Where They Are Now

City life

Heather Mac Donald ’78 left literature behind to critique liberal policies.

Julie Brown

Julie Brown

Heather Mac Donald ’78 abandoned literary deconstruction to write about urban policy for City Journal. View full image

Heather Mac Donald ’78—a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of several books, including Are Cops Racist?—writes about multiculturalism, feminism, and liberal approaches to crime and welfare policy. Mac Donald is an outspoken atheist and blogs at SecularRight.org. She lives and works in New York.

Y: Were you interested in politics in college?

M: I was just completely swept up in study and learning.

Y: And you became interested in deconstruction, the trendy literary theory at the time.

M: Although I came to really regret the amount of time I invested in literary theory and deconstruction, I am very grateful that I was at Yale before feminism and multiculturalism hit. Professors like Paul de Man read the greatest works of literature without any need to apologize for the fact that most—not all—of them were written by dead white males.

Y: But graduate school at Yale didn’t work out?

M: I only lasted one semester, because all of a sudden deconstructive theory was sounding like madness to me. I went to law school [at Stanford], then went to work for the Environmental Protection Agency, where I found myself plunged into the middle of toxic-waste regulation. I left and moved to New York. My goal then was—it sounds pretentious—but the fallacies of deconstruction so rankled me that I thought I would write its definitive refutation. I never finished that essay, but I started writing short articles on postmodernism and how literary theory was working its way into the art world.

Y: An editor suggested you write for City Journal, which specializes in conservative critiques of urban policy.

M: What was happening in New York when I got here was a lot of race agitation. And I did not like affirmative action. I just think that meritocracy is an extremely important principle, and race and gender are not qualifications in and of themselves. My ego does not need female role models, and I do not think I am the victim of an oppressive, patriarchal system.

Y: You are an atheist. Has that been a problem for you in the conservative movement?

M: No, I think conservatism still is, believe it or not, a pretty big tent. I don’t think atheism is a career advancer, but I am certainly tolerated and don’t feel excluded.

Y: How did you vote in the presidential election?

M: I don’t know why that’s relevant.

Y: Readers will wonder.

M: I voted for Obama the first time, and I voted for Romney this time. My Obama vote was a protest vote against Sarah Palin. And I didn’t really agree with the foreign policy of McCain, the continuation of the Bush foreign policy worldview. This time around, I just felt that Romney does stand for a more gut understanding of the power and creativity of individuals engaged in economic activity to create wealth.

Y: What are you working on today?

M: I am writing a lot about policing. I think that inner-city minorities have as much right to walk the streets free from fear as people on Park Avenue. And I think that low crime is absolutely essential to urban vitality. But in some ways, if I had my druthers, I would just be writing about music and beauty.

The comment period has expired.