We commented last month on Dartmouth College’s decision to bring in Harry Belafonte as the keynote speaker for Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration. Here’s a report from the daily student newspaper on what the old calypso singer had to say at Dartmouth. Here’s an editorial from the same paper criticizing the selection of Belanfonte.
The editorial identifies the primary objection to Belafonte. It’s not that he’s a left-wing extremist, and it’s not that he’s a has-been entertainer with no basis for claiming experise on the subjects he opines about. It’s that he doesn’t make arguments, but relies instead on invective and racist attacks on people he disagrees with (see below). This approach dishonors Dr. King who kept hate-filled utterances out of his rhetoric at a time when they arguably would have been justified. Moreover, as Joe Malchow has noted, Belafonte’s approach is inconsistent with the (apparently one-directional) plea by Dartmouth’s president for civil discourse.
Belafonte did Dr. King a further disservice at Dartmouth yesterday when he quoted a comment that King allegedly made to him the last time the two spoke — namely, that African-Americans were integrating into a nation that was a burning house, and that it was their responsibility to be firemen. If King said this, he was wrong. The fires in our cities that presumably produced this metaphor soon went out, as African-Americans reaped the gains of the King-inspired civil rights movement (maybe King meant France). In any event, it’s difficult to understand how Belafonte thinks he’s acting as a fireman, rather than an arsonist, when he calls Colin Powell and Condi Rice “house slaves.” Or when he compares the relationship of blacks to the Bush administration to the alleged relationship of Jews to the Hitler regime, stating (falsely) that “Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich.”
Darmouth disgraced itself by inviting Belafonte to speak on this occasion and its students disgraced themselves by giving this know-nothing hate-monger a standing ovation when he entered the auditorium and when he concluded his diatribe.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
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