Yesterday, the entire Internet was ablaze with well-deserved condemnation for National Review contributor John Derbyshire’s racist rant. If you haven’t yet read it, I suggest you take a moment to do so; it is truly breathtaking. However, to those of us who have followed Derbyshire’s career prior to this point, the only surprise is that it took him so long to say something so contemptible that people have finally noticed. After all, in a 2003 interview with RedState contributor Kevin Holtsberry about his book, Prime Obsession: Bernhard Rieman and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics, Derbyshire flatly declared that he was a racist.
I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going. Of course, people will still be that way in their hearts, but they will be afraid to admit it, and will be punished if they do admit it.
Absolutely nothing that has happened in Derbyshire’s career since then has indicated that he didn’t mean exactly what he said to Kevin way back in 2003. This is the same man who once described welfare thusly:
Following the black riots of the 1960s, these concessions have also been seen by nonblacks as an implicit contract or treaty — that is, as nonblack America saying to black America: “We’ll give you this stuff if you promise not to break our windows.”
Derbyshire likes to pepper his racist rants with “facts” that generally consist of social studies that are subject to numerous interpretational biases. To me, the question as to whether these studies are accurate or correct is uninteresting and irrelevant – a central tenet of decency demands that every human being is entitled to be evaluated on his or her own merits regardless of what social science may say about any group (racial, cultural, religious or otherwise) to which he or she might belong. It is this very basis which Derbyshire rejects, and that is what makes him (and has always made him) a racist. He is not, as his defenders at the execrable Taki mag say, confronting the world with uncomfortable truths, he is proudly declaring himself to be a racist and arguing that it is correct to be racist. This, I submit, is something that all decent people should reject.
I like and respect the few people I know who are regular contributors to National Review. I have on numerous occasions spoken to and emailed these people about the danger Derbyshire’s association presents to the magazine, and nothing has ever been done about it, presumably because the decision rests with editor Rich Lowry and others. I don’t know and haven’t ever met Rich Lowry, so I can’t speak to his personal qualities. But I can say that his response to this fracas last night, which sought to distance National Review from the controversy but didn’t declare that National Review was ending its relationship with Derbyshire, showed an absolute lack of leadership and conviction, as does the fact that Derbyshire has been continually allowed to write there for the last several years despite ample evidence of his racism. Derbyshire’s screed was so contemptible, especially in light of his lengthy history, that I cannot imagine a reason that Derbyshire should not have been summarily dismissed within the hour.
The longer this drags on without a definitive severing of the relationship, the more damage will be done to National Review. I cannot imagine what sort of deliberation is required to make this decision, but I hope, for National Review’s sake, that it can be completed before the weekend is over.