The Corner

Congenital Pests

Lots of liberal readers are still desperate to . . . well, make some sort of case that I’m a racist for “defending” Marty Peretz. Here’s a perfectly typical email:

Two words, Jonah:  “congenital corruption”.

congenital.  that would mean “by nature”.  So, to sum up;  Peretz used the phrase “congenital corruption” or, in other words, latinos are born corrupt.

That’s racist.

It’s no surprise that you would defend this.  Being a congenital liar. Born of a liar to become one.

You’re a putz.

You do know what that word means, right?

I think this reader offers a good response:

The people who think that “congenital corruption” is racist are just showing their own ignorance of the meaning of the word. It has two meanings, 1)from birth, 2) essential nature. Describing Latin American countries as congenitally corrupt is absolutely accurate and has nothing to do with race. Corruption in those countries is systematic and endemic (essential nature) and that state has existed since those countries’ independence (from birth). While many assume that a congenital birth defect means a genetic disorder, the term congenital includes both hereditary and environmentally caused disorders.

Peretz’ critics are dangerously close to “niggardly” territory.

Indeed, my computer dictionary says “. . . (of a person) having a particular trait from birth or by firmly established habit.” [emphasis mine]

Does anyone really think corruption in Latin American countries isn’t firmly established by habit? Maybe so. But it’s hardly the case that people who think otherwise are obvious racists.

I think my point still stands. Peretz’s critics (and mine) start from an assumption and then back-fill the argument. If a liberal in good standing used the phrase “congenital corruption” or something similar, I doubt very much all these people would be shouting “aha! racist!”

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