Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

On Derbyshire’s ‘Talk’: You have the right to be offended… and offensive

Written By: Bob - Apr• 07•12

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.

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  1. Robert says:

    Something I noted in some of the reactions to Derbyshire’s article – – from Matt Lewis, among others – – is the sort of language that President Obama and other gun-haters use toward the 2nd Amendment: I support Derbyshire’s right to free speech, BUT… (and you know where the BUT leads).

  2. NevadaSteve says:

    Rich Lowry referred to Derb’s column as a screed. I wouldn’t go that far but some of it is out there. I don’t think he should be fired. If some action needs to be taken it should be writing a response to him, not shutting him up. I think that is the problem a lot of people have if they hear something they don’t like, plug their ears and shout neener neener so they don’t have to deal with the issues it raises.

  3. Orion says:

    It surely seems to me like they are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in their children by teaching them that they are seen as a threat and then teaching them ‘how to behave’. That’s wrong on so many levels it’s not even funny.

    From other articles I’ve read it seems to me like the first thing we need to do is find a way to create a cultural change so that they no longer see everything in terms of race – Success = Acting White, Black Power, etc. etc. etc. How about Success = Success?


  4. Sean says:

    statistics are a bitch. that being said a small percentage of the population commits a disproportionate amount of the crime…if you don’t WANT them to be profiled tell them not to act like thugs, and to pull their fucking pants up! I live in a neighborhood that is gangbanger central. Crips, Bloods, some of the latin gangs. And most, damn near all of the young folk I see get nailed for B&E and other unacceptable behavior are black.

    Like I said…it’s a bitch, but the stats over the last 30yrs and my damn near every day witness of this the proof of what I say.

  5. emdfl says:

    True, Sean, BUT “we” aren’t allowed to say such things out loud because then those that hear these things said might start thinking about the reality of the situation.
    Who was it that said making war on mathamatics isn’t smart?
    True that black-on-black crimes are higher then black-on-white crimes, BUT the reality is still that ~12% of the population commits ~30-40% of the violent crimes in the country.
    Even the sainted jesse jackson knows this.
    And don’t forget that the statistic gathers often consider hispanics to be white if they are criminals, and hispanic if they are victims which further screws with the stats..

    • Sean says:

      endfl…true. And what have the “race” baiters and the media labeled Zim as? A white man. *headdesk*

  6. david7134 says:

    I agree to an extent. Blacks are in danger because of profiling. When they are in there neighborhoods, if they are preceived as being from a different gang, they will be killed. That is profiling.

  7. tracy coyle says:

    I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, I traveled most place in Chicago using public transportation and I went places no white woman dared because ‘they’ assumed I was dangerous for being there. But I told lot’s of people to stay away from those areas, almost exclusively black areas.
    I have no issue with blacks. In general, I have found them to be NO different than any other group. However, there is a gap between the black community and the rest of society and it is mostly but not entirely the fault of the black community/families that have either tried to remain apart from society in general and have taught by effort or example that they need to remain apart.
    I know racism, I saw it in Chicago practiced on BOTH sides of the ‘divides’ that separated safe neighborhoods from dangerous ones.
    I have had ‘the talk’ with my 17 yr adopted from China daughter who holds a 2nd degree Black Belt – there are places that are not safe for her to go, and with few exceptions, they are black neighborhoods.
    I DO NOT, and WILL NOT, judge a person by their color/race. I judge them by their actions, but only a idiot walks into areas that are dangerous.
    My parents still live on the Southside of Chicago, they are now in a neighborhood that is just a half mile from one of those ‘dividing lines’ and twice black teens have been shot dead in front of their home, by black gangs.
    Derbyshire isn’t right about everything, but I will say that the vast majority of people try to hard to ignore: 1) black males commit more crimes per capita than any other group; 2) the black community wants to blame everyone but themselves for that fact; 3) the white community is willing to accept that blame to prove they are not racist; 4) people are dying because neither black nor white communities will face #1.

  8. Chris says:

    The line of reasoning used by the writer and most of the comments that tries to justify racial profiling by throwing around statistics and claiming that the police are blacker now is dangerous and racist in and of itself because it ostensibly supports the assumption that blacks are naturally more violent and naturally more dangerous. It’s the king of biological and social racism that tries to masquerade itself as “common sense”, especially when it is presented without any historical and social context. the general tone of the article strongly suggests that racism is ok, as long as we can back it up with statistics and the common knowledge that black males act like thugs and are gangbangers. There is a wilful disengagement with any sort of socio-historical context because of course we don’t care why the blacks are poor, we don’t care why they’re angry, we just want them to leave us alone. Nevermind that America has a terrible history of racism and oppression because that all ended when black slaves were freed people got the vote; and anyway, history is such an inconvenience when it refuses to stay buried so we just might as well ignore it so that future generations will continue to believe that black men are naturally dangerous, because hell, that’s what we’ve always believed, and this is not racist at all because it is JUST THE WAY IT IS.

    • david7134 says:

      Now that comment is one of the least informed that I have read in some time. I hate Wikipedia, but go there and read about black violence. You see, it is not just a US problem. World wide blacks are 3 times more likely to comment a violent crime or act than any other race. Certainly blacks had it bad in the US. That was 100 years ago. At some point they need to move on just as all groups have, Irish, Jews, Italians, in fact anyone that is a little different. As to slavery I have done some research on that and slavery in the US was not all that bad. It certainly could be better than holding a job in the Northeast. Slaves in the US received food regularly, clothing, medical care, housing, routine time off, and old age benefits. These are the same things that this group is wanting from our government now. Would I be a slave? No, but at the same time I am fighting tooth and nail to prevent the government from making me one now.

      Read a little, it might help, then you may find that certain differences are reflected in who we are.

    • Sean says:

      Actually it’s NOT racism. Racism is a misnomer. RACE/RACISM as it’s used today and has been for a long time…was coined by an american follower of Hitler back in the thirties. What most people call racism is in fact “tribalism”

    • Sean says:

      Oh and btw..Historical Content? Dude I know I’ve studied more history than most of the people out there. So here’s one for you. it’s bandied about that white people went to africa to hunt for slaves. BZZZT wrong answer, you ARE the weakest link, thank you for playing. WHITES didn’t have to go hunting for slaves on the african continent. Blacks were sold into slavery by OTHER blacks. One tribe wars with another…the losers, those who aren’t slaughtered out of hand, or young girls taken as wives…we’re sold by the winning tribes to Arabs. Who then turned around and sold the africans to everyone else.
      And it’s not racist…look at the breakdown by “race’ of the crime stats.

  9. emdfl says:

    Careful there, Sean, facts tend to make drive-by troll’s heads explode. You wouldn’t want to be zimmermaned would you?