Thursday, August 16, 2007

RACE MEN. Daniel Henninger offers an especially incoherent Wall Street Journal column today, perhaps owing to the high excitement in which it was commenced.

We may surmise that, good culture cop that he is, Henninger was on the prowl for proofs that Diversity is Bad when he hit the jackpot: Robert Putnam’s alleged findings that ethnic variety causes a lack of faith in some institutions among some people.

Henninger, like Rod Dreher before him, is overjoyed to find academic support for his own miscegnophobia:
Now comes words that diversity as an ideology may be dead, or not worth saving... Short version: People in ethnically diverse settings don't want to have much of anything to do with each other. "Social capital" erodes. Diversity has a downside.
If you, like tens of millions of other Americans, actually live among different kinds of people, yet consider your social life happy and vigorous, don’t bother to tell Henninger –- not only will he characterize your tone of voice in the traditional rightwing way; he will also rebut your daily personal experience with a 43-year-old anecdote:
Give me a break! you scream. What about New York City or L.A.? From the time of Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" through "Peyton Place" and beyond, people have fled the flat-lined, gossip-driven homogeneity of small American "communities" for the welcome anonymity of big-city apartment building--so long as your name wasn't Kitty Genovese, the famous New York woman who bled to death crying for help.
The fellow who killed her was black, you know. So you just wait, liberals –- your precious ethnic friends will murder your daughter, and then who’ll be the racist? (Both of you, Henninger clearly hopes.)

After this noirgasm, Henninger’s thematic force dwindles, and seemingly at the edge of sleep he murmurs all sorts of right-romantic nonsense: Don’t trust foreigners, but trust them enough to leave immigration unrestricted; we could make a religious exception for anti-diversity, but better we should magically make everyone middle-class, etc.

Clearly, for Henninger the Big One was the opportunity to broach the politically-incorrect solution of getting everyone segregated for their own good. Even church talk offers but faint thrills after that.

What animates conservative commentators against diversity so? Their complaints against silly seminars and such like are easily shared, but columns like Henninger's suggest that in their heart of hearts "diversity" is not just a nuisance, but a code word for "integration," which people such as they have been fighting since Brown vs. Board of Ed at least. It's telling that Henninger starts by denouncing diversity classes and comes (or cums) so quickly to Kitty Genovese.

The sulfuric whiff pervades even the work of younger conservatives who do not -- I don't think, anyway -- feel racism in their very loins. Take Ross Douthat, opining on Glenn Loury’s findings on race and imprisonment rates in America:
Loury's essay emphasizes the racial elements at work in the system, and they're real enough, but our incarceration policy is sustained by cool reason as much as racism. Mass incarceration emerged out of prejudice, yes, but also as a rational, albeit draconian, response to a social crisis: We lock up young black men by the hundreds of thousands because it's the only sustained response that we were willing to muster to the large-scale familial and social breakdown that helped sustain America's thirty-year crime wave.
Cool reason? Rational albeit draconian? He seems to be saying that we just had to lock up lots of dark-skinned people to make our white asses (feel) safe.

To be fair, Douthat does offer an alternative plan to mass black arrests: Bill Clinton’s ("more cops on the beat"!), of which plan (and its success) Douthat seems never to have heard, but which he thinks conservatives should claim in a “Nixon can go to China” sense. Still, he might have argued against the relevance of race, and focused on the classes of crimes that draw disproportionately heavy prison sentences (like drug offenses).

I guess he couldn't help himself; it's a right-wing thing. Between the fall of Jim Crow and the publication of Charles Murray's famous sociological treatise, Niggers are Stupid, most conservative writers were -- perhaps out of a (justifiable) sense of guilt -- somewhat reluctant to touch on race. Now they're fascinated by it and spout all kinds of gibberish to the effect that the dark are indeed different from you and me (assuming you and me are white) and we only need new, academically-approved ways to explain it to Americans who, unfortunately for their cause, have been brainwashed by decades of integration against accepting their message in its original Lester Maddox version.

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