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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is back on the air! Sorry about the missing episode. It was a minor health issue. I'll mention some of the details at the end of this podcast, with a fuller account in my monthly diary.
Meanwhile, this is your resiliently genial host John Derbyshire with some random commentary on the state of the world.
The way the podcast is structured this week, I shall postpone commentary on the current news until later. To begin with, I'm going to chew over some social and cultural issues that have been occurring to me after reading and digesting Charles Murray's latest book and some reviews thereof.
02 — Is Jim Snow worse than Jim Crow? I'm going to offer for your consideration what Winston Churchill would have called a naughty question. Here's my naughty question: Is Jim Snow worse than Jim Crow?
I need to define terms here. For 245 years this country of ours has lived more or less uncomfortably with the fact that a big minority of its population is black while the rest, the majority, isn't. The size of the minority has dwindled some since Independence, when we were 16 percent black; today it's 13 percent.
You can break that 245 years into three segments, marked off by two significant events: the end of the Civil War in 1865, and then the Civil Rights revolution, for which the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a convenient marker. That gives you 89 years of slavery, 99 years of Jim Crow, and 57 years of Jim Snow.
Those latter two segments are what I'm comparing: Jim Crow, when blacks were under legal disabilities in some states and social disabilities most everywhere, and Jim Snow, when blacks enjoy preferences and favoritism, "racism" is a sin of well-nigh religious gravity, and a white person who expresses negativity towards blacks is excluded from polite society and social media.
When asking "Is Jim Snow worse than Jim Crow?" I also need to define "worse." Worse how? Worse for whom? I'll answer both together with just: worse for our country. Is the U.S.A. more stable, more harmonious, more fair, safer, happier under Jim Snow than it was under Jim Crow?
Even with those definitions spelled out, I still don't really have a question you can get to grips with. Those 99 years of Jim Crow covered a lot of social change. Jim Crow 1890, Jim Crow 1920, and Jim Crow 1950 were very different Americas. Take lynchings, for instance. The numbers for those three years were 96, 61, and 2.
It was the Jim Crow of the 1950s that the Civil Rights activists wanted to reform, though: a nation pretty much like today's, with widespread prosperity, a welfare state, modern media and communications, and so on; and all well within living memory.
So here's my naughty question more precisely phrased: With the race issue in mind, is the Jim Snow America of 2021 more stable, more harmonious, more fair, safer, happier than the Jim Crow America of 1950?
I'm looking for a balance sheet of pros and cons. There is, for example, racial unfairness in both nations. Under 1950 Jim Crow a less capable white person might get hired over a more capable black because the boss didn't want blacks around. Under 2021 Jim Snow a less capable black person might get hired over a more capable white because the company fears discrimination lawsuits if they don't hire enough blacks. Those are different unfairnesses, but they're both unfair to the guy who didn't get hired.
Or take the matter of ordinary everyday human dignity. For sure there were offenses against dignity in Jim Crow America, when an adult black man had to put up with being called "boy." But then, in Jim Snow America adult white people will lose their jobs if they don't sit quiet and obedient through a company-sponsored seminar about how evil and oppressive they are and how ashamed of their ancestors they should be. So, just as with unfairness, there are indignities on both sides of the balance sheet.
Likewise with safety. Take homicide as the extreme. In 1950 whites sometimes killed blacks and vice versa; same today. What are the numbers? How does the balance sheet work out?
And then, harmony. You've been reading a lot in recent months about the demonization of whiteness: negativity towards whites in schools, colleges, and corporations. Was there something balancing in 1950s Jim Crow America? Was there negative propaganda demonizing blackness? I suppose there was some; but again, what does the balance sheet look like?
So there's my naughty question. I leave it with you to discuss among yourselves. I have some guesses I could offer; but as an old math major, I'd like to see the answer in good quantitative form. Perhaps one of our universities could assign it as a research project in the social sciences …
03 — The Romance of American Blackness. I've already sent some listeners to the fainting couch with that opening segment. For goodness sake, Derb, don't you know that Jim Crow America in 1950 was a hell on earth for blacks? It was like North Korea for them! They tiptoed around in terror of saying the wrong word or looking the wrong way at someone. Any one of them, at any time, could have the door of his cabin kicked down in the middle of the night and be dragged off to be lynched! Haven't you heard of Emmett Till?
Sure, I know the common Narrative. It's what I call the Romance of American Blackness. In my 2013 article under that title I quoted the definition of the word "romantic" given in Webster's Third, quote:
marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of the heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized characteristics of things, places, people.
We love a romance, all of us do. That's why there has always been myth and legend. That's why there are novels, plays, and movies. Apart from the simple emotional pleasures of romance, it spares us the mental effort of extracting an accurate picture of reality from the buzzing clouds of information that assault our senses.
For example, I mentioned lynching back there. Here once again are the numbers of Americans lynched for 1890, 1920, and 1950: 96, 61, and 2. Of those numbers, how many were not black?
A great many people would be baffled to be asked that. Why, they were all black, weren't they? Wasn't that what lynching was all about, whites killing blacks?
Actually, no. In those three years, the numbers of whites lynched were 11, 8, and 1. In percentages: 11, 13, and 50. No, I didn't cherry-pick; those were normal numbers for the Jim Crow years. And yes, that's still a lot more blacks than whites; but blacks have had high levels of violent criminality for as long as we've kept records, so given that lynchees were lynched for something they were believed to have done, and surely in many cases had done, there was bound to be racial imbalance.
The closer you look, the more the lynching Narrative collapses. Keven McQueen, in his book Gothic and Strange True Tales of the South, lists numerous counter-narrative lynchings. In Clarksville, Tennessee in 1914 a white man who'd raped a black woman was hanged by a black mob. ("The coroner's jury decided it was a justifiable homicide and freed the black lynchers.")
Blacks sometimes lynched blacks. As late as 1948 in Savannah, Georgia, police had to rescue a black man, Frank Mack, from a black mob who were on the point of lynching him for robbing and beating a popular white pharmacist.
Perhaps most counter-Narrative of all: In Columbia, Louisiana, 1891, a white mob lynched a white man for having "shot an elderly black woman named Hager Sterling to death."
The Romance of American Blackness is just that, a romance. It wasn't reality. Reality was black and white people living out ordinary lives of work and love in a society that had some customary unfairness and indignity built in, and that was very occasionally blighted by acts of criminal brutality — just like Jim Snow America.
Reality was what you hear if you talk to whites and blacks who grew up under Jim Crow, or if you read memoirs like Little Richard's. Reality was the old lady who grew up poor white in Alabama, who I met twenty years ago when she was custodian of the Hank Williams birthplace in Georgiana. I asked her about race in Jim Crow Alabama. Quote:
We didn't mix much. Our schools were separate, of course. Not that different, though, that I could see. Their school had a teacher; our school had a teacher. They had a stove; we had a stove.
"They had a stove; we had a stove." That's ordinary life. It's ordinary: sometimes unfair, occasionally cruel, but hardly ever romantic. That's reality.
04 — Murraytopia. Reality, yeah. The problem is, reality isn't anything like as popular as romance.
Charles Murray's latest book has the title Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America. I gave it a brief review in my May Diary. Steve did a much more penetrating full review at Taki's Magazine; and geneticist Razib Khan has just posted an even fuller review over at Quillette.com.
Razib, who is a friend of Murray's (and an occasional acquaintance of mine) struggles not very successfully to keep from sinking into despair. Sample quote:
Those already familiar with the data on racial differences in cognitive tests and crime rates, and therefore predisposed to take Murray's book seriously, will most likely give up on engagement due to intellectual exhaustion with today's punitive and spiteful political climate. And those who might benefit from Murray's book will not read it because it was written by someone who transmits ritual pollution to all those who acknowledge him.
Executive summary: Nobody's much interested in reality. People in the generality prefer romance. When reality shows its face, in a news story for example, we process it through a romantic filter.
Case in point: Tony Timpa. Ever heard of him? Probably not. Tony Timpa was a guy who died in 2016 while resisting arrest in Dallas, Texas. One of the restraining officers used his knee to pin Timpa face down for 13 minutes waiting for paramedics to arrive. There's bodycam footage on YouTube if you'd like to watch it.
Tony Timpa died while under that knee restraint; of "cocaine and the stress associated with physical restraint," according to the autopsy report.
So those restraining officers are serving long jail sentences, right? And Tony Timpa's family got an eight-digit settlement from the city of Dallas, right? And it's considered the height of bad manners to mention Tony Timpa's long criminal record, right?
Wrong on all three. Those officers are still on duty. Dallas paid nothing to Timpa's family. So far as I can discover, Timpa had no criminal record at all. Tony Timpa was white, you see. His story didn't make it through that romantic filter.
This is where I let loose my inner geezer. I've been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, for several decades now. I was never in Jim Crow America; but I've known people that were, and done some listening and reading.
Back there I posed the question: Is the Jim Snow America of 2021 more stable, more harmonious, more fair, safer, happier than the Jim Crow America of 1950? My honest best guess is: No. And I am sure that the America of 1950 was more accepting of reality than we are here today, under Jim Snow. Way more accepting. Razib again, quote:
Serenity evades us as long as we build upon a foundation of lies.
Charles Murray wrote this latest book, he tells us, as a warning. If we don't return to a more balanced, more realistic view of human nature, he says, there will be a rising resentment among white Americans against the Jim Snow order, with unpleasant consequences.
In Murray's preferred state of society people accept reality, including the reality of race differences, and social advancement is strictly meritocratic, without racial favor or disfavor. This, he says, this meritocratic Murraytopia, is what we should strive for. If we don't strive for that, then white resentment will eventually boil over, and we'll be back to something like Jim Crow.
I say he's dreaming, and I think Razib agrees. To swallow reality, as laid out by Murray, you need to be able to think in a formally quantitative way about statistical distributions. How many people can do that? It takes a somewhat above-average intelligence: I'd guess an IQ of 110 or more. That's 25 percent of whites but only five percent of blacks: nothing like enough to propel us to Murraytopia. Sorry, Charles, no sale.
So, what's in our future? A harmonious, meritocratic Murraytopia? A return to Jim Crow, or something like it, when whites get fed up at last with the injustices and indignities of Jim Snow? Or an almighty social upheaval when, to quote Razib yet again, "we'll have to face reality with 21st-century solutions to our problems," end quote.
Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.
05 — The most dangerous place on Earth? Meanwhile, as we bicker and fret about Critical Race Theory and Confederate statues, history is churning away slowly elsewhere in the world.
In Japan, for example. July 13th the Japanese government approved that nation's annual defense white paper. Observers immediately noticed what they tell us are significant changes.
Until this year, anything the annual white paper had to say about Taiwan was included in the section covering China. This year, however, it was moved into an altogether new section, a section dealing with U.S.-China relations. That might sound like a trivial formatting change, but it's been enough to get the East Asia military specialists all a-buzz.
The buzzing got louder when analysts read the text of the paper. The Japanese are great-grandmasters of careful ambiguity. Arthur Koestler quipped that you could negate the verb in an average Japanese sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. By those standards, this year's paper is exceptionally forthright on the subject of Taiwan. Quote:
Stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan's security and the stability of the international community. Therefore, it is necessary that we pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever before.
By Japanese rhetorical standards, that's equivalent to screaming at the top of your voice while banging your fist on the podium.
Even the paper's artwork contributed to the general sense of alarm. The white paper is actually printed up as a natty little paperback book with the title Boei Hakusho, which means, duh, "Defense White Paper." Last year's cover was a gentle pink, with some white cherry blossoms and a faint outline of Mount Fuji. This year's cover features a vigorous ink drawing of a warrior on horseback. Hmm.
It's not news that tensions over Taiwan have been building up for some time. The ChiComs have been flying fighter planes into Taiwan's airspace for a while now — 380 sorties just last year. In March Admiral Phil Davidson, head of our Indo-Pacific Command, told a Senate hearing that, quote, "the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years." End quote. In May The Economist ran a cover showing a radar scan of Taiwan under the headline The most dangerous place on Earth.
So, are the ChiComs going to make a move on Taiwan? If the Japanese are getting worried, shouldn't we be? Suppose the ChiComs do make a move: How should we respond?
It would be absurd for me to offer any definite prognostications. I occasionally read the analysts — people who've spent their whole careers studying this, with access to all the sources — and they don't even agree among themselves. Far be it from me to say who's right, who's wrong.
Some relevant points they do agree on:
What should we do in the event of a ChiCom attack? My answer: Anything we can do economically or diplomatically. We should not, however, get into a shooting war with China. We have no formal commitment to do so, and there is a high probability it wouldn't end well for us, with a much smaller but nonzero possibility of major catastrophe.
I don't say that with any pleasure. I have happy memories of Taiwan going back fifty years — fifty years last Friday, as a matter of fact. I still have friends there. I'd hate to see them lose their liberties to the goons of Peking.
And they really do have them to lose: On the Freedom House index, Taiwan scores a handsome 94 — eleven points better than the U.S.A.: five points better than us on civil liberties, six points better on political liberties. Ninety-four: China is a miserable nine. The loss of Taiwan would be a real subtraction from liberty in the world.
We are a commercial republic, though: In the words of John Adams
The well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all … the champion and vindicator only of her own.
[Added when archiving: I said "John Adams" in the audio. It was actually of course John Quincy Adams.]
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Before leaving Japan, just a word of sympathy for the unnamed fellow in Nagoya City who suffered a serious stroke immediately after performing a successful act of self-abuse. This is according to a case report published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease.
The unfortunate onanist is 51 years old, and we are told that he indulges his habit "several times a day." He was hospitalized after this incident, but after two weeks was fully recovered and is now back at home — in good hands, we hope.
The funeral was organized, we are told, with the intention to foster national unity. That didn't go quite according to plan: There were big protests outside the funeral compound, shots were fired, and some kind of explosive devices went off. "Smoke billowed into the compound," it says here. Nobody was hurt; the diplomats present were hustled off back to safety in their embassies.
You don't often hear about shootings at funerals, and you don't often hear about shootings where nobody actually gets hit. It's a funny thing, though, that when you do hear about events like that, it's always … Nah, I think I'll hand this one off to Steve Sailer.
Item: The rising power in Central Asia is of course Turkmenistan, under the wise leadership of our friend President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. A little-known fact about Turkmenistan is that it has huge reserves of natural gas: twenty trillion cubic meters, which is ten percent of the world's total.
The Turkmens have been exporting major quantities to China. Now, after signing an agreement with neighboring Azerbaijan, they are looking to add Turkey and the European nations to their customer file. There's a slight problem, though: Russia is already selling gas to the Europeans, and won't welcome competition.
I am confident that our dear friend President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, applying his exceptional intellect to the issue, will find a solution that advances Turkmenistan into the front row of energy-exporting nations. Long live President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov! Long live the noble republic of Turkmenistan!
[Clip: Turkmen national anthem.]
Item: I know: I have an unhealthy fascination with silly names. People can't help their names and we shouldn't make fun of them; I just can't resist the temptation. I'm still mourning the loss of the first President of independent Zimbabwe, Canaan Banana.
Here's another one I've just heard about. This guy is British, in fact he is a Member of Parliament over there, and the nation's Shadow Minister for Immigration. His name: Bambos Charalambous. Just roll it around with your tongue a few times: Bambos Charalambous.
His ancestry is Greek Cypriot, in case you're wondering. And "Bambos" is a nickname; his actual first name is Charalambos, same as his last, just minus a penultimate letter "u" in the spelling. If I remember correctly from my Onomastics 101 course, Greek Cypriots don't have surnames, they just carry forward their father's name. So I guess Bombas Charalambous' dad was also a Charalambous.
Jolly good luck to him anyway. On the evidence of the news stories, Britain is following the example of the U.S.A. in having no immigration policy at all, just letting everyone in who arrives. So if Bombas Charalambous' party wins power and he becomes the actual Immigration Minister, he won't find the work very strenuous.
Item: As you surely know, the state of California is engaged in a heroic effort to reduce crime by legalizing activity that was once criminal, notably shoplifting.
This has had an unfortunate side-effect. With shoplifting legalized, people have been turning more and more to buying online. That has led to an epidemic of "porch piracy." When you buy online, your purchase gets delivered to your front door via Amazon, UPS, or some other parcel service. With a whole lot more of that happening now, porch pirates have rich pickings. Quote:
In Los Angeles, brazen criminals took to driving behind delivery trucks and stealing the packages as soon as they were delivered. Others dressed up in Amazon uniforms.
That quote is from blogger Daniel Greenfield, who's been covering the situation.
My heart goes out to the unfortunate citizens of California, and I know yours does, too. I do have a constructive suggestion to offer, though. All you have to do, Californians, is lobby your state legislature to make porch piracy legal. Problem solved. You're welcome!
Item: Finally, it would be remiss of me to conclude without saying something about the Olympics. I confess I haven't been paying much attention to the events, but one thing did catch my eye.
Norway's women's beach handball team has been fined $1,800 because they refused to wear bikini bottoms in a match. They said the bikini bottoms made them feel "sexualized." They insisted on wearing full shorts instead.
Well, duh. Why do they think anyone watches women's beach sports?
This silly story brought forth a heroine, though. Her name is Hayley Richardson and she's a reporter for the Daily Mail. Ms Richardson wondered, quote:
For a sport like beach volleyball or handball that involves ducking and diving on sand, usually in warm weather, are bikini bottoms simply a more practical and comfortable option than shorts?
She conducted a controlled experiment. The results weren't very surprising. She learned, for example, that the bikini bottoms accumulated far less sand than the shorts as she ducked and dived for the ball.
She also tried something called knicker shorts; and she enlarged the scope of her experiments to include tennis, football, netball, and field hockey. Fascinating, fascinating.
This story at MailOnline comes with a full complement of pictures showing Hayley leaping and diving on the sand. If anyone knows an email address for that gentleman in Nagoya City, I feel sure he'd appreciate the link.
07 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and many, many thanks to all who have emailed in with expressions of concern and support this past few days. Be assured, please, that I am pretty near as good as new. I took a hard fall, that's all it was: nothing broken, thank goodness, but a truly sensational big black bruise covering — I'm trying not to be indelicate here — covering the fleshiest part of my anatomy.
It was nasty, but now much better. And it's had an upside. There's always an upside, if you look hard enough. The upside to that monstrous bruise is, that it gives me an irresistible opportunity to indulge my taste for 1920s pop music.
Annette Hanshaw was a major radio and recording star of the 1930s. Quote from her Wikipedia entry:
In a 1934 poll conducted by Radio Stars magazine, she received the title of best female popular singer (Bing Crosby was voted the best male popular singer).
So 87 years ago — within living memory, just about — Ms Hanshaw was up there with Bing Crosby. Now she is well-nigh forgotten. So fleeting is fame. Pause for melancholy reflection. [Pause.]
OK: here to play us out is Annette Hanshaw's very first recording, latching on to a dance craze that was sweeping the nation in 1926.
For those interested in the finer points of pop-music history, I note that Ms Hanshaw sings the original words, which include the phrase "high yallers." When Judy Garland sang this same song in her 1954 movie version of A Star is Born, "high yallers" had become hate speech, so it was changed to "young fellers." See, political correctness is older than you'd think.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Annette Hanshaw, "Black Bottom."]