Pat Buchanan, his wife said, “That’s racist.” It occurred to me later that Buchanan had, to my knowledge, never said–or done–anything as ugly as Jackson had. But both George and his wife seemed blind to this double standard.
In 2001 I introduced George to a friend of mine who’s a famous sportswriter. One of the first questions George asked was, “Why doesn’t someone write a book about racial differences in athletic ability? Take the NBA, for example, it’s 75% black. Now I’ve heard all the explanations for why that’s so–blacks aren’t allowed to succeed elsewhere, basketball is a big part of their culture, and so on–but that gets me to maybe 25, 30%. But 75%? There are just obvious differences in ability.”
I agree with George completely on this: how could anyone with an open mind look at track, or football, or basketball, and come to any other conclusion? And that’s the right way to examine any the issue: look at the facts first, and then come up with a theory to fit those facts. The wrong way, of course, is to come up with some politically correct theory that attempts to explain away group differences, and then scramble for the few facts which buttress your theory while willfully ignoring the vast majority of evidence.
But if looking at the facts is acceptable when it comes to racial differences in athletics, why not for differences in intelligence, propensity for violence, and everything else? Yet I remember George on occasion bristling when I would broach these topics. (In fairness to him, there were also times I would broach those topics and he would discuss them calmly.)
Some might say that athletics are one thing, but intelligence is a more sensitive topic which should be handled delicately. But even there, George had no inhibitions about voicing his opinion, as long as he was on the winning side. Once over the phone he gave me a two minute speech about how women were less logical than men. He said, I’m not saying this about all women, and I’m certainly not saying all men are logical, but all my life I’ve noticed that women are just on average less logical.
Again, I agree with George completely; that’s been my experience as well. But if one is willing to express an opinion on such differences between the sexes, then one shouldn’t object if others notice similar differences between the races.
On a couple occasions, George seemed mildly offended if I hadn’t heard of somewhat obscure black cultural figures from the past, like bandleader Cab Calloway. There are plenty of cultural figures I’m not familiar with; but George would never have been touchy about me not remembering, say, white bandleader Artie Shaw. And if a name like Lena Horne or Paul Robeson came up, I knew I could always count on George to talk about how great they were.
Recently, I wrote a post about who I thought the greatest composer of the twentieth century was. I asked various people, including George, their opinions. I knew ahead of time that George would name a black: sure enough, his choices were Stevie Wonder and Elton John.
Once during that trip to Seville in 1999, he pointed out Regina Jacobs, the 1500 runner, who was standing on the track across the stadium. When I said I couldn’t recognize her, he shook his head and said, “White people always have a hard time telling black people apart.” I replied, “It’s not racism, it’s eyesight. Here I’ve been asking you what the scoreboard says all evening long, but when I can’t make out someone’s facial features from a hundred yards away it’s racism?” George immediately acknowledged that I was right. When I added, “Stay vigilant though. You’re doing a good job,” he laughed. But similar statements would crop up from time to time.
It wasn’t as if George lacked a sense of humor, or couldn’t take a joke. Once, when we were rooming together, he came back from the dry cleaner and said something to the effect of, those stupid Chinese launderers lost the button on my shirt. I replied, “Just be thankful the dry cleaner wasn’t black. You’d have gotten your shirts back still dirty.” He laughed at that too.
But the spin was always there. George actually referred to the pestilential squeegee men as “entrepreneurs” once. Technically, what he said was true: these guys did have their own “businesses.” But the same could be said about any other variety of panhandler. Calling them “entrepreneurs,” a term which usually evokes the likes of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, was typical spin.
One time George expressed the opinion that it was unfair that black guys got sentenced to 15 years for robbing a bank of a few thousand dollars, while white guys who embezzled millions would only go to jail for five years or so. I pointed out the big difference: a bank robber threatens to shoot people if they don’t hand over the money, whereas embezzlers don’t employ violence. George replied, but what if a guy went into a bank without a gun? I said that’s ridiculous: bank robbery doesn’t work without the threat of violence, otherwise, why would the tellers hand over the money? At the time, I thought, but did not say, how typical of the way George views such issues: he sees only what he wants to see.
Another time George grumbled, all the white people who are for equal rights now [i.e., are against affirmative action], where were they back in the 50’s? I thought, but did not say, you could just as easily say, all the black people who were for equal rights back then, where are they now?
George had a tendency to take every argument we ever had about race back to the 1950’s, and would somehow always end up relating it to Jim Crow. Even if it had nothing to do with that.
Once I suggested to George that he might consider moving to Connecticut; I knew he wouldn’t do it, but I figured it was a friendly gesture. He replied no, that he would never move there, since it was “too white bread.” That, of course, just means “too white.” It’s perfectly understandable that he would not want to live somewhere where he’d feel out of place. But I can’t imagine ever saying to him that I would never move to his particular neck of the Hamptons because it was too black.
In 2001, we went to Las Vegas and stayed at the Bellagio (George was a “whale,” and treated as such by the hotel staff.) At one point we were chatting with one of the hosts there, a black man, and George casually mentioned that he used to be a card counter. Later on I asked George if he thought it wise to tell a Bellagio host that he had been a counter, given that all of the major casinos guard vigilantly against them. He replied, almost scornfully, “No black guy would turn in another black guy for card counting.”
He was right, of course. But if blacks have such racial solidarity, to the point of almost being conspiratorial about it, why shouldn’t whites feel the same way?
George was quite successful, and was a generous donor to a number of causes. But, as you might guess, those causes followed a distinct pattern. He gave $50,000 to his mother’s alma mater, a historically black women’s college. He gave $200,000 to his children’s prep school, but made sure the money was earmarked for minority scholarships, which, in the area he lived, meant black kids. He gave money to his own college, but that money too was earmarked for minority scholarships. George would never have given similar sums to, say, Indonesian tsunami victims, or to poor whites in Appalachia.
I have nothing against anybody wanting to help his own people, and I applaud George for his generosity. But again, if this is your attitude, you shouldn’t object if whites want to help their own, too. I have no doubt that if anyone suggested we honor Cecil Rhodes’ original stipulation, that the scholarship he endowed be exclusively for young white men, George would be appalled.
I remember thinking, way back in the late 80’s, if George were white and he thought the way he does, he’d be the most racist guy around: he believes in his race’s superiority (at least on the issues he brings up), he spins every racial situation he discusses, he gives money only to causes that benefit blacks, and he even vocally roots for his own. I couldn’t think of a single white person I knew who did all four of those things. It only gradually dawned on me that George was the most racist person I knew.
And, if you do or say all of those things while simultaneously accusing others of racism, it seems particularly hypocritical.
The examples I’ve used make George sound worse than he is. We were friends for 31 years, and these are some of the most egregious examples of his hypocrisy that I can recall. If you know anyone for 31 years, you’re bound to see some misbehavior, no matter how decent they usually are.
In fairness to George, I brought up things he didn’t like on a number of occasions, and he usually took them in stride. If I talked about race and IQ, he wouldn’t get angry. (Generally he would just shift the subject slightly, or talk about how IQ wasn’t the main criterion for such and such a job.) Once I mentioned to him that I had read in a book (Race, by John Baker) that of the hundreds of traits in which either blacks or whites were closer to gorillas, on only one of those traits (hair) were whites closer. He didn’t even act offended at that.
But I never had the consistent, overweening animus that George did. And I would generally only bring up these things in response to an argument he would start.
George was in fact a very good friend to me. He went out of his way to give me stock advice, sometimes staying on the phone for an hour at a time explaining the merits of various investments. Some of the advice he gave me was good, some of it bad, but it was always given in a spirit of friendship. When we were younger, George was a great wingman: he would always talk me up to girls, and even set me up with several women. At various times he invited my family to stay with his family at his brownstone in New York City, at his house in the Hamptons, and at his apartment in Europe. He was always nice to my children, always solicitous of my wife, and unfailingly friendly and respectful to my parents.
He was also more fun than anyone else I’ve ever known. He was witty, handsome, urbane, and charming, and I always knew that wherever we went would be a party. No one has ever been better company.
Our friendship ended two years ago, because of this blog. In particular, he took offense at the post about Obama being gay, though I’m sure if he looked around more he’d find plenty of other things he’d object to.
But, if you refer to Japanese as “pin dick motherfuckers,” you ought not to complain when people refer to blacks as “gorillas.” If you describe exactly why you find the women of another race unattractive, you ought not to be offended if someone does the same to you. And if you are willing to analyze why blacks are better at certain sports than white, and even suggest to a sportswriter you just met that someone write a book about it, you ought not to be offended when others analyze cognitive and behavioral differences the same way.
I never considering ending the friendship because of the various things George said. But he ended it because I became almost as outspoken as he is.
When a white mentions racial differences, the media invariably attributes it to “ignorance” or “racism.” Of course, no one would ever attribute the kinds of things George has said to “ignorance.” And in fact, there’s nothing ignorant about George, who is far, far smarter than most whites I know. If you doubt that, consider his pre-1995 adjustment SAT scores of 722 verbal and 774 math. And his Chemistry AT of 800 at age 14, and his Physics AT of 800 at age 15.
But even though George’s test scores and intelligence were way above average, his basic attitudes about race were similar to those endemic in the black community–even if he generally expressed them in a more sophisticated manner.
I occasionally ask myself, how would I feel if I were black? What if I knew that the majority of people who met me automatically viewed me as potentially dangerous and probably stupid before they even knew me? What if the burden were constantly on me to prove otherwise? I have to admit, I’d probably become resentful too. But I think–I hope–that I’d be honest enough that part of that resentment would be directed toward those of my brethren who made whites feel that way about blacks.
I don’t blame George for being resentful. But I also don’t blame whites for being resentful about the double standard which says it’s okay for one group of people to speak their mind, but not another.
Bear in mind, George isn’t some uniquely hypocritical guy. He’s just a creature of his time, and can’t see past the double standards encouraged by our liberal media, with their constant, unrelenting focus on white racism, and their willful blindness towards any other kind.
I’m not a liberal. So, back in 1981, I didn’t enter the friendship thinking, how wonderful that I now have a black friend. I merely thought, wow, is this guy cool. I also never saw our friendship as being affected by this country’s long and complicated racial past. As far as I was concerned, we were simply two guys with overlapping interests and similar senses of humor, and neither of us owed the other anything but friendship. Which meant that the same rules applied to him as to me.
Had I never known George, I wouldn’t have thought much differently about race; my knowledge of race and IQ was gained way back when I was 18 and 19, reading about the subject in the psychology section of my college library. It quickly became apparent that the nature camp had the facts on their side, and the nurture camp was composed mostly of wishful thinkers. (Which made it all the more amazing to me when I met a black as brilliant as George.)
In the end, George’s net effect on me was to make me every so slightly more open to the possibility of high-IQ blacks. And to make me far more outspoken.
Before any white liberals who happen to be reading this accuse me of being “racist,” please ask yourself this: have you ever had a black friend who was comfortable enough with you to be as unguarded as George was with me?
And to any blacks who happen to be reading this, ask yourself this: are George’s attitudes all that different from your own? If not, please take a hard look at yourself before you accuse me–or anyone else–of racism.
I came by my attitudes the honest way: by hanging out with people with opposing attitudes, listening to them with an open mind–and then seeing their hypocrisy up close, repeatedly. I saw it from a close friend, I’ve seen it from acquaintances, and I’ve seen it in society at large.
And now I’m too old not to be honest about it.