I think we should have a frank conversation about race… because I always take my moral cues from second rate political hacks.
A week or so ago, National Review severed its connection with self-described “benign racist” writer John Derbyshire over a controversial column he wrote for Taki’s Magazine. Reading the commentary and comments about this event, I began to notice that the word racism is not well understood. Leftists, of course, feel that racism means “any uncomfortable facts spoken by a conservative.” Some conservatives seem to have been bullied into accepting that definition and go about on tiptoe speaking in hushed voices to avoid getting pilloried. Other conservatives, in angry rebellion against the bullying, seem to feel that whatever trash they want to talk about their fellow man is A-OK as long as some set of statistics gives them cover.
Personally, I’m a big fan of dictionaries in these situations since, for words to work properly, they have to have definitions. Thus, at the risk of great personal hernia, I have hoisted down my Webster’s Third New International Unabridged, circa 1976, which I keep around for when I want a definition untainted by political correctness or stupidity. But I repeat myself.
“Racism: The assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others.”
Thus, as we see, it is not racist in itself to point out, say, that black people commit an inordinate amount of the violent crime in this country. (My terrific City Journal colleague Heather Mac Donald does this regularly and, far from thinking to fire her, her editors value her highly, as do I.) Facts are facts.
What is racist, however, according to Webster, is the belief that high crime rates among blacks — or any other psychocultural outcomes — are somehow biologically determined; that you can tell who will win or lose the game of Life by the color of his skin.
I do not believe you can be a true, thinking, coherent conservative and a philosophical racist at the same time. Here’s why: