The Media, Black Men, O. J., and the Million Man March

Ishmael Reed

BLACK MEN HAVE become the sacrificial lambs for all male evil. Men from other ethnic groups whose treatment of women is, in some cases, worse than that accorded black women by black men join the attack on black men as a way of covering their own record of abuse against women; they pass the buck to black men. With respect to rape, for example, and as the white feminist Andrea Dworkin has ob­served, white men often employ and invoke the image of the black male rapist to obscure, deny, or excuse their own participation in this crime.

The white male commentariat’s responses to the Million Man March evidenced "buck passing." Since the March was billed as an atonement for black men, these white men behaved as though white men had nothing to atone for, engaging in a phony effluvia of con­gratulations to black men for finally getting themselves together. Moreover, though the majority of black women supported black men’s decision to participate in the March, white male commentariats focused their discussion of the March on the criticism leveled against black men by a handful of highly publicized black commercial femi­nists. The perspectives of these feminists were cleverly presented as representative of all black women.

The black women who were enlisted by the New York Times, The Village Voice, The New Yorker, and National Public Radio to chastise Simpson, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, and the Million Man March should ask themselves why none of these presses report stories about white and other nonblack male domestic abuse. Indeed, Irish-, Ital­ian-, and Jewish-American feminists, as well as Latina/Chicana femi­nists, claim that domestic abuse in each of their respective communi­ties is being covered up by a conspiracy of silence. The media facili­tate this coverup by employing only black men to illustrate male abu­sive behavior.

The blaming of black men for sexism and the silence about the sexism of men in other racial and ethnic groups is not the only mani­festation of "buck passing." For black men are also employed as the main culprits behind crime, drugs, and violence, even though studies show that such activities cut across racial and class lines. Not surpris­ingly, then, a report of skyrocketing heroin abuse among the white middle and upper classes was barely noticed by the New York Times, which regularly features front-page stories about black male patho­logical behavior. White drug pathology, like white domestic abuse, escapes public scrutiny.

As long as right-wing white males control the media, the media will be used as a weapon against black men. They will be aided by some aging Ku Klux feminists and some younger feminists, black and white, who are simply naive, like Kristal Brent Zook, who blasted O. J., Mike Tyson, and the Million Man March in the New York Times magazine section, a publication whose record of vilification against blacks is so bad that CEMOTAP (Committee to Eliminate Media Of­fensive to African People) demonstrated against the Times after it ran a photo of a black woman with a baby strapped to her back about to fellate a white john. Her article, whether she knew it or not, was part of an ongoing vindictive attack on black men by the editors of the magazine—neoconservative ideologues who believe that black male behavior is at the root of all social pathologies. They regularly run what amount to emotional rants by black feminists against black men. Even the two black male intellectuals whom they profiled within the past two years were given a voice only because they were uncritically devoted to feminism, blasting Afrocentrics, and blaming black people for the country’s anti-Semitism. These people are little more than hired mouths. If a black editor ran a magazine, like the New York Times magazine, New York magazine, or the New Republic, that was as vicious against Jews as these magazines are against blacks, the ADL and the JDL would be all over him.

The problem, of course, is that blacks exercise little control over the media. Thus, magazines that often engage in Nazi-style rhetoric against blacks, like the New Republic, whose editor, Martin Perez, re­cently said that black women are culturally deficient, and the Atlantic Monthly, where The Bell Curve was first published, exercise power over who is and who isn’t a black intellectual. FAIR (For Accuracy in Reporting) tried to get some of those journalists who condemned Louis Farrakhan’s wild anti-Semitic rhetoric to condemn Perez for his Nazi-esque views about black women. None of them, including Tina Brown of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, would do so.

Joseph Goebbels ran a newspaper called Der Angriff, which scapegoated Jews and idealized the German population as hardwork­ing and devoted to family values. The same kind of disparity exists in the coverage of black males in this country. In fact, I have compared Nazi stereotypes about Jewish men and those promoted in the Amer­ican media about black men and have found perfect matches.

Robert Lipsyte, a New York Times sports writer, bonded with those black women who demonstrated against Mike Tyson’s Harlem Homecoming. For the last few years, he has been touting an unpub­lished dissertation by a Mormon scholar that blames black athletes for the rapes committed against women in sports, even though Lip – syte himself said that the book might be considered racist. Lipsyte even called for a boycott of the network that carries Tyson’s fights. A few weeks ago, barely noticed by the white male-owned and – oper­ated media, was the arrest of Tommy Morrison, former WBO heavy­weight champion, a white fighter who owns one of the most devas­tating punches in boxing. Ask Razor Ruddick and George Foreman, two of his victims. Tommy Morrison was arrested for punching one woman and biting another, but there wasn’t a peep from the black male-obsessed feminist movement, nor was there a call for a boycott of his fights by the black feminist Robert Lipsyte.

A number of women have accused Senator Packwood of sexual wrongdoing, but when his colleagues announced that his case would be aired behind closed doors, none of the pandemonium occurred that ensued when a similar decision was made during the Clarence Thomas versus Anita Hill episode. There was no marching up the steps of the Capitol, which is what happened when feminist kamikazes and their cannon fodder, Anita Hill, denied Clarence Thomas his right to due process. Of all black feminists, Anita Hill has become one of the most usable, even permitting herself to be used by Gil Garcetti, the unscrupulous prosecutor in the Simpson case. Her

being a guest of the prosecution during the trial was part of a blatant effort to influence the nine black women on the jury. It didn’t work. In fact, the difference in attitudes between the black women on the jury and those of the black feminists who were summoned by The New Yorker to convict Simpson, without citing a scintilla of evidence, merely shows once again how out of touch the hand-picked Talented Tenthers are with the feelings of ordinary black Americans. Michele Wallace said as much in her Village Voice piece covering the meeting held at Columbia University by some of the March’s critics on the evening of the March. "The results, not surprisingly, were disappoint­ing," she wrote.

The Talented Tenthers, whose ideology is feminism, also run the risk of being associated with right-wing racist prosecutors and police and of supporting women regardless of whether they are lying. There is enough evidence to suggest that Marion Barry, Mike Tyson, and O. J. Simpson were set up by malicious prosecutors and by the kind of degenerate police who are ever present in the black ghettos. A New Yorker magazine article, which included the views of thirteen black intellectuals, also showed the Talented Tenthers’s cavalier disregard of abuses in the criminal justice system. It doesn’t matter to them that the police lied in the Simpson case or violated his Fourth Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter that a policewoman who worked with Mark Fuhrman reported that Fuhrman abused her and humiliated her. It didn’t matter whether Fuhrman beat up Jews and belonged to the Nazi party, either. Black feminists and white feminists have not ut­tered a word about Fuhrman’s testimony that he and other officers used a Mexican American woman as a human shield during an ex­change of gunfire with a Mexican American gang, giving credence once more to the charge that bourgeois feminists don’t give a hoot about poor women. The feminists in The New Yorker who dissed Simpson and the Million Man March—some linked the individual to the event—convicted both the individual and the March simply be­cause men were involved. They think that they know more than the forensics experts Henry Lee and Michael Baden, the microbiologist John Gerdes, and other scientific experts brought in by the defense to make mincemeat of the prosecution’s case.1

Some of these commercial feminists are hypocrites, too. They were opposed to the March that called for male attendance, yet some of the women attend conferences that, if not excluding men, certainly give the impression that men are not welcomed.2 In fact, there were more women in attendance at the Million Man March than at the typ­ical feminist conference, attended by those feminists whom the New York Times and The New Yorker used to denounce the March.3

Feminist scholars like the ones the New York Times brought onto its front page to denounce the Million Man March even endorse con­ferences that exclude heterosexual women. Before denouncing the Million Man March, some of them attended an all-woman conference in China where they held a lynch mob "trial" of Simpson.

These bourgeois feminists’ idea of oppression is being hassled about first-class seats on a plane. Though some of them are sincere in their criticism of black male chauvinism, others are obviously in it for the money, and brag about their huge publishers’ advances—their earnings from dissing black men—on network television.

Unlike the grievances of black mothers who must face drastic welfare cuts and can’t afford to buy food and the millions of working poor black men and women, those of the college-educated academic black feminists seem trivial. The young feminist Kristal Brent Zook, who denounced the Million Man March, O. J., Tyson, Mel Reynolds, Clarence Thomas, Tupac Shakur, and others on behalf of the right­wing white males who run the Times magazine section, said that her idea of abuse was a Guatemalan immigrant touching her private parts and a white man luring her into lifting her dress for a photo op­portunity, which must strike the generation of black women who were mauled by southern cops during the Civil Rights movement as a little silly. Previously, another black feminist, in the pages of the same magazine, traced her oppression to a remark that her father made to her about an immodest bathing suit she wore on the beach one day. Her black-male-bashing book, which promises to make her wealthy, will be published soon.

While O. J. Simpson’s lawyers and consultants exposed to the world a racist criminal justice system in which the prosecution, for example, withheld exculpatory evidence, defended the testimony of lying witnesses, investigated and harassed the defense’s scientific ex­perts, planted prosecution agents like the Brooklyn-born Gloria Allred, CNN’s official basher of black men, as an objective media ex­pert (for CBS, whose minority hiring record is so bad it’s called the Caucasian Broadcasting Company) and brought in experts who were prone to examiner bias. The Million Man March challenged the media’s lies and stereotypes about African American males. One day in Washington did more to challenge a racist, segregated media than all the reports, studies, and boycotts conducted by media critics over the past twenty-five years. The problem was that members of other groups took this Day of Atonement to mean that black men were the only ones who had something to atone for. (The other problem was that the most prominent speaker has a history of making bizarre com­ments about Jews and bigoted statements about other groups. Maybe he doesn’t realize that anti-Semitism in this country is tolerated only when it issues from the mouths of powerful white men like Pat Robertson, George Bush, Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon, former Secre­tary of State James Baker, and Billy Graham, the world’s second most powerful religious leader, who once said that the Jews were satanic and owned the media). White men, as well as black and white women, could use some atonement, also. Women perpetrate more vi­olence against children than men, yet black and white feminists sel­dom discuss this form of domestic violence, or women who commit psychological oppression as well as physical oppression against men. Black men constitute 55 percent of the male victims murdered by women.

One black feminist appeared on C-Span, which runs what amounts to a propaganda hate bulletin board against blacks every morning, to denounce the March as being controlled by patriarchal and nationalistic black men; yet her refusal to refer to any social pathologies perpetrated by women makes her a nationalist for women. She is a rich leader of the feminist nation with a full endorse­ment from the patron of black feminists, Gloria Steinem, another one of these feminists who have denounced Clarence Thomas and O. J., yet said she’s embarrassed when a man of her own ethnic back­ground is ensnared in a scandal.4 Nationalists are those who believe that their side is of higher moral superiority than their enemy. For the feminists who are making money and gaining publicity for denounc­ing O. J., Clarence Thomas, Mike Tyson, and the Million Man March, the enemy is black men.

The emancipation of black men has been abandoned. The com­munications with black men have been cut off, which is what hap­pens when you’re on a war footing with the enemy. Talks break down, and hostility begins. Books by black men are seldom used in college courses anymore. A variety of viewpoints from black men are ignored by the white, male-run media who prefer athletes and crimi­nals and use black and white feminists to blame all of the social evils of the society on black men, while theirs go unchecked. (Why doesn’t Steven Spielberg do a movie about patriarchal abuses that occur in Jewish homes against Jewish women?)

The black male, whose creative genius has made billions for oth­ers and who is applauded by right-wingers like Ben Wattenberg only when he goes to war, has been shunted off to the margins of Ameri­can discourse. The Million Man March showed that, no matter how much his enemies seek to silence him, the black man will not shut up.

There are steps that can be taken to counter the heavy propa­ganda treatment by the enemies of black men who control the media. Black members of Congress should be urged to support the restora­tion of the Fairness Doctrine, which requires the media to voice oppo­site points of view on controversial issues. The corporate supporters of antiblack propaganda centers like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Manhattan Institute should be exposed and their products boycotted. A new black think tank, which would do for blacks what the Anti-Defamation League does for Jews, that is, oppose every slur and distortion against blacks that occurs in the media, should be established.

Finally, there should be an all-out Montgomery-style boycott against the media until they hire more independent black journalists, not just collaborators, who present a variety of viewpoints from the black community and provide a balanced picture of black people in the media. When I took the floor at the Unity 94 convention to de­nounce Ted Turner of CNN as the American Goebbels for his net­work’s daily slander against black Americans—slanders that reach ninety countries—and to ask panelist Jesse Jackson whether a boycott of the networks was in order, he said that it was a good idea. It’s still a good idea. Given the shaky financial status of the American media, a sustained boycott against newspapers alone in major cities would bring these propaganda agencies to their knees.


1. Cyril Wecht, one of the country’s top forensic pathologists, said that the paucity of blood pointed to Simpson’s innocence.

2. Kristol Zook admitted this in her Black Feminist Manifesto, Sort Of.

When is Jack Rosenthal going to publish a Jewish Feminist Manifesto that would document the abuses against Jewish women by Jewish men, a history of abuse and gender conflict that is contributing to the extinction of Jewish America?

3. The anti-Simpson, anti-March slant of Henry Louis Gates’s New Yorker article was predictable. Simpson-hater and companion of Denise Brown, Roseanne Barr is a power behind The New Yorker these days. The New Yorker editor Tina Brown even flies to Los Angeles to discuss the direction of the magazine with this comedian, prompting some New Yorker staffers to resign in protest. Both The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, of which Brown was formerly editor, favored the prosecution’s side in the Simpson case. Jeffrey Toobin, who was the media’s authority on the attitudes of black people about the case, wrote a series of kiss-behind articles in favor of the prosecution in The New Yorker, and the deranged and sleazy Dominick Dunne did the hatchet jobs on Simpson and Johnny Cochran for Vanity Fair. Barr is another one of these sick, wounded women who want to make a black man pay for what­ever problems they’ve had with men.

4. Ms. Steinem, who is the president of the feminist nation, has never clarified her ties to the C. I.A., and when a Random House book contained some information about these ties, Ms. Steinem intervened and had the of­fending passage removed. If I were a member of the secret government, I couldn’t think of a better way to paralyze the country’s most progressive and militant community than to start a fight between black men and women.