It's been said by the like of Mark Steyn that William F. Buckley was instrumental in ridding American conservatism of the likes of racists, isolationists and reactionaries. I tended to swallow that pill as I lean right and haven't lived through the 1960s and 70s to see the political transitions for myself. From a little bit of my own research, I'm beginning to doubt that Buckley was always the source of progression he's made out to be.
There was a letter in the San Francisco Examiner today that attacked Buckley's legacy. It cited a piece by Buckley entitled "Why The South Must Prevail" from the late 1950s. Here is the letter in question, written by a Ted Uberoi:
Contrary to the media's gushing commentaries on William Buckley as the architect of modern conservatism, he was an unapologetic racist bigot. He likened Dr. Martin Luther King with Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell. In numerous articles in his National Review he vigorously supported white supremacy, especially in a 1957 editorial, "Why the South Must Prevail." Unmoved by the lynch-mob mentality of the South, Buckley argued that there exists, "a median cultural superiority of white over Negro ... that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and and anthropologists."
I found these quotes intriguing, as there were at a length and content level that if true was inexcusable. It is easy now to be politically correct, as society has deemed it totally inappropriate to spout racial superiority, at least if you are white. (Hopefully we will progress to the point where all racial superiority is frowned upon.) The true test is what you said during the time when the question of black civil rights was still a question. If Buckley was on the side of the segregationists, and he had never apologized for them, that puts in doubt his very character.
After doing some Googling, I found an article from a white supremacist magazine called the American Renaissance, which believes in "race realism" as they called it, entitled "The Decline of National Review." The article showed various illustrations of racist demagoguery on the part of National Review, not to tear down NR but instead to illustrate how it deviated from its past by ceasing to publish white supremacist articles. AR cited this Buckley piece, which is filled with white supremacist rhetoric:
“The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists.”
“National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct. . . . It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.”
“The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. . . . Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.”
That is disgusting stuff. It's not the product of someone saying something rash and throwing in a few racial slurs. Buckley actually prepared an editorial for his own publication promoting this sort of filth, at a time when the fate of black Americans could still turn either way.
National Review editor Jonah Goldberg has written a book, Liberal Fascism, that has documented the disturbing trend of the political Left in America flirting with totalitarian ideologies. I wonder if he will address this equally disturbing flirtation with white supremacy within his own magazine?