A review of “Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America,” by Charles Murray (Encounter Books, 168 pages, $25.99)

Charles Murray Is Afraid of You

The most important chapter of Facing Reality, a new book by renowned social scientist Charles Murray, is the final one, titled, “If We Don’t Face Reality.” The book’s subtitle is “Two Truths About Race in America.” What are those two truths? First, racial variations in cognitive ability are real and largely inherited. And second, the commission of violent crime in the United States varies by race, with blacks—who consistently measure lowest in cognitive ability—being overwhelmingly the most violent subgroup.

These general truths apply to populations, not individuals, with plenty of room for exceptions. Murray stresses the need to treat people as individuals.

Murray presents his data and makes his case for the reality of the two truths in chapters one through six. It’s a nice summary, but really—we knew all this already. Why is chapter seven so important? Because it explains Murray’s hatred of Donald Trump and his wariness (I’m being generous here) of Trump’s supporters. It’s not about minorities. It’s about the white majority.

Murray writes of “a looming disaster” ahead for the United States if the realities he identifies are not faced. What is this disaster, which he calls “an existential threat to the American experiment”? The disaster materializes if the white majority gets fed up, has had enough, and pushes back. Or, in Murray’s words, “when working-class and middle-class Whites adopt identity politics.”

The American experiment, Murray writes, is unnatural because “treating our fellow human beings as individuals instead of treating them as members of groups is unnatural.” It’s natural to favor people like ourselves. The introduction of identity politics into the system the American founders designed with multiple safeguards against centrifugal atomization (the whole thing flying apart) is a reversion to the state of nature—us against them.

But identity politics purporting to remedy “systemic racism” on the part of whites now is part of the brand of the dominant Democratic Party, which is currently in charge of the U.S. government. It’s also embraced by corporations, the tech monopolies, the communications media, most foundations, universities, arts guilds, local school boards, NGOs, professional associations, and even the military brass.

Murray writes, 

The truly grave danger of refusing to confront race differences in means [averages] is that it leads in a straight line to thinking that the only legitimate evidence of a nonracist society is equal outcomes. It appears that the Biden administration already accepts that logic. . . . Once the state is given the power to legislate equal outcomes by dispensing opportunities preferentially and freedoms selectively, it will be one group versus another. . . . 

Preferential racial policies have been eroding the nation’s commitment to impartiality for decades. Identity politics accelerated that erosion. The threatening new development is that Whites increasingly agree that identity politics is the way to go. (Emphasis added.)

Murray gives evidence that “the federal government has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of many Whites.”

“Working-class and middle-class Whites who now see themselves as second-class citizens in the eyes of the government aren’t making it up,” he writes.

Here’s where matters get tricky. You would think that an eminent social scientist who identifies the legitimate grievances of a subset of the population would show some respect for a political leader who tried to represent the interests of that group—if only in trying to restore the manufacturing base that made the working class and middle class possible. But no. Murray’s hatred for Trump rules that out.

It irks Murray, a member of the clerisy, that a businessman could have won the presidency. He frets because Trump’s example shows “someone can win with a populist agenda” and “someone can govern without observing any of the norms of presidential behavior.”

To his credit, Murray calls for the elimination of “all forms of government-sponsored preferential treatment by race.” Strong words. So far, so good. But then Murray punks out. He doesn’t expect Joe Biden to renounce policies involving racial preferences. That would be too much. Rather, he advises Biden to treat those policies as “pragmatic measures to deal with residual racism, endorse equality before the law as the ultimate goal, and disassociate himself from the rhetoric of systemic racism.” Fat chance.

And what is Murray’s advice to Republican leaders? “They must stop posturing,” he scolds, “as the guardians of true Americanism and instead say out loud in front of cameras and microphones that the people who love this country have always been on both sides of the political spectrum and still are today.”

This false equivalence is so staggering, so sophomoric, and transparently anachronistic, that it’s hard to believe a man as smart as Murray would think anyone would fall for it. The modern Democratic Party has taken the national motto, e pluribus unum—out of many, one—and turned it on its head. Divide and rule is its operating principle. Sowing racial discord is part of the program. Any responsible Republican would be remiss not to spotlight this and emphasize his distance from it.

Charles Murray is brilliant and brave, but I come away from this book not liking him very much. Read it anyway.


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About Louis Marano

Louis Marano, a Vietnam veteran, is an anthropologist and a former journalist. He served two deployments to Iraq as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Army. He lives in The Plains, Virginia.

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