FP: Thank you Ismael Hernandez, I appreciate you sharing these sacred elements of your life with us in such a meaningful and moving way.
So what has been your experience in black ministry and in serving the black community?
Hernandez: The black ministry is very much informed by leftist assumptions about the nature of poverty and its narrative is along the lines of oppression and victimization. White guilt and black anger remain as interpretive prisms. I see in it much of what I believed earlier as a communist. But black ministry has not done much to challenge Marxist assumptions and black liberation proposals. Additionally, it is hostage to political correctness. People like me are not supposed to be for “social justice” as it is understood in black ministry.
For example, I was appointed director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry of my Diocese a few years ago. Because of my conservative views and reluctance to play the white guilt card, I was immediately shunned by the Florida conference and they refused to acknowledge me and to send me any literature. In a letter sent to over 20 prominent Catholic leaders around the country, I was accused of basically hating black people because I have conservative ideas and reject affirmative action and Afrocentrism. That really hurt, but I came to understand that the tool of the Left is shame. It did not matter to them that I am black, had dedicated many years to serve my people and had married the love of my life, a south-side Chicago black woman. I was a conservative and thus, in the Left’s eyes, a non-black.
FP: Can you expand a bit on what you mean when you say that the “tool of the Left is shame”?
Hernandez: Socialism was my life. It was embedded in the very fabric of my identity. In spite of the sound electoral defeats we experienced, there was something intoxicating in knowing that we were different. Being communists brought to us an aura of mystery and exclusivity. We were an embattled community, a true enlightened vanguard whose shared values would eventually bring victory to fruition. One day, we would efface the pathologies of the present social condition and our flag would stand alone. America was the enemy of humanity and it was our sacred duty to destroy her.
The only moment of tenderness between my parents that my memory manages to retain is seeing both of them laughing and dancing with joy just after watching on TV as Alexander Belov sank a basket to give the U.S. team its first-ever Olympic basketball loss against the Soviet Union at the 1972 games. I was only ten years old. Glancing in my heart upon the interior of our tiny home, I can again see them dance, I can taste my satisfaction, and I can hardly control the emotion.
Their marriage would one day break down under the heavy weight of years of despondency and turmoil safely nurtured under the great red flag of socialism. Socialism destroyed their marriage. I, however, blamed America for the lack of love between them. Socialists see individuals with second thoughts as less than human, betrayers deserving pity at best and death at worst. And they know that they can shatter us by shunning us, for to take that leap, in socialist eyes, is akin to losing yourself.
FP: Lessons learned?
Hernandez: Stand by your convictions. When you reach a transforming truth, something possessing a renovating power, you cannot hide it from others. “Don’t be a fence-sitter” my dad used to tell me, and I have kept the family tradition of rebellious insistence. I discovered that socialism survived in me as an idea to be pursued but never attained simply because if I were serious in trying to find it in reality I had to dig under a pile of human corpses. Socialism is a utopian plan to build what cannot be built, to realize what is only illusory, and to destroy what works even if the result is chaos and death. As its analysis of reality and its anthropology is faulty, socialism fails not because the results of a given radical experiment fail but because it is false in its essential premises.
FP: Why exactly were you yourself able to see through these lies?
Hernandez: As I was faced with the reality of America’s freedom I still fought my heretical thoughts with appeals to the last of all socialist excuses: “Socialism has never been tried.” For a Communist, the embarrassment of reality must be opposed by a stubborn insistence on airbrushing history to preserve a semblance of respectability. Having been so wrong for so long about politics, life, and economics, it was excessively difficult to face the devastating truth.
One day, I finally accepted the error of my poorly crafted deception. I realized that socialism had been tried and the result had been, and will always be, the Gulag.
FP: Share with us the mission of your institute.
Hernandez: Our mission is to learn about and live freedom in the minority community. The task of bringing the truths of freedom to minorities is one that must be effected by people who are already invested in the lives of our people. Major conservative institutes often remain foreign to the real lives of real people in minority communities, thus the ideas of freedom are associated with elites telling people what to do and how to live.
We believe in the creation of a movement of community organizers for freedom who while offering intellectually rewarding opportunities also operate from within communities. Decades after the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement there are still walls of silence, oppression and division erected in minority communities by governments, organizations and leaders invested in a government-centered vision for minority America. Such vision limits our civic engagement and prevents individuals from their right to life, liberty and property. A soft socialism threatens to suffocate our liberty and development and channels our aspirations of prosperity through narrow collectivist alternatives. We intend to change this.
FP: Why do you think the leftist lie is so powerful among minority communities? The Left, which pretends that it wants to empower minorities, in truth only seeks to disempower them further, correct? What in your view is the most effective way for minority groups to empower themselves?
Hernandez: A truly oppressed community often appeals to commonality as a defense mechanism. Minorities needed to bind together around common goals and common ideas as a way to survive. However, absent meaningful oppression, such commonality becomes a tool of oppression. The Left knows how to use that tool of commonality as it moves towards the true goal: socialism. Socialism masquerades as the good society where our historic commonality finds a place. But it is a mirage.
Marxist German poet Bertolt Brecht once wrote that “art is a hammer with which to shape reality.” For socialists, race is, in similar fashion, a forum for political battles. In a class society, all aspects of culture are partisan and instrumental, as they bare, as all of reality does for them, the indelible mark of class struggle. Similarly, race and ethnicity become hammers with which we shape reality– or deny it. They are a means toward the ultimate end of a classless society, the only true end. Race, ethnicity and culture are simply scenes in an “epic form” drama, as Brecht would say.
Race is the “dialectical theater” of class warfare enabling the archetypal characters to stage humanity in interaction with the “supra-personal dynamics at work in history.” Simply put, race is a weapon of class struggle. Those who believe in the irreducibility of race are welcomed on the path of “the struggle” as useful idiots. What is the answer? The personal, the individual. The great new phase of the Civil Rights Movement is an uncompromising affirmation of our individuality as persons. We must reject the mask of race consciousness as a totalism, to cite Shelby Steele.
FP: Final thoughts?
Hernandez: The job of becoming who we are destined to become is not transferable to entities, labels or groups. The human person, not the racial group, has the task of participating in his own development and growth. It is in the perilous journey from racial identification to individuality that true participation in the molding of our true self will find the end of racialism. Only in such discovery will our racial identity find its rightful place — as collective entities are only discernible through the action of individuals. It is to assist in that discovery that the Freedom & Virtue Institute is dedicated.
FP: Ismael Hernandez, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Hernandez: Thank you Jamie for this opportunity. Maybe one day I will get to meet you and my hero, David Horowitz.
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