An empty black suit defends anti-white discrimination

An utterly frustrating yet instructive exchange took place tonight on the Lou Dobbs program on CNN. Here’s the video. (Remember, I hardly ever watch TV, so I know far less about such programs than most VFR readers.) Dobbs was interviewing Victor Bolden, the corporation council of the City of New Haven, concerning the suit by 17 white firemen against the city for racial discrimination, which , after six years, is about to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. Bolden, a black man, is the quintessential empty black suit.* In an intense interview that went on for about 15 minutes, with Bolden being repeatedly hit by Dobbs’s open expressions of disbelief, Bolden said literally not one thing of substance. Everything he said was transparent blather. The fellow wore a business suit, he spoke the English language, but there was nobody there.

Actually, Bolden is not at the level of the true empty black suit, because the term denotes a black who manages to appear like an intellectual but isn’t one—Cornel West is a classic example. In the wider sense of the term, however, empty black suit means a black who fills a professional position but doesn’t actually do his job, or, rather, does it in such an inadequate or minimal fashion that in many instances he might as well not be doing it, he’s just going through the motions, while his white co-workers take up the slack. And let’s be frank about it: this is the way millions of blacks are earning their touted middle- and upper middle-class incomes in today’s America.

While this phenomenon is common (and it would be an interesting exercise to compile a list of nationally prominent empty black suits of recent years), it was particularly fitting and appropriate in this case because the City of New Haven has been caught in a most embarrassing and indefensible situation and so needs representatives who can keep talking while saying nothing. Dobbs kept asking Bolden: if the test you gave in 2003 was not acceptable because it discriminated against blacks and only produced white finalists, why haven’t you given any new test or promoted any firemen to lieutenant in the last six years? Bolden’s non-answer answers were amazing to listen to.

As for Lou Dobbs, I have two observations.

On one hand, it is exciting and refreshing to see someone on TV who instinctively senses liberal b.s., scorns it, and forcefully challenges it, as Dobbs did with Bolden.

On the other hand, Dobbs is woefully inadequate because he doesn’t seem capable of cogent criticism of the liberal position. Instinctive rejection of false liberal statements is very welcome, but not nearly enough.

Watching the interview was therefore intensely frustrating. The low level of the discussion on the cable news stations, where even the so-called conservatives are only bouncing off the liberals rather than engaging with and exposing their ideas, is a major reason why I don’t watch television.


* See Joseph Kay’s fascinating essay, “The empty black suit,” at VFR in September 2008; and this follow-up.)

- end of initial entry -

Roger G. writes:

How are Dobbs et al. going to criticize the liberal position cogently without speaking the truth about race? And if they speak the truth about race, how are they going to keep their jobs?

LA replies:

Well, it’s not necessary to argue for inherent race differences to say that there ought to be a single standard without concern for racial outcome. Neocons and mainstream conservatives used to make that kind of argument all the time.

And it wasn’t just on the meta issue of race that Dobbs was inadequate; he failed to identify the specific false things that New Haven and its spokesman were saying.

A. Zarkov writes:

Recall one of my prior emails where I pointed out Lou Dobbs abusive conduct towards a caller in his daily radio show. The caller was trying to point out that the academic performance gap between black and white students could never be fully closed because of the difference in IQ between the two groups. Dobbs became incensed, and hurled one personal insult after another at the caller. Even worse Dobbs deleted some of the callers words in the podcast version of the exchange. I replayed it to see how well it matched what the caller actually said. After that show, I have no use for Dobbs. He’s a phony in my opinion.

April 14

James N. writes:

The more I think about the term, “empty black suit,” the more it seems that it’s not really right.

The suits aren’t empty. There are real black men in them.

Saying the suit is empty avoids the harsh reality of SEEING THE REAL BLACK MAN. Saying he’s nothing, or that he’s invisible, misses the point.

The point is, we have a significant African-descended population living among us who, in the aggregate, are nothing like us. The society we have built is, for the most part, not suited to either their talents or their desires. We told them they were “equal” and that we would set them “free,” but the result is that they are angry and increasingly hostile.

Seeing them for what they are is the first step to a healthy society. As long as those suits don’t contain real men, that’s going to be hard to do.

LA replies:

Great point. But I don’t think your argument takes away from the empty suits idea. It depends on context. Insofar as the real values they are offering to our society are concerned, the people we are speaking about are empty suits, taking up space, receiving handsome salaries and perks and lots of complimentary attention, but giving nothing in return. Insofar as their emptiness contains a substance, they are not empty suits but incompatible, and often alien and hostile, human beings.

Joseph Kay, author of the original article “The Empty Black Suit,” writes:

I totally agree with you and would add another point. The “empty suit” might be judged an exercise in partially failed assimilation. And, as such, it applies far beyond blacks. We want people to assimilate to American ideals, and we reward those who make the jump. But for many, the only assimilation is the superficial, outward version. They don the clothing, root for the Mets, and otherwise appear “assimilated,” but this is only partially true.

The problem is the ever-present possibility of reversion to the old ways—off with the suit, on with the imagined native dress and all that comes with it, including a propensity for violence. We saw this in the 1960s with blacks taking “African” names, dressing like movie Zulu’s and behaving like Congo despots ruling over Bed/Sty. (The Black Panthers could have been shipped to the Congo and probably been more “at home.”)

As I said before, this can be explained by the difficulty of assimilating to America’s abstract principles. I sometimes feel that this is comparable to trying to housebreak wild animals. Wolves can be trained to behave like poodles up to a point, but beware—they can unexpectedly revert to wildness, as the lady with the “domesticated” chimp discovered.

LA replies:

In other words, the suit itself denotes the partial, superficial assimilation that doesn’t go to the whole man. The emptiness of the suit denotes everything about the man that, from our point of view, has not become part of us, is not contributing anything to us, and so is an emptiness; and, from his point of view, is his real self that he is temporarily holding in abeyance until the time comes for him to assert it again.

Robert S. writes:

I think Obama himself will turn out to be the ultimate “empty black suit”. Despite being head and shoulders above the man on the Lou Dobbs show, I expect he’ll prove himself to be not very competent at running the US government.

Joseph Kay replies:
The suit might be likened to camouflage useful for fooling the enemy. College students often have an “interview suit” when they go out looking for jobs. What I find especially interesting is how blacks honestly believe that they are “fooling” The Man. Actually, as we both know, The Man is just too polite or scared to let on. So, the black continues on convinced that his suit has some mysterious power to fool whitey.

I can only imagine you put into a position of trying to fool blacks. After a week of practicing you might have convinced yourself. They would know in an instant.

LA replies:

I had a little trouble understanding this, so I’ll put into my own words. The black sees the white buying into his act, his suit, and the black assumes that this is because he’s fooling whitey. But the reason whitey is accepting the black is not that he’s fooled, it’s that he’s too polite or scared to tell the black that he sees through him, that he sees his inadequacy.

Mr. Kay then adds that if I were in the situation of a white trying to conceal from a black that I saw through him, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The black would see that I wasn’t buying his act. (Though I’m not sure if this is good or bad.)

There is an interesting reverse parallel here with Gedaliah Braun’s theory of white accommodation of blacks. As Braun explains it, blacks have much more emotional intensity than whites. So when whites see blacks expressing this intensity, they misunderstand it, because a white person who was this excited or angry would have to have a really big grievance. So the white, seeing the black in white terms, assumes that that the black has a really big grievance, and he rushes to assuage it. In reality, the black doesn’t have a big grievance, he’s just being himself. Or else he’s deliberately using his emotionality to manipulate the white. In any case the white ends up bending himself out of shape because of his failure to understand blacks.

To repeat: In Mr. Kay’s example, the black is pretending to be assimilated and “suitable,” the white sees that the black is not “suitable,” but hides the fact that he sees it, out of fear of racial disharmony.

In Gedaliah Braun’s example, the black is acting out a grievance, the white uncomprehendingly takes the black’s anger seriously and rushes to assuage it, out of fear of racial disharmony.

So, whether the white is concealing the fact that he sees a negative truth about the black, or whether the white is fooled by the black’s anger into thinking that he, the white, has done something wrong to the black, the situation ends up in the same place, with the white striving to assuage the black.

April 15

Joseph Kay writes:

This all relates to what was once called “passing” as in Jews passing for goyim. It is a talent and you, obviously, would have a hard time passing as black.

What I am talking about is the quality of the performance, both from the performer’s and the audience’s perspective. I’m convinced that black lawyers, professors and other professionals exaggerate their success in passing since the audience is too polite to boo. This only emboldens them and they become increasingly outrageous. Cornel West is the perfect example, but it is near universal among black academics. And when there is, eventually, a criticism, they are shocked, offended, and can hardly believe their ears.

LA writes:

In connection with this topic of whether blacks want the truth from whites or a lie, the below comments from the thread in February about Eric Holder’s race speech may offer further useful angles. I realize my reply to Van Wijk sounds off the wall, especially when I say that blacks want whites to be The Man again, but I think there is something to my idea that blacks want whites to be real with them, which liberalism makes impossible.

Here is the exchange:

Van Wijk wrote:

As an aside, I’ve been trying to understand this overwhelming need blacks have to engage with whites. Part of this, as often discussed at VFR, is a hustle designed to separate whites from the wealth they create. But it goes deeper than that. Blacks’ lives seem to revolve around whites. Is it a deeply buried desire for approval? I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel it’s there. Have you noticed this, or do you think the hustle stands alone? [Emphasis added.]

LA replied:

… On your question, it’s a very good question, and I don’t know the answer.

But here’s an answer that comes to me. Blacks want something from whites, but what they think they want is the opposite of what they really want. What they think they want is for whites to acknowledge how much pain racism causes blacks, how difficult it is for blacks to live in a white dominated society. This is what blacks feel that whites don’t understand and have never acknowledged. But on a deeper level what blacks really want is for the whites to treat them seriously as human beings, something whites, because of liberalism, never do. As is it now, blacks know that whites are never sincere with them, that they condescend to them, that they pretend to regard them as equal. What the blacks want is for the whites to be real with them, to be truthful with the blacks about race, to say that they, the whites, see through the black grievance hustle, to say blacks are less capable and more misbehaving than whites and that is why they are behind. The blacks want the whites to stop being guilty. What the blacks really want is for the whites to assert themselves once again as the leaders of America, as the man.

Now they’re not aware that this is what they want, and if the whites asserted themselves like this, most of the blacks would be outraged. But they would also be satisfied that that the whites were being real with them.

I know my explanation sounds nuts, and needs further revisions to be acceptable. But I think there’s some element of truth in it and it’s what came to me to say.

LA continued:

We should also remember Toni Morrison’s frequent statements portraying whites as being secretly obsessed with blacks. According to Morrison, everything whites think and do—even in areas having nothing to do with race—is really driven by their obsession with blacks; blacks are the ever-present center of white consciousness. Now, as I’ve written elsewhere, this is obvious projection. It’s Morrison and other blacks who are obsessed with whites. Whites are at the center of black consciousness. As you say, the blacks want something from the whites, but what is it? And again, it has something to do with wanting whites to be real with them. But the blacks have made such honesty impossible by their demands for white deference to black victimhood.

I will also say this. Blacks can never solve this problem. For one thing, they can’t solve it because they are influenced by the white liberalism that prevents whites from having the honesty that blacks desire of them. Blacks don’t have the power to get rid of white liberalism. Only whites have the power to do that. Therefore only whites can solve this problem.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 13, 2009 10:21 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):