Re: [sixties-l] David Horowitz Reply to Christopher Hi

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: Tue May 15 2001 - 15:27:37 EDT

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    Without going point by point, Horowitz has relied on Southern apologists
    for his history. The notion that Lincoln died to end slavery, or that
    that was the reason young Northerners went off to die, overlooks the
    simple fact that the Confederacy launched the war with the attack at Ft.
    Sumter. There is no evidence and no one has ever seriously suggested
    that the North would have gone to war to liberate the slaves had not the
    South attacked.

    Also, the emancipation proclamation was apparently more directed towards
    keeping the British from joining forces on the side of the South than it
    was towards actually freeing the slaves. In Britain, at the time,
    Southern diplomats were trying to get the Brits on their side which
    would have led to a very different result if they had succeeded. At the
    same time, the British workers were anxious to see some sign that the
    war was actually against slavery which the Brits had outlawed in 1833.
    So old Abe, after scribbling his signature, sent a copy of the
    proclamation on the fastest ship to England, to give the workers and the
    anti-slavery forces there the arguments they needed to keep Britain from
    intervening on the side of the South.

    Horrorwitz makes a point of emphasizing as a fact the existence of
    several thousand black slave holders in the South and Hitchens seems to
    accept it, but I have never seen any source cited for that statistic.
    Does anyone have one?

    The citing of Booker T Washington by Horowitz as a source for the fact
    of Negro liberation and the civilizing effect of Christianity was a bad
    joke, since none of the rights that Washington claimed for blacks in the
    South could be safely exercised until he was long cold in the grave.

    Jeff Blankfort
    radman sent:
    > A Reply to Christopher Hitchens
    > By David Horowitz
    > URL:
    > IN THE CURRENT VANITY FAIR (June 2001), Christopher Hitchens has written a
    > civil, reasonable (and therefore amazingly unique) reply to my "10 Reasons
    > Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea and Racist Too." He says he is
    > playing "devil's advocate" and it is clear (to me at least) that he is
    > smart and historically literate enough to know that the case made by
    > Randall Robinson and the other reparations proponents is so intellectually
    > shabby as to be indefensible. (This, undoubtedly, is the reason they are
    > prepared to dish out such massive personal abuse to those, like myself,
    > who point this out.)
    > What follows are my responses to Hitchens.
    > 1. "There is no single group responsible for the crime of slavery."
    > Hitchens: As is well known, slaves were originally rounded up and sold by
    > Africans and Arabs. A few thousand southern blacks become slave owners,
    > and many poor whites were indentured. However, the Confederacy openly
    > stated both that it was based on the principle of white supremacy and that
    > "African slavery" was Biblically warranted. (Thomas Day, who bought The
    > Hartford Courant in 1855, wrote in an editorial, "We believe the Caucasian
    > variety of the human species superior to the Negro variety; and we would
    > breed the best stock." Moreover, Mathieu Kerekou, president of Benin, has
    > recently made a public apology for the part played by West Africans in
    > enslavement, and there are dynastic fortunes in West Africa that were
    > founded on trade. Yes, these elements, too, should be included in the
    > bill, if it is ever to be drawn up.
    > Horowitz: Hitchens pretty much concedes the point. He is correct that the
    > Confederacy defended slavery as both moral and Biblically warranted, and
    > of course the Confederacy institutionalized and defended the principle of
    > white supremacy. The problem is that the Confederacy is not the government
    > Robinson and the reparations advocates propose to sue. The Confederacy was
    > punished and destroyed for its crimes -- a form of reparation in itself.
    > Hitchens proposes that "dynastic fortunes in West Africa that were founded
    > on the [slave] trade ^ should be included in the bill." Don't hold your
    > breath. There are no plans to sue African slavers. In fact, the African
    > regimes which by the logic applied to this country should also be sued for
    > reparations are themselves suing (white) European governments for $777
    > trillion, enough to bankrupt them many times over.
    > 2. "There is no single group that benefited exclusively from slavery."
    > Hitchens: It is true that black Americans benefit from the overall
    > prosperity of the United States. But nobody is arguing that only white
    > people pay reparations. The federal government, which helped administer
    > slavery and hunt down its fugitives, also took in much of the revenue. But
    > it would act, if it set up a reparations trust, in a color-blind manner.
    > Horowitz: Hitchens concedes this point too (as well he should since it is
    > true). He attempts to rescue it, however, by suggesting "nobody is arguing
    > that only white people should pay reparations." Well, maybe not, but if
    > blacks (and only blacks) are receiving reparations, then in what net sense
    > are blacks actually paying anything? The idea that the government might
    > set up a "color-blind trust," presumably to create programs for all those
    > in need, is itself blind to what the reparations movement is all about.
    > 3. "Only a minority of white Americans owned slaves, while others gave
    > their lives to free them."
    > Hitchens: Horowitz says that only one white person in five slaves owned in
    > the antebellum South. Actually, J. D. B. DeBow, the superintendent of the
    > census, took care in 1860 to emphasize that the proportion of slaveholders
    > was closer to one-third overall, and more like one-half in rural South
    > Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Furthermore, David Christy, author
    > of the famous 1855 book Cotton is King, made the decisive argument that
    > the wealth of the nonslave states also derived largely from slavery. "As
    > new grazing and grain-growing States are developed, and teem with their
    > surplus productions, the mechanic is benefited, and the planter, relieved
    > from food-raising, can employ his slaves more extensively on cotton. It is
    > thus that our exports are increased; our foreign commerce advanced; the
    > home markets of the mechanic and farmer extended, and the wealth of the
    > nation promoted. It is thus, also, that the Free labor of the country
    > finds remunerating markets for its products though at the expense of
    > serving as an efficient auxiliary in the extension of slavery!"
    > Horowitz: Here Hitchens makes half a point -- that the minority of
    > southern Americans who owned slaves was larger than I said. I am no expert
    > in this field and did not rely on J.D.B. DeBow's 1860 census report.
    > Instead I relied on a study made for the Economic History Society in 1998,
    > which surveyed current scholarship on this issue (Debating Slavery,
    > Economy and Society in the Ante-bellum American South by Professor Mark
    > Smith). On p. 15 of this text it says that there were 385,000 slave owners
    > out of 8 million people and 1.5 million white households total. The reader
    > can do his own math. But it won't make much difference since the point
    > about only a minority of Americans owning slaves refers to the entire
    > country and not just the South. It is true that the North also benefited
    > economically from slavery but 1) so did the 500,000 free blacks in the
    > North, and 2) the costs to the North of defeating slavery surely qualify
    > as payment on this debt (a consideration totally ignored by reparations
    > proponents).
    > 4. "Most living Americans have no connection (direct or indirect) to
    > slavery."
    > Hitchens: Waves of immigrants, Horowitz points out, arrived after 1880 and
    > 1960. But even the most impoverished Irish or Hungarians were able
    > straightaway to join the building trades or the police departments, from
    > which American-born blacks were excluded. And legally enforced
    > discrimination against the descendants of slaves persisted into the 1960s.
    > In any case, all citizens of the country have benefited from the
    > unrewarded heavy lifting done by kidnapped non-immigrants. Antebellum
    > northerners, too, used to be fond of saying that they were untainted by
    > slavery even as they quietly reaped indirect dividends from it.
    > Horowitz: Again the point is conceded immigrants who came after slavery
    > had no direct connection to it, and thus that most Americans do not
    > either. But then Hitchens adds a new point that there were economic
    > benefits from discrimination that most Americans enjoyed. Well there
    > probably were. But how do you calculate say the benefits the Irish
    > received from discrimination against blacks, but lost as a result of the
    > discrimination inflicted on them by WASPS? Etc. Etc.
    > 5. "The historical precedents used to justify the reparations claim do
    > not apply, and the claim itself is based on race not injury."
    > Hitchens: This point has not yet been convincingly answered by the
    > supporters of reparations, except to say that slavery was also based on
    > race. As Adolph Reed points out, it's difficult to establish precisely who
    > are the "descendants" of slaves. But why is that? Black Americans are
    > different "shades" because their maternal ancestors were raped and their
    > paternal ones were sold down the river, and the children forcibly
    > dispersed. Maybe we'd raise more federal and "faith-based" money if this
    > were called reparations for violated family values.
    > Horowitz: This point is conceded with some witty thoughts added.
    > 6. "The reparations argument is based on the unsubstantiated claim that
    > all African Americans suffer from the economic consequences of slavery and
    > discrimination."
    > Hitchens: Horowitz here points out the West Indians also suffered from
    > slavery but, in America, achieve average incomes equal to those of whites.
    > "How is it that slavery affected one large group of descendants but not
    > the other?" Slavery was abolished almost a generation earlier in the
    > British Empire, and West Indians had voting rights and other liberties,
    > with no Jim Crow system, well before black Americans. One might also note
    > that, for a Republican who presumably resents the estate tax, Horowitz is
    > strangely indifferent to the relative inability of American blacks to
    > acquire mortgages or properties that they are able to bequeath. Derrick
    > Jackson in The Boston Globe calculated that the average white baby-boomer
    > and the average black baby-boomer can now expect to inherit, respectively,
    > $65,000 and $8,000.
    > Justice Clarence Thomas, explaining recently to a high-school audience his
    > almost complete silence in Supreme Court deliberations, said that he had
    > been disabled by his native tongue, Gullah, in an English-speaking
    > classroom. Gullah is a compound of West African tongues originally brought
    > to South Carolina and Georgia by people in chains. Either this excuse was
    > true and relevant or it was not. Horowitz might know.
    > Horowitz: This point is argued but unconvincingly. I certainly had no
    > intention of making a case based on a denial that there is a lot of
    > injustice in the world, or that African Americans may have received more
    > than their share of injustice (who but God would know?). The question is
    > whether reparations is 1) a fair and/or 2) needed reme dy.
    > Many African Americans alive today, indeed most of them, are successful
    > far richer than most people in the world, and in American terms solidly
    > middle class. The reparations argument is based on the claim that the kind
    > of barriers Hitchens mentions Jim Crow etc. were insuperable. The
    > existence of a large black middle class argues that they were not, as does
    > the success story of West Indian descended blacks. To say that West Indian
    > slaves were liberated 30 years before American slaves who were liberated
    > over 100 years ago is to say nothing about present day problems, as
    > Hitchens I am confident knows. To argue that race has been an insuperable
    > obstacle when black West Indians and their descendants are on an economic
    > par with whites will not wash. As for Clarence Thomas, I will take him at
    > his word that his early difficulties with English presented a problem, but
    > one that he has obviously overcome. And this makes my point.
    > 7. "The reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African Americans
    > into victims. It sends a damaging message to the African-American
    > community and to others."
    > Hitchens: Undecidable.
    > Horowitz: I agree, if what is meant is "un-provable."
    > 8. "Reparations to African Americans have already been paid."
    > Hitchens: Welfare payments, Great Society programs, minority set-asides,
    > and affirmative action are cited here. It's clear that Horowitz doesn't
    > approve of them either. Nor does he approve of the War on Poverty in
    > general, even though the majority of low-income Americans are white.
    > Rural blacks in the South were excluded by law from most of the
    > affirmative action for poor whites that was enacted during the New Deal.
    > They also largely missed out, because of discrimination, on the greatest
    > affirmative-action law ever passed, namely the G.I. Bill.
    > Horowitz: Actually I approved of the welfare and affirmative action
    > programs when they were first introduced. Unfortunately, thirty-plus years
    > of both have shown that good intentions do not suffice. Welfare has
    > systematically destroyed the black inner city family and made black urban
    > poverty even more intractable. Affirmative action programs, as the
    > Thernstroms have shown, have retarded black progress and, as Thomas Sowell
    > has shown, have not benefited the truly disadvantaged and have exacerbated
    > racial tensions and, as John McWhorter has shown, have actually damaged
    > all blacks in the process. To go back to the New Deal and the G.I. Bill in
    > order to justify reparations today shows how weak this argument is.
    > 9. "What about the debt blacks owe to America?"
    > Hitchens: Smile when you say that, David. "In the thousand years of
    > slavery's existence," he adds, "there never was an anti-slavery movement
    > until white Anglo-Saxon Christians created one...If not for the sacrifices
    > of white soldiers and a white American president who gave his life to sign
    > the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would still be slaves."
    > It would be just as true to say that Christians didn't turn against
    > slavery for almost two millennia: the first anti-slavery petition in
    > America or anywhere else was drawn up by the Quakers of Germantown,
    > Pennsylvania, in 1688. Then there were Thomas Paine (white and Anglo-Saxon
    > but not Christian) and Frederick Douglass (black, probably fathered by his
    > mother's owner, highly critical of Christian hypocrisy). The Wasp
    > abolitionists in general believed that slavery was a curse and a sin and
    > that it would take (note this) many generations to erase. This was because
    > of the rape and degradation and deliberate family breakup that it
    > involved. Mr. Lincoln (see above) outlived the Emancipation Proclamation
    > by 15 months and signed it only as a limited war measure.
    > Many blacks, it goes without saying, are tenaciously proud Americans and
    > fought for the Union and the country even when (as from 1863 to 1949) they
    > were allowed to do so only in segregated units.
    > Horowitz: This is my most controversial point. It was made long ago by
    > Booker T. Washington, who was himself a former slave and who had to make
    > his way in the segregated south: "Think about it: we went into slavery
    > pagans; we came out Christians. We went into slavery pieces of property;
    > we came out American citizens. We went into slavery with chains clanking
    > about our wrists; we came out with the American ballot in our hands^.
    > Notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, we are in a
    > stronger and more hopeful position, materially, intellectually, morally,
    > and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any
    > other portion of the globe."
    > Hitchens accepts my point that the very concept that "slavery is immoral"
    > is the work of Christians, but then attempts to turn that around by saying
    > they should have realized it earlier. Maybe so. But how about Africans who
    > still countenance slavery, and African Americans who have been exceedingly
    > slow to condemn African slavery in their own lifetimes but have eagerly
    > put together a searing indictment of an American government whose
    > ancestors ended the institution and liberated their forbears?
    > 10. "The reparations claim is a separatist idea that sets
    > African-Americans against the nation that gave them freedom."
    > Hitchens: Maybe this would have been better as a nine-point statement. But
    > see above.
    > Horowitz: See above.
    > - ----------------------------------
    > David Horowitz is editor-in-chief of and president
    > of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

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