In 1991, Jared Taylor published Paved with Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America, a sober book that sold well by the standards of serious nonfiction. Since then, he has built American Renaissance into a successful magazine and a brand name. You might think that commercial publishers would be interested in his important, just-published, follow-up White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century. You would be naïve.
In the Acknowledgments to his sequel, Taylor writes:
"Finally, I would like to thank Theron Raines and Paul Zack, literary agents who tried very hard to find a publisher for this book but failed. Mr. Raines gave up after two years, and Mr. Zack after a year and a half. I have lost count of the number of rejection letters they gathered from well-regarded publishing houses, but can only conclude from their lack of success that this book is unfit for commercial publication in the United States."
Taylor can take this consolation: the same happened to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose last book couldn`t find a New York City publisher either.
The picture on the cover of White Identity is that classic of German Romanticism, Caspar David Friedrich`s 1818 painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, in which a slender hiker looks down pensively upon a clouded landscape in a mood of Kantian introspection.
And Taylor is certainly adept at shining a spotlight through today`s pervasive mental fog. As he explains in his lucid prose:
"This book is about racial identity, something most people who are not white take for granted. They come to it early, feel it strongly, and make no apologies for it."
Taylor, who lived in Japan until he was 16, has the perspective afforded by deep immersion into a sophisticated non-Western culture, something rare among American intellectuals. In White Identity, Taylor notes,
"… Japan is homogeneous. This means Japanese never even think about a host of problems that torment Americans. Since Japan has only one race, no one worries about racism. … When a company needs to hire someone, it doesn`t give a thought to `ethnic balance,` it just hires the best person." (VDARE.com note: links added to quotes throughout).
Of course, to well-indoctrinated Politically Correct white Americans, Japan`s lack of racial problems must seem like a bug, not a feature. How do they demonstrate their moral superiority over each other without minorities to use as props?
Taylor goes on:
"Most whites do not have a racial identity, but they would do well to understand what race means for others. They should also ponder the consequences of being the only group for whom such an identity is forbidden and who are permitted no aspirations as a group."
Taylor summarizes the current PC orthodoxy on how white people should think about race as follows:
"Race is an insignificant matter and not a valid criterion for any purpose—except perhaps for redressing wrongs done to non-whites. The races are equal in every respect and are therefore interchangeable."
The grip of this PC orthodoxy is remarkable. Before 1992, I had assumed, from having watched a lot of sports on TV and having noticed how people in Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles actually live their lives, that nobody consciously believed it—that they were just being hypocritical. But, after discovering Internet discussion groups way back in 1992, I can attest to the remarkable number of people who believe these talking points strongly enough to type them into a computer … anonymously.
The true White Man`s Burden turns out to be his intellectual distaste for reality, his need to believe in universal principles, even (or especially) when they are conspicuously counterfactual. The more disastrous your ideals, the more pure your heart must be and the more evil your doubters.
As Taylor has seen, it`s hard for an East Asian to be similarly deluded. In China In World History, Historian S.A.M. Adshead explained that the Chinese were long ahead of the West because the practical Chinese concentrated upon technology and magic while the idealistic Europeans believed in theology and science. Over the last half millennium, the Western obsession with general principles has proven more useful than the Chinese taste for miscellaneous knowledge.
But you can have too much of a good thing. Our latest political theology is now at war with science and sense. The next half millennium is likely to go worse for whites relative to the Chinese unless we modernize our mindsets on race.
Taylor continues summarizing the current orthodoxy:
"It thus makes no difference if a neighborhood or nation becomes non-white or if white children marry outside their race. Whites have no valid group interests, so it is illegitimate for them to attempt to organize as whites. Given the past crimes of whites, any expression of racial pride is wrong. The displacement of whites by non-whites through immigration will strengthen the United States."
As you can see, today`s PC party line is a farrago of empirical and normative assertions, with moral panic governing what your lying eyes are allowed to notice:
"These are matters on which there is little ground for disagreement; anyone who holds differing views is not merely mistaken but morally suspect."
The reigning upper middle class white view is that everyone should always act on the basis of Kant`s categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."
But what if others don`t obey this categorical imperative? Well, you should move somewhere "more appropriate" (i.e., more expensive). If you can`t afford to get away from large numbers of non-Asian Minorities, well, then, you`re obviously a loser.
For Jared Taylor, a man of distinguished bearing, is unusual among American intellectuals in his empathy for people at the bottom. Protesting a 2005 Supreme Court decision mandating racial integration in prison cellmate assignments even when prison officials expect diversity might cause murder or rape, Taylor asked:
"Some would say that racial violence in prisons says nothing about diversity as a national goal because the prejudices of the dregs of society have no relevance for the rest of us. We should not be so hasty to condemn people who face challenges we can hardly imagine. Prisoners must suffer the company of strangers in acutely invasive ways … Federal judges should search their souls before putting men`s lives at risk in the name of principles they, themselves, probably do not practice in their own lives."[American Renaissance, April 2009]
Taylor`s explanation for the existence of some degree of racial identity is particularly straightforward:
"Racial identity comes naturally to all non-white groups. It comes naturally because it is good, normal, and healthy to feel kinship for people like oneself. … All people of the same race are more closely related genetically than they are to anyone of a different race, and this helps explain racial solidarity."
Now, that`s a little broad. There are odd cases that crop up where self-identification is at war with genetics. For example, the President of the United States recently declared on his Census form that, in effect, he did not share any racial ties with his own half-sister Maya. Of course, as Obama`s late mother once lamented, Obama had long ago made "a professional choice" to identify himself as only black. The payoff to being considered nonwhite in modern America is too good to pass up, even you have to insult many of your blood relatives in the process
"Families are close for the same reason. Parents love their children, not because they are the smartest, best-looking, most talented children on earth. They love them because they are genetically close to them. They love them because they are a family. … Most people have similar feelings about race. . … Non-whites understand this. Blacks call each other `brother` and `sister.` … Whites used to understand this. In fact, at some level they still do—their actions betray them."
"These mystic preferences need not imply hostility towards others. Parents may have great affection for the children of others, but their own children come first. "
An excellent point, similar to John Quincy Adams` 1821 evocation of America`s now long-lost attitude toward foreign policy: "She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."
"Their race is the largest extended family to which they feel an instinctive kinship."
This deserves a little more unpacking than Taylor gives it. It`s perfectly natural to feel an instinctive kinship with any and all humans under certain circumstances. Ronald Reagan used to worry his less imaginative National Security Advisor, Colin Powell, by musing about how the Cold War would be over instantly if Earth were ever attacked by space aliens. Human kinship would far outweigh ideology if we ever needed to fight bug-eyed space monsters. Most people would feel a surge of kinship toward any human on a life raft menaced by sharks.
However, the flip side of this undermines Taylor`s political project: namely, that for many whites, group identities smaller than the Big Four races that Taylor focuses upon (white, black, Hispanic, and Asian) are more attractive outlets for identity politics.
For instance, Taylor notes:
`I hate the idea of being white. . . . I never think of myself as belonging to the `white race.` … I can think of few things more degrading than being proud to be white.`
Whereas a St. Patrick`s Day parade is exalting?
But the point is that, yes, Irish ethnocentrism is vastly more acceptable in the modern Main Stream Media climate than white ethnocentrism. Senator Ted Kennedy`s absurd but still ongoing diversity visa lottery was referred to by Congressmen as "The Irish Program" because Kennedy had been so frank that his main intention was to import Irishmen to vote for future Kennedys.
Of course, many whites don`t have a socially acceptable subracial identity like Irish. The huge numbers of German-Americans are discouraged from engaging in identity politics. Italian-Americans are allowed to take pride in Italian culture (cuisine, opera, Mafia movies, tanning, steroids) but they tend to be too family-oriented to politically organize on a mass scale like the Irish. Founding-stock Americans, and the large number of people of mixed-nationality Catholic backgrounds in northern metropolises who vote and act like them, can`t really claim a single acceptable ethnicity. Interestingly, events like NASCAR racing seem to serve as a covert ethnic pride rally—what Kevin MacDonald has called an "implicit white community"—for people who aren`t allowed to hold ethnic pride rallies.
On the other hand, lots of whites, especially the most influential and wealthy, do have politically useful ethnicities.
In his pointillist style, Taylor offers a vast array of data, both quantitative and anecdotal, to support his contention that race plays a large and inevitable role in daily life. Chapters are devoted to racial consciousness among blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.
Since many of his examples are drawn from my native Los Angeles, I am able to confirm their validity. For example, Taylor writes:
"In March 2005, there was a riot involving 200 to 400 Armenian and Hispanic students at Grant High School in Los Angeles. … The school`s dean, Daniel Gruenberg, explained that there had been similar ethnic battles at least once a year for more than a decade."
Grant H.S. is in a fairly nice part of the San Fernando Valley, just north of tony Sherman Oaks, home to numerous character actors and screenwriters. You`ve seen dozens of TV shows filmed on Grant`s campus. I`ve shot hoops at the high school`s gym on and off since the 1970s.
Is Taylor overstating how long this history of mass violence between Armenians and Mexicans has gone on at Grant?
No—he`s understating it. A 2000 article in the L.A. Times reported:
"John Salapa`s ninth-graders have been at Grant High for only two months, but they have already learned a few things. … And they know what October means: fights between Armenian Americans and Latinos …`It`s a tradition,` one said. `That`s why they call it the October riots. They probably schedule it.`"[Program Seeks to Reduce Latino-Armenian Tensions at School, By Hilary E. MacGregor, October 22, 2000]
Why? The LA Times` MacGregor continued:
"For as long as most people there can remember, tensions between Armenians and Latinos at Grant have flared in late October. The 3,300-member student body, representing 32 cultures, is one of the most diverse in the San Fernando Valley. … One district official speculated that tension between the Latino and Armenian students may have originated from disputes over relief efforts in the mid-1980s after earthquakes in Mexico and Armenia. At the time, students from each ethnic group claimed that the other received more empathy and relief …"
But that mid-1980s dispute had to have been an effect rather than a cause of racial hatred between Armenians and Mexicans, because I can recall the two groups already rioting at Grant in the mid-1970s, when I was attending Notre Dame H.S. two miles away.
This obscure history validates Taylor`s view of human nature. He points out that in the optimistic 1950s,
"Discussions about how blacks and whites were to be brought together came to be known as `contact theory` … Schools were the best setting for contact. White children, whose prejudices had not yet hardened, would mix with black children under conditions of equality and strict institutional supervision."
Well, Grant H.S. offers an interesting test of contact theory, since it doesn`t involve blacks and whites, but Armenians and Mexicans. It`s hard to blame friction between Armenians and Mexicans on slavery or Jim Crow or outmoded stereotypes or white racism. Indeed, they are a lot less distinctive in looks than are blacks and whites. But they fight anyway.
A few years ago, I was walking around the Valley Glen neighborhood near Grant, amazed by the extraordinarily expensive 8-foot security fences topped with lethal finials that homeowners were erecting along the sidewalks. "How can Mexicans afford these crazy fences?" I wondered to myself. It was only on a second visit that I realized the people turning their yards into fortified bunkers were Armenians.
As far as I can tell, the maximum front-yard fence allowed in Los Angeles is 3`6" tall, so these maximum security prison fences are illegal. But government officials don`t like to mess with Armenians because they exhibit so much racial solidarity.
This bit of history raises several questions relevant to White Identity.
For example: are Armenians white?
As a middle-aged Californian, I`d say, "Of course." Traditionally in California, Armenians were automatically assumed to be white. When Republican George Deukmejian beat Democrat Tom Bradley in the 1982 and 1986 gubernatorial elections, the story was always summed up as: White Guy Beats Black Guy.
Lately, however, I`ve noticed Armenians referring to non-Armenians as "whites."
Taylor leaves strategically vague the issue of who exactly would be in the white tent. If Armenians are in, what about Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Indians? What about Latin Americans who are primarily European in ancestry?
Personally, I want the biggest political tent possible for people like myself who don`t get special legal or cultural privileges based on their race. I`d certainly rather have Armenians on my side than on the other side.
Yet there are advantages to a small tent, too. Many Armenians like having an Armenia-sized tent. The main goal of Armenian-American political activism is to persuade the U.S. government to stick it to their hereditary enemies back in Asia. Thus, they really wouldn`t want to get lumped in with, say, their neighbors from the Old Country, the Turks and Azeris, even though they look much alike.
But, the more relevant question in 2011 is: why would Armenians want to be white? What`s in it for them to identify primarily as white rather than as Armenian?
It`s a lot more socially acceptable to identify as Armenian. The Armenian Caucus in Congress, for example, has 158 members, including Nancy Pelosi, Jesse Jackson Jr., Barney Frank, and Luis Gutierrez. In contrast, how many members of the House are in the White Caucus?
Hint: there is no White Caucus. As Taylor points out,
"No politician would dare examine legislation by asking what was in it for whites. No city in America has … a white caucus on the city council. Across the political spectrum, Americans assert that any form of white racial consciousness or solidarity is despicable. … They have dismantled and condemned their own racial identity in the expectation that others will do the same."
Imagine if the three decades of fighting at Grant H.S. if the Armenian rioters had been fighting in the name of the white race instead of the Armenian race.
Well, Grant H.S. isn`t on the road from Natchez to Natchitoches, like Jena, it`s in the heart of the entertainment industry. There`s a film crew there every month.
If white kids at Grant had been attacking Mexicans for three decades, and if their white parents were putting up vicious fences to impale Mexicans and send the message that Mexicans aren`t wanted in the neighborhood, it would be a national scandal.
The New York Times would editorialize about how this was all the fault of Arizona`s SB1070. Oprah would fly in to help the healing begin. Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and Hendrik Hertzberg would each suffer aneurysms while competing to see who can most furiously castigate hate. President Obama would give a thoughtful, nuanced speech about this national trauma. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would get into a shoving match trying to elbow themselves to the front of the protest march. The Southern Poverty Law Center would feature Grant H.S. in its next dozen fund-raising letters.
But two generations of whites at Grant haven`t been rioting in the name of whiteness, they`ve been rioting in the name of Armenianness. So it`s more or less okay. It`s not considered good, but it`s not something the MSM much worries about. It doesn`t fit The Narrative.
The Narrative? As Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Hunter explained in a recent novel:
"The narrative is the set of assumptions the press believes in, possibly without even knowing that it believes in them. It`s so powerful because it`s unconscious. It`s not like they get together every morning and decide `These are the lies we tell today.` No, that would be too crude and honest. Rather, it`s a set of casual, nonrigorous assumptions about a reality they`ve never really experienced that`s arranged in such a way as to reinforce their best and most ideal presumptions about themselves and their importance to the system and the way they have chosen to live their lives."[I, Sniper: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel, 2009Page 183]
Main Stream Media attempts to fit Armenians into The Narrative go something like this:
They`re an immigrant group, they`re from the Middle East, and they are socially troubled (as demonstrated by their elevated crime rate). That`s good!
But—they`re white, Christian, do well in school, make lots of money, don`t cause many other local problems besides shooting each other, their immigrants` international organized crime ties are not something we want to dwell on, they`re often Republicans, and it`s hard to remember whether Armenians` foreign policy obsessions match up with Israel`s latest needs (which side is Turkey on these days?), which could get us in big trouble. That`s bad…
So, Armenians are complicated. They don`t fit well into The Narrative. Therefore, let`s not think about Armenians!
We`re good at not thinking about stuff! That`s our strong suit!
What are the prospects for white identity politics emerging as a self-conscious, public force in America?
I`d guess: not good.
This is not to say that white identity politics won`t continue to manifest itself de facto. We saw that, for example, with the Tea Parties and the emergence of an overwhelmingly white movement to protect Medicare in 2009.
But, white people aren`t supposed to say: we`re doing this "to promote the general welfare" of "ourselves and our posterity" (to quote the Constitution`s Preamble). Whites aren`t supposed to say that—and they don`t like to, either. They like to come up with some principled reason, such as: the philosophy of Ayn Rand says so.
Thus, the GOP`s bright young man, Paul Ryan, managing to totally miss the point, announced a plan privatizing Medicare. (Older heads in the House GOP are slowly walking that one back.)
Nevertheless, an explicit white identity movement is unlikely to be tolerated. It`s not so much that blacks, Asians, and Hispanics don`t want this to happen. None of these groups are really all that powerful. Blacks tend to be colorful but not too competent; East Asians competent but colorless; Latinos culturally lethargic and unenterprising.
No, the much more serious roadblock to the emergence of white identity politics: more Jews don`t want it to happen than do want it to happen.
Many Jews have strong reasons for their aversion to white identity politics, either irrational (the Cossacks are coming!) or rational (what`s in it for me?).
Perhaps Taylor can persuade enough Jews to get onboard to make white identity respectable in the MSM and thus with the media`s consumers, the public. He`s striven manfully and graciously over the years to make Jews feel welcome in his movement and many Jews have written for American Renaissance.
Recall that neoconservatism emerged in the late 1960s, largely due to Jewish shopkeepers` fear of black crime and Jewish civil servants` fear of being fired by black politicians. Brilliant Jewish intellectuals like Nathan Glazer and Norman Podhoretz took their relatives` complaints seriously.
Still, over time, Jews mostly figured out it was simply easier to move away from blacks and get better jobs where they didn`t have to deal with many blacks. Let other whites deal with them.
Thus Commentary lost interest in complaining about quotas, and neoconservatism morphed into mostly being an Israel Fan Club.
The fundamental question for 21st Century white identity politics is the same as for Armenians, just two or three orders of magnitude greater in media influence: What`s in it for Jews?
Taylor has worked out strong justifications for why a white identity movement would be good for average, and particularly good for below-average, whites. But not many Jews are below the white average.
Jews are generally praised in the press for engaging in Jewish identity politics. So why would they instead want to engage in disreputable white identity politics? What`s in it for them?
My alternative philosophy of "citizenism" proposed attacking identity politics at its most vulnerable points: Affirmative Action quota preferences for Hispanics and Asians. (See the debate between me and Jared Taylor on VDARE.com.)
Indeed, there`s no good reason for the "Hispanic" category even to exist in government data. It`s not a race, it`s not an ethnicity, it`s not a linguistic group, it`s just a rent-seeking special privilege. Abolish the category! Once the data isn`t collected anymore, nobody can use government it in lawsuits alleging "disparate impact".
I did propose conceding permanent quotas for the descendants of American slaves. That`s a high cost, but one we`re likely to pay anyway.
Is my philosophy extolling solidarity among American citizens rather than among whites likely to prove more acceptable to the media gatekeepers that Taylor`s white advocacy?
Sure—in the sense that a two percent probability is twice a one percent probability. You`ll note that, after all these years, I`m still using quotes around "citizenism" because nobody knows what the word is. It hasn`t exactly swept the intellectual world.
This is a pretty depressing way to wrap up. But I do think it`s safe to say that the conventional wisdom will change when it has to change. It probably won`t change until it has to, but it will have to when it has to.
In other words, what historian Hugh Davis Graham called attention to in the title of his 2002 book, Collision Course: The Strange Convergence of Affirmative Action and Immigration Policy in America, can`t go on forever. The mounting "racial ratio" of nonwhite beneficiaries to white benefactors means the system will inevitably break down under the weight of numbers. At that point, white consciousness could be forced into existence.
In the meantime, we can all be thankful that Jared Taylor has been thinking ahead.[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative.His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA`S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA`S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]