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King’s Dream, His Nightmare

eye on the news

King’s Dream, His Nightmare

An American professor rejects nonviolence for blacks. January 22, 2008

American readers might find interesting a most remarkable article by Jonathan Farley that recently appeared in the British liberal newspaper the Guardian. Professor Farley, a Harvard graduate, is a distinguished black mathematician who, working at Stanford, has applied mathematics to the task of defeating terrorism. (Oddly enough, he numbers among his heroes Che Guevara and Frantz Fanon, both apologists of “liberating” violence.) The article is an attack on both the legacy of Martin Luther King and the moderation of Barack Obama, whose election as president would, in Farley’s view, be a disaster for American blacks. In an article full of error and oddly muddled for someone whose stock-in-trade is logical thought, Farley seems to imply that the best way forward for American blacks is political violence.

According to Farley, the only thing that the King-led civil rights movement achieved was “the right to spend money in a store owned by a racist who would rather kill you than serve you,” a right for which the movement had gone “begging.” The movement also resulted in thousands of black teachers’ and principals’ losing their jobs, he contends, making racial segregation sound like a policy designed for positive discrimination in favor of educated blacks. Dr. Verwoerd, South Africa’s architect of apartheid, couldn’t have put it better.

I will quote a whole paragraph to give the flavor of Farley’s article:

King’s many worshippers are fond of Gandhian quotes such as “If blood be shed, let it be our blood.” Which is fine if you are merely sacrificing yourself. But King was sending out women, children and old people to be beaten and blown up. Even at the time, as King notes, there were many who viewed this as monstrous. When those little girls were murdered in Birmingham, why should black people not have booted King out and hunted the killers down, like al-Qaida? As King himself said: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.”

Farley says that King needed a history lesson, citing a passage from The Sword that Heals, in which King wrote that “non-violence in the form of boycotts and protests had confounded the British monarchy and laid the basis for freeing the colonies from unjust domination.” To which Farley replies: “Yes, that, and colonial minutemen with rifles.”

But in fact India, more than a century and a half later, and far nearer our own times, gained its independence from Britain with remarkably little effusion of blood, at least as between the British and Indians. Of course, this restraint was possible only because both sides retained scruples: as Farley himself writes, “One wonders how well [nonviolence] would work against, say, Hitler’s Panzer divisions.” But his statements that “King built nothing, and taught us only how to take a beating,” and “thanks to him, no African-American today is allowed to bring up racism,” along with his favorable references to the Black Panthers and the Mau Mau, imply that blacks in America are facing the equivalent of Panzer divisions and ought to respond with collective violence.

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