Stigmatizing blacks rightly draws fire

June 26, 1999|By GREGORY KANE

JARED TAYLOR sat on the end seat of the four-guest panel for the taping of Kweisi Mfume's "The Bottom Line" television show. He identified himself as the "token white" taking part in a discussion about a recent Newsweek magazine cover story on the state of black America.

Also on the panel was syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux: gorgeous and a fierce debater and defender of liberal causes. Rounding out the in-studio guests were conservative Robert George and some Baltimore Sun columnist with an oversized forehead. Newsweek writer Ellis Cose joined in from New York via telephone.

Taylor and I talked briefly after the taping about his book "Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America." The book had sold moderately well, Taylor told me.

"It was better written than Dinesh D'Souza's `The End of Racism,' which made more money," I pointed out. Taylor agreed, adding that it seemed D'Souza had used a number of his ideas in the book.

"One reviewer even wrote [of D'Souza's book], `This is Jared Taylor warmed over,' " Taylor mused as he flashed a wry grin. It was more like Jared Taylor being ripped off.

Taylor was dressed in a sharply creased dark suit. He spoke with the diction of a Harvard professor. He seemed especially gracious in our conversation, considering that I had written an unfavorable review of his book in November 1992.

"I think you called it the most racist book since Thomas Dixon's `The Clansman,' " Taylor recalled. "I thought that was a bit much."

The exact quote read like this: "Whatever valid points Taylor may have raised will provide little solace to those who feel he has written the most scurrilous work about American blacks since Thomas Dixon's `The Clansman' was published in 1905."

Taylor did, indeed, make some cogent points in his book. And at least he didn't make the asinine assertion -- as D'Souza did -- that whites imposed Jim Crow on blacks for our protection. Nor did Taylor make the hypocritical claim that he wrote "Paved With Good Intentions" to "end racism."

One point on which Taylor was on the mark was his observation about Eurocentric vs. Afrocentric education. Taylor challenged the notion espoused by some African-Americans that black students can learn only under an Afrocentric curriculum.

"The `Eurocentric' education that is supposed to be doing such damage to blacks today seems to have caused no harm to Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Ralph Bunche, Julian Bond and millions of unsung black men and women who led responsible, upright lives even in the teeth of Jim Crow and segregation."

That's Taylor at his best. At his worst, he was writing this in his book:

"If whites are not holding blacks down, it might mean that they have risen as far as their inherent limitations permit. The possibility of black inferiority ... lurks in the background of every attempt to explain black failure."

Or this:

"If ... social engineers were to invent an equivalent of the philosophers' stone, whose touch would galvanize the lazy, inspire the irresponsible and reform the criminal, blacks would rise with everyone else." So there is the gospel according to Jared Taylor: Blacks are lazy, irresponsible and criminal. He brought the doctrine with him to the "Bottom Line" taping. The topic was Newsweek's cover story extolling the achievements of African-Americans, which are now so great, the story said, that this might be the best time to be black in America.

Taylor simply could not get in the spirit of the theme. His first comment was about blacks on welfare. Then he went to his favorite topic: blacks and crime. Taylor noted a poll of 100,000 mugging victims, half of whom identified their assailants as black.

Blacks in the audience and on the panel protested. The figures, they claimed, were false. They were living in denial, of course. The disproportionate number of blacks involved in criminal activity has been known for decades. A group of black college professors even had a conference on it in Atlanta during the early years of the 20th century. While acknowledging that white racism and inequities in the criminal justice system were contributing factors in the rising black crime rate, they didn't deny that crime among blacks was a problem blacks needed to do more to solve. This group of black intellectuals was, in some ways, more advanced than today's black leadership.

That in no way means the blacks who reacted negatively to Taylor weren't justified. They probably objected to being lumped in the same category with blacks who commit crime. The taping soon degenerated into a "dump on Taylor" session, with Taylor and Malveaux having exchanges that bordered on the rancorous. When Taylor asked Malveaux if there were any problems blacks had that couldn't be blamed on white racism, she answered: "I'm not going there with you."

She knew the answer was yes, but apparently she wasn't going to give Taylor the satisfaction.

Pub Date: 6/26/99

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