Conservative Writer: I Wasn’t Racist When I Described 9-Year-Old Black Kid As A ‘Primate’

August 13, 2014 5:29 p.m.

Conservative writer Kevin D. Williamson defended a passage he wrote in a recent issue of National Review in which he described a young African-American boy he estimated to be about 9 years old making the “gesture of primate territorial challenge.”

In a piece that is otherwise about the decrepit nature of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) hometown, East St. Louis, Ill., Williamson opens with some local color:

‘Hey, hey craaaaaacka! Cracka!White devil! F*** you, white devil!” The guy looks remarkably like Snoop Dogg: skinny enough for a Vogue advertisement, lean-faced with a wry expression, long braids. He glances slyly from side to side, making sure his audience is taking all this in, before raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge. Luckily for me, he’s more like a three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg, a few inches shy of four feet high, probably about nine years old, and his mom — I assume she’s his mom — is looking at me with an expression that is a complex blend of embarrassment, pity, and amusement, as though to say: “Kids say the darnedest things, do they not, white devil?”

Williamson’s piece received a great deal of blowback, including from New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait and Slate’s Jamelle Bouie. Williamson defended his piece, arguing that humans are “primates” so the reference wasn’t offensive.

Race-relations is something that National Review has had trouble grappling with at times. In July, the magazine’s John Fund devoted a piece to highlighting the Democratic Party’s history of supporting Jim Crow. But the column did not acknowledge that National Review also supported segregation.

Williamson was also the author of a long feature piece in the magazine that argued that women should support Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama because of how much money he had in his bank account and how many male offspring he’s had.

(Photo credit: Twitter)

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: