… if you tell your children to be wary of all young black males they might meet:
The advice was not about race per se, but instead about the tendency of males of one particular age and race to commit an inordinate amount of violent crime.
It was after some first-hand episodes with young African-American males that I offered a similar lecture to my own son. The advice was born out of experience rather than subjective stereotyping. When I was a graduate student living in East Palo Alto, two adult black males once tried to break through the door of my apartment — while I was in it. On a second occasion, four black males attempted to steal my bicycle — while I was on it. I could cite three more examples that more or less conform to the same apprehensions once expressed by a younger Jesse Jackson. Regrettably, I expect that my son already has his own warnings prepared to pass on to his own future children.
That’s the gist of Victor Davis Hanson’s new piece in National Review. All young black men are guilty until proven innocent – a sentiment with which New York’s chief cop apparently agrees (especially if he can gussy up his racial profiling with minor pot possession, thus making the future of any young black male that little bit harder). I don’t think anyone in this debate, including the president, has denied the disproportionate amount of crime committed by young black men (primarily against other young black men). The question is how we should personally deal with that fact while living in a multiracial society. Treating random strangers as inherently dangerous because of their age, gender and skin color is a choice to champion fear over reason, a decision to embrace easy racism over any attempt to overcome it.
It’s also spectacularly stupid.
I can fully understand and appreciate TNC’s incandescent, yet reasoned, rage at the piece. Do yourself a favor and read it in full. But Ta-Nehisi’s core point is that making such blanket warnings about an entire group of human beings is just dumb if you actually care about the safety of your kids. It puts the race/gender/age category before all other obvious contexts: neighborhood, street, school, college, inner city, distant suburb, daytime, night, crowded places, dark streets, and the actual observed behavior of the young black man. As TNC notes:
This is the kind of advice which betrays a greater interest in maintaining one’s worldview than in maintaining one’s safety.
Indeed. And what ever else may be said about Victor Davis Hanson, he is far from stupid.
The interesting question to me is how this sentiment is different from that of John Derbyshire, who wrote almost the exact same column as Victor Davis Hanson did a little over a year earlier, framed around exactly the same trope – mocking the “Talk” parents give to African-American boys by explaining the “Talk” non-black parents give to non-black kids. Derbyshire’s rant was in a different magazine, but he was still fired from National Review for it. The difference is that Derbyshire tells his children to avoid all “blacks”, while Hanson focuses on advising his children solely about young black men. Any young black men they don’t know.
Is that the distinction National Review will now cling to as the acceptable face of prejudice?
(Thumbnail image: Screencap from The Hunted And The Hated)