Dinesh D'Souza talks about his book, "The End of Racism", which has created a great controversy over theories of race and societal development.
`The End of Racism'
CHARLIE ROSE: Dinesh D'Souza is here. His book is called The End of Racism. His previous book was called A Liberal Education. He is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and this book, and what he has to say about race in America, has created an enormous controversy, leading, in fact, to the resignation of two other people - Robert Woodson and Glen Lowry [?] - of the American Enterprise Institute. We first want to begin this evening by having him explain to us what it is he is saying that is creating such a controversy.
Welcome to the broadcast.
DINESH D'SOUZA, American Enterprise Institute: Thank you.
CHARLIE ROSE: What is going on? I mean, what is it you have said, in your judgment? Do you think you're misunderstood, or is it in fact there's such a basic disagreement between you and Glen Lowry - who was on the broadcast; Robert Woodson has been on this broadcast, talked about affirmative action - that has led them to react in the way they have to your book-
DINESH D'SOUZA: It's.
CHARLIE ROSE: -and your ideas?
DINESH D'SOUZA: It goes beyond Lowry and Woodson. Time magazine just called for a boycott of the book.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
DINESH D'SOUZA: And it's clear the book is scaring people, and I'm not really quite sure why. It goes beyond the affirmative action debate. It argues that many of the things that we think about race are, are just plain wrong. It argues that the breakdown of the moral high ground of the civil rights movement goes back to the early part of the century. It argues that discrimination can be rational under some circumstances. It argues that blacks can be racist, just like whites. And ultimately, it basically argues that there has been a cultural breakdown in our society, one whose effect or whose impact is disproportionately concentrated among African-Americans, and that's what's holding blacks back.
CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Let's figure out what you are saying, and what you believe, and then into the fray. The Bell Curve, for example, another book written by- published by your publisher. You believe, when it talks about some genetic basis of differences between African-Americans and other Americans is simply wrong?
DINESH D'SOUZA: I believe it is. I certainly reject the genetic view. But I think the liberal view, which maintains that racial discrimination is the sole cause for black problems or black failure is also wrong. I think we have to open up a new possibility that has been ignored for almost a generation.
CHARLIE ROSE: And that possibility for you is looking at what you call black culture, and saying, `If you want to find out what the problem is with racism in America, you ought to look at black culture'?
DINESH D'SOUZA: I think we've got to look at culture. Remember that Senator Moynihan, who was at the time at the Labor Department, wrote about the breakdown of the black family a generation ago. People shouted at him. They called him a racist. They drove him off the podium. And the black illegitimacy rate, which was 25 percent when he wrote, is now approaching 70 percent. So these problems have gotten far worse, and unless they're confronted, I'm afraid that, that things [crosstalk].
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah, but he didn't blame it on the black culture. He talked about family structure, not culture.
DINESH D'SOUZA: Right. Well, when one talks about culture, one is talking about the ensemble of attitudes, values, behaviors. Remember, if our problems are due to our genes, there's nothing we can do about them.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
DINESH D'SOUZA: If the problems of blacks are due to white racists, I don't know of any new ways to fight white racism that would increase black test scores, improve black savings rates, increase black rates of business formations, stengthen back- black families; whereas if your problems are cultural, you can deal with them.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.
DINESH D'SOUZA: So my book is hopeful in that sense.
CHARLIE ROSE: But your book also says that the problem with African-Americans in this country is that too many of them are dependent on government programs-
DINESH D'SOUZA: I say that- that's absolutely-
CHARLIE ROSE: -and there's a dependency bond that you think is at the root of what?
DINESH D'SOUZA: It's, it's at the root of preventing the, the development of entrepreneurial institutions, which are the absolute key to any ethnic group succeeding in America. That's why the Koreans are out-competing the blacks in the inner city. Now, when I talk about culture, I don't- I'm not giving a static definition.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.
DINESH D'SOUZA: While whites have tended to view government as the enemy of rights, historically, blacks have found the federal government to be an ally and a friend. The federal government ended slavery. The federal government ended segregation. In this century, the federal government was an employer of last resort for many blacks. So it's understandable that blacks would look to the federal government as, as a helper in a positive light. I'm just saying that that cultural orientation, which made sense for a long time, is today a liability. People have very little confidence in the government. The government's record of helping-
CHARLIE ROSE: But, but-
DINESH D'SOUZA: -people is poor.
CHARLIE ROSE: You go further than that, also. You suggest that the civil rights establishment in the United States is invested with the idea of maintaining those programs for their own reasons, not in order to help African-Americans.
DINESH D'SOUZA: I think that's true. Look, in the last generation-
CHARLIE ROSE: And it has everything to do with their ambition and their own personal greed almost.
DINESH D'SOUZA: Well, look, there's no question that organizations like the NAACP served a val- a val- an important historic purpose, and that was to help to break down historic barriers of segregation, of legalized discrimination, of state-sponsored discrimination. All I'm saying is-
CHARLIE ROSE: And, and you'd have no question, in terms of making sure you know what we're saying that- that what you're saying is that those kinds of Jim Crow laws were, in fact, racist.
DINESH D'SOUZA: Absolutely. And should have been capsized and defeated, and I'm, I'm all for that.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
DINESH D'SOUZA: Here is the problem. In the last generation, the black middle class has prospered and the civil rights establishment has prospered, and the condition of the black underclass has gotten far worse. Now, if you ask Jesse Jackson about this, or you ask a lot of black activists about this, they say, `Well, the black family broke down because of slavery.' Well, but that's not true. Blacks have had strong families for most of the century. In fact, in 1910, when W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, 30 years after slavery, the illegitimacy rate for blacks was about 20 percent - higher than the white rate, but a lot lower than the rate it is today. So who is going to be called to account for the, for the condition of our inner cities of violence, the illegitimacy, the drugs, the fact that these- a lot of these communities are, are well-nigh unlivable.
CHARLIE ROSE: Racism is a fact of life in America or not, and racism is our biggest domestic problem or not, in your judgment?
DINESH D'SOUZA: Racism is a fact of life, yes. Racism is not our most serious problem. Racism is not even the most serious problem faced by African-Americans.
CHARLIE ROSE: And it is class, or what?
DINESH D'SOUZA: It is culture. It is opportunity. It is-
CHARLIE ROSE: It is not having opportunity for what reason?
DINESH D'SOUZA: Well, here's the problem. On every measure of academic achievement and economic performance, blacks are falling behind other groups, including immigrants - including immigrants from Pakistan and the Caribbean, the black immigrants from the West Indies and from Africa. So why are the- why are African-Americans being left behind? I was surprised to find out in the Scholastic Aptitude Test, for example, which young kids take to get, to get into college, African-Americans who come from families that earn more than $60,000 a year score lower on the tests than whites and Asians who come from poor families, families who make less than $20,000 a year.
This, this suggests that we have to look at socialization patterns, we have to look at the amount of time invested in homework. Those sorts of cultural factors we're not very good at looking at.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me- I was looking for a quote from Glen Lowry, who, as I said, has been on this broadcast. He says, `I don't-' quote- `I don't disagree with everything D'Souza has to say, but-' he says - Glen Lowry - `-the intemperate, irreverent, insulting way in which his book is written offends me.' Is there anything that you would change, and do you concede the point that there is language and, and an intemperateness about this that would be offensive?
DINESH D'SOUZA: There- I have come across no examples of intemperate rhetoric that I would have written differently so far. There might be some, and I'm perfectly willing to listen. I think part of the problem is not, not the tone, but the message.
CHARLIE ROSE: Is it an anti- I mean, quoting Woodson, `For D'Souza to take these same points and turn them into an anti-black pejorative threatens to make us look like racial hustlers who don't want to see change.'
DINESH D'SOUZA: I don't think that's true, and I think that's very unfair to the book. He- Glen Lowry and Woodson are in a different world than I am. I am a, a member- I grew up in a different country. I come from-
CHARLIE ROSE: But they are cons- they are both not part of the civil rights establishment-
DINESH D'SOUZA: Oh, I agree. In fact, they say-
CHARLIE ROSE: -you know. These are two people who, as- by virtue of the fact that they are- were associated with AEI, were essentially conservatives, were very much - probably both of them. I know Robert Woodson on this program- have arguments against affirmative action in terms of what ought to be done in the future.
DINESH D'SOUZA: Well, they're- they certainly have said that they agree with some of what's in my book. Here are- come some of the disagreements. I think one of the disagreements is that Lowry believes we should talk about American culture and not about African-American culture, and I agree with him in part. There has been an American cultural breakdown. For example, ill- illegitimacy rates for whites have gone up substantially. But there are also some problems that are distinctive to African-American culture. We need to focus on those.
The other problem is that I think the book is an attempt not just to look at African-Americans but to ask what kind of principles work in a multiracial society? I'm an immigrant, an outsider. I was born after the civil rights movement. I take for granted many of its, of its victories. I think Lowry, Woodson, and many of the other activists are imprisoned in an old way of thinking. They're still waiting for the segregationists to come back. They don't realize that the world has changed, and I think that, that in that sense, the book is not just offering a- an outsider perspective, but a generational difference.
CHARLIE ROSE: Who are the, quote, race merchants that you talk about?
DINESH D'SOUZA: The race merchants are the people who make accusations of racism very promiscuously, whether or not racism is involved. The people who use the word `racist' to mean just about what they want it to mean, that's making it more difficult for us to find real racists. One of the problems is that if, if racism as a problem disappeared from our society, much of the civil rights industry would have nothing to do, and so I think there is a vested interest in trumpeting up charges of racism and in-
CHARLIE ROSE: The lack of a genuine interest in eradicating racism, you believe? I mean-
DINESH D'SOUZA: No, no, no. No.
CHARLIE ROSE: -surely you don't believe there's a lack of an interest in-
DINESH D'SOUZA: Not in eradicating-
CHARLIE ROSE: -eradicating racism.
DINESH D'SOUZA: No. I think there is an indifference to the more serious problems of the underclass. There is a lack of interest in addressing the problems of the broken public schools, broken neighborhoods, graffiti on every wall, windows boarded up. Those problems I don't see the NAACP doing anything about.
CHARLIE ROSE: You can ha- here's, I think, the, the problem I have. You can have a basic difference - let's take the underclass. You know, and you can look at the argument with respect to the underclass, and you can say government programs, while perhaps helpful in the past, are not the way to go for the future. We need all kinds of new ideas about that. But it seems that you don't need to go to the point of almost a kind of lashing out at those who advocate a different idea than you do, rather than the reasonable differences may simply be out of profound convictions, and you don't have to castigate - and I think that's what some of your critics- William Raspberry [?] said, who wonders where your intention for writing the book could be- he says- other than simply to stir up trouble, quoting: `Surely D'Souza does not believe this book will lead black people to turn self-critical and introspective or prompt blacks and whites to serious discussion of America's racial conundrum. It strikes me as a book only racists could cheer.'
DINESH D'SOUZA: Yeah. I think that's really unfair, and, and wrong of Raspberry. In fact, I doubt he, he even read the book because he makes assertions about it that are flatly false. For example, he says I say slavery is not a racist institution. Now, historically it wasn't, but in America it certainly was, and I say so very clearly. Look, I say that there are two cultures in the inner city: a culture of decency - people who struggle to maintain their families, to get to work, maintain safe neighborhoods; and what I call a culture of irresponsibility. And who can deny - this is a painful reality - but who can deny that that culture does exist. One of the problems with, with liberalism is that because of its commitment to relativism - whose values are better? I can't say that mine are better than yours, and so on - is it's very difficult to say we prefer the culture of decency to the culture of irresponsibility. We are going to have public policies that don't just decide to, to transfer money from A to B, but that are going to hold people accountable for their behavior. Citizens in a democratic society have a responsibility not just to, to enjoy their rights, but to exercise responsibilities.
CHARLIE ROSE: Transfer the notion of accountability to the discussion we're having.
DINESH D'SOUZA: Well, we see, for example, in the welfare debate, for a generation we were giving money with almost no attention to what that money was being spent for. If my cousin came to me and said, `Dinesh, I made a terrible mistake. I'm pregnant. Can you give me $300 a ye- a month,' I would say, `Okay.' But if she showed up nine months later and said, `Dinesh, guess what? I'm pregnant again. Can I have another 300?' I would say, `Listen, no.' Or I would say, `Only under these conditions.' So the restrictions-
CHARLIE ROSE: Then you come right to the argument. So what would you say to that baby who's going to be born nine months from now? That because that, that mother did not hold herself, take responsibility, that that child has to suffer the consequences of actions taken by that adult? Is that the bottom line of where you end up?
DINESH D'SOUZA: The point- let me make two points. The first point I'm making at is that in a free society it's not the government's job to tell parents how to raise their children. The government doesn't know better and so when- the government's job is to provide opportunity and to make that opportunity contingent upon responsibility. Now, we can't hold children responsible - only adults.
CHARLIE ROSE: Okay.
DINESH D'SOUZA: And the premise of democracy is that as free citizens, we can ask adults that they exercise responsibility, and you can't hold the irresponsible behavior of adults hostage by saying the little child is going to suffer. You have to assume that parents have an interest in their children, and that if you impose certain restrictions, the effect will be responsible behavior that will help children.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you are avoiding the question of who's res- what, what about the child then?
DINESH D'SOUZA: The mother's-
CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, le- I hear you, you should hold [unintelligible] as hostage-
DINESH D'SOUZA: The mother is responsible for the child, and the mother loves the child more than you or I or the state does, so there's no reason to assume otherwise.
CHARLIE ROSE: So the mother will inevitably take care of the child, in your judgment-
DINESH D'SOUZA: I think responsible social policies will help to produce a better society in which children will be raised in- you can't say that children are, are living well in the inner city right now. You can say that neglected children and single parent families have a happy life now. So our current system is broken, and I think the reason for it is not just economics and it's not just affirmative action. One of the problems with Lowry and Woodson is they want to talk about affirmative action without confronting the cultural breakdown in the black community. And that's my offense: I'm going beyond saying, `Let's get rid of set-asides.' I'm talking about values. I'm talking about-
CHARLIE ROSE: Okay.
DINESH D'SOUZA: -behavior.
CHARLIE ROSE: Okay. When you say cultural breakdown, you're talking about values and behavior.
DINESH D'SOUZA: That's right.
CHARLIE ROSE: The lack of responsibility for behavior?
DINESH D'SOUZA: That's right. And, and, and the government's failure to hold its citizens accountable.
CHARLIE ROSE: The End of Racism, Dinesh D'Souza. You know him from a previous book called A Liberal Education: The politics of race and sex on campus. Thank you.
DINESH D'SOUZA: My pleasure.
CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you for joining us this evening. We look forward to seeing you next time. See you then.
Copyright © 1995 by Thirteen/WNET. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or part without permission
NDinesh D'Souza Discusses `The End of Racism', Charlie Rose (PBS), 29 Sep 1995.