Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Profile in Courage

Georgie Anne Geyer has some startling news: Blacks and Hispanics are culturally backwards, and the only thing that stops America from embracing this vital truth is the scourge of “political correctness,” which won't allow people like her to express their opinions publicly.

[T]here is one word that underlies successful integration. But it is, most unfortunately, the word that you dare not speak. Better not even think it, in fact. At politically correct soirees, don't even let it cross your mind, because some smart aleck son-of-a-gun might just mind-read.
If you thought that the publication of the The Bell Curve inaugurated more than a decade of loud-thundering, many-throated public debate over the very issues that Geyer says can’t be discussed publicly - or that 9/11 made unhinged racial paranoia not merely respectable, but obligatory - you’re obviously as crazy as a goddamn loon. Whatever you may think you’re hearing, the plain fact is that anyone who dares to make reductive, simplistic, pseudoscientific arguments for the inferiority or dysfunctionality of black culture will immediately be stifled by liberal elitists, and will never again be given a public forum for his or her views. Ever.

Kidding aside, the pretence that it’s somehow daring to challenge “liberal orthodoxy” about race has grown very tedious, especially since it’s demonstrated daily that conservative columnists and radio hosts can say almost anything they want without doing any harm to their careers.

Public perception is not supposed to catch up with this reality, though; the political utility of wallowing in perpetual victimhood is as obvious to today's conservatives as it formerly was to demagogues on the Left.

And of course, screeching about “political correctness” allows tenth-rate intellects like Geyer to put an exciting, transgressive veneer on thoughts that are actually rudimentary and common as dirt. Like intelligent design discoverists, conservative racial theorists can pretend that even the most logical, serious, careful rebuttals of their ideas are the product of emotionalism or worse. Here's Geyer:
I speak of "culture," which of course is the matrix of social behavior and experience of both individual human beings and of societies. But when it comes to immigration, if you so much as mention the immigrant mass's cultural characteristics, you won't be able to draw a breath before you're called "racist," "xenophobe" or "bigot."
This is the sleight of hand at the center of right-leaning thinking on race. Everyone is an individual, responsible for his or her own actions; you can’t escape responsibility for your failures by saying that society is to blame. At the same time, society is to blame, and must be punished: the problems inherent in minority cultures justify discrimination. Thus, discrimination is imaginary when minorities complain about it, and justifiable when conservatives defend it. (Then, too, the effect of culture on growing minds is so powerful that we must fight to keep our children from being turned gay by the Teletubbies, but any child who can't overcome the devastating effects of poverty and racism through sheer force of character is a weakling and a simpleton.)

Geyer goes on to praise Richard Lamm, a former Colorado governor who, like the average AEI hack - and countless other dime-a-dozen representatives of this country’s real ideological elite - has dared to proclaim the Truth About Race to our generally fawning media:
Lamm politely but firmly suggests that black and Hispanic cultures fall short of Asian and Jewish cultures in fostering ambition and success not because blacks and Hispanics are not as capable or smart, but because "different cultures give different signals, and some cultures are giving out stronger performance signals than others….”

If he had two magic wands by which he could change society, "With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettos and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning and ambition. A Confucian or Jewish love of learning would gain minorities far more than any affirmative action laws we might pass."
Of course, we all know that it’s actually the Jews’ demonic talent for accumulating wealth that causes them to come out on top of whatever garbage heap the goyim fling them into. But let's not split hairs; all this talk about waving magic wands is wonderfully instructive, for those who are sapient enough to apprehend its intricacies.

Speaking of geniuses, Geyer goes on to call “the brilliant African-American scholar Shelby Steele” as a character witness for Lamm. Steele previously distinguished himself by arguing that “the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority” has made Americans overly reticent about exterminating nonwhite extremists (along with their families and neighbors). You don’t have to be in thrall to “political correctness” to find that sentiment rather ghastly. And if you prefer to judge the idea dispassionately - viewing it solely on its merits - you may note that it’s also…well, really fucking stupid, actually.

Anyway, back to Geyer's lonely battle for truth:
[E]very country that has risen out of very low beginnings in our age, such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea or Tunisia, has had to deal with culture: with teaching their people to want to learn, with making children believe they can change and gain from that change….
I’m not convinced that one can profitably compare the cultural tensions and modes of education in these countries to those in the United States. But the last point Geyer makes, about creating a society in which children believe that their efforts will pay off, does actually get to the heart of the debate over the scholastic performance of different minorities. This relates to the issue of effort optimism, which I discussed at length here.

Does culture play a role in academic performance? It certainly can. Does the ideological, economic, and political structure of American society reliably lead to equal effort optimism for all minorities? You’d have to be pretty ignorant or disingenuous to think so. In any case, people like Lamm aren’t bigots because they "dare" to suggest that certain elements of certain cultures are dysfunctional. They're bigots because they pretend that white bigotry has nothing meaningful to do with the origin or continuance of these dysfunctions, and because they promote, excuse, or ignore policies that cause minority children to grow up malnourished, medically neglected, overexposed to chemicals like lead and mercury, undereducated, and otherwise endangered. The fact that they want to be patted on the back for their "bravery" in making this smug accomodation to evil adds considerable insult to injury.

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