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A Response to Ayn Rand's "Racism"

The original excerpts from "Racism" by Ayn Rand can be found here. I recommend that one read them first in their entirety before reading my response, since the latter is an unfair way to be introduced to someone's ideas. Note that originally I reproduced the entirety of Rand's "Racism" essay, but have since deleted portions where she repeats herself or digresses from the topic I'm interested in.

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Note how, right from the start, Rosenbaum demonizes racism. It is the “lowest, most crudely primitive” form of collectivism. It is, apparently, too much to ask of Rand that she allow us to draw our own conclusions based on the weight of her logic. I should point out here that collectivism, at least judging by dictionary.com, is insufficiently, even misleadingly defined for the purposes of racial nationalism. I’ll approach this issue later.

It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage -- the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.

After the prejudicial opening statement, Rosenbaum charges straight for the straw man/complex question hybrid. It is a complex question because it conflates two distinct ideas. The first idea is:

the notion of ascribing moral, social, or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage

Politics is, in general, rife to its very core with the “lowest, most crudely primitive” form of collectivism, according to Rosenbaum. That is no argument against her assertion of course, only an accurate application of it. It is on the whole rather striking that Rand chooses to expose herself this way.

Just think about what she’s saying for a moment - she’s saying that the Congressional Black Caucus is engaging in low, crudely primitive collectivism. She’s saying that any organization with a racial component - the NAACP, the Asian American Journalists Association, BET - is low, crude, and primitive.

Now, turn your attention to the veritable mountain of scientific data, growing year in, year out, that tells us that a man’s genetic lineage does have moral, social, and political significance. This is an entire discussion in and of itself, but since my only goal is to introduce self-evident reasonable doubt regarding Rand’s sweeping assertions, I’ll just settle for a few examples:

Organisms are expected to be sensitive to cues of genetic relatedness when making decisions about social behaviour. Relatedness can be assessed in several ways, one of which is phenotype matching: the assessment of similarity between others' traits and either one's own traits or those of known relatives. One candidate cue of relatedness in humans is facial resemblance.

In his new book, author Jon Entine fearlessly takes on an age-old issue that affects not only sports but race relations and cultural stereotypes as well. In "Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It," Entine comprehensively addresses the controversy while blowing-away conventional explanations. Filled with statistics and scientific data, his book presents answers that anger people on all sides of the issue.

Recognizing a face is easier when its owner's race matches our own. An imaging study now shows that greater activity in the brain's expert face-discrimination area may explain this phenomenon - one of the first times that a social group's effects on behaviour have been pinned on a brain centre.

If the scientists who wrote The Bell Curve are correct, it may be unfair for Europeans to expect African Americans, as a group, to compete on an equal playing field for jobs in America or Africa.


The second idea is:

the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.
This is the straw man portion of Rand’s assertion - the eternal bogeyman of genetic determinism. This really isn’t worth any reasonable person’s time, but I’ll belabor the obvious anyway. Racism is not the belief that “a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.” Racism is the belief that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are influenced or determined in part by his internal body chemistry, and that race (heredity, ‘family’ writ large) is a significant determinant of said chemistry.

Racism claims that the content of a man's mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man's convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical forces beyond his control.

This statement is patently absurd. See my arguments immediately prior, they apply here as well. It is perhaps telling that Rand sees fit to further damn herself with the words “not his cognitive apparatus, but its content:” this is precisely the opposite of what racists think - that man’s cognitive apparatus, but not its content, is inherited. I find it amusing that Rand so clearly sets herself up to be effortlessly refuted - it’s almost as though she intended to be obviously wrong.

This is the caveman's version of the doctrine of innate ideas -- or of inherited knowledge -- which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science.

Again Rand turns to ad hominem. The “doctrine of innate ideas” is in no way a requirement of racism. Knowledge can be and is inherited, but not in an inborn sense, any more than inherited wealth is inborn. We receive the knowledge of our forbears through our living ancestors, our parents for example. This in no way suggests some voodoo of “innate ideas.”

Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of anmials, but not between animals and men.

Again Rand turns to ad hominem. If I didn’t know better, I’d be led to believe that Rand’s own “inherited knowledge” is showing through here. The traditional Jewish contempt for peasants, rural life, and all things agricultural is well known to students of Jewish history (more aptly termed Jewish apologia); wherein the peasants, the downtrodden of medieval society, are transformed from abject, poverty-stricken wretches periodically revolting against their bailiffs of time immemorial - Jews - into racist mobs motivated solely by xenophobic hatred of the other, a pathological need to find an innocent scapegoat* for their ills. The Talmudic prohibition to Jews any agricultural activity in the diaspora is perhaps a contributing factor to Rand’s conflation of brutishness, barnyards, and stock farms.

*(a Hebraic concept, incidentally).

Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man's life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.

Here Rand continues to pummel the straw man she has cobbled together between ad hominem attacks. Racism is not a form of determinism. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, defines determinism as “[t]he philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedent states of affairs.” Racism is simply the belief that race influences, rather than wholly determines, character or ability. Rand’s subsequent argument that racism invalidates man’s rational faculty is therefore predicated on a false assertion and falls flat on its face without it.

This is a ubiquitous assertion of many anti-racists: that, in the dialectic of nature and nurture, a binary choice must be made. It is either nature or nurture, we cannot have both. This is a false dilemma - racists can and usually do recognize that nature and nurture coexist, most demonstrably in man. Anti-racists, on the other hand, seldom recognize the impossibility of nurturing a nature that does not exist. In their Lysenkoist cosmology, they cannot divine the limits of nature - that a plant, however watered and fed, will never sprout legs and walk. I digress, as Rand is the subject here, not anti-racists in general.

The respectable family that supports worthless relatives or covers up their crimes in order to "protect the family name" (as if the moral stature of one man could be damaged by the actions of another) -- the bum who boasts that his great-grandfather was an empire-builder, or the small-town spinster who boasts that her maternal great-uncle was a state senator and her third-cousin gave a concert at Carnegie Hall (as if the achievements of one man could rub off on the mediocrity of another) -- the parents who search genealogical trees in order to evaluate their prospective sons-in-law -- the celebrity who starts his autobiography with a detailed account of his family history -- all these are samples of racism, the atavistic manifestations of a doctrine whose full expression is the tribal warfare of prehistorical savages, the wholesale slaughter of Nazi Germany, the atrocities of today's so-called "newly-emerging nations."

Here Rand shows why her ideas work better on paper than they do in the real world. Rand's individualism is so radical that she'd have families cease to be families to satisfy an abstract ideal. This demands no comment from me, as the idea of family doesn't need logic to support it; you're either for it or you're not. (If one simply must have a scientific explanation of the adaptiveness of the family, look into sociobiology a.k.a. evolutionary psychology).

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out Rand's continued ad hominems; this time it's a not-so-subtle analogy between worthless relatives, criminals, bums, small-town spinsters, boastfulness, mediocrity, etc., and "racists." The fact is that intelligence is largely heritable and correlates more strongly with a spectrum of social success measures than any other known trait. Intelligence is far from being the only behavioral trait that is largely heritable (go to the Links Page, scroll down through the top window - part 1 - until you get to behavior). Thus, it makes sense for parents to evaluate the families of prospective sons-in-law.

Modern racists attempt to prove the superiority or inferiority of a given race by the historical achievements of some of its members. The frequent historical spectacle of a great innovator who, in his lifetime, is jeered, denounced, obstructed, persecuted by his countrymen, and then, a few years after his death, is enshrined in a national monument and hailed as a proof of greatness of the German (or French or Italian or Cambodian) race -- is as revolting a spectacle of collectivist expropriation, perpetrated by racists, as any expropriation of material wealth perpetrated by communists.

What is worse: to live in a society that on occasion persecutes or fails to acknowledge the genius in its midst, or to live in a "society" in which people are hacked to pieces, schoolgirls are raped by H.I.V.-positive men because they believe virgins can "suck" the A.I.D.S. from them, cannabalism isn't hard to find, and this sort of thing goes on?

ZIMBABWE has come up with a bizarre proposal to solve the food crisis threatening half its population with starvation. It wants to bring in obese tourists from overseas so that they can shed pounds doing manual labour on land seized from white farmers.

The so-called Obesity Tourism Strategy was reported last week in The Herald, a government organ whose contents are approved by President Robert Mugabe’s powerful information minister, Jonathan Moyo.

Pointing out that more than 1.2 billion people worldwide are officially deemed to be overweight, the article exhorted Zimbabweans to “tap this potential”.

“Tourists can provide labour for farms in the hope of shedding weight while enjoying the tourism experience,” it said, adding that Americans spent $6 billion a year on “useless” dieting aids. [1]

Just as there is no such thing as a collective or racial mind, so there is no such thing as a collective or racial achievement. There are only individual minds and individual achievements -- and a culture is not the anonymous product of undifferentiated masses, but the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men.

Yeah, Rand, and a race is the sum of its individual members. As much as it chaps Rand's ass, human history is but the long tale of the achievements of various groups (you know, aggregates of individuals who are in one way or another more similar to one another than to members of other groups?). Rand's monomania does nothing to change that. See my essay on White Nationalism for a bit more about collectivism and man's inherent predisposition towards it (or try a Google for "social identity theory").

Even if it were proved -- which it is not -- that the incidence of men of potentially superior brain power is greater among the members of certain races than among the members of others, it would still tell us nothing about any given individual and it would be irrelevant to one's judgment of him.

Finally Rand sloughs her way around to a bit of logic - red meat! It is 100% proven that races differ significantly in mean IQ. What is all but proven is that these differences are in large part heritable. Rand is incorrect that this tells us nothing about any given individual. Race has predictive power. Anti-racists always seem to pretend ignorance on this point. Blacks are more prone to violent crime than Whites or Asians or Jews, Asians are less prone to S.T.D.s than Whites or Blacks, Ashkenazi Jews have a higher mean IQ than Asians or Whites or Blacks. These are all facts, and as such they have predictive power that is applicable at the individual level. The fact is that a sensible person is reasonably more wary in a Black neighborhood than in a White one, irrespective of socioeconomic status.

A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race -- and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.

Who claims otherwise? Rand is now back to beating on her strawmen.

It is hard to say which is the more outrageous injustice: the claim of Southern racists that a Negro genius should be treated as inferior because his race has "produced" some brutes

This is another strawman. Racists claim that the Black race produces more brutes per capita than any other race, but Rand cannot sustain her arguments against such clarity, so she has to muddy the water before she can swim in it.

These are not two different claims, of course, but two applications of the same basic premise. The question of whether one alleges the superiority or the inferiority of any given race is irrelevant;

The question of whether one alleges the superiority or the inferiority of any given race is indeed irrelevant; racism exists on its own, quite apart from such digressions.

racism has only one psychological root: the racist's sense of his own inferiority.

It was of course inevitable that Rand would cease flirting with pop psychology and embrace it shamelessly. Such low-hanging (and rotten) fruit must prove irresistible to someone without a logical argument.

Like every other form of collectivism, racism is a quest for the unearned. It is a quest for automatic knowlege -- for an automatic evaluation of men's characters that bypasses the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment -- and, above all, a quest for an automatic self-esteem (or pseudo-self-esteem).

Collectivism is adaptive; collectives out-compete individuals. This simple fact has not eluded Rand, I assure you. Racism does not require that race encompass the totality of the racist's worldview. Racism is not the exclusion of every factor but race, racism is the inclusion of race in one's worldview. Just as the racist's willingness to include collectivism in his life's toolkit violates Rand's radical totalitarian individualism, so does his willingness to include race.

To ascribe one's virtues to one's racial origin, is to confess that one has no knowledge of the process by which virtues are acquired and, most often, that one has failed to acquire them.

The implication here is that all virtues are acquired, which is obviously false. People are born with certain tendencies, traits, and aptitudes.

The overwhelming majority of racists are men who have earned no sense of personal identity, who can claim no individual achievement or distinction, and who seek the illusion of a "tribal self-esteem" by alleging the inferiority of some other tribe.

Rand cannot account for WNs like myself, who can argue for collectivism and ethnocentrism without the first reference to inferiority or superiority (depending on one's love of semantics; Whites are obviously superior at producing White babies, and Blacks are obviously superior at producing Black babies).

Observe the hysterical intensity of the Southern racists; observe also that racism is much more prevalent among the poor white trash than among their intellectual betters.

The stereotypical Jewish contempt for the rural, the poor, the uneducated, raises its head once more. Let us ignore Rand's ugly bigotry in attacking bigotry, her collectivism (classism) in attacking collectivism (racism), rather than call her a pseudo-intellectual kike in a tit-for-tat fashion. Let us also ignore the typically monstrous callousness of Rand's type towards the "hysteria" of the "poor White trash," who actually have to live with the consequences of the actions of Rand and her ilk, who sit in their cloisters in Whitebread, Mass., scribbling away with poison pens.

Historically, racism has always risen or fallen with the rise or fall of collectivism. Collectivism holds that the individual has no rights, that his life and work belong to the group (to "society," to the tribe, the state, the nation) and that the group may sacrifice him at its own whim to its own interests.

This is nonsense. Individualism and collectivism are simply two abstract poles, between which all social life occurs. Rand would have us cling to one pole as if it represented Utopia, and avoid the other as if it represented damnation. The fact is that the ideal balance is probably somewhere near the center.

The only way to implement a doctrine of that kind is by means of brute force -- and statism has always been the poltical corollary of collectivism.

All of these analogies between totalitarianism and racism (and collectivism) boil down to one thing, a bait-and-switch worthy of a street hustler. Racism is simply ethnocentrism, it is not a political system and it does not demand legal enforcement. On the contrary, the brute force Rand refers to is employed not in the abstract in favor of racism and collectivism as she'd have us believe, but in the here and now in favor of "individualism." Federal law prohibits individuals from making many decisions relating to race. Rand's brand of individualism is the impetus for statist brute force, not collectivism (at least not White collectivism, which Rand to this point has emphasized in her characterizations; Black and "Hispanic" collectivism are of course effected in the form of "affirmative action" laws and the like).

The persecution of racial minorities in Soviet Russia, according to the racial descent and whim of any given commissar, is a matter of record; anti-semitism is particularly prevalent -- only the official pogroms are now called "political purges."

The persecution by minorities in Soviet Russia is a matter of record as well, Jews having been the weapon of choice throughout the Soviet bloc when the suppression of freedom was required: ask the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Poles, the Ukrainians, much less the Russians. Jews ostensibly fell out of favor later. Perhaps it was a case of live by the sword, die by the sword, or perhaps it was an intertribal conflict (the emergence of an all-Jewish oligarchy in Russia after the fall of Communism strongly suggests that Jews were never actually purged from the power structure of the Soviet Union). Either way, don't expect Rand to point out such saliencies.

Individualism regards man -- every man -- as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful co-existence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights -- and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.

Blah, blah, blah; Rand continues her disingenuous conflation of racism with totalitarianism.

- - - - - The existence of such pressure groups and of their political lobbies is openly and cynically acknowledged today. The pretense at any political philosophy, any principles, ideals or long-range goals is fast disappearing from our scene -- and it is all but admitted that this country is now floating without direction, at the mercy of a blind, short-range power-game played by various statist gangs, each intent on getting hold of a legislative gun for any special advantage of the immediate moment.

The sun finally shines on the dog's ass; Rand is right here. The crucial point to understand is that White people are always the ones left standing in this particular game of musical chairs. White Nationalists say, "fine, if this is the game we're playing, then I'm going to play it to the hilt. Enough of this high-road crap."

So long as the Negro leaders were fighting against government-enforced discrimination -- right, justice and morality were on their side. But that is not what they are fighting any longer. The confusions and contradictions surrounding the issue of racism have now reached an incredible climax.

It is time to clarify the principles involved.

The policy of the Southern states toward Negroes was and is a shameful contradiction of this country's basic principles. Racial discrimination, imposed and enforced by law, is so blatantly inexcusable an infringement of individual rights that the racist statutes of the South should have been declared unconstitutional long ago.

The Southern racists' claim of "states' rights" is a contradiction in terms: there can be no such thing as the "right" of some men to violate the rights of others. The constitutional concept of "states' rights" pertains to the division of power between local and national authorities, and serves to protect the states from the Federal government; it does not grant to a state government an unlimited, arbitrary power over its citizens or the privilege of abrogating the citizens' individual rights.

It is true that the Federal government has used the racial issue to enlarge its own power and to set a precedent of encroachment upon the legitimate rights of the states, in an unnecessary and unconstitutional manner. But this merely means that both governments are wrong; it does not excuse the policy of the Southern racists.

One of the worst contradictions, in this context, is the stand of many so-called "conservatives" (not confined exclusively to the South) who claim to be defenders of freedom, of capitalism, of property rights, of the Constitution, yet who advocate racism at the same time. They do not seem to possess enough concern with principles to realize tht they are cutting the ground from under their own feet. Men who deny individual rights cannot claim, defend or uphold any rights whatsoever. It is such alleged champions of capitalism who are helping to discredit and destroy it.

The "liberals" are guilty of the same contradiction, but in a different form. They advocate the sacrifice of all individual rights to unlimited majority rule -- yet posture as defenders of the rights of minorities. But the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

This accumulation of contradictions, of short-sighted pragmatism, of cynical contempt for principles, of outrageous irrationality, has now reached its climax in the new demands of the Negro leaders.

Instead of fighting against racial discrimination, they are demanding that racial discrimination be legalized and enforced. Instead of fighting against racism, they are demanding the establishment of racial quotas. Instead of fighting for "color-blindness" in social and economic issues, they are proclaiming that "color-blindness" is evil and that "color" should be made a primary consideration. Instead of fighting for equal rights, they are demanding special race privileges. - - - - -

Racial quotas have been one of the worst evils of racist regimes. There were racial quotas in the universities of Czarist Russia, in the population of Russia's major cities, etc. One of the accusations against the racists in this country is that some schools practice a secret system of racial quotas. It was regarded as a victory for justice when employment questionnaires ceased to inquire about an applicant's race or religion.

Today, it is not an oppressor, but an oppressed minority that is demanding the establishment of racial quotas. (!) - - - - -

It does not merely demand special privileges on racial grounds -- it demands that white men be penalized for the sins of their ancestors. It demands that a white laborer be refused a job because his grandfather may have practiced racial discrimination. But perhaps his grandfather had not practiced it. Or perhaps his grandfather had not even lived in this country. Since these questions are not to be considered, it means that that white laborer is to be charged with collective racial guilt, the guilt consisting merely of the color of his skin.

But that is the principle of the worst Southern racist who charges all Negroes with collective racial guilt for any crime committed by an individual Negro, and who treats them all as inferiors on the ground that their ancestors were savages.

The only comment one can make about demands of that kind is, "By what right? -- By what code? -- By what standard?"

That absurdly evil policy is destroying the moral base of the Negroes' fight. Their case rested on the principle of individual rights. If they demand the violation of the rights of others, they negate and forfeit their own. Then the same answer applies to them as to the Southern racists: there can be no such thing as a "right" of some men to violate the rights of others. - - - - -

No man, neither Negro nor white, has any claim to the property of another man. A man's rights are not violated by a private individual's refusal to deal with him. Racism is an evil, irrational and morally contemptible doctrine -- but doctrines cannot be forbidden or prescribed by law. Just as we have to protect a communist's freedom of speech, even though his doctrines are evil, so we have to protect a racist's right to the use and disposal of his own property. Private racism is not a legal, but a moral issue -- and can be fought only by private means, such as economic boycott or social ostracism. - - - - -

Funny, I wrote this text as a response to those who hurl Rand's "Racism" essay at me as a cookie-cutter response, but they never seem to include the long passage above that I have left unmolested. I wonder why?

It is an ironic demonstration of the philosophical insanity and the consequently suicidal trend of our age, that the men who need the protection of individual rights most urgently -- the Negroes -- are now in the vanguard of the destruction of these rights. - - - - -

Rosenbaum simply cannot have been ignorant of the fact that Blacks were the body of the vanguard she refers to, and Jews were its brains. This speaks volumes about her honesty.

In conclusion, I shall quote from an astonishing editorial in The N. Y. Times of August 4 -- astonishing because ideas of this nature are not typical of our age:

"But the question must be not whether a group recognizable in color, features or culture has its rights as a group. No, the question is whether any American individual, regardless of color, features or culture, is deprived of his rights as an American. If the individual has all the rights and privileges due him under the laws and the Constitution, we need not worry about groups and masses -- those do not, in fact, exist, except as figures of speech."

Rand was a Jew, and whether she did so consciously or self-deceptively, she simply captained one of many Jew-steered ships sailing towards the same destination: the destruction of White "Gentile" racial consciousness. She is in good company (Boas, Freud, Marx, the Frankfurt School, et. al.), and has served her tribe well.

[1] ‘Obesity tourism’ is Mugabe’s answer to feeding Zimbabwe, The Times, November 28, 2004.