Banana Boat Hate Tour Comes to Duke

When someone has a history of making insidious remarks—such as opining that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 were a result of “America’s hand of villainy,” calling President Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world,” and comparing Colin Powell to a house “slave” and the Bush administration to the “Third Reich”—normal people tend to distance themselves from the bearer of such animosity.

Not Duke University. Ranked fifth nationally for its undergraduate program by U.S. News & World Report, the school is all smiles after having Calypso’s king of hate pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Harry Belafonte, an avowed socialist (who’s a millionaire), didn’t let the Left down. He came out swinging by likening President Bush to al Qaeda. Belafonte asked the Duke audience what the essential difference was in quality “between those who would do the cruel and tragic deed of flying an airplane into a building and killing 3,000 innocent Americans, and those who would lie and lead the nation into a war that has killed hundreds, thousands?” He followed up with “What is the difference between that terror [Bush] and other terrors [al Qaeda]?”

Belafonte continued to disparage the Bush Administration. He chided Bush for his belief in Christianity, saying that it’s terrifying when those in “high places” say that they “are guided by what [God] says.” It must have slipped Belafonte’s mind that King was a Baptist minister who commonly referenced the Bible and used its imagery when preaching about civil rights.

Belafonte also felt compelled to defend the former Soviet Union and any other failed collectivist regime. “How many great movements have been attempted by communist thinkers and socialist thinkers,” he pondered out loud.

For anyone with ears to hear, it is obvious that Dr. King’s soft tenor and brotherly love reveal a stark contrast to Belafonte’s intolerable and divisive words. King famously said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Belafonte is calling our President a mass-murderer and has referred to black conservatives as “tyrants.”

Not only does Belafonte’s intemperate attitude make him a poor candidate to commemorate Dr. King, but having the subject of civil rights viewed only through a leftist purview is even more questionable.

The Left cannot claim a monopoly on the civil rights movement, as they usually do. If anything, it was their faith in and adulation for government that was responsible for Jim Crow laws. For instance, although most metropolitan transit systems were privately owned, the government instituted segregationist laws, mandating that private companies could not allow race mingling. Business owners—racist or not—lobbied steadfastly against the government because they were losing money during the transportation boycotts. To these businessmen, green was the only color they cared about. The conservative precepts of limited government and free association were hostile to the coercive Jim Crow rules and regulations.

Furthermore, the position taken by Belafonte and his radical posse that minorities should have their race, ethnicity, and gender considered during the college admission process and in business transactions only metastasizes, not alleviates, racial animosity and division. By being smitten with this stance, in fact, the Left commits the very sin of discrimination that brought about the civil rights movement. In addition, those who favor racial preferences are actually tacitly condoning the same method and powers that wrongfully used race as a source of authority, entitlement, and oppression over the black community.

But students will never hear that point of view at Duke. The school has regularly excluded conservative black leaders such as Ward Connerly, J.C. Watts and Clarence Thomas from honoring MLK. Nowadays, in order to grace academia’s doorstep, one must be an outspoken lunatic who embraces communist thugs overseas.

Duke officials, however, were comfortable and delighted to have Belafonte address the student body. Ben Reese, co-chair of the King Commemoration Committee, gloated that “Harry Belafonte was the unanimous choice of the committee and we look forward to welcoming him to the Duke campus.” Judith Ruderman, Duke’s vice provost for academic and administrative services, said that the University was “very lucky to have gotten [Belafonte].”

Ruderman admitted that Belafonte was a contentious choice, but she asserted that this was a prime example of “free speech.” According to her, “If we [Duke] believe in free speech, which we do, and if we’ve invited controversial speakers in the past, which we have, there is nothing new here.” For Ruderman to bring “free speech” into the debate means that she has no idea what she’s talking about. The problem is not Duke’s “free speech,” but its academic judgment in hosting the grumpy, salacious, and undomesticated Belafonte to talk about Dr. King’s legacy and values. Liberals always mindlessly babble on about “free speech” when they draw intellectual blanks, but such freedom if exercised properly would imply a diversity of opinion that has no precedent at Duke.

Using MLK’s anniversary to sermonize the Left’s message is nothing new for Duke. Last year, the MLK speaker was two-time Communist Party vice presidential candidate Angela Davis. Davis, the third woman to appear on the FBI’s Most Wanted List and a recipient of the Lenin “Peace Prize” from the police state of East Germany, has said that the “only path of liberation for black people is that which leads toward complete and radical overthrow of the capitalist class.”

It’s clear from his ridiculous antics that Belafonte is a has-been who’s trying to relive his glory days, but Duke University should know better than to satisfy his unhealthy craving for attention in support of Duke’s own drive toward infamy.