It isn’t easy to criticize the punditry of Laurel veterinarian and former state legislator Krayton Kerns. But let’s do it anyway.
Kerns writes the Ramblings of a Conservative Cow Doctor column, which appears in the Western Ag Reporter, the Laurel Outlook and the Yellowstone County News. His transgressions against reality start with the mendacious, such as referring to the nonexistent “Democrat Party,” a vaguely insulting misnomer that should be reserved for schoolyard bullies and the leader of the Republic Party—or do I repeat myself?
They continue on to the truly outrageous, such as this recent claim: “Most of the world’s scientists agree man caused climate change is a complete fraud.” That’s the precise opposite of the truth.
What makes Kerns hard to criticize is that the recurrent jokiness in his style makes it hard to tell when he is trying to make a serious point. He clowns around too much to be taken seriously, but he is too serious to be dismissed as a clown.
His latest column, for instance, calls for the creation of Irish Lives Matter, a two-person movement aimed at, well, something. He is presumably kidding about that, and he is probably kidding when he compares the income tax to indentured servitude—although that’s a heck of an analogy for a former public official to make.
But he does not appear to be kidding when he claims that he is a descendant of slaves. His Irish ancestor, he claims, came here as an indentured servant.
Kerns doesn’t provide a lot of details, but let’s be clear: Indentured servitude and slavery had little in common. Indentured servitude was a pretty good deal for some people: They got free passage to America, worked four to seven years for room and board, then often got free land or some other bonus to give them a fresh start in the New World. About half of the Europeans who came to America before 1775 got here as indentured servants, and they went on to build a nation.
It was admittedly a system ripe for abuse. Some servants were kidnapped or lured to America on false pretenses. Others were beaten, and women could be forced to serve longer if they became pregnant. Many died in the harsh wilderness of colonial America. Kerns’ ancestor may well have been a victim of the system, but according to Kerns’ account, his ancestors fought at Trenton during the Revolutionary War, so things must have turned out OK.
Not so for black slaves. According to sociologist Nathan Glazer, “the slave was totally removed from the protection of organized society … his existence as a human being was given no recognition by any religious or secular agency, he was totally ignorant of and completely cut off from his past, and he was offered absolutely no hope for the future. His children could be sold, his marriage was not recognized, his wife could be violated or sold … and he could also be subject, without redress, to frightful barbarities … . The slave could not, by law, be taught to read or write; he could not practice any religion without the permission of his master, and could never meet with his fellows, for religious or any other purposes, except in the presence of a white; and finally, if a master wished to free him, every legal obstacle was used to thwart such action.”
That quotation comes from the so-called Moynihan Report, a 1965 paper by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (later a U.S. senator) on the breakdown in the black family. At the time, the illegitimacy rate in black families was about 23 percent (Kerns inexplicably gives a figure only one-third as high); today it has soared to 73 percent.
Centuries of slavery, followed by a century of Jim Crow laws, may well have contributed to the problem. Nor has discrimination ended. A federal court found just last week that a North Carolina voting law targeted blacks with “almost surgical precision.” Legislators sought out data on race, the court found, then adjusted voting requirements to exclude the maximum possible number of black voters.
But Kerns cannot be distracted by details.
“Racism did not destroy America’s black communities,” he writes, “socialism did.”
If not for racism, one might ask, why would there even be “black communities”? I mean, if we are all living together as God’s colorblind children, how did we wind up living so far apart?
Kerns instead poses a classic chicken-or-egg question: Do single moms become dependent on welfare because they have too many children, or do single moms have children because they want welfare?
That might be a question worth debating, but Kerns charges right past it. That way he misses an important point made by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic magazine in 2009 (and updated in 2013): The birthrate for unmarried black women actually has been falling for 40 years. The illegitimacy rate has risen because fewer black women are marrying and because the birthrate among married black women has fallen even faster than among single women.
One reason is that about a third of black men spend at least some time in prison. Hence the Black Lives Matter movement, which argues, backed by substantial evidence, that the justice system unfairly singles out black men for harassment and punishment.
Kerns offers a different explanation: “Democrats are encouraging the Black Lives Matter movement because the violence it propagates helps the ruling class advance their gun control agenda. After all, a few dead police officers are a small price compared to achieving a Marxist utopia.”
Where does one even begin? Protesters propagate violence? Democrats hate the Second Amendment so much that they want to kill police officers? America, which now has its highest income gap between the rich and poor since the 1920s, is ruled by Marxists?
Punditry is too small a stage for good doctor Kerns. He should be running for president.