An instantly controversial Victor Davis Hanson column recounts a piece of advice handed down through three generations in his family: Watch out if you see young black men on the street or approaching your house or vehicle -- they commit "an inordinate amount of violent crime." A fair number of commenters at National Review agree with that counsel. My colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates retorts that it is "stupid advice" that betrays "a rote, incurious and addled intellect."
What do I think?
The significance of Hanson's column and its embrace by some conservatives can't be fully appreciated without looking back at his larger body of work on race in America. His attitudes are common, though far from universal, in movement conservatism.
At their core is a glaring contradiction.
VDH wrote last year that "until the election of Barack Obama, 'white' was an increasingly rare designation." Intermarriage, integration, and assimilation "were making race itself an irrelevant consideration." But then Obama engaged in "race-baiting" and "staged anger" at alleged white racism.
Hanson sees liberals as race-obsessed, which he regards as anti-American. The "new emphasis on tribe"* ignores human individuality "and assumes that friendships, marriages, and alliances will not dare trump racial and ethnic solidarity," he argues. "Ours is now instead a Galadriel's mirror of the Balkans, of India's castes, of Rwanda, but no longer of a multiracial melting-pot America, where our allegiances were to be political, economic, and cultural and not necessarily synonymous with how we looked." Hanson dismisses prevailing racial categories. "Only in the hyper-racialist America can we take quite distinct Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and Chinese third-generation citizens and create from them the artificial rubric 'Asian' in their shared antithesis to 'white,'" he writes, "or take disparate Cubans and Mexicans and likewise reinvent them as identical Latinos, or take Jamaicans, Ethiopians, and American blacks and call them all 'African-Americans' on the similar logic of not being something equally artificial like white -- which I guess covers Americans who used to be Greeks, Irish, Armenians, Jews, Poles, and Danes."