Is it legitimate to make generalizations about groups?

In the midst of a discussion about the immigration bill, I responded to a black poster’s theory—which I thought at first was a joke, but then realized was made in seriousness—that the entire amnesty bill is really a plot by Republicans to “out” illegals so that they could be rounded up. I made certain observations about black and leftist attitudes toward white America which turned into a discussion about whether it’s legitimate to make racial generalizations. Since this had nothing to do with the immigration problem and distracted attention from it, I’ve moved that part of the thread into this new entry.

African Lady (USA) writes:

Illegals do not like drawing attention to themselves from Homeland Security. Instead they prefer to live in the shadows indefinitely unless guaranteed a green card. The Z visa seems designed to get them to come out of the shadows and register with a promise that they might qualify for a green card in the distant future. What if the government changes it mind sometime in the future and decides to cancel the green card offer because “triggers” have not been met? Should that happen, the government would know who the illegals are (as they would have registered) and can start deportation actions against them.

I think the Republicans know what they are doing with this bill. The reason that there are so many illegals in the country is because the government does not know who and where they are. With this “amnesty”, illegals will be “outed” and their names and addresses identified.

LA replies:

This is such a perfect expression of the typical, alienated black view of America that I half-suspect African Lady is engaging in a parody. Many blacks are so hostile to white America that even when white America is in the act of committing racial and national suicide for the sake of nonwhites, as in this immigration bill, many blacks still think it’s a white plot to “get” the nonwhites.*

It’s the same with all white efforts to win minorities’ hearts and minds. No matter how many times the same thing has failed in the past, the whites go on fervently believing that if they just go that extra mile to demonstrate their good will toward some minority or non-Western group, that group will finally start to like us, and then peace and love will reign. It’s a deep sickness in the white race.


* Of course, the white left isn’t much different in their inability to recognize the liberal and suicidal nature of conservatives. For example, the white left thinks that Bush is a fascist. If you point out to them that Bush’s open borders immigration policies are hardly those of a fascist, most of them will not be able to process that information; Bush must remain a fascist and racist in their eyes. If the left realized that the “right” was really liberal and thus lost their “right-wing” nemesis to rail against, they’d lose their reason for being. It’s the same with the “right.” If the “conservatives” realized that they themselves were really liberal and shared at bottom the same suicidal premises as their leftist enemies, they’d be out of business.

LA writes:

A commenter named Rollory took me to task for my reply to African Lady. He said I was being unfair and racist toward her. I would have posted his comment, but unfortunately he used insulting language toward me which made that impossible.

The question raised by his comment is, are there common and typical black attitudes that we can speak about and criticize? Most people say that there are not. They say that it is wrong both to notice generalities pertaining to any group, and that it is wrong to relate the speech and behavior of any individual to those generalities.

I guess this is one of the respects in which I simply stand on different ground from liberalism. Since I was a kid, I have always felt that it is normal and legitimate to make generalizations about group behavior. When I was 15, and on a bus with other kids going to summer camp, a mildly left-wing “ethnic” work camp in upstate New York, I got into a conversation with a race-mixed colored girl, very beautiful and striking looking, a year younger than I but self-assured and charismatic, and the conversation got into areas where I would make some garden variety generalizations about groups such as saying that Irish people drank more than other groups, and she said I couldn’t say that, I couldn’t talk about a whole group of people like that, and I said, why can’t I say it, if it’s true. A teen-age romance developed between us that summer, and she told me at one point that the thing that made her start to like me was that I stood my ground with her when we talked on the bus, she said most people were intimidated by her and went along with what she said.

Talk about positive re-inforcement for my non-liberal tendencies!

John Hagan writes:

You were rightly dismissive of African Lady, not racist. We are in the middle of a national catastrophe concerning this immigration bill and her comments this evening center around some conspiratorial nonsense that the so-called white power structure is perpetrating on people of color.

LA replies:

John, thanks for the reality confirmation. You put everything in the correct perspective with a few words.

Sometimes it’s not easy job hosting a controversial blog like this. People often make severe criticisms of me, say I’m in the wrong, say I’m nuts, and I cannot always simply dismiss such criticism; each time I have to look at my criticized behavior and ask, “Was I in the wrong?”, “Was I acting in a crazy way?”, and then, if I determine that I was indeed not in the wrong and not crazy, I’ve got to have the confidence to stand by that and to say to my critic, “No, I am not nuts, I was not acting wrongly, YOU are off-base.”

Just so you know what I’m talking about, which is the kind of thing that anyone who is vocally non-liberal is going to run into all the time, here is my exchange with Rollory:

Rollory wrote:

I read African Lady’s comment, and read your comment on her comment, and reread her comment, and reread your response, and I really think you are engaging in some sort of knee-jerk response without actually paying any attention to what it is she said. It does you no credit at all. She’s not talking about hearts and minds. She’s not talking about plots. She didn’t say anything indicating an alienation towards anything, and the fact that you seem to think she did—well, *I* find myself wondering about your objectivity. She’s talking about figuring out where and who the illegal immigrants are so as to be able to move them back out of the country in a not-too-intrusive manner. She’s remarking on typical behavior of illegal immigrants, why that makes it difficult for the current official processes to get them out fo the country, and talking about tactics for reaching the optimal solution—getting illegal immigrants back out of the country—without engaging in house-to-house searches and loading people into boxcars, which are the sort of tactics the country as a whole would have a problem with. She’s saying something perfectly reasonable, and you responded in a frankly deranged manner.

LA replied:

I would have posted your comment criticizing my response to African Lady, but when you say that I behaved in a “deranged” manner for simply pointing out a familiar and typical minority attitude, you assured that the comment would not get posted. I wonder if that was your intention. And by the way, she wasn’t objectively describing what she saw as illegal aliens’ thinking; she was describing the situation as she sees it.

Running this blog takes far too much work to spend time dealing comments like yours.

Rollory continued:

Incidentally, if I were to try to make the case that you are a racist, this is precisely the sort of thing I would be looking for as evidence: cases where you ascribe ill intent or incompetence of thought to someone based purely and entirely on the fact of their racial background, as opposed to anything in the actual content of their argument. As best I can tell, that is what you just did: you talked about how she as a black person is alienated and seeing conspiracies, when an objective examination of what she actually wrote reveals she was discussing tactics for removing illegal immigrants.

I think you owe her an apology. And I don’t mean in the big flashy liberal “mea culpa look at me I’m repentant” manner—I mean because it’s the straight and honest thing to do.

LA replied:

Gee, I guess there’s no such thing as black suspicious and paranoid attitudes toward whites that take typical forms that one sees over and over again. We can’t talk about them because that makes us racist.

And you didn’t notice that I brought white leftists into it too.

John Hagan replies:

These are strange times Larry. I understand your concern, but I find you generally balanced and fair. Let’s face it. The West, and the culture we grew up in, is literally flying apart before our eyes. You do a good job of trying to make sense of our decline. Of course you are going to draw to you many negative elements in the process of telling the truth as you see it. And I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.

David Blue writes:

You write: “…the white left isn’t much different in their inability to recognize the liberal and suicidal nature of conservatives. For example, the white left thinks that Bush is a fascist. If you point out to them that Bush’s open borders immigration policies are hardly those of a fascist, most of them will not be able to process the information.”

A liberal friend of mine, whom I have told you about before, is exactly the sort of liberal you describe. He is convinced that all so-called conservatives are “racists and bigots,” or “the Rich.” The religious right is “racist” to him. Once, I heard him call ex-Senator Frist a “Nazi,” a term he prefers to “fascist,” when describing conservatives. When I tell him that Bush loves Mexicans and wants to flood the country with them, it doesn’t register with him. He falls back on “Bush is a tool of Big Business.”

Joseph C. writes:

For the record, you were absolutely right in your slap down of African Lady. We have enough real problems without hyperparanoid jerks inventing bogeymen.

Stephen F. writes:

Regarding your exchange with African Lady, one thing that makes political life so sordid, false, and ugly in our multi-ethnic, multicultural society is that politics is becoming based solely on interest groups vying for power. Not only is there endless capitulation to minority groups, but there is never so much as a moment’s rest from the grievances, since the modus operandi of minority and other interest groups is entirely based on grievances and demands. Thus La Raza and the other usual suspects pretend to be outraged by whatever limitations to full, instant citizenship for all Hispanics may exist in this bill.

It is too absurd for words.

African Lady’s interpretation is an example of how nothing is ever enough and nothing is ever in good faith. AL may be sincere in her belief, but it matters less and less whether various parties believe what they say or are just toeing some party line.

Perhaps the loss of a common sense of interest explains the unreal, absurd quality of S.1348. Is this the equivalent of a Third-World merchant asking a ridiculously high price for his wares, on the assumption that the opposing parties will then work to “bargain down”? I agree that on some level the sponsors want to erase white America; on another level I see them as simply frivolous people who see this all as a game they are trying to “win.”

Stephen F. also writes:

One thing I enjoy about VFR is the discussion about group differences, like the question of why Jews are the way they are. I have started doing more of this since discovering your work. (Yeah, you are corrupting your readers!) This often results in the person I’m talking to instantly coming up with a counter-example to my generalization. It is kind of comical the way people assume that if you make a generalization, say, about Hispanics, that you must not realize obvious things like that there are nice Hispanics! Obviously, generalizations can be abused, but they are one way we have of figuring out the world. Someone can be wrong in their beliefs about Jews or blacks of Hispanics.

But how much worse to shut down all thinking by forbidding ANY generalizations!

LA replies:

Stephen has made a key point. Without generalizations, without “prejudices,” it is impossible to think about the world. Our generalizations or prejudices may be wrong or in need of modification, but they are our starting point, the way we organize our perceptions and thoughts into an intelligible whole. Liberalism, which is co-extensive with nominalism, denies the existence of intelligible wholes.

At the same time of course, liberals are the most prejudiced people there are.

How’s that for a generalization? :-)

Richard B. writes:

African Lady writes: “I think the Republicans know what they are doing with this bill.”

Didn’t I see Kennedy and his group sell this as a bipartisan bill?

I’m with you. When she writes “the Republicans…” that’s code for “White men in power”, which I interpret as a racist remark.

James L. writes:

Your response to African Lady was correct. The idea that the government or either political party wants to deport anyone is silly beyond belief. Far from tricking the aliens into revealing their whereabouts, both parties, and especially the Bush administration have been tying themselves in knots trying to find some way to give them amnesty while convincing The American people they’re really going to enforce the law. Wouldn’t President Bush be a genius if that was all just a ploy to get the aliens out in the open so he could deport them?

You were right not to post Rollery’s comment, as you initially decided. All attempts to censor any type of public discussion by throwing in the racist smear should be summarily rejected.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 22, 2007 11:56 AM | Send

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