As any observer of far-right blogger Lawrence Auster knows (and I observe him the way birdwatchers gaze upon the yellow-bellied sapsucker), Mr. Auster resents the suggestion that he harbors an irrational animus toward black people... that he is a bigot.
He especially resents my suggestion of it, which prompted David Horowitz to exclude Auster from FrontPage Magazine. (Oh, such drama!)
How ironic, then, that Auster’s blog would welcome commenters who compare black people to monkeys.
On Saturday, Auster linked to this curious BBC story about an pack of vervet monkeys terrorizing a Kenyan village, stealing the people’s crops and mocking their women.
The villagers cannot kill any of these monkeys because that’s a crime; the vervets are protected by the Kenya Wildlife Service. So some villagers have abandoned their homes and farms. “I beg you,” said one village elder, “please come and take these animals away from here so that we can farm in peace.”
Auster didn’t remark on this article beyond pointing to it as “a weird story.”
But some of his readers saw it as a metaphor.
Mark J. wrote (with sarcasm): “I suppose the reason the monkeys are so aggressive and anti-social is that they were raised in deprivation and poverty. If only we would try harder to understand their pain, and maybe implement some after-school programs for them.”
Robert B. wrote (without sarcasm): “[T]his whole thing sounds a lot like life in the American ghetto. Males absent from what should be their role as protectors, women caring for the home, children and the ‘crop’ (welfare check)--the source of revenue. And of course, the monkeys themselves, who appear to act like American rappers (and their ‘wannabe’ emulators) with their gesturing at... their genitals.
“All in all, we can see African culture at its base.”
The blacks-as-monkeys metaphor didn’t draw a response from Mr. Auster, except that he highlighted Robert B.’s comment on his main page: “(Check out Robert B.’s analogy between Kenyan farms and the American inner city.)”
Perhaps Auster sees nothing objectionable in the comparison. Perhaps he’s not alone.
But it reminds me of an old text I recently discovered online – “The Negro: What Is His Ethnological Status?” It was published in 1867 under the pseudonym “Ariel.” In fact, the author was a Southern clergyman, the Rev. Buckner H. Payne of Nashville, Tenn.
Rev. Payne argued that Negroes weren’t descended from Adam and Eve.
“... Adam and Eve being white, ... they could never be the father or mother of the kinky-headed, low forehead, flat nose, thick lip and black-skinned negro...”
The minister continued: “[I]t follows, beyond all the reasonings of men on earth to controvert, that [the negro] was created before Adam, that, like all beasts and cattle, they have no souls.”
Rev. Payne then broke it down scientifically: “[W]e take up the monkey, and trace him ... through his upward and advancing orders – baboon, ourang-outang and gorilla, up to the negro, another noble animal, the noblest of the beast creation. The difference between these higher orders of the monkey and the negro is very slight, and consists mainly in this one thing: the negro can utter sounds that can be imitated; hence he could talk with Adam and Eve, for they could imitate his sounds.”
(You can download the full 48-page text of Buckner Payne’s “The Negro” as a PDF file, courtesy of Google, by following this link.)
To me, it’s no coincidence that this description of blacks as non-human was published in 1867 – after the South lost the Civil War. Southern whites didn’t have to bother defining Negroes as animals while they were enslaved. But once the Negro was free – and politically empowered during Reconstruction – that’s when the defeated white Southerner felt the need (psychologically, not just politically) to put forth this ugly idea.
And guess what? When white Southerners reclaimed their political dominance and disenfranchised black people, the monkey thing stuck.
In 1900, Charles Carroll published a book building upon Buckner Payne’s. “The Negro a Beast” cites the Apostle Paul’s declaration that “there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts.” Carroll wrote: “[I]t becomes plain that the dog, the swine and the negro all belong to one kind of flesh – the flesh of beasts.”
He argued further that the “red, yellow and brown” races resulted from the “amalgamation” of whites and blacks. Therefore, all those non-whites aren’t human either. To argue otherwise, according to Carroll, was a blasphemy equal Darwin’s theory of evolution:
“This modern church theory that the negro and the mixed-bloods are included in the Plan of Salvation is another result of putting man and the ape in the same family.”
(Charles Carroll wasn’t a clergyman, but there are many references to him as “Professor.” I haven’t been able to find out where he was a professor, or what his field of scholarship was.)
Carroll’s book was sold door-to-door to across the South and was “enormously influential,” according to Jane Dailey, a Johns Hopkins University historian. In a 2004 essay, Prof. Dailey quotes an earlier historian:
“During the opening years of the twentieth century [‘The Negro a Beast’] has become the Scripture of tens of thousands of poor whites, and its doctrine is maintained with an appalling stubbornness and persistence.”
(You can download “The Negro a Beast” as a PDF file by following this link.)
To give you a sense of the impact of “The Negro a Beast,” I dug up a reference to it by Bill Arp, a newspaper columnist who was hugely popular in the South. The following appeared in Arp’s column in the Atlanta Constitution on May 18, 1902:
“I have just received a pleasant letter from a North Carolina friend asking me what I think of Carroll’s book, ‘The Negro a Beast,’ and he asks, ‘Do you believe the nigger is a beast?’ I answered at the bottom of his letter, ‘Which nigger?’ ”
Which brings us back to Larry Auster and his thoughtful readership. I tracked down an email address for “Robert B.,” and I asked him:
“Isn't it funny that Lawrence Auster takes such grievous offense at the suggestion he harbors an animus towards black people... but he'll publish two letters on his website (including one from you) comparing black people to monkeys?”
Robert B. graciously replied:
“... I see no problem with it--Africa is what it is. Africans in America are what they are.... I have, from the very beginning, viewed the Black fashion trend of letting their rears hang out of their pants as akin to baboons with their brightly colored rears sticking out as well. The practice of grabbing one’s genitals is equally barbaric and is, as you can see from the article, akin to monkeys. Denying the obvious is a liberal trait, not an intelligent one. ...”
Well. I guess that makes a monkey out of me.