Intolerance and hatred can be found in every color

August 02, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

YOU HAVE to hand it to Camille Cosby. Ask the woman for sources, and she provides sources.

USA Today published a letter July 17 from Cosby, some nine days after her column appeared charging America with teaching her son Ennis Cosby's murderer, Mikhail Markasev, to hate blacks.

"Thanks for the diverse views relative to my article," she wrote. "My purpose was to present the truth and stimulate dialogue. These goals have been achieved.

"There have been numerous requests about my resources pertaining to the slaveholders on America's paper currencies. The following books are not the only ones, but three I want to share with the readers:

" Nixon's Piano: Presidents and Racial Politics from Washington to Clinton, by Kenneth O'Reilly The Free Press, 1995.

" The Young Hamilton: A Biography by James Thomas Flexner, Little Brown and Company, 1978.

" Franklin by David Freeman Hawke, Harper & Row, 1976.

"Lastly, I highly recommend a scholarly classic which I used for my doctoral studies, The Nature of Prejudice by G.W. Allport, Addison-Wesley, 1954."

Stimulate dialogue she did. The debate is over how much truth she presented. Research on U. S. Grant's ownership of slaves, for example, presents him in a much better light than Cosby's simply asserting Grant was a slave owner and leaving it at that. Then there's the implication that the countenances of certain men appeared on currency because they were slave owners. Isn't it possible they appear on the currency in spite of being slave owners?

Does the Indian-head nickel imply support for those Indians who owned slaves or for Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse routing Custer at the Little Big Horn? It means whatever the beholder wants it to mean. The meaning of faces on currency will vary depending on one's investment in the Victim Sweepstakes. African-Americans of the "I Am Victim, Hear Me Whine" school received Cosby's column as a holy edict, virtually equivalent to the Sermon on the Mount.

Listen to the voices of the "I Am Victim" school. See if you hear any sympathy for Joel Lee, the Korean-American shot in Northeast Baltimore in 1993 for no other reason than being Asian.

Gene Henson of Blytheville, Ark., writing of Kenneth Lee, Joel Lee's father: "If Mr. Lee or any of his relatives really desired to join, they could become members of the Blytheville Country Club. Camille Cosby could not be a member."

Everybody got that? Because Koreans can become members of the Blytheville Country Club and blacks cannot, it's perfectly acceptable for a black guy to shoot and kill a Korean on Baltimore's streets. Mr. Henson will claim that's not what he's saying. The fact is that's exactly what he's saying.

"My oppression diminishes, even cancels out, your oppression," Henson is claiming by implication. He goes on. "The courts and other racists are eliminating every civil right on the books. White citizens are growing meaner. Intolerance is heating up all over the country."

It's heating up to such an extent that Henson can't even see his own intolerance.

Kenneth Morris of Syracuse, N.Y., is so enamored of victimhood status that he invented a despicable lie to justify the killing of Joel Lee.

"I remember very well the incident concerning Joel Lee being killed in Northeast Baltimore. White society is directly responsible for Joel Lee's death, because Joel Lee was under the impression that in order to be accepted by white society he would have to develop an unhealthy mind, compared to the minds of white Americans, and practice racism and bigotry."

The reality is a bit different. Joel Lee was under the impression that he could go to a friend's house to borrow a book and do so in safety. He also might have underestimated the depth of hatred that some African-Americans have for Asians. No one has dared ask if it was black America who taught Joel Lee's killer to hate Koreans. The clue may lie with a suburban Baltimore black man who called me claiming, "Koreans are very difficult to deal with."

"They watch you when you go into their stores. Before you make up your mind, they run up to you and ask, 'Can I help you?' They're disrespectful."

The caller knew he was close to saying that being dissed in a store is justification for murder. He quickly added, "I know two wrongs don't make a right."

Two wrongs don't make a right? There are some wrongs that aren't even on the same moral scale. The letters from Henson and Morris and the caller's comments reveal a frightening mind-set among what I hope and pray is a minority of African-Americans: that Joel Lee, because he was Korean, got what he had coming to him.

Camille Cosby's USA Today column of July 8 gave aid and comfort to those blacks who think we can't hate. It's a pity her letter to the editor of July 17 didn't give some indication that we can.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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