John Derbyshire: Jussie Smollett, Bill De Blasio, Stuyvesant High School—Tales Of Black Privilege?
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Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, available exclusively on 

It's been amusing to see so many commentators grumbling that Jussie Smollett got off because he is rich and famous. [The hoax is on us: Smollett exemplifies celebrity justice, by Jonathan Turley, The Hill, March 27, 2019]

Smollett is not actually all that rich or all that famous. Had you even heard of him before he staged that "hate crime"? I hadn't.

Smollett, Tchen, Jarrett, Roseanne, ObamasHe is, though, black, or at any rate black-ish, and seems to be well-connected in Chicago's Mulatto Mafia: that concentration of blackish power that includes Jesse Jackson, the Obamas, Valerie Jarrett, and other players.

It was those connections that got the charges against Jussie Smollett dropped.

The phrase "black privilege" is being thrown around in connection with this story. That's not altogether inappropriate. That Smollett's blackness—black-ish-ness, whatever—was an important factor in the charges being dropped, can't be denied.

(If you feel like you want to try denying it, first just run through a thought experiment where a white TV actor during the Obama administration staged a fake mugging by two white guys he described as black, wearing Hope'n'Change hats, who doused him with chocolate sauce while snarling, "This is Obama country!" Right.)

Smollett is also a homosexual, and so a twofer, victimologically speaking. We all know how cruelly oppressed homosexuals are. That surely can't have hurt his case; though how much it actually helped, I have no idea.

It was those connections to the Mulatto Mafia that helped the most, though. Since blacks moved into municipal big-city governments in a big way through the seventies, eighties and nineties—Tom Bradley, Harold Washington, David Dinkins, Willie Brown—they've proved to be skillful players, advancing and enriching themselves and their co-ethnics in fine old Boss Tweed style.

David Dinkins notwithstanding, my own nearest big city, New York, was late to this particular party. There is something bracing and fortifying in the air out there in the West and Midwest that we just don't have here on the Atlantic frontier.

We're catching up, though. A case of black privilege almost as brazen as the Jussie Smollett non-prosecution has been on display in New York recently. beneficiary of black privilege in this case has been Chirlane McCray, the black wife of New York City's white mayor Bill de Blasio.

The city's First Lady (right) has of course never been elected to anything. On her husband's initiative, however, she was given management of a city-wide mental-health initiative called ThriveNYC, with a current budget of $250 million a year. Thrive was launched at the end of 2015. To date it has spent $565 million of taxpayers' money.

Was all that money well spent? Nobody knows. There seems to have been no attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of Thrive's programs. So far the New York papers have found no successes to report, and there is no clear accounting of how the money was spent.


Under pressure from the public and local media, New York's City Council, a hive of far-Left Social Justice Warriors, has been looking at Thrive and questioning the First Lady, very respectfully of course. After a two-hour session with her, City Councilman Ritchie Torres (who is black, gay and Hispanic)opined that "We know as little about the program after the hearing as we knew before the hearing”. [Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC shows ‘no evidence’ of results: lawmaker,  by Nolan Hicks, New York Post, March 27, 2019]

The evening after that hearing, Ms. McCray went on a local radio station and denounced her critics as "haters."

The chance that anything bad will happen to Ms. McCray for flushing half a billion dollars of public money down the toilet is, of course, infinitesimal. She has black privilege.

New York City politics is depressing to contemplate. Bill de Blasio is a simply awful Mayor. There's nothing much political about that; even left-liberals say he's awful. He is ill-informed and politically maladroit. [De Blasio Bungles Another Memorial: ‘It Wasn’t Handled Right’, by William Neuman, New York Times, November 1, 2018] He is lazy and chronically late even to grave and important events. [Bill de Blasio Being Late to Things: A Guide, by Jessica Roy, New York Magazine, December 15, 2014] New Yorkers are so used to his tardiness they don't even joke about it any more, just roll their eyes. The New York Post gifted him with an alarm clock, but it didn't help.

De Blasio seems now to be contemplating a run for President next year, and has been on the road in Iowa and New Hampshire, arousing no perceptible interest from voters in either state. The New Hampshire event on March 17th drew a crowd of…twenty. Fourteen of those were on the panel, though; only six actually wanted to hear de Blasio speak. And yes, for the Iowa event he was eleven minutes late.

Politics aside, the guy is simply awful: vain, lazy, and clumsy. Yet city voters in 2017 gave him a second term, rejecting a smart and presentable opponent, a lady of considerable ability and accomplishment. What's up with that?

What's up with it is, an eighteen percent voter turnout. If there is no pressing crisis—no crime wave, no impending bankruptcy, no 9/11—New Yorkers, other than the public-sector union workers who run the place, don't bother to vote much; and if they vote, it's for the status quo. De Blasio won in 2017 with around twelve percent of the vote.

I don't know what the opposite of the word "advertisement" is; but whatever it is, where democracy is concerned, New York City is that word.

Black privilege is in fact rampant in New York City. Another running story recently has concerned the city's Special High Schools. This is the handful of public schools, most specializing in science and math, that admit students strictly on the passing score of a standard written exam. You pass the exam, you get in. You don't pass, you don't get in.

These schools and their admissions procedures are protected by a state law. Mayor de Blasio hates that law, and is moving heaven and earth to switch the special high schools to "holistic" admissions. That word "holistic" is education-speak for "completely subjective," as Andrew Ferguson has pointed out.

Why would the Mayor want to do that? Why do you think? Those strict admissions standards mean that hardly any blacks get in, few Hispanics, a decent number of whites, and masses of Asians.


Stuyvesant, the most selective of all the schools, had 895 slot to fill this year. Blacks, who are 28 percent of the city's eligible students, got just seven of those slots—0.8 percent. Sixty-six percent of those admitted to Stuyvesant were Asian [Only 7 Black Students Got Into Stuyvesant, N.Y.’s Most Selective High School, Out of 895 Spots, by Eliza Shapiro, NYT, March 18, 2019]; Asians are 15 percent of the city's eligible students. [Admissions Overhaul: Simulating the Outcome Under the Mayor’s Plan For Admissions to the City’s Specialized High Schools,  February 2019]

It's been depressing to read and watch local commentary on these numbers. Race realism is totally absent.

Yet race realism offers a simple and complete explanation for the numbers. Black Americans test at a mean IQ around 85; Hispanics around 90; whites 100; East Asian 105. I don't know a number for South Asians, but it's probably between whites and East Asians.

Given the "magnifying effect" out in the far tails of statistical distributions, big discrepancies like those evident in the Stuyvesant results are to be expected.

You'd never know any of that from reading the mainstream commentators. None of them dares venture into race realism. That includes some of my own favorite commentators like Michael Goodwin and Heather Mac Donald. All they dare say is: "Fix the schools! We need better elementary and middle schools so the black and Hispanic kids are better prepared!"


Those differences in mean IQ explain most of the school admittance numbers, I'm sure. In conversation around the city, though, and in comment threads on various websites, you hear about black privilege also being in play.

Like this: Tony private high schools in the New York area are keen to have a sprinkling of black students. They let them in on scholarships and waive the fees, just so they can virtue-signal in their promotional brochures.

So if you are a smart black middle-schooler in New York, you have a choice.

  • Take the exam and hope to get into one of the specialized public high schools like Stuyvesant, where you'll find yourself in class among fiercely competitive East Asian grinds whose parents are Post Office clerks; or
  • Accept that scholarship to St Cuthbert's private academy for young gentlefolk and spend four years playing lacrosse with Montgomery Talmadge III and Aaron Goldberg, whose parents are investment bankers.

A necessary condition for having that choice is that you be black, or at least black-ish. Nonblacks need not apply.

That, at any rate, is the talk among Dissident Right types around town.

I'd like to see some actual numbers, but it doesn't seem at all implausible that here, too, black privilege is in play.


2010-12-24dl[1]John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

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