AK: WHAT'S HATING WHITEY ABOUT?
DH: It's about the double standard in American life. We correctly ask of everybody that they be inclusive and tolerant towards other ethnic groups. We teach our children this. At the same time, there's a license to hate white people. In colleges and high schools, we teach a version of history and society in which white people are thoroughly demonized. We always look at the half empty glass instead of the half full one. We emphasize that whites enslaved blacks in this country, but not that white male Christians ended slavery and the slave trade in this country and probably world-wide.
The syndrome this creates of blaming white people for everything, every deficit, every disadvantage and every obstacle confronting minorities, deprives the minorities of a sense of their own power to affect their destinies, and deprives them and the rest of us of any chance to confront their problems. There's an example in Hating Whitey of black and Hispanic students not performing well enough on national standardized tests to get into elite colleges in appropriate numbers. The left and liberals generally ascribe this to institutional racism. Nobody actually claims that admissions officers want to keep blacks and Hispanics out. There's no racism to point to; the reality is that they don't do well on the tests.
AK: How does this worsen the problem?
DH: As long as we rig the standards, rig the tests, rig the entrance requirements, we can never get at the cause of the problem. It probably has more to do with the failure of kindergarten through twelfth-grade schools, the absence of fathers, and the absence of family in the homes of small children. That is itself a tragedy, but not something you can ascribe to racism. And we elevate racial antagonisms. My book tries to address this hypocrisy in national life where we're allowed to presume that whites are racist and unfair without any proof or reasonable evidence.
AK: Where does this thinking originate?
DH: I try to point out the continuity in this kind of racial politics. Marxism is a model where society must be divided into the oppressor and the oppressed … those who dominate and those who must be subjugated. There's a whole other way of looking at society in which you look at people as individuals, not primarily by their groups. Once you begin breaking down the groups, you notice Cuban Americans do well, Puerto Ricans don't. West Indian blacks do better than American-born blacks but they're just as black! There are lots of other factors other than group oppressions that can account for the problems people experience along the paths to economic and social well being.
AK: How is this analysis being received?
This kind of picture does not fuel the kind of civil-rights grievance crowd and their activism very well. There'd be a lot of people out of jobs in their organizations if this view was inculcated, rather than the Marxist view. Marxism has brought so much grief to the world, you'd think folks would think twice before adopting their view.
I've gotten myself into a lot of trouble by saying to Time magazine that nobody is really oppressed here that's because this is a free country and people can leave. If blacks were oppressed here, you'd expect there to be an exodus. Julian Bond ascribes to me the view that blacks should love America or leave it something I've never thought, much less said.
But you see that when countries are oppressive, people do leave. Not only are blacks not leaving America, they're flocking to our shores. The answer, once you lose the ideological blinders, and just look from a common-sense point of view, is that everybody knows why Haitians want to come here. They have more privilege and power here than they would in black-run Haiti, and more than in any black-run country in the world. That is because of the wonderful American social contract, which was created by a bunch of dead white males.
Each of us has God-given rights the government cannot take away. Of course, in the slave era, those blacks who were enslaved didn't have the opportunity, and didn't have it until the civil-rights movement of the Sixties. But now there are no such legal constraints and blacks can compete just like everybody else.
AK: Do you believe the legacy of the left has been handed to a successor generation or is the leftist ideology of the late 1960s and 1970s in the process of burning itself down and out?
DH: Oh, I think it's stronger than ever! It's entrenched in the universities and a lot of the media. I think the Internet is wonderful because it's so open and libertarian. Not in the ideological sense, but in the sense that it's a free medium. A lot of Hating Whitey is taken from Salon magazine columns that I wrote, expanded somewhat. It's a liberal-left magazine itself. I did spend a lot of years on the left and then had serious second thoughts—and Salon is the first left-wing magazine that has asked me to write for them. I think it's no accident that it's an Internet journal. I think that contemporary leftists don't even recognize their roots in the old Communist left, but those roots are very very profound. I show in Hating Whitey how those roots are Marxist in character.
AK: What else does Hating Whitey cover?
DH: A good part of the book is not devoted to race, but to other progressive causes. There's a whole section on the American university and its politicization and leftist decline over the last thirty years. How lacking in intellectual diversity it is, and how committed to the agendas of kitsch Marxism. And I deal with other things like the misrepresentation of the past by the left. I defend Christopher Hitchens who was a leftist who was shunned for committing a politically incorrect deed. He filed an affidavit on Sidney Blumenthal perjuring himself, exposing the White House strategy to destroy the reputations of the women that Clinton had abused, in order to neutralize them as witnesses against him. It's to Christopher Hitchens' credit that he ousted him. What I found particularly interesting was the spectacle of his friends of 20 and 30 years stepping forward to publicly announce they wouldn't speak to him anymore. This should chill anyone who thinks the left is benign. There's a direct line between making someone like Christopher an un-person and erasing your relationship with him and the gulag. The difference between when progressives have serious power and when they don't is clear.
Read an excerpt from Hating Whitey. Some questions were contributed by Jon Hoorsta of Republican Forum and Glen Chapman of Political Debate Forum.
This interview was conducted by Alex Krislov for Readers & Writers Ink on CompuServe. Copyright © 1999 Readers & Writers Ink.