I have been invited by the editor of the Yale Daily News to comment on the crusade by campus leftists to suppress my common sense objections to the campaign for reparations to African-Americans 136 years after the fact. The invitation is a welcome breach in the wall of censorship that has so far prevailed in the Ivy League — with the notable and courageous exception of Brown University — and is one I gladly accept.
The first question that should occur to the members of communities whose sensibilities have been so closely protected is why any ideas should have to be suppressed. It is claimed the argument I put forward is “offensive.”
Is this really what we have come to on our politically correct campuses? Are students so weak-kneed or weak-minded that they cannot handle an argument they don’t happen to like? Is this not an incredibly patronizing attitude, especially toward minorities who come to Yale?
Parents cover the eyes and ears of children who stumble into the presence of material that is “offensive” or too adult for them to handle. Is this the left’s view of “people of color”? That they are incapable of standing up on their own two feet? That they can only do it if the left is there to protect them from difficult ideas or difficult standards?
I think that it is, and as a minority myself, this offends me. My ad argued that the current reparations movement would pit African-Americans against all Americans and against other minorities in particular; that it encourages African-Americans to think of themselves once again as victims demanding payment from others for their suffering — and in this case from others who may have had nothing to do with their suffering; that it isolates them from the rest of America by positioning them as the Jeremiahs of America’s sinful countenance.
From all the outrage expressed, the chief offense of my ad appears to be its argument that African-Americans should reject a leadership that isolates and infantalizes them, that focuses their energies on the negative and the past, that refuses to celebrate the positive and look towards the future, and that will not recognize the debt African-Americans may themselves have to a nation that found its way to freedom, equalizing opportunity and offering a helping hand — a debt, in short, to America itself.
The principal thrust of the reparations claim is the argument that the span of 136 years since slavery was ended has been for African-Americans a continuing veil of tears — broken promises, segregation, discrimination leading to income gaps, education gaps and other injustices. It is possible, however, to view the last 136 years of the African-American experience in a different light.
In 1865 African-Americans had literally nothing. They had been stripped of their language, their culture, their religion, and their family and community roots. They had no property. Yet 136 years later, they are collectively the 10th richest nation on earth.
Their artists have shaped American culture. Their faces are omnipresent in the heights of the political and judicial system, and in the military. Their leaders run the foreign policy and educational policy of the nation. What a triumph! What a success!
What a tribute to African-Americans and also to the nation, which having committed so great a crime against them, struggled and fought to create better opportunities, rights and privileges for the descendants of Africans on this continent than they enjoy in the rest of the world.
For this unusual, politically incorrect idea, I have been called a “racist” on campuses across the country, and my views have been suppressed. This is a sickness in our political culture worse than the McCarthy witch hunt of the past. There is not an individual on any college campus in the country who is not conscious — and therefore apprehensive — of the fact that no matter who they are or what they think, a word, phrase or argument could be misconstrued by someone as “insensitive” or “offensive” and that they could find themselves accused of “racism” — a career-ruining, reputation-wrecking charge.
It’s time for this witch hunt to stop. It’s time for Americans — and for America’s educational elite in particular — to say enough. We want the finger-pointing and the name-calling to stop. We want to hear what others have to say. And we want them to be able to say it without being stigmatized and dismissed.
David Horowitz is the president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.