ILANA: I would have liked to read more about your family in “Negrophilia.” What is it about your background that accounts for your clarity on matters racial in our country?
ERIK: I believe that since my sister and I were of mixed race, my parents believed it was important to instill in us the sort of values that would help us to overcome any derision we might face being of mixed race, and to treat others equitably regardless of their ethnicity. Their efforts to promote a reasonably healthy self-image was part of it, as well as enabling us to make value judgments on those who did treat others inequitably based on race. “Discrimination” became a “bad word” during the Civil Rights Movement, but we are, in truth, being discriminating when we intellectually sort people based on their values and worldview as much as one might using skin color as a determinant. Of course, the first is a good thing; the last isn’t. I guess I took to heart the values we were raised with; on the occasions I did run into discrimination or bigotry, my reaction was one of defensiveness or even amusement, but I never felt victimized.
ILANA: “A major tenet of Negrophilia,” you state in your book, “is that racism on the part of blacks is acceptable, or even proper.” (P. 96) Do you remember the odious Rev. Joseph Lowery’s benediction at Barack Obama coronation? He asked the Lord to “help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around – when yellow will be mellow – when the red man can get ahead, man – and when white will embrace what is right.” In other words, to be white is not to be right. To be black is to have an eternal claim against errant whites—for no other reason than that they are white. This is crude collectivism. But it’s also the only permissible narrative in American society. How do we get beyond such racism if: 1) it has been framed as justice. 2) Whites are too afraid to reject it?
: I am frequently asked how we are to get past this or that dysfunctional aspect of race relations in America – and, I suppose in other areas to a lesser degree. My take on this is sort of a “cut the head from the snake” approach. This racial orthodoxy has been advanced primarily by the radical left, which has gained preeminence in key areas of American society: Government, education, the press, and entertainment. However we accomplish this, we are going to have to neutralize their influence in order to ameliorate the effects of that influence. In the short term, all we can really do is speak our truth, encourage others to do the same – and write books like “Negrophilia” (and your forthcoming, “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa”
ILANA: A woman accused you of not being sufficiently concerned about “your people” who were dying all over the world. You corrected her by telling her that blacks were indeed dying in Africa, mainly, because they were killing each other. You recommended that she decamp to that continent where she would be appreciated as a sex slave or as lunch. She really got you going. What pushes your buttons, in general, about this particular angle?
ERIK: When people base their arguments on selective, convenient slices of history and attempt to wax profound when they are, either through ignorance or intellectual dishonesty, operating from false premises. Ad hominem attacks are also rather annoying, but they’re easier to dismiss.
ILANA: You state with considerable candor that, “Some who come upon my columns wonder how it is that I ‘get away with’ saying so many things that are considered racist. Upon recognizing me as black (or of mixed race), they have their answer. Unfortunately, the truth or falsehood of [things racial] is perceived as being predicated upon the race of the source.” Over and above the convention you describe so well, there is the issue of truth as relative. How do we get away from this postmodern perversion, whereby truth is not immutable, but, rather, viewed as a political construct; a relative thing to be manipulated by politically savvy factions?
ERIK: My personal belief is that the moral relativity that has taken hold – again, a device of the political left and intellectual elites – is largely based on the gravitation away from Judeo-Christian ideology. Even those who were not particularly religious used to have an appreciation and respect for that convention as socially stabilizing. Of course, if you can manipulate the truth, you can get people to believe absolutely anything, so that reveals the who-and-why of this phenomenon. And it is easy in this scenario to deny that the social malaise to which this gives rise even exists! So, once again, we have to educate people as to the political and social realities they have been shielded from and/or neatly avoiding for so long.
ILANA: I see no difference between the conservative and the left-liberal establishment when it comes to leveling the “racism” libel with respect to unpopular speech or patterns of voluntary associations. Members of the chattering class practically trip over one another in showing off their ability to detect and denounce signs of racism in their unfortunate victims. It’s hard to say who huffed and puffed louder over poor Don Imus’s transgression: Al Sharpton (left) or Amy Holmes (neoconservative). Of late, you had the very funny Greg Gutfeld and his crew competing to cuss an Iraq war veteran from Texas, who, in desperation, set up a college scholarship for white males only. As if there were not a perfectly rational, not racist, reason for this: the well-documented marginalization of white males in the academy and the workforce. (See Frederick R. Lynch’s, “Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action,” 1991.) Is there a place in a free society for the roving thought police? How realistic is it to hope that American opinion-makers would, for once and for all, quit deploying the racism epithet to shape society in politically pleasing ways?
ERIK: Yes, this is a frustrating phenomenon. Of course you have the Left, which not only continues to exploit blacks and advance their orthodoxy relative to race, but there’s a sense of desperation given progressives’ taking a beating in the US as far as policy goes; thus, there is a heightened intensity in their rhetoric. Then, there’s the Right, which has collectively decided that now is the time to counter what the Left has been doing with regard to race politics. Largely, this involves talking to death all of the injustices you mentioned. I’d love to see race become a non-issue, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, since these rival factions perceive that they ar
e fighting for their lives, rather than for mere political preeminence.
ILANA: You contend that for black Americans, “the promise of prosperity, self-esteem, and security [pales] compared to the false promise of socialist redistribution of whitey’s wealth to them.” (P. 111) The vast majority of people would rather get for free what they would, otherwise, have to work for. As a man of faith, what do you think about getting back to basics? What’s wrong with teaching everybody not to covet thy neighbor’s “prosperity, self-esteem, and security”?
ERIK: That’s why it was important for progressives to estrange blacks from the church. Blacks in America had been one of the most socially conservative groups in the country, and this was generally a byproduct of their spirituality. Blacks were extremely morally grounded, in the main, despite the existing social inequity. What I described is the result of estranging them from those values and inculcating in them that sense of entitlement. “Back to basics” is definitely the long-term solution, but we’ll be battling the same forces that maneuvered blacks into their current position every step of the way.
ILANA: “… American blacks have become more racist since the late sixties. … In many ways, blacks are more distrustful of whites now than when they had a legitimate reason to be.” (P. 99) It seems to me that the more whites freeze-up in fear of being labeled as racists, the bolder black leaders get about impugning innocent individuals for racially improper thought crimes. Yet you and I interact as individuals, and not as members of different tribes or races. How can we get back to such individualism?
ERIK: I think that one of the saddest aspects of what has been done in the area of race relations is the fact that millions of potentially fruitful relationships have never been, and will never be, due to the self-serving, craven designs of politicians and activists. Those who are fortunate enough to have been exposed to a rational worldview are able to forge those fruitful relationships, anyway, whereas those who have been indoctrinated into the aforementioned racial orthodoxy frequently are not. Of course, people can change, and that is one of the things we can hope for as we enlighten people as to how they have been played by those who have a political imperative for keeping things as they are.
ILANA: You raise the possibility that “the white-bashing in the media and political arena” (p. 87-88) could be pushing disaffected young whites into expressing their racial identity in anti-social ways, say, through affiliations with white supremacists. Explain.
ERIK: Well, I’ve had interactions with white youth who have gone this way. The rhetoric used by the types who recruit these kids is laced with the same kind of reasoning as that of black militant activists: The ills they face socially and personally are framed in terms of the actions and designs of a racial conspiracy against them. Their concept of accountability is diluted or stripped away entirely, and they are given that sense of family that an activist group or urban gang might provide to an inner-city black kid. The epidemic of widespread economic malaise and social dysfunction that have their genesis in the actions of the left have also served to bring this about.
ILANA: I have to prod you about Shelby Steele’s jarring, 2003 article in the Opinion Journal. Here’s an excerpt:
“No group in recent history has more aggressively seized power in the name of its racial superiority than Western whites. This race illustrated for all time–through colonialism, slavery, white racism, Nazism–the extraordinary human evil that follows when great power is joined to an atavistic sense of superiority and destiny. This is why today’s whites, the world over, cannot openly have a racial identity. White guilt — the need to win enough moral authority around race to prove that one is not a racist — is the price whites today pay for this history.”
As a libertarian, my position is this: So long as they refrain from violence, individuals ought to be free to self-identify or affiliate in any way they wish. Am I wrong to say that this black “conservative” thinker has enunciated the dogma you dispute?
: You’re certainly not wrong. Once again, that convenient and selective slice of history – roughly, the last 400 years – is being used to advance the idea that, ab initio,
the white man has been history’s worst and only oppressor and exploiter of his fellow man. It’s simply fallacious. I would also point out that very little of what Steele references was done in the name of whites’ racial superiority; these things were done for the same reasons that other ethnic groups engaged in the same things. This dogged insistence upon living in the past is also divisive and disingenuous; what are western whites doing now – attempting to reconcile with blacks, or engaging in ethnic cleansing, as blacks in Rwanda are doing to this day? What rankles is that most blacks who believe this do not realize that they’re playing into the hands of another slave-driver, and this is the indolent, progressive, political class that wishes to divide, conquer, and enslave everyone who contributes to the advancement of society – workers, capitalists, everyone.
* “Black Racism” is the title of a chapter in Erik Rush’s book.
©2011 By ILANA MERCER
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