The Corner

WONG WAY WROUND

JPod: “To the extent that some of your stated ideas have commonalities with ideas in the past based in the proposition that immigrant populations were somehow sub-human — either because they professed allegiance to the Pope or to the ancient faith of the Hebrews — they are, perhaps, best avoided.”   Please don’t avoid any topics on my account, JPod, I am willing to discuss anything.  Further, humani nihil a me alienum puto, and I don’t regard any population as subhuman.  And immigration-related hostility to certain populations on the part of past generations of Americans was inspired not by the belief that they were inferior, but more often by the belief that they were superior.   This was the case with the Japanese, as was explicitly stated in debates on the 1924 Act.  There is a good survey of attitudes in Chapter 7 of Thomas Sowell’s Ethnic America.  Samples:   “The very virtues of the Japanese eventually turned others against them.  While Japanese migrants made excellent employees, that made them rivals feared and hated by American workers and American labor unions.  … The thrift, diligence, and ambitions of the Japanese meant that increasing numbers of them began to move up from the ranks of labor to become small farmers or small businessmen.  With that, the American farmers and businessmen who had welcomed the Japanese as employees turned bitterly against them as rivals. … Japanese children in the public schools were notable for their obedience, politeness, and hard work…”  etc., etc.   The idea that racial conflict is driven by feelings of “superiority” towards “inferior races” is mostly nonsense.  Racial ill-will far more often works in the other direction.  To look down on those you regard as your inferiors is a warm and cozy feeling, which rarely leads to anything worse than guilt and paternalism.  To be obliged to look up to — or work for! — those who seem to be your superiors, is far more galling, and far, far more likely to drive you to mayhem.  The Jim Crow South was in some respects (insert long debate here) an exception to this; and since it looms so large in the modern American consciousness, it has led many Americans astray.  Taking the human race as a whole, feelings of racial inferiority are far more bitter and flammable than feelings of superiority, and I don’t see how a fair survey of human history come come to the other conclusion.  Amy Chua wrote a book about this, and I reviewed it here

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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