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  Belafonte, Again
by Brian S. Wise
23 October 2002

What matters more: one's ideology or one's philanthropy? If you're Harry Belafonte, it's a toss up.

Leftist reasoning offers one interesting circumstance after another, in particular when we have a Republican president. Of particular note lately, the tendency of notable black liberals to discredit as forcefully as the language will allow any fellow black who has the temerity to openly oppose conventional liberal views on a particular subject, even if it’s in jest (as we saw with the Barbershop spat). This is nothing new, of course, and certainly isn’t a practice limited to black liberals, but Harry Belafonte’s “house slave” routine, and the news surrounding it, has me thinking of this more than usual.

You can always tell when a celebrity, albeit a light duty celebrity like Harry Belafonte, has bad representation: whenever it becomes his turn to say something over his own head and out of total ignorance, bad representation allows its client to wander out in the morass and attempt to defend himself, over and over again, no matter the eventual detriment. Here we come now to Belafonte’s appearance on the Phil Donahue program (of which I, and seemingly the rest of the nation, was made aware after the fact), in which the reasoning of the comment was made clear … well, as clear as someone so terribly wrong can make a bad point, I guess. “[The comment] really wasn’t any one single thing. It was an accumulation of all of the things that have caused our social fabric to just fall apart. And when I was asked the question, it was in the context of – the way the question was phrased was, what do you think of Colin Powell’s abdication of his passionate commitment to the idea that we not go into Iraq except through the United Nations. And I was asked that question, and I paraphrased it.”

Now, how exactly is Colin Powell responsible for the social fabric falling apart? Well, see, Belafonte has traveled the nation, and he has seen things. “And I don’t travel as just a celebrity.” Do tell. “I travel as an activist, deeply rooted in the affairs of the disenfranchised – the poor, the black, the unemployed, et cetera, et cetera. And in so many instances, I’ve seen this nation at the height of its most powerful moments in history, where people lived on plantations of ghettos. They live in the plantation of ignorance, the plantations – the slaves of poverty. And my metaphorical reference to that was based upon the fact that I – not only in America, out foreign policy has wrecked so many nations around the world – in Latin America, Central America, the Caribbean – from which Colin Powell comes. He knows what our policy has done to wreck the economy of those places. So all of this was what triggered my remarks.” So you see, since Republican policy is rooted in repression, and because Colin Powell is a Republican, he’s a “house slave.” (Sad thing is, some people actually followed that nonsense.)

The ultimate goal has always been the betterment of blacks around the world; not just in the modern, American sense of the term, but in the distant, third world sense of the term. Malawi, as the Wall Street Journal reminded us, is suffering from a food shortage, and Zimbabwe from an AIDS crisis. This is why Belafonte does charitable work on behalf of Africare, an organization that in turn does the best it can to alleviate the suffering of those problems and others in African countries. Belafonte’s work has proven so pivotal to the organization, a charity event is being held in his honor, Thursday, at which Condoleezza Rice will be the keynote speaker.

Scratch that: Rice was going to be the keynote speaker, before she was uninvited. On what grounds? It has been made known by the guest of honor that he didn’t “like her policies” and “thought that she was an inappropriate speaker for the evening.” And so who is to take her place? Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta, civil rights crusader, liberal. (One cannot help but wonder if there could have possibly been an appropriate Republican speaker.)

There are a few ways to look at Rice’s being bumped. One is, Harry Belafonte is the guest of honor, after all, and should have a certain say as to who speaks at an event in which he is being honored. I would not, for example, sit still and allow someone as ideologically opposed to me as, let’s say, Al Gore, give the keynote address at the TGO Appreciation Dinner. Another way to look at is, even in charity, Belafonte is more of an ideologue than a philanthropist, so much so he couldn’t give credence to one stable Republican voice, no matter the cause. Hell, even I could sit still for Al Gore, given a good enough reason.

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