Derbyshire’s “Talk,” and the controversy it has triggered

Many readers have sent me John Derbyshire’s already famous (or, for liberals and the liberals who are called “conservatives,” infamous) “Talk” that non-black parents should give their children about blacks and particularly about how to avoid black violence. It is terrific. It is exactly what is needed, especially as a counter to the Zimmerman-Martin hysteria. And it gives me an idea for a way to challenge liberals where they live. However, these are contentious matters that I don’t want to write about until after this holy season.

Also (and this is a breaking development which I cannot delay mentioning), I have heard that some at National Review, in response to attacks at Forbes and elsewhere, are condemning the article and at least strongly hinting that they want Derbyshire to be ousted from NR over it. Senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru seems to be clearly stating that he wants Derbyshire gone.

The latest news on this front was reported at The Atlantic at 7:45 this evening:

On Friday, fellow National Review contributor Josh Barro, writing for Forbes, is shocked that Derbyshire hasn’t been fired yet. In the last hour or so, more of his National Review colleagues have been criticizing the piece. Responding to The Atlantic’s Matt O’Brien’s question on Twitter, “Does @NRO want to be associated with someone who publishes racist trash like this?” senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru responded, “I know I don’t.” And Jonah Goldberg, the editor of National Review Online, tweeted, “For the record, I find my colleague John Derbyshire’s piece fundamentally indefensible and offensive. I wish he hadn’t written it.”

This is a supremely ironic development. Going back many years (though I haven’t said much about this in more recent years, as I felt I had exhausted the subject), I have argued that given Derbyshire’s aggressive atheism, materialism, and nihilism, and his liberal views on many specific subjects (though not, of course, on immigration), his presence at the supposed flagship magazine of American conservatism was inappropropriate to say the least. In this I was following William F. Buckley’s dictum that a committed atheist who seeks to destroy religion and regards religious people as mentally defective is, by definition, not a conservative. But Derbyshire was kept on at NR, allowed by NR’s eternal-boy editors to keep on undermining conservatism and its Christian basis from within. But now that Derbyshire has said something true about race,—and said it, not in his usual jocular anecdotal personalistic unserious way which has always protected him in the past, but said it seriously, as a set of general propositions that parents should teach their children—it appears that the chestless wonders at NR want to fire him.

If they do fire him, it will mean that NR had no problem with a contributor who violated fundamental tenets of conservatism, but that they do have a problem with a contributor who violates fundamental tenets of liberalism. Which would confirm what I’ve been saying about that ruined hulk of a once-important magazine for the last ten or 15 years.

* * *

What are the prospects Derbyshire will survive at National Review? Based on VFR’s illuminating discussion in February, “Are whites brain-dead, or toiling under the reign of fear?” (it was certainly illuminating to me), I would have to say the chances are close to nil. In that discussion, on the basis of many readers’ comments, it was clearly established that a person with a job in mainstream America cannot publicly state true, even mildly critical things about blacks and expect to keep his job. And Derbyshire’s true remarks about black violence and black hostility to whites go way beyond mildly critical.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

At 9:08 p.m. Friday evening, NR’s non-entity editor, Rich Lowry, wrote at the Corner:

Needless to say, no one at National Review shares Derb’s appalling view of what parents supposedly should tell their kids about blacks in this instantly notorious piece here.

That is very interesting, and brings up the idea that Derbyshire’s article triggered in me that I didn’t want to discuss yet. But here’s a taste. If Lowry had young teenaged children, and the offspring announced to Dad that they were planning to attend an all black entertainment event or go to an amusement park or beach that had a high concentration of young blacks, would Dad, properly rejecting Derbyshire’s “appalling” advice to parents, say, “Sure, kids, go ahead, have fun”?

LA writes:

At a site called, there is a collection of Twitter messages calling on NR to fire Derbyshire. The underlying message of all these messages is the same: “You, NR, cannot keep Derbyshire aboard and remain a respectable magazine. You will be marginalized. You will lose your sponsors and funders. You will be pariahs.” What are the chances that the zeroes who run NR will stand up to this firestorm? Again I say, practically zero.

April 7, 1 a.m.

Paul K. writes:

I followed your link at VFR and read Derbyshire’s column. I had not been aware of it earlier as I rarely visit Taki’s. I didn’t respond earlier as you implied that you didn’t care to discuss this over the weekend.

I found “The Talk” very good, but not as good as it might have been. I suspect that if you wrote such a piece it would be more focused. For example points 2 and 3 are a waste of time. Who cares about “admixture distribution”? Points 13 through 15 are silly, discussing the value of a black friend. Having black friends did George Zimmerman no good. Even his efforts to help a black victim of police brutality were ignored.

If the purpose of such a talk is to provide children with guidance as how to negotiate this minefield, it should include that advice that one must NEVER express an opinion about race with friends, relatives, fellow students, or coworkers. Unless you know that their opinions correspond to yours, it can spell disaster. Ironically, Derbyshire omitted this point and it is the very land mine on which he stepped.

Another point is that one must at all costs avoid conflicts with blacks at school or the workplace. The administration and/or management will take the side of the black under almost any circumstance and you will either be disciplined or tossed overboard.

Among the comments at Taki’s are a surprising number of expressions of outrage at Derbyshire. I wonder if those are from “progressive conservatives” or just liberals who were encouraged to go to Taki’s and see what evil lurks in the minds of right-wingers.

National Review is such a disgrace. It has long outlived its usefulness.

LA replies:

I agree with you that some of the earlier points are less apropos and also slow down the piece unnecessarily. Also, it hadn’t occurred to me that having black friends would do one no good, but in light of the fate of George Zimmerman you appear to be right about that.

And, yes, it is most ironic that Derbyshire left out a key practical point from VFR’s February thread on “the reign of fear” which happened to comprise my own version of “The Talk.” It concerned, not the dangers one faces from blacks, but the dangers one faces from one’s fellow whites. I said that a white parent sending his child off to college in today’s America should tell him that he must never say anything critical about blacks or other nonwhites, not in public, and not in private except to tested friends he knows he can trust. (Or maybe the way I put it was that the parent should tell his child never to say anything about race, period; at the moment I can’t find my comment in the thread.) And of course that advice applies to adults in jobs as well as to students in college. Evidently Derbyshire did not read the Auster version of “The Talk,” or did not heed it.

Or perhaps, as a commenter below suggests, he published his “Talk” knowing that it would result in his being fired from NR.

LA continues:

Also, I decided to break my silence and write about this issue when a reader informed me at 10 p.m. of the storm of controversy around the article and of the fact that NR’s editors were attacking it. At that point the subject became, not just the article itself, which I could have waited to write about next week after the holiday, but this remarkable breaking story possibly leading to Derbyshire’s dismissal.

Kilroy M. writes from Australia:

If they don’t fire him, it will be a very uncomfortable co-existence for the writers of NR. His presence will be a forever reminder of an inconvenient truth they they constantly deny. Will it also mean that the faux-conservative literati around The Weekly Standard, Commentary et al. relegate NR to the fringe currently occupied by Chronicles and The American Conservative? I confess, this is actually all a little amusing. Gottfried was right; the history of NR is the history of conservatives being thrown under the bus.

But I wonder, Derbyshire’s piece at TakiMag is so deliberately structured and focused, it must have occurred to him what the reaction would have been. Did he do this on purpose? I’m speculating from afar, but perhaps his time was up, and he decided to go with a bang, and claim martyrdom status. But I can’t find anything online about him having a dispute or a difference of opinion with any of the present powers running that magazine. Yet, for somebody who knows them personally, and has worked with them for a considerable period of time, he must have seen this coming.

April 7, 4 a.m.

Kilroy M. writes:

Further to my previous comment, I just had a look at the Twitchy page you linked, and note that the administrator/editor states that “while honest discussion of race relations is sorely needed in this country” nevertheless, what Derbyshire did “is downright crazy talk.” Interesting. I thought Derbyshire’s piece precisely was honest, and its effectiveness largely also derived from the sincerity in which it was drafted. So in other words, whether a “discussion of race relations” is “honest” depends on an argument’s ideological proximity to liberal conceits and multicultural assumptions.

LA replies:

Oh, that’s funny: “honest discussion about race” is “sorely needed,” but what Derbyshire said is “downright crazy.” So, what would a sane honest discussion about race consist of? “Kids, the reason blacks are so far behind is the soft bigotry of low expectations”?

LA writes:

Here is an e-mail Paul Nachman has sent to Rich Lowry, with a cc to Jonah Goldberg:


What’s truly appalling is the gutlessness of NRO’s powers — you, Goldberg, and Ponnuru — in piling on Derb for actually looking at the world and drawing some obvious conclusions about it. I’m hoping Andy McCarthy will show up to provide some adult supervision.

And to call it a “screed”! You maybe need for us to buy you a dictionary?

In a little additional morsel of gutlessness, you don’t permit readers’ comments at your blog entry. But you do link Derb’s article, so readers can see for themselves how unmoored your criticism is, showing you have some residual decency. Please try to build upon that.

Auntie Analogue writes:

This could be way off base, but you may agree that it’s a fascinating bit of speculation:

Perhaps Derbyshire’s recent cancer diagnosis has removed inhibitions that previously prevented his writing and posting his “The Talk” article.

The truly curious thing about “The Talk” that black parents give to their children about interactions with police (to wit: Be respectful; don’t make sudden or threatening moves; keep your hands visible and out of your pockets; don’t raise your voice or protest; cooperate immediately; &c.) is exactly the same talk that my two white parents, two (then living) white grandparents, and all my other white elders gave about relations with police to me.

The bittersweet thing is that both “The Talk” that black parents give to their children and Derbyshire’s talk that he’s given to his children are chock full of … conmon sense. Of course the Diversity Industry Empire Builders and mainstream Media-Pravda will not be persuaded that both of these talks are grounded in common sense, since neither the Diversity Industry Commissars, nor Media-Pravda, are concerned in the least about or heedful of common sense, because their actual determination is to recite ad nauseam the Multi-Culti-Diversity Fairytale Narrative.

P.S. Let me wish you joyful celebration of this Easter’s commemoration of our Savior’s Redemption of our sins.

LA writes:

Auntie Analogue’s Easter good wishes remind me to say this: Though I changed my mind and blogged about this highly controversial matter, which I hadn’t intended to do until after Easter, or at least until after the Easter Vigil, it has changed nothing. Jesus is in the tomb, dead, right now. As I write this, in the middle of the night, the fact of his death hovers like a silent, dead weight over the world.

Kevin J. writes:

When I first read Rich Lowry’s comment (“Needless to say, no one at National Review shares Derb’s appalling view,” etc.) I had thought he was being sarcastic, a belief which shows how steeped I am in the “race realist” section of the internet, and how long absent from “conservative” sites such as NRO and the Weekly Standard. Only after reading your comments did I realize that Lowry may be serious.

Also, there is this: John Derbyshire puts up a new podcast (“Radio Derb”) on National Review Online every Friday. There is no new podcast this week. Mr. Derbyshire typically notes any podcasting tardiness in the Corner, and I see no remarks from him there. We may have heard the last from him as a contributor to National Review.

LA writes:

For those who are interested, I’ve just added a comment to the February 2012 thread on “The reign of fear” explaining how the phrase came to be used at VFR.

Well, I’ll just copy the comment here:

It might be noted that the phrase “reign of fear” was coined by Irv P. in an August 2011 entry about a Florida teacher who was suspended from his job for criticizing homosexual “marriage” on his Facebook page. Irv had initially used the expression “reign of terror” to describe this situation in which people could lose their livelihoods for expressing their opinions, even away from their place of work. In an e-mail exchange, I suggested that “reign of terror” was a bit too strong to describe the threat of the loss of one’s job, as compared with the threat of imprisonment or death, with which the word “terror” is normally associated. Irv then suggested “reign of fear,” and we both agreed that this, rather than “reign of terror,” was a more accurate and less sensational description for the PC dispensation under which the entire West now lives.

April 7, 10 a.m.

Lydia McGrew writes:

A blessed Holy Saturday to you and a joyous Easter tomorrow.

I don’t blame you at all for posting something about Derbyshire’s “talk” given the controversy surrounding it.

The portion of his article that I found offensive was the section on trying to cultivate a black friend and the discussion of how much in demand well-socialized blacks are. One can say that it wasn’t serious, but even so, it was cynical to the point of offensiveness, because he was counseling using individual human beings and using friendship, or the pretense thereof. That is something that I would not even make a joke about. Imagine what it would be like actually to set out to do this, to think of a person of one’s acquaintance and say to oneself, “I should cultivate him as a token black friend to try to protect myself from charges of racism.” Overtures of friendship should never be made on such a basis. I think at that point in the article Derbyshire let his cynicism run away with him. Not that this should come as a surprise; it’s pretty much par for the course with Derbyshire. He’s not the sort of person I would want to have as a personal friend myself. But it’s not good advice and not right, even coming from a parent who would say the other politically incorrect things about race in the “talk.”

LA replies:

Thank you, and the same to you.

You are absolutely right on all points. As I was reading the piece, I was focused less on that part of it than on the part about avoiding black violence. Thank you for bringing this out.

And what you say reminds me of the incident that ended my correspondence with Derbyshire years ago (as recounted here, in my collection on Derbyshire). I was discussing with him via e-mail (we have never met) something he had said about me in an online interview that I had found objectionable, and in the midst of it he said to me that in life he always tried to “walk a fine line between earnestness and frivolity.” Which, as I said to him, I took to mean that he always strove to be approximately half-frivolous. His subsequent downward course into atheism, nihilism, and all-out intellectual cynicism, even about the gravest issues, confirmed what I had seen in his character in that moment.

And again we see the irony, that Derbyshire has always been tolerated at NR as a writer with non-PC views on race, immigration, and some other issues, because he was always half-frivolous in these views. But the moment he wrote an article on race that was completely earnest, or almost completely earnest (Lydia’s example suggests an unserious element), the whole “respectable” world came down on him like a ton of bricks.

Roland D. writes:

So, Jesse Jackson can say it, but John Derbyshire can’t?

LA replies:

Well, there are obvious differences between saying it in one brief sentence about being nervous about young blacks on a street, and saying it in a long article emphasizing that one’s children should avoid large congregations of black people because blacks are inherently dangerous. However, if Jackson had stated his concerns about black violence at more length, he still would probably have escaped serious censure over it, while any white man would get in serious trouble for saying the same thing.

Morever, Jackson said nothing about black-on-white violence, which was Derbyshire’s main subject and the particular thing that got him in trouble. Note how all the “conservative” critics of the Trayvian Martin hysteria, in bringing out the fact of black violence, only and exclusively speak of black-on-black violence, never of black-on-white violence. For these “conservatives,” this is where no man has gone before and where no man should ever go.

James P. writes:

What I sent to National Review to the general e-mail address at the Corner (since I don’t have an address for Lowry):

Rich Lowry writes that “no one at National Review shares Derb’s appalling views.” Well, you ought to. His views are basic common sense and hardly appalling. (Personally, I am appalled at Lowry’s craven genuflection at the altar of political correctness.) Furthermore, the article contains sources for every claim he makes, so the claim that is is a “screed” is asinine.

Derbyshire is the only reason I come to NRO. If that is important to you, I suggest you continue to permit him to post in the Corner and publish in the magazine.

James P. writes:

To the extent that the NRO reaction to Derbyshire is an effort to shield NRO from Leftist criticism, we see that once again so-called conservatives are permitting the Left to determine what it is permissible for conservatives to say. Is it any surprise that America moves relentlessly Leftward when the Right allows the Left to arbitrate the Right’s ideological boundaries, and when the Right allows the Left constantly to pull “acceptable Right-wing thought” to the Left?

LA replies:

You should send this to them too.

James P. replies:

I just did!

LA writes:

I wrote to Paul Kersey at SBPDL:


Your regular use of the phrase, “Black Run America,” can have great results:

Black Run America (BRA) alive and well at National Review

Terrific! What a put-down!


LA continues:

This, from Paul Kersey’s above-linked article:

The world is preparing for a post-America order, while America is busily working to ensure that absolutely no criticism of Black people be permissible in public discourse….

Those on the so-called respectable “right” (conservatives) and on the “left” are in total agreement about our fealty and subservience … to Black people. There can be no deviation from this script. As America fails, we have basically enshrined in law that discussing problems arising from the Black community is not to be tolerated.

John Derbyshire’s sensible column has generated a massive response—most shameful is the reaction for his former colleagues at National Review—that illustrates why having a dialogue on race is impossible in Black-Run America (BRA).

As America sinks, we must cling—in an ever more delusional manner—to the notion of white racism and white privilege holding down the saintly Black race. Perhaps it will even come to the point where we must do so at the barrel end of a gun…

Kudos for The Derb and Takimag for having the audacity to publish this piece. It has been eye-opening seeing the response.

A reader writes:

While I agree with you that Derbyshire’s article is true and useful, I’m afraid that it confirms my belief that Derbyshire is intelligent, but not wise. In my opinion, the left was using the Trayvon Martin event to rally Obama’s base. It’s one thing to tell a pollster you will vote for Obama, it’s another to go out and vote, commit vote fraud or participate in voter intimidation. This article will soon be famous in the black community and will be used to rally support for the president. Had it been published in November, it would have been better. [LA replies: I don’t know. What are blacks going to say? “It’s a racist lie to say that it’s dangerous for whites to hang out in a black neighborhood or go to a largely black amusement park”? The professional liberal blacks will say that. But most blacks know the truth.]

As for the reaction to the piece at NRO, it has to be read in the context of this piece by Robert Weissberg that appeared at NRO’s Phi Beta Cons blog on April 4. [LA notes: the Weissberg article is about academia’s systematic suppression of research, writing, speech, and thought concerning any subject that threatens to promote “dangerous stereotypes.”]

The publication of Weissberg’s piece at NRO protesting the prohibition of un-PC writing, combined with NRO’s simultaneous attack on Derbyshire’s un-PC article, perfectly highlights the uselessness of most nominally conservative magazines. Derbyshire writes something supported by data, that reflects the way people really live their lives, and he is scorned and rejected. Weissberg also writes something true but at bottom does not truly wound the left.

Derbyshire has now committed Thoughtcrime, Orwell would laugh.

Please note that we are coming up on the 20th anniversary of the Rodney King riots (April 29th).

I hope your health continues well. Happy Easter!

James N. writes:

Subject: Derb

Amazing. Makes me feel like an outlaw.

No further comment until after Easter.

LA replies:

Do you mean, because Derbyshire’s advice to parents about what they should tell their children, which has gotten him in trouble, is the very sort of thing that you tell your children?

James N. replies:

No, because they are the things that I SHOULD tell my children.

If you remember, we were almost mobbed at African-American Family Day last Easter Monday at the National Zoo. When I wrote to you about it, I regretted that, on arriving at the zoo and seeing the sign, I didn’t just turn around. I KNEW I should have, and I KNEW I didn’t because it would seem “racist” in front of my children, nieces, and nephews.

I’m immersed in Easter activity this weekend. I may be able to manage a more extended reflection on this matter next week.

LA replies:

That’s really funny. The way I understood you, or tried to understand you, was the exact opposite of what you meant. You didn’t mean that you are a Derbyshire-style outlaw, speaking the forbidden truth. You meant that you are an outlaw for not speaking the truth as Derbyshire has done.

James N. replies:

Not exactly right.

If my thought dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.

It makes me feel like an outlaw, but since I am not outspoken, I am not an outlaw in fact.

LA replies:
So, you’re an outlaw from being an outlaw.

For the outlawry which you would do, you do not, but the non-outlawry which you would not do, that you do.

(See Romans 7:19, 20.)

You’re in a parlous state, brother.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 06, 2012 10:25 PM | Send

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