National Review has had some difficulties in recent years when it discovered that one of its longtime writers was extremely racist, and shortly afterward discovered another one of its writers was also extremely racist. But things have been quiet on that front for more than two years now, so the conservative magazine decided to send roving correspondent Kevin Williamson, who has some strong revisionist views on American racial politics, to East St. Louis, Illinois, to take in the local scene, and … oh, no:
East St. Louis, Ill. — ‘Hey, hey craaaaaacka! Cracka!White devil! F*** you, white devil!” The guy looks remarkably like Snoop Dogg: skinny enough for a Vogue advertisement, lean-faced with a wry expression, long braids. He glances slyly from side to side, making sure his audience is taking all this in, before raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge. Luckily for me, he’s more like a three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg, a few inches shy of four feet high, probably about nine years old, and his mom — I assume she’s his mom — is looking at me with an expression that is a complex blend of embarrassment, pity, and amusement, as though to say: “Kids say the darnedest things, do they not, white devil?”
The scene ends with an interminable sentence Williamson probably regards as “literary":
... my terminus in East St. Louis, where instead of meeting my Kurtz I get yelled at by a racially aggrieved tyke with more carefully coiffed hair than your average Miss America contestant.
There are a few lines in here that a good editor would cut but could be waved off as unwitting bad judgment — the Heart of Darkness reference, three fifths, making fun of the hair. But when the writer also decides the best comparison for a young black kid’s behavior is a monkey and to gratuitously question his parentage, there’s really not much question, is there?
There’s also the unstated humor of Williamson describing his subject as “racially aggrieved,” as if the description does not apply to Williamson himself, or as if the kid’s aggrievedness is not, in this case, warranted.
Update: Williamson insists there is absolutely nothing racist about describing a black kid as a primate, because, you know, humans are primates too. If anything, I'm the racist here for reading about a black kid as a primate and thinking "monkey."
@jonathanchait Funny, I didn't write anything about monkeys. Interesting where your mind goes.— Kevin D. Williamson (@KevinNR) August 13, 2014
By the way, here is what you get when you do a Google image search for primate: