Nos Ancêtres, Les Gaulois

by Henry on January 7, 2010

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.

{ 107 comments }

1

Ginger Yellow 01.07.10 at 4:44 pm

I’d be interested to know how Murray was able to tell they were “African blacks”, as opposed to what I suppose he’d call “Caribbean blacks”, given that France still has many departments and territories there. Anyway, this passage clearly supports the contention that Murray isn’t at all racist.

2

Hidari 01.07.10 at 4:53 pm

But how will Murray cope when his beloved United States of White People goes, so to speak, native?
Is Mark Steyn going to sound the alarm about that, too?

3

Maurice Meilleur 01.07.10 at 4:56 pm

Oh, come on–everyone knows how to recognize the native French: they wear striped low-collar shirts, funny little mustaches, and berets, and they carry a baguette and keep saying things like ‘Zut alors!’ and laughing like Maurice Chevalier. If it hadn’t been for those copycat white people ‘Brits and other Europeans’ Murray’s sample would have been clean.

4

Steve LaBonne 01.07.10 at 4:59 pm

Oddly enough, one of my definitions of a truly great city (eg. New York) is that you can walk down a busy street and hardly any two consecutive people you encounter look as though their ancestors came from the same part of the world. I look forward to a future in which the alarm of mentally constipated racist assholes like Steyn and Murray will continue to increase.

5

Chris Bertram 01.07.10 at 4:59 pm

St Denis isn’t, strictly speaking, an “area of Paris”, of course, nor is it a suburb where you’d expect to find many tourists. On his next visit to Europe, I suggest that Murray visits “Southall”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southall and the extrapolates general conclusions about the UK based on the people he sees there. In fact, he could reproduce this feat for just about any country you care to mention.

6

Chris Bertram 01.07.10 at 5:03 pm

As far as general characteristics of the French are concerned, I recall a heated conversation I was witness to in Marseilles between a Parisian intellectual and a local taxi driver. 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).

7

Henry 01.07.10 at 5:06 pm

bq. St Denis isn’t, strictly speaking, an “area of Paris”,

I had originally thought that the famous quote was “nos ancetres, les Galles,” which would have allowed me to make a “nos ancetres, les Halles” joke in the title.

8

Maurice Meilleur 01.07.10 at 5:10 pm

Chris, I almost overlooked what you picked up on: not only does Murray assume all the ‘real’ French are white, he clearly also assumes all British are as well.

One interesting thing pointed out by Justin Vaïsse (the author of the FP piece that Davis links to) is that fear-mongering about the swarthy Muslim hordes taking over Europe is a genre of handwringing confined mostly to North Americans like Murray and Steyn. (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to learn that.)

9

Chris Bertram 01.07.10 at 5:11 pm

In my copy of _Time and Change_ (p.27) it is “Nos Ancêtres, Les Gaulois”.

10

Henry 01.07.10 at 5:15 pm

Thus amended.

11

Randy Paul 01.07.10 at 5:18 pm

I wonder what Murray would have concluded if he had walked around pre-independence Congo, Senegal or Guinea. No doubt he would have been alarmed by the paucity of white faces there as well.

12

kid bitzer 01.07.10 at 5:20 pm

i always think it’s rather useful when people you’ve long suspected of racism simply come clean and say things that prove that they are obsessive racists. dispels all doubt.

13

Sam C 01.07.10 at 5:28 pm

Christ, the comments on that FP article are depressing…

14

Matt McIrvin 01.07.10 at 5:38 pm

Oh noes, I went to Mattapan and everyone there was black! What will become of America?

What an idiot. I knew he was racist but it’s hard to believe that people still take this guy’s grasp of statistics seriously.

15

Billikin 01.07.10 at 5:57 pm

Murray must have a real problem in the U. S. Out on a walk on the town in any major American city, you might not see a Native American at all!

16

Billikin 01.07.10 at 5:58 pm

Hmmm. The U. S. used to pride itself as the Melting Pot. Has France taken over the honor?

17

Kevin Donoghue 01.07.10 at 5:59 pm

“I collected data as I walked along….” Yep, that’s Charles Murray all right.

Incidentally, has any of these guys ever got to grips with the idea that a Muslim France would have to stop consuming alcohol and pork? They obviously have vivid imaginations, but can they really imagine that?

18

ajay 01.07.10 at 6:03 pm

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.

19

mealworm 01.07.10 at 6:09 pm

confined mostly to North Americans like Murray and Steyn

Sadly, it’s rather popular in Italy as well. See Magda “Cristiano” Allam etc.

20

Gareth Rees 01.07.10 at 6:26 pm

It’s illegal in France for the government to collect statistics on racial or ethnic minorities, so it’s hard to get accurate figures. This Independent article quotes some figures from a survey by marketing company Solis.

21

alex 01.07.10 at 6:41 pm

I wonder if by ‘St Denis’ he means the rue Saint-Denis? because as every man-of-the-world knows, there’s only one thing one goes wandering down there looking for…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rue_Saint-Denis_%28Paris%29

22

des von bladet 01.07.10 at 6:44 pm

I thought the general point of the “Eurabia” bollox was that white Europeans were going to be outbred by Teh Mooslims?

It’s just that youmight think even a disciple of Mark Steyn would hesitate to infer that all “African blacks” and “East Asians” that they pass in the street are necessarily hyperfecund enthusiasts of sharia?

23

Russell Arben Fox 01.07.10 at 6:47 pm

Murray was probably wandering round assuming that anyone darker-complexioned than Catherine Deneuve was a terrifying foreigner.

Ajay wins.

24

P O'Neill 01.07.10 at 7:04 pm

There is some good news. “Looks French” used to be an insult (see attacks on John Kerry, 2004). Now it’s a good thing. Progress!

25

Castorp 01.07.10 at 7:17 pm

P O’Neill:

Sorry to disappoint you but the insult has always been relative. It was always worse for Kerry to “look” French rather than American, but better to be French than Middle Eastern. And, in the mind of Murray et al., while the French are stinky, arrogant, socialistic, and post-heroic at least they are not dark-skinned.

26

yabonn 01.07.10 at 7:45 pm

” Mark Steyn and Christopher Caldwell have already made this clear to the rest of the world – by “European”, they mean “white”, and they find non-Europeanness threatening – for myself, I am appalled at their word not being the thing.

Fixed.

27

El Cid 01.07.10 at 8:04 pm

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.

28

JoB 01.07.10 at 8:16 pm

“I collected data as I walked along” – beware the Terminator has finally arrived in our own century (worse: they dressed him up as white banker trash, unrecognizable for all us poor people which are on the look-out for something looking like A’nul).

29

toby 01.07.10 at 8:45 pm

We should ask Zizou to stick a header in ‘im.

30

Chris 01.07.10 at 9:38 pm

Anyone who seriously thinks that it even matters how many French don’t look native born has clearly never been to Toronto. Today, metropolitan area is less then 50% native born Canadian. 30 years ago, it was a smaller city than Montreal. Now it’s twice its size.

And yet, instead of “Toronto as we know it” disappearing, we ended up with a whole lot of incredible food and a bunch of great summer festivals.

I can’t help but think you’re all insane for wasting time thinking about this.

31

Daniel 01.07.10 at 9:46 pm

You all protest too much, I think. (What really worries you?) Seems that merely observing and reporting on racial matters is verboten .To deduce from the quoted text (an excerpt of an excerpt) that Murray is a racist is incorrect as well as it is unjust. It is his wont to synthesize sociological observations into statistical categories. Has anybody impeached his use of statistics?

Murray is one of your own – a true liberal, committed to multicultural ism (whatever that is) , and how you can turn on him.

Here is Murray,
“I am not impressed by worries about losing America’s Anglo-European identity. Some of the most American people I know are immigrants from other parts of the world. And I’d a hell of a lot rather live in a Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala neighborhood, even if I couldn’t read the store signs, than in many white-bread communities I can think of.”

But the truth is you should all be worried, very worried over the browning of Europe as well as of America. If trends continue, neither is likely to endure.

32

Walt 01.07.10 at 9:49 pm

Charles Murray is one of us? Is this like the scene in Freaks where they start repeating “one of us, one of us”.

33

El Cid 01.07.10 at 10:38 pm

Murray’s not a racist — sure, no, of course not. He just wrote a really shitty, fraudulent, pseudo-scientific book on how we just got to admit that brown and black people are dumber.

34

Gareth Rees 01.07.10 at 10:43 pm

Wikipedia’s article on Saint-Denis gives (without source) the figure of 28.8% for the proportion of residents who are not native French. So Murray’s guess of 50% (for passers-by on the streets at 8 p.m.) is not necessarily wrong. But it makes him look like an idiot when he goes on to generalise his experience of a couple of evenings’ strolls in one banlieu of Paris to a country of 60 million people.

Has anybody impeached his use of statistics?

Funny you should bring that up. You may recall the fuss over Murray’s book The Bell Curve, in which his use of statistics was indeed impeached from all quarters.

35

Alex 01.07.10 at 11:27 pm

Other non-blonde French citizens: Jews, Portuguese, Georgians, Armenians…he really doesn’t know anything about 20th century France, does he?

36

Phil 01.07.10 at 11:45 pm

I know the correction has been made, but I should add that the word “Galles” in French is associated with “Le Pays de Galles”, the French term for Wales. Thus, a Welshman is a “Gallois” in French – hence not to be confused with a “Gaulois”, France’s ancestor.

37

sg 01.07.10 at 11:53 pm

That reads like any conversation with my mother. Every time I ring her I am treated to a breakdown of the latest racial makeup of Adelaide, South Australia. And the demography I get from her pales in comparison to what I get from my grandmother, who is proud to tell me that “them blacks will get what’s coming to them”. They’re both British, and both very worried about the browning of everywhere.

I don’t think this phenomenon is limited to North America; it is just not so much in vogue among the right-wing pseudo-intellectual class in the UK, instead being represented in the living room conversations of the working and lower middle class.

38

sherifffruitfly 01.08.10 at 12:38 am

Well duh.

39

Michael Bérubé 01.08.10 at 12:39 am

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.

40

Castorp 01.08.10 at 12:44 am

Over at Matt Yglesias’ blog commenter joe from Lowell points out that Murray seems to have–I kid you not–a cross-burning past: http://phoenixwoman.blogspot.com/2005/08/charles-murray-crossburner.html

Still, that was so long ago. Let’s judge him by what he has done since then and not solely by those youthful indiscretions.

41

Randy Paul 01.08.10 at 2:40 am

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.

Michael,

Then he should have been in the Bois de Vincennes.

42

Vance Maverick 01.08.10 at 6:32 am

The bit about walking down the street reminded me of Francis Galton and his “beauty map”. Bizarrely, some academics have compiled one for London, using apparently more modern methods (published 2008 in Personality and Individual Differences — not sure how that ranks). Given that they’re named Swami and Hernandez, it’s not surprising that their conclusions (as represented in the abstract) don’t revolve around resemblances to Catherine Deneuve.

43

Fr. 01.08.10 at 6:43 am

Okay, crash course in French urban planning. We French practice spatial segregation except, unlike Americans, we prefer to put the poor (migrants, plus the end tail of the working class) in the suburbs, and keep the inner city and fancy restaurants to ourselves.

As a consequence, anything that is at the end of a Métro line has a 85% likelihood to be poor (the other 15% account for the few rich suburbs in Hauts-de-Seine). Saint-Denis is in the 85% p-value. Geographically, Saint-Denis stands right at the end of the shittiest Métro line of Paris.

It’s simply not Paris. If you live there and work in Paris, you are called a commuter. If you live there and want to go shopping in Paris, you tell your friends you are “going down to Paris.” If you’re an idiot, you might have booked your (cheap) hotel there, instead of booking intra muros. Charles, voyons

Seine Saint-Denis is the emblem of French hip hop singers NTM. Their lyrics might help Murray with getting the context of his trip.

44

Randy McDonald 01.08.10 at 7:24 am

“To deduce from the quoted text (an excerpt of an excerpt) that Murray is a racist is incorrect as well as it is unjust. It is his wont to synthesize sociological observations into statistical categories. Has anybody impeached his use of statistics?”

His generalizations are sloppy in the extreme. For my past 5.5 years in Toronto, the two neighbourhoods I’ve lived in have both been heavily–visibly, audibly–Portuguese-Canadian. Should I then assume on my experience of those two neighbourhoods that all of Toronto, indeed, all of Canada is becoming Lusified?

45

Bongo Bains 01.08.10 at 7:47 am

#39: Daniel is right—it’s outrageous that all of you are accusing Murray of racism.

Daniel is wrong and in a rather opportunistic fashion cherry picks a quote to add weight to his flimsy rebuttal. It’s not hard to understand why people might see racism in Murray’s oddball data gathering exercise.

It’s not that Murray is a capital R racist (and I don’t think he is) any more than Steyn or Amis are capital R racists. They’re conflicted white men who like Daniel feel threatened by the “browning of Europe”. Saying you’d rather live in Little Vietnam than in a white-bread neighborhood is easy in the American context, and in no way let’s Murray off the hook.

“I collected data as I walked along, counting people who looked like native French…”

Any white dude who walks around St Denis seeking out signs of the “native French” isn’t having fun. And what are the native French supposed to look like? Provided Murray doesn’t require lineage dating back to ancient Gaul, a great many citizens of N. African background go back a many generations in France. They are to all intents and purposes French, provided you don’t insist on “white”. On the other hand, my mate Jean-Marie – one of Charlie’s “white natives” – could pass just as easily for a local in Marrakesh. These things are never simple.

What Murray’s ad-hoc data-gathering reflects is the angst of the white guy who sees otherness where it doesn’t necessarily exist. Using racial signatures and cultural cues to place people into an alleged “non-French” category is symptomatic of the Mark Steyn disease. Behind the data lies menace, real and implied, because no matter how educated, how cool, how urbane…well good God… they’re not like “us” (former marriage to a one-handed Thai Buddhist notwithstanding).

He even ranks by-passers into something he describes as “the non-native French half”. Without interviewing these people how the fuck could he possibly divine that a person is from the Middle-East and not from Wolverhampton?

Anyone familiar with the laments and nostrums of Steyn, Amis, McEwan et al understand what it is they are afraid of, and from their perspective they have good reason to be afraid. When you look at what these people have in common, at least one thing becomes clear.

Writing in Commentary Magazine in 2007 Murray went on at length about the (alleged) superior intelligence of Jews and ended with “At this point, I take sanctuary in my remaining hypothesis, uniquely parsimonious and happily irrefutable. The Jews are God’s chosen people.”

At the risk of being accused of being anti-Semitic ( I have friends, relatives and an accountant who are Jewish so eff off… ) what does “chosen” mean if not better-than-the-rest-of-you-rejects. Zionism, to varying degrees, endorses this bullshit and a great many of the defenders at Vienna’s gates dig it too. “Chosen people” claims don’t wash in 2010 especially when the distinction was allegedly bestowed by old Nobodaddy back in the hoary reaches of time. But weirdly enough even a few Atheist defenders of secularism peddle softly around this and related fallacies. And what I’m taking the long way round to say is that if old Charlie isn’t a racist, he certainly has skewed vision.

It always comes down to the same old shit when you scratch the surface, doesn’t it… no matter if the “concerns” are heavy with statistics, informed commentary and the civilization-under-threat drum roll.

It’s about which side you are on and what really throws members of this club is when people who look like them say “bring it on”.

46

a.y. mous 01.08.10 at 9:00 am

Y’all are taking this completely out of context. This is not about Racism or even racism. The underlying thing about the Murrays and Steyns is not black-or-white. 80-20 brown/black-white Paris is not a bad thing at all. You see, what they say is very simple and understandable.

“Hey! It’s not that we hate them for being brown, or that they wear towels. And we sure do welcome they not drinking alcohol or eating pork. More for us! Just that they don’t pay rent anymore. Worse. They now collect rent! That’s what’s so galling. “

47

Bongo Bains 01.08.10 at 9:26 am

Oh and that’s the least of it? Dream on.

48

ajay 01.08.10 at 9:39 am

It was a futile exercise anyway. As any good Little Englander knows, w*gs begin at Calais; beyond that you’re just drawing arbitrary distinctions.

49

Patrick Nielsen Hayden 01.08.10 at 11:23 am

Bongo Bains’s comment #45 is mostly sensible, but it’s discouraging that he or she seems to believe that Michael Bérubé was actually defending Murray. Did Bains pause for even a second to read what Bérubé actually said?

50

dsquared 01.08.10 at 11:33 am

47: for values of “Calais” including “Berwick”, natcherally.

51

Alex 01.08.10 at 11:43 am

I’m still amazed that Christopher Caldwell got to write a whole buke about this after putting a six-page article in the NYT about how Robert Kilroy-Silk was going to revolutionise Europe.

52

ajay 01.08.10 at 11:46 am

49: I couldn’t agree with you more! But I suspect that we may be facing in opposite directions…

53

Walt 01.08.10 at 12:07 pm

If you didn’t know who Berube was, I don’t think you could point to what’s different between his comment and Daniel’s, other than brevity.

54

Hidari 01.08.10 at 12:16 pm

‘I’m still amazed that Christopher Caldwell got to write a whole buke about this after putting a six-page article in the NYT about how Robert Kilroy-Silk was going to revolutionise Europe.’

Ah yes…lest we forget…..

‘At 62, he is an exotically handsome man, with a very un-English facial glow and ice blue eyes….’

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/09/magazine/09KILROY.html?_r=1

55

JoB 01.08.10 at 12:27 pm

Icelandic blue eyes?

56

Bongo Bains 01.08.10 at 12:38 pm

Yeah I fucked up on the MB reference. Humble apologies.

As Walt says though: “If you didn’t know who Berube was, I don’t think you could point to what’s different between his comment and Daniel’s, other than brevity.”

I checked out his blog back in the day but the print was too small and I was afraid of going blind.

57

JL 01.08.10 at 1:35 pm

Here is Murray,
“I am not impressed by worries about losing America’s Anglo-European identity. Some of the most American people I know are immigrants from other parts of the world. And I’d a hell of a lot rather live in a Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala neighborhood, even if I couldn’t read the store signs, than in many white-bread communities I can think of.

Murray lived for several years in Thailand in his youth, and says that he prefers Asian cultures to the West in some respects. His first wife was from Thailand, and two of his children are half-Thai. More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Murray_(author)#Peace_Corps_Service_in_Thailand

Despite his multiculturalist pronouncements , Murray lives in Burkittesville, Maryland, which is virtually all-white. In this respect he, of course, is very much like the core readership of Crooked Timber (at least those with children).

HF ADDENDUM – IF YOU KNOW THROUGH SOME MAGICAL PROCESS WHAT THE “CORE READERSHIP” OF CT IS, YOU KNOW AN AWFUL LOT MORE THAN WE BLOGGERS DO

58

Tom Elrod 01.08.10 at 2:00 pm

Walt @ 52:

Well, this, which is clearly snark: “He was simply collecting data on how many of the people he encountered that evening appeared to have cognitive capacities commensurate with his own.”

Sorry, MB. The joke’s not funny once you have to explain it.

59

Michael Drake 01.08.10 at 3:04 pm

“I can’t vouch for the representativeness of the sample…”

Sure, Charles Murray might include unquantifiably many false positives when he collects data while walking along. But let it not be said that he fails to frame his results rigorously.

60

Gene O'Grady 01.08.10 at 3:13 pm

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.

61

ajay 01.08.10 at 4:08 pm

Nothing creeps me out more than the homogenized streets and malls of rich man’s Orange County.

How are you in the equally homogenous (if not more so) streets of Hanoi, Beijing and Lusaka?

62

Gene O'Grady 01.08.10 at 6:29 pm

I’ve never been to Hanoi, etc.

But I am remain unapologetic about that comment, since I am aware of the largely Hispanic and black workforce that makes that lifestyle possible behind the scenes.

Big difference between a city populated by those who’ve always lived there and an artificial place like Irvine.

63

Walt 01.08.10 at 6:57 pm

Tom: To me, that only sounds slightly more absurd than Daniel’s comment.

64

Platonist 01.08.10 at 7:02 pm

“HF ADDENDUM – IF YOU KNOW THROUGH SOME MAGICAL PROCESS WHAT THE “CORE READERSHIP” OF CT IS, YOU KNOW AN AWFUL LOT MORE THAN WE BLOGGERS DO”

Yeah, that takes some serious sorcery to figure out: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

Or you could, you know, count the number of academics in the blogroll. A wild, inscrutable, diverse bunch, this. Only magic can fathom.

65

Walt 01.08.10 at 7:03 pm

I agree with Gene. I grew up in an ethnically diverse city, so if I go to someplace that’s very ethnically homogeneous, then I find it disconcerting. I do have this reaction when I’m in Asia, though I expect to be disconcerted there, since it’s all foreign and shit.

66

Platonist 01.08.10 at 7:07 pm

“Murray lives in Burkittesville, Maryland, which is virtually all-white. In this respect he, of course, is very much like the core readership of Crooked Timber (at least those with children).”

This will be remedied over time, since after moving to such places with our first child, we soon adopt a brown one for variety and bragging rights.

67

Henry 01.08.10 at 7:13 pm

Or you could, you know, count the number of academics in the blogroll. A wild, inscrutable, diverse bunch, this. Only magic can fathom.

Tells you something about the contributors. Not so much about the readers. I’ve met more non-academic than academic readers of CT (and given that I am an academic myself, meet lots of em etc, I would probably expect the sample to skew in favor of academics rather than the other way)

68

David 01.08.10 at 7:45 pm

Charles Murray is as disgraceful as any genre of screed one might consider.

69

alex 01.08.10 at 7:56 pm

“The Three Musketeers was written by a Caribbean black Frenchman”. Or, put another way, the author’s grandmother was mixed-race. You’re probably trying to help, but invoking the one-drop rule really doesn’t do it.

70

Zamfir 01.08.10 at 8:20 pm

This will be remedied over time, since after moving to such places with our first child, we soon adopt a brown one for variety and bragging rights.
I planned to order mine in mocha, but I fear it might be out of fashion too quickly. In the past you could just adopt whatever Madonna did and expect it to be good for a long while. But even she is losing her edge I think.

71

Castorp 01.08.10 at 8:20 pm

“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,_p%C3%A8re

72

JoB 01.08.10 at 10:24 pm

70- latte macchiato is the thing of the moment I hear, even as an acronym!

73

Chris A. Williams 01.08.10 at 11:53 pm

I need to visit my optician – apparently my neighbours are white. Ta for telling me that this ain’t so, JL.

74

Platonist 01.09.10 at 12:33 am

70, 72

You can’t go wrong with coffee tones, as long as it’s a mixed drink–anything darker and the audience gets an uncomfortable Webster/Gary Coleman vibe, which loses points.

75

TGGP 01.09.10 at 3:46 am

Lawrence Auster had a very different response.

One of the best takes I’ve read on this “Eurabia” business is Razib’s review of God’s Continent.

76

piglet 01.09.10 at 4:43 am

Daniel (31): “Has anybody impeached his use of statistics?”

You must be joking. In case you are not, have you really never heard of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Curve_Debate?

77

D. Aristophanes 01.09.10 at 6:56 am

One wonders if similar nigger-counting expeditions in other European cities might yield similarly distressing results … I smell an AEI research grant for Murray!

78

bad Jim 01.09.10 at 9:56 am

Actually, Irvine has a rather substantial Asian population. One joke has it that “UCI” stands for “University of Chinese Immigrants”. There’s a busy Persian market at Culver & Michelson, I believe, and while there still may be more pizza places than Thai joints I’d bet traditional European fare is in the minority.

Considering Orange County as a whole, you can consider it largely white only by carefully avoiding entire cities. The Sears at South Coast Plaza has Spanish subtitles on most of its signs. At the Performing Arts Center across the street, the audience for an all Tchaikovsky concert by the Pacific Symphony tonight had a substantial Asian fraction. Concerts featuring Armenian, Argentinian, Brazilian, Japanese and Chinese composers and performers dependably gather sizable, ethnically appropriate attendance.

The ethnic diversity of our eating establishments, including the cheap joints in strip malls, itself makes this a worthy destination. Once you ignore the big chains you find we’re a community of polyglot gluttons.

79

Josh 01.09.10 at 2:02 pm

45: I was taught over and over in Sunday school and by the “Judaism” section of Borders that “chosen” does not mean “better than the rest of you”: it means “saddled by the Lord with a poopload of responsibilities so that we might set an example for everybody” — “light unto the nations” and all that. Remember, when every Jew on Earth observes the Sabbath properly, Messiah comes to make things better for everyone.

Jewish ethnocentrism, or philosemitic bigotry, I would argue, is a different jar of herring altogether; but Murray doesn’t seem to get that.

80

JoB 01.09.10 at 2:49 pm

But still; why didn’t he (OK: He, if you insist) saddle me?

81

James 01.09.10 at 3:43 pm

Nobody has mentioned his faulty reasoning regarding December 22, so I’ll do so here. Living in another “touristy” city (Santa Fe, NM), I can tell you that our downtown about doubles in size come Christmastime. And I can’t imagine that there aren’t a lot of people who decide to do Christmas in Paris (in fact, I think this made a really lame joke in a Bond film once). So why, precisely, does he think that there won’t be tourists on December 22?

This may be moot given the previously discussed status of Saint-Denis as an outlying, poor suburb, but it would certainly apply if he were in a more “main” part of the city. It just shows one more failure of reasoning on his part.

82

Gene O'Grady 01.09.10 at 4:28 pm

One hardly needs to invoke the one drop rule on Dumas, one only needs to look at a picture. Rather like Murray did. I wasn’t trying to help (thanks, fella), I was providing an example that indicates that non-white Frenchmen go back a ways.

I’m well aware that Orange County is a big place, but my family connections (going back to the immediate post-WWII period) are to the Corona del Mar/Newport Beach/Irvine area. And, not being blind, I’m aware of the Asian population, but being white I’m aware of the attitudes of some of their more influential neighbors. And I stand by the point that the artificiality (public-private social engineering?) that has produced a somewhat creepy environment, where you can draw dirty looks by walking down the street, has an unsavoring racial component.

83

Jeff 01.09.10 at 4:38 pm

Here’s a very good piece on immigration, Islam, and Europe, by Laila Lalami in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091214/lalami

84

alex 01.09.10 at 6:41 pm

@80, and yet, it remains a fact that AD’s only non-European grandparent was herself only partly non-European, and that in calling him, tout court, “black” one is making an assumption which seems to me to be more harmful than otherwise to the peaceful intercourse of nations, all puns intended.

85

Tim Silverman 01.09.10 at 11:35 pm

@JoB

But still; why didn’t he (OK: He, if you insist) saddle me?

Because God does a lot of random weird shit that nobody understands. There are whole books of the bible about this fact; and anyway, if you both believe in God and take an honest look at the world around you, you can hardly help coming to this conclusion. Some are chosen to be rich and powerful; some are chosen to be skillful and knowledgeable; and some get dumped with a lot of ethical principles, nitpicking laws and stern injunctions, and get beaten up a lot. That’s just how things are. You just have to try to do the best you can with what you’re given.

86

Sebastian Dangerfield 01.10.10 at 7:30 pm

Ah, y’all are all wet. There’s only one reason Murray would be in St. Denis (unless he was hopelessly lost). And that leads to the ineluctable conclusion that this blog entry was the product of his frustration at not finding any white prostitutes.

87

Fourcultures 01.11.10 at 5:39 am

A glance at the atlas reveals that Europe is actually in Asia, and pretty much right next to Africa. The French (of whom I take it Charles Murray is one) should be suspicious of foreigners from Antarctica and the Americas, who are clearly in the wrong hemisphere. Except for Quebec, of course. And Louisiana, obviously. And Martinique. Actually now I come think about it, what are all those Americans doing in the Americas? Isn’t that a bit worrying?

88

Barry 01.11.10 at 7:38 pm

Zamfir, @70: ” In the past you could just adopt whatever Madonna did and expect it to be good for a long while. But even she is losing her edge I think.”

Angelina Jolie is probably still a safe person to copy, if you move quickly. If not, hold off a moment until Lady Gaga sets the new fashion.

89

Keith 01.11.10 at 10:51 pm

Provided Murray doesn’t require lineage dating back to ancient Gaul…

I’m sure he walked up to strangers and demanded to see their patents of nobility, and only counted those who could trace their lineage back six generations, though he weighted to account those who could go all the way back to Charlemagne. Very rigorous methodology, that. No thatcher’s sons need apply.

90

Substance McGravitas 01.11.10 at 11:00 pm

91

arc 01.12.10 at 5:44 am

If you’re comfortable talking about ethnic groups at all, then presumably ‘native Fijiian’ is fine as an ethnic group (distinguished from ‘Indian Fijians, a large minority group in Fiji) and ‘native Taiwanese’ is also fine as an ethnic group, as distinguished from the Han majority in Taiwan.

If it’s fine to be picking out groups such as this as ‘natives’, when there’s another group of people also living in the same place who have also been there for quite a long time, why isn’t ‘native French’ OK as an ethnic group?

Of course, it’s not going to be possible to give necessary and sufficient conditions for counting as ‘native French’, ethnicity of course is very messy, we’re all related to one another, there aren’t any firm boundaries, it’s all cultural, etc. etc. But these considerations apply just as much to any other group of ‘natives’.

Being white would be to native French as having the polynesian nose and curly hair would be to a native Fijian. Not perhaps a necessary condition – there will be people who think of themselves with plenty of justification as being native Fijian who don’t possess the distinctive features, usually because they have other ancestry as well. But a distinctive feature associated with the ethnic group nonetheless. And it’s certainly not a sufficient condition: even Murray recognises this because he admits that he might have counted Brits (native Brits, I suppose) in with the native French.

It seems to me that refusing the notion of ‘native French’ tout court but accepting the notion of native Fijians is basically implying that people with brown skin can belong to ethnic groups but people with white skin can’t, which is as racist as any notion. I can see why good liberals get uncomfortable with ideas like ‘native French’, because of it’s nasty associations with racism and nationalism. But I think it just plays into the hands of racists and nationalists in the long run – people who think of themselves as native French find no home for their ethnic identity in liberal politics, and find liberals all enthusiastic about every ethnicity except any European ethnicity.

There’s an alternative of refusing to talk or think about ethnicity at all, but it then becomes difficult to understand the world and other people when so many people do think of the world in these terms, are proud of their ethnicity.

It’s also hard to make sense of most of the comments here without that notion.

92

Tim Silverman 01.12.10 at 4:56 pm

@arc (91).

Yes, but:

a) It’s not up to Americans to tell people whether they’re French or not.
b) Notwithstanding some real and even strong correlations between cultures and genes, you can’t, in fact, tell the ethnicity of a person just by looking at them, certainly not on the streets of a major highly cosmopolitan city.
c) Frenchness isn’t primarily an ethnicity but a nationality, and that’s important too.
d) Murray has a history of being a lying racist scumbag.

93

bianca steele 01.12.10 at 6:23 pm

Also, re @91: If you go that way, why stop at “French” and “British”? Why not place individual UK citizens on the basis of whether their ancestry is Norman, or Celt, or Saxon . . . for example?

94

arc 01.12.10 at 9:16 pm

@Tim (92):
Yes, Murray seems to think ‘native french’ are the only proper French, and that’s bollocks. It’s also really tough on people who don’t look the part, as according to this kind of thinking, there’s a huge number of people in the world who aren’t proper anything (people who’s family came from Algiers four generations ago, for example).

@ bianca (93):
Ethnicity is a cultural category, based loosely on descent and appearance. The English don’t commonly distinguish those descent patterns from each other as ethnic groups any more (some are proud of their Norman ancestry of course, but it’s not the same thing), and they’re probably too blurred now. They do distinguish themselves from some Celtic groups, who live on the same Island, though, namely the Scots, the Welsh and the Cornish.

Your argument would work also against Black Americans, in some ways better. They’re descended from people who came from different parts of Africa, who were more genetically and culturally distinct from each other than any Europeans, so we could wonder whether Martin Luther King was really more Bantu than Ashanti for example, but these aren’t distinctions anyone makes or even knows about any more, neither Black Americans themselves, nor anyone else (I don’t even know whether Bantu and Ashanti were enslaved at all, but that’s kind of my point!).

But Black American is an ethnic group if anything is. You try making sense of American history and contemporary American cultural discourse without it.

95

roac 01.12.10 at 9:49 pm

Why not place individual UK citizens on the basis of whether their ancestry is Norman, or Celt, or Saxon . . . for example?

This book claims to demonstrate, on the basis of RNA analysis, that the genes of their ancestors are sufficiently scrambled in the (light-skinned) modern inhabitants of England that the components are indistinguishable.

96

bianca steele 01.12.10 at 10:44 pm

@arc: Black American is an ethnic group if anything is

Trying not to offend anyone:

“African American” may fit the definition of ethnicity if anything does. It doesn’t include black Puerto Ricans or Dominicans, equally the descendants of African slaves, who ethnically are considered Hispanic but who wrt American racial politics register as black.

I don’t know why you would have such a difficult time finding groups to call “ethnic”: for example, in Northern US cities with a large immigrant working class population, in the late 19th and early 20th century, one may find an ethnicity any place the Catholic Church decided it needed a separate parish. It isn’t as difficult as you seem to be finding it.

There is, as you say, a definition of ethnicity that is, more or less, the same as nationality, though on a smaller scale, or in larger-scale societies that continue to discriminate on the basis of origin. There is also a definition of ethnicity as a cultural practice, in a modern nation (not necessarily liberal, it would include Communist countries) where rights aren’t based on ancestry and cultural practice is a private matter though there is some regard for multicultural, group differences, or in a modern, multicultural nation where groups remain fairly distinct (e.g. the term “ethnic Chinese” as used to describe particular groups of Africans and Malaysians).

97

arc 01.13.10 at 2:14 am

bianca:
I think we’re talking at cross purposes here. I don’t have any difficulty finding ethnic groups. I’m finding them all over the place. I’ve mentioned at least six in my last couple of posts. The reason I said “if anything is”, is not because I doubt the existence of ethnic groups (as messy culturally-defined categories) but because your questions about dividing up the English into Normans, Celts and Saxons seemed to be casting doubt on the English as an ethnic group, but they serve just as well for casting doubt on African American (accepting your correction) as an ethnic group.

What I mean by ethnic group are groups of people where both insiders and outsiders identify the members of the group as belonging to the group, and membership is broadly construed along (presumed) lines of descent, common history, appearance, language and cultural practices, roughly in that order of importance. I don’t think it’s possible to give necessary and sufficient conditions for being a member of an ethnic group, and obviously if you look closely, you can find all sorts of vagueness, corner cases, fuzziness, patchworks, people of multiple ethnic groups, ethnic groups within ethnic groups, things which look a bit like ethnic groups but aren’t quite, people who are treated as being members of an ethnic group but lack several (maybe all!) of the usual criteria, people who do meet the important criteria but aren’t treated as belonging to the group, &c. &c.

By these considerations, African Americans are most definitely an ethnic group, and that’s all to the good, because that’s the sort of grouping that the concept is supposed to cover.

98

bianca steele 01.13.10 at 2:34 am

arc,
It’s possible I misunderstood what you were saying at @91. Do you consider the Bretons to be ‘native french’ or to be an ‘ethnic group’?

99

arc 01.13.10 at 4:37 am

Well, it’s not up to me to decide whether they’re an ethnic group or not, it depends on how they view themselves and how other people view them. I believe that Bretons do think of themselves as being a distinct ethnic group from everyone else in France, as distinct from other French groups as the Welsh are distinct from the English, their Celtic heritage would seem to be quite important here. At a guess I’d say that they’d be viewed by themselves and other French as more ethnically distinct from Burgundians and Champanois than the Burgundians and Champanois are considered to be from each other.

One possibility is that Burgundians, Champanois, and Bretons all consider themselves to be ‘native French’ as distinct from English or ‘north African French’, but within that group distinguish themselves from each other. Another possibility is that ‘native French’ is a category only ever used by outsiders like me and Murray, and Burgundians, Champanois and Bretons only view themselves as having certain cultural similarities with one another, just as the Scots would agree (when pushed) that the do share some cultural similarities with the English but insist on their ethnic distinctiveness, although I don’t think that’s very likely – my guess is that the French do believe in some kind of ‘native French’ ethnic group.

Anyone with more than a very cursory knowledge of French takes on their own ethnicities want to educate me?

100

JW Mason (lemuel pitkin) 01.13.10 at 5:57 am

Anyone with more than a very cursory knowledge of French takes on their own ethnicities want to educate me?

Even a cursory knowledge might be enough — at least to recall that the quote which gives this post its title is notorious for being found in textbooks used in French colonies, where few if any of the students were likely to be descended from Gauls in any biological sense.

There is a real problem, tho, behind arc’s (faux-?) naive question of how we can avoid racism if we acknowledge race at all. It’s one that karl Marx put his finger on his much-maligned essay On The Jewish Question. Liberalism is fundamentally incompatible with the practices that maintain ethnic (or religious, etc.) groups, which by definition are not formed by voluntary contracts between individuals. The usual answer — establishing a public sphere in which people are free individuals and limiting affective or cultural bonds to a separate private sphere — is not really viable. It leads to a situation where citizenship means renouncing any particular identity. But how satisfactory is a freedom that does not include the freedom to be a member of a community?

Marx: “None of the so-called rights of man … go beyond egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society – that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a species-being; on the contrary, species-like itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence. The sole bond holding them together is natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation of their property and their egoistic selves.”

It’s stupid to think that being French is about skin color or biological ancestry. But it is not obviously stupid — in fact, it seems to the official policy of the French state — to think being French is about participating in a common culture. So do you enforce that more or less coercively, or do you abandon the idea of a national community (and with it the democratic legitimacy of the state)? That’s the problem “On the Jewish Question” is pointing to.

101

arc 01.13.10 at 9:24 am

I seem to be having a great deal of difficulty making myself understood here. I never asked anything about avoiding racism. What I did suggest is that we cannot make sense of the world of humanity without a notion of ethnicity. Ethnicity, for those of us who distinguish it from race, is a far more flexible concept free of the ontological preconceptions inherent in the notion of race, particularly the idea that it corresponds to a real biological division, and the related notion that humanity can somehow be broken down into a small number of distinct and disjoint races, each with a character stemming from biology.

Like it or not, people do identify themselves and are identified by others as Irish, Xhosa or Māori, and this identification is made partially on descent grounds. To understand how people think of themselves and how they relate to others one needs to understand this. It’s quite possible to use this notion without being racist (or ‘ethnicist’): you can think of yourself as Irish without thinking the Irish are best. Just as it’s possible to use the notion of culture without being a cultural supremacist, or the notion of nation without being a nationalist. If Liberalism can’t cope with this notion, then so much the worse for Liberalism (I take it this was kind of your point): people aren’t going to stop doing this just because a political theory doesn’t like it.

I thought it was obvious from my comments that I do distinguish culture from ethnicity, but in case it is not, let me make it clear I don’t think being ethnic French is essential to being a citizen of France or culturally French.

102

JoB 01.13.10 at 9:37 am

arc, I do not identify with an ethnic group & I would be hard pressed to find examples of people that do. Where does that leave your theory? I am not denying other people do but there is room for improvement in many (including in me but maybe less on that dimension). True – there are a great many forms of rather innocent ethnicity (commonly grouped under folk culture), but that doesn’t make it essential.

103

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.13.10 at 10:42 am

…we cannot make sense of the world of humanity without a notion of ethnicity.

Also, we can’t make sense of the world of humanity without the notion of gods. Like it or not, people do believe in supernatural beings.

So what?

104

JoB 01.13.10 at 1:40 pm

henri, I’m sure I can make sense of a world of humanity without the notion of gods (but maybe not of a history of humanity without the notion of gods, if that’s what you meant). I rarely think of humanity at all using the notion of gods although I do think of it all the time as prone to even the most hilarious forms of delusion.

105

bianca steele 01.13.10 at 8:15 pm

arc,
If you go back and read your earlier comments, I think you’ll see that you were the one who introduced the term “ethnic” at @91, as distinguished from “race,” in a new sense, one that hasn’t been appropriate to what most people have been discussing so far. That may be the explanation for why people resist your attempt to, as it seems to them, change the subject.

The problem with “race” is that it appears to persist after other ethnic and cultural distinctions no longer are recognized. This is the case in both the US and France, though in different ways (in the US it is a matter of rights including rights of association, in France AIUI more a matter of culture).

Neither race nor ethnicity has anything to do with religion–obviously–and the intrawhite ethnic divisions in the US are not as stark as, for example, in Belgium–but there is a lot more diversity in (most places in) the US, diversity separate from class divisions, than within most European countries.

106

JoB 01.13.10 at 8:20 pm

It has come very far indeed if my nationalist compatriots succeeded in convincing the otherwise well informed of the notion that there is an ethnic division in Belgium.

107

arc 01.14.10 at 12:00 am

@ JoB (102): if and when everyone is like you and doesn’t identify with an ethnic group, and nor do they ever identify others as being in an ethnic group, then there would be no need for the concept, of course. This would entail that nothing of importance is ever hung on origins (descent, common history, etc) or appearance . The concept would still be necessary for historical understanding of how people interacted and thought when the concept was in active use.

Perhaps it would help if I compared the situation with money. Money is also a social convention, and it also has a very real connection with things that are important to people. You can’t understand human society without understanding money. If and when we cease to have money, then the concept is no longer needed to understand humanity.

@ Henri (103): I’m not really sure what your point is, apart from an offhanded dismissal of what I’ve been saying.

A better comparison than gods would be religion. You can’t understand humanity as it exists today without a concept of religion: people really do group themselves and others into religious groups. This may be based on a fiction, but the groups exist nevertheless. If people stop doing this, then the concept becomes unnecessary. I don’t see that happening in a hurry, either.

As it happens, religious groups aren’t entirely based on a fiction anyway, on any analysis. People really do read different books, have different religious practices, recognise different religious authorities, etc.

And the same is true of ethnic groups. There really are people who mutually identify each other as being the members of the same ethnic group, and are identified by outsiders as being members of the same ethnic group. While there’s some degree of arbitrariness, mythmaking, and often (I suppose) group essentialism going on here, which I suppose we could haughtily dismissed as being damned lies and superstition if we wanted to, generally speaking they really do have shared descent and a common history, and often really do look different from other people. You might not be interested in anyone’s ancestors or any group that’s defined in part on ancestry, nor in interactions between these groups. That just means you’re not interested in understanding this part of human interaction (I myself have pretty limited interest in football).

@ bianca (105):
Yes, I deliberately so introduced it because everyone was going around mocking Murray for his completely nonsensical racist notion of the ‘native French’. But the notion doesn’t seem nonsensical to me, nor necessarily racist. In fact, I suspect most French people whose ancestors have mostly lived in France for a few hundred years and have light skin think of themselves as a group distinct from both the English (so it can’t really be a racial notion or a notion purely based on similarity of appearance: they’re not merely classifying themselves as ‘white’) and from French North Africans. Of course that doesn’t mean that they necessarily think that people of North African extraction aren’t any less French, or that they’re worried about immigration of North Africans.

If Murray’s category is per force rubbish, it’s the same kind of rubbish that most people in the world buy into, and to be consistent you ought to also mock anyone who talks of ‘native Fijians’ or ‘African Americans’ or says they’re Irish when they were born and live in Boston.

Comments on this entry are closed.