To The Editors of the Crimson:
We Afro-Americans have had, God knows, more than out fair share of political hustlers--from Marcus Garvey to Eldredge Cleaver--but they don't usually turn up as students at top-level law schools like Harvard Law. Then again, maybe they should be at places like Harvard Law, for, God knows, there have been enough white political hustlers--of every ethnic description, from Irish to WASP--around the place.
But Mr. Mohammad Kenyatta isn't just like any political hustler. He's special. Anybody who believes, as Mr. Kenyatta does, that the high unemployment rate and skills deficiency among Afro-Americans can be attributed "to the failure of past civil rights strategies" can believe anything. Though civil rights leaders made mistakes in the past and are still making some today, blame for the job and skills crisis plaguing perhaps 35 percent of Blacks belongs one place only--at the feet of America's economic and political elite who lack the moral vision to confront the chronic unemployment of Blacks in post-industrial capitalism. It's curious to me that so-called "radical activist" Kenyatta fails to grasp this.
His understanding of affirmative action isn't much better. This policy's problems, according to Mr. Kenyatta, "stem from traditional ties between American Blacks and the liberal White establishment." The fact is that White liberals, in both the private and government sectors, have been and remain the strongest supporters of affirmative action. In fact, most Whites support the policy. A Harris survey in 1982 (Aug,) shows that a majority of voters, by 69 percent to 21 percent, favors "laws requiring affirmative action programs for women and minorities in employment, provided there are no figid quotas."
Most of us are wrong sometimes; Mr. Kenyatta makes a habit of it. Michael Dorniag's article remarks, for example, that Mr. Kenyatta "says the liberal civil rights establishment--and he counts [Julius] Chambers and [Jack] Greenberg among its members--is pushing busing policies on Whites and Blacks that neither of them want." First, it is incorrect that most adult Blacks oppose busing, but it is correct that most Whites do. A Gallup survey in 1980 found 82 percent of Whites opposed to busing, but 67 percent of Blacks favored busing. But data on Whites who experienced busing show a more differentiated situation. In a 1979 survey of White parents, whose children had been bused for integration, that asked--"How did the busing of children in your family work out"?--some 59 percent of the White parents replied "partly satisfactory" and 26 "very satisfactory" (Blacks--68 percent "partly satisfactory" and 26 percent "very satisfactory"). Thus, where arrangements for busing entail low racial confrontation, the resultant perception of busing by White parents is far from negative.
Finally, Mr. Kenyatta's fondness for cussing-out White liberals has clearly marred his thinking. How else can one explain his observation that "the ideological and strategic impasse at which Black America finds itself is a result of our leadership having tied itself to the liberal agenda?" There is no poll data or other evidence showing that Blacks think they are facing an ideological dead-end. A 1979 Roper survey found 80 percent of Blacks "agreeing" that "life for our children will be better than for us." A 1981 Roper survey found 69 percent of Blacks responding "very good" or "fairly good" to the query--"How do you think your chances are of achieving the good life?" Surely these expectations cannot be realized without the "liberal agenda", whatever its faults.
Perhaps the majority of Blacks suffer from what Marxists call "false consciousness", victims of wishful thinking I doubt this. But even so, this is not as bad as Mr. Kenyatta's problem--ignorance. Martin Kilson Professor of Government