The Derbyshire Kerfuffle

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John Derbyshire set off a firestorm this past weekend when he put up this article called The Talk: Nonblack Version.  This was a response, of sorts, to a column published in the Orlando Sentinel in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Derbyshire’s column was swiftly condemned by commentators on all sides of the political spectrum.  By Saturday night National Review had severed its ties to Derbyshire even though his column had appeared on another site.

What did Derbyshire do this time to draw such harsh condemnation?  Derbyshire’s column  utilized the conceit of giving his child a talk about race relations and what to do when confronting unknown black people.  Though commenters objected to nearly all of what Derbyshire wrote, this was the most damning section:

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

I wouldn’t have commented on this but for the reaction to it.  In some ways that is more interesting than the article itself, which is frankly just dumb (more on that in a minute).  Just as quickly as a majority of both right and left writers condemned Derbyshire, there was the counter-reaction which suggested that this was not a firing offense, and perhaps even contained more truth than people were comfortable admitting.

Let me first address the substance of the commentary.  There’s a saying that the plural of anecdote is not data, and it doesn’t look like Derb has heeded that here.  Some of his defenders seem fooled by the number of links, as though copious citation is in and of itself proof of correctness.  I certainly appreciate people showing their work, but all Derbyshire did was take truly horrendous incidents and use them as justification for making broad generalities.  It’s terrible that a white person was assaulted for nothing more than being guilty of being white in a black neighborhood (and, incidentally, the lack of reporting on such incidents only makes the story more infuriating), but does one glean from such an incident that is always imprudent for non-blacks to wander in black communities?  Because if we’re using anecdotes as proof, my rather expansive history of strolling through black communities unmolested would counter this theory.

Some of these points are truly head scratching.  Why should we scrutinize black politicians more heavily than non-black politicians?  Shouldn’t we deeply investigate all politicians?  And while there might be something to the point about municipalities run by black politicians, is that ideological or racial?  Washington DC itself provides examples of relatively competent black leadership (Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty) and corrupt leadership (Marion Barry and Vincent Gray).  I for one would prefer the leadership of Fenty to, say, William Daly.

There’s more to the article, including a discussion of the comparatively low IQ scores of blacks as compared to whites.  Again, it’s a scientifically accurate fact, but so what?  And what does it have to do with the (admittedly dumb) Orlando Sentinel article?  Derbyshire’s article fails as satire because it doesn’t really reflect the thing being satirized, and it fails on the substance because Derbyshire chooses to draw extreme conclusions based on rather scanty evidence.

But is it a fireable offense?

First of all, let’s make clear that the fact that Derbyshire wrote this for Taki Magazine is beside the point.  If I write a blog post that condemns the Catholic Church on my personal blog, the other editors of the American Catholic would be right to disinvite me from further participation on this blog.

As I said, there was a counter-reaction to Derbyshire’s banishment expressed throughout the world of social media and on the comments at NRO.  Admittedly I joined the fun in expressing my angst at National Review’s decision, though not because I thought Derbyshire’s column had much merit, but because he has written worse things in the past.  In fact I specifically alluded to this Corner posting from 2008.  The entire post is just dripping with complete hostility to religious people.  It is far and away more offensive than his latest missive, and far shorter on any sort of substantive reasoning.

On the other hand, Jonah Goldberg had a fair response to that point.  Unfortunately he wrote it in his G-file and as such it is not available for quoting.  The long and short of his argument is that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It may not have been the worst thing he’s ever written, but it’s just the latest in an accumulation of fairly outrageous writing.  Still, this is almost like firing someone for being ten minutes late when they had been on probation for poor performance.  Also, it is telling that Derbyshire is let go for writing a racially insensitive article while he was permitted to keep his job despite his manifest religious bigotry.

I have a hard time defending Derbyshire because I honestly think he should have been fired long before this.  But we really have to have some room for discourse on thorny issues.  I’m not entirely sure that Derbyshire’s comments are so beyond the pale that his firing was justified, but I’m also not convinced that National Review is engaging in awful cowardice because of this decision.

One of the problems with political correctness is that we sometimes tend to celebrate non-politically correct statements purely for being non-politically correct.  W. James Antle has a pair of good posts explaining the faults with this approach.  Here is the first column.

Enough has been written about the column that ended Derbyshire’s association with National Review. There is, however, a bigger picture here. There are certain ideas about race that are popular among liberals — that cases like Trayvon Martin’s aren’t isolated tragedies but routine occurrences in racist America; concerns about crime, especially black crime, are necessarily racist; white racism explains the overwhelming majority of black social problems; voter ID laws aren’t much different from poll taxes and Bull Connor; the racial attitudes of the Jim Crow South remain commonplace among white Americans — that are to many Americans obvious nonsense.

A small but growing number of people on the right seem to be embracing the idea that if these liberal observations are false, then the exact opposite of them must be true: interracial harmony is effectively impossible; affirmative action harms whites in exactly the same way Jim Crow harmed blacks; the era that gave rise to the civil rights movement wasn’t that bad; we are all at imminent risk of being attacked by predominantly black flash mobs; white racism doesn’t exist (proponents of this last bit seem divided on the question of whether it should exist). Needless to say, these views are also obvious nonsense.

He then followed that up.

The left’s tolerance and occasional celebration of racial hucksterism has produced an equal and opposite reaction on the right. It has made some more mainstream conservatives automatically dismissive of claims of anti-black racism. On the more extreme end, it has produced an audience for white nationalism. These white nationalists — the people I called “white nats” in the comments thread of yesterday’s post — start by rejecting liberal caricatures and asking plausible questions: Would you rather live in Haiti or Switzerland? In [insert dangerous inner city neighborhood here] or [insert prosperous white suburb here]? Would you rather be governed by Marion Barry or George Washington? Once you have provided the obvious answers, they head further down the road.

The overwhelming majority of people can hold two thoughts in their head simultaneously: they can avoid a dangerous neighborhood at night without it affecting their treatment of their black friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers they meet (yes, white people do have black friends, neighbors, and coworkers). Even John Derbyshire acknowledges as much in thecolumn that led to his separation from National Review (the Atlantic helpfully lists some racists who criticized Derbyshire for this acknowledgement; Jason Lee Steorts makes the case that the column goes on to violate this principle).

In essence, the extreme left and right paint an unrealistic picture of American race relations as being something akin to the Hutu and the Tutsi. Few people share either group’s worldview entirely, but the number of Americans they influence is larger. And while many commenters were disappointed I didn’t weigh in more directly on Derbyshire himself, I thought this undercurrent — which the controversy surrounding his column for Taki’s brought to light — more interesting than being the thousandth person to denounce Derbyshire’s piece or trying to defend views that don’t resemble my own.

And that about sums up how I feel about this entire mess.

More to explorer

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  1. “10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.”

    I laughed at this one since eight years ago my car got stuck in a snow drift. The only people who stopped to aid me were a black woman and her three sons who tried to dig me out. As for my own views on race they are an amalgam of those voiced by Chamberlain and Kilrain in this clip from Gettysburg:

  2. Admittedly I joined the fun in expressing my angst at National Review’s decision, though not because I thought Derbyshire’s column had much merit, but because he has written worse things in the past. In fact I specifically alluded to this Corner posting from 2008. The entire post is just dripping with complete hostility to religious people. It is far and away more offensive than his latest missive, and far shorter on any sort of substantive reasoning.

    National Review has to act because of Coach Syndrome.

    My mom use to coach…well, lots of stuff, but softball was the biggest thing. She was also usually the only one willing to be the umpire. That meant that any time there was ANY question in a call, she had to call against her team– in an issue in conflict, she had to take the action that would leave her less open to accusations of wrong-doing.
    National Review, being conservative, doesn’t get accused of hating religion across the board; those who oppose them tend to be less religious, especially in regards to organized religion. Accusations of racism? THOSE fly all the time.

    Same reason a cop that’s being investigated gets suspended; got to avoid the appearance of something you’re likely to be accused of.

    Kind of funny… that was actually the first introduction I had to the idea of preventing scandal, although mom and dad didn’t use that phrase.

  3. I think the guys at CMR nailed it: Derb’s view is utilitarian, not racist.

    Oddly, I think he was pissed enough to focus on the “tells” of race, rather than of culture. There’s a slight association, sure, but looking for indications of someone’s cultural group is a better way of figuring out what’s what. Didn’t congeal for a while, although when I read the now-famous article I instantly wondered what would happen to the scores if they corrected to make households match as closely as possible– parental education, economics, average income of neighborhoods, how religious the parent(s) are, criminal background of immediate family, EVERYTHING to account for other factors. I know that it tends to get rid of differences for crime stats.

    Example: first guy I dated, I can look back now and see that if I’d looked at the cultural “tells,” he’d be highly likely to lie and use those he dates.
    The first time I ever had a flat– and I’d swear this on a stack of Bibles– I’d just bought my first car as an adult, was about an hour from ANYWHERE I knew, hit a screwdriver in the road and took the first out off of a high speed road, limped along to a place wide enough to pull over… And a a totally black baptist church let out service two minutes later. Not a stone’s throw away. I know that the door-to-door witness folks tend to vary more on what denomination they are than on what color they are.

    Of course it’s not a 100% thing– some folks wear hip-hop style clothes because they like the look, some folks listen to Pennywise and wear a pound’s worth of chains because that’s to their taste, and their world view won’t match. Heck, I drink Pabst because I like it, especially for the price, not because I’m a hipster. It’s still a more accurate “tell” than race, and half of dealing with people is trying to figure out what they’ll do without knowing them. (The other half is remembering that they’re people who don’t have to stick to the script in your head.)

  4. I bet if you’re white and have children you’d tell them the same things Derbyshire wrote about. Let’s be honest here even if it’s wrong or politically incorrect.

  5. I’m dang near translucent–feather-Indian blood not withstanding– and do have kids. Two girls, so far, so I’m REALLY interested in threat-avoidance.

    I’d rather teach them to spot culture-signals, since it’ll help them ID trouble more accurately. I also hope to teach them a big dose of grain-of-salt-ism, since the biggest threats have to make you think they’re a friend, first, but that’s digressing.

    Hm… a thought… I’ve spent most of my life not-in-cities. Bet that makes the race angle a lot less of a big deal.
    (Although I think I’ve told the story about the other way of tweaking results… a pair of siblings in my high school that I knew growing up. The elder was a book-hitter of the first blood, the younger was a dumb thug. One parent was from some sort of Islands that are around the Caribbean, I can’t remember at the moment. Guess which one self-classified as “mixed/multiple” and which as “black”? I’ve stripped all possible identifying information, sorry for the wishy-washy terminology.)

  6. Basically, I object to Derb’s format for the same reason I object to the talks he was responding to– if you format everything in terms of race, you’ll find almost everything fits in that format.

    I remember being accused by one black Muslim lazy blanker on ship of “trying to threaten” him because I was cracking my knuckles every time he saw me. It was the middle of winter, I’d just walked across the hangar bay in sub-zero stopping wet weather, and my hands hurt. Also, confrontation wears on my nerves, and he never did the job he was supposed to be doing because he was working on college stuff. So, every time he saw me, I was on my last nerve, in pain, and uncomfortable.
    (Never mind that he was a foot plus taller, a hundred plus pounds heavier and I’ve never tried to pull ‘threatening’ in my life.)
    EVERYTHING in his life was either because of his race or his religion, because that’s what he expected to see. It wasn’t because he never got his paperwork in on time, screwed up his job, or any other objective failures….

  7. “I bet if you’re white and have children you’d tell them the same things Derbyshire wrote about.”

    You’d lose that bet with me since I am mostly white, with some Cherokee blood, and have three kids. My wife and I have taught them that there are good and bad among all races and you judge people as individuals and according to their actions.

    All Derbyshire accomplished, other than getting a mediocre, at best, writer fired by National Review, is to underline his peawit status and give the Left in the country someone to point to underline their contention that all conservatives are racist. The Left of course is the political movement in this nation that is completely obssessed with
    race, but, in an election year, I guess Derbyshire figured it was only fair to try to give them a hand.
    I do rejoice in his forced departure from National Review. I have long found repugnant his views on both race and religion. Go to the link below for Derbyshire’s musings on religion, including this gem on Catholicism:

    “Q. Are you anti-Catholic?

    A. Yes, mildly. I say this with proper embarrassment. It’s really absurd, I know it is, to nurse remnants of those 17th-century prejudices up here in the 21st. And it’s doubly absurd in the U.S.A., where, despite occasional frictions, Christians of all varieties have fought side by side on behalf of liberty for 200 years and more. Still it’s there, and lots of readers have spotted it, so I had better try to explain myself.

    A lot of it is just English mother’s milk. Our school history books, for example, were full of popish plots against the crown, Catholic traitors spying for Spain and France, and so on. Mary Tudor and James II did not get good press (though Bonnie Prince Charlie was allowed some romantic glamour, since he was such a pitiful loser), and we heard all about Pope Alexander VI. Those early impressions — scheming, hatchet-faced Jesuits lurking behind curtains, whispering treason in Latin, plotting to murder Good Queen Bess and hand us over bound and shackled to continental tyrants for the good of our souls — are hard to erase.

    Of course, as you got older and filled out your understanding, you realized there was much more to it, that it wasn’t just white hats and black hats (I guess that second hat should be red). You came to understand how different people make different claims on history. Thoughtful English people have a very good lesson in this close to hand, their country being adjacent to Ireland. Now there are two different claims on history! If you mix with Irish people, work with them, and live in Ireland for a spell (I have done all three) you get a pretty good grounding in historical relativism, unless you are a person who likes either to wallow in racial guilt or to take a stubborn, fact-denying stand on national honor (I am neither).

    Please remember, too, what Roman Catholicism was like when I was growing up, as seen from England. It was the religion of Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, chaotic and communist-trending Italy, recently-keenly-pro-Nazi Austria (don’t let The Sound of Music fool you — the Anschluss was more a wedding than a rape), Latin America as then personified by the buffoonish Juan Perón and his sinister wife, and, yes, Éamon de Valera’s nasty, corrupt, willfully under-developed, people-exporting Ireland. That’s not even to mention France. As I looked out on it from the England of the 1950s and 1960s, Catholicism was the religion of poverty, fascism, obscurantism, and bad government; and I don’t think you can say that this was a wildly distorted picture. Taking the Roman Catholic church as an institution, there just wasn’t anything to like about it, if you hadn’t been raised in it — or even, in countless cases of apostasy encountered by me from childhood onwards, if you had.

    And to this day, to tell the truth, and setting aside the attitudes and sacrifices (which latter I gratefully, sincerely acknowledge) of individual Catholic Americans, I have trouble seeing the Roman church as an institution as being any friend of liberty. When I say this to my Catholic friends, they always say: “What about John Paul II?” Though I greatly admired the man, I am not completely convinced. Sure, he hated Communism, and hating Communism is a very good thing. It was partly by his magnificent courage and efforts that the Soviet Union collapsed, and the collapse of the Soviet Union was a very good thing. I don’t know that JPII’s thinking had much in common with Anglo-Saxon concepts of liberty, though — my concepts. He was mad that the communists presumed to think that they owned men’s souls because in his mind the Church was the rightful owner of men’s souls. That’s why he hated Communism. Well, nobody owns my soul. That’s why I hate Communism. That’s liberty, as I understand it.

    The Holy Political Trinity of the 1980s, in fact — I mean, Reagan, Thatcher, and JPII — all saw liberty in different terms, terms characteristic of their backgrounds as, respectively, generic-Christian American, nonconformist-Christian Englishwoman, and Roman-Catholic Pole. You can’t escape your upbringing. Which is the excuse I started this answer with…”

    And then there is the fact that Derbyshire is a pro-abort and in favor of euthanasia:

    Derbsyhire: racist, bigot and pro-abort. Amazing how hate and ignorance tend to spill over into many aspects of life.

  8. I bet if you’re white and have children you’d tell them the same things Derbyshire wrote about.

    I’m white and have two daughters, and no, I won’t be telling my kids to avoid black people because of their sub-optimal IQs. In fact, as Foxfier alluded to, it’s actually a rather counter-productive talk to give because you’re telling your kids to use race rather than other signals to indicate your level of safety.

  9. To expand upon my previous comment, take a look at Israeli airport security. It is well known that they profile, but they don’t just profile on race or ethnicity. They engage in behavioral profiling. By limiting yourself to a focus on race, you’ve really narrowed your focus and actually dulled your ability to recognize danger.

  10. National Review has long commissioned pieces from a stable of writers (e.g. Christopher Buckley, Florence King, and Meghan Cox Gurdon) who contribute humor pieces. Derbyshire’s book was playing the boozy and opinionated pub denizen, quaffing his warm beer over what’s left of his rotting teeth. I doubt the editors ever intended his writing be taken seriously. In fact, he was never properly edited. (His remarks on C.S. Lewis or the political economy of Ireland evince a man given to being quite vehement about things of which he knows nothing). I will wager he was issued a letter of warning some years ago when he issued an asinine and intemperate attack on the writings of one of the magazine’s salaried editors (Ramesh Ponnuru).

  11. You may offer your links, but they should all be taken with several tons of salt as they link to the execrable Charles Johnson. Johnson has a long history of seeing racism where there isn’t and in twisting other people’s words – as he does with the link to Dan Riehl. But I do welcome everyone to click on those links and double the Liazardoid’s traffic for the day.

  12. Latin America as then personified by the buffoonish Juan Perón and his sinister wife

    Peron burned churches. Hardly would he be considered the face of Latin American Catholicism. Does the Derb even know his history?

  13. “Does the Derb even know his history?”

    I think history and Mr. Derbyshire c matt are apparently not on speaking terms.

    The Church excommunicated Peron which led to his fall from power in rhe Fifties:

    Argentinian politics always makes me feel better about American politics:

    “In 1971 the military government decided to allow free elections to be held once again and in 1973 a Perónist candidate became president and the party once more assumed control of the congress. Perón was immediately invited home, at which point the newly-elected president resigned and a special election was held allowing Perón to take on a third term as President of Argentina. It was a shallow victory. He was nearly eighty and suffering from ill health. Adding to the ignominy of the election, he chose his third wife, Isabel, an ex-dancer with a grade-school education, to be his vice-president. The following year, on July 1, 1974 Perón died of a heart attack. His wife feebly ruled for a little over a year before being ousted by the military. Yet the Perón legacy did not die. On the contrary, the party continues to be active in Argentina and still stirs political passions. In 1987 grave robbers cut off the hands of Perón’s corpse, demanding ransom from loyal Perónists.”

  14. the execrable Charles Johnson. Johnson has a long history of seeing racism where there isn’t and in twisting other people’s words

    You forgot the part about him being an intolerant, religion-hating wannabe-inquisitor with an infallibility complex.

  15. I’m refurbishing for sale a house in a very tough part of a northeast city…came down from a nice NY suburb…but grew up in a bad white Irish neighborhood. Before coming down here, a black member of the rap group, Mobb Deep, who is well off now but had hood roots, said to me during a business transaction, when I told him my project down there in the hood…”be careful down there my man”. He raps about the hood but has a mini mansion in an area where no one gets mugged. One of his songs goes like this: “what’s the deal deal…never leave home without your steel… steel.”. It’s accurate about his former neighborhood but not about his current neighborhood. He would not stroll after dark in parts of Newark, Jersey City, Camden because those parts are poor and poor in America means violence. Poor in Fiji maybe does not. But poor in America means violence in the cities. In the distant past that meant Irish and Italian. Right now it means largely black poor. Mobb Deep members were assaulted by poor blacks in the rap world as were other rappers who made it. I tutored a very rough black girl in Newark when young and sent her to Catholic school for years where more cultured black children felt threatened by her with reason. She lived above a crew who sold heroin, her mom was a prostitute…and she herself was prone to fighting. Mobb Deep would not stroll her hood at night now that they’ve reached comparative safety. It’s about poverty that multiplies into various poverties here in the US if not in Fiji and not in Tibet. Here in a very competitive country, poverty is often dangerous besides being simply poverty.
    When young and working on the waterfront in Jersey City, two blacks, one with a huge neck and a broken nose, came up to me and said…” we hear you’re tough…fight us after work”. I said no. But my own Irish poor violence and ego boiled and I found them separately and said to each…” yeah….I’ll fight you after work”. Each of them backed down separately. I asked the big one why his nose was broken. He said, ” We jumped a black dude Saturday night near the YMCA…dude pushed one of us in front of a car and pulled a bat out of the garbage can and nailed me in the nose…ripped a gun off one of us and shot one of us…we fled.”. He smiled about their having picked the wrong middle aged black man to jump. Lesson. There are black areas that sensible blacks do not walk at night. 7 or 8 decades ago such areas were dangerous white areas…same blocks really.

  16. There’s a whole lot to say about this topic, but frankly it grosses me out. I hate the whole race thing. I think the religious angle is more interesting. From Derbyshire’s perspective, a lot of the advice he’s giving his child is statistically sound. But to a religious person there’s an obligation to move past such things.

    He says not to be a Good Samaritan. He should take a closer look at the story. Who is my neighbor?

  17. @Donald R. McClarey, @Paul Zummo: I don’t mind losing my bet as long as you and your children are safe.

  18. i’ve been keeping myself safe for 55 years and my family safe for 30 of those years, so I guess I’ll go on doing what I have been doing, which includes judging people by their actions and not their skin color.

  19. Donald McClarey: Derbyshire speaking of John Paul II: “He was mad that the communists presumed to think that they owned men’s souls because in his mind the Church was the rightful owner of men’s souls. That’s why he hated Communism. Well, nobody owns my soul. That’s why I hate Communism. That’s liberty, as I understand it.” And I know you already know what I will write. Man, body and immortal soul is God’s Intellectual Property. Individual man, the sovereign person, created by our Creator exists in the mind of God, without Whom, man cannot exist, because God made all things (man, man’s soul) and keeps them in existence. Therefore, Derbyshire’s rejection of our Creator inevitably erased his understanding of our unalienable rights and the place of the Catholic Church in bringing all souls back to our Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, our God. Derbyshire’s atheism mortally wounds his soul and scandalizes all souls, especially the uninformed. The heresy that Derbyshire is free of God owning his soul makes him free of infinite love and glory. Atheism is his choice and good riddance to Derbyshire’s invincible ignorance. By the way, my friend, Linda Morris was invited, yes, invited to attend Princeton University. Poverty does hurt.

  20. I come to bury the Derb not to praise the Derb.

    Today’s race inquisitions are similar to the Medieval and Spanish Inquisitions. Just as in Medieval Inquisitions, acts are not the issue. The denounced racist’s divergent beliefs and thoughts are actionable offenses susceptible to condemnation to perpetual confinement on bread and water.

    The racial inquisition has jurisdiction only over whites; as the medieval only covered Christians. Case in point: the current occupier of the White House spent 20 years listening to “God Damn America!” and ”The white man is the devil.”

    Now, if Willard Romney ever received a $2 donation from a former KKK man, he’d be toast.

  21. Seems to me that this is an example of “it isn’t WHAT you say, so much as HOW (or in what context) you say it.” It’s possible to make statements that are all 100 percent accurate and verifiable, but do so in such a way that they paint a grossly distorted portrait of the subject.

    For example, suppose you carefully documented every instance in which your spouse did something that disappointed or hurt you. You could probably make even the most saintly spouse look like a total nincompoop or cad who cannot be trusted to do anything right — and when they protested, you could say “But I’m just telling the truth! What is wrong with being honest?”

    What Derbyshire is doing here is taking bits and pieces of fairly accurate observations (e.g. that predominantly black urban neighborhoods tend to be dangerous) and putting them all together into a composition whose unwritten but still obvious theme seems to be “Prejudice against black people is entirely justified, and whites should not feel obligated in any way to respect them.”

  22. @Donald R. McClarey,
    I’m glad for you and your family. May you and yours never be in any of those situations Derbyshire described above.

  23. “May you and yours never be in any of those situations Derbyshire described above.”

    Too late for that Michael, since I have been in many of those situations, and those experiences have not altered my views as to how people should be treated: as individuals and with justice.

  24. @Donald R. McClarey,
    I agree that we should treat people as individuals and with justice but how did you deal with crowds and mobs?

  25. By getting away from them as quickly as possible. I have been present at two riots in my life, one involving a mostly white mob and one involving a mostly black mob. In each case a rapid retreat out of the danger area proved effective. I might add that I felt more personally threatened by the white mob, as that was in the seventies, the mob consisted of anti-war protesters and I was wearing Army green at the time.

  26. Donald R. McClarey,
    Good on you. I once took the subway in NYC and missed my stop at the Museum of Natural History and ended up in Harlem. I just turned around and walked back. No problem (this was in 1968).

  27. Michael,

    I was often the only white person on my subway car after Lorimer St on the L train (this is before Williamsburg had its hipster infestation). I often took the subway very, very late (and not always very sober). No harm ever came. Again, it’s about keeping your head, knowing your surroundings, and just using common sense.

  28. As a white guy, the only racial paranoia I am regularly subjected to comes from my job and is from non-whites; this Derbyshire article allows me to see the other side of racial paranoia – how the other half lives.

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