Why conservatives must not depend on “conservative” minorities

(Note: Several readers took issue with my attack on Ian de Silva.)

Writing at Human Events, Ian de Silva, a legal immigrant to the U.S., indignantly tears apart the illegal aliens and their apologists who are demanding citizenship rights for people who don’t even belong in this country. However, de Silva inadvertently demonstrates the folly of conservatives’ relying on minorities to make their arguments for them:

Lest I am accused of being a racist or a xenophobe (epithets that are routinely hurled at conservative critics of immigration), I should perhaps provide a few personal details. Ideally, the legitimacy of your argument should not depend on who you are; rather, it should depend on the logic of your argument. But regrettably, in this age of political correctness, you are presumed to have no credibility on minority issues unless you are of a minority.

A Third World immigrant who went to a great deal of trouble to come here legally, I arrived here as a lone young man, brown-skinned, with very little money and a thick foreign accent—but a legal arrival nevertheless….

Well, thanks a lot, pal. I know you mean well, but under the prevailing code of liberalism which you accept and put into practice, you as a nonwhite immigrant have the moral credibility to criticize immigration, but native-born white people don’t! According to your logic, we must sit back helplessly and do nothing while our country is being destroyed, and wait for the occasional nonwhite such as yourself to defend it for us. Thanks, but I think we can defend America without your help.

In this connection, let us remember a nonwhite immigrant who has been literally idolized by foolish conservatives for her stand against Islam—Hirsi Ali of the Netherlands. These conservative imagine that criticism of Islam can only be truly certified as legitimate if it is made by a (former) Muslim. Yet it seems like every time this grantor of legitimacy turns around, she tries to ban a conservative party for its “racism.” (See this and this.)

Does this mean that we should reject that tiny number of minorities who genuinely love our civilization (not just its “rights” and its goodies) and want to take our side in this battle? Of course not. What it means is that we must rely on ourselves to promote our interests, not on others; that we, not the suicidal liberals and the unassimilated immigrants, are the morally legitimate representatives of our civilization and don’t need surrogates; and that we, not liberals and minorities, decide what is best for us to do in defense of our country. If a minority person wants to take our side on that basis, all the merrier.

- end of initial entry -

Paul N. writes:

I think you’re unfair to de Silva in the same way Jared Taylor was unfair to Shelby Steele. In one of his sentences that you quote,

“But regrettably, in this age of political correctness, you are presumed to have no credibility on minority issues unless you are of a minority.”

there is the key word, “regrettably.”

Why do you go on to complain that he accepts the situation? What is he supposed to do about it? He doesn’t say whites shouldn’t fight for ourselves. He simply makes this observation and then moves on to his topic.

And if he were to divert his energies into fighting that fact, wouldn’t that be another example of him doing things for us, instead of us speaking for ourselves?

LA replies:

I did add that he is well intended.

The bottom line is: he uses his minority status to legitimize himself, implicitly legitimizing the rule that bars whites.

People who accept the rule of political correctness are its allies or dhimmis. Why should he accept it at all? And why do you excuse him for accepting it? Who asked him to bring it up? He had something worthwhile to say about illegal immigration. Fine, why didn’t he just stick with that, instead of gratuitously bringing in the rule of political correctness and say that only he as a non-white can criticize illegals?

And anyway, it’s not true. Lots of people—white people—are criticizing illegal immigration today, very strongly. And their articles are being published and they’re not being thrown in jail and their careers are not being threatened. So why are you acting as though de Silva were operating under some terribly strict regime that gave him no choice but to say that only nonwhites can criticize iillegals? He didn’t have to say it at all!

Paul writes back:

Right, I know you said he’s well-intentioned.

Beyond that, I disagree with you. In his “regrettably” sentence, he was completing a side comment that could have originated with a point you make in Huddled Cliches: Ideally, the legitimacy of your argument should not depend on who you are; rather, it should depend on the logic of your argument. That sounds essentially like your arguing-about-abortion analogy. [Huddled Clichés, p. 55]

You ask “Who asked him to bring it up?” Unless the article arose from someone’s else’s specific, detailed assignment to him, it’s his article, and he evidently thought it worthwhile to make this remark. Yes, he could have omitted it. I think it’s fine that he included it.

Again, how do you know he accepts it? If he doesn’t accept it, what should he do about it? (OK, you say he should have omitted it, period. Then the article appears in Human Events and is easily dismissed by some who might find logic in his arguments because all they can see is the Portuguese-looking name of the author. I think the article has value in bringing such people along. And they might notice the “regrettably,” too, along the way.)

De Silva doesn’t say that people such as you and I should sit back and rely on the occasional enlightened minority writer like him. He’s just predicting/acknowledging that we’ll be called racists and xenophobes when we raise our voices. And in saying “regrettably,” he criticizes this fact-of-current-life.

LA replies:

The issue is not that he agrees with me in principle that origin shouldn’t matter to an argument. The issue is that, despite the fact that he agrees on that, he ceded to the PC rule

You write: “Again, how do you know he accepts it? “

The answer is, by his actually acceding to it. THAT’s what matters, not the thought that may be in his head.

You write: “He’s just predicting/acknowledging that we’ll be called racists and xenophobes when we raise our voices. And in saying ‘regrettably,’ he criticizes this fact-of-current-life.”

Right, AND he’s assuming that HE WON’T BE. He’s trying to profit from the fact of being a minority.

I can’t tell you the number of times people have advised me to let on that I’m Jewish when dealing with the Jewish issue and they think I’m at risk of being called anti-Semitic. I generally decline, because if I go along with that, then I am accepting the principle that I as a person of Jewish background should escape censure for a statement that a non-Jew would be censured for. I don’t accept that rule. It’s wrong.

KE, a secular, pro-Western Turk, writes:

I wholeheartedly agree with you on this article. All those allegedly “conservative” minorities generally turn very sour when someone—a native-born white—so much as mentions a negative thing or two about their culture.

It is not the long and arduous journeys, and stamp of legality by a bureaucrat, that matters in the end. What matters is whether the immigrant is considered a legitimate member of society by the society itself. And the way to spot them for sure is as you’ve said it: they are those “…who genuinely love our civilization (not just its ‘rights’ and its goodies)”. Because, you see, only “natural rights” are rights, and those are things not given to you by either a state or a society: for example, the right to live. The ultimate diagnostic of rights is, when applied simultaneously, they don’t contradict. For example, there is no “right to medical care” for the simple reason that someone has to provide that care—either as a professional, or as a creditor—and unless they consent in its provision—which makes it a “privilege”—it cannot be imposed unless the rights of those individuals are violated. Similarly, there’s no right to education, or to immigration, or to sexual freedom (which at the minimum requires consent between the two parties, and, since it has consequences in the case of pregnancies and since its “deviant” forms—such as pedophilia—affect the whole community, cannot, on this earth, be a right; this also means there’s no “right to privacy”, either), etc.

What makes the West what it is, is, for example, Shakespeare or J.S. Bach. To want to be part of a community means to be ready to be loyal to them rain or shine, accept all the risks that come with identifying with them (as it is in the case of being a family), and not to complain even when you don’t enjoy many riches.

Alan Levine writes:

I am afraid that I have to agree with those who thought you were excessively hard on de Silva. It seemed to me that he was unmistakably deploring the “ad hominem” definition of truth.

LA replies:

Yes, he was deploring it. And, as I’ve said, he was also acceding to it and thus legitimizing and empowering it. People who deplore something and then play by its rules are not people I take seriously or entirely trust. I admit my tone was strong, maybe too strong. But the implication that whites cannot speak critically about immigrants who are nonwhite, but must depend on nonwhite immigrants to do it for us, and thus turn ourselves into a speechless, defenseless people, is something that we must fight at every turn. I don’t think de Silva was fighting it. If he was fighting it, he would have simply made his arguments about immigration, without bringing up the concern about his being called racist or suggesting that the only way he can avoid being called racist is by mentioning his nonwhite background. I don’t mind his mentioning his background. That’s normal and legitimate. What I object to is his bringing up his background in the context of the PC rule that whites are presumptively racist if they criticize immigration.

Paul K. writes:

Interesting discussion. I too feel that you were a little hard on De Silva, but I understand that you were making a general point that our side needs to be reminded of almost constantly. In doing so, you reminded me of another of my political influences, former radio call-in show host Bob Grant. Often, after making a well-founded observation about blacks, a caller would add, “But I’m not a racist.” At that, Grant would immediately interrupt, believing that whatever point the caller was making was not as important as that reflexive statement.

“Why do you feel you have to say that?” he’d demand. “Does the other side ever feel it has to justify itself by your standards? No, they just attack, attack, and attack, and you are never going to prevail if you feel you have to legitimize yourself before you can express your opinion.”

Mr. de Silva is probably a good guy. Perhaps he will one day come to understand this issue in its totality, but not if no one points out his errors.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 21, 2006 08:27 PM | Send

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