I’ve been an admirer of John Derbyshire’s writing for at least a decade, though I’ve disagreed with him on a number of issues (including his village atheist shtick and his intemperate attack on pro-lifers), and was sorry to read about his poor health. His book We’re Doomed was a witty attempt to reclaim the neglected pre-Reagan tradition of conservative pessimism.
Enough has been written about the column that ended Derbyshire’s association with National Review. There is, however, a bigger picture here. There are certain ideas about race that are popular among liberals — that cases like Trayvon Martin’s aren’t isolated tragedies but routine occurrences in racist America; concerns about crime, especially black crime, are necessarily racist; white racism explains the overwhelming majority of black social problems; voter ID laws aren’t much different from poll taxes and Bull Connor; the racial attitudes of the Jim Crow South remain commonplace among white Americans — that are to many Americans obvious nonsense.
A small but growing number of people on the right seem to be embracing the idea that if these liberal observations are false, then the exact opposite of them must be true: interracial harmony is effectively impossible; affirmative action harms whites in exactly the same way Jim Crow harmed blacks; the era that gave rise to the civil rights movement wasn’t that bad; we are all at imminent risk of being attacked by predominantly black flash mobs; white racism doesn’t exist (proponents of this last bit seem divided on the question of whether it should exist). Needless to say, these views are also obvious nonsense.
It will be hard for us to live together as Americans if we constantly believe the worst about each other.