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How Amiri Baraka’s Death Reveals Something Deeply Sick About American Culture

He was a bitter, vile and open antisemite, who hated Jews over and above anything else he believed.

by
Ron Radosh

Bio

January 10, 2014 - 11:02 am
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The African-American poet Amiri Baraka (born Everett Leroi Jones) died yesterday. Already, the press is whitewashing — or should I say, in deference to the deranged late race hater, blackwashing — his real record of obscenity.

Leading the charge, naturally, is NPR, whose obituary tells us that he was “controversial,” and that he “co-founded the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. His literary legacy is as complicated as the times he lived through, from his childhood — where he recalled not being allowed to enter a segregated library — to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. His poem about that attack, ‘Somebody Blew Up America,’ quickly became infamous.”

“Controversial” and “complicated” may be satisfactory to some of the network’s listeners, but even they could not ignore his most recent infamy — his poem after the attack on the United States on 9-11. NPR tells us Baraka “hurls indictments at forces of oppression throughout history,” and then prints some of the verses which indicate that what Baraka did was something else — indict the United States for being the real terrorist nation.

He was, in other words, a black Noam Chomsky who expressed in verse similar ideas as the noted radical linguist.

The following verse exemplified his belief that Jews knew in advance of the attack, and told their fellow religionists, and Israelis, to stay away:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?

Who? Who? Who?

That was too much for the state of New Jersey, which quickly removed his title as poet laureate of New Jersey — which they gladly handed him when he wrote even more offensive verses throughout his career.

The plaudits and prizes he received, indeed, show something deeply sick about American culture, as well as the American academy. He was a full professor at Stony Brook — SUNY, and had grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Guggenheim Foundation. No wonder NPR’s obit tells us his work was “achingly beautiful.”

Turning to the New York Times obituary, we learn that his Black Arts movement “ought to duplicate in fiction, poetry, drama and other mediums the aims of the black power movement in the political arena.” We also learn that “critical opinion” about Baraka was “divided,” which is one way of putting it. We also find out that “Mr. Baraka spent his early career as a beatnik, his middle years as a black nationalist and his later ones as a Marxist. His shifting stance was seen as either an accurate mirror of the changing times or an accurate barometer of his own quicksilver mien.”

Whatever he called himself — and he certainly blended black nationalism with Marxism — one thing was constant. He was a bitter, vile and open antisemite, who hated Jews over and above anything else he believed. The Times, of course, says only that his works “were periodically accused of being antisemitic, misogynist, homophobic, racist, isolationist and dangerously militant.”

Note that slippery word “accused,” with the implication that of course conservative, white and deluded right-wingers would make such a spurious charge. So they tell us his was a “powerful voice” and that he was a “riveting orator.” I guess the obit writer does not remember Adolf Hitler, about whom the same things could well be said, and who antisemitism was admired and equaled by Baraka. At least the obit included the judgment of Stanley Crouch — a black man who, like Baraka, wrote about jazz and blues, but who is the polar opposite of Baraka. Crouch said that his writing was “an incoherent mix of racism, antisemitism, homophobia, black nationalism, anarchy and ad hominem attacks relying on comic book and horror film characters and images that he has used over and over and over.”

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I think it reveals something deeply sick about the people who run NPR and the New York Times.

Actually, reveals is the wrong word. Most of us knew it already and the those who didn't are immune to facts hence the fact remains unrevealed to them.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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what is deeply sick about American culture trying to find some quality in garbage like Colonel West, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Amiri Barakas

and the debasement of American constitution, rule of law and the image of the President

with the current individuals in the White House

that is what is disgusting and deeply sick

How much more do we have to dumb down to make some minorities feel adequate?
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
The weak despise themselves and are drawn to angry lunatics like this nut. It is not unlike the prisoners in the concentration camp who humanized their guards.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed overall with your article, Mr. Radosh, although the comparison to Chomsky, although otherwise completely spot on, isn't exactly 100% accurate. As bad as Baraka was, not to mention a really sick puppy from his writings and false apologies, at least he actually was praiseworthy of his "homeland" of Africa. Chomsky, in addition to being anti-American, is also anti-Israel (which is technically his "homeland" owing to his being ethnically Jewish, no offense to you of course) as well, meaning he doesn't even have any respect of the cultural roots of his ethnicity, or even his own people (doesn't even attempt to hide it, either).
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cill my landlord.
C-I-L-L my landlord.
(h/t Eddie Murphy/SNL)
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The most important thing to remember about Leroi is that he was a lousy writer. He had to compensate for that by being outrageous. Otherwise he would have sunk like a stone.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I tried reading me some Allen Ginsburg once. Same deal, pretty much. Semi-literate rantings.

Unabashed, politicized, self-promoters who found their moment to ride the ferment and get noticed by pumping their fists and yelling "poopy-head" at the grownups and basking in the glow of the kiddies entranced by the bold "rebel".
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Based on what little I know about him, I think the outrageousness was the point, not the quality of his writing. In the era of Black Power, standing up in front of The Man and saying outrageous things, angry things, hateful things made him seem important.

I've never understood why mere talkers and symbolic-gesture-makers like Leroi affect people, but that seems to be the way it is. Too bad for him the revolution never quite happened.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
And of course, Tom Sowell and Walter Williams are "Uncle Tom's".

It's not the race, it's what's between their ears --- CULTURE. Primitive, tribalistic, barbarian culture.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it reveals something deeply sick about the people who run NPR and the New York Times.

Actually, reveals is the wrong word. Most of us knew it already and the those who didn't are immune to facts hence the fact remains unrevealed to them.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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