This weekend, the political internet exploded over an article by John Derbyshire in an online zine about “the talk” non-black parents have with their children. His article came in response to many black commentators acknowledging that they gave their children “the talk” about how, as blacks, they would have to be conscious about how others saw their skin color. This itself was in response to the recent Trayvon Martin shooting and its racial undertones. Derbyshire said that he had given his children a similar talk, which can more or less be summed up as, black people are dangerous and best to be avoided. After the firestorm, Derbyshire was fired from his position at the conservative magazine National Review.
There’s a couple things to be said here, first, I am one non-black American that never received this talk or any aspect of it, I guess it’s just been luck I’ve survived so far. Second, the outrage over the article is notsomuch about the acutal contents of it but rather the fact that it exposes a fairly common racial attitude in America. Many of the comments on social news sites reporting the story show that there are many others who share Derbyshire’s attitude. Both conservatives and liberals liked to pretend that people still didn’t think this way and this exposure provides an uncomfortable reminder that it’s very much still present.
Perhaps most important though, is what Derbyshire says at the end of his list.
“13. In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.”
Derbyshire’s earlier warnings of blacks used statistics to show that blacks are more dangerous and in doing so he was indirectly saying that blacks caused more crime or that there is disproportionate education because they are black. Then at the end of the article he basically says that blacks are bad except when they’re not, noting the “IWSB” as he says. So in what is perhaps his most racist advice, is also his most telling. Why are blacks on average poorer, less educated, and more prone to crime than non-black? Derbyshire implies that it’s because they’re black.
But by defining the IWSB he unknowingly notes the real culprit, poverty. You can take almost all of his article, replace the word blacks with the poor and get better statistical results. For instance, a higher percentage of the prison population is poor than it is black, and poor people have lower IQ’s on average than rich people. Also, if you are black you’re also much more likely to be poor, not because you’re black, but because of history, 400 years of enslavement, and another 100 of feudalism. 500 years of history of creating an underclass in America and less than 50 trying to repair it. Derbyshire’s suggestion: make the underclass permanent.