Could the anti-Western worldview propagated by Jamaica’s leftist elites be serving as an incubator for Islamic-inspired terrorism? That possibility was discussed in my personal blog in 2007 and, low and behold, the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica on February 25, 2010 issued a secret diplomatic cable: “Jamaica: Fertile Soil for Terrorism?” that was released by anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks.
Written by Deputy Chief of Mission Isiah Parnell, the cable attributed Jamaica’s potential for Islamic-inspired terrorism to the island’s large number of disaffected youths and unstable families with absent fathers. There was no mention of my main points; that Jamaica’s grievance-mongering elites may be providing a worldview from which Islamic-inspired terrorists could emerge in an overwhelming Christian culture. The cable was sent to the CIA, FBI, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security among others. Why it was classified as “secret” is perplexing. Perhaps it was to avoid embarrassing Jamaica’s government.
In 1950, the State Department declined to renew Robeson’s passport unless he signed an affidavit stating that he wasn’t a Communist Party member and was loyal citizen. Robeson refused. Rightly or wrongly, the State Department’s actions reflected the realities of the era – a dangerous cold war pitting Stalinist Russia against America and the West; a conflict in which Robeson sided with the enemy with considerable gusto. U.S. authorities decided they’d had enough of Robeson’s antics on the international stage during a perilous period of nuclear brinkmanship between America and the U.S.S.R..
Robeson sued to regain his passport and in 1956, in connection with that lawsuit, he appeared before the by-partisan House Committee of Un-American Activities. The confrontation featured some memorable exchanges between Robeson and committee members, including Robeson’s incredible assertion that the Soviet Union was a color-blind society (which was undoubtedly the case for high-profile useful idiots visiting there). Here are some excerpts from the hearing:
Mr. ROBESON: In Russia I felt for the first time like a full human being. No color prejudice like in Mississippi, no color prejudice like in Washington. It was the first time I felt like a human being. Where I did not feel the pressure of color as I feel [it] in this Committee today.
Rep. GORDON H. SCHERER : Why do you not stay in Russia?
Mr. ROBESON: Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear? I am for peace with the Soviet Union, and I am for peace with China, and I am not for peace or friendship with the Fascist Franco, and I am not for peace with Fascist Nazi Germans. I am for peace with decent people.
Rep. SCHERER: You are here because you are promoting the Communist cause.
Mr. ROBESON: I am here because I am opposing the neo-Fascist cause which I see arising in these committees. You are like the Alien [and] Sedition Act, and Jefferson could be sitting here, and Frederick Douglass could be sitting here, and Eugene Debs could be here.
. . . .
Rep. FRANCIS E. WALTER: Now, what prejudice are you talking about? You were graduated from Rutgers and you were graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. I remember seeing you play football at Lehigh.
Mr. ROBESON: We beat Lehigh.
Rep. WALTER: And we had a lot of trouble with you.
Mr. ROBESON: That is right. DeWysocki was playing in my team.
Rep. WALTER: There was no prejudice against you. Why did you not send your son to Rutgers?
Mr. ROBESON: Just a moment. This is something that I challenge very deeply, and very sincerely: that the success of a few Negroes, including myself or Jackie Robinson can make up — and here is a study from Columbia University — for seven hundred dollars a year for thousands of Negro families in the South. My father was a slave, and I have cousins who are sharecroppers, and I do not see my success in terms of myself. That is the reason my own success has not meant what it should mean: I have sacrificed literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for what I believe in.
STAFF DIRECTOR RICHARD ARENS: While you were in Moscow, did you make a speech lauding Stalin?
Mr. ROBESON: I do not know.
Mr. ARENS: Did you say, in effect, that Stalin was a great man, and Stalin had done much for the Russian people, for all of the nations of the world, for all working people of the earth? Did you say something to that effect about Stalin when you were in Moscow?
Mr. ROBESON: I cannot remember.
Mr. ARENS: Do you have a recollection of praising Stalin?
Mr. ROBESON: I said a lot about Soviet people, fighting for the peoples of the earth.
Mr. ARENS: Did you praise Stalin?
Mr. ROBESON: I do not remember.
Mr. ARENS: Have you recently changed your mind about Stalin?
Mr. ROBESON: Whatever has happened to Stalin, gentlemen, is a question for the Soviet Union, and I would not argue with a representative of the people who, in building America, wasted sixty to a hundred million lives of my people, black people drawn from Africa on the plantations. You are responsible, and your forebears, for sixty million to one hundred million black people dying in the slave ships and on the plantations, and don’t ask me about anybody, please.
Mr. ARENS: I am glad you called our attention to that slave problem. While you were in Soviet Russia, did you ask them there to show you the slave labor camps?
Rep. WALTER: You have been so greatly interested in slaves, I should think that you would want to see that.
Mr. ROBESON: The slaves I see are still in a kind of semi-serfdom. I am interested in the place I am, and in the country that can do something about it. As far as I know, about the slave camps, they were fascist prisoners who had murdered millions of the Jewish people, and who would have wiped out millions of the Negro people, could they have gotten a hold of them. That is all I know about that.
Mr. ARENS: Tell us whether or not you have changed your opinion in the recent past about Stalin.
Mr. ROBESON: I have told you, mister, that I would not discuss anything with the people who have murdered sixty million of my people, and I will not discuss Stalin with you.
Mr. ARENS: You would not, of course, discuss with us the slave labor camps in Soviet Russia.
Mr. ROBESON: I will discuss Stalin when I may be among the Russian people some day, singing for them, I will discuss it there. It is their problem.
At one point, Robeson attacked the patriotism of the committee members, saying that “you are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
Nearly 20 years later, James Baldwin, the great African-American novelist and essayist, criticized Robeson’s moral blindness in a widely-cited essay, writing: “It is personally painful to me to realize that so gifted a man as Robeson should have been tricked by his own bitterness and by a total inability to understand the nature of political power in general, or Communist aims in particular, into missing the point of his own critique, which is worth a great deal of thought: that there are a great many ways of being un-American, some of them nearly as old as the country itself…”
This isn’t the first time Robeson’s fans succeeded in their efforts to rehabilitate him. Eight years ago, the United States Postal Service issued a Paul Robeson commemorative postage stamp that was part of its Black Heritage Series of stamps. Interestingly, Robeson was first honored with a postage stamp issued in 1982 by the German Democratic Republic (i.e. communist East Germany).
Undeniably, Robeson was a remarkable talent and intellect – yet he was ultimately a tragic figure because of the political views he chose to promote. In the end, his achievements must then be considered against the morally flawed universe that he inhabited.
Robeson’s name obviously has no place on the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, a place that is supposed to represent America’s values and interests. Ambassador Bridgewater and whoever in Washington gave her a green-light ought to be ashamed of themselves. But don’t count on President Obama or Hillary Clinton ordering any inquiries into this matter. Undoubtedly, they can be included among the ship of fools at the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica and at embassies around the world that are putting forth an Obamaesque view of America’s place in the world.
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