Re: [sixties-l] (Fwd):Reparatiopns, DH & the Left

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: Sat Mar 31 2001 - 17:03:19 EST

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    Marty Jezer wrote:

    > Like many on this list, I've battled David Horowitz. I agree with Ed Herman
    > and others that the media routinely practices censorship and there is a long
    > history of it banning ads with peace and justice messages. That said,
    > censoring DH was incredibly self-defeating and unprincipled. Not only has it
    > made DH a martyr and give him more ammunition to blast the left, but it
    > undermines the progressive position with regard to free speech -- or what
    > should be the progressive position in that regard. When progressives
    > support censorship we forfeit the right to protest when major media censors
    > us. More specifically, college newspapers should be open to all points of
    > view -- even obnoxious ones. People are in school to learn to think. For a
    > college newspaper to censor or to bow to pressure and censor is cowardly.

    Not only has free speech been confused with using one's money in a
    political way by the Supreme Court, which, of course, favors those who
    have it over those that don't, but this principle seems to have been
    accepted among sections of the liberal intelligensia. That Horowitz had
    the financial backing to place ads in a number of college papers gives
    him an advantage that the first amendment arguably did not intend.

    Horowitz is hardly a victim or even a martyr in this, just a smart con
    man who knew exactly what the reaction would be to his advertisements
    and has already benefited in terms of media exposure and no doubt, more
    funding from the neo-fascist sources that keep him afloat.

    Had Horowitz submitted his ad as an op-ed piece then an editor could
    have solicited an opposing viewpoint.

    That all being said, I find it curious that this issue of censorship has
    become such an issue when silence has generally greeted the thwarted
    efforts of deniers of the Jewish holocaust to either place ads or to
    speak at public universities, such as David Irving who was prevented
    from speaking several years ago at UC Berkeley, without much, if any
    cry, from the "free speech" community.
    > The papers that banned the DH ad should have argued against it in editorials
    > and written articles to challenge his facts. Reparations, of all issues,
    > should be open to discussion. It angers me that the left seems to have
    > placed the issue of reparations under the banner of political correctness,
    > beyond debate. It does more than anger me. It makes me despair. When will we
    > ever learn?

    A group of Jewish holocaust survivors has just filed a suit against the
    US government for $40 billion because the US did not bomb the rail lines
    to Auchswitz. Will anyone have the guts to say that this suit is
    frivolous, or do Jews have a special exemption when it comes to
    reparations, that African-Americans, do not?

    > I first heard of the idea of reparations from Ron Daniels, who was then
    > involved in the Rainbow Coalition and is a political thinker whom I
    > respect. But on this issue he, and the many others promoting this idea are
    > possibly wrong, for reasons of principle,
    > pragmatism, tactics and goals. I've not read what DH wrote in his ad but I'm
    > sure what I'm going to say reflects some of his points. So be it.
    > 1) Discrimination in the US, dating back to slavery, continues. The
    > devastating legacy of slavery continues to put African-Americans at a
    > disadvantage. Jim Crow/legal apartheid, which lasted until the 1960s, also
    > devastated the African-American community. Let's grant all this and ask how
    > to speed the healing and bring about economic justice.

    Who is going to ask and who is going to answer?
    > 2) Can you blame children for the sins of their parents? As a Jew, I ask
    > that about the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the
    > Nazis. Financial reparations are small compensation for what was lost.
    > Certainly, the perpetrators of the crime should pay, and pay harshly. But
    > their children? Some say it's the German government that has to pay, but
    > after 1945 the Third Reich was gone. How many generations does it take for
    > responsibility to end? This is a subject worthy of debate. Or is raising
    > the questions now deemed politically incorrect?

    Slavery was a US government approved policy which, in order to give the
    Southern states more political clout, counted their slaves as
    three-fifths of a person. With all due respect to the Jewish victims of
    the Nazis, that period of history was considerably shorter and with
    considerably less victims, even at 6 million, that what was experienced
    in black US communities. And there is no question that it was far more
    devastating to the black community than the Holocaust was to the Jewish
    for that reason. To answer the question posed in the last sentence,
    political correctness has always dictated total silence when it comes to
    criticism of the US Jewish community for anything, hence the total
    silence today in the face of the organized Jewish community's support to
    the bloody hilt of the Israeli violence against the Palestinians, and
    its welcoming with cheers, Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Beirut.
    > As with the Germans, can we blame the great-great-great-grandchildren of
    > slaveholders for the sins of their ancestors? And what about the children of
    > immigrants who came here after slavery ended?. Yes, we all benefit from
    > having white skin and most of us
    > have probably been guilty of some form of racism at one time or another,
    > but slavery is not our fault.

    Again, slavery was condoned by the US government, and every white
    person, whether born here or who immigrated here, has benefited from it
    financially to one extent or another, as well as the century and more of
    the discrimination that followed it.
    > 3) From the standpoint of social psychology, victimization is a destructive
    > role for a people to assume. The Serbs, the Jews, the Palestinians, and many
    > other peoples, to one degree or another, are debilitated when they assume
    > this identity.
    > African Americans, too. Reparations, I believe, plays in to victimization.
    > This issue demands a much larger discussion, but in summary, encouraging
    > victimization isn't good for a culture.

    Jews as victims, have been the exception. Otherwise there wouldn't be 90
    Holocaust museums around the US. Eli Weisel has made a good living from
    other other people's dying, and the major Jewish organizations fundraise
    off that victimhood.
    > 4) Politically and practically speaking will it fly? If it won't, why push
    > it? The demand for reparations is, to me, grandstanding, a way of accusing
    > whites of racism without trying to deal with the problem. The civil rights
    > movement self-destructed when it turned from concrete programs to the
    > rhetoric of honky baiting.
    > One practical reason reparations won't get political support rests on the
    > question of
    > how much are African-Americans themselves putting back into their
    > community? -- A very touchy subject!. There are studies that show that
    > ordinary African Americans put a lot of money into their churches and other
    > local institutions. And some church organizations do invest heavily in
    > housing and other essential
    > infrastructures. But there are now many black millionaires, especially in
    > sports and entertainment. Some put back into the community (Cosby, Michael
    > Jordan, etc.) Maybe most do and it only needs more publicity. But I think
    > not. And on this issue perception counts for a lot. We often hear of a new
    > sports millionaire endorsing or sponsoring a basketball league for kids or
    > something like that. It's never very much and, more important, the giving is
    > not institutionalized. Asians, Jews, and other ethnic groups have thrived
    > because those of their number who make it are under great pressure
    > to give some of it back. Hopefully my perception of African American
    > philanthropy is wrong. But the black community has its work cut out for it
    > showing the public that it is doing all that it can. Practically speaking,
    > how can one demand that the nation pay reparations when so many black
    > celebrities are such conspicuous consumers. Surely there are historic
    > reasons for this fact. People denied a piece of the pie are going to want to
    > enjoy the pie when they get it. Whatever the facts, the perception
    > undercuts the
    > reparation demand.

    Comparisons with the success of immigrant communities overlook that the
    very fact that blacks came here involuntarily, and then were enslaved,
    had their families deliberately destroyed, were prevented from attending
    schools, makes their outlook, as a group, very different. There is a
    history of immigrants in country's other than the US as well as the US,
    seizing a new opportunity to do well by working long hours for little
    pay, until they make it. Blacks had the experience of working long hours
    for no pay.

    The suggestion that the legitimacy of reparations has anything to do
    with whether or not black celebrities are huge philanthropists is
    intellectually mind boggling.
    > 5) Demographics: African Americans are a shrinking minority. Hispanics now
    > equal them in numbers. For reparations to pass in Congress, or any
    > legislature, proponents are going to need allies. The fact of #4 undercuts
    > that possibility.
    One might have made the same statement before the advent of the civil
    rights movement.

    > 6) So what to we do? the African American community deserves and has earned
    > by its
    > labor -- in conditions of slavery, under Jim Crow apartheid, and in everyday
    > discrimination, e.g., in the building trades -- a better economic shake. So
    > do other immigrant groups, as well as whites in pockets of poverty (although
    > the cause of their poverty is not so historic and institutionalized). The
    > solution is to make this a class issue that crosses racial and ethnic lines.
    > We need a War on Poverty (with a different name); one that works. We need
    > public investment in wiping out slums, in better schools (and more
    > scholarships for higher education), in job training, and so much more. I
    > don't know what such a program would look like, but certainly there have
    > been lessons learned from the errors of the Great Society. As a race
    > issue, reparations won't go anywhere; take race away from it and there is a
    > large constituency that can be mobilized. Practically speaking, African
    > Americans will be a primary beneficiary of such a program. And that is how
    > it should be. But right now there is no political focus or political will
    > for mobilizing for such an initiative -- neither from Democrats,
    > progressives, or Greens. (Not even a book, like Harrington's "Other
    > America," to create attention). In my opinion, the demand for reparations,
    > because of its narrow and controversial focus, makes it harder to get the
    > issue raised.

    It makes it harder to get the issue raised when comfortable liberal
    intellectuals find every reason not to support it.
    > Another movement to end poverty would be a unifier; reparations are
    > divisive. Those of us who want the good results that would come from
    > reparations (helping the African American
    > community) should think hard about whether reparations are what is needed to
    > bring them about. The demand for reparations, in my opinion, is
    > point-scoring rhetoric, not a demand for something that can be achieved.
    > That David Horowitz and other right wingers and racists also oppose
    > reparations is no reason for us to give knee-jerk support to it. At the
    > minimum, reparations need debate. Circling the wagons to fight people like
    > DH doesn't suggest a political climate where honest discussion can begin.
    > And that is why I despair for the left.

    It is not a question of giving knee-jerk support, but stepping back and
    taking a good long look at American history and seeing where we are
    today, seeing what is happening to undefended largely black inner city
    schools, to see who is being incarcerated in our prisons. You are
    arguing that justice should give way to pragmatism. And I say it
    already has and that is why I despair for the left.

    Jeffrey Blankfort
    > Marty Jezer

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