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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
6) So what to we do? the African American community deserves and has earned
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
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.
Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words
Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel
Rachel Carson: Author, Biologist
The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960
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