Pure versus applied racialism among restrictionists

Post by Vipul Naik (regular blogger and site founder, launched site and started blogging March 2012). See:

Immigration restrictionists draw upon a diverse collection of arguments against immigration. While some restrictionist arguments stress the number of immigrants, others outline concerns about the characteristics of immigrants (more here). The characteristics-based arguments include IQ deficit, dysfunctional immigrant culture, and skills mismatch. There are other arguments that stress the harms of hetereogeneity per se.

One type of reasoning used in characteristics-based arguments, that has historically been the subject of much controversy, is racialist reasoning. [The topic of race seems to draw strong moral reactions, including accusations of racism and unhelpful stereotypes. I'll try my best to avoid moralism on the issue in this blog post, though it may not be hard to see where I stand.]

“Racialist” arguments, per my understanding, are arguments that use race as a fundamental unit of analysis in the study of social phenomena, and typically do so in a manner that treats race as something more than a “social construct” but rather as something that has a biological and/or internal cultural component. This is a broad brush definition that may not fit all cases, but it’s a good start. For many people, racialism is the same as racism, while others argue that racism is much narrower than racialism, and it’s possible to be racialist without being racist.

I want to add to this understanding of racialism by distinguishing two types of racialism: pure racialism, where race is treated as a morally salient end in itself, and applied racialism, where race is only used as a proxy, or statistical predictor, of other phenomena. In the context of immigration restrictionism, a pure racialist argument may say, “Immigrants are of the wrong/bad/other race, therefore we should close our borders.” An applied racialist argument may say, “Immigrants are of this race, and we know that this race, statistically, has a lower average IQ or higher crime rate or votes the wrong way or is a drain on the welfare state. Therefore, we should close our borders.”

A small but not insignificant fraction of restrictionist groups and websites employ racialist arguments against immigration. Foremost among these is VDARE, which is focused on making the case against immigration to the US, and uses racialist reasoning, along with many other forms of reasoning, to argue against immigration. The American Renaissance website is focused on racialism and also advocates for immigration restrictions. There are many other websites that use racialist arguments against immigration. Alternative Right is one such website.

In so far as these arguments are applied racialist arguments, they can be addressed more directly by considering both the empirical evidence for the actual harms claimed, as well as keyhole solutions that tackle those harms. For instance, a racialist argument about IQ deficit can be addressed simply by addressing the IQ deficit argument directly. The advantage of that approach is that it also tackles culturalist and structuralist arguments about immigrant IQ deficits, so that the specifics of racialism don’t need to be addressed.

However, pure racialist arguments, which say “Immigrants are the wrong race. End of argument!” are harder to rebut in this way. One can make the case that, even for those worried about wrong race immigrants, selective open borders for immigrants of the “right” race would still be an improvement. But it’s hard to stretch that to a case for open borders. Pure racialist arguments are, to put it bluntly, trump cards. It’s hard to imagine convincing somebody who holds this view that completely open borders could work, even if the person could be convinced to support open borders for some races.

Given this, an empirical question remains: within the racialism-based restrictionist camp, what is the split between pure and applied racialism? The question is trickier than it sounds, for two reasons.

First, applied racialism may masquerade as pure racialism. Once you who have absorbed and accepted certain applied racialist arguments as deeply and definitely true, then you may frame an applied racialist argument in pure racialist shorthand. Instead of a long-winded, “Immigrants are of this race, and this race has problems A, B, C, therefore close the borders,” people who have internalized the logic of these arguments may use the shorthand, “Immigrants are of the wrong race, so close the borders.”

Second, pure racialism may masquerade as applied racialism. People who believe that a certain race is the “wrong” race may be more willing to believe on insufficient evidence that that race is associated with various social ills.

With these caveats in mind, here is the impression I get regarding the split between pure and applied racialism. The racialism-based restrictionist camp makes a mix of pure and applied racialist arguments. Applied racialist arguments are most often seen when reaching out to fence-sitters and potential converts to racialist thinking. Pure racialist arguments are more often seen when soliciting funds from the hardcore base. Some racialism-based restrictionists are quick to deride pure racialism as a straw man, which may well be the case for some subset of racialism-based restrictionism. But I’ll argue that it is a real phenomenon. Here are some examples.

In an essay titled The Renewal of the West, Jerry Bowyer writes of his encounter with the highly respected restrictionist Pat Buchanan:

If 200 years from now America will be filled with people who know and love the ideas of Jefferson and Madison — but these people are overwhelmingly dark skinned — will this be good or bad?

That’s the question I asked Pat Buchanan when I debated with him about the content of his book, The Death of the West. He said it would be ‘a disaster and a tragedy’.

The VDARE website is currently closed for fundraising, but their homepage redirects to a fund requests page (update: after this post was published, the content of that page was moved to a separate article titled America, Anti-America, And The Role of VDARE.com) with statements like:

What About the White a.k.a. American Vote?

That “ocean of whiteness” IS America.

And, exactly as VDARE.com has been predicting for several years, the Census recently announced that a majority of births in 2011 were to non-whites. That means that America will turn majority non-white sometime after 2040—when my baby girls (see above) will, God willing, still be young women.

Remember, this is only happening because of immigration policy—the birth rates of American whites and blacks have otherwise virtually converged. The government has almost succeeded in electing a new people.

“This” means being “squeeze out “one more narrow victory in November” by “rel[ying] almost entirely on whites.”

“Whites”=Americans, of course.

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