28 MARCH 1969, Page 26

Black cream

Sir: I am delighted to learn (Letters, 14 March) that Mr Hughes is neither English, American, nor an academic. I had feared he was an Ameri- can academic, like me, because his kind of writ- ing—pretentious and inexact—is fairly common among us.

I did not deny that racists are xenophobic and (the white ones) jealous of what they impute to black virility. I merely questioned the utility of calling a racist xenophobic. When you have defined a man as a hater of whole races it does not seem particularly relevant or insulting, in this world, to say he hates foreigners too. 'Penis envy' is a phrase which has always been used to describe an emotion felt by little girls. Mr Hughes is at liberty to extend it to grown men and make it mean something quite different; one gathers what he means, and I suppose it was pedantic of me to object. I still don't see what eschatology has to do with it.

I am glad that Mr Hughes is indignant against `segregationalists' of all nations, and shall adopt his term for them; the extra syllable makes the word seem much more sinister. 'Segregation- alism' has more intellectual respectability now than it has had for many years; as Mr Hughes says (I had thought with approval) a good many young blacks want a closed black society because it is more 'existentially meaningful and genitally complete' (or perhaps because they feel safer in it?). To be specific, black students are actively recruited by universities because the universities are trying to accomplish a social object. Many of the students are utterly unpre- pared for the kind of academic pressures they encounter; they fail; they dislike failure; they demand a 'black studies programme' adminis- tered by students and closed to white men, in which they will not fail. Of course, some able black students embrace segregation as a poli- tical cause.

This is racism, if the, word has any meaning. I find it far less vicious than traditional redneck racism, and also than the kind which justifies raping, mugging, burning down shops, etc, as `insurrectionary acts.' Obviously, we must all oppose racism, whatever our colour; I wish Mr Hughes would do so more consistently. Mr Hughes's inference that I thought only blacks should be against racism, baffled me for a while. but I finally figured it out. He means, 'I am white, he's criticising my protest, therefore etc: I will not deny that I suspected he was white, but I had no way of knowing. I considered his position absurd without respect to his colour. I assumed from internal evidence that he was re- moved from the problem he dealt with. I saw that he was so involved in vicarious race war (one of Orwell's 'transferred nationalists') that he had abandoned his critical faculties. I considered that his review typified a trahison des clercs, not to race, but, of course, to reason. I still do.