by Scott McConnell
New York Press (March 20, 2002)
Jonathan Tilove’s Newhouse News Service story on the recent American Renaissance conference in Herndon, VA, arrived the other day. American Renaissance (AR) is an erudite, racialist or white nationalist publication. I subscribed after interviewing its editor, Jared Taylor, for a magazine piece I never finished-nearly seven years ago. Taylor is a Yale graduate, a gentleman, fluent in several languages, a man who might have succeeded in many different fields. In 1983 he published an acclaimed book on Japanese culture. Since the late 80s he has devoted his life to the somewhat thankless task of raising the racial consciousness of white Americans. He has few illusions about his progress. Tilove quotes him welcoming the AR conferees: “We are minoritarian. We are marginal in terms of influence and numbers and not only that, according to the mainstream, we are a despicable group.”
In 1995 I thought the Taylor message merited some consideration. I was working at the New York Post, whose editorial page was perched on the cutting edge of the city’s racial divides. New York’s crime rate was much higher; Los Angeles had recently been through riots; O.J. had been acquitted; a prominent black professor was urging black jurors to ignore evidence against black defendants, etc. Commentary assigned me to do a piece, which I provisionally titled “The White Man’s Malcolm.” I wrote it quickly over a week’s vacation. Neal Kozodoy, my editor, said I indulged Taylor too much and asked for a rewrite, which I never got around to.
Once one gets past the taboos that hold that white racial consciousness is uniquely evil, the arguments in its favor are obvious. Those against are more subtle and take longer to germinate.
Clearly American whites are facing a political and cultural dispossession that is without modern historical precedent: immigration, unless reformed, will reduce them to minority status in this century; affirmative action directly discriminates against them; hate-crime statutes are twisted to punish them unequally; the culture industry devotes vast resources to denigrating their history and heroes. We celebrate Dr. King (who plagiarized his PhD thesis, for heaven’s sake) and relegate George Washington to “Presidents’ Day.”
Taylor wraps arguments like this in a doctrine that seeks to prepare whites to go their own way. He finds it unnatural that, in a country where every other group organizes along ethnic and racial lines to pursue its goals, whites are supposed to make extraordinary efforts to extirpate their subconscious racism. Why shouldn’t they pursue their racial interests as well?
The answers that have made sense to me in the intervening years are these:
“White People, Who are They?” The conservative French thinker Joseph de Maistre dismissed the spurious universalism of the French revolutionary era by writing: “During my life I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians and so on...but I may say, as for man, I have never come across him anywhere.” In other words, people are the product of particular cultures. There is Christian culture, Jewish culture, WASP culture (sort of), French culture, etc. But Maistre’s point about the absurdity of thinking about man also covers the idea of the “white man.” An effort to act politically as if there is a “white culture” would topple under the weight of its own artificiality.
“We’d Feel Too Guilty.” I think I owe this insight to John O’Sullivan, the brilliant former editor of (the formerly brilliant) National Review. Any effort by American whites to construct their own exclusionary political institutions, separate from American blacks, would be crippled from the outset by intense feelings of guilt and unworthiness. Most whites would understand it as a fundamentally selfish act, and no one can accomplish worthwhile goals without believing them to be good.
“It’s Against My Religion.” Hard to say why, since Christianity has co-existed with racialism for much of its history. But it may be impossible to experience the modern Protestant liturgy, as I have been trying to do, while entertaining racialist visions.
“It Means Giving Up on America.” Perhaps the key point. While there is no such thing as “white culture” there is still a recognizable American one, despite the best efforts of the multiculturalists. It obviously includes blacks (an old American ethnic group) and I still feel a loyalty to it.
So I browse AR when it comes, but it doesn’t really speak to me. Yet despite Taylor’s self-effacing opening remarks, Tilove reports that attendance at AR conferences is beginning to grow. He quotes Carol Swain, a black professor from Vanderbilt, whose book on white nationalism will be published this summer. She says Taylor would appeal to a far wider range of whites than would admit it, and as demographic changes push whites to minority status, they are likely to “behave like any minority group” to protect “legitimate white interests.” She argues that it is time to end racial preferences, reduce immigration and drop the call for reparations, all of which are generating a backlash and bringing white nationalists into the mainstream.
This is roughly the argument I tried to make in my would-be Commentary article years ago.
Volume 15, Issue 11