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The Brian Ferguson Interview

I talked with Rutgers University professor of anthropology R. Brian Ferguson about Steven Pinker, Napoleon Chagnon, Marvin Harris, anthropo...

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Richard Nixon, just asking questions: "Can well-educated black people teach English?"

The biggest deal in this New Yorker article is Ronald Reagan's blatant racism:
Reagan, who was then the governor of California, gave his opinion of the African delegates to the United Nations who voted against the United States’ position that Taiwan, rather than the People’s Republic of China, should receive U.N. recognition. “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Reagan exclaimed. Nixon laughed heartily and went on to tell the Secretary of State, William Rogers, about Reagan’s outburst...
Nixon's racism and anti-Semitism had already been revealed by previously released tapes.  However from Pinkerite's POV this was most interesting (my highlight):
Earlier that month, Nixon had been explaining to Daniel Patrick Moynihan—an academic who had worked in the White House—about how he had been thinking about how, in his mind, “blacks” just had a hell of a time governing. And that [Reagan’s comments] really said something to him, and that squared with things he was reading about this noxious idea of a connection between I.Q. and race.
Via The Atlantic's Tim Naftali I found the actual audio recording online  and Nixon's discussion with Moynihan starts at minute 1:32:05.

The excerpt I'm most interested in is available on Youtube with a transcript. However I am not linking to the Youtube version because both versions I've found there were posted by racists.

The transcript is pretty bad so I have to edit it, which is taking a long time, so I will be posting the transcript in pieces. Here is part one. The "Herrnstein" mentioned is, of course, Richard Hernnstein, co-author with Charles Murray of "The Bell Curve." The Herrnstein piece they mention is "I.Q." from the September 1971 issue of The Atlantic available in its entirety here.
        NIXON 
Hello?
     MOYNIHAN 
Good morning, Mr President. 
     NIXON 
Where are yah? 
     MOYNIHAN 
I'm - I'm in New York, writing a speech which I'm going to give today at the United Nations, and give the Russians a little hell, sonuvabitch (laughs)  
     NIXON 
Right, good. You got a minute or is this a bad time? 
     MOYNIHAN 
I do sir. 
     NIXON 
In fact I'm writing a speech and I'm delivering tonight at 7:30 so I'm gonna have to write in the middle of it but it's brief so you can listen 14 minutes - does your retention time that long. 
     MOYNIHAN 
I never-   
     NIXON 
- don't admit it. The reason I called you as a matter of fact - I sort of read things - when I was in Florida going over to Walker's I read with great interest your piece from the UN on Herrnstein's piece, you know, that I passed onto you. Let me say first of all nobody in the staff even knows I read the goddamn article  
     MOYNIHAN 
Oh good. 
     NIXON 
- and nobody in this staff is going to know any better because I couldn't agree more with you that the Herrnstein's stuff and all the rest, this is not -  first nobody must think we're thinking about it, and second if we do find out it's correct we must never tell anybody - 
     MOYNIHAN 
I'm afraid that's just the case  
     NIXON 
- that's right yes now let me add a few things that you can and you might just make some mental notes about it or anything  you want just as  I give you my own views. 
I've reluctantly concluded based at least on the evidence presently before me and I don't base it on any scientific evidence that that what Herrstein says and also what was said earlier by Jensen and so forth is it’s probably very close to truth. Now - 
     MOYNIHAN 
I think that’s where you'd have to be as - 
    NIXON 
- now having said that then you copper that by saying something that the racists would never agree with, that within groups there are geniuses, they're geniuses within black groups,  there are more within Asian groups and incidentally it was a rather neat trick to point out that the Asians are number one and the Caucasians are number two 
     MOYNIHAN 
And the Eskimos -

     NIXON
 
- and the Eskimos are above the whites, which is good - and also your little deal about the English and the Irish. Now that is the best example of the fact this is knowledge but it is knowledge that it is better not to know. At least good God it would cause another war, they haven’t enough damn problems in Northern Ireland now - 
     MOYNIHAN 
Exactly. 
     NIXON 
And basically there are Irish geniuses. 
     MOYNIHAN 
Well I think - got a few Irish presidents. 
     NIXON  
Yeah that's right, well Burke wasn't bad - 
     MOYNIHAN 
Who’s not bad? 
     NIXON 
Something the liberals said. Now so let me say that in getting this knowledge and that's the point that I - and it's a you're welcome to pass this on to Herrnstein as we talk - in getting started tell him I think the reason I have to know it, is that as I go for programs, I must know, that, if that they have basic weaknesses -  and did you read Glaser's piece in Commentary recently?  
     MOYNIHAN 
“The limits of Social Policy” yes indeed 
     NIXON 
And uh, you know he didn't come out against family assistance but he just raised a hell of a lot of questions, but he's well it's already got it in New York and isn't working, and so forth and so on, but you respect Glazer don't you?
     MOYNIHAN 
Oh he’s my very dear friend and - sure  
     NIXON 
Well tell him I read his piece too and - 
     MOYNIHAN 
I certainly will - he feels, what he meant was that the family assistance should not be - we should not expect it to change the world - 
     NIXON 
Yeah - what he meant, what was interesting to me, was that he said that even in Sweden the ultimate example, and in Britain the less ultimate example, that they still have a tremendous emphasis on the work ethic, in other words that going on, going on welfare just sort of ain’t the thing people ought to do. Now that is of course the reason why the work requirement thing is so important here I mean - 
     MOYNIHAN
Damn right. 
     NIXON 
Everybody says well the work requirements is only for the purpose of making these poor poor colored women you know who can't work and with little babies coming every month or it's every nine months I believe, anyway whatever
 the case is you can't make them work. Now that isn't it - the whole point is that - as you well know that the we just not got to sort of get into the psychology, that well at the welfare is a good way of life, that is that there's where the working poor comes in, etc etc. 
 
     MOYNIHAN 
And the point about Family Assistance is it gives us an alternative to welfare as a way of life - 
     NIXON 
- exactly well now coming on to the other points -  when the other side, and here's where I think we have to bear in mind, we’ve got to realize on Family Assistance on anything we do, the limits of Social Policy, if we don't we're going to raise expectations and then have the dull thud that was the problem with Johnson. 
     MOYNIHAN 
Um hm. 
     NIXON 
Johnson's - he took your hard university speech and he carried out a lot of things but he, I really don’t think he did it deliberately, I think Johnson probably convinced himself all this stuff is going to work. You agree? 
     MOYNIHAN 
Can I just say one thing Sir? One of the fascinating things is in 1967 he announced a great program of “new towns in town” to start building around town and you had to deal with the end of it - in 1968, beginning, he sent a message to Congress in which he said “even now a new town is rising on the site of Fort Lincoln in the city of Washington DC.” At that moment not a single Spade of Earth had been turned - but he didn’t know it, he thought it was going on. 
     NIXON 
Now coming to the other point I - a couple of questions - has Coleman demonstrated the fact that where you put blacks, or for that matter under-privileged Chicanos or anybody else - blacks in with whites integrated that it raises the blacks and does not bring down the whites - is that clear? 
     MOYNIHAN 
Yes up to a point- 
     NIXON 
Now the second point I raise then and I raise - this is really hitting at the nerve center - is this true when you have an integrated faculty - let’s take for example where my daughter was teaching (unclear)- or was going to teach. Let's suppose that that you've got a black, graduated from a good black college in the south, teaching English, now do you believe that she can teach English?
More transcript coming ASAP.