A race-conscious case for immigration restriction—from an AEI staffer
In a stunning entry at the Vdare blog. Marcus Epstein tells how, at a recent American Enterprise Institute panel discussing Mark Krikorian’s new book on immigration, someone named Jason Richwine of AEI, who was on the panel with Krikorian (and whose name sounds Jewish, making what follows even more remarkable), quoted the first sentence of Krikorian’s book:
“It’s not the immigrants, it’s us. What’s different about immigration today as opposed to a century ago is not the characteristics of the newcomers, but the characteristics of our society.”Now I like and respect Mark Krikorian, but I must say that as soon as I read that quotation I felt a sense of disappointment. For Krikorian to say that the only thing that’s different about the post-1965 immigration as compared with that of earlier periods is America’s attitudes toward immigrants, and not the characteristics of the immigrants themselves, is to take the standard, universalist, neocon view, which I’ve been battling for the last 18 years (see this and this), that the cultural and ethnic background of immigrants is completely irrelevant to their ability to assimilate, and that it is only our lack of will to assimilate them, or our multicultural policies, that have made current immigrants assimilate less well than those in the past.
Of course I am aware that Krikorian stays away from the racial and cultural aspects of immigration, something I’ve politely disagreed with him about for a long time. I’ve had several e-mail exchanges with him over the years (here’s an e-mail to him that was posted at VFR in 2003) in which I’ve pointed out that even if he himself doesn’t care about race, the fact remains that race and the racism charge are unavoidably central to the immigration issue, and therefore must be dealt with head-on if the restrictionist side is to have any chance to win. (For example, much of the driving energy on the pro open borders side comes from their desire to end white America. How can our side prevail against them if we fail to identify what they’re up to and oppose it? Similarly, the other side calls any opposition to their demands racist, by which they mean that anyone who stands in the way of ending white America is racist. Again, how can our side prevail if we don’t identify and oppose what they’re up to?) But in the opening sentence of his book as quoted by Epstein, Krikorian seemed to go farther in race-denial and culture-denial than he has in the past, not just declining to engage with the race and culture issues, but making the categorical statement that the race and culture of the immigrants make absolutely no difference to their assimilability. And that was shocking and distressing to me, because it seemed to make him indistinguishable from a neocon.
But then, as Epstein tells it, something equally shocking—and encouraging—happened. Jason Richwine disputed Krikorian’s idea, stating forthrightly that the most important difference between the post-1965 immigrants and those of the more distant past is that the recent immigrants are mainly nonwhite, while the earlier immigrants were white. Not only did Richwine take this position, but, when attacked for it, he defended it and expanded on it. He argued that whites can assimilate into our society far better than some nonwhite groups (he mentioned Mexicans, blacks and American Indians), and that a major reason for this is that those nonwhite groups have significantly lower IQs than whites.
Richwine, an AEI employee, said these things, at an AEI panel.
I feel like saying, who is that masked man?
See also my discussion from 2007 on Krikorian’s support for the non-discriminatory principle of the 1965 Immigration Act, and how it weakens his restrictionist position.
Also, though it doesn’t mention Krikorian, the 2005 VFR entry, “Immigration and race: facing the issue head-on,” which a reader brought to my attention last night, is relevant to this discussion.
In that entry I wrote:
Race and race differences are a part of the total fabric of human reality. Further, racial and ethnic differences overlap to a great degree with cultural differences. While race and culture are not identical, there is no human way to separate out race entirely from culture. The result is that if the majority population of a country opposes the mass immigration of foreigners because they are culturally unassimilable to themselves, the foreigners’ racial difference from the natives is going, ineluctably, to be part of the total package of traits describing the foreigners. Similarly, a restrictionist policy aimed at keeping out people from backward countries because they will drag down our economy to Third-world conditions is going to affect non-whites disproportionately. The point is that even if you sincerely do not care about race at all, but only care about preserving certain cultural or political or economic qualities of your country, your position is still going to have racial implications.To restate the argument in a nutshell: If we restrict immigration purely on a non-racial, e.g. economic or cultural, basis, such restriction will (because of the unavoidable connections between race and economics, or between race and culture) inevitably have disproportionate effects on nonwhites, which will make us seem racist to the other side. And therefore, if we are to explain that we are not racist, we are unavoidably going to have to explain why an immigration policy not directed at race has racial results, and why this is not immoral. The argument moves sideways, like a crab, into the truth. Even when we are not TRYING to be racial, the racial aspect comes up by itself, and in explaining WHY this is so, we end up making an argument that race matters.
Alex K. writes:
According to Richard Spencer at Taki’s Magazine, Richwine is a Harvard doctoral candidate and “young.”LA replies:
But they let him on that panel as one of the two main commenters, presumably knowing that he would say something like that.Alex continues:
Here we go, a debate between Richwine and a libertarian at lewrockwell.com.Alex continues:
I hadn’t read the full Epstein post until just now—his dissertation is on immigration and IQ and at AEI he’ll be “applying the science of mental ability to better inform public policy on a variety of issues, including immigration, race relations, education, and welfare.” Yes, it sounds like that kind of thing is his focus. It is quite amazing that he was there, but then AEI does (or did) have Charles Murray too.LA replies:
Bottom line: AEI picked Richwine to be on that panel, and they had to know that he would take the position he took. What’s going on there?Terry Morris writes:
“It’s not the immigrants, it’s us. What’s different about immigration today as opposed to a century ago is not the characteristics of the newcomers, but the characteristics of our society.”Sage McLaughlin writes:
In response to men like Kirkorkian, whose belief that there is nothing about mass Third World immigration that a little reduction in the wlefare state and some good old-fashioned American civic education can’t solve, I would pose a question. It’s a complicated question and not easily rendered in a concise form, but the idea is simple enough:LA replies:
I agree one hundred percent with Mr. McLaughlin’s main point, and this idea has been at the center of my thought from the start. Please see the chapter, “The Meaning of Multiculturalism,” in The Path to National Suicide, particularly the section, “The Problem of Cultural Identity.” A non-white America will simply not identify with the white people who created and constituted our civilization through its whole history up to 1965. And that is why the great influx of nonwhites we’ve had since 1965—not because they’re bad people, but because they are nonwhite and therefore will not identify with a white society and its cultural expressions—has put our society into a crisis. The conventional, liberal, neocon, and “conservative” view is to say, “Since these people do not fit with and do not identify with America’s white-majority past, we must change America’s identity to make it identical to all of humanity.” But this approach only leads us further toward national suicide. Or, we can say, “The direction the country took in 1965 was a catastrophic error, and, at the very least, we must stop moving that direction.”Laura G. writes:
Thanks as always for posting this. Well, I don’t know exactly where that discussion continued, but it might have gone like this:Paul Gottfried writes:
I suspect that I’m somewhere in the middle on this question of who is to blame for the multicultural mess we and other formerly Western societies have fallen into. If the predominanly Euro-American culture had not become fixated on equality and victimization, we would not be importing and heaping special favors on Third World populations while glorifying white-hating blacks and irrdentist Latinos in our media and educational system. Certainly non-white minorities did not create this situation.Carol Iannone writes:
Mark’s position differs from the usual blather about not enough assimilation in that he says we really can’t do it anymore. The country has changed, there is multiculturalism, low wage labor takes from natives blacks especially, and does not provide sufficient entree into middle class and requires at least some government support, and so on. He doesn’t imply that if only we worked harder at assimilation, we’d be ok.LA replies:
Yes, of course, his overall position on what to do about immigration is not the same as the neocons’. But that opening sentence of his book, denying that our immigration and culture problems have anything to do with the qualities and characteristics of the immigrants themselves (as though it were a matter of total indifference whether we have a country populated by Europeans or a country populated by Mestizos, Muslims, Hmong, and Africans), is a pure statement of liberal-neoconservative ideology the like of which I have never heard from Krikorian before.Ron L. writes:
There is something to say about the idea that it is us and not the new immigrants. Although the Mexican reconquista is new, unassimilated generations of insulated minority groups isn’t new.LA replies:
Ron is failing to take into consideration the crucial difference between European and non-European immigrants, and is offering a conventional, neoconservative analysis of the problem. If there had been no multicultural policies, if there had been no “social Marxists” seeking to exploit immigrants to weaken America, but we had still had the immigration we have had since 1965, we would perforce have ended up with multiculturalism and social Marxism.Donna E. writes:
There is no frank and honest debate with either neocons or liberal/progressives because they think that all but them are beneath their view of the world as they see it. I have been in communication with a liberal for awhile and finally gave up because he thought I was unhappy and he was happy with the way the country is going. He loves the Democrats and the elites in Washington, DC and the abortionists and the homosexuals, etc, etc.Ron L. writes:
I was not making the neocon case that nonwhite immigrants are the same as European immigrants. Of course one million Scots would be easier to assimilate than one million British Pakistanis or actual Pakistanis. My point is far less charitable. I believe that the movement to assimilate immigrants from the 1880s to the 1940s was a failure. We failed with white ethnics back when Americans cared about assimilation. What is going on today is an irredeemable and unmitigated disaster unless we virtually end all immigration, end multiculturalism, and assimilate the immigrants. This not only means changing curricular in schools and universities, but also ending foreign language media. And we know this won’t happen.LA replies:
Ron and I have a common friend, of British/Scottish ancestry by the way, who has often said that the great 1880-1920 immigration, by making America very ethnically diverse (though still European) ended America as a nation, because people of such different ethnicity cannot be one people. I think maybe that Ron is picking up on that idea.Terry Morris writes:
In a way Krikorian’s statement reminds me of your article, “Spencer: Only Muslims can solve our Islam Problem,” in which you wrote:LA replies:
I’m not sure you’re right on this, because Krikorian as I understand it has a hard line position calling for radical reduction of immigration. In other words, after his neocon-sounding opening sentence, apparently the rest of is book is very restrictionist, as Carol Iannone suggested in her comment.Ron L. writes:
Had the 1965 Immigration Act not been passed, I certainly could not hold my view. I’m fairly certain that my father would not have been able to come from Israel in 1966 but for the 1965 law. However, what is best for one’s country is not always what is best for oneself.LA replies:
You’re thinking about your actual country. You’re thinking the world doesn’t revolve around you. But McCain uses his endlessly repeated mantra about “putting country first” in order to advance himself. That’s all McCain is, as in all those years of him telling reporters that he’s a “proud conservative.” It would be interesting to count the number of words in McCain’s vocabulary: “My friends…” “I’m a proud conservative,” “I came to Washington as a footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution,” “My friends, I pledge to put America first.” “My friends, I’m a proud conservative,” “I came to Washington as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution,” “I pledge to put America first.” “My friends, my friends, my friends…” “I’m a proud conservative,” “I came to Washington as a footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution,” “My friends, I pledge to put America first.”Marcus Epstein writes (July 9):
Just to back up your claim that aei is fully aware of what he’s doing this is his biograhical information on him from the page on the immigration panel.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 07, 2008 01:17 PM | Send