Professional crank John Derbyshire has offended just about everyone with a post called The Talk: NonBlack Version.
“The Talk” he is responding to, according to several articles he linked to, is a conversation that black parents have with their male children when they reach an age that their parents think that they have to be told that white people are inherently racist, without bothering to attempt to explain why whites might feel the way that they say that they do.
“Oh, Bob,” you say to yourself, “That isn’t ‘The Talk’ at all! ‘The Talk’ just teaches young black men to be careful about how they are perceived in society.”
Her are the examples that Derbyshire cites in his wildly-condemned post.
Parent Ruben Brown described his version of “The Talk” in the Star-Telegram:
Ruben Brown, 48, lives with his wife and 14-year-old son in Atlanta and, while not the suburbs, it is hardly “the hood.” But like Tillman, he knows that their middle-class status in no way equals safety when it comes to his son.
Although black families and parents of boys aren’t the only ones who worry about the safety of adolescents, Tillman, Brown and other parents say raising black boys is perhaps the most stressful aspect of parenting because they’re dealing with a society that is fearful and hostile toward them, simply because of the color of their skin.
“Don’t believe it? Walk a day in my shoes,” Brown said.
Brown said that at 14, his son is at that critical age when he’s always worried about his safety because of profiling.
“I don’t want to scare him or have him paint people with a broad brush, but, historically, we black males have been stigmatized as the purveyors of crime and wherever we are, we’re suspect,” Brown said.
Black parents who don’t make that fact clear, he and others said, do it at their sons’ peril.
“Any African-American parent not having that conversation is being irresponsible,” Brown said. “I see this whole thing as an opportunity for us to speak frankly, openly and honestly about race relations.”
Writing in the New York Post, Leonard Greene focuses his version of “The Talk” more narrowly on how young black men deal with police in what is described as nothing more or less than a survival scenario.
Although Trayvon was not killed by police, “the talk” is still a topic of conversation.
The not-if-but-when scenario has made necessary a pride-swallowing set of instructions with one purpose in mind — stay alive.
Children in these households are told to set aside their rights and display a subservience not unlike their grandfathers and great-grandfathers exhibited before the civil-rights movement.
The talk is as real as the birds and the bees, and far more awkward.
“Whenever your children go out in an urban environment, you worry,” said the Rev. Conrad Tillard, pastor of Brooklyn’s Nazarene Congregational Church. “You worry about the bad guys, but you also have to worry about the people in blue uniforms.”
Tillard, the father of four sons and one daughter, said he knew it was time to talk to one of his sons when he saw the boy tense up with fear at the sight of police who had stopped him days earlier on the subway.
“It’s really a painful paradox,” Tillard said. “When you know you haven’t done anything wrong, it’s very difficult. Even though you may be in the right, life and death may hang in the balance. You can’t win in that situation. Live to make it through that confrontation.”
Though white, NY Times writer KJ Dell’Antonia felt compelled to write about her perspective as a white mother with black friends who feel compelled to give their kids the same warning about how they are perceived in greater society.
Every single one of us needs to be a part of the conversation about what happened to Trayvon Martin, and why — and without any sense of the delicacy and remove that made me hesitate to write about “the talk.” There is nothing delicate about acknowledging that overt and subconscious racism affects us all, and that many of us, depending on where we are and where we live, have even come to expect it, the way my fellow mother and I did that day at the pool. We need to talk about it. I don’t need to have “the talk” with my own son, but I do need to talk to him — honestly — about why his friend’s mother is having “the talk” with her son, and what that means for them both.
Darryl E. Owens (no relation) discusses his perception in the Orlando Sentinel:
Fearful Jim Crow-era black parents knew that a wrong word, a glance held too long, could prove deadly. The Talk was a primer for kids in kowtowing, a survival guide for apartheid America.
Now, oddly, the roles have reversed. Now, it’s you who inspires fear.
Looking at you, I see the glory of God, a beloved creature made in his image. Yet, Trayvon’s death’s a grotesque reminder of the pitiable people outside your cocoon who only see someone to fear.
A heavy weight for such young shoulders.
What to do? Well, there are, for example, rules that we’ve learned for surviving driving while black. Show your hands and don’t raise your voice. Avoid provocation. Better to swallow your pride than your teeth in a face-down takedown.
It is absolutely horrific that these parents and friends of black youths feel that they have to have these conversation with their kids. It was disgusting in the pre-Civil Rights era, and it disgusting now. But what each and every single one of these articles seemed to do, was present this “survival guide ” for young black men as if society at large (and law enforcement in specific) came to the conclusion that young black men were a disproportionate threat in a complete vacuum.
These “Talks” occur because law enforcement officers–whether they are black, brown, yellow, red, or white–have learned through hundreds of millions (or perhaps billions) of man-hours of first-hand experience, that young black men are disproportionately involved in violent crime, drug crimes, and property crimes. It is becoming increasing more difficult to fairly blame “racial profiling” as a problem caused by white police officers, as the number of black law enforcement officers has risen in the largest departments. If the number of number of blacks in law enforcement is rising, and the number of black males being stopped, arrested, and eventually imprisoned hasn’t dropped, then we’re hard-pressed to believe that what we have is a problem of perception.
What seems more likely, as more black cops join police officers of all other races in stopping and arresting black males, is an acknowledgement of what decades of federal, state, and local law enforcement data shows to be true. Young black males are not disproportionately incarcerated because of racial profiling. the brutal truth is that young black males are disproportionately incarcerated because they are disproportionately more prone to criminal behavior than the other races of our society.
I cannot accurately speak for Derbyshire’s motivations to write his own version of the talk, but will make an assumption–as dangerous as making assumptions is–that he noted the same thing that I did in “the Talks” he cited: a near total and complete absence of cultural accountability among the parents giving the talk. Perhaps the parents interviewed did not give the full version of the talk they shared with their children, or perhaps felt that the disproportionate criminal activity found among the young men of their culture was so self-evident that it didn’t need to be addressed. All of these conversations cited, to the extent they were cited, could contribute to the perception that black parents feel that “the Talk” is necessarily not because the young men of their culture have earned a reputation for being disproportionately criminal and violent, but because the police are wrong.
If this is the case, then “the Talk” is even more a sad mark on our culture than many recognize. It is horrific that the parents of young blacks feel that they have to have this talk, and it is pathetic they they avoid taking responsibility as a culture for raising generation after generation of young thugs that reinforce these perceptions with very real, often brutal actions.
Most conservatives, including Derbyshire’s fellow writers at National Review Online have reflexively recoiled against his post as being bigoted, and I would be surprised if he is not fired within the next several days as a result.
Were I in Rich Lowry’s unenviable shoes at the moment, I would chose not to fire John Derbyshire… and here’s why.
As disgusting, unpalatable, and racist as Derbyshire’s advice to his children in this column is, much more of it is borderline defensible for the simple reason that his arguments are nearly identical to the advice many parents, of many races and cultures, give to their children regarding young black men. What’s more, I know for a fact that similar conversations have been delivered to the children of police officers by the officers themselves, and their version of the talk does not differ greatly from what Derbyshire shares in terms of warnings, if not inflammatory rhetoric.
Dave Weigel at Slate seems to be able to look beyond the rhetoric to Derbyshire’s possible intentions, and shares more honestly than most discussing the article from either side.
There’s a sort of micro-movement building to shame National Review into firing Derbyshire. Why would they? Derbyshire is saying something that many people believe but few people with word-slinging abilities know how to say: There are differences between the races, and whites should watch out for blacks. One popular Internet hobby of the moment is grabbing dumb blog comments or tweets and assembling them like a Pinterest page, to show what racists think. Derbyshire isn’t stupid and he isn’t being caught out. If someone wants to publish this, someone should.
I’ve tried to look beyond the obvious racism to the advice Derbyshire espouses to his children. It’s stomach-churning. And yet some of it is an undeniably factual representation of “the Talk” that we as a multi-racial culture aren’t apparently mature enough to yet have:
(8) These differences are magnified by the hostility many blacks feel toward whites. Thus, while black-on-black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is white-on-white behavior, average black-on-white behavior is a degree more antisocial yet.
(9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that whites have it coming.
Is there anyone who really, honestly, wants to argue that these statements are wrong in their entirety? There is an animosity from many blacks towards whites. I won’t say “most” and Derbyshire doesn’t either, but you’d have to be blind if you didn’t notice a hostility from some that isn’t even thinly veiled. There is no factual argument that can be made that black-on-black crime isn’t pronounced, or that race on race crime strongly and overwhelmingly flows from one direction, with blacks disproportionately victimizing other races instead of vice versa.
I would argue that Derbyshire more than likely goes off the rails in terms of the percentages of blacks that would start or join in criminal behavior if instigated is provided from the radical fringe, simply because of what I think is a common-sense observation that race riots would be far more frequent if a larger percentage were as easily prone towards inciting or contribution to racial mass violence. That said, one cannot help but notice the lynch-mob mentality that has arisen in the black community towards George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case.
Sadly, 10a-10i is advice I’ve heard from street cops, based upon experience, and it embodies the version of “The talk: Nonblack version” I’ve most often heard in bits and starts, if never in an organized manner. Further, neither side really disputes these points in the context of societal interaction. Doubt me?
Go to your local news web site, and find the most recent article of a white or Latino or Asian being robbed, murdered, or otherwise victimized in a “black area.” You will have commenters of ever race asking, “well, what was he doing there?” It’s little acknowledged, but we’re more tribal than we think, self-segregation is the natural order of cultures, and the conventional cultural wisdom we all seem to innately understand–and largely avoid talking about–is that “he shouldn’t have been there” is a primal understanding of the underlying, perhaps inherent problem of tribalism.
Derbyshire’s remaining points are excrement, to be honest.
His IQ-based argument is simply an argument that blacks are generally inferior, and I’m not willing to accept that. It merely proves that this kind of test–shockingly–favors the people and culture that primarily composed it.
From there, his conversation devolves even further in to how to provide cover for his children against the charge of racism.
The biggest take-away from Derbyshire’s article? None of our races, cultures, or tribes has reached a level of maturity to where we can have an open dialogue about the differences between our races, cultures, and tribes. We’re too quick to anger, and too quick to be defensive. I rather strongly suspect that we didn’t get to this point on the evolutionary ladder without each race have some sort of inherent survival advantage, and each obviously has to have struck a balance in overall intelligence and physical health to claw our way to the top of the food chain.
Until we reach a point where we evolve to point to be able to have that discussion, we’re better served by souls willing to be honest about their prejudices than hide them. I find Derbyshire’s advice to be repellant, but honest, and that is more than I can say for many of his grandstanding critics.