Authors: David Horowitz
ANY OF THE ESSAYS in this book appeared originally in the Internet magazine
, for which I have written a column every other Monday for more than two years. I am grateful to
editor, David Talbot, who probably disagrees with most of the contents of this volume, for the opportunity he has provided me to reach an audience outside the conservative ghetto to which the rest of the liberal media has consigned my writing since I had second thoughts nearly twenty years ago. When I was still on the political left, David showed similar courage in de- fending Peter Collier and me when we came under attack in 1980 in the professional association Media Alliance for writing the truth about the prison radical George Jackson and his attorney, Fay Stender.
David's integrity and courage were again manifest in 1993 when, as editor of the "Ideas and Opinions" section of the
San Francisco Chronicle
, he reprinted the story, "Black Murder, Inc.," which appears in this volume. It was first published in
, the magazine Peter Collier and I edit. David was (and is to this day) the only member of the national media to show interest in this story, which concerns the most celebrated political organization of the New Left and its involvement in the murder of innocents.
My hands-on editors at
Andrew Ross and David Weir, who also disagree with my current views, could not have been more supportive personally and professionally if they had been political soulmates. If more people were capable of an ecumenical spirit like theirs, our political discourse would be far more civilized and our civic order, more humane.
Finally, I wish to thank Benjamin Kepple and Cris Rapp of
, who provided me with editorial and research assistance. Their dedication and care has made this manuscript better and more accurate that it would otherwise have been.
See "Requiern" in David Horowitz,
(New York: Free Press, 1998), 309ff., where the story of this article is told and the attacks on it described.
ON A RECENT TRIP TO THE SOUTH I found myself in Memphis, the city where Martin Luther King Jr. was struck down by an assassin's bullet just over thirty years ago. Memphis, I discovered, is home to a "National Civil Rights Museum," established by a local trust of African-Americans active in civil rights causes. Tucked out of the way on a side street, the museum is housed in the building that was once the Lorraine Motel, the very site where Dr. King was murdered. I decided to go.
Except for two white 1960s Cadillac convertibles parked under the motel balcony, the lot outside was empty when I arrived. It is part of the museum's plan to preserve the memories of that somber day in April three decades ago. The cars belonged to King and his entourage, and have been left as they were the morning he was killed. Above them, a wreath hangs from a balcony railing to mark the spot where Dr. King fell. Beyond is the room where he had slept the night before. It, too, has been preserved exactly as it was, the covers pulled back, the bed unmade, the breakfast tray laid out as though someone would be coming to pick it up.
Inside the building, the first floor of the motel has vanished completely, hollowed out for the museum's exhibits. The cavernous room has become a silent stage for the dramas of the movement King once led. These narratives are recounted in documents and photographs, some the length of wall frescoes, bearing images as inspirational today as then. In the center of the hall, the burned shell of a school bus recalls the freedom rides and the perils their passengers once endured. Scattered about are small television screens whose tapes recapture the moments and acts that once moved a nation. On one screen a crowd of well-dressed young men and women braves police dogs and water hoses vainly attempting to turn them back. It is a powerful tribute to a movement and leader able to win battles against overwhelming odds by exerting moral force over an entire nation.
As a visitor reaches the end of the hall, however, he turns a corner to a jarring, discordant sight. Two familiar faces stare out from a wall-size monument that seems strangely out of place — the faces of Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, leaders of the Nation of Islam. Aside from a portrait of King himself, there are no others of similar dimension in the museum. It is clear that its creators intended to establish these men along with King as spiritual avatars of the civil rights cause.
For one old enough to have supported King, such a view seems incomprehensible, even bizarre. At the time of these struggles, Malcolm X was King's great antagonist in the black community, leading the resistance to the civil rights hope. The black Muslim publicly scorned King's March on Washingtort as "ridiculous" and predicted the failure of the civil rights movement King led because the white man would never willingly give black Americans such rights. He rejected King's call for non-violence and his goal of an integrated society, and in so doing earned the disapproval of the American majority that King had wooed and was about to win. Malcolm X even denied King's racial authenticity, redefining the term "Negro," which King and his movement used to describe themselves, to mean "Uncle Tom."
King was unyielding before these attacks. To clarify his opposition to Malcolm X's separatist vision, King refused to appear on any platform with him, effectively banning Malcolm from the community of respect. The other heads of the principal civil rights organizations, the NAACP's Roy Wilkins and the Urban League's Whitney Young joined King in enforcing this ban. It was only in the last year of Malcolm's life, when the civil rights cause was all but won, and wþen Malcolm had left the Nation of Islam and rejected its racism, that King finally relented and agreed to appear in the now famous photograph of the two that became iconic after their deaths.
Yet this very reconciliation — more a concession on Malcolm's part than King's — could argue for the appropriateness of Malcolm's place in a "civil rights" museum. Malcolm certainly earned an important place in any historical tribute to the struggle of the descendants of Africans to secure dignity, equality, and respect in a society that had brought them to its shores as slaves. Malcolm's understanding of the psychology of oppression, his courage in asserting the self-confidence and pride of black Americans might even make him worthy of inclusion in the temple of a man who was never a racist and whose movement he scorned.
But what of Elijah Muhammad? What is a racist and religious cultist doing in a monument to Martin Luther King? This is a truly perverse intrusion. The teachings of Elijah Muhammad mirror the white supremacist doctrines of the Southern racists whose rule King fought. According to Muhammad's teachings, white people were invented six thousand years ago by a mad scientist named Yacub in a failed experiment to dilute the blood of the original human beings, who were black. The result was a morally tainted strain of humanity, "white devils," who went on to devastate the world and oppress all other human beings, and whom God would one day destroy in a liberating Armageddon. Why is the image of this bizarre fringe racist blown up several times life-size to form the iconography of a National Civil Rights Museum? It is as though someone had placed a portrait of the leader of the Hale-Bopp Comet cult in the Jefferson Memorial.
After I left the museum, it occurred to me that this image reflected a truth about the afterlife of the movement King created, the moral legacy of which was in large part squandered by those who inherited it after his death. The moral decline of the civil rights leadership is reflected in many episodes of the last quarter century: the embrace of racist demagogues like Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton, as well as indefensible causes like those of Tawana Brawley, O. J. Simpson, the Los Angeles riot, and the Million Man March on Washington, organized by the Nation of Islam and cynically designed to appropriate the moral mantle of King's historic event.
The impact of such episodes was compounded by the silence of black civil rights leaders over racial outrages committed by African-Americans — the anti-Korean incitements of black activists in New York, the mob attacks by black gangs on Asian and white storeowners during the Los Angeles race riot, the lynching of a Hasidic Jew by a black mob in Crown Heights, and a black jury's acquittal of his murderer. The failure of current civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson, Kwesi Mfume, and Julian Bond to condemn black racists and black outrages committed against other ethnic communities has been striking in its contrast to the demands these same leaders make on the consciences of whites, not to mention the moral example set by King when he dissociated his movement from the racist preachings of Malcolm X.
is the theoretical organ of this academic cult, emblazoned with the motto: "Treason to Whiteness is Loyalty to Humanity." This is hardly a new theme on the left, echoing, as it does, Susan Sontag's perverse claim that "the white race is the cancer of history." (Sontag eventually expressed regrets about her remark, not because it was a racial smear, but out of deference to cancer patients who might feel unjustly slurred.) According to
intellectuals, "whiteness" is the principal scourge of mankind, an idea that Louis Farrakhan promoted at the Million Man March when he declared that the world's "number one problem . . . is white supremacy." "Whiteness," in this view, is a category imposed on American society by its ruling class to organize the social order into a system of marxist-type oppression.
Consequently, "the key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race." This new racism expresses itself in slogans lifted right out of the radical 1960s. According to the Whiteness Studies revolutionaries, "the abolition of whiteness" must be accomplished "by any means necessary " To underscore that this slogan means exactly what it says, the editors of
have explicitly embraced the military strategy of American neo-Nazis and the militia movement in calling for a John Brown-style insurrection that would trigger a second American civil war and destroy the symbolic (and oppressive) order of whiteness.