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.

As long as restrictionists keep running away from the racial side of the issue and frantically denying that they’re racist, they are trapped in the left’s own definitions and moral terms. In the eyes of the left, they will always seem at best hypocritical, claiming that they’re not racist while pursuing a policy that would disproportionately slow the immigration of non-whites. There is therefore no alternative but for us to take the initiative and deal with the racial issue head on. We need to acknowledge the simple, commonsense fact that race is an integral part of human and social reality, one of several factors that significantly differentiate human groups from one another. Race and culture are to a certain degree linked, though of course, as I said, they are not identical. Individuals of any racial background can, potentially, assimilate into a culture different from their own. But the greater the racial and cultural differences between the newcomers and the host population, and the greater their numbers, the more difficult and unlikely such assimilation becomes. The upshot is that if it is legitimate to want to preserve our own culture, it is legitimate to want to preserve a country in which people like ourselves continue to be the majority, culture-defining population.

Of course, the frank and honest argument I’ve just proposed will seem out of the question—automatically career-destroying and suicidal—to the great majority of immigration restrictionists today. But if more and more people spoke the way I am suggesting, and, moreover, if they reasonably demonstrated that there is nothing immoral in their speaking this way, then the current notions of what is morally acceptable would change.

In the final analysis, we will never save ourselves from extinction by subscribing to the moral code of our destroyers.

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.

- end of initial entry -

Alex K. writes:

According to Richard Spencer at Taki’s Magazine, Richwine is a Harvard doctoral candidate and “young.”

I found this by googling him, which also turned up a Facebook page for him. He does look young in his photo. I can’t see his whole profile without becoming his Facebook “friend,” which I consider weird unless you know the person in real life. But it figures he’s young, since I hadn’t heard of him and since he’s saying stuff like that.

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.”

I would simply point out to Mr. Krikorian that the changes in the characteristics of our society have not happened in a post 1965 Immigration Act vacuum. Our attitudes towards immigrants today, as opposed to one hundred years ago, are in some way a direct result of the growth of the unassimilable immigrant population in America since 1965. I would even go so far as to assert that this is a major factor in the change in the characteristics of our society. Which is precisely the reason open immigration policies must be stopped before it’s too late.

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:

What makes him (or anyone) believe that one day, when America is a majority non-white, non-European country, there will be any hope that the mass of people will revere America’s history as our grandparents did; that the all-white Founders, and the greater than 90% white European colonists will be the object of hallowed rememberances and enthusiastic grade-school productions; that 18th and 19th century American heroes—virtually every one of whom is white and Christian—will evoke tear-swelling pride in the hearts of Somali Muslims and their descendants; that the white Puritans will inspire anything more than quizzical contempt and puzzlement; that their ideas, their history, their cultural presuppositions, will inspire the same sense of fellow-feeling? Has there ever been any place on earth where a people has looked back and revered as its foundational heroes people who bear almost no religious, cultural, or ethnic connection to themselves?

The idea is, to me, self-evidently ludicrous, indeed, it is not less than insane.

As another commenter has said, it seems outrageously stupid to believe that pre-New Deal immigrants would have stood the exact same chance of assimilating into the American mainstream had they been goatherders from Pakistan rather than European Christians—that it was merely the absence of the welfare state and leftist school curricula that enabled Irish immigrants to fit in with English Protestants tolerably well (and that only over the long haul).

But that’s moving a little far afield of my main point, which can be stated crudely as this: Nonwhites in America already feel very little connection with the Founders on the grounds that they neither look like them nor share their values in any meaningful sense—how in the world will it be any better when most Americans aren’t even descended from European Christians at all? Before long, that American “idea” that supposedly defines what the nation is will literally be seen as a foreign, alien idea. For anyone who doubts this, I have three words of advice for him: Google Rene Marie. She represents the “change” for which American leftists so passionately fight, and she speaks for black Americans much more forthrightly and honestly than does that lying charlatan Obama.

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:

Yes, indeed, the change IS largely in us, the native population. That specific change is that we now have a welfare-society in full bloom, and consequently every new immigrant (and all their progeny/grandparents. etc) who is unable to adjust sufficiently to support himself is entitled to demand that the rest of us to do the hard work of supporting him. Social welfare funded by required taxation of the general public did not used to be the case, and new immigrants were well aware that there was no option to working as hard as it took to succeed, since genuine grinding poverty was the alternative. They arrived determined to do so and did not come unless they believed they could. No longer so, there is that wonderful social safety net. And now since we are all responsible for the support of every failure to integrate, we should also expect to have a much more intrusive and demanding say in exactly who is admitted in the first place. The fact that the current open borders policy was scandalously foisted on the American public, largely unaware of what was happening until the situation was blatant, is a betrayal by our “representatives” that beggars description. The fact that we are unable even to discuss it without charges of racism, bigotry, ignorance, etc. is a betrayal by the mainstream media. We are in very deep weeds which we are barely noticing, thanks to the politically correct rot that inhabits the minds of too many of our citizens.

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.

It took 100 years for the Irish to assimilate, 50-70 years for the Italians and Germans, and I don’t think that Ashkenazi Jews from the great wave ever properly assimilated.

The 1965 immigration bill was an act of revenge by white ethnics against a WASP plurality, which had already lost heart. That the new alienated immigrants, legal and illegal, consider all whites to be Anglos is ironic.

However, if the melting pot model and immigration cutback of the 1920’s was only partially successful (I would argue that World War II probably did as much for Americanizing these immigrants and their progeny), current multiculturalism is designed to prevent assimilation and is a tool for the social Marxists to create alienated classes.

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.

The man makes absolutely no sense, so I refuse to communicate with him any more.

Too bad that they win, we lose, because there is no longer any debate. Our views are simply shut down—end of story. Hate is rampant and they will not see that they are the haters.

Our immigration policy must be changed. We must shut down all immigration for at least 10 years for a much needed breather. Then maybe we can begin to sort out those who are treasonous and those who are statesmen.

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.

The Goths have crossed the Danube. Hadrianople awaits.

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.

My view is that while the assimilation of the European immigrants was certainly imperfect and introduced lasting tensions into America that weren’t there before, the assimilation by and large succeeded to a sufficient degree to maintain our sense of nationhood. Yes, because of their (white) ethnic diversity, Americans were not a people in the same way that the British or the Germans are a people, but they still were a people. Had they avoided the opening of the borders to all of humanity in 1965, that peoplehood would have continued undisturbed. There would have been a lot of other problems, but Ron would not now be saying, “The Goths have crossed the Danube. Hadrianople awaits.”

However, to give the other side of the argument, it could be said that the tremendous ethnic diversity created by the 1880 to 1920 immigration created the social forces that ultimately resulted in the broader opening of the borders in 1965. President John F. Kennedy, an Irish-American, and the American Jewish Committee (representing the two white ethnic groups with the largest amount of resentment against America’s Anglo-Saxon majority) pushed the ruinous immigration reforms that opened America on an equal basis to immigrants from all nations. But was the 1965 Immigration Act made inevitable by the 1880-1920 immigration? One cannot say that. Greater wisdom at the national level would have avoided it.

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:

Notice how Spencer puts the entire burden for the resolution of this problem [honor killing] on the Muslims. If the Muslims face the truth about the Muslim custom of honor killings and do something about it, then that will solve it. But if they don’t, well, we just have to accept the existence of Muslim honor killings in our country….

If Spencer were serious about ending Muslim immigration, then at the end of such an article, instead of giving his conservative readers the helpless feeling that there is nothing we can do about honor killings in America except to hope that Muslims abandon their millennia old customs, he would have said, “Honor killings show that Islam is incompatible with our society. This supports my belief that we must end Muslim immigration from Muslim countries.” But instead of saying that, he returns to the usual liberal attitude of helplessness. Getting Robert Spencer to be serious about ending Muslim immigration is like getting Republican presidential candidates to be serious about opposing amnesty. When put under unceasing pressure on the issue, they will say that they’re against amnesty, but they don’t really mean it, and they don’t follow through.

Krikorian’s statement really renders us helpless in doing anything about the immigration problem in America because it presupposes, as you say, that all we need to do—all we can do—is change our collective attitude about immigrant assimilation, while we maintain current levels of immigration from races and cultures incompatible with our own. So on the one hand we have to be strong like our ancestors were a hundred years ago demanding of our immigrants that they assimilate, but on the other we mustn’t make their mistake of being selective about how many immigrants we take on and from whence these immigrants come. So we’re rendered impotent by Krikorian’s reasoning on immigration in the same way that we’re rendered impotent by Spencer’s reasoning with regard to Muslims. The difference being that Spencer thinks there’s nothing about ourselves and our methods that we can change to protect ourselves against the Muslims (it’s all up to them to assimilate or we become dhimmis), while Krikorian thinks there’s nothing about mass immigration to America that we can change to protect ourselves from racial and cultural extinction (it’s all up to us to assimilate the unassimilable or we become extinct). Both men deny the path to national and cultural preservation.

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.

However, I thank you for bringing to my attention that article of mine on Spencer, which was posted in January 2008. It’s a perfect example of how, even while in some blog entries he favors ending Muslim immigration, in other blog entries he strikes a note of complete helplessness before the growth of Muslim numbers and power in America. This is why one can never be sure of where he’s coming from.

For pointing out this fact, obvious to any attentive reader of Spencer, I have been smeared from here to China.

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.

P.S. Did I just one-up McCain on his platitudes?

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

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