|American Renaissance magazine
|Vol. 9, No. 2
The King Holiday and Its Meaning
The origins of our national celebration of multiracialism and political correctness.
On August 2, 1983, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill creating a legal public holiday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although there had been little discussion of the bill in the House itself and little awareness among the American public that Congress was even considering such a bill, it was immediately clear that the U.S. Senate would take up the legislation soon after the Labor Day recess. The House had passed the King Holiday Bill by an overwhelming vote of 338-90, with significant bipartisan support (both Reps. Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich voted for it), and the Reagan administration was indicating that the President would not veto it if it came before him. In these circumstances, most political observers seemed to think that Senate enactment and presidential signature of the bill would take place virtually unopposed; few anticipated that the battle over the King holiday in the next few weeks would be one of the most bitter congressional and public controversies of the decade.
From 1981 to 1986 I worked on the staff of North Carolina Republican Sen. John P. East, a close associate and political ally of the senior senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms.
While the legislation was being considered I wrote a paper entitled “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Political Activities and Associations.” It was simply documentation of the affiliations with various individuals and organizations of communist background that King had maintained since the days when he first became a nationally prominent figure. In September, the paper was distributed to several Senate offices for the purpose of informing them of these facts about King, facts in which the national news media showed no interest. It was not originally my intention that the paper be read on the floor of the Senate, but the Helms office itself expressed an interest in using it as a speech, and it was read into the Congressional Record on October 3, 1983. During the ensuing debate over the King holiday, I acted as a consultant to Sen. Helms and his regular staff.
Sen. Helms, like Sen. East and many other conservatives in the Senate and the country, was strongly opposed to establishing a national holiday for King. The country already observed no fewer than nine legal public holidays — New Years Day, “President’s Day” as it is officially known or “Washington’s Birthday” as an unreconstructed American public continues to insist on calling it, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. With the exceptions of Washington’s Birthday and Christmas, not a one of these holidays celebrates a single individual. As Sen. East argued, to establish a special holiday just for King was to “elevate him to the same level as the father of our country and above the many other Americans whose achievements approach Washington’s.” Whatever King’s own accomplishments, few would go so far as to claim that they equaled or exceeded those of many other major statesmen, soldiers, and creative minds of American history.
That argument alone should have provided a compelling reason to reject the King holiday, but for some years a well-organized and powerful lobby had pressured Congress for its enactment, and anyone who questioned the need for the holiday was likely to be accused of “racism” or “insensitivity.” Congressional Democrats, always eager to court the black voting bloc that has become their party’s principal mainstay, were solidly in favor of it (the major exception being Georgia Democrat Larry McDonald, who led the opposition to the measure in the House and who died before the month was over when a Soviet warplane shot down the civilian airliner on which he and nearly three hundred other civilians were traveling). Republicans, always timid about accusations of racial insensitivity and eager to court the black vote themselves, were almost as supportive of the proposal as the Democrats. Few lawmakers stopped to consider the deeper cultural and political impact a King holiday would have, and few journalists and opinion-makers encouraged them to consider it. Instead, almost all of them — lawmakers and opinion-makers — devoted their energies to vilifying the only public leader who displayed the courage to question the very premise of the proposal — whether Martin Luther King was himself worthy of the immense and unprecedented honor being placed upon him.
It soon became clear that whatever objections might be raised against the holiday, no one in politics or the media wanted to hear about them and that even the Republican leadership of the Senate was sympathetic to passage of the legislation. When the Senate Majority Leader, Howard Baker, scheduled action to consider the bill soon after Congress returned from the Labor Day recess, King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, called Sen. Baker and urged him to postpone action in order to gain time to gather more support for the bill. The senator readily agreed, telling the press, “She felt chances for passage would be enhanced and improved if it were postponed. The postponement of this is not for the purpose of delay.” Nevertheless, despite the support for the bill from the Republican leadership itself, the vote was delayed again, mainly because of the efforts of Sen. Helms.
Sen. Helms delivered his speech on King on October 3 and later supplemented it with a document of some 300 pages consisting mainly of declassified FBI and other government reports about King’s connections with communists and communist-influenced groups that the speech recounted. That document, distributed on the desks of all senators, was promptly characterized as “a packet of filth” by New York’s Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who threw it to the floor of the Senate and stomped on it (he later repeated his stomping off the Senate floor for the benefit of the evening news), while Sen. Edward Kennedy denounced the Helms speech as “Red smear tactics” that should be “shunned by the American people.” A few days later, columnist Edwin M. Yoder, Jr. in the Washington Post sneered that Jesse Helms “is a stopped clock if ever American politics had one” who could be depended on to “contaminate a serious argument with debating points from the gutter,” while he described King as “a prophet, a man of good works, a thoroughly wholesome influence in American life.” Writing in the Washington Times, conservative Aram Bakshian held that Sen. Helms was simply politically motivated: “He has nothing to lose and everything to gain by heaping scorn on the memory of Martin Luther King and thereby titillating the great white trash.” Leftist Richard Cohen wrote of Helms in the Post, “His sincerity is not in question. Only his decency.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Helms, with legal assistance from the Conservative Caucus, filed suit in federal court to obtain the release of FBI surveillance tapes on King that had been sealed by court order until the year 2027. Their argument was that senators could not fairly evaluate King’s character and beliefs and cast an informed vote on the holiday measure until they had gained access to this sealed material and had an opportunity to examine it. The Reagan Justice Department opposed this action, and on October 18, U.S. District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr. refused to release the King files, which remain sealed to this day.
Efforts to send the bill to committee also failed. Although it is a routine practice for the Senate to refer all legislation to committee, where hearings can consider the merits of the proposed law, this was not done in the case of the King holiday bill. Sen. Kennedy, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, argued that hearings on a similar proposal had been held in a previous Congress and there was no need to hold new hearings. He was correct that hearings had been held, but there had been considerable turnover in the Senate since then and copies of those hearings were not generally available. Nevertheless, it soon became clear that Republicans and Democrats, liberals and many conservatives, the White House, the courts, and the media all wanted the King holiday bill passed as soon as possible, with as little serious discussion of King’s character, beliefs, and associations as possible.
Why this was so was becoming increasingly clear to me as an observer of the process. Our office soon began to receive phone calls and letters from all over the country expressing strong popular opposition to the bill. Aides from other Senate offices — I specifically remember one from Washington state and one from Pennsylvania — told me their mail from constituents was running overwhelmingly against the bill, and I recall overhearing Sen. Robert Dole telling a colleague that he had to go back to Kansas and prove he was still a Republican despite his support for the King holiday bill. The political leaders of both parties were beginning to grasp that they were sitting on top of a potential political earthquake, which they wanted to stifle before it swallowed them all.
On October 19, then, the vote was held, 78 in favor of the holiday and 22 against (37 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted for the bill; 18 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted against it); several substitute amendments intended to replace the King holiday measure were defeated without significant debate. President Reagan signed the bill into law on November 2nd. I distinctly remember standing with Sen. Helms in the Republican cloakroom just off the floor of the Senate during the debate, listening to one senator after another approaching him to apologize for the insulting language they had just used about Sen. Helms on the floor. Not a few of the senators assured him they knew he was right about King but what else could they do but denounce Helms and vote for the holiday? Most of them claimed political expediency as their excuse, and I recall one Senate aide chortling that “what old Jesse needs to do is get back to North Carolina and try to save his own neck” from the coming disaster he had prepared for himself in opposing the King holiday.
Indeed, it was conventional wisdom in Washington at that time that Jesse Helms had committed political suicide by his opposition to the King holiday and that he was certain to lose re-election the following year against a challenge by Democratic Governor James B. Hunt. In fact, Sen. Helms was trailing in the polls prior to the controversy over the holiday. The Washington Post carried a story shortly after the vote on the holiday bill with the headline, “Battle to Block King Holiday May Have Hurt Helms at Home,” and a former political reporter from North Carolina confidently gloated in the Post on October 23 that Helms was “Destined to Lose in “84.”
In the event, of course, Sen. Helms was re-elected by a healthy margin, and the Post itself acknowledged the role of his opposition to the King Holiday as a major factor in his political revival. As Post reporter Bill Peterson wrote in news stories after Helms’ re-election on November 6, 1984, his “standing among whites . . . shot up in polls after he led a filibuster [strong opposition] against a bill establishing a national holiday on the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” and on November 18, “A poll before the filibuster showed Helms trailing Hunt by 20 percentage points. By December, Hunt’s lead was sliced in half. White voters who had been feeling doubts about Helms began returning to the fold.” If Sen. Helms’ speech against the King holiday had any enduring effect, then, it was to help re-elect him to the Senate.
So, was Jesse Helms right about Martin Luther King? That King had close connections with individuals and groups that were openly communist is clear today, as it was clear during King’s own lifetime and during the debate on the holiday bill. Indeed, only two weeks after the Senate vote, on November 1, 1983, the New York Times published a letter written by Michael Parenti, an associate fellow of the far-left Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and a frequent contributor to Political Affairs, an official organ of the Communist Party that styles itself the “Theoretical Journal of the Communist Party, U.S.A.” The letter demanded “What if communists had links to Dr. King?” Mr. Parenti pointed out that “The three areas in which King was most active — civil rights, peace and the labor struggle (the latter two toward the end of his life) — are also areas in which U.S. Communists have worked long and devotedly,” and he criticized “liberals” who “once again accept the McCarthyite premise that U.S. Communists are purveyors of evil and that any association with them taints one forever. Dr. King himself would not have accepted such a premise.” Those of Mr. Parenti’s persuasion may see nothing scandalous in associations with known communists, but the “liberals” whom he criticized knew better than to make that argument in public.
Of course, to say that King maintained close affiliations with persons whom he knew to be communists is not to say that King himself was ever a communist or that the movement he led was controlled by communists; but his continuing associations with communists, and his repeated dishonesty about those connections, do raise serious questions about his own character, about the nature of his own political views and goals, and about whether we as a nation should have awarded him (and should continue to award him) the honor the holiday confers. Moreover, the embarrassing political connections that were known at the time seem today to be merely the tip of the ethical and political iceberg with which King’s reputation continues to collide.
While researching King’s background in 1983, I deliberately chose to dwell on his communist affiliations rather than on other issues involving his sexual morality. I did so because at that time the facts about King’s subversive connections were well-documented, while the details of his sex life were not. In the course of writing the paper, however, I spoke to several former agents of the FBI who had been personally engaged in the FBI surveillance of King and who knew from first-hand observation that the rumors about his undisciplined sex life were substantially true. A few years later, with the publication in 1989 of Ralph Abernathy’s autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, those rumors were substantiated by one of King’s closest friends and political allies. It is quite true that a person’s sex life is largely his own business, but in the case of an internationally prominent figure such as King, they become publicly relevant, and they are especially relevant given the high moral stature King’s admirers habitually ascribe to him, the issue of his integrity as a Christian clergyman, and the proposal to elevate him to the status of a national moral icon.
In the course of the Senate debate on the King holiday, the East office received a letter from a retired FBI official, Charles D. Brennan. Mr. Brennan, who had served as Assistant Director of the FBI, stated that he had personally been involved in the FBI surveillance of King and knew from first-hand observation the truth about King’s sexual conduct — conduct that Mr. Brennan characterized as “orgiastic and adulterous escapades, some of which indicated that King could be bestial in his sexual abuse of women.” He also stated that “King frequently drank to excess and at times exhibited extreme emotional instability as when he once threatened to jump from his hotel room window.” In a study that he prepared, Mr. Brennan described King’s “sexual activities and his excessive drinking” that FBI surveillance discovered. It was this kind of conduct, he wrote, that led FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to describe King as “a tom cat with obsessive degenerate sexual urges” and President Lyndon Johnson to call King a “hypocrite preacher.” Mr. Brennan also acknowledged:
It was muck the FBI collected. It was not the FBI’s most shining hour. There would be no point in wallowing in it again. The point is that the muck is there. It is there in the form of transcripts, recordings, photos, and logs. It is there in great quantity. There are volumes of material labeled “obscene.’ Future historians just will not be able to avoid it.
It is precisely this material that is sealed under court order until the year 2027 and to which the Senate was denied access prior to the vote on the King holiday.
One instance from King’s life that perhaps illuminates his character was provided by historian David Garrow in his study of the FBI’s surveillance of King. Garrow recounts what the FBI gathered during a 48-hour surveillance of King between February 22 and 24, 1964 in the Hyatt House Motel in Los Angeles.
“In that forty-eight hours the Bureau acquired what in retrospect would be its most prized recordings of Dr. King. The treasured highlight was a long and extremely funny storytelling session during which King (a) bestowed supposedly honorific titles or appointments of an explicitly sexual nature on some of his friends, (b) engaged in an extended dialogue of double-entendre phrases that had sexual as well as religious connotations, and (c) told an explicit joke about the rumored sexual practices of recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy, with reference to both Mrs. Kennedy, and the President’s funeral.”
Garrow’s characterization of the episode as “extremely funny” is one way of describing the incident; another is that during the session in Los Angeles, King, a Christian minister, made obscene jokes with his own followers (several of them also ministers), made sexual and sacrilegious jokes, and made obscene and insulting remarks intended to be funny about the late President Kennedy and his sex life with Mrs. Kennedy. It should be recalled that these jokes were made by King about a man who had supported his controversial cause, had lost political support because of his support for King and the civil rights movement, and had been dead for less than three months at the time King engaged in obscene humor about him and his wife. In February 1964, the nation was still in a state of shock over Kennedy’s death, but King apparently found his death a suitable occasion for dirty jokes.
More recently still, in addition to disclosures about King’s bizarre sex life and his close connections with communists, it has come to light that King’s record of deliberate deception in his own personal interests reaches as far back as his years in college and graduate school, when he plagiarized significant portions of his research papers and even his doctoral dissertation, an act that would cause the immediate professional ruin of any academic figure. Evidence of King’s plagiarism, which was almost certainly known to his academic sponsors at Boston University and was indisputably known to other academics at the King Papers Project at Stanford University, was deliberately suppressed and denied. It finally came to light in reports published by the Wall Street Journal in 1990 and was later exhaustively documented in articles and a monograph by Theodore Pappas of the Rockford Institute.
Yet, incredibly — even after thorough documentation of King’s affiliations with communists, after the revelations about his personal moral flaws, and after proof of his brazen dishonesty in plagiarizing his dissertation and several other published writings — incredibly there is no proposal to rescind the holiday that honors him. Indeed, states like Arizona and New Hampshire that did not rush to adopt their own holidays in honor of King have themselves been vilified and threatened with systematic boycotts. The continuing indulgence of King is in part due to simple political cowardice — fear of being denounced as a “racist” — but also to the political utility of the King holiday for those who seek to advance their own political agenda. Almost immediately upon the enactment of the holiday bill, the King holiday came to serve as a kind of charter for the radical regime of “political correctness” and “multiculturalism” that now prevails at many of the nation’s major universities and in many areas of public and private life.
This is so because the argument generally offered for the King holiday by King’s own radical collaborators and disciples is considerably different from the argument for it offered by most Republicans and Democrats. The latter argue that they simply want to celebrate what they take to be King’s personal courage and commitment to racial tolerance; the holiday, in their view, is simply celebratory and commemorative, and they do not intend that the holiday should advance any other agenda. But this is not the argument in favor of the King holiday that we hear from partisans like Mrs. King and those who harbor similar views. A few days after Senate passage of the holiday measure, Mrs. King wrote in the Washington Post (October 23, 1983) about how the holiday should be observed.
“The holiday,” she wrote, “must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration . . . Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress.” She noted that for years the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta “has conducted activities around his birthday in many cities. The week-long observance has included a series of educational programs, policy seminars or conferences, action-oriented workshops, strategy sessions and planning meetings dealing with a wide variety of current issues, from voter registration to full employment to citizen action for nuclear disarmament.”
A few months later, Robert Weisbrot, a fellow of the DuBois Institute at Harvard, was writing in The New Republic (January 30, 1984) that “in all, the nation’s first commemoration of King’s life invites not only celebration, but also cerebration over his — and the country’s — unfinished tasks.” Those “unfinished tasks,” according to Mr. Weisbrot, included “curbing disparities of wealth and opportunity in a society still ridden by caste distinctions,” a task toward the accomplishment of which “the reforms of the early “60s” were “only a first step.” Among those contemporary leaders “seeking to extend Martin Luther King’s legacy,” Mr. Weisbrot wrote, “by far the most influential and best known is his former aide, Jesse Jackson.”
The exploitation of the King holiday for radical political purposes was even further enhanced by Vincent Harding, “Professor of Religion and Social Transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver,” writing in the New York Times (January 18, 1988). Professor Harding rejected the notion that the King holiday commemorates merely “a kind, gentle and easily managed religious leader of a friendly crusade for racial integration.” Such an understanding would “demean and trivialize Dr. King’s meaning.” Professor Harding wrote:
The Martin Luther King of 1968 was calling for and leading civil disobedience campaigns against the unjust war in Vietnam. Courageously describing our nation as ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,’ he was urging us away from a dependence on military solutions. He was encouraging young men to refuse to serve in the military, challenging them not to support America’s anti-Communist crusades, which were really destroying the hopes of poor nonwhite peoples everywhere.
This Martin Luther King was calling for a radical redistribution of wealth and political power in American society as a way to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, jobs, education and hope for all of our country’s people.
To those of King’s own political views, then, the true meaning of the holiday is that it serves to legitimize the radical social and political agenda that King himself favored and to delegitimize traditional American social and cultural institutions — not simply those that supported racial segregation but also those that support a free market economy, an anti-communist foreign policy, and a constitutional system that restrains the power of the state rather than one that centralizes and expands power for the reconstruction of society and the redistribution of wealth. In this sense, the campaign to enact the legal public holiday in honor of Martin Luther King was a small first step on the long march to revolution, a charter by which that revolution is justified as the true and ultimate meaning of the American identity. In this sense, and also in King’s own sense, as he defined it in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the Declaration of Independence becomes a “promissory note” by which the state is authorized to pursue social and economic egalitarianism as its mission, and all institutions and values that fail to reflect the dominance of equality — racial, cultural, national, economic, political, and social — must be overcome and discarded.
By placing King — and therefore his own radical ideology of social transformation and reconstruction — into the central pantheon of American history, the King holiday provides a green light by which the revolutionary process of transformation and reconstruction can charge full speed ahead. Moreover, by placing King at the center of the American national pantheon, the holiday also serves to undermine any argument against the revolutionary political agenda that it has come to symbolize. Having promoted or accepted the symbol of the new dogma as a defining — perhaps the defining — icon of the American political order, those who oppose the revolutionary agenda the symbol represents have little ground to resist that agenda.
It is hardly an accident, then, that in the years since the enactment of the holiday and the elevation of King as a national icon, systematic attacks on the Confederacy and its symbolism were initiated, movements to ban the teaching of “Western civilization” came to fruition on major American universities, Thomas Jefferson was denounced as a “racist” and “slaveowner,” and George Washington’s name was removed from a public school in New Orleans on the grounds that he too owned slaves. In the new nation and the new creed of which the King holiday serves as symbol, all institutions, values, heroes, and symbols that violate the dogma of equality are dethroned and must be eradicated. Those associated with the South and the Confederacy are merely the most obvious violations of the egalitarian dogma and therefore must be the first to go, but they will by no means be the last.
The political affiliations of Martin Luther King that Sen. Jesse Helms so courageously exposed are thus only pointers to the real danger that the King holiday represents. The logical meaning of the holiday is the ultimate destruction of the American Republic as it has been conceived and defined throughout our history, and until the charter for revolution that it represents is repealed, we can expect only further installations of the destruction and dispossession it promises.
Dr. Francis is a nationally-syndicated columnist.
AR in the News
We try to liven up the President’s initiative on race.
Recent appearances on C-Span by AR editor Jared Taylor have resulted in hundreds of inquiries from potential subscribers. Both appearances were in connection with President Clinton’s initiative on race and provided an opportunity to nudge a hitherto cliché-ridden monologue in a more realistic direction.
On December 17th, Jared Taylor and I attended a meeting in Fairfax, Virginia, of the advisory board for the President’s initiative. Duly covered by the press and C-Span, this ritualistic celebration of the county school district’s “diversity,” was abruptly interrupted by Robert Hoy, a local conservative activist. He took over a microphone and gave a brief, fiery speech saying, “We white people have views . . . and do not accept being a minority in our own land.” He accused the panel of engaging in a monologue rather than its advertised “dialogue.” Mr. Hoy was removed from the meeting because he had not waited until the question and answer period, but was followed out the door by a pack of reporters who finally had something to write about.
Later that afternoon, Jared Taylor further jolted the panel when he pointed out that despite 30 years of government initiatives aimed at promoting integration, more and more people are opting for segregation. “Should the integrationist enterprise be rethought?” asked Mr. Taylor. This brought a standard liberal reply from panelist and Harvard professor Gary Orfield, who blamed housing discrimination for slowing what would otherwise be a natural process of integration. I followed Mr. Taylor’s question by asking the panel if it planned to address the concerns of Asians and whites who were victimized by affirmative action and political correctness. After some fumbling the panel stated that it had plans to discuss the issue in the future. One panelist, educator Deborah Meier (white), said that these issues should be discussed in a way to dispel any notion that “to be white in America is a disadvantage.”
The remarks and questions of Mr. Hoy and the AR contingent were aired on C-Span and sparked an article in New York Newsday entitled, “What About the White People?” The article quoted all three participants accurately.
Later that day, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed Jared Taylor for a feature article. Mr. Taylor was reported as saying, “I think the whole initiative is doomed to failure because it wants to make us think that race doesn’t matter . . . People of different races live different lives and build different communities. I think it is a terrible mistake to think that the problem of race will ever go away or can be solved.” The comments of Mr. Taylor and Mr. Hoy were also mentioned in the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, and several other papers.
Two days later, on December 19th, Mr. Taylor spoke at a press conference sponsored by Jeff Anderson of Americans for Self Determination, a group that promotes racial separation. The event, billed as “Dissident Voices on the President’s Initiative on Race,” was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and was carried live by C-Span (the event was rebroadcast twice during the same weekend). Robert Hoy served as moderator of the conference.
Mr. Taylor touched on many themes, including third-world immigration, liberal hypocrisy, multiculturalism and the dangers of demographic change. Prof. Michael Hart, who was a speaker at the 1996 AR conference, also spoke, noting that although black alienation is often blamed on white racism, it stems largely from race and IQ differences. Citing Michael Levin’s book Why Race Matters, Prof. Hart clearly described the black IQ deficit that accounts for much of black failure.
Military analyst Thomas Chittum, author of the book Civil War II, predicted that uncontrolled Hispanic immigration to the American Southwest will lead to racial warfare. Jeff Anderson offered a plan for peaceful separation of blacks and whites.
The press conference drew reporters from ABC News, the Washington Times and Christian Science-Monitor. The foreign press was represented by Agence France-Press, the London Independent and the Vienna (Austria) Times.
The C-Span broadcasts resulted in hundreds of calls to the AR office. The overwhelming majority were positive: “Where have you guys been?” and “I thought I was the only one who thought these things,” were two of the most common responses. We expect a significant proportion of those who called to become subscribers, and we will be looking for other ways to use the President’s initiative as a means to reach a larger audience.
This press conference can be watched in full for free here, on C-Span’s website.
Why facts no longer matter to “historians.”
The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past, Keith Windschuttle, Simon & Schuster, 1997, $25.00, 298 pp.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said,
in a rather scornful tone,
‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice,
‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’
— Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Chapter 6
For most of the past 2,400 years, Europeans have understood history much as the Greeks did: as an effort to understand what really happened. We have taken for granted their pioneering insight that history should not be myth or fairy tale but — to the greatest extent possible — the truth. Now, according to the Australian historian Keith Windschuttle, a powerful new movement is undermining the very foundations of the academic discipline of history. Known by such names as “postmodernism,” “deconstructionism,” or “universal history,” the new intellectual fashion holds that since the past is unknowable, history is no more real than fiction — that what used to pass for history was nothing more than the expression of the unconscious biases of historians.
According to Mr. Windschuttle, this way of thinking is now rampaging through virtually every history department in the English-speaking world, discrediting the traditional, fact-based view of history and the die-hards who still practice it. It is Mr. Windschuttle’s fear — reflected in the title of his book — that current thinking could completely transform and falsify the way we understand the past. The Killing of History is a description of what is happening in history departments and a stinging critique of the thinking that drives it.
Although Mr. Windschuttle only touches on this, the destruction of history is a central element in the destruction of the thinking, culture, and people of the West. First elaborated and disseminated by whites who hate their own intellectual traditions, this new “history” is a powerful weapon in the hands of anyone whose only interest is the exercise of power in the name of his own group.
French Mumbo Jumbo
For those outside the university, it is difficult to imagine that the queen of the humanities could be dethroned. Nevertheless, Mr. Windschuttle cites this 1991 description of a compulsory honors seminar in history:
The old-fashioned concept of the historian’s task was that he (rarely she) “described what really happened in the past.’ This notion, though still widely held, has been exploded by theoretical developments which have occurred largely outside the field of history itself. The work of social philosophers, anthropologists, linguists, scientists, political, literary and feminist theorists, have, from a variety of directions and with increasing momentum, exploded the old concept of history.
This was a seminar at the University of Sydney, but Mr. Windschuttle assures us it could have been anywhere in America, England or Canada.
What are these “theoretical developments” that have “exploded” history? Mr. Windschuttle has studied them carefully and makes a manful go of trying to explain them, but as he points out, they are almost deliberately opaque. The founding fathers are all French — people like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, and Pierre Bourdieu — and take pride in writing impenetrable prose. Prof. Derrida, one of the original high priests, has even said that clear writing is the sign of a reactionary. Mr. Windschuttle notes that there are plenty of books written about “postmodernism” and “post-structuralism” but the authors have learned from their masters only too well: “most [such books] leave the uninitiated reader more confused than when he or she started.” Mr. Windschuttle’s own account leaves the reader with little appetite for the details of which Frenchman thinks what, but the confusing and often contradictory essentials can be more or less summarized as follows:
First of all, facts are fundamentally unknowable. Partly, this is because we describe the world with words, and words never fully convey reality. Also, we are all so thoroughly imprisoned by our own experiences and expectations that when we describe what we think are facts we are describing our own prejudices. This is especially true for historical writing, since the historian may be writing about a period or people completely alien to him. Ultimately, therefore, history is no different from fiction, so literary critics can analyze a history book just as they do a novel. This sounds crazy, but Mr. Windschuttle says this approach is sweeping the academy.
One especially fashionable critical technique from literature is “deconstructionism.” The idea is to “demystify” a text and explain what the author unconsciously meant. Experts claim to be able to show how an author was limited by the preconceptions of his age. Since we do not discover the truth — only invent it — the trick is to unmask the unconscious inventions of others.
Literature types are also keen on overarching theory or “meta-narrative.” They claim to have worked up theories that explain all of literature, and are busy with theories that will explain all of history. Facts, to the extent that they are even knowable, are of no interest unless they fit the theory. (Karl Marx’ view — that class struggle and dialectical materialism explain everything — is the best known theory of history; Mr. Windschuttle does not explain what theories the literary critics are cooking up.)
The newfangled history is also “postcolonial.” History used to be written by European colonial masters but should now be written by liberated native people, or at least from their point of view. The idea of “the other” is central to this, the other being the wise native whom the colonial bureaucrat misunderstood and therefore despised. These days, all sorts are claiming to be “the other”: women, homosexuals, criminals, the insane, etc. Traditional history is supposed to have been written to justify existing power structures but now “others” are providing the more truthful perspectives that dead white males tried to suppress.
Finally, no culture, knowledge, or point of view is absolute. No one may criticize anyone else’s myths, histories, or “ways of knowing.” What is true depends on who is saying what to whom.
Mr. Windschuttle offers more than this, but this is more than enough — mysteries already abound. If historians are blinkered by their own prejudices, why aren’t the poststructuralists equally blinkered? “We are,” some of them cheerfully reply, and do not claim that their “histories” are any different from fictions. But then how are we to choose between competing versions of the past (or present)? Mr. Windschuttle quotes a feminist historian who appears to be a follower of Humpty Dumpty: “Knowledge is entirely an effect of power, . . . we can no longer have any concept of truth at all.” History is on the side with the big battalions.
Another problem is that when “poststructuralists” piously claim that no judgments can be passed because all cultures are equal and cannot be criticized, they are simply lying. They prohibit criticism only of non-whites. As Mr. Windschuttle points out, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America turned into an orgy of judgment-passing: “In book after book . . . the whole process of European discovery and settlement was denounced by academics as one of the greatest calamities to have befallen not only the native Americans but the human species as a whole and, indeed, the planet itself.” Mr. Windschuttle notes that historians have been seized with a “fervour to adopt a politically correct stance against their own society.”
Likewise, only whites are excluded from the view that there are many differing truths validly held by different cultural groups. Historians can now win debates, not by pointing out that someone got the facts wrong (no one much cares about them anymore), but by unmasking the white, phallocratic character of an opponent’s thinking. The stone-age, head-hunting character of a New Guinean’s thinking is, of course, not a defect.
Occasionally someone asks the all-cultures-are-equal school to justify societies that practice human sacrifice or cannibalism. No problem. Once these traditions are understood in proper cultural context, it is clear that they are not nearly so bad as plenty of things white people have been doing for centuries.
Perhaps the purest expression of relativism — held, apparently, by only a hardy few — is to claim that science itself is just another white man’s prejudice and is no more valid than voodoo or witch doctoring. Mr. Windschuttle has actually dug up a Professor Paul Feyerabend at Berkeley who claims that the “knowledge” of necromancers and haruspices is as valid as that of geologists.
Not a Joke
All this ought to be a huge joke but, alas, it is not. A school district in California has reportedly been demanding text books that contradict the general consensus that American Indians crossed a land bridge from Asia during the last Ice Age. According to the Indians ’ own myths they have been here much longer; how dare archaeologists claim to know better? Likewise, the Aborigines say they sprang from the soil of Australia, so we are now supposed to ignore the clear evidence that they migrated from the Indonesian archipelago.
Misappropriations of history for political purposes are routine. Some of the questions raised elsewhere in this issue of AR are whether Martin Luther King was a womanizer, plagiarist, and communist sympathizer, and whether the African who led the Amistad rebellion became a slave trader after he was freed. According to contemporary historiography, the facts can’t be known and even if they could they wouldn’t matter. Such so-called facts are subsumed in the “meta-narrative” of white wickedness and black virtue. To raise these questions does not illuminate the past; it only reveals the prejudices of the white males who write for AR.
The notion that facts merely serve theory has found ready acceptance outside the university. Whenever a notorious “hate crime” is shown to be a hoax, someone is bound to tell us that the so-called facts do not matter; even a phony “hate crime” properly highlights the sufferings of non-whites at the hands of whites. The 1987 Tawana Brawley hoax flushed out many an amateur “poststructuralist,” as did black college student Sabrina Collins’ 1990 claim that her Emory University dorm room had been vandalized. Needless to say, goose and gander get different sauces. Incantations about the unknowability of the past may never be mumbled over the memory of slavery or the Wounded Knee massacre.
What is looming in history departments is not just a disaster for scholarship. It would be a tragedy if the ancient practice of accumulating and evaluating evidence were abandoned; history as we know it would cease to be written. But this is much more than an academic question. As Humpty Dumpty and the feminists are brazen enough to admit, to jettison any pretense to objectivity is to make a naked grab for power. If stylish barbarians really do manage to destroy history, the past will belong to whichever mob shouts the loudest — and the mob will find in the past innumerable crimes for which its enemies in the present must be punished.
|IN THE NEWS
O Tempora, O Mores!
Amistad is the new Steven Spielberg movie about a slave revolt aboard a Spanish ship. The historical episode on which it is based was an 1839 mutiny by Africans who were being transported from one Cuban port to another. They killed most of the crew of the Amistad — which means “friendship” in Spanish — and demanded that they be returned to Africa. Instead, a white crewman steered them north, where they were picked up by the U.S. navy and taken to New Haven, Connecticut.
The Spanish wanted the slaves returned and tried for piracy. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where John Quincy Adams argued that the slave trade was illegal and that slavery was a violation of natural rights. The blacks were freed and taken back to Africa.
There is ample material here for the usual story line: black nobility in the face of white brutality that is leavened with occasional flashes of humanity. As revisionist scholar Michael Hoffman has pointed out, the movie leaves out an inconvenient fact reported on page 520 of Samuel Eliot Morison’s 1965 book, Oxford History of the American People: “The ironic epilogue is that Cinque [the leader of the revolt] once home, set himself up as a slavetrader.” Adams’ fine notions about natural rights were handy to have in an American courtroom, but Cinque and the boys promptly junked them when they got home.
None of this bothers President Clinton, who attended the Washington premier of Amistad and offered this specimen of his jumbled thinking about race: “I would like all those who oppose affirmative action to see this marvelous movie.”
Amistad comes with a study guide that is being distributed to high schools so that teachers can work this marvelous movie into lesson plans. The guide quotes the producer as saying that “the White culture wanted to be dominant. They never acknowledged the contributions of the African culture that was far beyond and centuries ahead of European culture.” It also suggests that Cinque helped Adams craft the arguments that prevailed in court, despite the fact that Cinque spoke no English and probably never met Adams.
The movie has other problems. A black writer, Barbara Chase-Riboud, claims it plagiarized her 1989 novel, Echo of Lions. Mr. Spielberg’s lawyers say Miss Chase-Riboud is the plagiarist, having lifted passages from someone else’s novel, Slave Mutiny, which Mr. Spielberg had optioned for the movie. Miss Chase-Riboud admits that one of her earlier novels, Valide, contains passages she took from another book, but says Echo of Lions is clean. Who stole what from whom will presumably become clear in court. In the meantime, no one is in any kind of trouble for anti-white distortions of history. (Margarett Loke, Writer Who Cried Plagiarism Used Passages She Didn’t Write, New York Times, Nov. 19, 1997, p. A1.)
Sally Hemings, R.I.P.
There has long been debate about whether Thomas Jefferson had children with his quadroon slave, Sally Hemings. Recently, blacks who claim to be the third President’s descendants, and white descendants who dispute that claim have agreed to a procedure that should finally put the matter to rest. DNA testing is now so accurate that samples from members of the white and black groups can be compared to see if Jefferson fathered them all. Peter and Samuel Carr, Jefferson’s philandering nephews, have been credited by some with siring Hemings’ children, and DNA from Carr descendants will confirm or refute this theory, too. Oxford University is doing the tests, and results should be announced in a few months. (Barbara Murray, Clearing the Heirs, U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 15, 1997.)
Age Meets Race
If current immigration trends continue and America turns increasingly non-white, the nation will confront a racial divide that is compounded by a generational divide. We may soon discover that national cohesion from one generation to the next requires common ethnicity.
According to current projections, by 2025 whites will account for more than three quarters of the elderly but fewer than half the children. A recent study by MIT economist James Poterba finds that elderly whites are unwilling to pay taxes to support schools that are overwhelmingly non-white. By the same token, as the ratio of tax-payers to Social Security beneficiaries drops from today’s 3.3 to 2.2 by 2025, working-age non-whites may refuse to pay. Rodolfo Acuna, professor of Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge says, “There’s a growing feeling “Why should we pay for all these senior citizens’ if the majority of them are white and all they were willing to pay for was prisons?”
Or, as author Peter Brimelow puts it, “The spectacle of poor young workers of color being taxed to support rich old white retirees is a social San Andreas Fault in English, Spanish or anyone’s language.” (Jonathan Tilove, Generation Gap Becoming Racial Gap, San Francisco Examiner, Nov. 23, 1997, p. A17.)
School Board Hijinks
Perry Buckley, a middle-aged black man, was a media darling in Corona (Queens), New York. He was a Cub Scout leader, past-president of the PTA, and a member of the District 24 School Board, on which conservative Frank Borzellieri also serves. Mr. Buckley was an outspoken critic of Mr. Borzellieri’s attempt to fight the anti-white foolishness common in schools.
This spring, the decomposing body of Mr. Buckley’s mistress was found in his basement. Police have charged Mr. Buckley with murdering her after the two smoked crack cocaine and had an argument. Schools Chancellor Rudolph Crew, who supports Mr. Buckley, refused to remove him after the arrest, but Mr. Buckley has since resigned. In the past, when there was a vacancy on a school board, Mr. Crew appointed the next highest vote getter in the previous election, but this time the chancellor has declined to act. Many suspect it is because in this case the next in line would be Jim Noviello, a supporter of Mr. Borzellieri. (Bernard Stamler, An Admired Citizen, a Killing, a Paralyzed School Board, New York Times, Nov. 16, 1997)
AIDS in Africa
In 1996, 1.9 million Africans are reported to have contracted the AIDS virus, more than all the new infections in the rest of the world. Since the disease appeared in the 1980s, nearly 800,000 Africans are thought to have died from it. Because educated, urbanized Africans have more sex partners than peasants, it is often the best-prepared and most competent Africans who die of AIDS.
By the year 2010, life expectancy in Mozambique will probably be cut nearly in half by AIDS — to 30 years with AIDS from 57 years without it. In more than a dozen other African countries AIDS will probably knock at least 10 years off average life expectancy. In Botswana, 25 to 30 percent of the adult population are thought to have the virus, and in many parts of Africa it is predicted that by the year 2000 one third of all children will have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Gareth Jones, a UN AIDS official who works in Geneva, says Africans are doing very little to stop the disease: “Some leaders deny the problem. Many men refuse to use condoms, or can’t get them. At this point, everyone is hoping for a vaccine.” Needless to say, no one is expecting the vaccine to be developed in Africa. (Mort Rosenblum, AIDS Epidemic a Threat to African Development, AP, Nov. 29, 1997. Constance Holden, World AIDS — The Worst is Still to Come, Science, Dec. 5, 1997, p. 1715.)
A new privatization program, funded by U.S. investors, was recently launched in Haiti. The first public enterprise sold off by the Haitian government was a large flour mill. The mill was to be a symbol of the nation’s transformation from a socialist pesthole into a modern economy. Secretary of State Madeline Albright went to Port-Au-Prince to celebrate the sale and promote foreign investment. A triumphant visit to the mill was canceled when her advance men found it was occupied and shut down by angry former workers demanding more severance pay. (Stanley Meisler, Haiti’s Economy Mired in Woes, Los Angeles Times, October 31, 1997, p.A5)
A judge has ruled that a Philadelphia man who shot his common-law wife is not guilty of murder because he was convinced she had hexed him. There is no question that Theodore Stevens shot and killed Eno Bailey, but Judge Lisa Richette ruled the shooting an accident rather than murder, after inviting testimony from a priest of the Africa-based religion, Santeria.
The 69-year-old Mr. Stevens reportedly believed that his wife had given him heart problems, diabetes, dementia, and tingling in the legs by putting a Santeria hex on him, and was convinced she would eventually voodoo him to death. Ricardo Fresses, a “Santero,” or Santeria priest, testified that Mr. Stevens had good reason to fear for his life: “Just thinking that someone is doing work on you can cause you to have a heart attack,” he explained. “It can affect the mind . . . Voodoo is very strong.”
Judge Richette, race unspecified, summoned the Santero herself as a witness. Prosecutors and the victim’s family are reported to be outraged by her decision. (Agence France-Press, No Murder Charge for Man Who Killed to Stop Voodoo Curse, Nov. 26, 1997.)
Just before Christmas another black postal worker went on a shooting rampage, killing one white and wounding two others. The first man Anthony Deculit of Milwaukee shot was his supervisor, who had written him up for sleeping on the job. He then killed a white co-worker with whom he had quarreled, and shot another white before killing himself. The president of the local chapter of the NAACP says racial discrimination explains the mayhem; the employee himself is not known to have filed any race-related grievances. Post office employees have taken to shooting each other so often that the crime of killing a supervisor is now known as “going postal.” (Aaron Nathans, Motive Behind Postal Tragedy Sought, Associated Press, Dec. 19, 1997.)
Although he will stay on as South African president until next year’s elections, 79-year-old Nelson Mandela has officially stepped down as leader of the African National Congress. In his farewell speech, delivered to the ANC’s 50th national conference, he blamed South Africa’s current troubles squarely on whites. “The leopard has not changed its spots,” he said of the National Party, which abolished apartheid; “They continue to be imprisoned by notions of white supremacy.” He went on to accuse whites of plotting to make the country ungovernable: “Various elements of the former ruling group have been working to establish a network which would launch or intensify a campaign of destabilization.” He explained that whites are stirring up crime among the blacks and sabotaging the economy in order to discredit the ANC government. He also claimed that the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to undermine the ANC.
Mr. Mandela is widely admired for his conciliatory stance towards whites. His probable successor next year as president is Thabo Mbeki, who is known to be considerably more vindictive. Mr. Mandela’s farewell speech was widely regarded as a warning to whites that hard times lie ahead. “He was clearing the decks for Thabo Mbeki to come and focus no longer on reconciliation but on the primacy of the interests of the black majority,” says Themba Sono of the South Africa Institute of Race Relations. (Tom Cohen, AP, Mandela: S Africa Race War Continues, Dec. 16, 1997. Lynn Duke, For Mandela, a Parting Shot of Racial Change, San Francisco Examiner, Dec. 21, 1997, p. A19.)
Yearning to Breathe Free
In 1994, an immigration judge ruled that homosexuals who have a legitimate fear of persecution in their homelands may be eligible for asylum in the United States. Attorney General Janet Reno approved the ruling. Since immigration proceedings are private unless appealed through the courts, it is impossible to be sure how many homosexuals have since been admitted as asylees, but homosexual activists have counted 120 or so. Ordinarily, no one who is an HIV carrier may immigrate, but exceptions are made for asylees.
A San Francisco organization called the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is working to bring in more homosexuals. It teaches immigrants about the possibility of asylum, helps them prove persecution, and persuades lawyers to handle their cases. (Pete Slover, Gay, HIV-Positive Immigrants Seek Asylum, Dallas Morning News, Dec. 22, 1997.)
Vive La France
French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has been fined by French authorities for committing a speech crime. At a Dec. 5 press conference in Munich, Germany, he said: “If you take a book of 2,000 pages on this [the Second World] war . . . the concentration camps fill two pages and the gas chambers take up 10 to 12 lines. That’s what you call a detail . . . I have said and I say again at the risk that it be a sacrilege, that the gas chambers are a detail of history of the Second World War.” Mr. Le Pen was immediately sued by 11 different civil rights groups and was ordered to pay each of them up to $17,000. He must also pay $50,000 to publish the news of the judgment against him in newspapers.
The offense Mr. Le Pen committed is called “contesting crimes against humanity,” but in practice the law prohibits commentary only on the destruction of Jews by Nazi Germany. Mr. Le Pen did not, as some revisionists do, deny that Germany had an extermination policy; he expressed an unacceptable view about that policy’s historical importance. Mr. Le Pen was fined hundreds of thousands of dollars when he first made comments of this nature nearly ten years ago. (AP, Frenchman Convicted for Nazi Comment, Dec. 26, 1997.)
France is not the only Western country to have laws prohibiting the expression of certain views. Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Britain and Denmark likewise restrict speech.
Organ Donor Program
South African witch doctors, who prefer to be called sangomas, want more respect. Along with inyangas (bone throwers) and faith healers, they have formed a group called Traditional Medical Practitioners of South Africa, which tries to improve their image. Their greatest stumbling block is the fact that some traditional medical prescriptions require fresh human organs. South African authorities estimate that 200 or so people are killed every year for parts.
Human blood is supposed to impart vitality, hearts cure heart disease, and brains bring money and political power. Female genitals and breasts can cure infertility, and male genitals are good for an all-round pick-me-up. The going rates for organs are said to be on the order of $300 for a kidney, $600 for a heart, and $120 for a testicle, so a full cadaver can represent a substantial sum. We are unaware of whether white parts sell at a premium. (Christopher Munnion, Witchdoctors Claim Cut in Ritual Killings, Telegraph (London), Jan. 3, 1998.)
Color the Numbers
The FBI reports that there were 8,759 “hate crimes” in 1996. Race was the motive in 5,396, religion in 1,401, and sexual orientation in 1,016. Ethnic background was the motive in 940 cases and six had multiple reasons. Of the 7,000 who were assaulted because of race, 4,600 were black, 1,445 were white and 544 were Asians. The FBI reported 8,935 known offenders, of whom 66 percent were white and 20 percent were black.
These numbers are difficult to interpret for several reasons. “Hate crime” inspectors are often non-whites, who look much harder at crimes committed by whites. Also, reporting standards differ greatly from one police department to another. California reported 2,723 “hate crimes” but the state of Alabama couldn’t find any. The District of Columbia didn’t bother to report at all. Hispanics are a victim category but not a perpetrator category, so if a Mexican commits a “hate crime” it is recorded as an offense by a white. (Jim Abrams, 8,759 Hate Crimes Reported in 1996, AP, January 8, 1998.)
Let us, however, “deconstruct” just one set of statistics, that of the race of known offenders. Even if we assume heroically that not one of the “whites” was Hispanic and that these figures are an accurate gauge of racial animosity, blacks are still considerably more likely than whites to commit hate crimes. Since whites are 74 percent of the population and blacks are 12 percent, blacks are 87 percent more likely than whites to commit a hate crime [(20÷12)÷(66÷74) = 1.87], a statistic no newspaper is likely to report. “Hate crimes” continue to be treated as if all perpetrators are white.
|LETTERS FROM READERS
Sir — To an immigrant like myself (from England, 1985), the gap between the freely-voiced opinions of white Americans and the pieties of officialdom and the media is astonishing.
Item: I work in Manhattan and ride the Long Island Railroad back and forth every day. I was on the train behind the one on which Colin Ferguson carried out his little act of ethnic cleansing in 1993. As the news came out on evening TV, some neighbors came over to sit with my wife, who of course was anxious for me. “They all said the same thing,” reported my wife (also an immigrant): “It must be a black guy. If he was white, they would have told us.”
Item: When we moved to Huntington in 1992 the nearest shopping center was the Big H Mall. My wife found it convenient — the next big supermarket was on the other side of town. Unfortunately Big H is surrounded by public housing. It was common, in the supermarket, to see black children scoop up handfuls of candy from the displays and run off laughing. The first time I saw this I told the service desk. They shrugged and said there nothing they could do.
Gradually, during 1992-1995, the stores all closed down. When the supermarket closed, it made the local newspapers, who attributed this to mismanagement. None of these papers reported — even by hint or implication — what all the store owners and cashiers would tell anyone willing to listen: that the level of shoplifting by blacks and Hispanics made it impossible to do business.
What is depressing about these stories (of which I am sure have heard hundreds) is the willingness of everybody — certainly all of my neighbors and colleagues — to go along with the public hypocrisy. How easy it is to cow people! I think the root reason is despair. White Americans know that blacks will never be assimilated; that a large minority of them either will not or cannot be socialized; and that in a meritocracy they will slide to the bottom. But they do not believe that anything can be done about this.
They grit their teeth and bow their heads to the cant about “diversity” and “racism” because they see no alternative. And, perhaps, because they hope against hope that there might be something in it. They no that the United States would be a paradise without blacks but they do not see any civilized way they can be got rid of. I’m not sure there is any alternative to despair. But at least if we discuss these things openly there is a chance someone will come up with something.
Name withheld, Huntington, N.Y.
Sir — I know most of the folks who read AR are the older crowd, and sometimes they tend to bash skinheads. I used to be a skinhead but now I’ve grown out of it. I’m not saying skinheads are angels, but unlike most other young whites, we protected each other. Older folks didn’t have to grow up in a multi-racial society so I can’t blame them for looking down on skinheads sometimes, but we did what we had to as white kids in black or Mexican schools. I also realize that skinheads sometimes give racialism a bad name, but I can tell you that for every idiotic, seig-heiling, drunken skinhead, there is a very intelligent one.
Even though it may look hopeless, especially there in California, I remain an optimist about the future of the white race. We have had our backs against the wall many times in history and have always come out swinging.
Ryan White, Sacramento, Calif.
Sir — As I read your January review of War Before Civilization it slowly dawned on me why European soldiers got into so much trouble over “racism” in Somalia. As your American readers may know, one Canadian elite unit was actually disbanded when it was learned that some of its men had mistreated Somalis. I believe Italians got into similar trouble, and U.S. troops were also criticized for being rude to the natives. But look at what they had to deal with! People who drag the corpses of enemies through the streets are “pre-state” savages exactly like those Prof. Keeley was describing in his book. When the enemy plays by different rules it is hard to play the white man.
Francois Boyer, Quebec City (Canada)
Sir — I enjoyed Ray Kerrison’s account of his correspondence with Africans. When I lived in Senegal for two years with the Peace Corps, I was at first surprised to find how touchingly Africans look up to whites. It occurred to me, though, that there are reasons for this other than the obvious one — that it is whites who command the magic of technology.
In their daily lives Africans get a skewed picture of whites. They never meet one who is old and frail or one who is poor — this is quite significant on a continent where precarious living is the norm. Africans are extremely unlikely to meet a white person who does not have a college education or who makes a living with his hands. They will probably never see a drunken white man, or a white prostitute. Therefore, whites are symbols of all the achievement of which Africa is incapable but also the whites who live or travel in Africa are not a random sample of the race.
Perry Federick Newell, Lexington, Ky.