Friday, October 1, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

So The Nation recently published its list of "The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century." Regardless of your political leanings, the list is certainly debatable. (I may write more on some of their selections later.) But one of the last paragraphs of the introduction to the list struck me as offensively off-base:
A few of the people on the list expressed views, at some point in their lives, that progressives consider objectionable, such as Margaret Sanger's endorsement of eugenics, Earl Warren's support for rounding up Japanese-Americans during World War II, Bayard Rustin's support for the Vietnam War and Jackie Robinson's attack on Paul Robeson. They made mistakes, which may be understandable in historical context, but which should be acknowledged as part of their lives and times.
Now, it must be mentioned that Jackie did testify before McCarthy's the House Un-American Activities Committee. That's a big deal. But here's some background on exactly went down:

More here.

What, pray tell, do you suppose would have happened if some uppity nigger baseball player told HUAC, by way of polite declination, to shove it's "invitation"? Yet somehow, this action--the reluctant testimony to separate the fight for racial equality from the looming specter of communism--is mentioned in the same sentence with support for a war that killed over a million soldiers and civilians, Margaret Sanger's enthusiastic genocidal attachment to Eugenics and throwing thousands of American citizens into detention camps for their ethnicity. (Without mentioning FDR's role in it, no less.)

This "attack" was mentioned again in Robinson's profile--as was Warren's culpability in the Japanese internment in his own--but Rustin's and Sanger's "mistakes" are stricken from their laudatory bios. Apparently, to Professor Dreier and The Nation's editors, an effectively coerced statement that illustrates differing civil rights approaches--while maintaining the shared contempt of the United States' criminal and unconstitutional discrimination policies--reflects as poorly on Jackie Robinson as the racist dedication of Margaret Sanger and authorizing the false imprisonment of over 100,000 innocent people.