Here is an article I published in 1991, when Leonard Jeffries was invited to speak at Montclair State College by the Black Student Union. The only people who picketed this racist were the Zionist racists -- the Jewish Defense League (hence the reference at the end). This shows a real double standard: no one pickets the JDL, much less the open racists like the Republicans or Democrats! Nevertheless, Jeffries is no better, if incomparably less influential.
I should like to raise a few fundamental points about Leonard Jeffries that have been neglected by other writers.
Leonard Jeffries has some following among black people because many wrongly believe that he is fighting the anti-black racism that is so significant, and sharply on the increase, in the U.S. In fact, Jeffries' own theories have profoundly anti-black implications, little different from those of the Ku Klux Klan.
First, Jeffries' theories are authoritarian. His pseudoscientific "evidence" cannot withstand examination, so his claims must be "believed." Black people are reduced to the role of following the "great leader", with no vestige of democracy. This stance says, in effect, that blacks are fit only to follow orders -- the kind of racist mentality the slaveowners used to justify their brutal exploitation.
Jeffries teaches that black creativity comes from melanin. Of course he offers no evidence. But even if it were true, the implications are that people of mixed ancestry -- the vast majority of American blacks -- are inferior to the few "real blacks."
This is the fascist philosophy of "negritude", whose most famous practicioner, Francois "papa Doc" Duvalier, posting as the 'defender of the blacks', created a terror regime in Haiti that preserved power for the U.S. and a largely light-skinned Haitian elite.
Jeffries teaches that blacks can have self-respect only because their ancestors -- for example, the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and their servants -- were black and "great." Again, this is historical nonsense. But even if it were true, this theory would be anti-black. If black people's self-respect and claim to dignity is based upon the great deeds of their remote ancestors, then they should also feel shame for their ancestors' atrocities.
Ancient Egypt, like ancient Judea, Athenian Greece or Rome was an oppressive, slave-owning empire. All the "grandeur" of these cultures was built upon brutal, degrading exploitation. Scientists like Imhotep and priests like Ptahhotep flattered and glorified their rulers. Their "wisdom" was either religious mysticism, to frighten and control the lower classes, or technical knowledge stolen from the practical experience of the laboring masses who actually created the buildings and artistic works. Imhotep no more built the pyramids than Thomas Jefferson did Monticello.
Jeffries, and other nationalists like him, do an invaluable service for the racist U.S. elite. By attacking multi-racial unity, they set up blacks for continued exploitation and oppression. As long as working-class whites and blacks are kept divided, no progress against racism can succeed. This was the way in which the former slaveowners of the South regained power after the Civil War: by sharpening anti-black racism among southern whites.
As Frederick Douglass wrote:
The slaveholders ... by encouraging the enmity of the poor, laboring white man against the blacks, succeeded in making the said white man almost as much a slave as the black man himself...The slave is robbed by his master, of all his earnings above what is required fo his physical necessities; and the white man is robbed by the slave system of the just results of his labor, because he is flung into competition with a class of laborers who work without wages.
The only movements in history that have made anyh headway against racism have been strongly multi-racial: abolitionism, the Populist movement of black and white southern farmers in the 1890s, the communist-led multi-racial movements of the '30s and '40s, the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Civil Rights movement of the '60s. Without multi-racial unity, all attempts to fight racism are doomed.
What the racist U.S. elite are striving for is a certain "integration at the top,", among the bosses, the politicians and exploiters, together with a renewed segregation among the working class. Their aim, now as in the past, is to keep white and black workers divided against each other so they can never join forces to fight for what they need.
Jeffries plays the racist elite's game. His job is to build racism among blacks. But he is but a pipsqueak version of the much more powerful mainstream racists.
Where are the protests against Israel government mouthpieces, whose apartheid policies against Arabs include collective punishment, special passports, gutter master-racist attitudes, brutal murder and exploitation? Against Presidents Bush and Reagan, whose policies have made David Duke's career possible?
Jeffries is no phonier than those "scholars" at major universities -- Arthur Jensen of Berkeley and Richard Herrnstein of Harvard, to name just two -- who have been spreading the lie about the "genetic inferiority of blacks" for 20 years. Jeffries almost lost his post at CUNY -- as he should. But Herrnstein was made chairman of the Harvard Psychology Department, while Jensen was elected to the AAAS, the highest honor for an American scientist. Both continue to teach and publish. This is a blatant double standard, and demonstrates the continuing racism in U.S. academia and society.
Nor must wse forget that it was the "whiz-kids" of Harvard and other elitist dungeons that planned the genocidal and racist U.S. war in Vietnam. What are Jeffries' misdeeds compared to these?
It is important to oppose Jeffries in a principled way, but you cannot fight racism with racism. Matthew Swartz, the leader of the anti-Jeffires protest, is an apologist for Israeli racism against Arabs. He praised the march of the Nazi-like "Kahane Ch'ai" group in Teaneck some weeks ago. No honest anti-racist should ever share a platform with such forces.
The only way to oppose ideas such as Jeffries' and the far more dangerous and powerful racism directed against blacks is to build a multi-racial movement to oppose policies that divide and hur us all, black and white as well.
The Montclarion, Friday December 13, 1991
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