John Derbyshire’s Vade Mecum For Diversity Conversations
[VDARE.com note: His what? Helpful definition of vade mecum here).
We all know the feeling.
And those of us in the tiny minority who keep up with race-realist and patriotic immigration reform websites know the feeling particularly well. So comprehensive is the Main Stream Media [MSM] blackout that policies we have been patiently promoting for years, facts we have long since uncovered, ideas we have worn so threadbare with discussion that we can no longer be much bothered with them, strike too many unreflective ordinary Americans as: astonishing! Radical!! Impossible!!!! Outrageous!!!!!!!! (I have been reading Tom Wolfe.)
Contrariwise, when we engage in discussion on these topics with that Ordinary American, we know with dreary certitude the slogans we shall hear:
Nation Of Immigrants! Culture of poverty! Fix the schools! Etc.
This is what the Ordinary American has heard from the MSM and not bothered to reflect upon. From Fox News or MSNBC, the New York Times or Weekly Standard, it makes very little difference—any more than it makes a difference which party’s politician he most recently heard them from. Seven years ago, a Republican Administration was vowing to “reform our immigration system” (by which it meant amnesty). Now a Democratic Administration is vowing the same thing, in well-nigh the same words.
We live in a one-party state, adrift on an ocean of clichés.
Readers often ask me how to counter the commonest points that opponents make.
There is a misconception there: I am a retired and uncourtly scholar with only meager argumentative skills and a tendency—fatal to success in verbal combat—to see the other guy’s point of view.
A couple of years ago I was invited on The View to discuss something or other. The opportunity for a moment’s fame tugged at me briefly; then I realized what easy meat I would be. I all too clearly saw myself ineffectually mumbling “Well, yes, you may have a point, but…” to some snarling Gyno-American gargoyle who wouldn’t know a database from a dildo. I politely declined the invitation.
But in arenas less fevered than daytime-TV screech-fests, the clichés are, in fact, easy to refute. Here are counters for the half-dozen commonest. I have kept the wordage low enough that you can print them up on a two-sided sheet to laminate and carry round with you as a vade mecum.
It’s not race, it’s poverty. (By far the most common assertion when black-white gaps in school achievement or criminality are discussed. A third to a half of all race-denial arguments are some version of this. Vast multi-billion-dollar federal programs are premised on it.)
Of our 40 million self-identifying blacks, 25 percent are on food stamps; of our 268 million self-identifying whites-plus-Hispanics-plus-Asians-plus-Amerinds, nine percent are. Put it another way, blacks “commit poverty” at 2.8 times the rate of non-blacks, if we take food-stamp usage as the proxy and ignore the one-in-seven Americans who write “human” or “Klingon” in the census race box.
So if blacks commit crimes at 2.8 times the rate of non-blacks, then crime-wise it could indeed be that “it’s not race, it’s poverty.” But if the multiplier is much different, then the assertion is false.
Guess what? The multiplier is way different, depending on the crime. For homicide it’s about seven; for robbery, eight and a half. Even for white-collar crimes like fraud and bribery, it’s in the four-to-five zone. The statistics are easy to find.
And empiricism aside, pure logic tells us that if the poor are more characteristically X (criminal, low-achieving, addicted, whatever) than the non-poor, three possibilities are in play:
(1) Poverty causes X;
(2) X causes poverty;
(3) Some underlying factor causes both poverty and X.
For crime I’d guess all three are at work, weighted about 10-20-70, with feedback loops from one to another. (Try getting a job when you have a prison record).
It’s not race, it’s culture. Notwithstanding that it’s one of the phrases most commonly heard from the inattentive, this is in fact empty of meaning—what logicians call a tautology, like “All bachelors are single.”
“Culture” in the properly anthropological sense, means “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.” So if you say: “This group characteristically behaves and thinks like this because of their culture,” you are saying “they behave and think like this because this is how they behave and think.”
This invoking of culture as an “explanation” of culture is a bastard child of some genuine anthropology. The sire of the bastard seems to have been Alfred Kroeber, fl. 1900-1950. Prior to Kroeber’s time—and indeed in his own early writings—what we nowadays call “culture” in this context was called “history.”
Fine, OK: then it’s not race, it’s history. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. If there’s a big, long migration in your group’s history, then geography comes into play, affecting subsequent history—more feedback loops. So it’s history and geography.
And then, if the environment in which your group lives—geographical, climatic, zoological, nutritional, or social—undergoes some big change, the group’s genetic profile may be affected. But then it is race, because that’s what race is: the genetic profile of a mostly-inbreeding group.
One of the greatest advances in our understanding this past few years is that group genetic change can happen more quickly than was previously thought. Dmitry Belyaev bred the wildness out of Siberian foxes in just ten years.
That’s anecdotal. (Said in rebuttal when you mention some particular anti-white outrage by illegal aliens or other malefactors.)
Oh, you don’t like anecdotal? Fine, let’s talk statistical, then. Which database would you prefer to use: NCVS, Uniform Crime Reports, Supplementary Homicide…? I’m pretty familiar with them all, as I’m sure you are…
The guy who shot up a school just recently was white. Anecdotal!
OK, but serial killers and spree killers are predominantly white. Americans are predominantly white, so if all else were equal, this is what you’d expect.
But all things aren’t equal. Justin Cottrell’s book Rise of the Black Serial Killer does a proper statistical analysis. Conclusion: Per capita, there are at least twice as many black as nonblack serial killers. VDARE.com has reported extensively on the topic: here, here, here…
The only people with any right to be in this country are the Native Americans. If true, this suggests two possible courses of action:
(1) We non-Native Americans should all leave the U.S.A.
Which of these two courses of action do you recommend?
This is a nation of immigrants! As Peter Brimelow said in Alien Nation back in 1995 (!): All nations are nations of immigrants. There is no known case where people grew out of the ground.
Sure, America has at times been a nation of exceptional population inflows. We have at times been a nation of heavy tobacco smokers. Then we decided it wasn’t a great idea and cut down on it. Mass immigration is no more a fixed component of our national identity than tobacco smoking.
It’s wrong to generalize. We should treat people as individuals. And so we should, in our one-on-one relationships. I actually said this in my much-denounced article The Talk (not that it did me any good).
Without generalizing, however, thought and language are impossible. Every improper noun is a generalization. The English noun “table” need not refer to this table or that table: it can refer to tables in general: “A table usually has four legs.” My use of “Native Americans” under a previous heading is a generalization about human beings.
And there is much more to social life than one-on-one relationships. Entire professions and industries are built on useful generalizations about human beings. Public restrooms, drink laws, hair salons, and numberless other facilities divide humans by sex, age, religion, disability…
But OK, I’ll quit generalizing about human beings—when society at large does: the federal power, the judiciary, college admissions officers, TV cable providers, professional associations, rapists…Just let me know.
Stephen Jay Gould said . . . Did he? Great. Would you like to know what my Aunt Muriel said?
So there’s your vade mecum. It won’t do you much good, of course. “We would rather believe than know,” said Nietzsche. And he was not wrong.
We are up against a mighty system of belief, with rich social and career rewards for believers.
Against that, the gods themselves struggle in vain!
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimismand several other books. His writings are archived atJohnDerbyshire.com.
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