Pariah: Nice Work if You Can Get It

July 30, 1995|By ISHMAEL REED

It was revealed recently that the suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing, Irish-American Timothy McVeigh, may have been inspired by an anti-Semitic book, "The Turner Dairies," by William Pierce. Apparently, a number of militia members profess anti-Semitic beliefs, and Michael Lind, writing in the New York Review of Books, traced some theories in Pat Robertson's book, "The New World Order," to anti-Semitic sources. Pat Robertson is a Republican power broker who has been credited with sending some of his followers to Congress. In a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal, some American Jews recounted anti-Semitic incidents that are occurring throughout the country and wondered aloud whether they are still part of the American mainstream.

In view of this trend, I'm wondering whether the New York Times still believes that "anti-Semitism is generally on the wane, but on the rise in the black community," as Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in an Op-Ed article in that paper.

Mr. Gates, who is black, based his conclusion upon a poll that he admitted to me he hadn't read, and cited the pronouncements of a few Afrocentrists to support his claim. In my most recent book, "Airing Dirty Laundry," I challenged his facts by citing a poll that was published by the Anti-Defamation League and which appeared about the same time as his article. It clearly showed that anti-Semitism among blacks had been on the decline since 1964 and that, contrary to what he said, anti-Semitism was "generally" on the rise.

When I met Mr. Gates in Boston, he was clearly upset by my criticism, and characterized himself as someone who is despised by segments of the black community. For his article, which I believe did damage to black Americans, Mr. Gates received the Peabody Award.

Casting oneself as an ethnic pariah seems to be a sure way to be accepted by an establishment that rewards blacks whose views are closely aligned with the mood of the times.

Affirmative action beneficiary Ward Connerly boosted Pete Wilson's desperate presidential ambitions by bringing before the board of regents a resolution that would abolish so-called "race preferences" at the University of California. Afterward, Mr. Connerly said that "this has been a long, painful and lonely journey for me. And my detractors have often been unkind."

I'm not the kind of person who goes around feeling sorry for millionaires, especially one who would most likely receive a Cabinet post in a Wilson administration.

I supported Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination after it became obvious that he was being denied due process by feminists who use black males as guinea pigs to test their theories, but I'm really getting tired of the self-pitying speeches he's made since he has taken his seat. He portrays himself as another ethnic pariah, although a recent poll revealed that his support in the black community had risen to 40 percent.

On the day that Christopher A. Darden, another pariah, accused Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. of making things difficult for his family by bringing up race in the O. J. Simpson case (ironic because Mr. Darden is obviously being used to ask questions of witnesses that white prosecutors would seem racist for asking), three white correspondents, from ABC, NBC and the New Yorker, held what amounted to a tribute to Chris Darden on the Larry King show. Mr. Darden, because of his courage, could wind up being labeled an Uncle Tom by other blacks, the New Yorker correspondent explained.

Ron Shipp, during his network appearance, complained about passing motorists yelling, "Hey, sellout!" because he talked as a prosecution witness about O. J. Simpon's dreams. Mr. Shipp is another profile in courage.

But the ethnic pariah game is not limited to blacks. Hispanic writer Richard Rodriguez has become an ethnic pariah because of his opposition to affirmative action. Mr. Rodriguez, to his credit, never complains about his pariah status. He and ethnic pariah Linda Chavez of the right-wing Manhattan Institute have more visibility than all of the other Hispanic intellectuals combined. This points to the timidity of the media and an intellectual establishment that feels comfortable with certain views from the minority community and promotes them.

The discussion of America's social issues could use some fresh points of view, and by only playing their favorites the media are depriving us of them.

Ishmael Reed is a novelist, essayist and poet who lives in Oakland, Calif.

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