John Derbyshire goes viral with this post explaining his view of "The Talk" given by white parent to their children about race in America, as an analogue to The Talk given by black parents to their sons.
What he describes is nothing like any talk I have given my kids and I disassociate myself from his remarks (although late in this post I will offer a suggestion in his defense that will, at a minimum, delight tap-dancing aficionados).
Mr. Derbyshire offers the excellent advice that his kids should approach others as people, not statistical averages from varying groups. He then deviates from that a segue to the Bell Curve and its implications for Affirmative Action and its consequences.
Groan. I consider these race/IQ arguments to be the intellectual equivalent of a World War I battlefield on the Western Front - lots of noise and craters, many bodies piled up, but little intellectual progress in either direction.
Mr. Derbyshire's advice to his kids is this:
Because of affirmative action, the proportions [of underqualified blacks] 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. If that hostility-based magnifying effect (paragraph 8) is also in play, you will be dealt with more politely, too. “The DMV lady“ is a statistical truth, not a myth.
"When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will."
Why fill your kids heads with negative expectations? C'mon, John, don't underestimate the power of a smile!
Second, could we please, PLEASE have a sense of proportion? The black parents' talk is intended to save their sons from getting arrested or shot by wary police officers. Mr. Derbyshire is hoping to hasten his children's trip through DMV. Geez, if they lose five minutes of their life learning this negative attitude lesson, so what?
Away from the Bell Curve Mr. Derbyshire focuses on safety and crime. Based on statistics he can make a stronger case, but he is taking fire for this:
(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:
(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.
(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.
(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).
(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.
(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.
Again, I have never explicitly told my kids any of that. However, I lived in New York City during the high crime 80's. I can report back a few incidents from that era that may have shaped Mr. Derbyshire's thinking:
2. A second friend commented that Puerto Rican day was a great day to leave the city because Central Park was unmanageable (hmm, in 2000? My memory...) Well, St. Patrick's Day can be a bit of a brawl, too, but in March people have more clothes on. [And let me note that Mr. Derbyshire was focusing on blacks; the Hispanic bashing is mine, intended to point out that being in the minority if a situation gets ugly is not a good strategy.]
My point? What Mr. Derbyshire is saying was not out of the mainstream (years ago, anyway); it's just that actually saying it out loud is out of the mainstream.
And in Mr. Derbyshire's possible support, and for the benefit of tap dancing fans who like to watch spokespeople shimmy and shake - someone could ask the NYPD if they consider the demographics of a crowd, including its likely race, when they make security assignments. The NY Times gave us the obvious answer thirty years ago in the follow-up to the Diana Ross debacle:
Thirty-one of the 47 arrests were for robbery, 12 for assault, 3 for grand larceny and 1 for attempted murder. About 1,400 police officers were involved. By way of comparison, the report listed statistics on the New York Philharmonic's park concert Aug. 8. Total officers assigned: 226. Total arrests: 0.
It's Easter weekend and guests approach, so some personal stories will come later, or never.
IF THE NYPD IS NOT FORTHCOMING: Madison Square Garden hosts all sorts of events drawing all sorts of crowds and must have all sorts of security records. A dedicated social scientist could plumb their depths.