The Forgotten History of Libertarian Anti-Racism

In their superb 2009 book Black Maverick, the historians David Beito and Linda Royster Beito resurrected the remarkable story of civil rights activist and profit-minded entrepreneur T.R.M. Howard, a man who “consistently pushed an agenda of self-help, black business, and political equality” during some of the deadliest years of Mississippi’s Jim Crow regime. It’s one of the best books around on the central role that classical liberal ideas played in America’s long struggle for racial equality.

Writing in the latest issue of The Independent Review, the Beitos return to the topic of “laissez-faire antiracism” with an account of libertarian writer Rose Wilder Lane’s 1942-1945 run as a columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, which was then one of the country’s leading black newspapers. While the full article is not yet available online, Auburn University philosophy professor Roderick Long has been kind enough to collect some of the highlights:

Before her discovery of the Courier, Lane by her own admission had had a blindspot on the issue of race; she had “heard of lynchings and other racial injustice, but had assumed they were isolated incidents.” After she began reading the Courier’s documentation of the extent of racial oppression in the u.s., she declared that she had been an “utter fool” and a “traitor” to the “cause of human rights.” (p. 284) Soon she had joined the paper’s campaign against racism by becoming one of its regular writers....

[I]n the Beitos’ judgment, “[n]o libertarian has ever more creatively weaved together antiracism and laissez-faire than Lane.” (p. 283) According to the Beitos, Lane “anticipated … the strategy of the lunch-counter sit-ins of the 1960s” by suggesting that blacks should “emulate the crusade of … women like her who had once asserted their right to smoke in restaurants.” (p. 284) She also subverted the assumptions of traditional discourse on race by talking about the need to “solve the White problem” (after all, it’s those doing the oppressing who constitute the problem) and parodying stereotypical portraits.

Read the whole thing here. Read more about classical liberalism and the fight for equal rights here.

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  • PicassoIII||


    “emulate the crusade of … women like her who had once asserted their right to smoke in restaurants.”

    Ummm, if only.

  • SIV||

    They didn't have iPods and iPhones back then, that's why everything is so much better now.

  • ||

    Are you kidding? We have ALWAYS welcomed racists here with open arms. No better example than this visitor who proved to be one of the most intelligent commenters around.

  • ||

    Oh man, crayon was fun.

    HURR DURR

  • ||

    Probably my favorite troll ever. And like all of the fun trolls, he had a really short shelf life. Unfortunately.

  • Almanian||

    JOHN WAYNE, MOTHERFUCKERS, JOHN WAYNE!!!

  • ||

    Oh man, that was funny. I have a good friend who is extremely green, anti-corporate and very anti-war... but he absolutely hates black people.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    For some reason, reading this post made me think of this.

  • Warty||

    WHAIT PAHR WHAIT PAHR

  • ||

    Sheila: Mr. Garrison, you're a Klan member?

    Mr. Garrison: No, no, but Mr. Hat is.

    Mr. Hat: White Power! White Power!

  • Warty||

    I miss Dick Hoste.

  • ||

    Dick Hoste before he dicks you.

  • MUDPUPPY||

    A laissez-faire society, in which people are a) free to associate socially and economically with whom they please and b) rewarded as merited by their abilities, cannot and will never be an "anti-racist" one.

  • Max||

    Justifiably forgotten! Libertarians worship the fucking market, and the market in the deep South excluded blacks. A libertarian of more recent vintage--that boring old fuck Ron Paul--tried to recruit racists to his libertarian point of view by poandering to their racism. So give me a break about the proud libeertarian history of anti-racism. Thank God for state intervention.

  • Richard B. Russell, Jr.||

    I love Max. It's people like him who helped protect the White Race from the Colored menace and their White abettors like Rose Wilder Lane.

  • Bill||

    What exactly is free market about the political power structure (local govt.) of sheriffs and judges allowing violence to be perpetrated against anyone white or black who dared to try to exercise their free market rights to associate and trade with others of a different race?

    Jim Crow was a series of LAWS (you know, made by the govt.) to enforce racism.

    If someone does not allow blacks to buy from them, they LOSE money, dumb-ass. This is why boycotts actually worked in the fight against Jim Crow. Rand Paul's and some libertarian's point (mistaken as it is) is that IF there was no govt. enforcement of segregation it would tend to become less with time. The mistake is two-fold. One, it could take a long time and two, there WAS govt. enforcement, so the free market was not allowed to work.

    Many of us believe the remnants of racial problems we have today are exacerbated by govt. policy such as the war on drugs, public education, the welfare system ,etc.

  • ||

    A laissez-faire society, in which people are a) free to associate socially and economically with whom they please and b) rewarded as merited by their abilities, cannot and will never be an "anti-racist" one.

    Sure it can. You make the classic statist error of assuming that if the state doesn't do it, it doesn't happen. Such a society could be strongly anti-racist at the level that matter most - the cultural/civil society level, where racists are socially and economically ostracized by people freely choosing not to associate with them or do business with them.

  • MUDPUPPY||

    And you make the classic glibertarian error of never actually understanding human beings.

  • MUDPUPPY||

    I should clarify that in the inevitable (yes, trust me) tradeoff between human freedom and "anti-racism" I'm decidedly in favor of the former.

    As far as I can tell racism means one of two things: a) when whites identify with one another on the basis of their shared ancestry and b) when someone thinks that racial groups are statistically different with regard to socially important traits like cognition or behavior and that these differences are innate.

    Definition (a) puts whites squarely in the mainstream of every group of human beings who ever lived and I think is an important component of the psychological profile of a healthy human being. Definition (b) is just knowing something about evolutionary biology and being familiar with the empirical data.

    So I don't worry much about "racism" and would happily take a free society where people are free to be racist ("b-b-but they'll lose money when they don't let swarms of blacks into their businesses!" *must never have owned a business*) than a civil rights state that seeks to evangelize "anti-racism" the only way that such can be done - through regulatory fiat.

  • Ken||

    There were many Libertarian activists such as LIO Advisor Mildred Loving. See http://www.Libertarian-International.org

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  • MrLonely||

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