African American Racism in the Academic
Barry Mehler, "African American Racism in the
Academic Community." First published in The Review of Education
15 # 3/4 (Fall 1993). Revised and republished as "Addressing the
Problem of African-American Racism in Academia," in Martyrdom
and Resistance (Nov.-Dec. 1993). Slightly revised for posting.
"Nobody wants to talk about what the Jews
did. They are always talking about what Hitler did to the
Jews, but what did the Jews do to Hitler? That question is
never asked or answered." (1)
Khallid Abdul Muhammad
National spokesperson for Louis Farrakhan's
Nation of Islam (NOI)
In a conference on the African "Holocaust" (i.e.
slave trade), organized by NOI, Khallid Muhammad, Farrakhan's
national spokesman, "hammered away at the Jews.... Nobody wants
to talk about what the Jews did," he said, "They are always talking
about what Hitler did to the Jews, but what did the Jews do to
Hitler? That question is never asked or answered." (2)
Farrakhan and Muhammad are willing to ask that question and they
have an answer. The "so-called" Jews were really the aggressors,
attacking Hitler and threatening Germany. Hitler was merely defending
himself and his nation. What happened to the Jews was the will
of Allah against a people practicing "a dirty religion" based
on exploitation. (3) These
classic expressions of anti-Semitism should surprise no one. What
is surprising and disturbing is the extent to which such ideas
are being promoted on American campuses and how little effort
is being made to combat them.
The African American community has always had
small groups of nationalists and separatist such as Martin Delany
(1812-1885) and Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), but never has extreme
nationalism, anti-Semitism, and Black supremacy been accorded
such a sympathetic hearing in academic circles as it is today.
The Leonard Jeffries controversy at City College of New York along
with the riots in Crown Heights in August 1991 brought the issue
to the front pages of American newspapers and magazines. (4)
Despite the publicity there is little understanding
of the network of Black nationalist scholars on campuses across
America propounding a racial nationalist world view. While Jeffries
is currently the most notorious, he is not a key theorist of the
movement. This article is an attempt to examine the racial nationalist
network within the African American academic community and assess
Before we begin our examination of racism in the
African American academic community it must be stated clearly
that the major victims of racism in America have been people of
color, particularly people of African descent. Anyone concerned
with racism in America must be primarily concerned with the impact
of white racism on people of color. Furthermore, the motivation
to understand and combat prejudice in the African American community
must not be taken as an attack on the Black community or on the
civil rights movement. Racism must be fought in all of its manifestation
because it is ultimately extremely self-destructive. Those who
fight white racism do not hate white people. Adolf Hitler was
an enemy of the German people, not their savior. Ultimately, racism
undermines a communities strength and makes real solutions extremely
difficult to attain. In America, racism in the African American
community harms the civil rights movement.
Since the problem of racism in America is primarily
white racism, activists in civil rights organizations have tended
to ignore manifestations of racism in the Black community, dismissing
it as of little consequence. For the past twenty years my own
study of academic racism has been a study of white racism. The
main body of my own research concerns academic theories of racial
inferiority. My specialty is biological determinism and the eugenics
movement in the United States. All of my writing to date has focused
on white racism. I knew that prejudice existed within the African
American community, but I assumed it was insignificant both in
terms of its impact on the Black community and in its impact on
society as a whole.
Then, in April 1990, the New York Times
carried a story on two professors at City College whose racial
theories were causing turmoil. One, Leonard Jeffries, chair of
the Black Studies Program, had been preaching Black superiority
theories. The Times quoted Jeffries as saying that "rich
Jews" financed the slave trade. He was also alleged to have made
disparaging remarks about Jews in his classroom. The other, Michael
Levin, a philosophy professor, had joined the growing ranks of
American academics who are arguing that Blacks are, on average,
less intelligent than whites.
As a result of the New York Times article,
I was invited to New York to discuss the rising tide of academic
racism on the Jane Wallace Show - a syndicated cable network
program. While the turmoil at City College involved two professors
- one white, the other black - the producers of the show only
wanted to deal with white racism. They invited Michael Levin and
J. Phillipe Rushton, the University of Western Ontario professor
who argues that Blacks have smaller brains and larger genitals
than Asians and whites. He claims they are the least evolved of
all human races.
When I arrived for the taping I was introduced
to Clarence Glover, Adjunct Professor of African-American Studies
and Director of Minority Affairs at Southern Methodist University
who had been invited to join the debate. Mr. Glover had apparently
been contacted at the last minute and was not aware of the recent
controversy. He asked me to fill him in.
I pulled out a copy of the New York Times
article which contained pictures of the two professors. Pointing
to Michael Levin, I said, "he is a white racist who believes that
on average people of African descent are intellectually inferior
to whites." Pointing to Jeffries, I said, "and he is a Black racist..."
Before I could say another word, Mr. Glover interrupted to explain
to me that only whites can be racists. "Racism involves having
the power to carry out systematic discriminatory practices through
major institutions. Only whites have such power. Therefore only
whites can be racist."
"But look at the kinds of things he says,"
I declared. "He calls whites `ice people' born cold and greedy
while Blacks are `sun people,' born warm and humanistic."
That didn't phase professor Glover either.
"That's not necessarily racist. All he is
saying is that environment influences evolutionary development."
Pressing the issue, I went on:
But he believes that Blacks are biologically
superior to whites and that the cause of this superiority
is the skin pigment melanin.
Professor Glover told me he had recently attended
the Fourth Annual World Melanin Conference and began an impromptu
lecture on the nature of melanin and its effect on physical and
mental performance. He said that melanin was responsible
for superior performance in Blacks in a number of areas. He handed
me several Xerox pages of notes. According to professor Glover's
Melanin, a dark pigmented chemical substance
produced in human cells, is found most abundantly in the skin,
hair, eyes and substantia nigra (in the mid-brain). The substantia
nigra (black substance) serves as a catalytic agent in igniting
starter impulses which facilitate "the rapid and exact movement
of specific muscle groups." It is found also, in internal
organs and muscles. Now it looms as a factor in black expressive
behavior... [and] in the regulation of some aspects of human
behavior.... Melanin... appears to noticeably determine the
quality of black expressive behavior, of soul.
Melanin, according to the literature Glover handed
me "is quite fundamental to the stuff that constitutes the very
essence of biological life..." According to Dr. Leon Edelstein,
associate professor of dermatology and pathology at the University
of California Medical School, an abundance of Melanin produces
a superior human being, both mentally and physically. Melanin
is "at the very essence of life" (sic!).
I had never heard of these theories before, but
once I was acquainted with them I began to notice their circulation
within the African American community. For example, in 1990 Essence
magazine, a widely circulated popular black magazine carried
an article on the "Mysteries of Melanin." Citing Frances Cress
Welsing, author of The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation
The quality of whiteness is a genetic
inadequacy or a relative genetic-deficiency state or disease
upon the genetic inability to produce the skin pigments of
melanin which are responsible for all skin coloration... (sic!)
The... psychological reaction of whites
has been directed toward all people with the capacity to produce
the melanin skin pigments. However, the most profound aggressions
have been directed toward the Black, `nonwhite' peoples who
have the greatest potential and therefore are the most envied
and the most feared in genetic competition.
The article also cited Carol Barnes, a "noted
melanin researcher" who urges that these ideas be promoted "to
raise Black self-esteem." Carol Barnes is the author of Melanin:
The Chemical Key to Black Greatness," it is privately published
and distributed through Black specialty book stores. While none
of the sources for this theory meet even minimal academic standards,
they manage to receive a respectful airing in the Black community.
In fact, a good deal of black extremist literature
is published without ISBN numbers or other standard publication
information. The material is distributed through Lushena Books,
a wholesale distribution network which specializes in African-American,
Afro-Caribbean, and African books, records, videos, and cassettes.
Their 1991 catalogue contains some two thousand titles. Often
there is no publication information at all. This is particularly
true of the most racist and inflammatory of the materials.
It is through Lushena Press that Black bookstores
stock the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and other explicitly
anti-Semitic materials. Ironically, these materials are published
by Angriff Press, a neo-Nazi organization whose titles include
Henry Ford's "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem,"
and "The Palestine Plot," a 1948 volume which purports to show
the link between Zionism, Communism, and Jewish bankers.
When I returned from New York, I began discussing
these issues with Mr. Raymond Gant, the Director of our Minority
Affairs program at Ferris State University. I had worked closely
with Mr. Gant since coming to Ferris. To my surprise, Mr. Gant
was quite familiar with the ultra-nationalist literature. The
Minority Affairs Office maintains a small library for students
and faculty. He went to these shelves and began to gather material
for me to read. These materials included a magazine, The Alkebulanian,
a two hour tape, "The African Origins of Judeo-Christianity,"
by Ashra Kwesi, and a tape of Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan speaking
at Grand Valley State College in Grand Rapids in February 1990.
Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan (usually called simply Dr. Ben) had been
invited to our campus as a guest speaker for our annual Martin
Luther King, Jr. celebration in 1990.
Mr. Gant asked me to review the materials and
tell him what I thought. The Alkebulanian claimed
that the Jewish Talmud was written by "racist dogs" and that the
Holocaust was used by the Jews as a means of tricking black people
into forgetting that it was the Jews who were responsible for
the African Holocaust (the slave trade). The magazine further
contended that the AIDS virus was manufactured by white scientists
as a means of genocide against African people and was injected
into African people as part of a program to inoculate Africans
against smallpox. During his talk at Grand Valley State College
Dr. Ben ridiculed Nelson Mandela and disparaged the African National
Congress's call for "one person, one vote." He supported the call
for "one settler, one bullet."
I explained to Mr. Gant that in my view the material
was virulently racist, anti-white, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian.
I also made it clear that I thought the material inappropriate
for the Minority Office reading rack. What I didn't know at the
time was how widely respected and influential Dr. Ben had become
among academic Black nationalist. He is considered a founding
father of the "Nile Valley School," and is revered as an internationally
Dr. Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan
As his name implies, Dr. Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan
claims to be of Jewish descent, although he disparages Judaism
and denies that European "crackers" are really Jews. He is a part
of the Black "Identity" movement which contends that white Jews
are actually imposters. Dr. Ben's Alkebulanian magazine
claims that the "so-called" Jews "have learned to manipulate and
control the Mind of the World (sic!), by colonizing the information
of, in, and about the world."
According to a biography published in The Alkebulanian,
Dr. Ben has studied in Brazil, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico,
and Spain. He holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and another
in Moorish history as well as an L.L.B. law degree. He also claims
to be an architect. From 1945 to 1970, Dr. Ben was the Chief of
the African Desk of the United Nations Educational Scientific
Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He has taught at Al Azar University
in Cairo, Egypt and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He
is chairman of the Alkebu-Lan Foundation which publishes The
Alkebulanian. The Alkebu-Lan Foundation also published most
of Dr. Ben's 28 works as well as other "educational materials."
They run tours of Egypt and seminars on Africa.
In a cover article in The New Republic
on the Afrocentric school, Dr. Ben is cited as one of the founders
of the movement by Mary Lefokowitz, Mellon Professor of Humanities
at Wellesley College. I do not wish to discredit the entire Afrocentric
school, I study extremism and I do not believe Martin Bernal,
for example, is an extremist. Nor do I believe that Dr. Ben's
extremist views are characteristic of the Afrocentric school as
a whole, although they are shared by some in the movement. However,
there is a strain within the Afrocentric school which claims that
"white scholars" have "attempted to cover up the Black presence"
in history "in a conspiracy to rob" them of their "rich and glorious"
past. Obviously, until recently, white scholars have ignored the
history of all minority peoples, although one must note that this
is changing and that many white historians have been pioneers
in the study of African American history.
The ultra-nationalist scholars have clearly emerged
from obscurity in the past decade. The New Republic, Newsweek,
and Time, for example have all carried lead articles on
the emerging academic debate over Afrocentrism which included
references to extremist. The highly regarded journal, Black
Issues in Higher Education carried a lead article entitled,
"Nile Valley Scholars Bring New Light and Controversy to African
Studies" which cites the work of Ben-Jochannan and John Henrik
Clarke as among those who "have set about the arduous task of
telling the truth..."
John Henrik Clarke
Dr. Ben's closest associate is John Henrik Clarke,
Professor Emeritus of African World History at Hunter College
in New York and editor of Malcolm X: The Man and His Time.
According to Clarke:
African people have been manipulated into
agreeing with everything white, from a white Jesus to white
bread. "A mere handful of people utilized the word `Holocaust'
and made the entire world weep for them making Black people
forget that it was this same handful who participated in the
African holocaust (the existence of Alkebulanian/African enslavement).
Clarke has vigorously defended Jeffries who "said
nothing he cannot document." He has been equally vigorous in his
condemnation of mainstream Black intellectuals such as Henry Louis
Gates Jr., of Harvard and Cornel West of Yale whom he has called
"enemies of their people" and "avid white behind kissers who do
not have the nerve to be African or Black."
Clarke also wrote an introductions to Michael
Bradley's The Iceman Inheritance, a kind of Protocols for
the white race. Bradley states his thesis simply enough: "This
is a racist book." Racism is the "predisposition of but one race...
the white race." According to Bradley "the problem with the world
is white men" and the problem with white men is biological. Clarke
praises Bradley for his "bold admissions and revelations" about
the European's attempts to dominate the world through racism.
The book is a cornerstone of the thesis repeated by many of the
extremist that the problem with the world is white men. The solution
to the problem is a world without white men.
Ashra Kwesi, a student of Dr. Ben, is another
prominent spokesman for the racial nationalists. Kwesi is closely
associated with the Alkebu-Lan Foundation. He participates both
in their seminar programs and in their tours of Egypt. Kwesi is
the director of Kemet Nu Productions in Los Angles, California.
Kemet Nu Productions distributes two long tapes of slide lectures
by Kwesi - "The African Origins of Civilization," and "The African
Origins of Judeo-Christianity."
Kwesi believes that white's are by nature violent,
destructive, and sexually perverse. The tapes are peppered with
such terms as "the faggot Pope," and "faggot America." Kwesi claims
that white European's stole the humane religious monotheism of
ancient Egypt and perverted it. He refers to the European Jews
as the "so-called Jews." The tape contains a long, bitter, and
vulgar attack on Christianity and ends with a prophetic vision
of world without white people. Kwesi contends that white men fear
the superiority of dark skinned people for they realize that they
are destined to extinction. It is this fear that motivates them
to attempts of genocide against Black people. After viewing the
tape, Leonard Jeffries commented, "This is the most powerful slide
presentation I have seen, Ashra Kwesi has really brought our history
To my surprise, Mr. Gant, our Minority Affairs
Officer, did not seem to understand my concerns regarding the
materials and was initially unwilling to remove them from the
shelves. It took a year of discussion and debate before the issue
was settled. Fortunately, I found allies among African American
scholars all across campus as well as from the administration.
But, when I began to send copies of the materials
with requests for more information to the major civil rights organizations
in the United States including the Southern Poverty Law Center,
the Anti-Defamation League, the Center for Democratic Renewal,
the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, I was surprised to learn that they
had little or no information on Dr. Ben, Ashra Kwesi, or the academic
I even found some moderate civil rights leaders
annoyed that I was concerned about the issue. Joann Watson, Director
of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, was mildly hostile. She is
quite influential in civil rights circles. She is not only the
director of the largest branch office of the NAACP, but she chairs
the YWCA Committee on Race Relations, and is on the board of the
Center for Democratic Renewal. I had hoped that she would support
my efforts to oppose the distribution of blatantly racist materials
on my campus. When I wrote to her asking for information about
Dr. Ben and The Alkebulanian - both located in Detroit,
I got a lecture on the "unprecedented level of organizing by white
supremacist organizations" on college campuses.
I quickly wrote Ms. Watson back. "Please understand
that I appreciate your point regarding the `unprecedented level
of organizing by white supremacist organizations.'... But that
is not the issue I am dealing with here and I was hoping for some
help from you." I cited my record of civil rights related work
and explained once again and in greater detail the problem I was
confronting. I explained that Mr. Gant was offering these materials
to our students and in 1990 brought Dr. Ben to our campus as a
guest speaker. I also explained that I had discovered that Mr.
Kwesi "is a regular lecturer on the college campus circuit. Mr.
Kwesi sent me his promotional material which lists campuses across
the country in which he has spoken. They included, Stanford, UCLA,
The University of Illinois, and the University of Texas.
I had called Patsy Julius, the Program Director
for the Student Union at The University of Texas at Austin and
she enthusiastically recommended Kwesi to me as a campus lecturer.
I specifically asked her about his use of terms such as "faggot
America" and "faggot Pope." Oh yes, she replied, he is quite "controversial"
but he is also "quite personable" and was always willing to "dialogue"
with students who object to his terminology. She concluded that
Mr. Kwesi was an excellent campus speaker who instilled pride
in African American students. Certainly, if virulent racists were
to be called upon to help instill pride in Black students, civil
rights leaders had to speak out - both for the sake of the students
and the civil rights movement.
I concluded this letter with another appeal for
help. I told Ms. Watson, that I was not criticizing her or the
NAACP for not focusing their energies on racism in the Black community,
but this was an issue which demanded attention.
On my campus, students are reading that the
Talmud was written by `racist dogs.' Last year the leading
intellectual of this publication was an invited speaker. The
material is directed specifically at minority students....
It is in this context that I seek your views on this subject.
In response I got another lecture on the dangers
of white racism. Not only did she ignore my plea for help, but
she took offense at my letter. She seemed to think that I was
challenging the NAACP's integrity.
Thankfully, when I turned to faculty, administrators
and friends on campus I found strong support from both Black and
white colleagues. Dr. Phillip Middleton, an African American professor
of African Literature forthrightly condemned the material. Dr.
Middleton has taught extensively in Africa and is a specialist
in African and African-American literature. He agreed to meet
with Mr. Gant and myself to discuss the issues. In that meeting,
Dr. Middleton pointed out that our students know little of Africa.
He asked what value it was to fill such emptiness with The
Alkebulanian when you could better subscribe to Africa
Now, a scholarly non-racist magazine.
While I won that struggle, the problem continued.
The next year in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, our
student chapter of the NAACP invited Rasul Muhammad, the State
Representative of the Nation of Islam to campus. Once again I
called the Minority Affairs office to discuss the matter. I spoke
with Terri Houston, Assistant Director of Minority Affairs. I
told her that I thought it was inappropriate to bring a speaker
from the Nation of Islam to speak in honor of the memory of Martin
Luther King Jr.. She answered, "I couldn't disagree with you more."
The point is not that these people are themselves racist or anti-Semites,
but clearly black academic racism and anti-Semitism is not perceived
as problematic, dangerous, or particularly offensive, even by
academics employed to deal with minority issues.
By the end of my year of discussions with faculty,
administration, colleagues, and civil rights leaders, I was convinced
that this was an issue which needed more investigation and more
attention. One of the things that struck me was how widespread
I was finding the materials and yet how ignorant everyone outside
the network of ultra-nationalists seemed to be. In March of 1992,
I was invited to McGill University to keynote a conference on
academic racism organized by the Canadian Center on Racism and
Prejudice. When I got to Montreal I found that Dr. Ben had just
left. He had been invited by the Black Students Network of McGill
to keynote the Black History Month celebrations.
While Dr. Ben was clearly well known to Black
students and academics, I found experts in the field had never
heard of him. In soliciting a professional opinion with regard
to Dr. Ben, Ashra Kwesi, and The Alkebulanian. I wrote
to Dr. Ernest N. McCarus, Director of the Center for Near Eastern
and North African Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann
Arbor. Dr. McCarus replied, "No one at the Center is familiar
with the magazine Alkebulanian or the lecturer Ashra Kwesi
that you mention." Dr. McCarus referred me to Charles Krahmalkov,
their expert on ancient Egypt. Dr. Krahmalkov is a Full Professor
in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. Dr. Ben is touted as
a world famous expert on ancient Egypt, yet Krahmalkov had never
heard of Dr. Josef Ben-Jochannan or The Alkebulanian. After
reading a few passages from the magazine, he commented, "this
is really outrageous. You are obviously dealing with a racist
and a charlatan." After calling Krahmalkov, I called Professor
James Anderson, an African American scholar and historian of American
education at the University of Illinois. I studied under Professor
Anderson at the University of Illinois in an NIMH funded program
on Institutional racism. He, too, knew nothing of any of these
The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and
In 1991, the "Historical Research Department of
The Nation of Islam published a book, The Secret Relationship
Between Blacks and Jews. The thesis of the book is that the
Jews were principally responsible for the Atlantic slave trade
and American slavery from the colonial period through the Civil
The book is meticulously, almost lovingly, researched
and heavily footnoted. There is no question that the anonymous
researchers who produced this book have scoured Jewish literature.
As one who reads racist material for a living, this 334 page book
appears to be an dazzling addition to the annals of anti-Semitic
literature. I am sure that its influence and circulation will
be impressive and long lasting.
It's publication was greeted with national controversy
when rap idol, "Ice Cube" publicly endorsed the book. Bill Adler,
a Jewish promoter and defender of rap music responded immediately.
"I think the book and Ice Cube's endorsement of it are indefensible,"
he told the press," I work in the hiphop community, and he's of
particular concern to me because he's so popular and influential."
Adler arranged to have Harold Brackman, a California based scholar,
write a rebuttal to the book.
Brackman's refutation, with an afterword by Cornel
West, a prominent African-American professor at Princeton, is
scholarly and restrained. He demonstrates the overall absurdities
of the book as well as it many errors of fact; its reliance on
well-known anti-Semitic literature; and its biased use of selected
materials from Jewish authors. A good short refutation of the
book's argument is Saul Friedman's "An Old/New Libel: Jews in
the Slave Trade," which appeared in Midstream in October
1991. None of the refutations thus far have pointed out the absurdity
of the Black Muslims stressing the Jewish role in the slave trade.
After all "Africa's slave trade to the Islamic world began centuries
before the Atlantic slave trade and lasted somewhat longer, in
some places into the twentieth century."
Black academics have come forward to condemn the
book. Most prominent among them has been Henry Louis Gates Jr.,
who called the book, "the bible of the new anti-Semitism."
Sober and scholarly looking, it may be one
of the most influential books published in the black community
in the 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.
In the afterword to Brackman's pamphlet, Cornel
The vicious murder of Yankel Rosenbaum in
Crown Heights this summer bore chilling testimony to a growing
black anti-Semitism in this country...
In our present moment, when neo-Nazi like
David Duke can win 55 percent of the white vote (and 69 percent
of the white "born-again" vote) in Louisiana, it may seem
misguided to highlight anti-Semitic behavior of black people
- the exemplary targets of racial hatred in America. Yet I
suggest that this focus is crucial precisely because we black
folk have been in the forefront of the struggle against racism.
If these efforts fall prey to anti-Semitism, the principled
attempt to combat racism forfeits much of its moral credibility
- and we all lose.
As was expected the book quickly found its way
onto college campuses. It is currently being used at Wellesley
by professor Anthony "Tony" Martin, a member of the Africana Studies
Department for his introductory class on African American history.
Selwyn Cudjgoe, chair of the Africana Studies Department opposed
using the book saying it was "offensive to blacks and Jews alike,
who find it more a prosecutor's brief (outlining the calumnies
of the Jews as Jews) rather than a scholarly attempt to examine
the role of individual Jews in the slave trade..."
The University president issued a statement saying
we, "respect Professor Martin's rights through academic freedom
to put this book on his syllabus and teach it in his class. We
owe it to him to tolerate his choice. However, we owe it to ourselves
and to our community to know exactly what it is that we are tolerating."
Cornel West argued that the growing acceptance
of anti-Semitism in the African-American community represents
"the bitter fruit of a profound self-destructive impulse, nurtured
on the vines of hopelessness..." For me, the self-destructive
character racism is one of its most extraordinary characteristics.
At the same conference in which Khallid Muhammad
accused the Jews of attacking Hitler, "biochemist Jack Felder"
spoke. He is the author of the theory that AIDS is part of the
campaign of genocide against Black people. According to these
Black ultra-nationalists, the Jews are waging a campaign of genocide
against African peoples the world over. Everything is seen in
conspiratorial terms - drugs in the ghetto, violence, AIDS, etc.
Everything is part of a genocidal war being waged by white people
- all white people. This view has led for calls to avoid white
doctors. Dr. Ben's Alkebulanian put it most starkly:
If you have small children you should think
twice about letting them receive vaccination shots especially
in public hospitals in Black neighborhoods and from white
doctors. Remember that white people tricked 50-75 million
Africans into receiving smallpox vaccinations that have been
infected with the AIDS Virus. Rest assured that what they
did in Africa they are doing right here in the U.S.
It hardly needs to be mentioned that there is
a rampant epidemic of preventable childhood disease in the poverty
stricken black ghettos of America. It is the height of folly to
tell Black mothers not to bring their children to public hospitals
for vaccination shots.
But the dangers of this kind of racism is much
broader and less obvious than the above example would imply. The
Black racist are embraced by the white racist. They feed off of
each other and encourage each other. They also influence the most
talented young Blacks in American colleges, encouraging their
alienation. The message they sell is that there is no solution
to racism. Blacks and whites will never be able to live together
in harmony. Dr. Ben also expressed disdain for college education.
He compared a Ph.D. to training a "seal to bark." Generally, the
point made over and over in the literature is that everything
one hears from white professors are lies. Such ideas will not
help Black students graduate, rather they will exacerbate racial
tensions on campus. Clearly, civil rights leaders and academics
need to respond vigorously to this challenge.
First, more research needs to be done on the network.
We need to understand the range of ideas being propounded. Some
of the extremist hark back to Egyptian religion and culture, others
claim that people of West African descent are the true Jews, while
still others embrace Islam. We also need to appreciate the broader
dimensions of their ideology. The State Historical Society in
Madison, Wisconsin is currently gathering a collection of this
type of material. We need to have such special collections to
facilitate scholarship on the phenomenon.
Second, there is an apocalyptic element to the
movement which has a vision of a world without white people. There
is also a strong anti-Christian element to the movement. Whites
and Christians do not respond to insults and attacks in the same
way that Jews and other minorities do. The Jewish community is
very sensitive and responsive when anti-Semitic rhetoric is voiced
publicly, but I found the local Catholic church completely uninterested.
Catholics and whites simply ignore slurs. No doubt because they
don't feel threatened by them. I think this is a mistake. When
a minority affairs office or a Black studies professor makes derogatory
remarks about any group, anti-racist academics must object. We
should not turn a deaf ear to lectures which refer to the "faggot
Pope" even if the local Catholic church chooses to ignore the
Third, there needs to be at least some civil rights
effort aimed at combating this movement. We need educational literature
which addresses the problem and offers advice on how to respond
when extremist literature, professors, or speakers are on campus.
I believe every civil rights organization should devote some energy
to combating the growing racism within the Black community. At
the present time, people like Ashra Kwesi can lecture on virtually
any campus in the nation without any administration or faculty
response. We need to respond.
1. "Muslims and Afrocentrics speak out at African
Holocaust event" Amsterdam News (12/28/91) pp. 3 continued
on p. 30. The quote is on p. 30.
2. "Muslims and Afrocentrics speak out," p. 30.
The conference was held in 22 December 1991 in Brooklyn, New York.
3. "Transcript of Mohammad's November 9 Speech,"
Barnard Bulletin (11/23/92) p. 13. The entire speech was
published in three issues of the Barnard Bulletin (11/23/92)
pp. 12-13; (12/7/92) pp. 14-16; (12/14/92) pp. 10-17.
4. Joseph Berger, "Professors' Theories on Race
Stir Turmoil at City College," New York Times (20 April
1990) p. B1 & B4; "Why the Delay on Dr. Jeffries?" NYT
editorial (30 October 1991); Mervyn Rothstein, "CUNY Vote on Jeffries
Pleases Few: Cuomo and Scholar Assail Probation," NYT (30
October 1991) p. B1 & B4; Samuel Weiss, "Outraged CUNY Officials
Weigh Action on Professor," (9 August 1991) p. B3; A. M. Rosenthal,
"This Ugly Echo," NYT (13 August 1991) p. A17; "Professor
Shouldn't Be Dismissed for Views," NYT
letters (20 August 1991) p. A26); Jay Hershenson (Vice
Chancellor of CUNY), "City University Wanted to Continue Reviewing
Jeffries Case," NYT letters (14 November 1991); "Professor's
Racial Theories Fall Wide of the Mark," NYT
letters (3 September 1991); "Watching Dr. Jeffries
Self-Destruct," NYT (25 August 1991); Jerry Gray, "Educators
Blamed for Race Remarks: CUNY Panel Decides Against Any Disciplinary
Actions," NYT (24 March 1991)
p. 34; Steven Lee Myers, "500 Rally to Support Controversial CUNY
Professor," NYT (12 August 1991) p. B3; Jason De Parle,
"For Some Blacks Social Ills Seem to Follow White Plans," Sunday
Weekly Review NYT (11 August 1991); Jewish Telegraphic
Agency, "Organizations Decry CUNY Decision," Detroit Jewish
News (29 November 1991); "Lesson in Hate: Supporters of anti-Semitic
prof threaten Jews and Post," front page New York Post
(9 August 1991).