Heather Mac Donald, the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, joins Brian C. Anderson to discuss her new book, When Race Trumps Merit: How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty, and Threatens Lives.

Audio Transcript

Brian Anderson: Good evening, everyone. Thanks for joining us to note the release of When Race Trumps Merit: How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty, and Threatens Lives. I'm Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal. It's my honor to introduce the book's author, Heather Mac Donald.

Heather is the Manhattan Institute's Thomas W. Smith Fellow. She's a contributing editor of City Journal, who has written for the magazine almost since its inception. Her byline appears regularly in the Wall Street Journal and many other leading publications. She's also the author of the bestsellers The War on Cops and The Diversity Delusion. Just for kicks, I asked ChatGPT who the most influential City Journal writers are, and Heather's name headed the list.

Over the years, Heather's scrupulous and groundbreaking work has shed light on important trends in American life. Her new book brings relentless reporting to perhaps the most dangerous one yet, which is the equity craze that is threatening our scientific, cultural, and public institutions.

In this new book, When Race Trumps Merit, she details the rise of disparate impact ideology and its potential to do enormous harm to our society. Her book also represents a powerful defense of our civilizational inheritance. So we'll discuss all of that and more tonight. So, Heather, let me start.

So in the wake of George Floyd's death in May 2020, activists heightened their cries for so-called racial equity and the proportional representation of races in American institutions and organizations. The press published countless stories about minorities' underrepresentation in various fields and firms. Corporations began to fall over themselves proclaiming their guilt in perpetuating racial inequity.

Now driving this shift was the concept of disparate impact, which is really at the center of your book. So what is the core idea of disparate impact and can you trace briefly its origins and how it's metastasized in this post-Floyd period?

Heather Mac Donald: Thank you, Brian. First of all, let me give a—I hate to use the phrase, but a trigger warning. I'm going to discuss things that are very uncomfortable to talk about. I'm talking about group averages and average skills, average behavioral, cultural predilections.

I'm not making any judgements about any individual within any particular racial group. There are thousands of individuals in this racial group or that racial group that outperform everybody else. We can't make any assumptions about individuals based on their membership in groups.

But the discourse that is tearing down our civilization, that is tearing down meritocratic standards, is itself couched in grotesque generalities. It has to be answered with certain observations about group performance. So just please steel yourself for some truths that are really taboo across our population.

The idea of disparate impact is the idea that any standard, meritocratic in terms of academic skills, that has a negative impact on certain minority groups, and above all on blacks, is by definition racist, unless, in the legal context, it can be justified at a very high standard of business necessity.

So, for instance, if you've noticed for the last several decades there's been challenge after challenge to police entrance exams or firefighter exams. The accusation always is these are racist exams for no other reason than blacks fail them at higher rates than whites. And so, the assumption always is, well, the exam is racist. The meritocratic standard is racist. Throw out the test and lower standards until we get a standard that will not have a negative disparate impact.

What is never allowed to be looked at and examined is what are the underlying average rates of academic skills? The standard is not itself racist, but now we are going around declaring any standard that has a disparate impact on blacks per se racist, and we're throwing them out.

This began initially in the context of employment hiring. It was a way of expanding the civil rights laws beyond the requirement that you needed to intentionally discriminate. An employer needed to intentionally say, "I don't want to hire qualified blacks," that is per se illegal and unconstitutional. Disparate impact arose because it was getting harder and harder to find employers that were intentionally discriminating against competitively qualified minorities.

And so, the new rule was you could be completely colorblind as an employer, but if you're using an employment criterion that disqualifies blacks disproportionately, you've got to get rid of it. Now that idea has left way beyond the judicial opinions, legal codes, and is simply the lens through which we judge all of our mainstream institutions.

Brian Anderson: So this ideology is, as you document in the book, corrupting the sciences. This is the opening section of the book. It's very alarming, and it's happening fast. So, increasingly, diversity and equity criteria are ruling everything from grants and scholarships to government scientific appointments, to even how medicine is being practiced.

Merit is no longer the leading criterion in many of these situations. So I wonder if you could give an overview of this development and what we stand to lose with the de-emphasis of merit in the sciences.

Heather Mac Donald: Well, we're putting lives at risk with the insistence on pushing people ahead into medicine who are not competitively qualified. We're also putting scientific research at risk. But here's an example of how the disparate impact analysis works.

College seniors applying to medical school take something called the MCATs, the Medical College Admission Test, and those have a disparate impact on black students. Blacks MCATs scores are at the rock bottom. And so, various medical schools now are deciding that for black students, they'll either waive the MCATs completely. That's a developing trend.

For decades, they have been having two separate standards for admission. So blacks are admitted with MCAT scores that would be automatically disqualifying if presented by a white or Asian student. A black student with slightly below average MCATs and GPA has a nine times greater chance of admission to a medical school than a white student or an Asian student. Again, these would be scores that would be disqualifying otherwise.

The medical school licensing exam has gone pass/fail rather than being graded, because, again, the licensing exam has a disparate impact on black medical students. It is used to screen students for some of the most competitive residencies during medical school.

The schools have decided we would rather get rid of grades, and the actual medical licensing body would rather get rid of grades, and destroy our ability to actually rank students than give a completely colorblind neutral test that has no racial bias in it. It's objective, it's computer-graded, that has a disparate impact on blacks.

The preferences never end. The pressure is enormous on schools to hire doctors based on race, to promote doctors based on race, to put them in the charge of medical research.

The pressure is also coming from national funding agencies. The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation are now making race a more important qualification for receiving medical grants than actual scientific qualification. If you want to get a grant for your Alzheimer's research lab or a greater neurology lab, you have to show how your work affects and improves diversity and how your own lab is working to change the demographics of its research core.

Now, frankly, I don't care who discovers the neurological pathways that are responsible for Alzheimer's, if that lab is all Chinese, if it's all female, if it's all black, if it's all white. I don't care. The only thing that matters is, are these the most qualified scientists?

But in the United States, and uniquely in the United States, we've made the decision that diversity is more important than meritocracy. Meanwhile, China doesn't pay attention to identity politics, and it is racing full speed ahead, trying to throw everything it's got at its most talented, mathematically inclined, and scientifically inclined students without saying, "We have to pull down their capacity in order to make sure that all groups end up at the same rate at the end of the line."

Brian Anderson: So that's science. The next major part of the book is on something very close to your heart, which is culture and the arts. So you described the distortion and vilification of western high culture by activists who see it now primarily as camouflage for a regime of racial discrimination and domination.

I think what's most striking in reading your book, this part of the book, is the complicity of leading artistic institutions in this ongoing attack on our Western cultural inheritance. This, too, I think you would say, has accelerated since the George Floyd killing. So maybe you could document a little bit what's been happening there as you do in the book.

Heather Mac Donald: Yeah. It's stunning to me. If you're running an opera company or an orchestra, or you're Max Hollein, the head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or James Rondeau, the head of the Art Institute of Chicago, you should be down on your knees in gratitude every day at your privileged existence to curate artistic traditions that are among the most sublime in world history, that allow the human being to escape his petty, narrow, pathetically ignorant self and expand into forms of consciousness and understanding that are so much greater than any of us could ever hope to experience.

Whether it's the Oresteia by Aeschylus, one of the great tragic trilogies of the classical age of Athens to read, sends chills down your spine with its perception of the human thirst for vengeance and the transcendence of finally reaching a rule of law and a hope for justice, or whether it's Renaissance poetry, pastoral poetry, or the languor and eros of late Brahms piano music or Chopin Nocturnes, or the tragic catharsis that we get from Bach's St. Matthew Passion, these are works that none of us really deserve.

It turns out that the heads of our classical music organizations, our literature departments, our art museums, really don't deserve them because, they are going around telling the public, and what is most criminal is telling young people, to hate these traditions on the pathetic grounds that they came out of Europe and thus, by definition, inevitably were created by Caucasian people.

Heather Mac Donald: That is the European tradition. Get over it. It is the past. We cannot change it. Europe was not 13 percent black. It probably still is not. To expect that the canon of classical composers should be 13 percent black, and if it's not, it's per se racist is preposterous.

Now, of course, there are fantastic black composers, but they arose much later in our tradition. But now you have Alex Ross, one of the leading classical music critics in the country, writing for The New Yorker, apologizing for himself being white and curating a tradition that is, as he puts it, blindingly white. He apologizes for white audiences, he apologizes for white donors.

The other most important classical music critic in the country, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times, has called for making orchestral auditions color-conscious, so that musicians can be hired on the basis of race. Currently, they often start for several levels behind a screen so that the auditioners do not know the identity of the performers.

As with all things in our disparate impact-obsessed world today, we have now decided that mechanisms that are inherently colorblind are themselves racist. And so, this applies to the audition screen. It applies to red-light cameras. A red-light camera does not know who's driving the car. But if red-light cameras show us that in certain neighborhoods blacks are running red lights or speeding at higher rates, then the camera is racist and will be thrown out. That is going on across the country.

So you have museums now erecting wall labels that teach their viewers to see the great baroque masterpieces of the Dutch golden age—the still lifes of translucent grapes, and lemons, and silver that is shining in the light—to see those still lifes as colonialist, because at the same time as they were being painted, Holland and the Netherlands had colonial territories.

And so, you have this massive mea culpa that is being promulgated by people whose only obligation in life is to share this beauty and to tell young people, "Come to my museum. Listen to this music. If you die without hearing these works, you will have lived a poorer life than you could otherwise have lived." But everything now is being filtered through the completely specious lens of racial inequity.

Brian Anderson: You began to talk about the question of law and order, which was also discussed in the book, that gets into a public policy question. You describe, and you have described, and written about this in the past, the disconnect between what residents of minority neighborhoods have in the past said they want in law enforcement and the relentless anti-policing rhetoric of many legislators and activists.

You found that blacks and other minorities have, in the past anyway, appreciated visible proactive policing. In fact, they've called for police to take more stringent measures in their communities. I remember you used to go to community meetings in the Bronx and elsewhere where that would be what was discussed.

I wonder if that disconnect continues to hold in the post-George Floyd era. More broadly, what influence has the disparate impact analysis had on public safety?

Heather Mac Donald: Well, disparate impact analysis on public safety has been disastrous, absolutely disastrous. The narrative is that colorblind constitutional law enforcement that has a disparate impact on black criminals is per se racist. You have the redoubled falsehood that black parents are right to fear that their children will be killed by a cop or by a white person every time they step outside.

Joe Biden ran on this during the his presidential campaign. He said it the day before he was inaugurated. He said it in his inaugural speech. He said it constantly. It is a constant theme that is a falsehood.

Blacks have a tragically higher rate of death by gun homicide. Blacks between the ages of 10 and 24 die of gun homicide at 25 times the rate of whites between the ages of 10 and 24. That is a civil rights problem that you would think that civil rights activists would care about. They will not talk about it, because if they were to talk about it honestly and look at the actual data, what we know from the victims of, witnesses to non-fatal shootings and the witnesses to fatal shootings is that that black death by gun homicide rate is caused almost exclusively by black criminals.

You could take out all police shootings of black men today, you could take out all white shootings of black men today, it would have virtually no effect on the black death by gun homicide rate. And yet we are blaming the cops. We're blaming the criminal law enforcement.

Everything that you see that you may have been puzzling over in the post-George Floyd era, why are these prosecutors not prosecuting trespass, turnstile jumping, resisting arrest, which is the most appalling thing not to prosecute, because it's basically saying to cops open season on you guys and, as prosecutors, we don't care. We're decriminalizing resisting arrest. Why are they not prosecuting gun possession, drug possession, prostitution, disorderly conduct, loitering? It is all driven by disparate impact. It's all you need to know to understand our world today.

The reason that Kim Foxx in Chicago, that Alvin Bragg in New York, that George Gascón, the worst Soros prosecutor in the whole country, has decided to put entire categories of crime off limits to his district attorneys is because enforcing them have a disparate impact, not because that enforcement is racist but because the black crime rate is so much higher.

I have spent a lot of time in high-crime neighborhoods talking to the residents there. I go to police community meetings and I talk to the good, law-abiding people who deserve the same freedom from fear as residents of Park Avenue. What I've heard again and again is, "We want more police. I smell marijuana in my hallway. Why can't you do something about it? They're smoking weed at the club that I see outside the window. Why can't you arrest those people? Why are you allowing kids to hang out by the hundreds on the corner fighting? Whatever happened to truancy laws?"

People want proactive enforcement that are living with the effects of de-policing and the disparate impact crusade. They never get heard. It is a very bizarre thing.

If you were a civil rights activist and we're going to do sort of a Rawlsian experiment of, like, imagine before we know the actual reality of things. You could imagine a civil rights activist taking the side of black victims rather than black criminals. One even might have expected that, because black victims are the ones whose lives are being destroyed. But all our civil rights activists have taken the side of black criminals.

They say that they would rather not put more criminals in prison where they cannot continue preying on elderly black ladies who are terrified to go into their building lobby to pick up their mail when kids are there trespassing, smoking weed, and selling drugs. They would rather allow those good, honest, law-abiding people to just have to figure things out for themselves than make arrests and increase any racial disparities that we have in prison.

That, to me, is a very perverse decision. It looks to me, at this point, the only people who care about black lives are the police and white conservatives, because the only people were talking about crime before the 2022 elections were basically conservative news outlets, but they were accused of doing racist dog whistles. If you talk about black victims, you're a racist. It's a very curious thing.

I can tell you, if white conservatives stopped paying attention to crime, nobody's going to pay attention. The New York Times doesn’t care about black victims. The only black victims they ever care about are those that are killed by a cop, and those are very small in number.

In 2021, there were six unarmed blacks killed by police officers, fatally shot by police officers. A police officer was 400 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black was to be killed by a police officer. But those are the data that are not allowed into the public discourse.

Brian Anderson: Racial preferences in hiring and academic admissions, another theme of your book, clearly diminish opportunities for disfavored or unfavored groups. So policies designed to boost the prospects of black and, to some extent, Hispanic applicants, often disadvantaged whites and Asians who have higher scores or often better credentials and are vying for the same positions. Disparate impact adherents dismiss this racial rebalancing act as necessary to advance the life chances of underprivileged minorities.

But you would have to say this is wildly unfair to the newly disadvantaged, we could call them, and a sure way to perpetuate an increased racial tensions over time. So that would be one question. What is the reaction going to be to the perpetuation of these policies? Then looking at the policies themselves, how do racial preference policies impact their intended beneficiaries? It's not always a positive thing.

Heather Mac Donald: Right. Asians are getting radicalized on this because they are screwed the most. The standards for getting in, if you're Asian, into selective schools get higher and higher because the numbers that they're allowed to be admitted, in order to set aside spots for the racial preference beneficiaries, get smaller and smaller.

The schools that purport to say, well, the SATs are racist, if they haven't banned SATs completely, they are calculating Asians’ scores out to the 0.0001 percent decimal. It's no longer enough to play the violin and the piano any longer. You probably better add the bassoon. You probably also better be really good at baseball and get the Math Olympiad.

So there's starting to be a reaction. We see this especially at the high school level, where various exam schools that are trying to create environments for people that are the most academically motivated, like Stuyvesant School in New York City that has a colorblind, objective, computer-graded exam to get in. It's, I think, 70 percent Asian. There's decades of pressure to say get rid of the exam, start admitting by race.

It hasn't yet. There's been tweaking. But other places have gotten rid of their exams. Lowell High School in San Francisco was also predominantly Asian, and they went to a lottery system instead of the exam. Not surprisingly, the first year after the lottery was instituted, the rates of D's and F's went up 300 percent. Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia also has gotten rid of its neutral, colorblind, completely objective admissions test because they want to engineer greater racial proportionality.

Asians are starting to get radicalized on this. The equity argument against racial preferences has been the favored one for conservatives for years, that this is reverse discrimination. It's not fair to people who have done nothing. Asians are not responsible for slavery, and, frankly, none of us today are either, unless you do believe in the inheritance of acquired characteristics and we all somehow now are bearing the genes and responsibility of slave holders.

Let me also put in an aside here. Our racial history is appalling. It is sickening. We were a white-supremacist country. We were in an apartheid country. Whites treated blacks with excruciating cruelty, contempt, gratuitous nastiness until very recently. We are not that country today. We are not. As incredible as it would've been to expect that even by the 1960s, there is not a single mainstream institution today that is not twisting itself into knots to hire and promote as many black applicants as possible.

I would like to know any black student applying to a college today who's going to put down his race as white because he thinks that's going to help him get in. To the contrary, if your white heterosexual male son can get away with putting his race down as black, he'd be better off doing so.

So the argument has traditionally been couched against racial preferences that it's unfair to whites and Asians, and I get that. The case before the Supreme Court that is challenging Harvard's preferences and the University of North Carolina's preferences will probably use the same old, tired, equal-protection jurisprudence of strict scrutiny. It's got so many fictions in it, it makes me want to throw up.

I hope, and this is very unlikely, that they actually overturn racial preferences on a pragmatic ground, which is something known as mismatch, which is that preferences do not do their beneficiaries any favor.

Let me take it out of the race context and put it into the sex context. If MIT admitted me with 600s on my math SATs—and I'm not going to tell you what they actually were. I'm not sure I remember them, but I sort of do—and I had 600 on my math SATs on an 800-point scale, and all of my peers that were not the so-called beneficiaries of preferences had 800s on their math SATs, I am going to flunk my freshman calculus class, and I'm going to struggle if I even stick with a STEM field throughout my class.

Of course, MIT's diversity bureaucracy will tell me, "Well, you're the victim of misogyny. You're in an anti-female environment," whereas the reality is, no, I'm in an environment for which I'm not competitively qualified.

There is no shame in going to a second-tier school. Boston College and Boston University provide perfectly good, serviceable educations. If I'd been admitted instead of propelled above my capacity at that time to a school for which I was competitively qualified and where I shared my peers' qualifications, I would do perfectly well. The same happens with blacks.

They're bearing the almost unique burden of having to compete in environments for which they're not competitively qualified, and the results speak for themselves. Law schools employ vast racial preferences. Here's what happens at the end of the first year of law school.

First-year law grades are all colorblind. They are anonymous. Teachers don't know who's writing the blue books. Fifty-one percent of black law students, at the end of their first year in law school, end up at the bottom 10 percent of their class. Two-thirds of Black law students, at the end of their first year of law school, end up at the bottom 20 percent of their class. The gaps never close.

This is not something that is a good way of reducing racial stereotyping, but it is also not a good way to increase the number of black lawyers, because the number of blacks who fail the bar six times in a row and never pass it is six times higher than whites, because black students have been put at the disadvantage of being in law schools where they are not competitively qualified.

Of course, blacks should become lawyers and go to law school. They should go under the same conditions as everybody else and not have this burden of the preference catapult that makes it harder to compete.

So I hope that somebody has put in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, and Clarence Thomas or John Roberts will say, "This is the thing that I want the public to understand about this preference regime that we've been living with since Bakke in 1978, that has not just destroyed meritocratic standards, but has been an actual disability for the people who purport to benefit from it.”

Brian Anderson: Those who speak honestly and stand up to this regime, this disparate impact regime, they risk losing their livelihood and social standing, at least in some cases. And so, your book includes interviews with several employees of prestigious scientific and cultural institutions. They vehemently oppose racial preferences. They see what you've described going on, but they're unwilling to express their sentiments publicly. You can understand that because of the fear of consequences.

So I wonder, does opposition within these institutions to defend merit, does someone who does this become a martyr? Is that their only choice, or are there other ways to fight back against this?

Heather Mac Donald: Yeah. As I was finishing this book, I asked an oncologist who had been directed by the head of the Natural Cancer Institutes that give something out called the Outstanding Investigator Awards. These are awards that the federal government gives to the most cutting-edge cancer researchers that are doing high-risk science.

In other words, it has a high risk of total failure. It may be based on a theory that is so off-the-wall that it's not ever going to produce any results, but if it does produce results, wow, this has a possibility to be absolutely paradigm-shattering. These investigator awards are very lucrative. You can basically take six years off from teaching in order to just focus exclusively on this fight.

I talked to an oncologist who lives to cure cancer. That's all he wants in his life. He'd been notified by the head or the deputy director of the National Cancer Institutes, say, "The Outstanding Investigator Awards have not been going so well recently. They're not diverse enough. Please broaden the criteria for nominations and send us more diverse candidates so that we can award more diverse awards."

Not a word about meritocracy. This was not about the scientific qualifications that you've been sending us are inadequate. We want a higher tier of scientists. No, that was not what the game was about. It was about lower your standards so that we can show diverse faces when we have our class of awardees.

I said, "When are you guys going to stand up against this? This is sickening." He said, "We need our jobs. We want our jobs. If we stand up, we will be crushed. Those who have done so are now complete pariahs. The whole system, it's going to take 50 years. It's going to have to collapse completely and be rebuilt from the ground up." I feel for him.

I would say people in my position who are not in canceling institutions, those of us who are more insulated, have an absolute obligation to give the facts that explain disparate impact. I am not going to be cowed into silence. It's too late. It's too late. It's all coming down. People like us have to speak up.

I'll give you an honest description here of what writers and speakers are under. You're supposed to always have a positive solution. Even though I'm a pessimist and I don't necessarily feel very optimistic, but audiences want to believe there's hope and there's something they can all rally behind. So I'm scratching my head, and what can I do with a solution? Because it, frankly, looks to me a very tough nut to crack.

So I came up with an idea of an institution that would be apart from any particular institution like somebody's medical school or somebody's tech startup that would be ready to snap into action whenever there is an amazingly surprisingly courageous scientist like Norman Wang, an electrophysiologist at the University of Pittsburgh, who ran a lab, had all sorts of students that he was advising, top in his field.

He dared write an article in a scientific journal saying racial preferences in medicine are not working out. We've tried them. They're not working out. We're lowering our standards. We're not helping advance medicine. We're not helping the students.

He was completely canceled. He was taken off his post. He was stripped of his research capacity. He's not allowed to have any contact with students.

This is what happens. People are destroyed by telling the truth. And so, I thought maybe if we could have an organization that would have, at their fingertips, data on the academic skills gap, put them out there, put them out there on the crime gap, so that when the police are being vilified and we have now a total recruiting and retention crisis, there is hardly a big city police department that is anywhere close to the number of officers it needs in order to fight crime. Even if the prosecutors were willing to actually bring a case against a shoplifter or a thief, but they don't have the officers to make those arrests because there's been such a post-George Floyd flight from the profession.

So if we could have an organization that would give the data to support this, that's one hope. Otherwise, all I can say is courage. Refuse to apologize, refuse to back down, because at this point I believe there is a good argument to be made for racial etiquette.

As I say, these are uncomfortable things to talk about. Nobody wants to hear about it. But the time for racial etiquette is over, because as long as racism remains the only allowable explanation for racial disparities in a medical school, in an Alzheimer's lab, in a classical music orchestra, in a bank, in your corporation, in a newspaper, as long as racial disparities remain the only allowable explanation, it's all coming down.

We have to be able to fight back with the actual explanation, which are these tragic disparities that we can all agree need to be fixed, and we all have different explanations or solutions for fixing them, but they need to be solved at the core spot, at the family, at the earliest ages of childhood to socialize children, to get rid of the anti-acting-white ethic, which penalizes many black students who are doing their homework, who are taking their textbooks home, who believe that they can meet standards, who want to learn. If they are criticized by their peers for acting white, that's something that is very hard to overcome. That has to change.

But 22 years down the line, saying, well, the solution for this is to get rid of standards of medical competence, or engineering, or chemistry and have double standards of admission, that is not how we solve it. We have to start explaining why our institutions are not, at present, racially proportionate. The only way they will be is with a more honest discourse. It is paternalistic. It is condescending to lower standards rather than saying we know that everybody can meet those standards.

Brian Anderson: Right. I'll ask the final question here, as we're out of time. This is a personal one, Heather. In this book and throughout your career at City Journal and elsewhere, you've written about some pretty upsetting trends in American life. So, you mentioned you're a pessimist. I wonder what motivates you to keep going?

Heather Mac Donald: Sorrow and rage. My heart is broken on a daily basis to see the things I love torn down with such ignorance. They’re not just the things that I love, but that so many people love. I can't take it any longer. I'm furious at the ignorance that is allowed to dominate our culture and our civilization.

I'm the most privileged person in the world to have had a liberal arts education, the humanities, to be able to have read English literature before anybody thought to instruct me that I should feel oppressed by reading dead white males. It never occurred to me or to my peers to reject reading John Milton or Alexander Pope or William Wordsworth or Edmund Spenser or Chaucer because they were white males. All I knew was that I couldn't understand Milton's syntax in Paradise Lost. That was what failed me, not his dead white maleness.

So I had to work very hard at that, but I'm glad that I did. Milton's vision of paradise in Paradise Lost is one of the most sensually charged acts of linguistic beauty and accomplishment of utter richness of fecundity, the world that he describes.

I am very privileged that I got to read those books. It breaks my heart that generations that have come after me have been given excuses for their own ignorance, and all they care about is pursuing these fictions of their own victimhood and their alleged fragility. It's nauseating. I can't stand it. We all have to stop being brow-beaten into silence. Whether it's the fiction of fragility and safety, the fiction of racial oppression, we have to start fighting back and fighting for our civilization.

Brian Anderson: Well, on that note, I want to thank you, Heather.

Heather Mac Donald: Thank you.

Photo: jacoblund/iStock

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