American pundits have been crowing about how much better America is at handling minorities and immigrants than is France, which got what it had coming during the weeks of car-burning riots.
As in France, where the political class seemed more interested in the riots’ impact on the 2007 presidential election than in stopping the destruction, few talking heads here were inclined to blame the rioting on the rioters. After all, the columnists feel, the North and West Africans setting cars on fire are just a bunch of lowbrow punks, hardly worthy of our disdain, and it’s much more fun to score points off ideological rivals.
Liberal gloating has at least been more attached to reality than that of the neoconservatives, since the liberals recognize that the French state shares with their neocon antagonists an ideological opposition to affirmative action and identity politics. The French government doesn’t even compile statistics by race or ethnicity, for example.
Four Washington Post columnists announced that the French riots showed the advantages of American-style racial quotas. The notion that the black riots of the late 1960s did us all a favor was popular. Detroit native Keith Richburg asserted, “The ashes of the riots in my hometown—the loss of life, the destruction of many businesses—eventually gave rise to something better.” That’s a curious claim since Detroit now has fewer than half the jobs it had before the 1967 riot. Indeed, in November the Sacramento Kings caused a political furor by welcoming the visiting Detroit Pistons by showing a montage of the Motor City’s urban wasteland. Apparently, 38 years of post-riot betterment later, displaying video of Detroit on the Jumbotron is considered an anti-black slur.
David Ignatius opined, “The United States began to find solutions for its tormenting ‘original sin’ after its cities burned in the 1960s.” Perhaps Ignatius spent last Labor Day weekend spelunking in a cave. We’re all supposed to forget what we saw with our lying eyes on television from New Orleans, but we haven’t witnessed much evidence of racial “solutions” or even that the black underclass has turned its back on looting. How about that riot in Toledo on Oct. 15? Or the riots in Cincinnati and Seattle in 2001?
If there’s anything we know about rioting in modern America, it’s that unrest is more common during eras of rising expectations or declining law enforcement. The black riots of the second half of the 1960s followed the triumphs of the civil-rights movement. The Watts riot, for instance, started five days after LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Indeed, African-Americans already held 20 percent of the seats on the Los Angeles city council, more than their share of the city’s population.
The 1992 L.A. riot got out of control at the intersection of Florence and Normandie because of a de facto strike by the Los Angeles Police Department. Tired of being denounced for brutality ever since the Rodney King run-in, they pulled back and let the public see who the real bad guys were.
So why have black riots been less lethal in this decade than in the 1990s or 1960s? Nobody really knows, but one massive change is the staggering increase in imprisonment. Of the two million incarcerated today, one million are black, and tens of thousands of the most dangerous criminals shot each other during the crack wars in the early 1990s. Mostly due to high rates of imprisonment and murder, there are now 36 percent more black women than black men alive in NYC, which explains much about why crime has fallen. That may be the most important difference between the U.S. and Europe in terms of race relations, but it’s not one that many have mentioned in the press.
Post op-edster Eugene Robinson proclaimed: “The riots in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities ought to wipe the smirk from the lips of even multiculturalism’s smuggest critics.” Unfortunately for Robinson, the persuasiveness of his argument was undermined by a news report from the officially multiculturalist Netherlands that appeared in the Post the same day: “For Public Figures in Netherlands, Terror Becomes a Personal Concern.” This story pointed out “a soaring number of Dutch academics, lawmakers and other public figures who have been forced to accept 24-hour protection or go into hiding after receiving death threats from Islamic extremists.” The ParaPundit blog observed, “This is nature’s way of telling you Muslim immigration is bad.”
Similarly, multiculturalist Britain suffered a black versus South Asian race riot in the Lozells district of Birmingham in October. There were major Pakistani riots in several northern English cities in 2001, and Muslim terrorist bombings in London last July killed 52 and injured 700.
Also weighing in on the Post’s op-ed page, Anne Applebaum complained that when she was in France in 2002, she couldn’t find “a single black or North African face on any of the post-election talk shows. That doesn’t excuse the violence, but it does help explain it.” In reality, does the sight of successful co-ethnics discourage race rioting? When L.A. was torched in 1992, the city had had a black mayor for the previous 19 years and was home to more black celebrities than anywhere else on earth.
While the liberals’ awareness of American history has been faulty, the neoconservatives have been downright incoherent with schadenfreude. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Max Boot offered this unlikely assertion: “France, like most European nations, defines itself in ethnic, cultural and religious terms that can leave non-Caucasian and non-Christian outsiders feeling excluded, however long they have lived there. Foreigners find it much harder to become ‘French’ or ‘German’ than ‘American.’”
That’s a travesty of the difference between the French Republic, which offers birthright citizenship (jus soli) to the children of immigrants, and Germany, which has traditionally offered citizenship to all Germans by blood (jus sanguinis), even if their ancestors had lived near the Volga River in Russia for ten generations, but not to Turks born in Germany.
The embarrassing truth is that the country the neocons most hate, France, is the one most similar to them in personality and philosophy. The French are quarrelsome, vengeful, ideological, and verbally facile—a nation of Podhoretzes. Although the neocons contend that America is a “Proposition Nation,” where membership in the national community should be based merely on assent to ideological precepts, rather than on blood, birth, or “mystic chords of memory,” the French, with their love of theory and abstraction, have always been more enthusiastic than Americans about that conception of nationhood. Indeed, the French state has traditionally treated immigrants and minorities as the neocons have long advised: France has had sizable levels of immigration, unilingualism, meritocracy, education in civics theories, birthright citizenship, and separation of church and state.
The Wall Street Journal used the French riots to advocate (surprise!) cutting wages. L.A.-based urban expert Joel Kotkin praised America’s countless ill-paid jobs in an essay entitled “Why Immigrants Don’t Riot Here.” He must not recall the 1992 riot in his hometown, in which at least 53 people died. Blacks started the riot, but Latinos, especially recent Central American immigrants (many of them illegal), opportunistically took up looting. Ultimately, Hispanics comprised 51 percent of the approximately 10,000 arrestees. Nor must he remember that in May 1991, Hispanics initiated two nights of rioting in the Mt. Pleasant district of Washington D.C., after an African-American female police officer shot a drunken Salvadoran man who was attacking her with a knife.
Moreover, the black riots of 1965-68 were the work of internal immigrants. The Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North and West shifted into high gear with the mechanization of cotton harvesting during World War II. The generation of black migrants who arrived in the big cities after World War II were relatively deferential to authority, as immigrants tend to be, but their children grew up on the streets and had a much more resentful attitude toward being low men on the urban totem pole. The youth began rioting and mugging in large numbers during the 1960s.
Also, many of the more recent American riots have been sparked by African-American anger at economic competition from immigrants. For example, the 1992 L.A. riot was, in sizable measure, a black pogrom against Korean shopkeepers, such as the one who shot a teenage black girl in the back in an incident that may have caused as much anger among L.A. blacks as the more widely publicized Rodney King affair. Similarly, in the 1980s, there were three black riots in Miami against the Latino power structure.
Many Americans are congratulating themselves for their brilliance in choosing to locate the U.S. north of a huge supply of unskilled Latin Americans rather than north of a huge supply of unskilled Muslims, like those idiot Europeans did. Indeed, the French pioneered the Bush administration’s invade-the-world-invite-the-world policies during the Algerian War of 1954-1962. With a half-million Frenchmen fighting in Algeria, France increased its intake of Algerian laborers.
Please remember, though, that when the Europeans started inviting in Muslim guest workers in the 1950s and 1960s, it seemed like a good idea. Back then, Muslims appeared to be a submissive bunch. G.K. Chesterton and his friend Hilaire Belloc had forecast before World War II that Islam would challenge Christendom once again, but during the second half of the last century, Islam, even in its own lands, appeared to be a spent force compared to exciting modern trends like nationalism, socialism, Pan-Arabism, Nasserism, and Ba’athism. The enormous wave of Muslim resentment that has been such a driving force of history over the last 30 years was simply unanticipated by Europeans.
Are we going to look back on inviting in tens of millions of Latin Americans with the same regret? I don’t know, but shouldn’t we pause now and then to think about it?
Right now, there’s a wind from the south, a mighty storm of anti-white populism blowing up from South American countries like Venezuela and Bolivia. It will likely have a sizable influence on Mexico’s 2006 presidential election and might then spread from Mexico to the U.S.
Now, I don’t dispute Kotkin’s point that France should loosen up its labor laws so more jobs can be created. But let’s be clear: most of those would be crud jobs, not the kind of jobs gangsta rap-loving hip-hop hoodlums from the slums of France would like. Der Spiegel quoted one young French-born Muslim: “Why are we angry? … Because my father was brought here 30 years ago to do the work that the French didn’t want to do.”
Their immigrant parents accepted these jobs “the French didn’t want to do,” yet their born-in-France kids want cool office jobs with big expense accounts. Unfortunately, many of the Muslims lack the needed skills, so they aren’t going to be happy even if the French adopt the WSJ’s economic recommendations.
The harsh fact that most of the pundits don’t want to think about is this: what matters most in determining whether immigration is successful is not the details of how the immigrants are treated by the host society after they arrive but the quantity and quality of the immigrants themselves.
Contradictorily, Kotkin holds up the U.S. as a model of free-market vibrancy, while the Washington Post liberals praise the pervasive racial quotas the federal government has imposed on our corporations. Despite all that, a huge fraction of young black males aren’t bothering to hold jobs. Charles Murray recently wrote:
Among black males ages 20-24, for example, the percentage who were not working or looking for work when the first numbers were gathered in 1954 was 9 percent. That figure grew during the 1960s and 1970s, stabilizing at around 20 percent during the 1980s. The proportion rose again, reaching 30 percent in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job.
That’s not counting the roughly 10 percent of young black males who are incarcerated. Some of that black male departure from the work force was precipitated by illegal immigration driving down wages for crummy jobs. Yet much of it represents a cultural change among blacks, who decided they weren’t going to take servile jobs anymore. Let the Mexicans have them!
These days, America’s white elites assume that Latinos are born to serve them, just like their grandparents assumed up through the early 1960s that the docile Aunt Jemimas and Uncle Bens they employed were born to cook for them. Today, very few whites have African-American servants anymore. Why, then, do we assume that the vast next generation of Hispanics, like the African-Americans and African-French today, won’t decide they are sick of doing the jobs whites didn’t want to do?
Unfortunately, few in the press will dare talk about this crucial question because it pays better to kick the French around that to speak honestly about the future of America.
Steve Sailer, TAC’s film critic, also writes for VDARE.com and iSteve.com.