Monday, August 27, 2007

Black people as monkeys: The wit and wisdom of Lawrence Auster’s readers

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.


Anonymous said...

Since everyone knows that it was Michael Jackson who initiated the "grab the crotch to be cool" thang, you have made a monkey out of yourself--but then you do do that frequently, don't you?

But in all fairness to M.J., the crotch thing was visible in urban areas in the 1970's amongst Blacks. However, coming from a family that once owned the largest dairy farm in North America, I can state clearly that we had farm hands (Black--from Mississippi) that did that in the 1960's and probably before then--I'll have to ask my father next time I talk to him.

Undercover Black Man said...

Welcome to my blog, Robert B. Thanks for commenting.

BLACKinUSA said...

I distinctly remember crotch grabbing back in the day. In particular getting into trouble in a high school food services class.
Could it be a rite of passage? or maybe instances of "monkey see monkey do?" excuse the pun.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ You funny, bruh!

I don't recall crotch-grabbing as a D.C. thing in the '70s, but I do recall a memorable scene from the post-Vietnam movie "The Boys in Company C"; Stan Shaw as a Marine back from the war grabs his joint while marching in formation. Some white officer says something like, "What's he doing?" And the white commanding officer says: "He's checking his package. Do you even have a package?"

Maybe that shit got started in Vietnam.

John said...

I'd be interested to hear any theories in the origins or crotch grabbing. I was fascinated by the history of the high-five.

I'm guessing if Deion Sanders hadn't found God, he would be claiming that he invented crotch grabbing.

Most likely, it was just some dude who got caught up in an extended scratch...and kept holding on in case he had to scratch some more.

susie said...

Wow - I think I saw Robert B. driving up La Brea yesterday in a rusty mini-pick-up with a "White Pride" bumper sticker, which was only one among many spackled on the back side and stained inky with exhaust.

I'm with John - I think it was some guy who got caught with his hand in his pants who then decided to make it into a "cool" thing.

Because from the time they're little boys it seems like guys have always got a hand in their pants... so why not macho it up?

BLACKinUSA said...

I grew up on the E.S. of MD. and I remember, as a kid, cats doing this shit while shooting craps or after a good swig from wine bottle. There were varying situations that, I guess, required a crotch grab. But as UBM stated, “Maybe this shit got started in Vietnam.” Who knows. Maybe the rural cats did this more than urban cats.

Russ said...

I guess the Gunnery Sergeant played by Lee Ermey in FULL METAL JACKET got that crotch grab from brothers in the 'hood. Give me a goddamn break people you make me downright ashamed to be white.

SJ said...

^ Heh what a coincidence, I just watched that movie for the first time last night. That's what I thought of when I saw the crotch-grab pic.

M said...

Maybe you're already aware of this, but Charles Carroll also wrote another book called "The Tempter of Eve", which argues that not only are black people monkeys, but one of them was also the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Nathan Shumate has a .

memomachine said...


1. Frankly the only ones I've seen walking around with their butts hanging out of their pants have been white kids.

2. No idea where crotch-grabbing came from but I can definitely tell you that it didn't exist in New Hampshire in the late 1970's to early 1980's. I know I didn't see until I move to New Jersey and even then my first thought was "this guy must have some serious jock-itch problem!". :)

3. Actually monkeys are a big problem for farming communities all over the world. They're smart, elusive and love to steal from farmers.

4. Monkeys as a metaphor for blacks?

Frank Zappa said it best:

Stupidity is more common than hydrogen.

Dougfp said...

I won't defend Auster's repugnant views about race, but I think it's a bit unfair to blame him for his reader's postings. Anyone can post on a blog and say just about anything. Bill O'Reilly has used this technique to attack Daily Kos for some of the more provocative postings on that site. Now Auster gets far fewer postings than Kos and could probably delete the offending posts more readily, but still, it seems a kind of "guilt-by-association".

Since Auster's own writings provide a more than adequate basis to criticize him, it seems unnecessary to use his even more unhinged readers to condemn him.

As for why monkeys grab their crotches...because they can!

Undercover Black Man said...

Dougfp wrote: "Anyone can post on a blog and say just about anything. ... it seems a kind of 'guilt-by-association'."

Au contraire, Doug. Auster's blog does not contain an open comments section like this one. People email him, and he'll post selected emails.

Through this means, the commentary on Auster's View From the Right has the character of an "amen corner," with almost every letter agreeing with Auster's points. Or, when not agreeing, praising Auster's intellect anyway.

He did away with an open comments forum years ago because anti-Semites would post comments. Anti-semites aren't welcome at View From the Right.

His fans who compare black men to monkeys are welcome. Auster handpicks which emails to post.

msl said...

Maybe it's just a general lessening of public inhibition? I always thought crotch-grabbing was just something that guys did, only not usually in public till rather recently. Women didn't used to wear jeans that showed half their butt cracks when they bent over, either. When I see little toddler boys, they always seem to have one hand in mommy or daddy's and the other on their crotches.

Undercover Black Man said...

M: Thanks for the link to "Tempter of Eve." I didn't know about that. I guess "The Negro a Beast" was so huge, he had to do a sequel!

Still wish I knew where he was a "professor," though...

Dougfp said...

With this new information, I stand corrected. I just assumed people posted comments the way they do on Daily Kos and on your site.

memomachine said...


What I've never understood is why so many people who seem to have issues with the very existence of black people spend so very much money every year trying to tan their skin into a close approximation.

It's really odd behavior.

jena6 said...

In a recent MBP post I mentioned something about an old telephone ad that showed a primate talking on a telephone on the continent of Africa, while elsewhere across the globe actual people were represented. Couldn't find the ad (actually, it was a drawing that appeared in an AT&T "internal magazine") but I found an article about it that appeared in Jet magazine. Article.

As for crotch grabbing, I remember this from the 70s. Guys in my neighbor (Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn) did it ALL THE TIME!

Another thing I also remember was how guys would say, "Suck my dick!" all loud, when they had beef with other guys. Don't know if that was a regional thing; but, I sure don't hear it these days.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Thanks for digging up that Jet article, Jena6. Funny! "How could it have slipped by us?"

As for "Suck my dick," that was all over D.C. in the '70s. You mean to tell me dudes don't say that no more?

dez said...

Dickheadz have a song called "Suck My...!":

"Suck my dick
Suck my motherfuckin' dick (dick)!"

That's about the extent of the lyrics.

Women didn't used to wear jeans that showed half their butt cracks when they bent over, either.

I like the euphemism "coin slot" instead of buttcrack. Silly, I know.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I like the euphemism "coin slot" instead of buttcrack. Silly, I know.


Jax London said...

Whites are blacks who have been badly depigmented due to the harsh cold weathers of 95 centuries ago. Before, only one race existed on earth. But the reckless white migration led them to good conditions today! They migrated from hottest parts of Afrique to cold parts of it and other counties; seeking more confortable places to reside. Their skin gradually became depigmented from dark-brown to albino-blanquish pink, due to ice, snow and very strict cold weathers there, which lasted about 9.5 months each year.
Whites experienced fatal weather and hurricanes. But their physical changes occurred depending on how cold or fatal each people's residence were. Some who settled in less colder area had fairly lightened skin while ones who settled in extremely cold areas developed even thicker hair and strongly depigmentented light pinkish-red skin... (To be continued. [my email address is])

Luis Mondragón said...

All felines have similarities in their behaviour; and so do primates. It has nothing to do with race; if we are honest we can see that we all are basically apes with big brains.

rptrcub said...

You know, speaking of Bill Arp, I think there's still a road in Douglasville, Ga., near Atlanta that's still named after him.

rptrcub said...

Oh and on behalf of the sane people in Cobb County: this moron with the T-shirts does not reflect the majority opinion here.

jessica said...

I'd be interested to hear any theories in the origins or crotch grabbing. I was fascinated by the history

Anonymous said...

Given the recent Obama-monkey thing in the New York Post, I found this old blog post really interesting in regards to the origins of black people as monkeys.

I had always wondered what the roots of the racist connection were and it makes sense that it would have taken hold after the Civil War.

Good job.

Anonymous said...

Associating persons of African race with monkeys or gorillas is the same ignorant b.s. that Asians said about whites themselves during the Age of Discovery. Most of the whites the East encountered back then were hairy, sweaty pirates with armpit lice; cut-throats, rapists, murderers and barbarians.

Well some Hindus and yellow peoples concluded that these terrifying white men were the result of humans hybridizing with apes or ape-men. The obvious candidate was the ye-ren or yeti, the abominable snowman.

It all seemed to fit in. The human side of their hybrid ancestry explained why white men could speak and create technology and culture. The facts that they were so huge, hairy and beast-like, white and foul-odored seemed explained by the yeti blood.

In Sanskrit, the term NILAKSHA RAKSHASA literally means "blue-eyed ogre." These are the kind of crackpot doctrines that sent six million to the gas chambers. Please lay off the racism, okay?