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Autumn 1998
City Journal Autumn 1998.
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  S oundings

Nobel Lie
Wendy Shalit
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I'm on an e-mail list for a racist, anti-Semitic group called The National Alliance, so I can keep up with the diatribes of one Dr. William Pierce. Pierce's e-mails transcribe his radio broadcasts,  "America's Dissident Voices." This man is no mere dissident, though: he thinks the U.S. fought on the wrong side in World War II, that Jews control the world, and that therefore it's "time for the shedding of blood." Every week he sends out a new rant blaming everything he doesn't like on "the Blacks and the Jews."

One particularly revolting broadcast—or so I naively thought—occurred a few months ago, when he argued that since Bill Clinton is so disgusting, he must be black: "He is not only amoral, but he also lacks the judgment and self-control necessary to conform his behavior to reasonable norms. . . . For [Clinton] it's always been doing what he wants to do at the moment and figuring that later he'll be able to lie himself out of any problems which arise. He behaves as if . . . he has a substantial non-White component in his genetic makeup. He displays the type of mentality characteristic of Blacks."

Imagine my surprise, then, when I picked up the October 5, 1998, New Yorker and read Nobel-prizewinning novelist Toni Morrison making a strikingly similar argument: "White skin notwithstanding," she explained, "this is our first black President." And how does Morrison reach this conclusion? "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas," she writes. Apparently another "trope of blackness," too: Morrison fiercely defends Clinton's "unpoliced sexuality" from the persecutions of rabid Republicans, who would say to him, as to African-American men in general, "[Y]our expletives belong to us."

Two possibilities arise: either William Pierce's views really are acceptable—New Yorker material, even—and my initial revulsion was unjustified, or Toni Morrison has slipped into racism. The first possibility seems far less likely. Pierce is a Holocaust denier and a rabid hater of blacks and Jews—not company Toni Morrison should or, I imagine, would like to keep. So, if she wants to grant Clinton some special dispensation, she should do so on grounds other than that he's "really black." Because what she's saying is racist bunk: that we can't hold black men to the same moral standards as the rest of us, since they're just too oversexed. Pierce or, for that matter, David Duke would readily agree.

 

 


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