The drama of the week consists not in the politics of tax cuts in Washington but rather in the dynamics of raw racial power on the nation’s college campuses. David Horowitz, a neo-conservative foe of black racism, has been trying to publish ads against reparations for slavery in college newspapers. Some won’t publish the ads at all, while others, when they do publish them, promptly get clobbered by black mobs for their own “racism” or quickly apologize for publishing them before the mobs show up at the editors’ dorm rooms. The crisis has caused many tongues to start wiggling.
Thus far, a surprising number of the tongues have wiggled in Mr. Horowitz’ defense. Columnists in The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal, among other progressive places, have expressed support for Mr. Horowitz’ deathless right to publish his ads, the foolishness of newspapers apologizing for publishing them, the iniquity of mobbing newspapers, and the legitimacy of being opposed to reparations. A definite tip of the hat to such friends of liberty, as well as to Mr. Horowitz for coming up with the idea for ads against reparations in the first place. But there is more to be said about the episode than that.
Mr. Horowitz’ ad is innocuous enough, offering “10 Reasons why reparations for blacks is a bad idea for blacks–and racist too.” The reasons include such insights as that “only a tiny minority of white Americans ever owned slaves, and others gave their lives to free them,” and “America today is a multi-ethnic nation and most Americans have no connection (direct or indirect) to slavery.” All that is true, but neither–nor any of the other eight–really grapples with the central issue behind reparations. Moreover, the whole approach of Mr. Horowitz and his ads is such as to invite precisely the very denunciations and attacks they received.
The central issue of reparations is not whether reparations are justly due to blacks or justly owed by whites. The central issue is one of racial power–as it is with most other racial conflicts today: over the Confederate flag, affirmative action, racial profiling and indeed the most recent quibble about the right of college newspapers to publish Mr. Horowitz’ ads at all. The central issue is that one race (blacks) seeks to assert power over another (whites). In the black view, what is good for black power is good; what thwarts or threatens it–including liberal values like free speech–is bad. Seen in this context, Mr. Horowitz’ ad not only misses the point but in one case even gets it wrong.
The ad’s Reason 7 is that “The reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African Americans into victims. It sends a damaging message to the African-American community.” No, it doesn’t, really.
The reparations claim, so far from turning blacks into victims, would turn them into masters. Reparations, if actually enacted into law, would, first, elevate black victimology, the black myth of racial injustice, into the dominant myth of American society. Second, as a practical matter, reparations would effectively redistribute wealth from one race to another in a colossal revolutionary act of racial collectivism. If the black racial myth becomes dominant and white wealth is redistributed to blacks, then it is absurd to say that blacks are being turned into victims. Their “victimhood” is merely white enslavement.
Mr. Horowitz’ ad nowhere appears to grasp that the reparations issue is one of simple racial power, and in claiming that reparations are “a bad idea for blacks,” it is out to sea. But, as a neo-conservative, Mr. Horowitz is unable to offer much else in the way of objections. Despite his well-known and authentic disgust at black racism, he is also a disciple of Martin Luther King racial liberalism. As he wrote in his recent book “Hating Whitey,” an attack on black bigotry, his own beliefs “are the same views once advanced by the civil rights movement [Martin Luther] King led.” It is precisely those views that invite the kind of attacks he and his ads have endured.
As a racial liberal Mr. Horowitz invokes values like tolerance, freedom of expression, equality and peaceful discussion in the face of an enemy that has no more use for those ideas than whistling Dixie. That enemy is the racial consciousness and solidarity that the progressive “views once advanced by the civil rights movement” deny exists or insist shouldn’t exist. But the brute fact of our new century is that they do exist, at least among non-whites. Until the foes of black racism understand that its hunger for power can be effectively challenged only by a countervailing racial power, don’t expect Mr. Horowitz’ tepid reasons against reparations to have much real impact.