Via TNC on twitter, you too can watch James Baldwin absolutely destroy William F. Buckley in debate.

One interesting thing that I noticed: Buckley's defense is, basically, "we can't legislate away the problem of racism." As in, once equality of opportunity has been formally established, there is nothing left to do, because the hearts and minds of men are what they are. It struck me as weirdly liberal, or, more precisely, as the opposite of what Buckley imagines the liberal point to be: he seems to think Baldwin and others who are harping on racism in the mid-1960s (that enlightened era!) want the government to solve the problem; he thinks the government can't solve it, and so there's nothing left to discuss.

It's oddly blind to what I would take to be the proper province of conservatism: the idea that change happens, if it happens at all, through beliefs and attitudes, and that changes that do not begin at this level are doomed to fail (e.g. the French Revolution). But Buckley seems uninterested in changing beliefs and attitudes. Nor does it seem Buckley grasps the essence of Baldwin's point, which is that the problem is and remains domination and not coercion: it's precisely the unwillingness to change attitudes that fires the entire problem, north and south.

Also, it allows me to mention one of my major pet peeves: the tendency of conservatives to introduce certain voices into a debate by mentioning their religion, race, ethnicity, etc (cf. Buckley's mention of the Jewish professor). It's creepy in its implication that the religion, race, etc is somehow a relevant factor in judging their viewpoint, and misbegotten in its belief that knowing this can mitigate against certain complaints.

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