Fifteen months after The National Review ended its relationship with longtime writer John Derbyshire for an essay he wrote for TakiMag.com in which he instructs his children to be afraid of black people, the conservative magazine has published Victor Davis Hanson's version of the same article. It is unlikely Hanson will meet the same fate as his former colleague.
What's changed? Well, all the attention on the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman and the hardening of stances on the merits of racial stereotyping. Derbyshire's piece was a response to several essays written in the aftermath of Martin's death about "The Talk" that black parents give their sons about how to deal with with white police officers and other authority figures. In "The Talk: Nonblack Version," Derbyshire wrote, "There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too." In his talk, he said, he told his children that they should "Avoid concentrations of blacks" who are strangers, "Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods," "Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress," and "If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving."
For that, National Review Rich Lowry editor wrote, after a public outcry, "Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer."
In The National Review on Tuesday, Hanson notes that Attorney General Eric Holder told the NAACP that George Zimmerman's acquittal meant he had to give his son "The Talk," about how black people are assumed to be violent by some white people and thus at great risk for harm. Hanson says, "Yet I fear that for every lecture of the sort that Holder is forced to give his son, millions of non-African-Americans are offering their own versions of ensuring safety to their progeny." Hanson does not try to be funny, the way Derbyshire did, and he doesn't make the same kind of vague warnings about a simmering race war. (Derbyshire said about 5 percent of blacks were "ferociously hostile to whites," and another 50 percent or so of them would go along out of solidarity and becaue they think white people have it coming.) But his basic idea is the same: watch out for black kids.
Hanson says his father — a Democrat! — told him once, "When you go to San Francisco, be careful if a group of black youths approaches you." Hanson continues:
Note what he did not say to me. He did not employ language like “typical black person.” He did not advise extra caution about black women, the elderly, or the very young — or about young Asian Punjabi, or Native American males. In other words, the advice was not about race per se, but instead about the tendency of males of one particular age and race to commit an inordinate amount of violent crime.
It was after some first-hand episodes with young African-American males that I offered a similar lecture to my own son.
When he was a grad student, Hanson says, two black guys tried to break into his apartment while he was in it. Another time, four black guys tried to steal his bike while he was on it. "Regrettably, I expect that my son already has his own warnings prepared to pass on to his own future children," he says.
This is dumb and not very polite, The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, but also does not actually make Hanson's kids safe.
If I were to tell you that I only employ Asian-Americans to do my taxes because "Asian-Americans do better on the Math SAT," you would not simply question my sensitivity, but my mental faculties. That is because you would understand that in making an individual decision, employing an ancestral class of millions is not very intelligent. Moreover, were I to tell you I wanted my son to marry a Jewish woman because "Jews are really successful," you would understand that statement for the stupidity which it is.
But racism makes people do dumb things, Coates writes. So does politics. There have been pretty clear political "sides" to the Trayvon Martin case ever since President Obama spoke about him in March 2012. Coates wrote last fall:
As civil-rights activists descended on Florida, National Review, a magazine that once opposed integration, ran a column proclaiming“Al Sharpton Is Right.” The belief that a young man should be able to go to the store for Skittles and an iced tea and not be killed by a neighborhood-watch patroller seemed uncontroversial…
The moment Obama spoke, the case of Trayvon Martin passed out of its national-mourning phase and lapsed into something darker and more familiar—racialized political fodder.
Since the Zimmerman verdict, many people have defended racial profiling as the right reaction to crime rates — black people have a higher crime rate, though it is dropping, as it is with other demographics. The Washington Post's Richard Cohen did, so did Kathleen Parker, calling it "common sense." The racial debate intensified again after Obama's speech last Friday, when he said "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." Several people pointed out that black people commit crimes too, and why didn't Obama mention that? "If you think of the young mother whose 2-year-old son was shot in the face by the two black teens that approached her in Atlanta and that baby had died, why do presidents choose to speak about one case and not the other?" former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino said on Sunday. Hanson points out that black men allegedly robbed a jewelry store the same day Holder gave his talk:
What were the names of two of the men suspected of being the ones who last week shot it out with the Santa Rosa jeweler as Eric Holder demagogued the Trayvon Martin shooting?
Traveon Banks-Austin and Alexander Tyvon Brandon.
And so the tragedy continues.
They had similar names, so... so that must mean something, right?
And Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said on Monday night, "The sad truth is that from the president on down, our leadership has no clue, no clue at all about how to solve problems within the black community." The real problem black people face is not white racism, he said, but instead, "The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family." This is about personal choice, not oppression, O'Reilly said — "White people don't force black people to have babies out of wedlock" — except in the case of the liberal entertainment industry, which "encourages the irresponsibility by marketing a gangster culture, hip hop, movies, trashy TV shows to impressionable children." He continued, "President Obama has welcomed some of the worst offenders in that cesspool to the White House when he should be condemning what these weasels are doing. These so-called entertainers get rich while the kids who emulate their lyrics and attitude destroy themselves." Get it? Maybe the black president, in some small way, is the one who's really responsible for some black crime, too.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.