I’ve never had the pleasure of having a black person as a best friend, or anything beyond a casual acquaintance. I’ve never dated a black woman, nor have I ever asked one out. I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s in an all-white suburb of Chicago. I went to an all-white Catholic boys high school and a nearly all-white private college.
I’ve never lived in a town that is more than 10% black, nor have I ever lived in a city run by blacks. I’ve never had a black next-door neighbor, nor have I lived in a neighborhood where blacks were more than a scattered presence. I have never had occasion to visit an all-black neighborhood or attend an event where a majority of the crowd is black. And I’ve never been approached by a black man while walking down a dark street at night, wondering if I should cross the street or not.
I suppose this makes me sheltered, naive, even ignorant of the way the world works and the how the racial divide colors our attitudes in our everyday lives. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve never cared. Race has never been a factor in any decision I’ve made about where to live, where to work, or who my friends are. I’ve never been about to sign a lease to an apartment and stopped short, saying to myself, “Gee — maybe I should try to find a place that has more diversity.” Nor have I ever turned down a job because there weren’t enough black people working there. I’ve never avoided blacks, nor have I made a conscious effort to cultivate a friendship of a black person because I believed it would expand my horizons, or make me — somehow — a better person.
Of course, I can afford this attitude because I’m white. I doubt very much that there has ever been a black person in the history of America who has lived a life without thinking about race in some way or another almost every day. But I don’t dwell on such matters. Why should I? Because it proves I “care”? Spare me the sanctimony. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, least of all those who feel it necessary to tell the rest of us how insensitive or racist we are because we don’t weep for the unfortunates of the world.
Besides, it is impossible to discuss race in this country. There is one, and only one, narrative about race, and if you don’t subscribe to it, debate is closed off and the apostate branded a racist. An exaggeration? The exaggeration is in the constant misconstruing of intent and twisting of words by those who wish to control the conversation about race for political or other purposes. Eric Holder was wrong. It’s not a lack of courage that keeps us from discussing race, it is a lack of respect that refuses one side the legitimacy of their views.
For example, some of the issues raised in John Derbyshire’s article in Taki’s Magazine that got him fired from National Review need vetting. Yes, much of Derbyshire’s screed was ignorant, uninformed, and considered racist by many. But reading comments on a dozen blog posts discussing the article shows that Derbyshire’s “advice” to his children about black people struck a chord with many white Americans. As with most internet comments, there was the usual mix of stupidity, intolerance, and even blatant hate. But that does not obviate the fact that there is a perception that at least some of what Derbyshire wrote rang true. And true or false, it’s real and should be dealt with.