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January 09, 2003

Conversation on White Nationalism

Frontpage Magazine has an interesting Symposium on White Nationalism. One of the participants is Carol Swain, the author of The New White Nationalism in America. I read it, and it's a very interesting book. She is very balanced (in that she presents different sides) and thorough (the book's scope is very wide, and delves into much of the same material as The End of Racism by D'Souza). Two things I would quibble with her: in the introduction she says that those who want a frank discussion of race should not even think about speaking of genetic differences, and she also has a naive belief in the power of Christian universalism (and I think she underestimates the contempt that much of the liberal white elite has for Christianity).

On the first point-Jamie Glazov who moderated the symposium above asked if we can proceed forward as a nation that values equality before the law if we speak of genetic differences. Anyone that reads this blog knows that the phrase equality before the law is a hot-button of mine. I have argued constantly that empirical results from studies of individual or group differences do not refute the basic normative idea of equality before the law. But there is a more important point-what if the progress of genetic science points clearly to a difference between groups or individuals in key capacities? What exactly would we do if we did not even entertain the possibility?

Here is a snippet about the "violence gene," MAOA (full text here):

The study, published in today's issue of the journal Science, was based on 442 boys in New Zealand who were tracked from birth to age 26. The scientists correlated statistics about abuse and mistreatment among the children with variations of a gene that coded for an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A, or MAOA....

What if we find out that there are different frequencies of the variations of MAOA in diverse human populations? The implications for those who want to see it are clear-what will those of us who believe in equality before the law and the presumption of free will do if we stick our heads in the sand and ignore these possibilities? I don't have the answers, I'm not an ethicist, legal theorist or political philosopher, but those who are might have to begin addressing more controversial topics coming out of neuroscience and genetics sooner than they expect.

On the second point about the unifying power of Christianity to forge a common American identity, I'm skeptical, because as they say, America is a nation of Indians (religious) ruled by Swedes (not as religious) [1]. I also think Swain et al., like many black intellectuals, don't understand how much contempt white liberals have for traditional religion (as opposed to a vague spiritualism). The secular liberals who came south in the 1960s bowed their heads when everyone prayed-but from what I know, many liberals who are sympathetic to civil rights and support the black political movement roll their eyes inwardly at these expressions of faith. The true allies in religious universalism are conservatives, who with black Americans still revere the truisms of the Old Time Religion. Try to square that circle....

[1] I don't doubt the sincerity of many of our political leaders in their faith, but even though some Republicans (Tom DeLay) have made noises about rejecting evolution, these sort of issues, the true test of theological fundamentalism, are beyond the outer bounds of the conservative leadership. This is important, because the majority of Americans favor some inclusion of Creationist teaching in the classroom, and 50% are Creationists outright. Of course, I'm not saying this brings out emotions like abortion, but it is an indicator that Creationists are seen as nuts in the elite media, and don't get that much sympathy from elite politicians even though they form half the electorate. I won't go so far as to say that one can not be theologically liberal and a sincere believing Christian, but those that are tend to be hyper-intelligent individuals who have complex ideas about theism (see Borg's theology of panentheism for instance). On the other hand, the vast majority of committed believers are on the conservative edge of theology and more emotional, less cerebral, variant of worship and devotion. And yet somehow, conservative Christians, both black & white, still remain in separate churches and adhere to opposing parties.

Posted by razib at 11:00 PM




"What if we find out that there are different frequencies of the variations of MAOA in diverse human populations? The implications for those who want to see it are clear-what will those of us who believe in equality before the law and the presumption of free will do if we stick our heads in the sand and ignore these possibilities?"

First of all, the result of MAOA really doesn't matter. We don't need a hypothetical because these are the tough questions we are asking NOW. For instance, it doesn't matter if the different crime rate of blacks is genetic (MAOA) or cultural, we still are thrust, whether we want to be or not, into a position where we have to make bloc racial decisions. Should police "racial profile"? Well, if they do the crime will go down at the expense of the innocent, but if not people will die. Also, if they do, it appears to, to some extent, be breaking your idea of "equality before the law". Of course, the race thing doesn't matter either, demographic profiling is ALREADY done, and seemingly police couldn't work without it. So in a sense there never was true equality before the law. The issue, like all others, now becomes a trickier, blurry on the edges cost-benefit one: How MUCH inequality before the law should there be!

"I don't have the answers, I'm not an ethicist, legal theorist or political philosopher"

I hate to say it, but yes you are. These are roles we all must now play now. If you have an opinion on abortion, and its legal status, you have ALREADY made a decision that can only (ethically) be based on some deep philosophical, scientific and legal thinking.

As far as race goes, we should always judge as individuals when possible, but, as much as it sucks, we have to judge as demographics when not. Either that or suck it in and decide that explosive murder rates, or what have you, is a lesser evil.*

*This issue gives me a lot of trouble with Apartheid. While it may have been terrible; what if the final result of ending it is white genocide and black starvation like in Zimbabwe? Of course the same thing might have been thought about ending slavery, which retrospectively looks much less mutually beneficial.

. . .it's not a fun world to make decisions in.

Posted by: Jason M. at January 10, 2003 12:37 AM


well-i will try to work out the rawlsian implications of hbd sometime in the future

Posted by: razib at January 10, 2003 12:47 AM


You wrote:

"[T]he vast majority of committed believers are on the conservative edge of theology and more emotional, less cerebral, variant of worship and devotion. And yet somehow, conservative Christians, both black & white, still remain in separate churches and adhere to opposing parties."

It depends on your definition of liberal and conservative -- yes, black Christians are much more conservative than their white fellow Democrats on social issues, but on economic issues they are probably left of the Dem center. I would argue that this is because they take the Gospel more seriously than even the white evangelicals. From one of Richard Neuhaus's fascinating _First Things_ columns:

"Blacks are . . . much more ostensibly religious than the general population. The top–rated (94 percent) goal in life is to have a close, personal relationship with God. That goal is rated above, for instance, good health or living comfortably. . . George Barna, head of the organization that conducted the research, says, 'Placing the profile of whites and blacks side by side is like looking at people from different sides of the planet. While whites tend to be self–reliant, blacks are more likely to rely on God. Whites persevere on the basis of their drive to achieve, blacks on the basis of their faith.' . . . The data are not uninteresting, although the generalizations drawn may be dubious. A sense of personal responsibility, one might argue, can be grounded in reliance on God, and the drive to achieve can be sustained and informed by faith. But that’s an argument for another day."

Indeed!

P.S. Grr! Let me use HTML tags in my comments, damn it...

Posted by: Charlie Murtaugh at January 10, 2003 04:26 AM


black christianity is theologically conservative. ask john spong-left-wing episcopal bishop. conservative's were laughing their asses off when he finally lost it and accused black Anglican bishops of being retograde primitives a chicken-sacrifice anyway from being animistic fetish-worshippers. OK-he didn't quite say that, but he did say that Third World Anglicans were holding back the ascendence of his liberal theology in the Anglican Communion were "closer to animism," and he does a bad job hiding the sneer and contempt when he speaks of Third World theological conservatism.

there is an old joke about left-wing catholic libertarian theology in the context of protestant evangelical conversion of the indigenous peoples of central and south america-the church chose the people, but the people didn't choose the church.

Posted by: razib at January 10, 2003 04:49 AM


Black religion has long been considered less philosophical and legalistic, and more social and expressive. Blacks and whites have both observed this, but give funny, glass half-empty interpretations of the other side. To blacks, introspective white religion is without the moving power of the holy fire. Without self-affirmation, worship, passion. To whites black religion is superficial and empty, b/c religion is about struggle with desire and the metaphysical nature of God.

I would say there is no "god gene", but that religion emerges as a by-product to serve other more directly instinctual, mostly social, human needs such as social order and cohesion. In this respect black and white religion both do their job. I think there is roughly innate racial personalities and aptitudes influencing the differences in these religious styles (whites: higher IQs-lower extroversion =more intellectual based/less song/praise. blacks: more extroverted/expressive/verbal= high song and praise content- more style/emotion based preaching), so saying that white religion is superior b/c it leads to superior morality is useless; it's not that one causes the other, they both have a common source.

Posted by: Jason M. at January 10, 2003 08:02 AM


Taylor says that integration occurred when whites stopped looking out for their racial self-interest. I disagree. Integration and civil rights were forced on working-class whites who never would have supported them of their on volition. Since a free society cannot stand for inequality under the law, it was the right decision. However, the elites who pushed it through didn't really sacrifice their own interests either. They deduced that blacks would not be an economic threat to them, and supported integration laws that, in the short term,
barely effected them.

Posted by: duende at January 10, 2003 09:14 AM


I find that racial integration between blacks and whites happens on a tiny scale among "artsy" types. Racial integration among S. Asians and whites, and E. Asians and whites happens among the intellectual elite, esp. the techno/scientific/geeky types. Then there's the Rice King phenom. Other than that racial integration is a sometime thang.

Posted by: Diana at January 12, 2003 07:40 AM