Disillusionment

Race and Conservatism by John Derbyshire

As Pat Buchanan notes in his latest best-seller:
“Democrats had bedded down with segregationists for a century without
censure.” When Congress voted on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans
in both House and Senate said yea by about 80 percent to 20; among
Democrats, the votes went more like 60-40.

Alas, there is no justice in politics. Republicans got stuck as the
party of racial discrimination. Since racial discrimination soon came
to be seen as the most unspeakable of all evils, and since, from the
1970s on, most conservatives were Republicans, it is not very
surprising that conservatives don’t want to talk about race.

I can tell you a thing that has been considerably
forgotten now, flushed away down the memory hole. Here’s the thing. At
that time, everyone who supported the Civil Rights Movement—everyone,
absolutely everyone—assumed that the Movement would, if it succeeded,
lead to a more harmonious society, a society in which the races mingled
freely as equal citizens, a society in which race mattered to nobody
but the manufacturers of cosmetics. They, we, all assumed that if the
shackles of legal discrimination were removed, black Americans would
swiftly distribute themselves across America’s class, income, and
status structure in the same proportions as their white
fellow-citizens. Why should they not? Human beings form a single
biological species. Given a level playing field, any group should
perform as well as any other, in any kind of endeavor, shouldn’t it?

What a terrible disillusioning there has been! Things did not happen
in the least as we expected. True, there has been much improvement. Our
nation now has a flourishing black middle class. There is now no
obstacle to a capable black American, from any part of the country,
rising to any level, in any sphere or profession. The casual mocking
and insulting of black Americans by nonblack Americans has been shamed
out of our social life.

Yet the numbers did not come out right, not at all. With black
people at thirteen percent of our population, we should, if the dreams
of the Civil Rights Movement had come true, find that thirteen percent
of our engineers and airline pilots, thirteen percent of our
storekeepers, contractors, and entrepreneurs, thirteen percent of our
prisoners and unwed mothers, are black. This is not, of course, what we
find; and the numerical discrepancies are not of the kind called
“statistically insignificant.” Not at all. Not at all.

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