The Stupidity of Racism

Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing at The Atlantic, tackles a post at the conservative magazine National Review that ridicules what's known in the black community as "the talk," regarding police profiling of African-American men.

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A man is arrested during protest of NYPD shooting of Kimani Gray, March 2013, in Brooklyn (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing at The Atlantic, tackles a post at the conservative magazine National Review that ridicules what's known in the black community as "the talk," regarding police profiling of African-American men. "One of the effects of racism is its tendency to justify stupidity," Coates argues.

National Review's Victor Davis Hanson takes on the president's comments with predictable results ... :

... First, let me say that my father was a lifelong Democrat. He had helped to establish a local junior college aimed at providing vocational education for at-risk minorities, and as a hands-on administrator he found himself on some occasions in a physical altercation with a disaffected student. In middle age, he and my mother once were parking their car on a visit to San Francisco when they were suddenly surrounded by several African-American teens. When confronted with their demands, he offered to give the thieves all his cash if they would leave him and my mother alone. Thankfully they took his cash and left.

I think that experience -- and others -- is why he once advised me, "When you go to San Francisco, be careful if a group of black youths approaches you." Note what he did not say to me. He did not employ language like "typical black person." He did not advise extra caution about black women, the elderly, or the very young -- or about young Asian Punjabi, or Native American males. In other words, the advice was not about race per se, but instead about the tendency of males of one particular age and race to commit an inordinate amount of violent crime.

It was after some first-hand episodes with young African-American males that I offered a similar lecture to my own son ...

... By Hanson's own admission this "Talk" has done very little to protect him, and he implies that it didn't help his father either. That is not surprising given that this is the kind of advice which betrays a greater interest in maintaining one's worldview than in maintaining one's safety ...

Let us be direct -- in any other context we would automatically recognize this "talk" as stupid advice. If I were to tell you that I only employ Asian-Americans to do my taxes because "Asian-Americans do better on the Math SAT," you would not simply question my sensitivity, but my mental faculties. That is because you would understand that in making an individual decision, employing an ancestral class of millions is not very intelligent. Moreover, were I to tell you I wanted my son to marry a Jewish woman because "Jews are really successful," you would understand that statement for the stupidity which it is ...

It should come as no surprise that Victor Davis Hanson's generational advice has met with mixed results. But when you are more interested in a kind of bigoted nationalism than your actual safety, this is what happens.

These two strands -- stupidity and racism -- are inseparable. The pairing seem to find a home at National Review with some regularity.

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' entire piece at The Atlantic.