The Sins of Colin Powell
In an age in which we find ourselves diminishing, to our own hurt, our belief in the power of words (no, a picture hardly ever paints a thousand words!), weâ€™d do well to remember the words of great men and women who have gone before us. One such hero was Dr. Martin Luther King, whose impassioned speech painted for us his dream of a land where one day, he envisioned, his little children would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. One hundred years earlier, Abraham Lincoln had spoken of the fact that our nation was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Our track record, undeniably, is one which betrays our failure to live up to these noble precepts, but it is also clear, to anyone who looks at the facts honestly, that we as a nation have made great progress in the matter of racial equality.
This is not to say that all is as well as we might wish; there remain those who harbor bitter prejudice against others on the sole basis of race. This is the case on all sides of the equation, obviously; in his excellent book Ten Things You Canâ€™t Say in America, Larry Elder states his belief that blacks are more racist than whites. Lest you consider this a racist judgment in itself, Mr. Elder is himself an African-American (though heâ€™d undoubtedly simply prefer to be called an American). The second chapter of his book, in case youâ€™re wondering, skewers the racial sins of American liberalism, as he points out that white condescension is as bad as black racism! He is certainly correct on this count, whether or not he is on the first. Iâ€™d argue that such condescension by liberals, masked by such euphemisms as â€œaffirmative actionâ€, is tantamount to a racist approach toward minorities, buttressed as it is by the tacit suggestion that certain groups of people cannot achieve on their own. It is hard to imagine that a man such as Dr. King, were we fortunate enough to still have him with us, would today be in favor of such governmental, race-based discrimination.
Into this scenario comes the Banana Boat Man, Harry Belafonte, suggesting on a San Diego radio station that Secretary of State Colin Powell effectively plays the house Negro to George W. Bushâ€™s â€œMassahâ€. Belafonte didnâ€™t call him an Uncle Tom, but he might as well have. His sin? Apparently, in Harryâ€™s eyes, Powell has capitulated to The Man by failing to oppose Bush administration policies that Belafonte finds objectionable, effectively making Powell a traitor to his race. In a later interview with Larry King, Belafonte refused to back down from his remarks, instead adding National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to his list.
Sadly, this kind of attitude has been far too characteristic of many who make up what the media likes to call the â€œblack leadershipâ€. There is the suggestion that it is the duty of all African-Americans to march in lockstep with a given political position, generally that of the Democratic party; no dissent from this position will be brooked by said â€œleadershipâ€. A fair question might be to ask just exactly how much gain has come to the African-American community by such cozying up to the Democrats.
But more than this, the question that begs to be asked is whether or not the insistence of the Belafontes of this country that blacks march in ideological lockstep with the Democratic Party constitutes nothing more than a different set of chains. The idea that oneâ€™s race ought to of necessity lead to one particular place on the political spectrum is silly on its face. It would seem that the equality of which Dr. King dreamed would be pervasive enough to allow for reasonable men to reach different conclusions and have reasoned debates about subjects political irrespective of the color of their skin. Iâ€™d personally like to see all people come to understand the common wisdom of libertarian conservatism, standing as it does in stark contrast to the emotion-laden but intellectually unsustainable tenets of modern liberalism. It simply does not follow, however, that people ought to find their places on the political spectrum as a simple function of their epidermal pigmentation. We ought to determine our political sympathies and affiliations on the basis of their correspondence to Constitutional principles and common-sense reality, not because we happen to belong to one particular race or another.
The irony is that a few days ago I saw Mr. Belafonte appear on a commercial calling us to national unity. Youâ€™ll understand, please, if I question the depth of his commitment to such a concept when he insists upon using race as a weapon with which to divide.