Why Are Reparations Advocates and Black Opinion Leaders Wasting Their Time With David Horowitz?

Every time we see reparations supporters and Black opinion leaders either arguing with or about David Horowitz we shake our heads. It just doesn't make any sense to us, if the ultimate goal of the movement is to actually win reparations. In our view it is the quintessential waste of time for so many to be expending their energy against Mr. Horowitz. Instead of spending time focused on a White archconservative who is dead set against reparations, why aren't reparations advocates taking the time to persuade their supposed friends - White liberals, White progressives and White Democrats - of the merits of the reparations cause?

That question has been on our minds for some time now as we have watched the reparations issue skyrocket in terms of notoriety and general awareness. We have been bewildered by the reactionary nature of the reparations "movement". Instead of formulating a clearly defined strategy that first educates and wins popular support in Black America for the issue and then seeks to make reparations a reality, through the US Congress and/or class-action lawsuits; more and more energy, by many in the movement, is going toward participating in a mainstream media circus that with each passing day trivializes the issue.

At the center of the reparations sideshow is David Horowitz, who actually gets more publicity on mainstream media outlets than he does among his conservative brethren. It is obvious that whatever Horowitz's motives are, the mainstream media wishes to use Horowitz to provoke commentary and emotional reactions from Black opinion leaders who otherwise have little or nothing to say about reparations.

Some Black opinion leaders just can't get enough of the lights, camera and action. And their lust for publicity and attention or the desire to sell a new book that they have written is beginning to marginalize one of the most important issues of our time. It is always interesting to watch Black intellectuals "represent" the Black community on White media outlets. Far from presenting the majority view in Black America they often do little more than represent their own thinking. And they do so in a way that quite often only angers White viewers and which promotes little understanding about how Blacks, other than that intellectual, really feel about issues.

The whole production serves to make mockery of not only reparations but also slavery and actually has the effect of demoralizing and confusing many in the Black community who would otherwise be supportive of the issue. The desire of some Black intellectuals to jump in the fray against Horowitz is at times embarrassing to watch as they seek to counter Horowitz's relatively calm presentation with emotional outbursts and half-baked thoughts on the Black experience in America. Horowitz is live bait and they just can't seem to be able to resist him. But because many of these Blacks really haven't done their homework on slavery and reparations, few are able to overcome Horowitz in argument.


Because they speak to Horowitz as if they really believe that they can change his thinking on the issue while Horowitz couldn't care less about changing their minds. It is almost as if their self-worth depends upon what David Horowitz thinks about them. In a perverted way, it makes one wonder: Do these Blacks care more about what Whites think of them than what the community they claim to represent thinks of them? Why so much energy expended toward a White intellectual conservative and so little among the everyday Black man and woman in the street, many of whom have yet to make up their minds on reparations?

Having said that, we do, in a certain way, appreciate Mr. Horowitz's efforts. We think he does a credible job of articulating the feelings of a great many White Americans on the issue of reparations and maybe more importantly - slavery as an institution. But we also believe that while David Horowitz's presence in the reparations debate is worth recognition, his involvement in the debate is nothing for Black intellectuals and the reparations movement to mobilize around.


David Horowitz is not an opinion leader in Black America nor will he ever be. The top priority at this point should not be to debate David Horowitz on White-controlled media outlets or on liberal college campuses but to take the reparations debate into forums throughout the country in the grassroots of Black America. That is even more important, at this point, than a group of lawyers getting together in secret, private or closed forums in order to hash out the details of a reparations lawsuit. As we editorialized previously, we have very serious concerns about class-action lawyers leading the movement for reparations. It places the cart before the horse.

And if there is any group of Whites that should be approached and engaged at this point, we think it should be the previously mentioned White liberals, progressives and members of the Democratic Party whose agenda and platform derives its sustenance in large part from the power of the Black vote. And specifically speaking, we think that the leading opinion leaders for the reparations movement should, after organizing support for reparations in the Black community, seek outright political support from the Democratic Party on the issue.

We personally think that if the establishment of the Democratic Party and its leading coalition members: Jews, Unions, Feminists, Environmentalists, Secular Humanists, Civil Libertarians and Trial Lawyers can't support the Black electorate on this issue then it should provide the final evidence that these other groups in the Democratic Party have been doing nothing but using the Black community in order to further their own agenda(s).

We got quite an education on this last year when we witnessed Black Democrats who say they whole-heartedly support reparations viciously attack Ralph Nader - the only Presidential candidate who actually supported reparations. They of course did so on the orders of their White Democratic Party bosses and not after deep reflection over how their attack on Nader would affect the profile of the reparations cause in an election year.

In this context we see David Horowitz in the grand scheme of things, as nothing more than a decoy. He is a conservative White man whose vehement opposition to reparations is so distracting to Blacks that it keeps them from polling their supposed White liberal allies about their position on reparations.

It has been absolutely fascinating and revealing to watch not a single prominent White political or cultural leader come to the aid of the reparations movement in their "battle" against Horowitz. We find that to be interesting since so many of them seem to have such a major problem with Mr. Horowitz's political ideology. It would even appear that Horowitz's presence in the debate would give these liberal Whites the political cover they would need to speak sympathetically about reparations.

What makes reparations so different that White liberals and progressives are at a lost for words and seem to feel so comfortable watching their Black "allies" go it alone?

We will never get that answer as long as the Black reparations movement sets its sights on David Horowitz and not an effective strategy that first develops a consensus in Black America and then an effective legal and political strategy designed to actually obtain reparations.

Talking about reparations is one thing, getting them is another.

Yelling at David Horowitz helps with the former but does nothing for the latter.

Surely Blacks can rise above their emotional reaction to David Horowitz and organize and unite to give the reparations issue the support that it deserves.

Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, March 28, 2001