Stirring Up ‘Uncivil Wars’ On College Campuses
David Horowitz reparations ad campaign proves explosive
Several months have passed since the last campus protests erupted over a David Horowitz advertisement in college newspapers stating that reparations for American slavery is “a Bad Idea — and Racist Too.”
But Horowitz, an author, activist and perhaps the nation’s most visible and ardent critic of the reparations movement, is preparing to reenter the spotlight when his new anti-reparations book is released this month.
Uncivil Wars: The Controversy Over Reparations and The American Idea, chronicles the origin of the volatile ad and the fierce “attacks” on his character that Horowitz claims he experienced while visiting campuses nationwide (see Black Issues, April 12 and May 24). Also it criticizes campus administrators and faculty for caving in to political pressures that Horowitz claims led them to speak out against the advertisement.
According to book excerpts the California-based Horowitz sent to Black Issues, the author says he became intensely interested in the reparations debate after he learned about a vote in Chicago in 2000. The city council there had passed a resolution favoring reparations for slavery by a margin of 46 to 1.
“Until then,” Horowitz writes, “I had always regarded the reparations movement as an obscure fringe cause. The lopsided vote was a sign to me that something was changing.”
Nine months before submitting the ad to college papers, Horowitz wrote about the reparations issue in a column for Salon, an online magazine. It was during Black History Month 2001 that the first ad appeared in the student paper of the University of Chicago. The ad titled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea — and Racist Too” would be sent to 70 other college papers nationwide. Forty-three papers refused to run it, and editors on some campuses that ran the ad, including those at Berkeley, later apologized to readers. On some campuses, students protested by removing thousands of papers from racks and discarding them. Students said their goal was to prevent readers from seeing the ad, which claimed:
1. There is no single group responsible for the crime of slavery.
2. There is no single group that benefited exclusively from slavery.
3. Only a minority of White Americans owned slaves, while others gave their lives to free them.
4. Most living Americans have no connection (direct or indirect) to slavery.
5. The historical precedents used to justify the reparations claim do not apply, and the claim itself is based on race not injury.
6. The reparations argument is based on the unsubstantiated claim that all African Americans suffer from the economic consequences of slavery and discrimination.
7. The reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African Americans into victims. It sends a damaging message to the African-American community and to others.
8. Reparations to African Americans have already been paid.
9. What about the debt Blacks owe to America?
10. The reparations claim is a separatist idea that sets African Americans against the nation that gave them freedom.”
Horowitz, who dedicates his book to Black conservatives “Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Shelby Steele, and Ward Connerly, whose insight and courage showed the way,” told Black Issues in a recent interview that he is surprised by the harsh reaction the ad triggered.
“I consider the reparations movement to be a hate America movement,” Horowitz says.
In the book he writes:
“…When my ad appeared on college campuses, the reactions were volcanic and the attacks on me were savage. On campus after campus, protests erupted and indiscriminate rage spilled over into every corner of the public space. It was a breathtaking display of intolerance for an academic community. In their anger, my critics showed little regard for fairness or facts, or common decency. Although I have a long public history as an activist for civil rights, I was attacked in terms normally reserved for bigots of the political fringe.”
There were many less hostile reactions to Horowitz’s campaign. He says the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invited him to campus for what was a cordial visit to discuss his views. In June, Horowitz debated activist and author Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Hutchinson’s Los Angeles-based radio show.
Hutchinson, who also writes for Salon, attacks one of Horowitz’s points.
“He says that things have gotten so much better — we’ve got the Colin Powells, the Mikes (Jordan and Jackson), and the Bill Cosbys so what’s the beef?” Hutchinson says.
“Well, millions of Black Americans continue to languish in poverty, and there are inequities in public policies, in health care, social services, etc. We are looking at the legacy of slavery,” Hutchinson told Black Issues.
Despite several opponents, Horowitz soon plans to be on the road again promoting his book.
And reflecting on his travels of last winter, Horowitz says he regrets nothing about the ad campaign.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Horowitz says. “There’s not a word in it I would change.”
— By Erik Lords
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com