Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, November 1995
The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society, Dinesh D’Souza, Free Press, 736 pp.
In the preface to The End of Racism, Dinesh D’Souza writes that he wrote the book to “enable the crusade against racism to recover the moral high ground it has lost.” This is a curious claim for someone who then attacks virtually every assumption that underlies current racial orthodoxy. In the end, Mr. D’Souza does the obligatory double back flip and affirms the dogmas he has discredited, but the book is so consistently inegalitarian it could be the basis for a segregationist manifesto.
Mr. D’Souza’s central thesis is one of those obvious truths that throw liberals into a frenzy: that “racism” cannot possibly account for all the woes of blacks. Mr. D’Souza devotes many workman-like pages to this proposition and to a swarm of corollaries: That compensatory programs based on combating “racism” will fail; that if white “racism” disappeared overnight little would change; that black “race merchants” need underclass degeneracy because it keeps whites feeling guilty; that affirmative action and “civil rights” are largely shake-downs; that it is rational for whites to fear and avoid blacks; and that even white liberals are beginning to give up on integration and equality. These things are worth saying and not said often enough, but this is well-plowed ground.
Dat Ol’ Debil
Rather more interesting are Mr. D’Souza’s arguments designed to show that whites, far from being the cancer of the planet, have been quite decent chaps. His account of slavery makes this point very clearly. He notes that virtually all peoples have practiced slavery, and that what makes whites unique is that they voluntarily abolished it. In the 19th century, when France and Britain outlawed the practice in their territories, African chiefs who had grown fat on the slave trade sent protest delegations to Paris and London. As Mr. D’Souza explains, Africans never developed a principled opposition to slavery; they denounced it when they were slaves but practiced it happily when they could. Slavery can still be found in Africa.
Nor was slavery in the United States quite the starkly one-sided business it is usually said to be. Blacks owned black slaves from as early as the 1640s, and some authorities credit a black man with first establishing perpetual servitude in the colonies. By 1830, some 3,500 free blacks in the South owned approximately 10,000 slaves. Most owned only a few, and some bought their spouses out of slavery and thus were technically their owners, but some blacks ran large plantations with dozens of slaves. They branded their property, advertised for runaways, and broke up families. William Ellison, a black South Carolina planter, was known to keep the worst fed, worst clothed slaves in the area. Black planters welcomed secession and supported the Confederacy.
As Mr. D’Souza points out, whites did not reserve slavery only for blacks. They first tried it out on Indians, but Indians could not be made to do farm work, and many escaped. Also, it was awkward to take slaves from nearby tribes that might send out rescue and revenge parties.
Of course, American Indians enslaved each other long before Columbus, and once blacks were made available to them, the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles all become enthusiastic slave owners. Cherokees were good trackers and hired themselves out as slave-catchers, but had a reputation for killing slaves when they caught them.
Slavery is usually portrayed as constant torment, but Mr. D’Souza finds that “slaves were, in material terms of diet, health, and shelter, slightly better off than northern industrial workers, and far better off than workers in much of Europe.” As he points out, “no free workers enjoyed a comparable social security system from birth until death.” Moreover, life expectancy for slaves was only slightly lower than that of their owners. When slave owners had really dangerous work to do, they hired Irish navvies rather than risk their valuable property. Mr. D’Souza notes that when Frederick Douglass visited Ireland in the 1840s he was appalled at conditions there and wrote that he was almost “ashamed to lift my voice against American slavery.” Mr. D’Souza concludes: “In summary, the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.”
That Southern slave owners devised elaborate biological and theological justifications for slavery was, in Mr. D’Souza’s view, a sign of the high moral character of whites. As he points out, in no other society did slavery require moral justification, because its legitimacy was never challenged.
He notes that slavery was much more brutal in Latin America, since the continuing slave trade ensured a steady supply of men to be worked to death. Slaves were kept in large, all-black gangs rather than taken into families as they often were in the United States. African voodoo and witchcraft were thus able to persist into the present day.
As for today’s blacks, Mr. D’Souza suggests that rather than nurse endless grudges they should be glad their ancestors were sold to whites who introduced them to the culture of the West. He quotes the black poetess from the 1930s, Zora Neal Hurston: “Slavery is the price I paid for civilization . . .” On balance, says Mr. D’Souza, whites owe blacks nothing on account of slavery.
Having downgraded black America’s favorite grievance to a distant irritant for which it might reasonably feel grateful, Mr. D’Souza takes aim at current black thinking. He has nothing but scorn for the rapidity with which blacks abandoned color-blindness as soon as color-consciousness began to work in their favor.
Thurgood Marshall was one of the worst hypocrites. As a lawyer, he made a career of echoing Justice John Harlan’s famous dissent in the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson: “Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” By 1986, when Justice Marshall was, himself, interpreting the Constitution and was in a position to enforce special favors for blacks, his view had changed: “We must remember . . . that the principle that the Constitution is color-blind appeared only in the opinion of the lone dissenter.”
Whites naively think they can make a strong case for race neutrality by appealing to Martin Luther King’s plea that a man be judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. Jesse Jackson now calls that sort of talk “intellectual terrorism” and Eleanor Holmes Norton says “Stop quoting dead saints.” As Mr. D’Souza points out, blacks invoke King’s moral aura but ignore his principles. “It is no exaggeration,” he writes, “to say that a rejection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision . . . is a virtual job qualification for leadership in the civil rights movement today.”
Liberal whites have likewise convinced themselves that race-neutrality is wrong. In 1993, the New York Times took the position that “the struggle to achieve a healthy race-consciousness in our politics has been an ennobling part of our system.” Liberals have provided essential support for the campaign to lower standards, ban free speech, pervert justice, and demonize whites in the name of racial progress.
One of Mr. D’Souza’s most interesting defenses of the white man is his inquiry into what is usually thought to be his greatest crime of all: Racism. He starts with a definition, asserting that “racism is an ideology of intellectual or moral superiority based upon the biological characteristics of race.”
Unfortunately, this means that Arthur Jensen and Linda Gottfredson are racists but Eldridge Cleaver and Colin Ferguson are not. Unless Mr. Cleaver raped white women in the name of black superiority, he was merely being “ethnocentric,” as was Mr. Ferguson when he started killing white people on the Long Island Rail Road.
Blacks cannot be authentic “racists” unless, like the Muslims, they believe whites are inferior freak creations, or, like melanin theorists, they think whites are “albino mutants.” This definition is so strained that occasionally even Mr. D’souza slips up, calling the wilder blacks “racists” without noting the subtleties of their thinking.
What is the purpose of this definition? There are two, one useful one not. Mr. D’Souza’s account of the origins of biologically-based racism permits him to show how foolish are the liberals to argue that racism grows out of ignorance. The standard view is that since the races are equal, only whites who have not met and mixed with blacks are likely to be racists. On the contrary, scientific racism arose in the 18th century because whites did encounter nonwhites — and were astonished by their barbarity.
The meager attainments of pre-contact black Africans are well known. Mr. D’Souza tells us that according to contemporary accounts, Australian aborigines were even more primitive. They had “no property, no money . . . no farming, no houses, clothes, pottery, or metal . . . They had no idea of stock raising. They saved nothing, lived entirely in the present.” The most common Tasmanian medical treatment was “slashing the patient with deep cuts until the victim was covered with blood.”
Racism, says Mr. D’Souza, “was devoted to investigating the intuition that these two phenomena — barbarism and racial difference — were closely related.”
It therefore “began as part of a rational project to understand human differences,” and was “a bold intellectual enterprise to dispel ignorance.” “Far from being ignorant and fearful,” writes Mr. D’Souza, “the early European racists were the most learned and adventurous men of the age . . .” He notes that the subtitle to Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was “The Survival of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life” and that Darwin predicted blacks and indigenous Australians would be exterminated by superior races.
Mr. D’Souza reminds us that all sorts of famous, well-regarded people, from Hume and Berkeley to presidents of the United States were “racists.” The founder of Planned Parenthood and hero of the women’s movement, Margaret Sanger, was the worst of the lot. She said blacks were “human weeds” and established a “Negro Project” to promote sterilization, but wrote to a colleague in 1939: “We don’t want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”
Mr. D’Souza might, at this point, have been able to escape the Eumenides if he had obediently written that modern science has now proven Darwin, Hume, Sanger, and all the other racists wrong. But no. “Racism is [today] what it always was:” he writes, “an opinion that recognizes real civilizational differences and attributes them to biology.” Integration is today’s version of the voyages of discovery: “One of the risks of increased exposure to blacks is that it has also placed whites in a position to discover which of their preconceived views about blacks are true.” He then slips his leash completely and writes: “Increasingly it appears that it is liberal antiracism that is based on ignorance and fear; ignorance of the true nature of racism, and fear that the racist point of view better explains the world than its liberal counterparts.”
In the first few pages of the book, Mr. D’Souza assures us that biology does not explain racial differences in achievement and that he feels an “obligation to distinguish my principled positions from the ground occupied by bigots, and to attack racism no matter what its source.” Nevertheless, his defense of the environmental explanation for racial differences comes hundreds of pages after his admiring account of the European invention of “racism” and not until he has taken the reader on a tour of black neighborhoods where “the streets are irrigated with alcohol, urine, and blood.” His attempt to discredit the Jensen-Shockley-Herrnstein position is then so feeble, one wonders if his heart is really in it. Irate reviewers are on to something when they complain that this book is a defense of racism.
Mr. D’Souza’s second reason for defining racism as something that originated in the 18th century is that he can claim that “it remains profoundly consoling to know that racism had a beginning, because then it becomes possible to envision its end.” Racism, as Mr. D’Souza defines it, came about as close to ending as it ever will from about 1965 to 1985. Since then, it has staged a remarkable comeback. Mr. D’Souza himself concedes that most specialists now take the biological bases for IQ differences for granted. Even Robert Plomin and Leon Kamin, who once promoted the environmental view, have recanted, and Steven Jay Gould has shifted from dogmatic opposition to agnosticism. In any case, since Mr. D’Souza concedes that ethnocentrism is universal, eternal, and is sufficient grounds for genocide, what difference would the disappearance of his narrowly-defined “racism” make anyway?
If biology is not the problem for blacks, and racism is not holding them back, something else must have gone badly wrong for them. The problem, we learn, is cultural relativism. Readers therefore get a good tour of the Franz Boas school of anthropology, with its dogma that all races, cultures, and civilizations are precisely, mathematically equal. We meet Boas’ disciples, mooncalves like Margaret Mead and her lesbian lover Ruth Benedict; Melville Herskovits, Kenneth Clark, and Gunnar Myrdal.
As Mr. D’Souza explains, cultural relativism was ideally crafted to discredit scientific racism. The Boas view was that there really were no soaring differences in civilizational achievement after all (if anything, primitive societies were superior to our own), so there was nothing for racism to explain. Adolph Hitler and the Second World War were probably the best possible gifts to this view, since racial nationalism became firmly associated with war and carnage. Soon, anyone who talked about superior and inferior cultures was the barbarian, and anyone who discussed race and IQ was an assistant fuhrer.
This is all quite interesting, but Mr. D’Souza makes it the basis for a weak argument: a defective “culture” — and a relativist unwillingness to criticize it — account for black failure. If it explains what is going on in the ghetto, black culture must be a vicious thing indeed, and Mr. D’Souza spits on his hands and goes to work on it: “black culture also has a vicious, self-defeating, and repellent underside that it is no longer possible to ignore or euphemise.”
He writes of the disappearance of marriage and the resulting “bastardization of black America,” of “racial paranoia — a reflexive tendency to blame racism for every failure,” and that “much of the black community is parasitic on government for its basic livelihood.” Even many middle-class blacks are so consumed with anti-white rage, their minds barely stay on their hinges. Blacks are furious at the successes of other groups: “Whites and Asians . . . are hated for the human qualities that enable them to earn what they have. Black racism is a worldview built on frustration and jealousy.”
He cites the usual statistics of black failure and deviance but often he just lets underclass blacks paint their own portrait:
We put him in the car and went over to a field and put a rope over the thing you hook a trailer on with. We tied him on it and drag him in the field. He got skinned up all bad, tore his scalp half off. Got all dirt and gravel and stuff stuck in the blood. Then we put him back in the car and drove him over to where one of the homies had two pit bulls in the back yard, and we threw him in there with them. Man, they chewed him up — big ole chunks of meat comin’ off his arms and legs, blood pourin’ out, and him just screaming and cryin’ for us to take him on outta there. After we let him out the yard we made him kneel down and say stuff like: I’ll suck your dicks.
Whether or not this really happened, we believe it could have happened. “For many whites,” Mr. D’Souza concludes, “the criminal and irresponsible black underclass represents a revival of barbarism in the midst of Western civilization.” Indeed.
How did this awful black culture arise, and what can be done about it? According to Mr. D’Souza, cultural relativism prevented whites (and blacks) from criticizing even the worst horrors of black behavior. Now that relativism and liberalism are on the wane, and we are free to say that degeneracy is not culturally neutral after all, blacks can begin the mighty work of “cultural reconstruction.” They can now patch up their culture, reject Afro-centrism, and “act white.” In a flourish of heroic implausibility, Mr. D’Souza’s final words are that if they manage this, “it will be blacks themselves who will finally discredit racism, solve the American dilemma, and become the truest and noblest exemplars of Western civilization.”
What if they don’t? What if blacks continue — as everything in The End of Racism suggests they will — to act black rather than white?
Mr. D’Souza never says. However, in “the emerging café au lait society” that he tells us intermarriage is bringing, most of us will be part black anyway.
Does Mr. D’Souza really think blacks will ever be the “noblest exemplars of Western civilization”? His book reads like “secret writing,” the technique Leo Strauss describes in Persecution and the Art of Writing, by which an author asserts conventional conclusions but makes strong arguments for heresy. Maybe Mr. D’Souza really does believe in “culture,” environment, and integration, but his book is a splendid gift to those who do not.