Jim Crow reincarnated as James Crow, Esquire

February 21, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Is Black History Month still needed? With characters like Dinesh D'Souza running around, you're danged skippy it is.

D'Souza's parents emigrated to the United States from India when he was a teen-ager. He attended Dartmouth College, where he edited the conservative campus newspaper the Dartmouth Review. Then he graduated and now devotes himself to his true calling: writing tendentious books to pester and annoy Negroes.

His latest work is "The End of Racism." But believe me, this guy -- and the folks at the American Enterprise Institute, where D'Souza is a fellow -- don't want to end racism as much as recycle it. They don't want a return to Jim Crow, per se. But they might settle for a system of James Crow, Esquire.

For those who charge that I am being too harsh, it's D'Souza who postulates the idea of "rational discrimination." Whites use it when they assume black males will rob them, since black males commit most armed robberies. But rational racism can work both ways. When blacks encounter whites, we can -- using rational discrimination -- assume they might be ready to assault us (whites lead in arrests for aggravated assault) or are drunken drivers or drug users.

But it's not D'Souza's racial attitudes that are most offensive. After all, blacks have heard this "rational discrimination" illogic ZTC before. D'Souza's greatest sin is the way he muddles his way through African-American history -- distorting it, rewriting it and misinterpreting it. Specifically, he commits four flagrant errors:

* D'Souza gives Martin Luther King Jr. too much credit for ending segregation. For example, he contends that "it was Martin Luther King Jr. who made possible the great victories of the civil rights movement: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968." Dartmouth, evidently, offers no courses in Black History 101. If the school did and D'Souza had taken it, he would know the credit should go to a number of leaders and organizations, but most specifically to Baltimore's Clarence Mitchell Jr., the NAACP lobbyist who cajoled congressmen into passing the legislation.

In another passage, D'Souza refers to the 1963 March on Washington as King's march. Wrong again. The idea was A. Phillip Randolph's, and the logistics were carried out by Bayard Rustin. D'Souza might want to read James Farmer's autobiography, "Lay Bare the Heart," which has all this information.

* Slavery was not a racist institution, D'Souza contends. Since Indians and other blacks owned slaves, the institution couldn't have been racist, D'Souza says, using those Dartmouth reasoning powers again. But since over time American slavery was confined to one racial group -- and racist arguments postulated to support the institution -- D'Souza's argument shrivels into asininity. It might hold water if he could cite a group of blacks or Indians who held white slaves on even a moderate scale, but he can't. (Oddly enough, D'Souza confesses that many of the black slave owners were of mixed race, but he has no qualms about classifying them as black. He tries to debunk Afrocentrist claims that ancient Egypt was a black civilization by calling ancient Egyptians "multiracial." So mixed-race folks who commit negative acts are black and those who build civilizations are not. And people wonder why I'm against intermarriage.)

* D'Souza brazenly asserts that segregation was instituted by Southern conservatives to "protect" blacks. If he claimed Nazis instituted the Nuremberg laws to protect Jews, he'd be run out of the country. But D'Souza feels comfortably ensconced in that wing of the conservative movement that feels perfectly comfortable in insulting blacks.

* Slavery was ended by federal intervention, and blacks owe America something for it, D'Souza claims. Abraham Lincoln, thank God, had a different view. In a Sept. 12, 1864, letter to Isaac Schermerhorn, Lincoln credited the blacks who served the Union as soldiers, sailors, laborers and spies with being pivotal to victory. So blacks contributed to their own freedom and assured that when World War II rolled around, there was one united United States to help stop Nazism and Japanese aggression and not two or more countries on the North American continent -- not all of which might have gone to war.

Skeptics may doubt that conclusion. But whom are you going to believe? Honest Abe Lincoln or some damned foreigner?

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