Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Kennan Diaries: a white supremacist

"Writing on a flight to Los Angeles in 1978, Kennan thinks about how few white faces he will see when he lands and laments the decline of people “of British origin, from whose forefathers the constitutional structure and political ideals of the early America once emerged.” Instead, he predicts, Americans are destined to “melt into a vast polyglot mass, . . . one huge pool of indistinguishable mediocrity and drabness.” Kennan at times displayed conventional racism. His views on South Africa were strongly shaped by his feeling that blacks were simply not capable of handling liberty and democracy. “I would expect to see within five or 10 years’ time,” he wrote in 1990, “only desperate attempts at emigration on the parts of whites, and strident appeals for American help from an African regime unable to feed its own people from the resources of a ruined economy.” But for the most part, Kennan’s racism was a product of his conservatism, which is to say that he was profoundly mistrustful of the modern multiethnic ­nation-state with its “mingling of the ­races.” He did not look down on the Chinese, Indians, Russians or Jews, believing that they would succeed better in their own coherent communities than in a mixed-up melting pot. The tone of his comments about nonwhites, however, always has a sharp and derisory edge."