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Jared Taylor On White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century
Peter Brimelow writes: Jared Taylor is arguably the most brilliant of the leaders of what is now sometimes called the "Alternative Right", the intellectual movement focused on emergent issues that are now systematically suppressed in America's purblind public debate. I believe that his new book White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century—the long–awaited sequel to his 1992 book Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America, the definitive debunking of the blacks oppressed-whites racist "blacks oppressed-whites racist" conventional narrative—will eventually be seen as a decisive step forward on the historic American nation's road to recovery from the paralyzing curse of Political Correctness.
Taylor has told the story of the reception of Paved with Good Intentions in the Preface to his 2005 reissue. He kindly credited my National Review notice with helping break the Main Stream Media boycott. The book ultimately became a significant commercial success.
Needless to say, the post-purge National Review would not now dare review a book as Politically Incorrect as White Identity. But, even more serious, Taylor's publisher, Kent Carroll, refused to handle this sequel and told Taylor that he regretted publishing the original, despite its success, because of the backlash from industry peers. Two literary agents, Theron Raines and Paul Zack, attracted by the manuscript's undeniable skill and power, spent years trying to place it before giving up in surprised despair.
Diversity is not strength. It is, in important respects, repression. Only because of the internet, and the new publishing technology, can we continue to hope that the truth, as well represented by White Identity, will set us free.
(Adapted from the Introduction to White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century—purchase here.)
I was nine years old and knew nothing about boxing, but my eye was caught by a newspaper picture of the victorious Patterson standing over Johansson, out cold on the canvas.
I read the article and asked my father if this meant no one on earth could beat Patterson. He said that was right; Patterson was the best boxer in the world.
I remember thinking to myself that this just wasn't right. Surely, there must be one of our guys—a white guy—who could beat him. Floyd Patterson was an American like me, while Ingemar Johansson was a foreigner, a Swede, but I still wanted the white man to win.
Readers will no doubt dismiss thoughts of a nine-year-old child as "racism"—as prejudice I learned from my surroundings—but they should not be so hasty. My parents were missionaries, and I was born and reared in Japan. At age nine I had no experience of black people. My parents had always said that all races were equal and that all people were children of God.
I also had no special objection to Patterson because he was black. I think I would have been just as perplexed if Johansson had been knocked out by an Arab or a Chinese.
As I grew up I adopted my parents' liberal views of race, and forgot all about Patterson and Johansson. In fact, as a young liberal I would have been ashamed to recall that I had rooted for the white man rather than the American. It was only when I was in my 40s and began to question conventional assumptions about race that I even remembered what I had thought about that 1961 title fight.
As we will see in Chapter 4, children of all races have untutored racial preferences that may be part of their nature. It serves little purpose to call these preferences "racism", as if they were a moral failing. They appear to be an expression of natural racial identity, which arises far earlier than most people realize and can persist despite efforts to suppress it. Clever experiments in adults show that they retain these preferences, even when they are convinced they do not. Racial identity can be condemned, fought, ignored, or cultivated, but it is unrealistic for a society to pretend it does not exist.
The American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was based on the assumption that consciousness of race is a prejudice that is learned from a prejudiced society. The movement's goal was to eliminate racial prejudice and even consciousness of race, and build a society in which race would not matter.
That effort failed; generation after generation race continues to matter.
And yet, official American assumptions about race—that it is a trivial distinction it is our destiny to transcend—have not changed. The result is a stubborn gap between what Americans say and claim to think about race, and how they act. This stark contrast is described in the first chapter of this book.
Though they seldom talk about it, at some level most Americans know how little their behavior resembles what are supposed to be their ideals. The result is frustration, confusion, and not a little hypocrisy. I believe decades of frustration were behind the wishful thinking that surrounded the election of the first black American president in 2008.
Shortly before Barack Obama took office, I was invited to join a radio debate on the significance of the election. The other guest, a professor at Yale, used language that was then nearly universal. He called the election "transformational", saying it would dramatically change the lives of both blacks and whites.
I said it was a mistake to expect "transformation", or perhaps even much change at all. I asked whether the fact that we had a black president would reduce rates of black crime, illegitimacy, and school failure, and whether whites would now welcome black and Hispanic neighbors.
I noted that in 1990, Virginia—the heart of the old Confederacy—elected a black man, Douglas Wilder, as governor, and that his election was greeted with similarly extravagant expectations. At the end of four years, the circumstances of blacks and the state of race relations were unchanged.
The host of the program so resented my suggestion that "transformation" should be expected to show concrete results that he accused me of trying to deceive his listeners. Clearly, he had been swept up in the heady excitement of the moment, an excitement caught by Paul Krugman, who wrote in the New York Times that if Mr. Obama's election "didn't leave you teary-eyed and proud of your country, there's something wrong with you". [ The Obama Agenda, New York Times, November 7, 2008.]
Why would an election cause a radio host to take offense at the idea that "transformation" should bring measurable gains? Why would it bring a Nobel laureate in economics to tears?
It is because so many people saw the election as expiation for America's sins and the final achievement of the goals of the civil rights movement. The election of a black president meant victory had finally come.
There had already been a half century of effort. School integration, civil rights laws, affirmative action, the Great Society, Black History Month, the King holiday, black appointments to cabinet and Supreme Court—all reflected a deep desire to do away with distinctions of race. Every institution and authority figure in the country condemns racism and urges that it be fought on all fronts. The United States has poured more moral energy into improving race relations than into anything else in its history.
And yet, in November 2008, race was still the American dilemma. The fact that it was still a dilemma despite so much effort fostered something like a yearning for miracles. That yearning gained force with every step Mr. Obama took towards the White House and reached a climax at his inauguration.
Two years later, there is so little euphoria left that it is difficult for most Americans to remember how giddy with hope they were on January 20, 2009 when Mr. Obama took the oath of office. The CNN news channel hinted at miracles when it offered viewers an inaugural T-shirt that read, "Obama raises hand, lifts a nation". Actress Susan Sarandon was hoping for miracles when she said of the new president, "He is a community organizer like Jesus was. And now, we're a community and he can organize us".
There was such a frenzy over the new president that former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers was no doubt right to call him "the most famous living person in the history of the world". Mr. Obama had been president for less than a month when he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and had been president for only eight months when the Nobel Committee declared him the winner.
All this explains the hostility to my question about the tangible consequences for race relations of an Obama victory—whether there was going to be real change or just happy talk. People hoping for miracles do not want to be asked practical questions.
But there have been no miracles. The Gallup organization recorded a huge spike in optimism about American race relations at the time of the inauguration, but one year later it found that "optimism about race relations is now almost identical to where it was 46 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question".
This book tries to explain why there have been no miracles. It does so by examining the enduring phenomenon of racial consciousness. For many Americans—probably most Americans—race remains an unspoken consideration in decisions about where to live, what schools to attend, what clubs to join, whom to marry, and what parts of town to avoid at night.
The closer we look at how Americans live, the more clearly we see how much race continues to matter. At the same time, the moral imperative of the civil rights movement—that race should mean nothing—remains so strong that many whites deny, even to themselves, that race plays any role in these decisions.
We insist that "diversity" is a great strength, but for most Americans this is mere lip service. They rarely seek diversity in their personal lives, living instead in homogeneous islands that look nothing like the racial and cultural mix this country has become. Anti-discrimination laws ensure integration at work, at school, and in public, but in private the races generally separate. A dinner party, poker game, wedding reception, church service, or backyard barbecue is rarely a multi-racial mosaic. When they are beyond the reach of the law, Americans revert to the patterns of segregation the law forbids.
Americans therefore live a contradiction that makes it difficult to talk honestly about race. There is probably no other subject about which there is a greater divergence between what is said publicly and thought privately, or between official pronouncements and personal behavior.
At least that is true for whites. Chapters 5 and 6 explore the open rejection by Blacks and Hispanics of the civil-rights ideal of transcending race. For many minorities, race or ethnicity is central to their identity. The Congressional Black Caucus exists to shape legislation from a limited perspective: What's in it for blacks? The Hispanic caucus has an equally narrow perspective.
Non-white racial/ethnic solidarity is an entrenched part of the political landscape, and the pressure tactics to which it gives rise have been very successful. As we will see in Chapter 7, Asians are now adopting the same tactics. Non-white leaders are so accustomed to promoting explicitly racial interests that they would be dumbfounded at the suggestion that they should broaden their horizons and work for all Americans. And yet that is the goal all Americans must have if the country is to "move beyond race".
Chapter 8 describes the radical transformation of white racial attitudes that has occurred in the last half century. Up until the 1950s, most white Americans felt the same kind of racial identity that is common among non-whites. These sentiments have almost completely disappeared—certainly from public sight.
No politician would dare examine legislation by asking what was in it for whites. No city in America has a white firefighters' union or a white caucus on the city council. Across the political spectrum, Americans assert that any form of white racial consciousness or solidarity is despicable.
Whites, therefore, have tried to keep their end of the civil rights bargain. They have dismantled and condemned their own racial identity in the expectation that others will do the same.
Why, though, is it so hard to build a society in which race does not matter? To the extent that Americans even ask themselves this question, they would say that it is because Americans—whites, especially—have not tried hard enough. And yet, how much harder can a people try? Today, after 50 years of trying, most whites cannot muster much more than exhausted resignation in the face of reports on school resegregation and yawning gaps in test scores or poverty rates.
This book departs from convention in that it does not ask that we just keep trying harder. Instead, it suggests that we would do well to rethink our assumptions. If, generation after generation, Americans tend to segregate themselves, is it possible that the expectations for integration were not reasonable? If diversity is a source of tension, are there risks in basing policies on the assumption that it is a strength? If non-white groups continue to advance race-based interests, is it wise for whites to continue to act as if they have none?
The ideal of moving beyond race still appeals to the vast majority of whites. They dream of an America in which there is no such thing as racial conflict, in which all Americans work together for common goals. They love to quote Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech about judging people by "the content of their character".
And yet, two generations after that speech was delivered, how many blacks judge whites by the content of their character? And when whites take a wrong turn off the freeway, do they lock their car doors because they can read the character of the people on the sidewalk?
Perhaps it is time to question goals that run counter to near-universal behavior. There may be lessons for us in the failure of Soviet-style Communism. It is our era's foremost example of a system that made mesmerizing promises of an earthly paradise but betrayed those promises. Millions of people were inspired by an ideology that would do away with capitalist exploitation. Marxists believed that the working class would seize the means of production, the state would wither away, selfishness would disappear, and man would live "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs". In the name of this ideology millions gave their lives—and took the lives of millions of others.
But Communism failed. It failed for many reasons, not least because it was a misreading of human nature. Self-interest cannot be abolished. People do not work just as hard on collective farms as they do on their own land. The almost universal rejection of Communism today marks the acceptance of people as they are, not as Communism wished them to be.
Is it possible that our racial ideals assume that people should become something they cannot?
If most people prefer the company of people like themselves, what do we achieve by insisting that they deny that preference?
If diversity is a weakness rather than a strength, why work to increase diversity?
I believe that mistaken assumptions about race are leading us in dangerous directions. Merely to raise these questions, however, is to dissent from the deeply held convictions of many thoughtful Americans—and they are more than mere convictions. For many Americans, perhaps even most Americans, they are the foundations of morality; even to question the assumptions of the civil-rights vision is illegitimate.
Of course, we can never speak honestly about race if the majority brooks no dissent. There cannot be dialogue if doubters are thought to be not merely mistaken but immoral. In fact, it is a sign that the defenders of orthodoxy are unsure of their ground when they close their ears to disagreement. Real solutions to real problems require honest discussion, and honest discussion comes at a cost. As Thomas Paine said: "He who dares not offend cannot be honest".
When it comes to race, few dare to offend. In February 2009, Mr. Obama's black Attorney General, Eric Holder, caused a stir when he noted that workplaces are integrated but that in their private lives Americans live in "race-protected cocoons", as if we were still living in "the country that existed almost 50 years ago". He said Americans were "a nation of cowards" because they do not talk about race, and urged us to "be honest with each other".[Obama's attorney general claims US is 'voluntarily segregated' , Telegraph[UK], February 19, 2009 ]
But did Mr. Holder mean it? Is he willing to consider that, if in some important ways our country has not changed in 50 years, it may mean it was unrealistic to expect it to change?
Of course, it is likely that Mr. Holder just wanted whites to break out of their "race-protected cocoons", embrace people of other races, and apologize for racism. And, as we will see in Chapter 8, whites are more than ready to apologize. When they speak as whites it is almost always to apologize. But apologies for slavery and Jim Crow—things for which no living white person is responsible—take neither bravery nor honesty.
Attorney General Holder was right to say Americans are cowards about race. But he was wrong about why. White Americans are cowards, but not because they are unwilling to admit guilt and atone for the past. They are cowards because they fear that any departure from carefully scripted opinions about race—to suggest, for example, that the very fact of multi-racialism gives rise to serious problems no matter what whites do—will be met with charges of "racism".
And they are right. Charges of "racism" are not a form of debate; they are meant to silence debate. Accusations of racism are often transparent attempts to choke off honest discussion.
This book is an attempt to understand race relations as they are—not as we might wish them to be. We cannot understand the world we live in if we refuse to rethink assumptions that may be wrong. Nor can we make progress if we are knocked off course for fear that others may call us names.
Reexamining our assumptions about race could have far-reaching consequences, which are explored in the final chapter. Disturbing as such a reexamination may be, it will help us understand the choices our country faces today and the choices we made in the past. We can continue down a path that is likely to ensure tension and social dislocation—or we can reorient policies in more realistic directions.
This book is about racial identity, something most people who are not white take for granted. They come to it early, feel it strongly, and make no apologies for it.
Most American whites do not have a strong sense of racial identity. But they would do well to understand what race means for others.
They should also ponder the consequences of being the only group for whom such an identity is forbidden and who are permitted no aspirations as a group.
These questions—certainly the most controversial in this book—are taken up in the final chapter.
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