With exquisite politeness, Neuhaus says about Obama what I say bluntly

Richard John Neuhaus is a Catholic priest and neoconservative intellectual whose idea of applied Christianity seems to be that he must spend hundreds of words shamelessly flattering people before he can work his way up to saying something critical about them. And so it is in his 2,000 word long article on Barack Obama’s race speech. Neuhaus goes on and on about how impressive and brilliant the speech is, until he tortuously arrives at the conclusion that he could have reached right at the start, that the speech is, in fact, malign. It is malign, he says, because it revives whites’ worst view of blacks as intellectually incompetent, irrational children who believe—or at least get their kicks out of, even if they don’t literally believe—crazy ideas such as that the U.S. government deliberately created the AIDS virus in order to commit genocide against blacks. Neuhaus writes:

As I said, the Philadelphia speech was in many ways an admirably thoughtful and candid reflection on race in America. Yet the no doubt unintended message, reinforced by the senator’s pundit supporters, is that white people need to be more accepting of the strange ways of black folk. Blacks don’t really believe all that stuff about “AmeriKKKa” being a racist nation….

Conceding to him the best of intentions, Senator Obama has inadvertently launched an exercise in the demeaning of black America that is, in consequence, very ugly. Whites are invited to make their peace with the fact that these are the children of Stepin Fetchit and Amos and Andy who have replaced humor with the shuffle of political extremism but are still entertaining the country by doing their black thing. Cut them some slack. Lighten up….

By reviving historic stereotypes, Senator Obama’s speech and the uses to which it is being put has dealt a severe blow to race relations in America. It is giving a big boost to what someone has rightly called the soft bigotry of low expectations.

I’ve said substantively more or less the same thing, but without Neuhaus’s gentle indirections. I’ve said that Obama, by stripping off his mask of transracial messiah and revealing himself as a justifier of the crudest anti-white racism, has shown white America that black America, as an organized community,—by which I mean blacks acting and expressing themselves collectively as blacks, as distinct from blacks acting as individuals—is too bent out of shape to be taken seriously. When even the best of black America turns out to be connected at the hip to a demented America hater, we realize that black America is not intellectually equal with us, does not share the same moral sense with us, is not in its heart a part of the same country with us, and does not deserve any special deference from us. And that is the real, and very valuable, racial lesson that whites have received from Barack Obama.

* * *

The difference between Neuhaus and me on this issue is the difference between a liberal, who believes that all people are basically the same and can get along on a basis of equality, and a non-liberal, who believes that there are differences between human groups and that these differences matter. Thus, while Neuhaus is disappointed in Obama for reviving in the minds of whites what Neuhaus sees as false negative stereotypes about blacks, and thus damaging race relations in America, I am grateful to Obama (and I even prefer that he get elected president over McCain) because, by showing the truth about blacks and stripping liberal racial illusions from the eyes of many whites, he may ultimately help improve race relations in America.

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Mark Jaws writes:

You are a gifted writer who writes about race with a style that is just like Baby Bear’s soup—not too harsh (like me), not too mild (as with 99.5% of other commentators on race), but just right. A very worthwhile project would be too compile some of your greatest hits into a pamphlet called “Common Racial Sense for the 21st Century.” Otherwise, what a shame it would be for a talent such as yours to bloom and be seen by so relatively few.

If only tens of millions of duped White Americans could read your articles and have their fantasies of racial equality confronted by the reality so prevalent and evident.

Adela Gereth writes:

Did you read the John McWhorter article linked at the bottom of Neuhaus’s article?

I used to think John McWhorter was quite sensible. For example, years ago, he quite rightly pointed out that affirmative action, much of welfare and social services, etc. was a form of reparations.

But I see identity politics has trumped common sense (which evidently is too white) even in his mind. In this article, he makes excuse after excuse for the Obamas’ choice of a church, Michelle’s lack of pride in her country and Obama’s inability/refusal to repudiate Wright. Basically, he says it’s a black thing.

How illuminating—even if in ways he doubtless never intended.

LA replies:

John McWhorter had one decent idea, something about blacks taking more responsibility. I heard him speak once or twice about it. It got him a sinecure at Manhattan Institute, and now he fills dead space every week at the New York Sun saying nothing. He has literally nothing to say. And yes, I read the column where he makes excuses for the Obamas.

Also, did you notice how Neuhaus sucked up to McWhorter with excessive compliments before pointing out that McWhorter was full of it?

A reader writes:

Right, but at least he did say he was full of it!

Adela G. writes:

Years ago, I came upon McWhorter’s columns in, I think, City Journal. I thought his characterization of social programs as one form of reparations quite sensible. I liked his insistence on blacks taking more responsibility for their own lives. (Had blacks taken it to heart, it would have spared us the worst excesses of the grievance-mongering industry that sprang up post-Katrina. The notion that the federal government somehow unleashed Hurricane Katrina upon blacks is just as bad—“crazy”—as the idea that AIDS is whites’ effort at genocide against blacks.)

But I infer you think he’s a “Johnny One-Note” and I have to agree. I haven’t read his columns regularly in years precisely because I saw no advancement in his idea of personal responsibility and indeed sensed a retreat from, or qualification of, it. Lately, he’s seemed like just another black apologist, this article about Obama only confirms that impression. He himself notes that “race trumps class”; depressingly, it also appears to trump education, for blacks anyway.

Yes, I noticed Neuhaus’s “sucking up” to McWhorter. Perhaps he thought excessive politesse the only way to avoid seeming too coldly Jesuitical (i.e., too white). In any case, I certainly prefer your impersonal bluntness to his priestly pussyfooting!

LA replies:

Priestly pussyfooting! That’s good.

Thucydides writes:

You wrote: ” … I am grateful to Obama—and I even prefer that he get elected president over McCain—because, by showing the truth about blacks and stripping liberal racial illusions from the eyes of many whites, he may ultimately help improve race relations in America.”

I am afraid you are being too optimistic.

T.S. Eliot wrote (in Four Quartets and Murder in the Cathedral) that “humankind cannot bear much reality.” It is not merely “liberal racial illusions” that are in play here, but a key underlying assumption of our culture: human universalism—the notion that all men at all times and places are the same, free of constitutive ethnic and historical particularities. This universalism, originally derived from our Christian heritage and now greatly magnified in its successor political eschatologies such as liberalism, is one important basis of our obsession with equality. It is not enough that individuals be treated equally before the law, which is unproblematic, but that action must be taken, coercive if need be (and it always will be) to assure that there is social equality between all identifiable classes and groups. Tocqueville thought this egalitarianism was an unavoidable consequence of modern democracy, and feared its effects. For example, as people become more equal, resentment and envy grow rather than diminish.

The reality of group difference is not a reality that we can easily bear (we being the overwhelming majority of the intellectual class), given our cultural “absolute presuppositions” (as British philosopher of history Robin Collingwood called them). If Obama were elected, the most likely result would be a schizoid dissociation of the man from the reality of his own history and personality in order to protect the regnant illusions. I believe he is smart enough to understand this, and brazen enough to be proceeding on that assumption.

What is emerging from the Obama candidacy through the revelations of his close relations with the raving Rev. Wright is that even the apparent best of black America is closely tied to the worst. Tribalism rules, and Martin Luther King’s dream that each person would be judged by the content of his character is dead.

According to Victor Davis Hanson, the result is a terrific setback to race relations as blacks lose moral authority to denounce white racist manifestations such as those of Don Imus. In my view, the setback to race relations is the revelation that even some of the best of the black community, including persons of above average intelligence who have had every advantage, are nonetheless mired in and will not dissociate themselves from self-justifying hate and resentment adopted as a consolatory fantasy that explains away group pathologies. White liberal ideology only makes it worse by providing a supportive justifying narrative.

Some years ago, when O.J. Simpson was wrongfully acquitted, there was a news camera in the student union of Howard University Law School. Hundreds of black law students were seen to cheer wildly and dance with joy as the verdict was announced. People of this character will never give up their hatreds which serve important psychological compensatory functions and are at the core of their sense of identity. The implicit message of the O.J. case, which was that when you scratch the skin of a glamorous black millionaire who has had the greatest success imaginable, you may still get a murderous hopped-up ghetto thug, was simply unbearable.

It is a commonplace of psychometrics that the U.S. black population has an average IQ of 85, or one standard deviation below the norm. Murray and Herrnstein’s 1994 “The Bell Curve” showed that the incidence of social pathologies (crime, illegitimacy, incarceration, poverty, etc.) among that population were roughly the same as for the equivalent white cohort—the bottom IQ decile of the white population. Would a wider recognition, or at least public acknowledgement of the pathologies in the black population and the real causes improve race relations? Or would it lead to a large increase in mutual antagonism, particularly as the worst elements of the white community, hitherto held in check by political correctness, confidently repay black race hate in kind? One thing is sure: the Wright-Obama revelations are destroying the liberal hegemonic image of the numinous black as a saintly icon of victimization, held back only by the wrongdoing of others.

Perhaps I should add that I write this in deep sympathy with the millions of people, black and other, who struggle with limited natural endowment and nevertheless live decent considerate lives. That the blacks among them should be derailed, driven into hate, and exploited for personal benefit by the likes of the better advantaged members of their own group, men like Wright, and yes, Obama, is disgusting.

LA replies:

What I meant by improved race relations was that the whites would stop being run by liberal lies. They would have self-respect again instead of letting liberals and blacks morally dominate them (think of Don Imus figuratively standing in the snow, cowboy hat in hand, before Pope Al Sharpton.) . Once the white guilt over blacks was broken, by the Obama-fed revelation of the truth about blacks, the white guilt toward nonwhites generally, and the resulting constant yielding of the majority to minorities, would cease as well. The restoration of a morally confident majority would return the society to greater racial peace.

I know, I know: some men dream of things that never were, and ask, why not?

Thucydides writes:

The “liberal lies” and “white guilt” of which you speak are the manifestations of ostentatious liberal benevolence, which takes the form of excusing intolerable misconduct. It amounts to a form of moral preening. After all, the liberal is bemoaning the shortcomings of others (not liberals) that are supposedly responsible for black degradation—slaveholders and segregationists of long ago.

If the liberal says “we” are responsible, he in no way means himself. Accordingly, he is free with apologies—apologies that is, on behalf of others failings. It is more pleasurable to wax indignant over them than to analyze one’s own moral deficiencies, and set about the hard work of correcting them.

If very large numbers of blacks are mired in self-justifying race hate, so too are liberals bogged down in this moral preening which is constitutive of their very identity, composing as it does their sense of self-worth and personal superiority. The notion that reality will ever be permitted to intrude on such cherished fantasies is wishful thinking.

LA replies:

The belief that reality can overcome fantasies is a fantasy?

Thucydides replies:

When fantasies serve important psychological needs, such as when they are an essential part of one’s sense of worth and identity, as is the case with liberals, they are extraordinarily resistant to reality.

LA replies:

Yes. And that’s why I always say that liberalism probably cannot be undone as the West’s ruling philosophy until liberal society has been severely damaged and in part undone by liberalism’s own excesses, bringing on real suffering on the part of liberals and thus melting down their sense of liberal worth and identity.

However, it is reasonable to predict that an Obama presidency, sticking the black racist b.s. right in America’s face (as has been happening now with the Rev. Wright matter), would offend and shock at least some whites, mainly conservatives, out of their liberal racial illusions.

Randy writes:


Re: ” … I am grateful to Obama (and I even prefer that he get elected president over McCain) because, by showing the truth about blacks and stripping liberal racial illusions from the eyes of many whites, he may ultimately help improve race relations in America.”

Do you really beleive that having our society taken over by degenerate, anti-white/American blacks is really going to get all our women voters out of the shopping malls? And think of the joy that black athletes bring to the average “Joe sixpack.” We are being invaded and colonized by a culture that is just slightly less hostile to traditional America and whites, yet there is no outrage from “middle America.” Look what Europe went through in the last century and they have learned nothing.

You are such an idealist.

LA replies:

I’m not exactly sure what your point is, but the idea is that having the black racialism in our faces under an Obama presidency will stiffen our back.

Mark K. writes:

In thinking about Obama’s personality and identity (universalism, transcendence, ecumenism), it occurred to me that should Obama become president we will have moved in the White House from one type of universalism (Bush & the neocons) to another type of universalism (Obama’s tribal inclusions). From one universalism to another. But what are these universalisms doing to the historic and essential American persona?

LA replies:

You’re describing one of my main themes: the inevitable transition from consistent right-liberalism (individual rights as the ruling principle of society) to its supposed opposite, left-liberalism (group-rights as the ruling principle of society). Right-liberalism and left-liberalism are ulimately equally destructive of the historic and essential American persona, since both dissolve Amereca as a substantive culture and way of life.

E. writes:

I was kinda sorta thinkin’ it might be best to go ahead and have the race war while our side might still win (rather than wait till we become another Zimbabwe). So, I understand what you’re saying.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 29, 2008 12:34 AM | Send

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