Mercury Rising: Charles Murray, Crossburner: In all the recent hullaballoo over the not-so-subtle efforts by Andrew Sullivan and other right-wingers to rehabilitate him, let's not forget that Charles "Bell Curve" Murray is also a known cross-burner. As City Pages editor Steve Perry wrote back in the last century:
...Near the end of his high school days in Newton, Iowa, Murray and some of his pals went out one night and burned a cross next door to the police station. To my knowledge, the reams of coverage accorded Murray for his pseudo-scientific apologia on behalf of racism have produced only two mentions of this incident. One was in a 1994 New York Times Magazine profile, the other a bit later on the Donahue show. In both instances Murray protested that he had no idea as to the racial significance of cross-burning. There were only two black families in Newton in those days, an old school chum of his added in the Times piece. Well. As it happens, I grew up just 30 miles away from Murray's central Iowa hometown, in an even smaller farming town with no black families at all. But somehow I managed to learn what cross-burning meant by the time I finished high school, and I expect Murray did too.
Yep. Here it is: Jason DeParle:
Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography'?: While there is much to admire about the industry and inquisitiveness of Murray's teen-age years, there is at least one adventure that he understandably deletes from the story -- the night he helped his friends burn a cross. They had formed a kind of good guys' gang, "the Mallows," whose very name, from marshmallows, was a play on their own softness. In the fall of 1960, during their senior year, they nailed some scrap wood into a cross, adorned it with fireworks and set it ablaze on a hill beside the police station, with marshmallows scattered as a calling card.
Rutledge recalls his astonishment the next day when the talk turned to racial persecution in a town with two black families. "There wouldn't have been a racist thought in our simple-minded minds," he says. "That's how unaware we were."
A long pause follows when Murray is reminded of the event. "Incredibly, incredibly dumb," he says. "But it never crossed our minds that this had any larger significance. And I look back on that and say, 'How on earth could we be so oblivious?' I guess it says something about that day and age that it didn't cross our minds"...
I call bulls--- on Murray. But I can't say I'm terribly surprised.
Nos Ancêtres, Les Gaulois — Crooked Timber: As Clive Davis notes, Charles Murray “is disconcerted by the number of black and brown faces he sees around him” during three days that he recently spent stranded in Paris.
I collected data as I walked along, counting people who looked like native French (which probably added in a few Brits and other Europeans) versus everyone else. I can’t vouch for the representativeness of the sample, but at about eight o’clock last night in the St. Denis area of Paris, it worked out to about 50-50, with the non-native French half consisting, in order of proportion, of African blacks, Middle-Eastern types, and East Asians. And on December 22, I don’t think a lot of them were tourists. Mark Steyn and Christopher Caldwell have already explained this to the rest of the world—Europe as we have known it is about to disappear—but it was still a shock to see how rapid the change has been in just the last half-dozen years.
The term “looked like native French” is an interesting euphemism, given that a quite substantial percentage (and, I suspect, a large majority) of the people whom Murray worried about during his peregrinations were citizens of France. I rather think that the word that Murray was looking for here is “white.” Meanwhile, Clive also links to this very good Foreign Policy article on the whole disgraceful Eurabia genre. Strongly recommended.
And the Crooked Timber commenter chorus:
This totally at all doesn’t make Charles Murray sound like a weird racist old monomaniacal crank, no, no, that would be a horrible way of reading his own words.
Re: "The taxi driver made some disparaging remarks about arabs and the Parisian responded by saying 'you lot down here all look the same to me' (or words to that effect)." Well, that is a good point, actually. I’m not sure I could reliably tell the difference between an olive-skinned, black-haired southern French person and an olive-skinned, black-haired Algerian. If you were shown pictures of Rachida Dati and Nicolas Sarkozy and told “one of these people is the child of North African immigrants”, how often would you get the right one? Murray was probably wandering round assuming that anyone darker-complexioned than Catherine Deneuve was a terrifying foreigner.
Might put out that The Three Musketeers was written by a Caribbean black Frenchman. So it didn’t just start. My knowledge of French fiction is kinda thin, but I seem to recall from Dickens and Conan Doyle that non-white faces weren’t exactly scarce in 19th century London. And I second the commenter who said who said he prefered diversity. Nothing creeps me out more than the homogenized streets and malls of rich man’s Orange County. On the other hand, my wife’s late aunt who retired to Corona del Mar was told in no uncertain terms (by a woman who became a lifelong friend) that as a young Norwegian immigrant she wasn’t white.
Re: “Or, put another way, the author’s grandmother was mixed-race... but invoking the one-drop rule really doesn’t do it.” Be that as it may, Charles Murray would have considered Dumas to be “non-French”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Dumas
Re: "I rather think that the word that Murray was looking for here is 'white'." Daniel is right—it’s outrageous that all of you are accusing Murray of racism. He was simply collecting data on how many of the people he encountered that evening appeared to have cognitive capacities commensurate with his own, simple as that.