« The Perfect and the Good | Main | "Nigger" Reconsidered »



"And on conviction, I think he gets a pass. First of all, no one has claimed that Richards harbors some secret racist worldview. He's the prototypical Hollywood liberal, and he's clearly devastated by the notion that he might be considered a racist. "

I think the notion that liberals, and particularly Hollywood liberals, should be given a pass on hate speech is a notion that is going to require an awful lot of defending.

Emma Morrow

Kent, you are so very right: Liberals are the MOST bigoted in modern society, and Hollywood Liberals are the Worst of the Worst.

Bigot McBigot

Emma, thems fightin words.
I Bigot McBigot, challenge
any liberul to a bigot-off!
I will out-bigot anyone!
I pee hate-o-rade.
I not only hate the game,
I hate the player.
My rap name is
Notorious B.I.G.O.T.
(look for my album on Island records next year)

Bigot McBigot

Steve Sailor, your bigotry is weak, I say!
Hiding behind PC language like a liberul cowerd!
Biggie McBigot 0WNZ0RS you!
My bigotizings are legend.

I will correct your bigotizing -- you are my new student -- learn from master:
Blackz R gud at sportz.
Girlz R suxors at math.

Don't fear the PC police, Steve Sailor. Biggie McBigot got your back.

Charles Follymacher

i know we've hit a nerve when the Sailer rebuttals get extra lengthy and voluminous and long and redundant and fillerbustery (so as to dissuade new readers from scrolling up) and long and extra extra and "deep" and so on and so forth and blablabla and (of course) yadda-yadda.

Still mining for more great gems, Malcolm? Ever the cockeyed optimist. At this point we can resort to shorthand, no?





Hey, here is a test. Mr. Gladwell makes a good living speaking at corporations. Could he do an analysis of the other speakers at those corporations. Then, tell us, eliminating sports, racial issues and those "motivational" speakers, how many blacks are invited to speak on topics such as his own specialty and other more technical fields. And will Gladwell boycott the corporations that according to those findings descriminate?
One more thing, how come the earlier racism discussion is so black and white on this blog? I have Japanese friends and they look down on all the races including my own. I worked with Mexicans who the KKK might have been willing to give honorary memberships to because of their strong anti-black sentiment. Just wondering?



Wow. I'm continually surprised at how long such discussions go and in how many directions. Congratulations, it's really not a party until Steve Sailer shows up.

Speaking for me and mine, which would include strong blackfolks, your deep collective interest is interesting, but apologies and theories are really for those who are deeply troubled or merely intellectually curious. I know it might be hard to imagine that there is a significant fragment of blackfolks who are absolutely non-plussed by this little sideshow, but if it gives you the slightest bit of comfort, please consider yourselves off the hook.

It didn't hurt.

Try to recall that despite any number of forehead-wrinkling issues considerate members of the chatting class might cite, African Americans have actually survived and persisted in this country for hundreds of years. There are more of us now than there ever were - we're really to big to be called a 'minority'. But call us what you want, we know our strengths and weaknesses and if enough of us want your attention, your sympathies, your thoughts or your heads, we will certainly make it known.

We should all try not to forget history. Perhaps a reading of Frederick Douglass is in order. What might he say about a cursing comic if he were around today? Perhaps just this.


As much as your sticks an stones bit is appreciated Cobb, I think you miss the larger point-as-in-spear-tip of these open discussions.

As Sinbad said in his interview (he was there that night; put "Sinbad Michael Richards" in your YouTube search box), hardly any of us Black folk are truly, deeply shocked at what came out of his mouth. Most of us harbour an assumption that there's plenty white folk out there who keep similar opinions to Mr. Michaels. That's why there was some laughter instead of a collective gasp at his initial outburst.

But the Sailer boys are out there to "out" the "truth" and it is important to combat (or, really, expose) these seeds of social corrosion. Douglass would say keep on with the keepin on, but at the same time social advancements only came with persistent rebuttal. Evil has donned new threads for the millenium, wrapping itself in innuendo and half-truths. Shine the light. Goddamit.


I think the uproar about Richards is about community standards of behavior.

The main victory against racism in the US hasn't been about court decisions or protests, it's been that overt racism has become socially unacceptable among whites. Specifically, it's linked to being uneducated and poor and rural--one part of saying someone is a racist is identifying him with trailer trash. Edge cases (comics are allowed to say just about anything, we mostly don't hold people responsible for what they say in drunken rants to the cops when they get arrested, though the cops may give them some lumps for it if the cameras aren't rolling) help define the standard.

This has benefits and costs. My sense is that without this social unacceptability, the court rulings and protests and calling out the national guard wouldn't have worked, and we'd still have a lot of Jim Crow like stuff today. But this also makes discussions of any aspect of race a bit of a minefield for whites, which makes a lot of social issues much harder to deal with than they should be.


My answer to polarized's question:

"Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth" - Khalil Gibran

I wouldn't go as far as Kant in revealing to a murderer the location of his victim, but when it comes to broader issues I do not see any gain from trying to close the lid on the truth.


I'm perfectly willing to shine the light, and have I think. What I cannot do is change the nature of the blogosphere or public interest. So while I've spent years and thousands of paragraphs on the subject everywhere from Slate to Utne to Salon to The Well fighting the good fight, there is nothing conceivable that is going to get me 1/500th of the airtime of Michael Richards. American media is simply not interested in putting on a fighting face, merely a happy face when it comes to race.

That said, I have more confidence that thoughtful people with find the truth and strong people will bear up with this nonsense, and that the march of ignorance continues. Surely our best minds are not polishing their teeth in order to become telegenic, as if the road to enlightenment depended on broadcast television. Maybe they believe that in North Korea (and maybe Diane Sawyer does too).

My point is that PSC beats PC. Plain common sense beats political correctness, and the best advice is to stop expecting chat to evolve into policy and policy evolve into something that will protect us from racism.

We will protect ourselves. Always have. Always will.


@ Cobb: respect due to one of the prime online OGs.

However, Common Sense is fed by many streams, some inert, some nourishing, and a few poisonous. And I am not confident that there is any irreversible critcal mass of common sense. *Especially* as regards social policy/conventions. There are, imo, too many spoiled childhoods and revisionists out there to be ever lax, confident that the commons will never sag.

Not sayin to freak out over every little thing (and, for real, them dudes should call off Alred and the whole suit), but I would like to see black folk, en masse, move on from survival mode. Michael Richards is a retardation in every respect.

p.s. don't kid yourself, policy, in large part, is directed by tractable chat.


I find the Irvin case interesting in that conservatives are making noise because of the reverse discrimination angle (Steve Lyons got canned by Fox for going a similar route) while liberals are upset because they perceive that what Irvin said is a damaging stereotype. As much as it pains me, the liberals are wrong on this one. If you don't think that the genetics of African Americans give an athletic advantage in sports like track, basketball and football, you have your head in the sand and/or haven't spent any time in a diverse environment participating in sports.


This (blacks doing better in athletics for genetic reasons) is plausible, but we're talking about observational data here. That limits how strong our conclusions can be, in almost exactly the same way that observing different outcomes for blacks and whites, or women and men, is limited. Are blacks overepresented in (say) basketball because of genetics? Or because of cultural interest? Diet? Upbringing?

Just as it's important not to stomp on evidence you don't like, it's important not to assume that plausible models are true based on limited observations.

It seems like some aspects of sports (sprinting and marathon running) are almost certainly dominated by genetic factors. Sports like basketball and baseball clearly have big cultural factors involved, and I think it's less clear what dominates.


Albatross - I agree re genes & observation in sport; Sailer was commenting on his blog a few days back on the re-emergence of white east-European "Ivan Drago types" in heavyweight boxing; whereas ten years ago one might have assumed that boxers of west African descent would permanently dominate the sport.

Gerard L. Callan Sr.

Under point 2 "Intention", you clearly didn't think this out. Presbyterians telling jokes about and to presbyterians, jews telling jokes about and to jews and blacks telling jokes about and to blacks is comparable. When blacks use the word "nigger" with each other, that is different. It is my understanding as a white person that the word "nigger" is to be considered improper (showing a racist tendency, etc.). I compare it to a parent who tells his child not too smoke, while they're sucking down one cigarette after another. You are on weak ground with the "Do as I say, not as I do" argument. I do not condone the use of the word "nigger" in any context, and if blacks use it among themselves or find humor listening to blacks comedians use it, then they are hypocrits. They are the "smoking parent". I happy to see this Michael Richards situation has as least made some black comedians to state that they will no longer use the term in their acts. They really don't need to, they're talented enough without it.


Where do the Law & Order shows fall on the content/intention/conviction scale? On the various shows in the franchise, which are set in New York, about 80% of the criminal defendants are white (and usually middle- or upper-class), when in reality fewer than 10% of NYC felons are white. Is this racist? There is reason to believe that the show's producers are not trying to be politically correct, or (being overwhelmingly white themselves) suffering from some sort of bizarre self-hatred; rather, they've determined that the show's core audience - which, like most crime shows, consists of middle-aged, middle-class white women - wants to see criminals that resemble them, at least in a racial sense.

James Kabala

Liberals can't be racist? What a ludicrous statement. (And do we even have evidence that Richards is liberal? He probably is, but I don't recall him ever making public political stances in the past. We're not talking about Sean Penn or Alec Baldwin here.)

Joe Populist

Contending that racial differences in "intelligence" does not make one racist, it just makes one realistic. One problem in the discussion is the defination of "intelligence", which is based on "intelligent" testes. The higher the amount of African decent, the lower you score on these tests. On the other hand, it is my personal observation that people of African racial heritage are way more intelligent on ways that many tests don't perceive. African Americans I have known make excellent managers, are way more perceptive then the average caucausian in non-verbal communication and possess superior interpersonal skills. African Americans I have known have had tremendous work ethics, as well as faith in God, and strong family ties.

The fact that I believe that Blacks and African-Americans are SUPERIOR to whites in ways that intelligent tests don't measure-----does that make me a RACIST too? Evidently so, according to YOUR defination of racism.

Cam Beck

I don't agree with your complete assessment of when racism is morally defensible, or which recent instances should be considered more egregious than others, necessarily, but I think you nailed the values upon which the general public views the various tirades and statements made by public figures.

Luke Lea

Haven't read a single comment, but a couple of points.

First, it's a good idea to keep the distinction between moral acts and empirical statements. E.g., my idea of a racist is someone who would deny equal civil and legal rights to people on account of their race, or who would deliberately use racial epethets with an intent to offend or demean the members of a particular racial group. It might include people who make misleading or just plain wrong empirical statments about the members of a group, but only to the extent that their statements can be shown to be biased or neglegently uninformed.

Point two. It is wrong to call someone a racist -- which is a terrible thing to say if it isn't true -- just because we disagree or happen to think they are mistaken in their opinions about racial differences, their existence and causes. There is at least a theoretical possibility that we are mistaken, both as to their motives, and the body of (unbiased) evidence as it currently exists. So we need to be careful. There is a chance that we may be displaying bias against them, which is no different in its origins than the genuinely racist behavior that some people sometimes display.

To call someone a bigot when in fact they are not is itself a form of bigotry, from which our society is not entirely free.

thanks for listening

Luke Lea

Let me slightly emend one sentence above: It is wrong to call someone a racist just because we disagree or happen to think they are mistaken in their opinions about racial differences, their existence and causes, and how society ought to respond to them.

E.g., moral harm can be done to individuals, groups, and society as a whole if we get the facts wrong about these issues in either direction. Thus it is at least theoretically possible to be motivated by genuine concern for the welfare of particular individuals and groups on the basis of racial differences which may in fact turn out to be empirically true, whatever their causes. And obversely, it is possible to harm individuals and groups by denying differences that may really exist, even though we act from the best of motives.

Bottom line: an informed realism is the first criterion for moral responsiblity in this world. Honest debate is a good thing.

Cam Beck

Great points. I would also like to add that real differences that may exist, or genuine qualities that affect the mean population of any group do not by themselves, however they are measured, provide a solution without interpretation and a particular worldview about how the world should be.

Statistics without morality are just numbers that can be used to justify all manner of atrocities.

Brittney Williams

In my opinion racism is racism no matter who says it. It doesn't matter if Dave Chappelle says the n-word or if Mel Gibson says the n-word, in truth black people might not take it as offensively if
Mel says it more so that Dave. But in realizing what racism is you cannot be blinded by what race you are, just because you are African American that does not give you the right to say the n-word more than a white person. Those type of racial comments offend everyone in the room and even though we may laugh it still hurts to be called that specific name. When a white person calls a black person "nigger", those black people are quick to jump down their throat, but when a black man calls another black man "nigger" its all smiles and hugs. Why is it alright to call someone of the same race the same name your ancestors were called when they were getting beaten? It's not alright, and we need to realize that not everyone takes things in the same tense and does not feel the same about racism. But it is true when Gladwell said everyone is racist or at least prejudice in their own way. No one is perfect, so we can't always guard what we say, but we can try.
In regards to Michael Richards, I can understand that he is a comedian and everything is probably just a big joke, but you do have to consider that when you are a comedian who has an extremely diverse audience you have to be aware of what you say and try to twist it so it is not as offensive as it usually wouild be.
But the overall concept of my idea is racism is racism, no matter what skin color you are, racism is bad and their is no excuse for racism.

'08 Grad

I agree with your definition of racism. Although the "N" word is not just for African Americans. It is a descriminative comment for all people. You could call someone who is not of African American decent the "N" word and still be politically correct. All the word means is "ignorant."

If you are a white-racist, for an example, and called someone who is an African American walking down the street minding their business a nigger. They could look at you and say the same thing about you, because that shows how ignorant you are about race, and how one can think they are superior just because they are of another color.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo


  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

    My great claim to fame is that I'm from the town where they invented the BlackBerry. My family also believes (with some justification) that we are distantly related to Colin Powell. I invite you to look closely at the photograph above and draw your own conclusions.

My Website


  • What the Dog Saw

    buy from amazon


    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK


    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK

    Tipping Point

    buy from amazon

Recent Articles

Blog powered by Typepad