Anders Lewis: Randall Robinson Says Good-Bye to AmericaRoundup: Historians' Take
Historian Anders Lewis, in frontpagemag.com (Feb. 11, 2004):
Randall Robinson, the godfather of the reparations movement, has finally taken his criticism of this country to its logical conclusion: he has moved out of the United States. Robinson's new book, Quitting America: The Departure of a Black Man from his Native Land , recounts his growing disillusionment with his native land, and his decision to leave it and escape to the tiny Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Here, Robinson insists, a racist white majority persecutes blacks at home and crafts an imperialistic foreign policy to kill Arabs abroad. But in his new island home, people are friendly, crime is virtually non-existent, and white people are largely absent. In St. Kitts, Robinson writes, “life is lived much as it has been lived. With quiet decorum and unassuming passion.”
Before departing to his tropical paradise, Robinson had achieved a great amount of notoriety. A Harvard Law School graduate, Robinson became a leftist hero after he made numerous national television appearances, wrote several books and became the principle architect of the black reparations movement. Princeton University professor (and failed rap artist) Cornel West called Robinson “the greatest pro-Africa freedom fighter of his generation in America.” Similarly, The Nation magazine, in its review of Robinson's best-selling reparations manifesto The Debt , lauded him for his “sweeping historical vision” and “convincing” arguments. “The benefits of Robinson's proposal,” The Nation insisted, “go beyond the merely psychological. By discussing the use of reparations, he focuses attention on one of the most important aspects of American racial inequality – the staggering gap in wealth between black and white Americans.” Quitting America is also earning high praise. The Christian Science Monitor has dubbed it “lyrical, logical, and furious.” The Monitor noted that some readers may be turned off by Robinson's “aggressive style,” but affirmed that “readers who persist will find a minority point of view that's difficult to hear in the mainstream media.” Robinson's “principled” ideas will startle “conventional wisdom with its unfamiliar perspective.” That is a euphemistic way of saying the average American will be dumbfounded at his vicious attack on the greatest nation in the history of mankind.
Frontpage Magazine has provided its readers with a strikingly different portrait of Robinson. Myles Kantor, for example, has called attention to Robinson's uncritical embrace of Fidel Castro's dictatorship (see Kantor's “The Will to Oppose Terror,” Frontpage , November 7, 2001). David Horowitz, in turn, has waged a tireless campaign to expose the racism and anti-Americanism of reparations proponents like Robinson (see Horowitz's Uncivil Wars: The Controversy Over Reparations For Slavery ). Quitting America confirms these judgements, vindicates Horowitz and makes it clear that five basic, and related, characteristics define Robinson.
The first is Robinson's simplistic view of human behavior: one may say he is a racial determinist. In Robinson's mind, all human action can be explained by the color of one's skin. At no point in Quitting America does Robinson question the scientific fantasy known as race, or even attempt to define what race is. He has nothing to say about the rapidly growing rate of mixed marriages among young white people. Further, Robinson has no use for such factors as religion, nationality, or morally informed choice; his world revolves around skin color.
Robinson is also defined by his demand for intellectual conformity within his own “race.” Such conservative black scholars as John McWhorter, Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell have no place in Robinson's world. Indeed, he seethes with hatred for Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. “As for the two of them (Bush appointees) that are ours ,” he writes, “I am all the more ashamed…They are killers, remote perhaps, but killers nevertheless, like all the others, but more cowardly than the ordinary street types.” Powell, in particular, receives the harshest rebuke. He is, according to Robinson, a “Ronald Reagan rectal success of a conscience-dead black man.” All this because Powell, Rice and others dare to think for themselves, rather than regurgitate Robinson's anti-American bile.
Robinson's third defining characteristic is blatant disregard for historical fact. In particular, he mythologizes an Africa that outstripped the rest of the world in scientific and cultural progress. He hails Africa, not Greece and Rome, as the birthplace of democratic civilization. He insists that Europe before 1500 was a vast wasteland of ignorance, an allegation that would shock Plato, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Leonardo da Vinci and Geoffrey Chaucer. Robinson recounts how a friend visited a Timbuktu library and read “a fourteenth-century African rejoinder to Machiavelli's The Prince ” – a most impressive feat, when one considers that Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513 (the 16 th century). In discussing the modern world, Robinson claims, “only white countries are capable of killing so many (people) at one time,” but fails to mention the horrible 1994 Hutu massacre of close to one million Tutsi in Rwanda. He also praises Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as “a passionate democrat” and “one of the finest human beings I have ever known” but says not one word about his corruption and widespread human rights violations. And these are but a few representative examples of his tainted historiography. Robinson is no friend of truth.
Robinson's fourth defining characteristic is his red-hot hatred for America. America, he believes, is racist and imperialist. In Robinson's fevered mind, Americans only act out of self-interest, think nothing of killing and starving millions, and seek to rule the world. Blacks and browns, he believes, should not waste their time on America, as it has “ceased any pretense of effort on domestic racial and social justice issues.” “Trying my very best,” Robinson writes, “how could I, in good conscience, remain for [sic.] a country that has never ever, at home or abroad, been for me or for mine?” He continues, “I can remember in my forty years of social activism no occasion where American policy was instinctually consistent with America's stated creed of freedom.” Is Robinson living in the same country that waged a Civil War to free the slaves, threatened a second to end Jim Crow, has provided massive job-training programs for blacks, Affirmative Action to beneficially distribute all available jobs and billions more dollars in welfare programs to those who could not –or would not – find gainful employment? The same nation that just sacrificed 500 men and women to free the innocent people of Iraq from a violent dictator, no thanks to Robinson and his friends?
Robinson does not just hate America, though; he also viscerally hates white people. Whites and “white countries” (he would lump the multi-racial United States into this category) are of no use to blacks. He insists, “the mere contact with whites invariably…has produced for us all [black people] one plague or another: slavery, colonialism, plunder, conquest, massacre, economic globalization, culture transplantation.” White people, wherever they are, pose a mortal threat to civilized and humane values. “Western whites,” fumes Robinson, “once well inside the place of another's different, less pugnacious, more welcoming culture, destroy it, root and branch. For inexplicable reasons, they are seemingly constrained by some aberrant force of nature to disparage all culture, all history, all religion, all memory, all faces, all life not theirs.” Nonetheless, he asserts it is the whites who are racist, not him. “Whites don't give a sh-t what we think,” he proclaims. “Never did. Never will.” Whites are, in sum, “little more than upper primates,” exactly the kind of gutter language the Ku Klux Klan uses in regard to blacks. Unlike the Klan, Robinson gets rave reviews in the New York Times.
Robinson has labeled Quitting America a “testament of leave-taking, a single angry wind guttering in an angry wind of national hysteria.” He is right that this an angry book full of sound and fury. For black Americans if offers enslaving victimization; for whites, it offers bald hatred. In singing the song of racist persecution, Robinson demeans the sacrifices and successes of so many great black men and women from the past and present – rebels, intellectuals, activists, judges, and public officials, people like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., Clarence Thomas, and yes, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. Robinson inexcusably denies the simple, obvious truth that black Americans (Robinson included) have benefited from a racial revolution that has profoundly transformed American society. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the growth of the black middle class and the presence of blacks in positions of political, legal and intellectual power are all testaments to these remarkable changes. For Robinson, these changes have never occurred, and America is a bastion of closet Klansmen and lynching parties.
And what of Robinson's solution: leaving the country? By leaving America for the picturesque beaches of the Caribbean, the wealthy Robinson has demonstrated that he favors self-indulgent separatism above engagement and political debate. Certainly, more progress is needed, particularly for blacks trapped in failing schools – not by segregation but by their own leaders' fealty to unaccountable public school officials. Further progress, however, will never come if blacks listen to Randall Robinson. As David Horowitz has argued, the black community would be far better served “by embracing America as their home, and defending its good: the principles and institutions that have set them - and all of us - free.” Randall Robinson has made his choice for another country; Americans are none the poorer as a result.
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