In the wake of his high-profile ouster from National Review over an essay that was widely condemned as racist, John Derbyshire told the Daily Caller that he was surprised by the conservative flagship’s response to what he considers “just common sense.”
Derbyshire’s controversial column, published in the libertarian webzine “Taki’s Mag,” was a list of fifteen points that, he wrote, non-black parents should teach their children about black people. Some of the advice was instantly controversial, including the warning to “[a]void concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.”
Asked by The Daily Caller if he saw this firestorm coming, Derbyshire tersely replied, “No.”
He was caught by surprise, he said, when National Review editor Rich Lowry decided to sever the magazine’s ties with him. “I didn’t think they cared about my Takimag columns, which contain no references to National Review,” he told TheDC in an email exchange.
But his attitude towards National Review, he added, changed after Lowry decided to let him go. “I didn’t realize they were THAT race-whipped.”
In an online note announcing the break, Lowry called Derbyshire’s comments “nasty and indefensible” and added that the writer used the National Review banner to provide oxygen for views that the conservative stalwart magazine would never support.
The column sparked outrage across the political spectrum, with denunciations coming from some of Derbyshire’s former colleagues, other conservative commentators, and many liberal pundits.
Derbyshire is not new to controversy over statements widely considered offensive. And he hasn’t shied away from the “racist” label.
“I am…a racist,” he said in a 2003 interview, “though an even more mild and tolerant one.”
Derbyshire seemed surprised by the public blowback. “I thought the piece was just common sense,” he told TheDC, “backed by facts established beyond the range of dispute.”
Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic is among the conservatives who denounced Derbyshire as a racist. He told TheDC that it is impossible to single out just one egregious element in the column.
But, Friedersdorf says, “one of the objectionable bits of advice he offered was to ignore black people in need of help rather than being a Good Samaritan.”
The American Conservative’s Noah Millman, who considers himself a friend of Derbyshire’s, told TheDC that it’s no surprise National Review ended its relationship with the longtime contributor.
“I think it’s safe to say that Derbyshire’s piece was bluntly racist,” Millman said.
“Derbyshire seems to think that there’s a straight line of deductive reasoning from his views on the science of racial differences and the observable statistical disparities in things like crime rates, to his ‘advice’ to his children about how to keep themselves safe from black-on-white violence.”
Millman believes that this isn’t the case and that it is important to show why.
As the dust settled, Derbyshire expressed gratitude towards the magazine for helping him navigate a complete career change during his mid-50s after spending most of his working career as a computer programmer. “They cut me a lot of slack — on a couple of occasions, a lot.” he said.
Citing the “shrieking … witch-hunting” political left, Derbyshire said, “I know who my enemy is. It’s not conservatism, not the NR [National Review] brand nor any other.”