THOSE WHO consider themselves the leaders of America's "black community" had no trouble recognizing -- and denouncing -- racism when Bob Jones University forbade white students from dating blacks. Or when the Mormon Church barred blacks from being spiritual leaders. Or when David Duke entered politics.
Few of these black personalities, so quick to condemn anybody or anything that makes invidious comparisons on racial grounds, have difficulty finding racism underlying the "Willie Horton" ad, or the Supreme Court's recent civil rights decisions, or the surrounding of Dee Brown by armed Wellesley police. If they don't like it and it's being done by whites, they reckon, it must be racist.
But as the Clarence Thomas nomination fight has demonstrated, the anti-white racism of black "leaders" and opinion-makers can be a powerful thing in its own right.
No sooner was Thomas nominated than Harvard law professor Derrick Bell slammed Thomas as a white elitist in black skin. Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson found him a traitor to his race, a "showpiece for white conservatives." Carl Rowan wrote disgustingly that "if you gave Clarence Thomas a little flour on his face, you'd think you had David Duke talking."
Blacks like Bell, Jackson, and Rowan have every right, of course, to despise Thomas' philosophy. But instead of grappling with Thomas' ideas, they simply deride anything about him they don't like as "white." That stinks of racism.
Now that anti-white racism has reached a new low.
Five years ago, Clarence Thomas and Virginia Lamp met, fell in love, and got married. Their marriage is, by all accounts, a storybook romance. It is also interracial -- something the anti-white racists among Thomas' critics find intolerable.
Sample the venom:
"It may sound bigoted," wrote black columnist Barbara Reynolds in USA Today. "Well, this is a bigoted world and why can't black people be allowed a little Archie Bunker mentality? Here's a man who's going to decide crucial issues for the country and he has already said no to blacks; he has already said if he can't paint himself white, he'll think white and marry a white woman."
Russell Adams, chairman of the Afro-American studies department at America's most prominent black institution of higher learning, Howard University, told the Washington Post: "[Thomas's] marrying a white woman is a sign of his rejection of the black community."
Adams' colleague Ronald Walters, who chairs Howard's political science department, added his own ugly note: "White conservatives are [Clarence Thomas's] ideological bedfellows, and his white conservative wife is literally his bedfellow."
Berate Thomas for his opposition to affirmative action, for his reliance on self-help, for his suspicion of government. Challenge his record at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, drag in red herrings about a "Confederate" flag hanging on his wall, wonder, even, about the impact of his Catholic education on his politics. But to bash him for being happily wedded to a woman whose skin happens to be white? That is so sick -- so sickeningly hateful -- that only a racist could possibly understand it.
The moral of the story is this: You don't have to be a hooded Klansman, a neo-Nazi skinhead, or a pro-apartheid Afrikaner to think black men ought to keep clear of white women. You don't even have to be white.
(Jeff Jacoby is the Boston Herald's chief editorial writer.)
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