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Norman Podhoretz’s “Negro Problem”

I was aware of longtime Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz as an influential figure within what would come to be labeled neoconservatism and consequently never had any interest in wasting my time with anything the man had to say. My interest was piqued recently, however, when I learned that in 1963 he had written an article titled “My Negro Problem – and Ours”. Podhoretz, still describing himself as a “good liberal”1, wrestles in the article with the contradictions within himself between his political convictions and his impressions of blacks based on his own negative experiences. “My Negro Problem – and Ours” is intriguing in the way it expresses a pivotal moment in history and augurs ominously for the future. Podhoretz begins by describing his tough Brooklyn childhood in the 1930s:

Two ideas puzzled me deeply as a child growing up in Brooklyn during the 1930s in what today would be called an integrated neighborhood. One of them was that all Jews were rich; the other was that all Negroes were persecuted. These ideas had appeared in print; therefore they must be true. My own experience and the evidence of my senses told me they were not true, but that only confirmed what a day-dreaming boy in the provinces – for the lower-class neighborhoods of New York belong as surely to the provinces as any rural town in North Dakota – discovers very early: his experience is unreal and the evidence of his senses is not to be trusted. Yet even a boy with a head full of fantasies incongruously synthesized out of Hollywood movies and English novels cannot altogether deny the reality of his own experience – especially when there is so much deprivation in that experience. Nor can he altogether gainsay the evidence of his own senses – especially such evidence of the senses as comes from being repeatedly beaten up, robbed, and in general hated, terrorized, and humiliated.

And so for a long time I was puzzled to think that Jews were supposed to be rich when the only Jews I knew were poor, and that Negroes were supposed to be persecuted when it was the Negroes who were doing the persecuting I knew about – and doing it, moreover, to me. […] A city boy’s world is contained within three or four square blocks, and in my world it was the whites, the Italians and Jews, who feared the Negroes, not the other way around. The Negroes were tougher than we were, more ruthless, and on the whole they were better athletes.

podhoretz

Norman Podhoretz

Podhoretz’s leftist sister succeeded in convincing him that blacks were indeed the victims of “exploitation and economic forces”; yet “I still hated them with all my heart,” he confesses2. He recounts the day his “best friend Carl”, a black, “hit me on the way home from school and announced that he wouldn’t play with me any more because I had killed Jesus” and how his mother, hearing about it, had “cursed the goyim and the schwartzes, the schwartzes and the goyim.”3 He goes on to describe a series of depredations by savage blacks, including being hit in the head with a baseball bat by Quentin, a dim-witted classmate with “a very dark, very cruel, very Oriental-looking face”4.

Podhoretz acknowledges that conflict is inevitable where different races and cultures come into proximity, but blacks, he observes, take this tendency to an altogether different level. “Obviously experiences like these have always been a common feature of childhood life in working-class and immigrant neighborhoods, and Negroes do not necessarily figure in them,” he writes:

Wherever, and in whatever combination, they have lived together in the cities, kids of different groups have been at war, beating up and being beaten up: micks against kikes against wops against spicks against polacks. […] But the Negro-white conflict had – and no doubt still has – a special intensity and was conducted with a ferocity unmatched by intramural white battling.5

In one interesting digression, Podhoretz admits to a youthful admiration for black thuggishness and a racially aspirational attitude toward their gangsterism:

What mainly counted for me about Negro kids of my own age was that they were “bad boys”. There were plenty of bad boys among the whites – this was, after all, a neighborhood with a long tradition of crime as a career open to aspiring talents – but the Negroes were really bad, bad in a way that beckoned to one, and made one feel inadequate. […] We rarely played hookey, or got into serious trouble in school, for all our street-corner bravado; they were defiant, forever staying out (to do what delicious things?), forever making disturbances in class and in the halls, forever being sent to the principal and returning uncowed. But most important of all, they were tough; beautifully, enviably tough, not giving a damn for anyone or anything. To hell with the teacher, the truant officer, the cop; to hell with the whole of the adult world that held us in its grip and that we never had the courage to rebel against except sporadically and in petty ways.

This is what I saw and envied and feared in the Negro: this is what finally made him faceless to me, though some of it, of course, was actually there.6

“But what, on his side, did the Negro see in me that made me faceless to him?” Podhoretz muses. “We have it on the authority of James Baldwin that all Negroes hate whites,” he reflects:

There are Negroes, no doubt, who would say that Baldwin is wrong, but I suspect them of being less honest than he is, just as I suspect whites of self-deception who tell me they have no special feeling [one way or the other] toward Negroes. Special feelings about color are a contagion to which white Americans seem susceptible even when there is nothing in their background to account for the susceptibility. Thus everywhere we look today in the North, we find the curious phenomenon of white middle-class liberals with no previous personal experience of Negroes – people to whom Negroes have always been faceless in virtue rather than faceless in vice – discovering that their abstract commitment to the cause of Negro rights will not stand the test of a direct confrontation. We find such people fleeing in droves to the suburbs as the Negro population in the inner city grows; and when they stay in the city we find them sending their children to private school rather than to the “integrated” public school in the neighborhood. We find them resisting the demand that gerrymandered school districts be re-zoned for the purpose of overcoming de facto segregation; we find them judiciously considering whether the Negroes (for their own good, of course) are not perhaps pushing too hard; we find them clucking their tongues over Negro militancy; we find them speculating on the question of whether there may not, after all, be something in the theory that the races are biologically different; we find them saying that it will take a very long time for Negroes to achieve full equality, no matter what anyone does; we find them deploring the rise of black nationalism and expressing the solemn hope that the leaders of the Negro community will discover ways of containing the impatience and incipient violence within the Negro ghettos. […]

There are the writers and intellectuals and artists who romanticize Negroes and pander to them, assuming a guilt that is not properly theirs. And there are all the white liberals who permit Negroes to blackmail them into adopting a double standard of moral judgment, and who lend themselves – again assuming the responsibility for crimes they never committed – to cunning and contemptuous exploitation by Negroes they employ or try to befriend.7

baldwin

James Baldwin

“And what about me?” Podhoretz poses. “Now that Brooklyn is behind me, do I fear them and envy them and hate them still? The answer is yes,” he confesses – adding, however, that “the intensities have lessened”. “The hatred I still feel for Negroes is the hardest of all the old feelings to face or admit, and it is the most hidden and the most overlarded by the conscious attitudes into which I have succeeded in willing myself,” he explains8. Acknowledging as he has that social tensions are an inevitability wherever the colors touch and clash, Podhoretz next considers James Baldwin’s suggestion that the solution is “the transcendence of color through love”:

Yet the tragic fact is that love is not the answer to hate – not in the world of politics, at any rate. Color is indeed a political rather than a human or a personal reality and if politics (which is to say power) has made it into a human and a personal reality, then only politics (which is to say power) can unmake it [i.e., render it unreal] once again. But the way of politics is slow and bitter, and as impatience on the one side is matched by a setting of the jaw on the other, we move closer and closer to an explosion and blood may yet run in the streets.9

Podhoretz “cannot see” how color can be made into a political irrelevance “unless color does in fact disappear: and that means not integration, it means assimilation, it means – let the brutal word come out – miscegenation.” He concludes:

The Black Muslims, like their racist counterparts in the white world, accuse the “so-called Negro leaders” of secretly pursuing miscegenation as a goal. The racists are wrong, but I wish they were right, for I believe that the wholesale merging of the two races is the most desirable alternative for everyone concerned. I am not claiming that this alternative can be pursued programmatically or that it is immediately feasible as a solution; obviously there are even greater barriers to its achievement than to the achievement of integration. What I am saying, however, is that in my opinion the Negro problem can be solved in this country in no other way.10

Podhoretz’s “Negro problem”, then, ultimately reconciles itself in what amounts to the final solution of his European-American problem. Political change, as he indicates, is difficult; but color, as he has also suggested, can only be rendered unreal by way of “politics (which is to say power)”. The power to which Podhoretz refers, however, is not conventional clout in terms of electioneering or executive, judicial, and legislative authority – and it is here that his earlier references to Hollywood and a “rural town in North Dakota”, impressionable boys and the power of the printed word to shape perceptions, at last become meaningful. A young person’s fantasies, as he knows from experience, are “synthesized out of Hollywood movies” with the result that “his experience is unreal and the evidence of his senses is not to be trusted.” The “intensities” of Podhoretz’s distaste for ghetto-dwelling blacks may have lessened once he moved up in the world and made a career for himself, but his loathing for the remainder of the goyim his mother had cursed is perhaps another matter.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

Endnotes

  1. Podhoretz, Norman. “My Negro Problem – and Ours”. Commentary (February 1963), p. 99.
  2. Ibid., p. 93.
  3. Ibid., p. 94.
  4. Ibid., pp. 94-95.
  5. Ibid., p. 96.
  6. Ibid., pp. 97-98.
  7. Ibid., pp. 98-99.
  8. Ibid., p. 99.
  9. Ibid., pp. 100-101.
  10. Ibid., p. 101.
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About icareviews

Author, Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies

7 comments on “Norman Podhoretz’s “Negro Problem”

  1. icareviews
    January 19, 2019

    Reblogged this on icareviews.

    Like

  2. Emeril
    January 19, 2019

    Damn homes, you gettin close… i be seein shit like Scared Straight from 1978, 1988, an 1998, an One Year in a Life a Crime, bof a dem fims, an i be sayin, yo mang, wut be da common denominatuh, wit dem shits, knowm i sayun? Don’ say you aint see em!

    Like

  3. Emeril
    January 20, 2019

    Thank you for including photos. That Poddy cig looks fake, though. It’s like Jimmy Breslin in his Piels TV commercial saying “it’s a good drinkin beer.” Yay, the commy white-hatin fat Irish car bomber is just like me cuz he pounds piss beer from cans! That’s the message i got from the Piels commercials, then, and I’m not about to give it up now. Wait, Brezlin is dead now, right? The 44 killer, or whatever the fuck it was.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Norman Podhoretz’s “Negro Problem” | Hipster Racist

  5. james
    January 23, 2019

    So, the only was blacks can be saved is to destroy whites. That’s convenient.

    Like

  6. Fredward
    January 30, 2019

    It is so frustrating that the obvious solution to the ‘racial problem’, which is absolute seperation, is never for a second allowed to be considered.
    Due to some sabatage by very wealthy people I knew and stupidly trusted I ended up living in a governement subsidized housing project in Oakland back in 2007 and didn’t escape until 2012. Up till then I only knew assimilated blacks who had a lot of White ancestry. Wow, was I in for a rude awakening. I kid you not, shit, piss, chicken bones and liquor bottles all over the complex, blatant drug activity, loud arguments and noise all night long. Add to this that I was a target because for years I was the only White male in the complex and you begin to suspect the torments I endured.
    The building was ran by blacks too, and a few times they gave my room key to other tenants and their friends so they could come in and rob me. I caught one red handed once. The manager, a black female, even tried to evict me for no good reason not long before I moved. Fortunately I’m not an idiot so I put a stop to that.
    But I guess, according to this Podhoretz clown, at least, Knut Hamsun was correct when he called America a “Mulatto stud farm”. That’s ridiculous. Whites, smart ones, at least, don’t like mixing with blacks because of all the crime and violence, and blacks are constantly whining about ‘racism’, so where’s common sense in all this? If people can’t get along and fight all the time how is getting married and having children any kind of solution? I’m fine with giving them some of the Southern states provided they all go there. We could even build it up for them and help them maintain it. I actually believe that would be a much more affordable solution to all this than what we are doing now.

    Like

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