Blacks and Jews at Wellesley News Pt.2

Prof. Tony Martin December, 1993

Editorial Comment

Barely a week after the publication of The Jewish Onslaught,Wellesley’s new president, Diana Chapman Walsh, has taken the extraordinary step of issuing a formal denunciation of the new book. In a December 9, 1993 statement disseminated to all students, faculty, staff, alumnae and “friends of the college” she declares as follows – “We are profoundly disturbed and saddened by Professor Martin’s new book because it gratuitously attacks individuals and groups at Wellesley College through innuendo and the application of racial and religious stereotype.”

Due to President Walsh’s newness on campus, it can plausibly be surmised that she has relied heavily on the opinions of her advisors. The baleful influence of these shadowy figures is plainly evident in the palpable one-sidedness of the presidential proclamation, in its reliance on sweeping derogatory generalizations and in its inability to support its assertions with documentation of any sort. In all these ways and more the presidential statement is reflective of official and quasi-official approaches of the last twelve months.

Our new president has squandered a golden opportunity to bring fresh leadership and even-handed tolerance to the present controversy.

The Jewish Onslaught was published as a response to the unprincipled attacks, defamatory statements, assaults on my livelihood and physical threats directed against me for several months. These emanated principally from the Jewish community and its agents and were triggered by my classroom use of a work detailing Jewish involvement in the African slave trade. In The Jewish Onslaught I sought to put my subjective situation into the context of deteriorating Black-Jewish relations of recent decades. I also attempted to evaluate the tactics used against me in the context of the well-documented dirty tricks that the Jewish groups have used against Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, David Dinkins, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Len Jeffries, Black parents in Ocean Hill-Brownsville (Brooklyn) and any number of Euro-American individuals and organizations.

The Jewish Onslaught is a book of analysis supported by normal scholarly documentation. There is not a single “stereotype” or generalization in it that is not buttressed by evidence, either from my personal experience of the last year or from the historical record. I challenge President Walsh to move from her broad derogatory generalizations to specific instances to prove otherwise.
President Walsh, like many of the Jewish spokespersons, has a problem with my “recurrent” and allegedly “gratuitous” utilization of “racial or religious identification of individuals….” This is her way of saying that Black people are not allowed to respond to Jews as Jews. Even after being attacked primarily by the Hillel Foundation, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Congress, Jewish Community Relations Council and every Jewish newspaper and spokesperson for miles around, I am supposed to maintain the fiction that the onslaught against me is ethnically and religiously indeterminate.

A recent article in Black Books Bulletin mentions over twenty books on Black-Jewish relations in the personal library of its author. The author is aware of only two books by Blacks on the subject. If President Walsh (and the Jewish community) are to have their way, then this will forever remain a one-way discourse. I therefore ask again, as I asked in The Jewish Onslaught, “What makes Jews so special? By what dispensation in Adam’s will do they enjoy monopolistic privileges over a debate that concerns Blacks as well as Jews? Who has placed them beyond the reach of scholarly enquiry and ethnic identification?”

President Walsh claims that The Jewish Onslaught “violates the basic principles” of, among other things, the “norms of civil discourse.” Yet, in her zeal to uncover “innuendo[es]” in my work she seems to have missed the blatant lack of civility in the many articles attacking me. Is she not aware of Professor Marcellus Andrews’ Wellesley News reference to me as a “racist Pied Piper?” Did no one show her his description of Wellesley’s Black women as “intellectually weak and morally lazy?” Did Mary Lefkowitz, Mellon Professor in the Humanities, neglect to send President Walsh a complimentary copy of her article in Measure (No. 118, September/October 1993), wherein she maliciously and scurrilously alleged that I called a student “a white fucking bitch?” Lefkowitz alleged further that “The young woman fell down as a result of his onslaught and Martin bent over to continue his rage at her.” Did President Walsh not see, in her reading of The Jewish Onslaught, the text of a racist cartoon by a Wellesley alumna in the Boston Jewish Times? The cartoonist designated Black women as “Ms. Washington” (no different than the “Hymietown” remark that Jews claimed to be so scandalized by) and seemed to suggest that Black students be taught from the works of segregationists, Ku Kluxers and pseudo-scientific racists. Did President Walsh not read the Jewish hate mail reproduced inThe Jewish Onslaught ? “I hate niggers to my very bone marrow,” ran a typical sentence. “Not all Jews debate apes. Some of us want them all to die.” I have been a veritable oasis of civility in the present debate.

I agree with Justice Holmes, as quoted by President Walsh – “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” The Jewish onslaught has consistently striven to stifle the “competition of the market” by its defamatory rantings and its demands for my dismissal. The present presidential proclamation regrettably ranges itself alongside this ignoble campaign.

But “the competition of the market” has yet managed to assert itself, as can be seen in the steadily shifting positions of the onslaught. From an initial denial that Jews had any role in African slavery at all, there slowly emerged a reluctant admission of minor and peripheral involvement. As the debate intensified and the Jewish denial of the undeniable threatened to expose its adherents to ridicule, the Washington Post (first among major newspapers, to the best of my knowledge), was finally permitted to admit the full extent of Jewish culpability. In a carefully staged (and not at all pro-Black) article of October 17, 1993 the deniers of Jewish involvement in the African holocaust were shown to be as wrong as they could be.

The present controversy demands honest dialogue, not crude attempts at demonization. If President Walsh desires to extricate herself from the hole into which she has fallen, let her collaborate with me (and with interested students), on the convening at Wellesley College of a serious scholarly conference on the role of Jews in the African slave trade. She can invite Skip Gates, Cornel West and anyone else acceptable to the Jewish establishment to argue their case. I will nominate an equal number of scholars to defend the perspective which I endorse. The spirit of Justice Holmes will be lifted.

As my mother used to say, “One hand can’t clap.” As Ray Charles was wont to soulfully sing, “It takes two to tango.”

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