Paved with Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America.
by Jared Taylor.
Carroll & Graf. 416 pp. $22.95.
The election of Bill Clinton has, among other things, confounded predictions that racial division would ensure Republican control of the White House for at least the rest of this century. Race, in fact, was a non-issue in the campaign; white concerns about welfare, crime, affirmative action, the behavior of the urban poor, and other racially tinged problems were far overshadowed by apprehensions about the country’s economic condition, fear of the budget deficit, and nervousness over the rising cost of medical care.
If anxiety over American decline was principally responsible for pushing race and other social issues to the margins of the campaign, Clinton’s shrewdly plotted strategy must be given credit as well. He deftly neutralized the welfare issue—which some observers early on saw as the central question of the election—by promising a bold program to curtail welfare as a “way of life.” He repeatedly invoked the theme of Americans exercising personal responsibility in their private lives if they were to benefit from the generosity of the government. And he treated Jesse Jackson in a manner that, given Jackson’s prominence in the Democratic party, could only be described as humiliating, accurately calculating that the alienation of Jackson would not cost him the loyalty of other, less controversial, black leaders.
Clinton’s goal was to erase the image of the Democrats as the party of the double standard, the party in which blacks and whites were judged by different norms, racial quotas were championed, and the word “compassion” was interpreted to mean spending public funds to support an urban underclass widely seen as sexually irresponsible and uninterested in work.
That Clinton was successful in recapturing the allegiance of disenchanted white voters—the so-called Reagan Democrats—while maintainng the overwhelming and apparently enthusiastic support of blacks is certainly a tribute to his skill as a candidate. But as President, he is sure to find the challenge of sustaining the support of this diverse coalition much more formidable, and most likely impossible. Impossible because of the degree to which the double standard has become entrenched both in government policy and in the attitudes of America’s political and cultural elites.
It is precisely this which Jared Taylor sets himself to attack in Paved With Good Intentions, a sustained polemic against the tendency to ascribe racial inequality to white prejudice, the refusal to hold blacks accountable for their personal behavior, and the search for justifications to provide guaranteed slots for blacks throughout the country’s institutions.
At its best, Paved With Good Intentions accurately reflects the indignation shared by many who believe that the way America is dealing with its racial difficulties is unfair and self-defeating. At his best, Taylor exhibits an admirable tenacity as a researcher, supporting his theme that a racial double standard pervades and corrupts American life with a vast assemblage of studies and anecdotes.
But like most polemics, this one also has its weaknesses—and rather considerable ones at that. Taylor does not seem familiar with the historical processes which have led us to today’s deplorable state of affairs. Furthermore, he seems unable to distinguish between ideas which pose a genuine threat to fair play and individual rights and extreme proposals dug up from obscure sources whose chances of adoption are practically nonexistent. Finally, he judges as equally obnoxious social policies like enterprise zones, drafted to deal with real issues of inequality, and those measures (like race-norming) put forward simply to purchase social peace.
The best, and most disturbing, chapters in this book are those dealing with the criminal justice system. Ever since the civil-rights revolution, blacks and many liberal whites have portrayed that system as rigged from top to bottom against blacks, especially young black males. In response to these charges, extraordinary efforts have been made to purge the system of bias. Big-city police departments have scrapped tests and instituted quotas to ensure that more blacks are hired and promoted. Black mayors have been elected in part to restore the black community’s faith in the system of law enforcement. The exclusion of blacks from juries has been invalidated.
Now Taylor has come up with considerable anecdotal evidence to suggest that if blacks were once treated unfairly by the criminal-justice system, today it is often black criminals and lawyers who have become adept at exploiting racial sensitivities. Where white defendants in the South could once rely on the racial solidarity of white jurors, it is now the attorneys of accused blacks who address racial appeals to heavily black juries, with sometimes unsettling results. Among cases mentioned by Taylor are those of Larry Davis, who was acquitted by an all-minority New York City jury after having shot and wounded five policemen, and Marion Barry, the former Washington, D.C. mayor, who was handed a light sentence on drug-use charges by a jury whose black members openly made race a consideration in reaching a verdict.
Taylor does not shrink from challenging the sacred notion that occasional incidents of race-related murder of blacks by whites signify a pervasive atmosphere of prejudice. He argues convincingly that the two best-known New York City incidents—the killing of black youths in the Howard Beach section of Queens and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn—prove practically nothing about the state of black-white relations. Indeed, far from fitting into a pattern, these two incidents were highly unusual, a fact which helps explain the media attention paid to them. According to national crime statistics, cases in which groups of whites assault or kill blacks are rather rare in America today. And Taylor further notes that while race was an element in both Howard Beach and Bensonhurst, other, nonracial issues were also at play. In neither instance were marauding whites intent on killing the first innocent black they encountered.
Nor, Taylor reminds us, is racial violence limited to white-on-black assault. He cites several instances in which groups of blacks set out to maim or kill whites, in circumstances much like those surrounding Howard Beach and Bensonhurst. In one chilling case, a black cult required new recruits to murder a white in order to gain full membership. But not one of these cases drew the attention of the national media, and Taylor suggests that in some instances the local political leadership conspired with the media to ensure that the racial aspect of the incident was minimized.
Proceeding a step further, Taylor hints at a deliberate attempt to obscure the wild disproportion between black-on-white and white-on-black crime. According to figures compiled by the FBI, for example, in 1988 there were over 9,400 cases of black-on-white rape, whereas there were fewer than ten rape cases reported in which blacks were the victims of whites. Similar if less dramatic statistics are cited for such crimes as murder and gang robbery.
Despite the many cases of black-on-white violent crime, questions are seldom asked in any particular instance as to whether race was the motive. Yet clearly race is a factor in most such crimes, at least insofar as whites are wealthier and therefore more lucrative targets for robbery and mayhem. Taylor, in any event, seems to be arguing not so much for careful scrutiny of every interracial crime for evidence of bias as for an end to the double standard which predominates today, and, although he does not specifically advocate it, a dose of benign neglect on racial affairs.
In short, looking at Taylor’s statistics, news accounts, and evaluations, one is hard-pressed to resist the conclusion that the old stereotype of brutal whites robbing, beating, and killing black men and raping black women has been reversed, so that today it is whites who most fear the criminal depredation of blacks. And at least some of these crimes, it would appear from Taylor’s book, take place in a system in which black criminal defendants get off as free as Southern nightriders in the days of segregation.
The political repercussions of racial polarization during the coming period are difficult to gauge. But it is worth noting that Clinton’s showing among white voters was less than impressive. Blacks, in fact, were crucial to the new President’s election, and black political leaders are, if anything, more committed than the black electorate at large to the distribution of resources along racial lines. These leaders have gained added power through the expansion of the black and Hispanic congressional delegations, itself a product of precisely the kind of racial gerrymandering that Taylor finds one of the more objectionable examples of racial double standards.
Meanwhile, Taylor has unearthed signs of what may be a new, emerging phenomenon: the banding-together of whites to defend their interests. He cites white caucuses in police departments and corporations to fight what are seen as the unfair consequences of affirmative action. White-power groups have also been formed by prison inmates, not, as in the past, to terrorize black prisoners, but as a means of defense against assault and sexual molestation, of which whites have become special targets.
That whites are emulating the tactics of minorities in seeking rewards and protection is hardly inspiriting news. But we can anticipate an acceleration of this trend as long as society sends the corrosive message that in America, appeals to race ultimately pay off.