2005-04-29 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

The American Heritage College Dictionary says that racism is “policy or practice based on racial considerations.”

One who brings that definition to life, who exemplifies it, is a racist.

Lenora Fulani, the head of the Independence Party, is a racist by that definition or by any other where race is the prime determinant.

Witness the following:

Just last week, Fulani reiterated her belief that “Jews had to sell their souls to acquire Israel,” and “ Jews do the dirtiest work of capitalism [and] had to function as mass murderers of people of color [to keep it].”

Three months after September 11, 2001, she said, “[The attacks were] the result of how America has positioned itself in the world and [the terrorist acts] were destined to be repeated.”

In 1991, after the Crown Heights Riots and the murder of a Jewish divinity student, Fulani said, “[The riots were] the first clear exercise of power by the city’s new coalition of Black leadership [against] right wing Zionists.” At the time, she denounced other black leaders for their “willingness to pander to Jews.”

One of Fulani’s major projects is the “All Stars Project,” which she has said “is first and foremost revolutionary, not aesthetic.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who regularly runs on the Independence Party line, has reportedly given more than $250,000 to the project and the city funds it by buying tickets to its productions for class trips.

One of the first plays produced by the All Stars Project was written by Fred Newman, a left-wing revolutionary. The play, heavily attended by New York City public school students, portrayed the Jews as the instigators of the Crown Heights riots. In one of the seminal scenes in the play, Hassidic Jews are shown beating a black young man.

Earlier in her career, Fulani argued that the result of black citizens voting in smaller numbers than other racial groups should allow the black votes to count for more. She suggested that black votes be counted twice while other racial group’s votes should be counted once in national elections.

In last year’s November elections, black riders on the Staten Island Ferry were handed fliers from the Independence Party under Fulani’s signature. The fliers urged black voters to vote for Al Curtis in a local election, ‘not because Al Curtis is black, but because you are black.”

You might be able to write Fulani off as just another racist kook, just the kind that New York City politics breeds from time to tome. You could do that except for the fact that she controls the third largest political party in the city. And, it is a party line that draws candidates to her banner simply for the right to run on that line as well as either the Democratic or Republican line.

Among those who have run under Fulani’s banner are Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, Governor George Pataki, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer,. City Council member (and education committee chair) Eva Moskowitz as well as such locals as City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. and Fulani‘s local district leader, John Baxter.

And, those politicians seem to dismiss Fulani’s comments as just more rhetoric not to be taken seriously.

Sanders, who represents the eastern end of the peninsula and ran on the party banner, told The Wave in October of 2003 when asked why he ran on that line, “[The Independence Party] is just another party. I wanted to close the chance of anyone running against us. My record is anti-racist. I’ve denounced racism, anti-Semitism, gender discrimination.”

He did not, however, answer the question nor repudiate Fulani and her ideas.

John Baxter, when asked about being Fulani’s district leader, said, “None of that stuff about her is true. She is a wonderful leader and I support her completely.”

At last year’s fundraiser for the “All Stars Project,” Senator Chuck Schumer exhorted the Fulani faithful to “keep up the good work that you do.”

Of course, the payoff for supporting Fulani and her racist beliefs is a ballot line that earns a politician upwards of 60,000 votes –not a small sum in a closely-fought election.

For his part, the mayor continues to back the party and seek its endorsement while saying that he finds Fulani’s comments “phenomenally offensive.”

When Bloomberg was asked last week to comment on Fulani’s latest racist statement, he first said that he did not hear the question. Then, the Jewish mayor said, “I don’t know what she’s referring to, so you’ll have to ask her that question.”

A spokesman for the mayor said later, “The mayor strongly disagrees with Dr. Fulani’s statements, as would the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who vote on the Independence Party line.”

Earlier this month, Bloomberg appeared with Fulani at a fundraiser that brought a reported $1 million to the “All Stars Project.” At that fundraiser, Bloomberg accepted an award from the project.

Schumer issued a statement that said simply, “Fulani’s statement should be repudiated immediately.”

To her credit, the only politician that has publicly repudiated Fulani is Senator Hillary Clinton.

She denounced Fulani’s statements for their “anti-Semitism, extremism prejudice and intolerance.”

That is what all the politicians, from Baxter to Sanders, to Schumer and the rest, should be doing. Anybody who accepts the Independence Party line as long as Fulani is its head should be tarred with the same racist brush as Fulani. None of those politicians would have accepted a line on David Duke’s party, would they? Of course not. To do so would have branded them as racists. Why then, is it acceptable to take a line from a black racist? That’s a question they should answer.

Will they repudiate Fulani? Not as long as Fulani controls 60,000 votes. Perhaps it is time for those who vote the party line to take another look at what they are voting for. Perhaps then they will decide not to vote the racist party line.

We can only hope that will happen soon.

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