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Books: Indignant Sanity

3 minute read
Lance Morrow

Anyone who thinks about the trouble between blacks and whites in America encounters a secondary division, almost as old. This is the line between what might be called the Externalists and the Internalists.

Externalists, who tend toward the political left, say that America’s racial problems are to be addressed through outside interventions (affirmative action, busing and other government programs to repair the damage of the past and enforce racial justice). Internalists, who are apt to be conservative, stress solutions that require efforts from the inside: education, hard work, self-motivation, morale, bourgeois values, deferred gratification, the old immigrant virtues (turn off the TV, shut down the gangsta rap).

David Horowitz–the onetime ’60s radical and ally of the Black Panthers who eventually went through a Whittaker Chambers-like conversion that he documented in a memoir, Radical Son (1997)–is a bracing, abrasive Internalist. In Hating Whitey (Spence Publishing; 300 pages; $24.95), Horowitz lays out a vigorous case against what he sees as the failures of a once impressive civil rights leadership. Powerful black figures like Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond, says Horowitz, have morally abdicated. They have, he says, left the articulation of the African-American case to black racists and demagogues (Louis Farrakhan, for example) and to intellectual mediocrities whom the culture at large witlessly honors. Identity politics, policed by nearly fascist standards of correctness, combines with a certain chic and with residual but tenured Marxism (which flourishes in some American universities the way ex-Nazis once prospered in Paraguay) to corrupt–to prevent–the exchange of ideas.

The Externalist case, whose origins are noble enough, undergoes chemical change and becomes mere black racism and inchoate hatred–an intoxicating but evanescent luxury, like a cocaine high. Activism hardens into chronic, unappeasable grievance. As Horowitz says, “The phantom of institutional racism allows black leaders to avoid the encounter with real problems within their own communities, which are neither caused by whites nor soluble by the actions of whites, but which cry out for attention.”

Horowitz is as much despised among Externalists as Chambers was at Georgetown dinner parties during the Alger Hiss case years ago. Among racial intellectuals, Horowitz is “Not Our Class, Dear.” Hating Whitey–with its inflammatory title–deserves a reading. Horowitz is angry and polemical, but he is also a clear and ruthless thinker. What he says has an indignant sanity about it. For cautionary perspective in an argument like this, it pays to remember that Hiss was guilty and Chambers was right.

–By Lance Morrow

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