Issue Number 7- July 11, 2002

Randall Kennedy: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Fool

How the NAACP Handled the N-word

J.C. Watts, Gone in a Flash

Printer Friendly Version

Note: The size of the type may be changed by clicking on view at the top of your browser and selecting "text size". The document will print in the size you select.

From: Co-Publisher Glen Ford

To: Readers

Dear Reader,

Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy, a specialist in telling white people exactly what he thinks they want to hear, continues to ride high on the Best Sell-Out lists, his bank account swelled by proceeds from "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word." Kennedy's own career appears to be based on playing the role of surrogate to white racists, who fear to mouth the dreaded N-word themselves, but love reading about it from the perspective of a Black man who hates African Americans even more than they do.

Dr. Martin Kilson, professor of political science and the first Black to achieve tenure at Harvard, in 1968, brilliantly dissected Kennedy's pathological profiteering in the June 27 issue of this publication. Kilson's diagnosis - the dictionary defines the word to mean, "the art or act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms" - is that "Kennedy's core purpose in producing 'Nigger' was to assist White Americans in feeling comfortable with using the epithet 'nigger.'"

Kilson suggested that Kennedy was guilty of inciting white bucks to run amuck in the Ivy League. We sent out a news release:

Dr. Kilson blamed Kennedy for a series of Harvard campus postings of e-mail messages containing the racial slur. The incidents provoked demonstrations by hundreds of students, led by the Harvard Black Law Students Association, in March and April. Kilson said the events "were set in motion…by the intellectually bizarre idea propagated in this book….

Kennedy "has no sense of responsibility for the vicious racial fires he has cynically ignited," said Dr. Kilson, He described Kennedy's book as "tantamount to tossing a match at a gasoline-soaked building."

The Kilson release got lots of attention, including coverage among the only media that Kennedy respects: the big white press. Kennedy clearly does not consider himself answerable in any respect to other Black people, but he does answer the phone when the Boston Globe calls. Staff writer Stephanie Stoughton reported, July 8:

After reading Kilson's critique, Kennedy called it "silly, inaccurate, poorly researched, a sad commentary on Professor Kilson." Among his issues with the latest criticism is Kilson's assumption that there is a connection between Kennedy's book and the [Harvard 'nigger'] incidents. "Let's suppose there is a relationship," he said. "So what? So I'm not supposed to write a book because someone might put it to bad use?"

Poorly researched? Kennedy is one of those "public intellectuals" who act the fool in the full light of day. Dr. Kilson read the book and a number of related articles in the New York Times and the Boston Globe. He quotes the author's words. Kennedy damns himself with his own voice. Kennedy flatters himself by imagining that his book is heavy lifting.

What Kennedy really objects to is Dr. Kilson's clear exposition of where Kennedy fits within the shameful ranks of those who make careers out of defaming their fellow African Americans. He and the rest of his cash-and-carry crowd should prepare for much more of the same medicine. Kilson's contribution to The Black Commentator was excerpted from his "The Making of Black Intellectuals: Studies on the African-American Intelligentsia," a work of two decades that will be published early next year.

In this grand, two-volume study, Kilson shows Kennedy to be a dim light on the desolate right rim of the constellation of Black political thought.

Or, as a reader named Von offered in an e-mail to :

Mr. Randall is a selfish fool, and making a lot of money at the expense of his people and his heritage. He's truly playing into the hand of the many whites who have been dying to use the "N" word. Whites will now think it's politically correct.

The NAACP's Pre-emptive Cyber-Strike

The goal of treachery is to surprise the victim. Certainly, the NAACP could not have predicted, back in 1999, that the new century's most aggressive popularizer of the word "nigger" would be a Black law professor from Harvard University. Rather, the civil rights organization had its eyes on the usual suspects among white hate groups when it registered as a domain name, along with other permutations of the word.

"We wanted to make sure these domain names would not be used for derogatory purposes," NAACP director of communications John White told Wired News, three years ago. "We are the oldest civil rights organization and it is within our charter to reduce hate in whatever way we can."

The Anti-Defamation League used a similar strategy to deny Jew-haters access to domains such as, .net and .org. However, ADL spokeswoman Elizabeth Coleman admitted that any attempt to corner the market on hate names amounts to "a symbolic gesture."

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation decided that taking "fag" and other slurs out of online circulation wasn't worth the money. "We'd rather focus on spending our limited funds on responding to defamation," said GLAAD's Will Doherty.

Gone in a Flash

J.C. Watts, the four-term Black Republican Congressman from a mostly white, conservative Oklahoma district, is retiring at the age of 44. His departure will have no substantive political effect whatsoever. Nevertheless, his party will miss him.

Watts spent all but the first two of his eight years on Capitol Hill as the GOP's lone Black representative in the House. The former football player must have withered under the endless photographic demands made on his person, the only loyal Black body available. Each congressional occasion of "conservative compassion" demanded his presence - photos with everyone. No Republican "outreach" event was complete without J.C. Watts on the marquee. Flash! Flash! Flash! A man could catch a sunburn like this! It must have been maddening.

The only threat Watts ever represented was to the decorum of the Congressional Black Caucus. When Watts was swept into office on the Newt Gingrich tide of 1994, Black Democrats dreaded having to figure out which rules of etiquette apply when the enemy starts taking his meals in your living room. Thankfully, the youthful lawmaker expressed no interest in joining the CBC.

The Caucus need not have worried. Watts was too busy posing for pictures to spend time with the brothers and sisters of the opposition. He was his party's indispensable man.

After just two terms in the House, Watts became the GOP's fourth-ranking member. Don't believe for a second that his breathtaking ascent was undeserved. This man worked! What other congressperson had had his picture taken with every other Republican in the House? Not one, I wager! What other colleague's picture could a Utah congressman show to the three Black Mormon Republicans back in Salt Lake City? Only J.C. would suffice.

As chairman of the House Republican Conference, Watts was in charge of communications, which meant - more pictures. One can hardly imagine the strain. Watts was the executive in charge of producing messages praising the congressional GOP's record of racial inclusion. Yet, he was also required to play a featured role in every publicity package. Producer, director, the only Black actor - don't tell me the man didn't have talent.

Goodbye, Picture-Man.


Glen Ford, Co-Publisher

Wired News: Who Owns the N-Word Dot Com?,1284,21873,00.html

Click here to return to the home page