John Derbyshire firing a positive sign in fight against racist rhetoric in media

OPINION - John Derbyshire, like Buchanan and Limbaugh, appealed to the losing side of the demographic trend...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

After John Derbyshire’s racist screed, “The Talk: Non-black Version” in little-known Taki magazine drew criticism from nearly everyone over the weekend, he was quickly dumped by National Review; though it had not published the piece, Derbyshire was a contributor.

“His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer,” Lowry wrote on the magazine’s website. “Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways.”

Click here to read a Grio report on the content of Derbyshire’s column

There was no other choice. The man had to be fired because he was bad for business, even if the business is spouting conservative views that some readers come to expect and uncounted others actually embrace.

In fact, Derbyshire is the latest in a string of hard-right conservative reactionaries losing their clout. Pat Buchanan lost his highly-visible position on MSNBC after writing an odious book lamenting the decline of white supremacy in the United States. More recently, Rush Limbaugh saw advertisers flee his syndicated radio talk show after he called Georgetown Law student and women’s health advocate Sandra Fluke a “slut.”

But perhaps there’s a larger and more uplifting message in this trend of right-wing flameouts. Conor Friedersdorf, a writer for The Atlantic, seems to think so. He asserts that hardline racist views find a receptive audience only among a dwindling number of older white Americans, mostly those for whom segregation and Jim Crow represented the good old days. Some of those folks may read National Review or other news outlets, but not enough of them to make those media outlets profitable.

The future, especially one based on social media outlets, belongs to younger people. Even among the young who embrace conservative issues and policies, overt racist attitudes don’t work. In fact, many are offended by the blending of racism and their politics.

Friedersdorf makes this point rather dramatically by quoting Derbyshire’s own views as expressed in a 2003 interview where Derbyshire described the challenge of writing about race for a changing audience of conservative readers at National Review. An older set of readers longed for stridently racist views that recalled an earlier day, but younger conservative readers, he said, are “determined to make the multiracial society work.”

“On subjects related to race,” as Friedersdorf concludes and I agree, “that’s a very good thing.”

Derbyshire, like Buchanan and Limbaugh, appealed to the losing side of the demographic trend. It’s only a matter of time before they’re historic relics of a time we all would rather forget.

Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. His work with the Center’s Progress 2050 project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.