About Michael Levin
Writing in both academic outlets and fringe political newsletters, he rejects the very idea of equality—insisting that black, female, gay or disabled people are at best inferior to and at worst parasites on straight, white, able-bodied men. Levin’s views are so extreme that in 1991 CUNY took the unusual step of offering students alternate sections of his classes. Levin responded even more unusually, suing his university to prevent further investigation into or disciplinary action in response to his racist writings.
In His Own Words:
“Concern for morality, like other traits, is not equally distributed. In Why Race Matters and elsewhere I cite evidence that, on average, blacks are less concerned than whites about the golden rule. This is clearly suggested by the very high rates of black criminality not only in the United States but around the world. At a more mundane level it is also reflected, for example, in the unwillingness of many blacks to take turns and a tendency of blacks to ‘talk back’ to movies (which displays a lack of sympathy with audience members who want to watch in silence). ... Why conformity to universal rules is important to whites may be linked to another Caucasian specialty, the quest for scientific knowledge… It is no coincidence that the race that invented science is also the one pre-eminently concerned with right and wrong.”
—“Is There A Superior Race?” American Renaissance, 1998
“The two principal race differences that I see are race differences in intelligence and in motivation. The race difference in intelligence is simply this: blacks have on average an IQ about 15 points lower than whites … 88% of the black population would be considered by ordinary standards sub-normal, and a very large fragment of that would be educably mentally retarded. This is just a fact, and some of the implications are obviously manifest. … It’s no wonder there are very few black scientists, for example. … If you have to have an IQ of 130 to be a successful research scientist, then the number of blacks in that region of the bell curve is negligible. … The other major race difference seems to be a difference in impulsiveness … given a distant good or a present good, blacks will on average choose the present good more readily than the future good. Obviously, this is an attitude that is not conducive to accumulating wealth. You have to invest and be patient. But it also ties in to things like crime, because if you must have a pair of new sneakers, and you see somebody with a pair of new sneakers, you’ll be much more apt to shoot them and take the sneakers. You’d say, wouldn’t moral constraints about killing people—it’s bad to kill people for sneakers—wouldn’t that come in? Well, it’s part of the syndrome in which this preference for immediate gratification evolves, that you’ll also be less concerned with other people.”
—“Policy Consequences of Racial Differences,” talk at the American Renaissance Conference, 1998
“If you start with ideological faith in the ability of blacks and Puerto Ricans to do as well as whites, what happens if they perform poorly? Questioning the premise would be heresy, so that’s out. Rather, the continued failure of blacks to meet ordinary standards would become the new benchmark of discrimination, and the supposedly temporary measures to bring blacks up to speed would become not only permanently entrenched, but legal rights. Aclash between standards and an increased number of blacks and Puerto Ricans would be inevitable. The same had been said fifteen years earlier when the Supreme Court mandated public school integration and busing, and both times the predictions were derided. Well, the facts are in. As everyone knows, public education has been destroyed wherever a significant minority population exists.”
—“Remedial U,” The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, 1998
“The great difference between America at the end of the twentieth century and Germany at its beginning is that here and now the supposed oppressor class is the majority, and the supposed victim class, blacks (along with Hispanics and assorted others, like homosexuals) are a minority. Whites will continue to outdo blacks come what may, and be sorely perplexed about it so long as egalitarian ideas reign, but they are unlikely to apply Hitler's solution to themselves. They will continue to try futile half-measures, like ever more stringent quotas, whose marginal returns in terms of black ‘success’ will rapidly diminish. But the population of the US is changing. Demographers expect that, at present rates of reproduction, only 52 percent of Amercans will be non-Hispanic whites in 2050; not only will their proportion of the population continue to fall after this point, so will their absolute numbers. By 2100 they will find themselves badly outnumbered by a black majority who will interpret their continuing success as proof of white perfidy, fantastic plots, and incorrigible, innate evil. Whites, in other words, will be in a position like that of German Jews in 1930.”
—“A New Look at the Holocaust,” The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, 1998
Even among academic racists, CUNY philosopher Michael Levin stands out for his stark, unapologetic extremism. In articles and lectures for both popular and academic audiences, Levin insists that white supremacy is a natural and desirable consequence of biological differences between races. According to Levin, racial discrimination is both rational and morally acceptable because black populations are genetically hardwired for traits like violence, laziness and antisocial behavior. Because of this, he says, efforts to mitigate the effects of racism or to promote racial diversity are not only doomed to fail, but are themselves actually immoral.
Levin’s graduate work and earliest scholarship was uncontroversial, dealing with philosophical problems in mathematics. But within a few years of being hired at City College New York his attention had turned entirely to social issues. By the 1970s, his sole purpose was to fight against the idea that straight white men had ever enjoyed any unfair advantages. Rejecting the idea that disparities between groups had anything to do with a long history of unequal and unjust policies, Levin would say that social inequality was the natural product of biological differences within the workings of the free market.
His initial target was “radical feminism,” though it’s doubtful that many self-described radical feminists would recognize their own ideas in Levin’s description. He defined feminism as “a program for making different beings—men and women—turn out alike.” Feminism was “an antidemocratic, if not totalitarian ideology,” that relied on the coercive power of the state to overcome the supposedly innate tendencies that led women to occupy the roles of caretaker and homemaker and men to enter the worlds of business, politics or science. This was the main thrust of Levin’s argument against feminism, which he made in his 1987 book Feminism and Freedom: that the “broad structure of society,” including what is seen (wrongly, according to Levin) as unfairness or inequality, is actually the result of innate biological differences between men and women.
Although Levin never entirely abandoned his anti-feminist crusade, he quickly turned his attention to what he saw as a similar but more pressing problem, that of race differences. His work over the almost 30 years since the publication of Feminism and Freedom has been one long, obsessive effort to promote white supremacy.
In 1991, that effort gained significant impetus in the form of a grant from the Pioneer Fund. For decades, the Pioneer Fund has been the chief patron of scientists and writers promoting eugenics and scientific racism. Levin is the first and only philosopher to have received Pioneer funding, which he used to produce his second book, Why Race Matters. In that book, and in several scholarly articles, Levin recycles arguments put forward by other Pioneer grantees like Richard Lynn and J. Philippe Rushton. But where figures like Lynn and Rushton focused on the existence of race differences, Levin’s role as a philosopher allowed him more freedom. In Levin, the Pioneer Fund found someone who would happily venture further into moral and political territory than other academic racists were publicly willing to.
This is perhaps most apparent in his (many) discussions of black criminality. While there are many traits that Levin believes demonstrate white superiority, his arguments most often return to the idea that black people are biologically predisposed to commit crime and, moreover, to target white victims. Because, Levin argues, black people are innately more impulsive and less moral—he uses the “golden rule” as a benchmark for morality, and insists that it’s a predominantly Caucasian trait—people of all races are justified in treating black people as inherently dangerous. He also suggests, despite his staunch libertarianism, that racial profiling and race-conscious policing are entirely justified given that black people are simply more likely to be criminals.
Levin’s obsession with the criminalization of blackness extends to punishment as well. Elsewhere he wrote of the luxury in which predominantly black prison inmates are supposedly held: “Cells must be clean, and not overcrowded. Television is available. Prisoners may build their muscles in well-equipped gyms, so they can come out as more frightening specimens than when they went in. Connubial visits are permitted, so sex is not a problem (and prison authorities allow dominant prisoners with perverse appetites unlimited homosexual rape). The expansion of entitlements across the board has swept away the deterrent power of prisons.” Beyond the supposedly appealing nature of prison stays, Levin argues that the same biological traits that he claims make black people commit crime also make prison an ineffective deterrent. In response to that, he proposes that we abolish prisons in favor of other punishments, including public torture (in the form of either whippings or electrical shocks) and fines. And for those too poor to pay the fines, he suggests what amounts to the enslavement of criminals by their victims until they have worked off their sentence.
Levin’s views go far beyond what’s considered acceptable in academia, so it’s not surprising that he’s sought out friendlier audiences. In 1994 Levin was a speaker at the first American Renaissance conference—an annual event, convened by American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor, that brings white nationalists of every stripe together to celebrate their shared interest in racist “science” and far-right politics. He returned to speak on topics relating to race several times, most recently in 2002. In 2006, he and several other Jewish participants ended their affiliation with the white supremacist publication and conference after tensions with a growing contingent of anti-Semitic attendees finally erupted.
Nor is American Renaissance the only white supremacist organization Levin has worked with. He has also enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the far-right libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute. The Mises Institute is a foundation so extreme that even their fellow libertarians are quick to point out that it “has … had numerous connections with all kinds of unsavory folks: more racists, anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, the whole nine yards.” Critics like libertarian economist Steve Horwitz (who once described the institute as “a fascist fist in a libertarian glove”), have contended that its main achievement has been that “it apparently made some folks (such as [Lew] Rockwell and [Ron] Paul) pretty rich selling newsletters predicting the collapse of Western civilization at the hands of the blacks, gays, and multiculturalists.”
The most significant of these newsletters was The Rothbard-Rockwell Report (or “Triple R”), and over the course of the 1990s, Levin was a regular contributor. Where his academic publications often defend scientific racism in the lofty, abstract language of philosophy, Levin’s writings in the Triple R are a celebration of white supremacy at its most vulgar.
In one Triple R piece, Levin attempted to construct an overarching theory of liberalism as opposition to white fertility, focusing on precisely the issues Horwitz spoke of: “the blacks, gays, and multiculturalists.” According to Levin, liberalism’s nefarious tenets, which include school integration, environmentalism, “civil rights for homosexuals,” abortion, “abolition of sex roles,” and support for the poor, are united by “antagonism towards the (overwhelmingly white) middle class.” Viewed through this paranoid lens, liberalism is a conspiracy dedicated to reducing the number of white babies born, and everything from food stamps to affirmative action to women’s education are nothing more than tools designed to lower the white middle class birthrate.
But even that isn’t his most outlandish idea. In a “book review” of an unpublished manuscript from a retired professor of classics, Levin—himself Jewish—fully endorses Holocaust revisionism, though of a decidedly odd stripe. While acknowledging the reality and horror of Nazi atrocities, Levin rejects any association between racism and Nazism. In fact, he insists that Hitler and the Nazi state were explicitly anti-racist, saying: “Far from showing the dangers of belief in group differences, [the Holocaust] shows where fervent belief in group equality may lead.”
Levin and Steven Farron, the author of the manuscript under review, arrive at that conclusion by insisting that, far from seeing the Jewish population as inferior or subhuman, Nazis viewed Jews as superior to Aryans. The superiority of Jews to non-Jewish Germans was a threat the idea of racial egalitarianism that Levin insists Hitler was committed to. Jews thus needed to be made less exceptional, at first through dispossession of property and rights and eventually through genocide.
Of course, this view of history is laughable, or at least it would be were the topic less serious. But Levin’s ultimate point isn’t actually about the Holocaust, but rather about modern America. The vision of Nazi Germany he conjures is intended from the outset to be a mirror of the post-Civil Rights Act United States. He argues that present-day policies like welfare or affirmative action are functionally equivalent to Nazi policies towards Aryans, putting white Americans (especially men) in the role of German Jews in the 1930s.
Levin’s bizarre and very outspoken racism has, unsurprisingly, provoked some controversy. In 1990, the City University of New York decided to investigate his conduct and add additional sections of his courses for students who weren’t comfortable being taught by an unrepentant white supremacist. In response, Levin filed a lawsuit against the university and the dean, asking a judge to enjoin CUNY from taking any action against him in response to his writings, as doing so was a violation of his academic freedom. Levin won the suit, at least in part because the investigation determined that he had kept his racist views separate from his teaching.
But even if Levin’s racist beliefs never made it into the syllabus, they have still clearly informed how he relates to his students. Writing in Triple R some seven years after the lawsuit, Levin traced what he portrays as the decline of his workplace, CUNY’s City College. In Levin’s telling, City College was an idyllic educational experience through the late 1960s, at which point it was still “virtually all white,” “an island of several thousand white, predominantly Jewish faces in a black and brown sea.” But with the advent of the civil rights movement, pressure was brought on city leaders to expand access to higher education, which would inevitably lead to “a clash between standards and an increased number of blacks and Puerto Ricans.” In Levin’s telling, “demonstrations and firebombs” forced the city to capitulate and lower admission standards to meet quotas of black and Puerto Rican students, resulting in the admission of many who were not intelligent enough to pass high school, let alone college. In the essay, which was published in 1998, Levin puts the City College student body at 73 percent black or Puerto Rican. Levin sees the majority of his own students as being, by virtue of their race, too stupid to succeed.