Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2002 / 23 Teves, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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The reparations fraud: II

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- MOST people seem to have responded to the demands for reparations for slavery in one of two ways. Either they have supported the demands or they have maintained a discreet silence. One of the few people to treat these demands as a serious subject requiring a serious answer has been David Horowitz, former radical and author of a number of books on social issues.

His fate may help explain why so many others have kept quiet or even pretended to go along with the demands. Horowitz's recently published book "Uncivil Wars" recounts the storm trooper tactics and character assassination used against him and against student newspapers that carried his ad replying to reparations demands. The significance of this book goes far beyond this particular issue, because it provides a chilling glimpse of an ideological intolerance, a blatant dishonesty and ruthless threats and actions not seen since the days of the Nazi storm troopers. And it has happened on American campuses from coast to coast.

With all the pious talk about "tolerance" in the media and in academia, there is virtually none for those who challenge the dogmas of political correctness in most of our colleges and universities. "Diversity" in ideas is as taboo as diversity of physical appearances is sanctified.

One of the most touching scenes in Horowitz's book is that of masses of black students conducting a silent protest vigil against him at Duke University, with many of these students being in tears. Why tears? In his book, David Horowitz asks: "Is it because they fear that the umbilical link to victimhood will be cut and they will be forced into the moral complexity of full citizenship -- a status that their mentors have purposefully withheld from them?"

Perhaps. But there is something else that may go deeper. Because black students are admitted to colleges and universities with lower requirements than their white classmates, they are often visibly less able to cope with the academic work, as reflected in such things as lower grades and higher dropout rates.

These students are not "unqualified" to be in college but are too often mismatched with the particular colleges they are in. They may be struggling to stay afloat academically in the Ivy League, when they would meet the normal admissions standards in a good state university and do fine. Because of the pervasive use of double standards based on race, all up and down the academic pecking order, black students are often struggling not only in the Ivy League and at flagship state universities, but also at less prestigious and less demanding institutions.

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In the absence of these double standards, black students would be distributed very differently among academic institutions -- and succeeding far more often. In the situation as it actually exists, these students are in a painful predicament, whose real source of pain cannot be openly acknowledged by either themselves or by their white classmates, and least of all by their professors or academic administrators.

What does this have to do with black students weeping during a protest against David Horowitz's views on reparations for slavery?

The impossible situation in which black students have been placed by well-meaning double standards has led to a whole protective make-believe surrounding them, much like the huge plastic bubbles used to surround children born with wholly inadequate immune systems, who must be protected from the slightest risk of infection.

Within their protective bubble, black students are insulated from any criticism of their performances, behavior, or ideas. Draconian speech codes and automatic accusations of "racism" protect them from anyone who says anything to oppose what they say, do, or demand.

What David Horowitz has done is puncture that protective bubble. He has treated black students the way he would treat anyone else. But the facts and logic that he would use in debating anyone else are shocking things to those who have not been used to having to confront them, and are therefore unequipped to cope with them. Their options are to deny or be devastated. Tears and rage are about the only responses available.

Horowitz is not merely threatening their position on a particular issue, but their whole protected world inside the bubble. No wonder they wept. We should all weep that such a world of make-believe was ever created in the first place.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate