Barack Obama: Rattrapé par son passé de compagnon de route de la haine raciale (Fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay)

Obama with Sharpton

Je suis suffisamment nouveau sur la scène politique pour servir d’écran blanc sur lequel les gens de couleurs politiques les plus différentes peuvent projeter leurs propres vues. Obama
During the past decade, the historic relationship between African Americans and Jewish Americans — a relationship that sponsored so many of the concrete advances of the civil rights era — showed another and less attractive face. While anti-Semitism is generally on the wane in this country, it has been on the rise among black Americans. A recent survey finds not only that blacks are twice as likely as whites to hold anti-Semitic views but — significantly — that it is among the younger and more educated blacks that anti-Semitism is most pronounced. The trend has been deeply disquieting for many black intellectuals. But it is something most of us, as if by unstated agreement, simply choose not to talk about. At a time when black America is beleaguered on all sides, there is a strong temptation simply to ignore the phenomenon or treat it as something strictly marginal. And yet to do so would be a serious mistake. As the African-American philosopher Cornel West has insisted, attention to black anti-Semitism is crucial, however discomfiting, in no small part because the moral credibility of our struggle against racism hangs in the balance. When the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in an impassioned address at a conference of the World Jewish Congress on July 7, condemned the sordid history of anti-Semitism, he not only went some distance toward retrieving the once abandoned mantle of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s humane statesmanship, he also delivered a stern rebuke — while not specifically citing black anti-Semitism — to those black leaders who have sought to bolster their own strength through division. Mr. Jackson and others have learned that we must not allow these demagogues to turn the wellspring of memory into a renewable resource of enmity everlasting. We must begin by recognizing what is new about the new anti-Semitism. Make no mistake: this is anti-Semitism from the top down, engineered and promoted by leaders who affect to be speaking for a larger resentment. This top-down anti-Semitism, in large part the province of the better educated classes, can thus be contrasted with the anti-Semitism from below common among African American urban communities in the 1930’s and 40’s, which followed in many ways a familiar pattern of clientelistic hostility toward the neighborhood vendor or landlord. In American cities, hostility of this sort is now commonly directed toward Korean shop owners. But « minority » traders and shopkeepers elsewhere in the world — such as the Indians of East Africa and the Chinese of Southeast Asia — have experienced similar ethnic antagonism. Anti-Jewish sentiment can also be traced to Christian anti-Semitism, given the historic importance of Christianity in the black community. Unfortunately, the old paradigms will not serve to explain the new bigotry and its role in black America. For one thing, its preferred currency is not the mumbled epithet or curse but the densely argued treatise; it belongs as much to the repertory of campus lecturers as community activists. And it comes in wildly different packages. A book popular with some in the « Afrocentric » movement, « The Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man’s Racism, Sexism, and Aggression » by Michael Bradley, argues that white people are so vicious because they, unlike the rest of mankind, are descended from the brutish Neanderthals. More to the point, it speculates that the Jews may have been the  » ‘purest’ and oldest Neanderthal-Caucasoids, » the iciest of the ice people; hence (he explains) the singularly odious character of ancient Jewish culture. Crackpot as it sounds, the book has lately been reissued with endorsements from two members of the Africana Studies Department of the City College of New York, as well as an introduction by Dr. John Henrik Clarke, professor emeritus of Hunter College and the great paterfamilias of the Afrocentric movement. Dr. Clarke has recently attacked multiculturalism as the product of what he called the « Jewish educational Mafia. » And while Dr. Leonard Jeffries’s views on supposed Jewish complicity in the subjection of blacks captured headlines, his intellectual cohorts such as Conrad Muhammad and Khallid Muhammad address community gatherings and college students across the country purveying a similar doctrine. College speakers and publications have played a disturbing role in legitimating the new creed. (…) However shoddy the scholarship of works like « The Secret Relationship, » underlying it is something even more troubling: the tacit conviction that culpability is heritable. For it suggests a doctrine of racial continuity, in which the racial evil of a people is merely manifest (rather than constituted) by their historical misdeeds. The reported misdeeds are thus the signs of an essential nature that is evil. (…) But why target the Jews? Using the same historical methodology, after all, the researchers of the book could have produced a damning treatise on the involvement of left-handers in the « black holocaust. » The answer requires us to go beyond the usual shibboleths about bigotry and view the matter, from the demagogues’ perspective, strategically: as the bid of one black elite to supplant another. It requires us, in short, to see anti-Semitism as a weapon in the raging battle of who will speak for black America — those who have sought common cause with others or those who preach a barricaded withdrawal into racial authenticity. The strategy of these apostles of hate, I believe, is best understood as ethnic isolationism — they know that the more isolated black America becomes, the greater their power. And what’s the most efficient way to begin to sever black America from its allies? Bash the Jews, these demagogues apparently calculate, and you’re halfway there. I myself think that the great French aphorist Rochefoucault put his finger on something germane when he observed, « We can rarely bring ourselves to forgive those who have helped us. » For sometimes it seems that the trajectory of black-Jewish relations is a protracted enactment of Rochefoucault’s paradox. Many American Jews are puzzled by the recrudescence of black anti-Semitism, in view of the historic alliance between the two groups. The brutal truth has escaped them: that the new anti-Semitism arises not in spite of the black-Jewish alliance but because of that alliance. For precisely such trans-ethnic, trans-racial cooperation — epitomized by the historic partnership between blacks and Jews — is what poses the greatest threat to the isolationist movement. In short, for the tacticians of the new anti-Semitism, the original sin of American Jews was their involvement — truly « inordinate, » truly « disproportionate » — not in slavery, but in the front ranks of the civil rights struggle. For decent and principled reasons, many black intellectuals are loath to criticize « oppositional » black leaders. Yet it has become increasingly apparent that to continue to maintain a comradely silence may be, in effect, to capitulate to the isolationist agenda, to betray our charge and trust. And, to be sure, many black writers, intellectuals, and religious leaders have taken an unequivocal stand on this issue. Cornel West aptly describes black anti-Semitism as « the bitter fruit of a profound self-destructive impulse, nurtured on the vines of hopelessness and concealed by empty gestures of black unity. » After 12 years of conservative indifference, those political figures who acquiesced, by malign neglect, to the deepening crisis of black America should not feign surprise that we should prove so vulnerable to the demagogues’ rousing messages of hate, their manipulation of the past and present. Bigotry, as a tragic century has taught us, is an opportunistic infection, attacking most virulently when the body politic is in a weakened state. Yet neither should those who care about black America gloss over what cannot be condoned: that much respect we owe to ourselves. For surely it falls to all of us to recapture the basic insight that Dr. King so insistently expounded. « We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, » he told us. « Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. » How easy to forget this — and how vital to remember. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Obama surfe sur cette vague d’aspiration des Blancs qui se projettent sur lui. Il parle d’espoir, de changement, d’avenir… Il se cache derrière ce discours éthéré, sans substance, pour permettre aux Blancs de projeter sur lui leurs aspirations. Il est prisonnier car à la minute où il révélera qui il est vraiment, ce en quoi il croit vraiment, son idéologie, il perdra toute sa magie et sa popularité de rock-star. (…) Il est prisonnier, car il ne peut pas être lui-même. (…) Les Blancs sont l’électorat naturel de Barack Obama. (…) C’est ça l’ironie: il a fallu que Barack Obama gagne les voix blanches pour emporter les voix noires. Shelby Steele
Le fait est que Barack Obama a été le compagnon de route d’un nationalisme noir anti-américain plein de haine toute sa vie d’adulte, refusant de prendre position et de dénoncer une idéologie pour qui sa propre mère n’avait pas de place. (…) Et quel mauvais présage de son jugement présidentiel que d’avoir exposé ses deux filles pendant leurs vies entières à ce qui est, pour le moins implicitement, le pire des vitriols anti-blancs? (…) Mais maintenant le projecteur d’une campagne présidentielle a révélé ce coin habituellement caché de la vie noire contemporaine: la complaisance la plus gratuite pour un anti-Américanisme rhétorique comme moyen de renforcement des liens intracommunautaires et d’affirmation de son identité noire. Et pourtant l’image de Jeremiah Wright, en une de tous les journaux télévisés de l’Amérique, nous a prouvé qu’il n’y a aucune vraie différence entre la haine rhétorique et la vraie haine. Shelby Steele

A l’heure où, poussé par la polémique, Obama se décide enfin à dénoncer les propos de celui qui, l’ayant amené au christianisme, célébré son mariage et baptisé ses enfants, lui a servi pendant 20 ans de pasteur …

Retour sur l’article, dans le WSJ d’avant-hier, du chercheur de Stanford Shelby Steele, qui pointe le piège dans lequel le candidat démocrate s’est enfermé.

S’il avait jusqu’ici réussi à jouer sur les deux tableaux du sentiment de culpabilité et du besoin de rédemption et d’innocence raciale des Blancs, c’était au prix d’une certaine invisibilité idéologique.

Mais la récente révélation qu’il avait passé (lui et sa famille) quelque deux décennies de sa vie à écouter, dimanche après dimanche, les sermons enflammés d’un pasteur nationaliste noir proche du notoire antisémite Farrakhan, a ruiné toute cette belle stratégie …

The Obama Bargain
Shelby Steele
WSJ
March 18, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro may have had sinister motives when she said that Barack Obama would not be « in his position » as a frontrunner but for his race. Possibly she was acting as Hillary Clinton’s surrogate. Or maybe she was simply befuddled by this new reality — in which blackness could constitute a political advantage.

But whatever her motives, she was right: « If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. » Barack Obama is, of course, a very talented politician with a first-rate political organization at his back. But it does not detract from his merit to say that his race is also a large part of his prominence. And it is undeniable that something extremely powerful in the body politic, a force quite apart from the man himself, has pulled Obama forward. This force is about race and nothing else.

The novelty of Barack Obama is more his cross-racial appeal than his talent. Jesse Jackson displayed considerable political talent in his presidential runs back in the 1980s. But there was a distinct limit to his white support. Mr. Obama’s broad appeal to whites makes him the first plausible black presidential candidate in American history. And it was Mr. Obama’s genius to understand this. Though he likes to claim that his race was a liability to be overcome, he also surely knew that his race could give him just the edge he needed — an edge that would never be available to a white, not even a white woman.

How to turn one’s blackness to advantage?

The answer is that one « bargains. » Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America’s history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer’s race against him. And whites love this bargain — and feel affection for the bargainer — because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.

This is how Mr. Obama has turned his blackness into his great political advantage, and also into a kind of personal charisma. Bargainers are conduits of white innocence, and they are as popular as the need for white innocence is strong. Mr. Obama’s extraordinary dash to the forefront of American politics is less a measure of the man than of the hunger in white America for racial innocence.

His actual policy positions are little more than Democratic Party boilerplate and hardly a tick different from Hillary’s positions. He espouses no galvanizing political idea. He is unable to say what he means by « change » or « hope » or « the future. » And he has failed to say how he would actually be a « unifier. » By the evidence of his slight political record (130 « present » votes in the Illinois state legislature, little achievement in the U.S. Senate) Barack Obama stacks up as something of a mediocrity. None of this matters much.

Race helps Mr. Obama in another way — it lifts his political campaign to the level of allegory, making it the stuff of a far higher drama than budget deficits and education reform. His dark skin, with its powerful evocations of America’s tortured racial past, frames the political contest as a morality play. Will his victory mean America’s redemption from its racist past? Will his defeat show an America morally unevolved? Is his campaign a story of black overcoming, an echo of the civil rights movement? Or is it a passing-of-the-torch story, of one generation displacing another?

Because he is black, there is a sense that profound questions stand to be resolved in the unfolding of his political destiny. And, as the Clintons have discovered, it is hard in the real world to run against a candidate of destiny. For many Americans — black and white — Barack Obama is simply too good (and too rare) an opportunity to pass up. For whites, here is the opportunity to document their deliverance from the shames of their forbearers. And for blacks, here is the chance to document the end of inferiority. So the Clintons have found themselves running more against America’s very highest possibilities than against a man. And the press, normally happy to dispel every political pretension, has all but quivered before Mr. Obama. They, too, have feared being on the wrong side of destiny.

And yet, in the end, Barack Obama’s candidacy is not qualitatively different from Al Sharpton’s or Jesse Jackson’s. Like these more irascible of his forbearers, Mr. Obama’s run at the presidency is based more on the manipulation of white guilt than on substance. Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson were « challengers, » not bargainers. They intimidated whites and demanded, in the name of historical justice, that they be brought forward. Mr. Obama flatters whites, grants them racial innocence, and hopes to ascend on the back of their gratitude. Two sides of the same coin.

But bargainers have an Achilles heel. They succeed as conduits of white innocence only as long as they are largely invisible as complex human beings. They hope to become icons that can be identified with rather than seen, and their individual complexity gets in the way of this. So bargainers are always laboring to stay invisible. (We don’t know the real politics or convictions of Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey, bargainers all.) Mr. Obama has said of himself, « I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views . . . » And so, human visibility is Mr. Obama’s Achilles heel. If we see the real man, his contradictions and bents of character, he will be ruined as an icon, as a « blank screen. »

Thus, nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama’s political aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday — for 20 years — in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage (« God damn America »).

How does one « transcend » race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn’t thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to « be black » despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn’t this hatred more rhetorical than real?

But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one’s blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America’s television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.

No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself.

Mr. Steele, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the author of « A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win » (Free Press, 2007).

(1) http://online.wsj.com/opinion
(2) http://forums.wsj.com/viewtopic.php? t=1815

Voir aussi:

« Si Obama l’emporte, c’est grâce à la soif de rédemption des Américains »

Shelby Steele, auteur d’un livre sur le candidat à l’investiture démocrate.
Recueilli par notre correspondant à Washington PHILIPPE GRANGEREAU
Libération
Le 11 février 2008

Shelby Steele est l’auteur d’Un Homme prisonnier, pourquoi nous sommes attirés par Obama et pourquoi il ne peut pas gagner, publié le mois dernier aux Etats-Unis (1). Chercheur sur les questions raciales à l’université de Stanford, en Californie, Steele est métis, comme Obama.

Pourquoi dites-vous qu’Obama est un «homme prisonnier» ?

Il surfe sur cette vague d’aspiration des Blancs qui se projettent sur lui. Il parle d’espoir, de changement, d’avenir… Il se cache derrière ce discours éthéré, sans substance, pour permettre aux Blancs de projeter sur lui leurs aspirations. Il est prisonnier car à la minute où il révélera qui il est vraiment, ce en quoi il croit vraiment, son idéologie, il perdra toute sa magie et sa popularité de rock-star. Les Blancs diront : «Ah mais je ne savais pas que vous pensiez ça !» Il est prisonnier, car il ne peut pas être lui-même.

Pensez-vous toujours qu’il perdra en dépit de ses bons scores répétés dans les primaires ?

Je crois toujours, pour l’heure, qu’il ne peut pas devenir président des Etats-Unis. A moins qu’il dévoile réellement qui il est, quelle est son idéologie, mais il n’a pas encore commencé à le faire. On ignore presque tout de lui. Il ne dit pas dans quelles circonstances il déclenchera une intervention militaire. Que pense-t-il de la doctrine de la guerre préventive ? De la discrimination positive ?

N’est-il pas aussi perçu comme une sorte de rédempteur pour le passé raciste et les erreurs de la guerre d’Irak ?

En disant qu’il ne peut pas gagner, je sous-estime peut-être la profondeur de cette aspiration qui peut au final lui apporter la victoire. Mais ce sera une victoire née de ce profond désir de rédemption des Blancs qui n’effacera pas le passé raciste ni les controverses de la guerre d’Irak. Il y aura juste un Noir à la Maison Blanche et rien ne changera vraiment. Quand Carl Stokes a été le premier maire noir élu d’une grande ville [Cleveland en 1967, ndlr], tout le monde disait que ça bouleverserait toute la culture américaine. En réalité, c’était juste un maire noir et c’est tout. La race n’a pas d’importance. Ce qui importe, c’est qui vous êtes, en quoi vous croyez, pas la couleur de votre peau.

Mais Obama ne se présente pas comme un candidat noir…

Si. Et il trompe les gens sur ce point. Il dit qu’il transcende la question raciale et que c’est la raison pour laquelle il faut voter pour lui. Mais par le simple fait d’énoncer cela, il démontre que toute sa campagne est précisément axée sur la question raciale. Quand il dit «qu’il ne voit pas une Amérique noire et une Amérique blanche, mais des Américains», c’est délibérément le message inverse qu’il veut faire passer. Si Barack Obama n’était pas noir, on ne connaîtrait probablement même pas son nom… Il propose une convergence entre sa peau noire et la présidence, et ses supporteurs applaudissent car ils pensent que cette convergence sera rédemptrice pour les Etats-Unis, qu’il blanchira l’Amérique de son pire péché : le racisme. C’est ça qu’il vend aux Américains, sa peau noire, pas son programme économique.

Comment la communauté noire le considère-t-elle ?

Les Blancs sont l’électorat naturel de Barack Obama. Les Noirs ont été ambivalents à son égard dès le début. Pourtant, dès que Barack Obama a pu démontrer qu’il emportait les voix des Blancs en grand nombre, et donc qu’il était capable d’arriver au pouvoir, les Noirs se sont rangés à ses côtés. C’est ce qui s’est passé en Caroline du Sud. Et c’est ça l’ironie : Il a fallu que Barack Obama gagne les voix blanches pour emporter les voix noires. Il n’a commencé à avoir ces voix noires qu’après avoir emporté le vote blanc lors de la primaire en Iowa.

Comment jugez-vous Bill Clinton, qui, fin janvier, a présenté Obama comme un candidat noir ?

C’était un geste évidemment raciste. Il espérait que les Blancs considéreraient Obama comme un Noir, et seulement un Noir.

Les Clinton ont beaucoup de mal à arrêter Barack Obama…

Oui car il est perçu comme une sorte de messie qui sauvera l’Amérique de quatre siècles de divisions raciales. C’est le fait qu’il est Noir qui le rend si difficile à battre, ce ne sont pas ses idées. S’il l’emporte, ça n’aura rien à voir avec lui ; ce sera le résultat de la soif de rédemption qu’ont les Américains blancs de surmonter leur passé. Cette soif est très puissante. J’ai grandi dans une Amérique où la ségrégation faisait partie des bonnes manières. Mais aujourd’hui, il n’y a pas de pire insulte pour un Blanc que d’être qualifié de raciste. C’est une sorte de nouveau puritanisme. Les coupables sont bannis à jamais de la société. Aujourd’hui, les Américains ne veulent plus être stigmatisés par leur passé honteux. C’est ce désir profond des Blancs qui alimente le phénomène Obama.

Vous voulez dire que si Barack Obama est élu, il le sera par le politiquement correct ?

Exactement. Pour les mêmes raisons, les Blancs utilisent le mot Africain-américain pour parler des Noirs afin de ne pas être soupçonné de racisme. C’est le langage du sentiment de culpabilité Blanc.

(1) Free Press, New York.

Voir encore:

Discovering Obama
WSJ
March 19, 2008

The political tide for Barack Obama was inconceivable as recently as a few months ago, and it may still carry him into the White House. A mere three years out of the state legislature, the Illinois Senator has captured the Democratic imagination with his charisma, his silver tongue, and most of all, his claims to transcend the partisan and racial animosities of the day.

But the suddenness of Mr. Obama’s rise allowed him, until recently, to evade the scrutiny that usually attends Presidential campaigns. If nothing else, the uproar over Reverend Jeremiah Wright has changed that. In Philadelphia yesterday, the Senator tried to explain his puzzling 20-year attendance at Reverend Wright’s Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, while also using his nearly 5,000-word address to elaborate on the themes that have energized his candidacy. It was an instructive moment, though not always in the way the Senator intended.

Mr. Obama, of course, is in the midst of a chiefly political crisis. No one honestly believes he shares his minister’s rage, or his political and racial beliefs, which have been seen all over cable news and reveal a deep disgust with America. Mr. Obama’s fault, rather, was to maintain a two-decade entanglement with Mr. Wright without ever seeming to harbor qualms about the causes espoused by his mentor and spiritual guide.

Such complacency couldn’t simply be waved off, as the Senator tried initially to do, because it drills into the core of his political appeal: that he represents new thinking and an attempt to end cultural and racial polarization. Mr. Wright imperils the possibility inherent in the first black candidate who has a genuine shot at the Presidency, in part because race is only an element of the Senator’s political character, not its definition.

So yesterday Mr. Obama sought to rehabilitate his image by distancing himself from Mr. Wright’s race-paranoia. He talked about his own multiracial background — son of a white mother and Kenyan father — and said, « I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. »

Mr. Wright’s remarks « expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country, » Mr. Obama continued, and are « not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity » — his way of broadening out the discussion to include his political message.

Less uplifting was his attempt to pair Mr. Wright’s extremism with Geraldine Ferraro’s recent remarks as « the other end » of the spectrum on race. Mr. Wright’s sermons are rooted in a racial separatism and black liberation theology that is a distinct minority even among African-Americans. Ms. Ferraro was, at worst, saying that Mr. Obama is helped because many Americans want to vote for someone who is black.

It is also notable that Mr. Obama situated Mr. Wright within what the Senator sees as the continuing black-white conflict and the worst excesses of racial injustice like Jim Crow. He dwelled on a lack of funding for inner-city schools and a general « lack of economic opportunity. » But Mr. Obama neglected the massive failures of the government programs that were supposed to address these problems, as well as the culture of dependency they ingrained. A genuine message of racial healing would also have given more credit to the real racial gains in American society over the last 40 years.

The Senator noted that the anger of his pastor « is real; it is powerful, » and in fact it is mirrored in « white resentments. » He then laid down a litany of American woe: « the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who has been laid off, » the « shuttered mill, » those « without health care, » the soldiers who have fought in « a war that never should have been authorized and never should’ve been waged, » etc. Thus Mr. Obama’s message is we « need unity » because all Americans are victims, racial and otherwise; he even mentioned working for change by « binding our particular grievances. »

And the cause of all this human misery? Why, « a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. » Mr. Obama’s villains, in other words, are the standard-issue populist straw men of Wall Street and the GOP, and his candidacy is a vessel for liberal policy orthodoxy — raise taxes, « invest » more in social programs, restrict trade, retreat from Iraq.

Needless to say, this is not an agenda rooted in bipartisanship or even one that has captured a national Presidential majority in more than 40 years. It would be unfortunate if Mr. Obama’s candidacy were toppled by racial neuroses, and his speech yesterday may have prevented that. But it also revealed the extent to which his ideas are neither new nor transcendent.

Voir enfin:

Black Demagogues and Pseudo-Scholars
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The New York Times
July 20, 1992

During the past decade, the historic relationship between African Americans and Jewish Americans — a relationship that sponsored so many of the concrete advances of the civil rights era — showed another and less attractive face.

While anti-Semitism is generally on the wane in this country, it has been on the rise among black Americans. A recent survey finds not only that blacks are twice as likely as whites to hold anti-Semitic views but — significantly — that it is among the younger and more educated blacks that anti-Semitism is most pronounced.

The trend has been deeply disquieting for many black intellectuals. But it is something most of us, as if by unstated agreement, simply choose not to talk about. At a time when black America is beleaguered on all sides, there is a strong temptation simply to ignore the phenomenon or treat it as something strictly marginal. And yet to do so would be a serious mistake. As the African-American philosopher Cornel West has insisted, attention to black anti-Semitism is crucial, however discomfiting, in no small part because the moral credibility of our struggle against racism hangs in the balance.

When the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in an impassioned address at a conference of the World Jewish Congress on July 7, condemned the sordid history of anti-Semitism, he not only went some distance toward retrieving the once abandoned mantle of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s humane statesmanship, he also delivered a stern rebuke — while not specifically citing black anti-Semitism — to those black leaders who have sought to bolster their own strength through division. Mr. Jackson and others have learned that we must not allow these demagogues to turn the wellspring of memory into a renewable resource of enmity everlasting.

We must begin by recognizing what is new about the new anti-Semitism. Make no mistake: this is anti-Semitism from the top down, engineered and promoted by leaders who affect to be speaking for a larger resentment. This top-down anti-Semitism, in large part the province of the better educated classes, can thus be contrasted with the anti-Semitism from below common among African American urban communities in the 1930’s and 40’s, which followed in many ways a familiar pattern of clientelistic hostility toward the neighborhood vendor or landlord.

In American cities, hostility of this sort is now commonly directed toward Korean shop owners. But « minority » traders and shopkeepers elsewhere in the world — such as the Indians of East Africa and the Chinese of Southeast Asia — have experienced similar ethnic antagonism.

Anti-Jewish sentiment can also be traced to Christian anti-Semitism, given the historic importance of Christianity in the black community.

Unfortunately, the old paradigms will not serve to explain the new bigotry and its role in black America. For one thing, its preferred currency is not the mumbled epithet or curse but the densely argued treatise; it belongs as much to the repertory of campus lecturers as community activists. And it comes in wildly different packages.

A book popular with some in the « Afrocentric » movement, « The Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man’s Racism, Sexism, and Aggression » by Michael Bradley, argues that white people are so vicious because they, unlike the rest of mankind, are descended from the brutish Neanderthals.

More to the point, it speculates that the Jews may have been the  » ‘purest’ and oldest Neanderthal-Caucasoids, » the iciest of the ice people; hence (he explains) the singularly odious character of ancient Jewish culture.

Crackpot as it sounds, the book has lately been reissued with endorsements from two members of the Africana Studies Department of the City College of New York, as well as an introduction by Dr. John Henrik Clarke, professor emeritus of Hunter College and the great paterfamilias of the Afrocentric movement.

Dr. Clarke has recently attacked multiculturalism as the product of what he called the « Jewish educational Mafia. » And while Dr. Leonard Jeffries’s views on supposed Jewish complicity in the subjection of blacks captured headlines, his intellectual cohorts such as Conrad Muhammad and Khallid Muhammad address community gatherings and college students across the country purveying a similar doctrine.

College speakers and publications have played a disturbing role in legitimating the new creed. Last year, U.C.L.A.’s black newspaper, Nommo, defended the importance of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious Czarist canard that portrays a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. (Those who took issue were rebuked with an article headlined: « Anti-Semitic? Ridiculous — Chill. »)

Speaking at Harvard University earlier this year, Conrad Muhammad, the New York representative of the Nation of Islam, neatly annexed environmentalism to anti-Semitism when he blamed the Jews for despoiling the environment and destroying the ozone layer.

But the bible of the new anti-Semitism is « The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, » an official publication of the Nation of Islam that boasts 1,275 footnotes in the course of 334 pages.

Sober and scholarly looking, it may well be one of the most influential books published in the black community in last 12 months. It is available in black-oriented shops in cities across the nation, even those that specialize in Kente cloth and beads rather than books. It can also can be ordered over the phone, by dialing 1-800-48-TRUTH. Meanwhile, the book’s conclusions are, in many circles, increasingly treated as damning historical fact.

The book, one of the most sophisticated instances of hate literature yet compiled, was prepared by the historical research department of the Nation of Islam. It charges that the Jews were « key operatives »in the historic crime of slavery, playing an « inordinate » and « disproportionate » role and « carv [ ing ] out for themselves a monumental culpability in slavery — and the black holocaust. » Among significant sectors of the black community, this brief has become a credo of a new philosophy of black self-affirmation.

To be sure, the book massively misrepresents the historical record, largely through a process of cunningly selective quotation of often reputable sources. But its authors could be confident that few of its readers would go to the trouble of actually hunting down the works cited. For if readers actually did so, they might discover a rather different picture.

They might find out — from the book’s own vaunted authorities — that, for example, of all the African slaves imported into the New World, American Jewish merchants accounted for less than 2 percent, a finding sharply at odds with the Nation’s of Islam’s claim of Jewish « predominance » in this traffic.

They might find out that in the domestic trade it appears that all of the Jewish slave traders combined bought and sold fewer slaves than the single gentile firm of Franklin and Armfield. In short, they might learn what the historian Harold Brackman has documented at length — that the book’s repeated insistence that the Jews dominated the slave trade depends on an unscrupulous distortion of the historic record. But the most ominous words in the book are found on the cover: « Volume One. » More have been promised, to carry on the saga of Jewish iniquity to the present day.

However shoddy the scholarship of works like « The Secret Relationship, » underlying it is something even more troubling: the tacit conviction that culpability is heritable. For it suggests a doctrine of racial continuity, in which the racial evil of a people is merely manifest (rather than constituted) by their historical misdeeds. The reported misdeeds are thus the signs of an essential nature that is evil.

How does this theology of guilt surface in our everyday moral discourse? In New York, earlier this spring, a forum was held at the Church of St. Paul and Andrew to provide an occasion for blacks and Jews to engage in dialogue on such issues as slavery and social injustice. Both Jewish and black panelists found common ground, and common causes. But a tone-setting contingent of blacks in the audience took strong issue with the proceedings. Outraged, they demanded to know why the Jews, those historic malefactors, had not apologized to the « descendants of African kings and queens. »

And so the organizer of the event, Melanie Kaye Kantrowitz, did. Her voice quavering with emotion, she said: « I think I speak for a lot of people in this room when I say ‘I’m sorry.’ We’re ashamed of it, we hate it, and that’s why we organized this event. »

Should the Melanie Kantrowitzes of the world, whose ancestors survived pogroms and, latterly, the Nazi Holocaust, be the primary object of our wrath? And what is yielded by this hateful sport of victimology, save the conversion of a tragic past into a game of recrimination? Perhaps that was on the mind of another audience member. « I don’t want an apology, » a dreadlocked woman told her angrily. « I want reparations. Forty acres and a mule, plus interest. »

These are times that try the spirit of liberal outreach. In fact, the Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, himself explained the real agenda behind his campaign, speaking before an audience of 15,000 at the University of Illinois last fall. The purpose of « The Secret Relationship, » he said, was to « rearrange a relationship » that « has been detrimental to us. »

« Rearrange » is a curiously elliptical term here: if a relation with another group has been detrimental, it only makes sense to sever it as quickly and unequivocally as possible. In short, by « rearrange, » he means to convert a relation of friendship, alliance and uplift into one of enmity, distrust and hatred.

But why target the Jews? Using the same historical methodology, after all, the researchers of the book could have produced a damning treatise on the involvement of left-handers in the « black holocaust. » The answer requires us to go beyond the usual shibboleths about bigotry and view the matter, from the demagogues’ perspective, strategically: as the bid of one black elite to supplant another.

It requires us, in short, to see anti-Semitism as a weapon in the raging battle of who will speak for black America — those who have sought common cause with others or those who preach a barricaded withdrawal into racial authenticity.

The strategy of these apostles of hate, I believe, is best understood as ethnic isolationism — they know that the more isolated black America becomes, the greater their power. And what’s the most efficient way to begin to sever black America from its allies? Bash the Jews, these demagogues apparently calculate, and you’re halfway there.

I myself think that the great French aphorist Rochefoucault put his finger on something germane when he observed, « We can rarely bring ourselves to forgive those who have helped us. » For sometimes it seems that the trajectory of black-Jewish relations is a protracted enactment of Rochefoucault’s paradox.

Many American Jews are puzzled by the recrudescence of black anti-Semitism, in view of the historic alliance between the two groups. The brutal truth has escaped them: that the new anti-Semitism arises not in spite of the black-Jewish alliance but because of that alliance.

For precisely such trans-ethnic, trans-racial cooperation — epitomized by the historic partnership between blacks and Jews — is what poses the greatest threat to the isolationist movement.

In short, for the tacticians of the new anti-Semitism, the original sin of American Jews was their involvement — truly « inordinate, » truly « disproportionate » — not in slavery, but in the front ranks of the civil rights struggle.

For decent and principled reasons, many black intellectuals are loath to criticize « oppositional » black leaders. Yet it has become increasingly apparent that to continue to maintain a comradely silence may be, in effect, to capitulate to the isolationist agenda, to betray our charge and trust. And, to be sure, many black writers, intellectuals, and religious leaders have taken an unequivocal stand on this issue.

Cornel West aptly describes black anti-Semitism as « the bitter fruit of a profound self-destructive impulse, nurtured on the vines of hopelessness and concealed by empty gestures of black unity. »

After 12 years of conservative indifference, those political figures who acquiesced, by malign neglect, to the deepening crisis of black America should not feign surprise that we should prove so vulnerable to the demagogues’ rousing messages of hate, their manipulation of the past and present.

Bigotry, as a tragic century has taught us, is an opportunistic infection, attacking most virulently when the body politic is in a weakened state. Yet neither should those who care about black America gloss over what cannot be condoned: that much respect we owe to ourselves. For surely it falls to all of us to recapture the basic insight that Dr. King so insistently expounded. « We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, » he told us. « Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. » How easy to forget this — and how vital to remember.

One Response to Barack Obama: Rattrapé par son passé de compagnon de route de la haine raciale (Fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay)

  1. […] Je sers d’écran blanc sur lequel les gens de couleurs politiques les plus différentes peuvent projeter leurs propres vues. Barack Obama […]

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