CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On Monday, on a plaza in front of the Government Center, Jared Taylor exercised his First Amendment right to free speech to insist that very right has been violated by city officials.
Taylor heads the New Century Foundation, an organization that promotes what he calls "race realism." It is best known for the American Renaissance website, monthly magazine and conferences that argue for the idea of genetic and moral differences among races and the dangers of diversity. Taylor hopes his American Renaissance
conference will go on as planned Feb. 4-6 in Charlotte, though right now it doesn't have a meeting place. The Sheraton Charlotte Airport Hotel canceled the group's reservations for 100 rooms last week, citing concern for guests' safety; it has said no "outside entities" affected the decision. A statement from the hotel said organizers had not explained the nature of the conference.
Taylor on Monday disputed that account. He said that when American Renaissance signed a contract in July, he "explained that some people think our views are controversial," and that a planned conference last year in Washington did not happen because "a hotel came under such pressure that they had to cancel their contract with us."
"They (the hotel staff) said they understood," according to Taylor, and "even said they believed in freedom of speech." He added, "Any 10-year-old in three minutes on the Internet" could find out what was in store for Charlotte attendees. (For example, on the agenda is a scheduled address by Sam G. Dickson
, who at a 2008 American Renaissance conference in Virginia presented his race-based solution to what ails America: "What I want is a homeland for my race, on this continent, and homelands for our people in Europe, in our lands of ancestral origin.")
Taylor again points to pressure, this time, he said, from Charlotte City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon. Taylor asked for an apology, though Cannon said he has nothing to apologize for. In an e-mail to a constituent last week, Cannon wrote that "I have all hotels . . . on notice." Cannon told me on Monday that he should not have said "I" because he did not notify any hotels. "I didn't write or call or e-mail to ask them to disallow them from coming." Cannon said he talked to constituents who were concerned that American Renaissance had not been properly researched.
Cannon said he was "making sure that the safety of their organization – whether I agree with them or not – and the safety of the citizens of Charlotte are being looked after. By their own admission, they are a controversial group." If the meeting led to violence, the first question would be, "Why wasn't there leadership?" he said.
Taylor said that if the hotel came under pressure from an elected government official, it is "contemptible and unconscionable," and suspected a racial motive in the involvement of Cannon, who is African-American. Besides asking for Cannon to apologize to American Renaissance, Taylor said the council member should make a city property available to the group or persuade the hotel to honor the cancelled contract. He told me his lawyer is looking "very seriously" into possible legal action.
Cannon said the group is free to land a contract with a public or private meeting place. "It's not my domain," he said.
Even if the American Renaissance conference does find a home, it won't end the controversy. The Jewish Defense Organization, an offshoot of the Jewish Defense League, has threatened to boycott any hotel that hosts it. The Durham, N.C.-based Southern Anti-Racism Network
has planned a rally on Feb. 5 in Charlotte. Other groups have said they planned to protest. On Monday, 19-year-old Stephen Morris of Matthews, N.C., showed up to deliver the message that Taylor is "not welcome here." The Central Piedmont Community College music major said he has a mixed-race adopted cousin who is discriminated against, and the American Renaissance view that diversity is hurting the country just makes racism worse.
Taylor said he did not know what all the fuss was about, describing his conference as "middle-age men in suits giving speeches to other middle-age men in suits. I can't think of anything more boring."
What will they be discussing? Perhaps his views on intelligence, which puts Ashkenazi Jews at the top, north Asians – Japanese and Koreans -- next, Caucasians third, Hispanics next and blacks at the bottom. "Blacks are certainly not in the bottom in all respects," he told me, giving the examples of football, basketball and, perhaps, boxing.
Mark Potok, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center
, called American Renaissance "the cosmopolitan face of white hate." It's true, he told me, "that his people come in suits and ties and make a great show of their civilized ways." He called them "academic racists" who "sit around and debate why other races are less intelligent than them – or so they think." (Taylor said the law center is "in the business of stirring up hatred.")
Potok said American Renaissance has "a keen interest in eugenics, building a better human race," and theories as "completely discredited" as the Nazi experiments at Auschwitz.
Conference guests have included David Duke and Don Black, former Ku Klux Klan leader and proprietor of the white supremacist website Stormfront.
After Hurricane Katrina, Taylor wrote in American Renaissance in 2005: "Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization -- any kind of civilization -- disappears."
Probably not on the agenda of Taylor, who said he believes the races have evolved independently, is the newest exhibit set to open ths weekend at Charlotte's hands-on science museum, Discovery Place. In an accident of timing that could not be more perfect, "Race: Are We So Different?" promises visitors will discover that human beings are more alike than any other living species and no one gene or set of genes can support the idea of race.
"We all can see that people look different, but modern science and anthropology may alter how we understand and experience race," said John Mackay, president and CEO of Discovery Place. "Science has demonstrated that humans cannot be divided into 'races' based on physical attributes or genes. It's about the effects of geography and where people live, not categories."
Taylor's Monday press conference is probably not the one Charlotte had hoped to be having this week, not when the Democratic National Committee is expected to announce its site selection for the 2012 convention. Charlotte and St. Louis are considered at the top of the list, with Minneapolis and Cleveland also in the running. Recently, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who has been working to host the convention, met with President Obama and 13 other mayors in the White House to discuss the city's economic recovery.
After Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools made up for a snow day on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, local NAACP President Kojo Nantambu called for students to boycott their classes and urged organizations – including the DNC -- not to meet in the city, which he called a "racist bastion." Among other things, Nantambu mentioned the planned American Renaissance conference as evidence.
Cannon said he is hoping the Democratic National Committee can look past any controversy and see that "Charlotte is a place of inclusion. Racism? It does exist. But that's not the nature of this city."
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