It is difficult to overstate the significance of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve to the thinking of pre-Alt Right White identitarians, specifically its section on the cognitive and behavioral differences between the races. The dominant mission of the movement then was propagating the forbidden truth of racial differences. When I first became aware of the scene in the mid-aughts, the general sense was that if we could just find a way to get people the truth, it might just blow-the-lid off the entire rotten establishment.
Of course, that day of racial reckoning never came. Perhaps the most obvious flaw in that way of thinking is that everybody already knows about racial differences, and aside from us and the far-Left who are always trying to censor us, nobody much cares. Sure, most people do not want to send their children to “bad schools,” and they know to avoid certain neighborhoods at night, but this kind of behavior has about as much political significance as the instinct to pull your hand away from a hot surface. I don’t want to exaggerate the pollyannaism of us then; pretty much all the ideas we talk about now were present then too (and the doom-posting was there too), but the emphasis was definitely different, and the idea that race realism (as we often called it then) would be our salvation was certainly the era’s most prominent meme.
Anyways, Murray has a new book called Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America (there are significant racial differences in (1) intellectual aptitude and (2) rates of violent criminality), and aside from a few people on our side and a couple leftist inquisitors, once again no one is going to care. In fact, this is not a book review, because I myself don’t care to read the damn thing.
I am not saying that HBD must serve a political end to be an interesting topic in its own right, but, c’mon, differences in intelligence and crime rates? We’ve all read this stuff a hundred times. Even HBD enthusiasts have moved on to earwax composition; get with the times Charlie. Even the title seems like an out-of-date reference to race realists.
• • •
Murray is the archetypal conservative of the leftist imagination who yearns for a past that never existed. His stated purpose in writing this book is to save America’s unique liberal individualist heritage from disintegrating into either a racial spoils system, or into racial Balkanization.
I am also aware of a paradox: I want America to return to the ideal of treating people as individuals, so I have to write a book that treats Americans as groups. But there’s no way around it. Those of us who want to defend the American creed have been unwilling to say openly that races have significant group differences. Since we have been unwilling to say that, we have been defenseless against claims that racism is to blame for unequal outcomes. What else could it be? We have been afraid to answer candidly.
The logical conclusion of the notion that all races’ abilities are inherently equal is that unequal racial outcomes must be the result of unequal treatment. More and more, this is the conclusion the Left is settling on, and that’s no good because that leads to thinking in terms of groups rather than individuals. Even more worrisome to Murray, it could provoke the last remaining suckers who still buy into the individualist myth, namely Whites, to start thinking of themselves as a group with interests.
Murray is quite right that leftist analysis of racial inequality in America gets the arrow of causation wrong, but the irony is that his own conception of the American creed has things equally backward. In Murray’s imagination, back in the good old days of his youth America was a liberal individualist nation that just happened to have a dominant White majority. In reality, it was a White nation that just happened to have liberal individualist beliefs. What made it a nation was the White part, not the liberal individualist part. Unlike many on our side, I am not anti-liberal individualism. Generally speaking, it is a decent way to run things. But that’s all it is, a way to run things. It is not a reason for being.
If you try to make it into a national reason-for-being, as America has, something else will swoop-in to fill-the-void. For most of American history, implicit White identity filled that void. When Murray was a youth, the implicitly White arrangement was beginning to come undone, and apparently he, as so many others of his vintage, interpreted this as us shedding our racist baggage to more perfectly embrace our liberal individualist identity. We were finally going to ‘live up to our founding ideals,’ and ‘judge a man not the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.’
And it’s not like that was all fake. Embarrassingly, people were genuinely motivated by these ideas. But at the end of the day, liberal individualism can never be an identity. It creates a void, and now that void is filled by anti-White identity. You could say that liberal individualism, as an end in itself, morphed into anti-White identity, but in practice, it’s the same difference. Behind the equity rhetoric, and the diversity-is-our-greatest-strength slogans, opposition to Whiteness is the legitimizing myth of the American state and its intelligentsia. And while a large share of the general public objects to the anti-White language of some of the more strident “antiracists,” anti-Whiteness has long established itself as the implicit normie consensus. This is why mainstream conservatives accept that it is perfectly fair for other races to defend themselves as races, but even when countering anti-White racism, they never dare defend themselves as Whites.
Conservatives might say I am missing the larger picture, that what we are really facing is an assault on the entire American and Western heritage, or it’s all about socialist big business taking away our freedoms. But no, anti-Whiteness is the larger picture. That is the regime’s reason-for-being. After all, conservatives are very willing to defend America and the West, they are quite comfortable defending Christianity, and they are equally at ease attacking socialism or woke business or woke socialist business. But they are absolutely terrified to defend Whites by name. Indeed, one of their primary modes of defending America or Western culture’s honor is to insist that those things nothing to do with Whites!
For sure, it is true that leftist pathologies extend beyond anti-White resentment. And obviously our politics is broader than demonization of Whitey. But that is sort of the point, the idea of defending, let alone celebrating, Whites as Whites is understood to be off-the-table. And that reflects the fact that the implicit consensus is anti-Whiteness. If the national story we tell ourselves is of the gradual extension of tolerance and equal opportunity to all, the bold-print subtext of that story is the overcoming of Whiteness. And in practical effect, White identity is made the negative moral center of that American story.
I am not arguing that the vast majority of Americans are actively anti-White. To use the Kendian language, most are non-White identitarians, not anti-White identitarians. Anti-Whiteness has not bewitched 95% of Americans, body and soul, by any means. Of course not. In fact, I have no doubt that a large share of conservative Whites, maybe a majority, would prefer America to be a predominantly White country, or a Christian country, or a White Christian country. But they have been trained that it is wrong to speak, or even consciously think, in those terms. Which says it all. Anti-Whiteness may not be an especially stable national identity—it is an inherently divisive project—but for the time being, that is its role.
It’s possible I am overstating the anti-Whiteness thing, maybe it is only the most prominent component of a more expensive left-wing project of resentment. But that is ultimately beside the point. The larger picture, remember, is that Murray’s beloved liberal individualism is not suited to be an end in itself. Something will fill the vacuum, whether it’s anti-Whiteness or whatever else, but liberal individualism does not make a nation. And whatever it is you think is filling that vacuum at the moment, at the very least we can agree that it is hostile to White identity.
The Bell Curve era of White nationalism was a failure because its strategy was only to hitch White nationalism to liberal individualism. Their argument was that White nationalism was a necessary evil because diversity gets in the way of a peaceful Last Man existence. Like Murray, they had things backwards; liberal individualism is the means, not the end. And by the mid-aughts, the end was opposition to White identity, and thus White-nationalism-as-a-means-to-liberal-individualism was doomed from the start.
I do not expect that Murray or the rest of mainstream conservatism to learn anything from their decades of abysmal failure. They will continue to shout of the virtues of colorblindness and the dangers of identity politics for as long as anyone will listen. But that also means that there will remain a vacuum on the Right, and it is our job to fill it.
Ryan Andrews is the author of the forthcoming book The Elective Nation