The only apparent organized opposition to Horowitz’s appearance came from the Afrikan Student Union, which serves the needs “of the Afrikan student body and the Afrikan community within the context of the Struggle for Afrikan liberation.” The ASU passed out flyers outside the hall questioning Horowitz’s upbeat assertions about the prosperity of American blacks. The ASU members apparently weren’t mollified when he noted in the speech that his commitment to the civil rights movement began in 1948 – probably before the parents of the students present were even born.
During the Q&A period, one black student (who was grasping one of the flyers but didn’t identify herself as belonging to the Afrikan Student Union) confronted Horowitz about racial inequality in America. He pointed out that although there’s never been a Jewish president, there is currently a black one – clear evidence of how far blacks in this country have come – and he encouraged them to celebrate that progress. This positive perspective prompted exaggerated eye-rolls from more than one of the black students waiting in line to speak.
One girl, her voice quivering with emotion, challenged him to explain why she should embrace America, when there are so many impoverished black communities. Horowitz replied that 49% of blacks in this country are middle class, that many others are wealthy, and that every single inner-city school disaster across the country from Harlem to Watts can be attributed to school boards and school districts that are 100% controlled by Democrats, who use the schools as a jobs program for adults and a cash cow (through the unions) for the Democratic Party and thus have a vested interested in keeping blacks under their collective thumb. If you’re voting Democrat, Horowitz said, “you need to re-examine your commitments because you’re voting for your oppressor.”
The final questioner mentioned that conservative new media pioneer Andrew Breitbart, in his book Righteous Indignation, cited the political demonization of black conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas as the inciting incident in his switch from Left to Right; the student asked if there were a similar watershed moment that inspired Horowitz’s own political conversion. Having read his intellectual autobiography Radical Son, I knew that there was such a moment. I knew what was coming, and knew it would get a reaction.
Horowitz explained briefly about his supportive association with the Black Panthers in the 1970s: “That was before I understood that the Panthers were a criminal gang of thugs” under a veneer of progressive ideology. This elicited a loud groan of disapproval toward the back of the hall from a couple of male students, who seemed to be unaware of – or perhaps dismissive of – the Panthers’ lengthy rap sheet of violent crimes. Their murder of Horowitz’s friend Betty Van Patter was the beginning of his about-face.
After the speech, the Afrikan Student Union members conferred intently outside the hall, apparently strategizing a response to Horowitz, who had closed the talk by offering his e-mail address to anyone interested in further discussion. For many, if not all of the left-leaning students who attended the event, it was possibly the first time they had been challenged by a conservative viewpoint on campus.
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