Politics & Policy

‘Willie Lynch’ Is Back

(Dunca Daniel/Dreamstime)
The endless quest for a racial supervillain

Willie Lynch, that persistent and vexatious fiction, is back in the news, this time under the journalistic auspices of MSNBC, whose African-American news site, the Grio, yesterday published an article lamenting the “‘Willie Lynch’ propaganda that has held us down for eons.” The headline accuses certain black activists who reject feminism and transsexualism of “rehash[ing] the Willie Lynch mentality.”

Willie Lynch, as I have been documenting for some years, is a hoax, but a very popular hoax. A letter purporting to be from 18th century slavery consultant Willie Lynch instructs whites in the art of dividing blacks against each other – man vs. woman, light-skinned vs. dark-skinned, etc. – for the purpose of preventing their cooperating to throw off the masters’ yoke. The letter is an obvious fabrication – its language is plainly from the latter half of the 20th century — but it is routinely cited, particularly in the black press, as though it were an authoritative account of the ways in which whites scheme to keep blacks down. College professors report that students reference it regularly as though it were undisputed fact.

Displaying the usual low journalistic standards associated with MSNBC properties, the article contains a deeply misleading and ungrammatical author’s note: “Despite becoming an urban legend of sorts – the accounts of Willie Lynch contain historical inaccuracies that have led some historians to believe the documents containing his speech are a hoax.” Naturally, the verdict is “fake but true,” the now-familiar refrain: “The Willie Lynch story still illustrates a greater truth about ‘divide and concur [sic].’” The Willie Lynch letter is not an urban legend; it is a fabrication; there are no “accounts of Willie Lynch” at all beyond the obvious forgery; there are not “some historians” who believe it to be a hoax – rather, there are no historians who believe that it is not a hoax. Fake but true, heavy on the fake.

What about the true?

#related#The author of the Grio article, who bears the poetical name of Blue Telusma, derides what she calls the “hotep” tendency (“hotep” being an ancient Egyptian word for “peace”) and the “ankh-wearing” school of black consciousness, which apparently can be found among black men who champion their own interests but not those of feminists and gay-rights activists of similar background. Intraracial identity-politics disputes are not really my bag, but I will note that it does take a certain kind of mind to believe that it is obvious evidence of malevolent white scheming if a black man sees another black man in a dress and his first instinct is not to applaud. People of all backgrounds have complicated and inexplicable attitudes about that sort of thing: Try distinguishing the homophobia from the homoerotica in DMX’s “Where the Hood At?” which begins with a denunciation of jailhouse sodomy and ends with a fantasy about a ménage à trois with two other men, accompanied by a video that is barely a pair of chaps shy of a Tom of Finland cartoon. Likewise, there’s a lot of hyper-masculine homophobia in Texas high-school football, along with what always struck me as a curious amount of hand-holding. Who can account for it all?

Willie Lynch can, of course.

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It does not seem to me very likely to be the case that very many black men recoil from homosexuality or transsexualism because white men tricked them into it. (Who tricked the white men into it, I wonder? Whiter men?) The deployment of a racial conspiracy theory means that nobody really need confront any complicated truths.

And that is the value of fictions such as the Willie Lynch letter, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Rosie O’Donnell conspiracy theories, so-called progressives who perfervidly declare that Republicans are intentionally sabotaging the economy, etc.: Each is a theory of everything, a master rubric for understanding a messy universe. It isn’t just attitudes about sexuality – the Willie Lynch myth can explain everything else, too: crime, poverty, the political career of Rahm Emmanuel, you name it. It’s all so much digital bumf, but it serves its purpose.

That purpose, of course, is distorting reality. Citing the persistence of the Willie Lynch mentality, Telusma complains that blacks suffer from unfair social perceptions “even though white women are the #1 recipients of affirmative action, even though white-on-white crime occurs at the same rate as ‘black on black crime,’” etc. She revisits that in the author’s note: “All the data about white women being the top beneficiaries of affirmative action, white-on-white crimes rates, and excessive rowdiness during sporting events – is true.”

It isn’t.

RELATED: Black Murderers Matter

She is correct about white women and affirmative action (particularly in government contracting) but she is absolutely wrong about the crime figures. It is the case that in most violent crimes the criminal and the victim are members of the same race; the reality of the United States is that most significant social interactions are intraracial. But whites are significantly more likely to be victimized by non-whites than blacks are by non-blacks – about 16 percent of white murder victims are killed by non-whites, while only 7 percent of black murder victims are killed by non-blacks. (In homicides in which the killer and the victim are unknown to each other, more than a quarter of the cases are interracial.)

But even setting aside that difference, the more important figure – the figure without which none of this is relevant – is that black Americans suffer six times as many murders as white Americans. (For context, consider that the shocking homicide rate for black Americans – 20 per 100,000 – is only half what it was in 1993.) White-on-white crime, contra the Grio, emphatically does not occur at the same rate as black-on-black crime, which is a consequence of the more important fact that whites suffer from crime, especially from violent crime, at a fraction of the rates that blacks do.

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It is not the case that American society is organized according to the principles of an 18th century slaver called Willie Lynch. It is not the case that crime is evenly distributed among various demographic groups. It is not the case that one in three or one in five or one in 50 women in college will be raped, or even that college campuses have elevated rates of sexual assault. It is not the case that crack cocaine was distributed in inner-city neighborhoods by the CIA or that the World Trade Center was taken down by covert demolition. It is not the case that we are suffering from out-of-control crime, or that crime is at anything other than historically low levels. It isn’t the case that the Republican party is controlled by the Koch brothers or Israeli intelligence officers. It isn’t the case that pharmaceutical companies have suppressed all-natural cures for cancer or that oil companies have suppressed an automobile engine that runs on saltwater. There are no Illuminati.

Race, crime, global warming – there is no controversy in which we can lie our way to the truth. The more we hunt for imaginary villains, the less firm a grasp we have on reality.

Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.

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