Talk on “the Talk”

After the Trayvon Martin case came to national prominence, there was much discussion about the “Talk” that every Black boy gets from his mother or whomever that contains time-honored instructions to be successful as a young Black man and fly below the radar of majority stereotypes and racism. We talked about it here (proudly, may I say, before the topic became so popular nationally) and I outlined the types of things that I was told to make myself appear as innocuous as possible and to note set off any alarms.

**NOTE**: We haven’t done much in the way of covering the Trayvon Martin case because of the saturation of opinions on it, but do know that the Grand Jury hearing for George Zimmerman is scheduled for tomorrow and, based on the track records of grand juries, will probably be expected to decide to arrest Zimmerman, finally. There are rallies scheduled tomorrow to bring attention back to the case. We’ll keep you posted here and on twitter**

But talk on “the Talk” has taken a pretty bad turn recently, with a select few folks taking the subject and adding uninformed critiques and disparaging the necessity or the content of Black “talks”. They ranged from simply ignorant and dismissive to genuinely well-sourced journalism. The most dangerous one I’ve seen, and the cause for me writing this article (my blood currently simmering at a bit less than boiling) was a post in Taki’s Magazine from John Derbyshire, a former editor for Conservative publication the National Review, in which Derbyshire prescribed a “Talk” that white parents should have with their kids (of course, all under the post-racial notion of not being racist). Read the whole thing (and the comments….they’re pretty bad) for yourselves, but some of the talking points he included were:

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites. The least intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black. These differences show in every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countlesseveryday situations. “Life is an IQ test.”

(12) There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the black stranger will be less intelligent than the white. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a white than by a black.

(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.

This makes me angry.

So does this, coincidentally

The most dangerous false argument is one that is authoritative and seems to be well-sourced. People won’t read sources, so they won’t read in the (one) scholarly article he referenced the extreme limitations of IQ scores (as they skew heavily on socioeconomic lines as well as racial ones). If you have a link, people will generally think that the link is “fact,” and that you are properly interpreting that “fact.” Guys like this love to give a (mostly bullshit) quasi-intellectual argument to justify being racist. They also love to use single isolated incidents in their lives (he says the one time a gun was pulled on him was around Black folks) as somehow statistically significant trends. Only it doesn’t hold up. The IQ bit is patently flawed and stupid, as IQ and all other standardized tests simply measure your ability to cope and exist within the majority-dominated framework, not some innate “raw” intelligence, which may or may not be impossible to measure. Also, the one time I’ve had a gun pulled out on me was at an all-White frat party. I can’t make any generalizations from it.  Once you break down the “facts” you’ll see that his prescription is less a “reasonable guide to White kids to see the world how it is statistically” and more a “guide on how to be racist and how to justify why you are racist.” The bit on “IWSBs” is particularly disturbing because it only feeds into my paranoia on the limits of success in my own life. The comments and the notion that this is something taught perhaps more implicitly to many white children also disturb me. It seems that our “Talk” is simply just a reaction to the ingrained Racism-posing-as-intellectualism that seems to be dominating the culture right now. It’s kind of a hark back to when Darwinism was (incorrectly) used to justify racism. We tend to believe that you can’t be racist as long as your racism is grounded in a scholarly article. That’s in essence, the crux of the post-racial society. As long as we can justify our inequalities, xenophobia, and fears in some sort of fact, as shaky as it may be, we can continue to say we ignore race and can entertain the notion that somehow each and every one of us is free from the affliction of racism. As long as white folks continue to make friends with IWSBs and don’t call people niggers, they’re cool, right?

Well what can be done? It seems like this is a pretty cyclical thing. The majority finds a way to legitimize and codify their mostly illegitimate fears of the other. Since that fear is never explored or even questioned now because it’s “factual,” the rules are curved to accommodate it, so Stand Your Ground Laws allow people to follow and shoot dead unarmed kids in “self-defense.” Fear is most often manifested in hate. And the affected minorities, in their fear of the hatred of the majority, have “Talks” to their kids that force them to be rigid, paranoid, and resentful of the very land they call home. This often manifests in the very hatred towards Whites and the degenerative behavior that Derbyshire details. And it all starts over again. I just want to live in a world someday where “the Talk” I give to my son or grandson will be that

1) You’re a Black boy, and this makes you physically and culturally different than the people you’ll meet 

2) Your differences don’t make you any better or worse than anybody else. Hold dear what makes you unique, but also celebrate that which makes us all the same. Humanity.


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  1. […] seeing at least one Black person now and then and don’t seem to be overly threatened by me if I’m doing the right things. These neighborhoods were different. I canvassed about 5 Black folks (all women) total out of the […]

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