Writing for the New York Times Saturday, columnist Frank Rich parrots the reverberations of the insular Manhattan liberal echo-chamber by claiming that he — who has never been to a tea party, never had a conversation with a tea partier, exudes deep disdain for the “parochial” brood, etc. — has somehow tapped into the secret inner machinations of the movement. That is, these folks, who he claims are so generally stupid they “don’t recognize their own small scale mimicry of Kristallnacht” (by the way, it takes a special caliber of columnist to point out baseless references to Nazis and in the same sentence use a Nazi comparison himself. Mr. Rich, Bravo!) nonetheless, these people are so intimately tuned into the latest demographic information from the Population Reference Bureau that they are bunkering down for the Great Minority Takeover. The Tea Party movement is not about government, you fools! It’s about racist whites mobilizing against a future where minorities are far too numerous. In short, the drug warriors, the poverty warriors, none of the legions of various social battle fronts have anything on the frothing, tribalistic race warrior.
This narrative is ubiquitous both in television and print media. When conservatives encounter it, it is typically waved off as a sophisticated “Alinsky tactic” to shut down of debate. While this is true, the depth of this phenomenon has not been sufficiently characterized. Few reference the exploitation of racial tension as a method to bring down the “establishment” popular among New Left radicals. To various degrees, this practice persists up to the present and widely influences the cultural Left. It is highly effective at impugning both mainstream and conservative America and, in fact, is as easy as one-two-”racist!”
Once in the heart of the 1960s New Left, our Editor-in-chief David Horowitz witnessed first hand the marriage of radicalism and race. During his tenure at Ramparts, one of the most widely circulated leftist publications, the marxist, militant Black Panthers became a darling of the New Left. Frequently trumpeted as the “vanguard” of revolution, the Black Panthers rejected the nonviolent, integrationist message of Martin Luther King Jr. and instead, aligned with radicals with whom they shared obvious political affinities. Horowitz recounts (Radical Son):
When [Huey] Newton founded the Panthers in 1966, he was a young street felon attending Oakland’s Merritt College. On campus, he came into contact with [Bob] Sheer and other white student radicals, and became familiar with their theories that criminals like him were “primitive rebels” who intuitively grasped the socialist idea that property is theft.
…Newton became a leader of the new generation of activists, who were turning their backs on the nonviolent, integrationism of Martin Luther King…led by Stokeley Carmichael and the Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, they identified themselves as “black” and called for “Black Power,” reserving the word Negro for “Uncle Toms,” among whom they included Martin Luther King (whom the Panthers referred to as Martin Luther Coon).
Leftist radicals were particularly attracted to groups like the Black Panthers because of their propensity for violent rebellion and mystique as oppressed victims of capitalism par excellence.
While no one would publicly say so, it was the Panthers’ violent image that provided their real attraction to the New Left. Blacks would seek liberation, Malcolm said, through the ‘ballot or the bullet,’ but no radical believed the System could be changed by peaceful means.
…The quest for authenticity preoccupied white radicals like myself who made up the bulk of the Movement, and was the key to the Pathers’ charisma. In a seminal article titled “The White Negro,” Norman Mailer had cast America’s blacks as Rousseau’s “nobel savages,” representatives of humanity in its pristine state. These were the “oppressed” of the radical imagination. The Panthers’ roots in the ghetto were the primal symbol of social injustice. Their will to violence was the mark of their revolutionary spirit.
Thus, sparked a conflagration against “racist Amerika,” popular on college campuses and among some of the most influential New Left activists. It was simultaneously an indictment of the capitalistic-centered status quo, and one of its many perceived injustices, namely, societal racism. Yet, in its selective alliance with the black revolutionary movement, the merger was never so much in the spirit of racial equality, but in galvanizing the uprising of the “oppressed victims of capitalism,” those willing and able to bring down “the System” from within.
This sentiment has never left the Left which continues to view minorities as “the oppressed.” Ethnic interest groups are frequently courted by leftists, if they aren’t already operated by them. Even as recent as this month, mass campus protests on March 4th (primarily in California) were orchestrated and/or sponsored by a cornucopia of a Who’s Who in radical organizations. Faced with tuition hikes and budget cuts, protests were widely couched in terms of racial discrimination. Posters depicted the familiar clenched fist of socialist uprising with messages like, “Protect Your ¡Education!” to incite Latino students to the cause.
During the event, Latinos and “students of color” protested in respective contingencies to underscore the racial element of budgetary cuts (presumably, because they would disproportionately affect poorer minority students). The protest was primarily in the name of public education, but incorporated protests against “systemic racism” (endemic in a place like Berkeley, CA). An unfortunate incident, a so-called “Compton Cookout” held by UC San Diego frats during Black History Month (incredibly offensive even by fraternity standards) inflamed students within the UC system. Thus, race and socialist demands — Free Education! Education is a RIGHT, and the like — melded freely and poured out onto the streets of Berkeley. Rancor over “UC racism” added convenient fervor to an event organized under the more pedestrian pretext of fiscal tightening.
We have all become students of color now,
declared one professor of urban studies at the event.
Conflating economics with race is a perfect way to confer the status of a morally unassailable argument. Racism is a thoroughly indefensible position. By characterizing the status quo as racist and claiming that “progress” is toward socialism, then clearly, if you’re not with socialism, you’re with the racists. Nobody said it was logical, but this is essentially what the argument is. The key to its success, why so many perfectly mainstream people cannot help but be sympathetic to it, is that in our country racial inequalities often tract economic inequalities. So, if you’re not correcting the economics, you are thereby not correcting the racial disparities, which everyone has an interest in seeing changed.
Liberals and conservatives will depart on how to address this issue. Liberals are more “direct relief” types and champion like policies. Conservatives believe such relief generally does more harm than good and will never truly solve the problem because it only assuages the symptoms. On the other hand, leftists believe that the whole structure is fundamentally unjust and must be transformed into something more closely resembling the socialism of Western Europe, Scandinavia and beyond. But this will never happen unless the oppressed are spurred to action. Like class warfare, exploiting racial tensions continues to be an effective cudgel against moderates and conservatives in its capacity to demonize the opposition and incite ethnic minorities. Different elements of the Left will employ it for different reasons, some just to impugn the Right, some actually believe that racism is enormously more prevalent and see it everywhere, but the history behind the “Racist!” phenomenon is illuminating for more reasons than one: Fomenting racial divisiveness for political gain is a long standing tradition which permeates the cultural Left. Where it exists, it must be identified as a reprehensible, as much as an intimidating practice as it is.