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Stacking Nonsense 'til Morning Come
by Marni Soupcoff, The American Enterprise Online
1 February 2003

Daylight come and Belafonte Won't Shut Up.

Would someone please tell Harry Belafonte to give it a rest?  The man may be a decent singer (though I personally have never understood the ap-peel of the banana boat song http://singalongwithme.com/banana/), but when it comes to politics and policy, he’s little more than a racist embarrassment.

At a recent mass to honor Martin Luther King Jr., Belafonte spoke (and sang) for ninety minutes, taking numerous jabs at the Bush administration and blaming the events of September 11thon the United States. “There is a price to be paid for” [America’s arrogant foreign policy]. Belafonte told the assembled congregation, “look at 9/11.”

Yes, Harry, most of us did look at 9/11 and concluded it was a horrendous terrorist act of mass murder organized by a megalomaniac Islamofacist billionaire, not a reasonable price to pay for the United States implementing an unpopular foreign policy agenda. But clearly you disagree. (And we all thought blaming the World Trade Center attacks on America was a pastime reserved for ivory tower academics, lefty British newspapers, and Canadian Prime Ministers!  Just goes to show….)

Of course, Belafonte was not content to criticize policy alone in his address (though he did bemoan the “villainy” of the Homeland Security Act, the demise of racial preferences, and the end of abortion rights, the last of which is a bit of a mystery given that abortions, even the highly controversial partial birth procedures, are currently legal). He also took the opportunity to get personal.
Belafonte criticized Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for serving the Bush administration, which he says is of questionable morality. Presumably, the message is that they shouldn’t be there because they’re black, and blacks aren’t allowed to be conservative. Better they should rally behind someone of true moral fiber like Al Sharpton, I guess.

But even those who aren’t fans of the Bush administration have to wonder exactly what Belafonte is thinking. When talking to reporters after the mass, Belafonte wondered out loud why he hadn’t heard from Colin Powell in the past few months. Gee, Harry, I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you called him a “house slave” on national television?

Or maybe Harry’s right and it’s just that Powell has “betrayed” his ancestry “and doesn’t want to hear it.”  I’ll leave it to you to decide.  

While I’m at it, though, let me also put this question to you. Which African American do youthink has bestowed the greater honor on his ancestry?  A calypso singer who, in 2003, is stillcrooning about “stacking banana till thee morning come” (Belafonte broke into the Day-o chorus of the Banana Boat Song during his sermon), or a man who has risen on his own abilities from living in a New York City slum to becoming, first, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then the first black Secretary of State of the United States?  Call me stupid (or maybe just a hawk), but I’m going to go with the military guy.

The problem with Harry Belafonte (aside from the fact that he’s still milking a fifty-year-old tune) is that he sees black people as blacksrather than as individuals. When he addressed the congregation last Sunday, he blasted African Americans for not doing more to help other African Americans in prison. Hang on, now, Harry, that’s painting with a pretty broad stroke, don’t you think?  After all, why shouldall black people help all black people in prison—just because they share the same colored skin?  Many black prisoners have landed behind bars as a result of perpetrating black on black crime and making their black neighborhoods war zones where black kids can’t walk down their streets without being accosted by drug dealers. It makes no sense that these criminals should receive allegiance from the people they have harmed just because they are of the same race.

And what about Colin Powell?  If Belafonte saw Powell as an individual, he (Belafonte) would criticize Powell’s policies or political stances. But because Belafonte only sees the Secretary of State as black, he instead attacks him personally, calling Powell a houseboy, and accusing him of betraying his ancestry. In Belafonte’s eyes it is as though, by being black, Colin Powell has a responsibility to hold certain political views and take certain policy stances. He has no right to form his own opinions or make up his own mind because he is black and there are certain things (e.g., serving a Republican President) blacks should not do. To stray from this orthodoxy is to betray one’s blackness.

This pigeonholing by race is a far cry from the color-blind integration sought by Martin Luther King Jr., the man Belafonte was supposed to be honoring. In fact, it negates much of the progress towards racial equality that King and his followers have made, which is a shame.

I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere out there Martin Luther King Jr. is rolling in his grave. Or, at the very least, rolling to his eyes to the tune of the Banana Boat Song.

Marni Soupcoff is an attorney and Toronto-based journalist. She is a contributing editor at The Iconoclast and a regular columnist for American Enterprise Online. This article originally appeared on The American Enterprise Online Web site.