Certain immutable principles

By W. James Antle III
web posted June 12, 2000

Given my own ability to stir up controversy all by myself, it hardly seems necessary for me to enter the debate between fellow columnist Charles Morse and Dr. Jared Taylor (read Morse's original article here - ed.). Yet every conservative has a dog in this fight.

Identity politics, with its emphasis on group rights and tribal identity, has everywhere proven detrimental to individual freedom. Minority groups pursue their identity politics on the left; majority groups pursue theirs on the right. Without careful attention to what it is that we on the right truly value and wish to conserve, conservatism risks devolving into precisely what its liberal critics often say it is: An ideology of white middle-class self-interest.

Whether Dr. Taylor and his publication The American Renaissance (www.amren.com) are racist I will leave to readers to decide for themselves. That they are as obsessed with race and their own racial group's interests as any multiculturalist, Congressional Black Caucus race-hustler, diversity con artist or Marxist critical race theorist is undeniable. American Renaissance went so far as to publish a series called "Christianity: Pro and Con" which assessed Christianity - thus, by implication, truth regarding the highest spiritual matters - in terms of its impact on white people. The notion of all human beings sharing common ancestry and being created in the image of God was especially troublesome for the "con" side.

Most readers would recognize this sort of silliness in the rantings of those who blame the Bible and Christianity for the enslavement of Africans and indict Columbus for genocide. There really is no substantive difference, other than that the multiculturalists and racialists of Dr. Taylor's ilk prefer opposite sides.

It is true that blacks score an average of 15 points less than whites on IQ tests. As Dr. Taylor duly notes, Asians also score higher than whites. Blacks have a higher crime rate than whites, and whites a higher crime rate than Asians.

It is equally true that there are blacks who perform at the highest levels of these same tests and achieve at the highest levels in every profession. Some blacks not only outperform some whites in these areas but also some Asians. As Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein noted in The Bell Curve, disparities among racial groups are even greater than disparities between racial groups. The individual, not the group, is most important. (And as Charles Morse has observed, sometimes criteria such as intelligence are less important to individual achievement than ambition and drive.)

Moreover, as Thomas Sowell and numerous other scholars of race and culture have demonstrated, mainstream groups in a society nearly always have higher IQs than groups which exist outside the mainstream. Non-mainstream groups have trailed the mainstream by a standard deviation of about 15 IQ points. As Dr. Sowell has pointed out, this is as true for Appalachian whites as it is for blacks. It was also once true for many immigrant groups, who have since assimilated and erased their IQ gaps.

Dr. Taylor is most widely recognized for his scholarship on the subject of race and crime. But for all his fretting about black criminality, he does not note that when blacks had more stable family structures they were much more law-abiding. Some studies have suggested that in the early 20th century, blacks had a lower crime rate than whites. They certainly had comparable marriage and illegitimacy rates (no longer true today) and for a number of decades, higher labor-force participation rates.

Is it race that is of paramount importance, or are we in fact looking at more complex factors: values and institutions, family structures and community organization, and a whole gambit of things which make people different other than sociobiology. These include history, geography, socioeconomics, religion, philosophy and countless other differences which can sometimes coincide with racial differences.

Implicit in many of Dr. Taylor's assumptions is that Western civilization can survive only so long as the country's demographics reflect the racial characteristics of historical Western Europe. Western civilization equals whiteness and political favoritism of whites preserves that civilization, presumably keeping the streets of America from being filled with Hutu and Tutsis hacking each other to death.

Yet it is simply childish to pretend that most American minority-group members are not substantially products of Western culture. Black Americans have vastly more in common with white Americans than with blacks in Africa. To believe otherwise is to ignore manifest reality and to head off into Al Sharpton's fantasy land. Dr. Taylor would have us believe that inner city neighborhoods fall apart only when the become predominantly black, which is why the whites move out. This does not explain why many blacks also move out. Many demographic studies have shown that the exodus of the black middle class from some areas outstrips white flight. Indeed, given Dr. Taylor's theories, it is difficult to explain the existence of the black middle class at all- unless one believes Jesse Jackson and attributes it all to affirmative action.

Finally, Dr. Taylor makes an appeal to the Founding Fathers. Yet in seeking guidance from those who gave us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, it is more important to look at the principles they formulated and adhered to rather than the prejudices and personal foibles which caused them to deviate from them. The racial attitudes which prevailed at the time this nation was founded differ greatly from those which are prevalent today. But the principles which informed the Founders' political philosophy centered on individual liberty and accountability, personal responsibility, the rule of law and the impartial administration of justice. While they may have made exceptions to these principles in practice out of deference to their racial beliefs, the principles themselves are race-neutral.

Moreover, from the Founding Fathers to within living memory, many great American political thinkers were aware there was a certain incongruity between the philosophical precepts they believed in and their racial views. Thomas Jefferson's own writings reveal that even as he owned slaves, he understood the immorality of slavery. When he wrote that "I tremble for my country that [God's] justice will not sleep forever," his subject was slavery. Abraham Lincoln was no racial egalitarian, but he too saw the inconsistency between freedom and government-sponsored racism: "I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a Negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man?"

The writers at American Renaissance see themselves as skillful debunkers of contemporary America's prevailing racial attitudes, yet they accept those of previous generations on faith and actually use them as arguments to bolster their position.

Let us summarize the position of the pro-eugenics right: The Founding Fathers owned slaves and did not exactly have the same racial views as Martin Luther King, therefore the United States is inherently a discriminatory white nation. The principles of the Declaration of Independence do not really apply to minorities. Western culture is white culture, leaving little room for minorities to accept its values or institutions. Minorities cannot be held to the same legal standards as whites. They cannot succeed in a capitalist economy and thus are dependent on government intervention. The two-parent, marriage-based family and other middle-class values are Western European cultural norms inapplicable to many minorities. Racial group identity is more important than individual characteristics.

In short, Jared Taylor and his fellow travelers believe everything the most strident, anti-individualist, anti-Western liberals do. The only difference, as The Weekly Standard's David Frum has noted, is they don't like it.

Conservatives have a duty to preserve the American heritage. We must not allow the left to mislead us into believing that it is a heritage of racism and race-consciousness rather than a shining example to the entire world of the success of certain immutable principles.

Antle has worked for the Rhema Group, an Ohio-based political consulting firm. You can e-mail him at Jimantle@aol.com

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