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When the ‘massive applause’ from the West Point graduating class followeing Ayn Rand’s delivery of her forthright views on the benefits conferred by slavery on the West Africans transported to North America had subsided, and briefly ignoring the question from the floor concerning the genocides of Native Americans, she turned her attention to the responsibility of liberals for the existence of racism.

If you study reliable history, and not liberal, racist newspapers, racism didn’t exist in this country until the liberals brought it up—racism in the sense of self-consciousness and separation about races. Yes, slavery existed as a very evil institution, and there certainly was prejudice against some minorities, including the Negroes after they were liberated. But those prejudices were dying out under the pressure of free economics, because racism, in the prejudicial sense, doesn’t pay. Then, if anyone wants to be a racist, he suffers, the working of the system is against him. 

Once again, one is staggered by the extent of Rand’s ignorance of history, and also by her addiction to the philosophy of Humpty Dumpty, who famously said (reportedly ‘in rather a scornful tone’) “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” It is hard to think of a more dramatic example of ‘separation about races’ than having one race enslaved and the other free, a situation that existed long before there were liberal newspapers.

The only way in which this paragraph can be said to make any sort of sense is by assuming that Eand’s starting point was her own ‘philosophy’, and with that as a fixed point she went ahead and decided what history must have been. Was it really only ‘after they were liberated’ that there was a prejudice against the ‘the Negroes’? Of course not.

But she had more to say.

Today, it is to everyone’s advantage to form some kind of ethnic collective. The people who share your viewpoint or from whose philosophy those catchphrases come, are the ones who are institutionalizing racism today. What about the quotas in employment? The quotas in education? And I hope to God—so I am not religious, but just to express my feeling—that the Supreme Court will rule against those quotas. But if you can understand the vicious contradiction and injustice of a state establishing racism by law. Whether it’s in favor of a minority or a majority doesn’t matter. It’s more offensive when it’s in the name of a minority because it can only be done in order to disarm and destroy the majority and the whole country. It can only create more racist divisions, and backlashes, and racist feelings. 

There are, of course, good arguments both for and against quotas. To take race out of the equation for a moment, there have been arguments put forward for quotas to correct the numerical imbalance (now thankfully diminishing) between private school and state school pupils in the intakes to UK universities. On the bad side, uotas can lead to people clearly unsuited to the demands of university training being accepted, on the good side they can lead to those who are suited but have been less well  educated succeeding.What is certainly NOT the case, however, is that where quotas are applied in favour of a minority, that is being done ‘in order to disarm and destroy the majority’, let alone ‘the whole country’. There may be many reasons for considering quotas to be bad , but that, surely, is not one of them. However, Rand was never very good at logical thought, as her closing words on this particular topic amply demonstrate.

If you are opposed to racism, you should support individualism. You cannot oppose racism on one hand and want collectivism on the other.

The second of hese two sentences is a logical fallacy (The first is a mere expression of opinion, with which you can agree or disagree).    Collectivism, if it means anything at all, means equality within a group, regardless of colour or any other obvious differences. That has never, of course, been achieved, any more than it is likely that racism will be eliminated as long as there are different groups identifiable by skin colour, or appearance, or by differences in their ways of life. Collectives do have a bad track record where prejudice against those outside the collective are concerned, but that is very different from racial prejudice. It may be possible to join a collective, but one is stuck for life with the race with which one is born..