Dear Comrade Angela: History Isn’t Always Black and White - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Dear Comrade Angela: History Isn’t Always Black and White

The look on the face of communist revolutionary and black nationalist Angela Davis when informed that she descends from the Mayflower was a sight to behold. Davis hadn’t looked this overwhelmed since she received the Lenin Prize in Moscow in 1979 before a room of clapping Russian white folks. To be sure, it was not a look of joy, like the way she beamed aside Fidel Castro or Berlin Wall buddy Erich Honecker, or in images with her Frankfurt School Marxist mentor, Herbert Marcuse, or in campaign appearances aside Communist Party USA goon Gus Hall when they ran on presidential tickets together. This look was more akin to her FBI “Most Wanted” poster in the 1970s, when she was wanted for kidnapping and murder.

Angela Davis was stunned.

When Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of PBS’s Finding Your Roots, asked Angela, “Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you descended from the people who laid the foundations for this country?” the critical race theorist took a deep breath and repeatedly objected, “Never, never, never, never, never.”

Yes, Angela. It’s true.

It’s fascinating to watch leftists insist that gender is not binary while they treat race as strictly binary.

“Do you know what you’re looking at?” goaded Gates, who’s also director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. “That is a list of the passengers on the Mayflower.”

Angela expressed utter disbelief. The poor woman looked like she might fall off her chair, or maybe dash to a window to jump through. How cruel, Professor Gates! Why, how could this be? The white folks on the Mayflower were, after all, white folks. Angela’s long life of suffering in America was due to these cretins. How could she be related to such English devils?

“No, I can’t believe this,” Davis replied. “No, my ancestors did not come here on the Mayflower.”

Angela has been conditioned by our universities to detest such people. How could they possibly be her ancestors?

The answer is that history isn’t as simple as the simpletons who teach our children surmise it to be for their ideological purposes.

“Would you ever in your wildest dreams think that you may have been descended from the people who laid the foundation of this country?” Gates continued.

“Never,” Davis went on. Besides, aren’t the foundations of this country rotten, laid not by Angela’s ancestors on the Mayflower but by the “1619” people?

One of my students brought up the episode when I walked into my Marxism class last Friday. Another asked, “So, if her ancestor was one of the white passengers on the Mayflower, then how much should she have to pay in reparations?” Another student insightfully observed that the lineage makes sense, given that the early pilgrims experimented with a form of redistributive socialism, until it nearly killed them all. Angela’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandpappy learned something crucial there that he could have bequeathed to his long-lost political pilgrim. (READ MORE: Howdy, Pilgrim)

One wonders what Patrisse Cullors, founder of Black Lives Matter, the self-described “trained Marxist” whose foreword of her memoirs was written by Angela Davis, thinks of this. Like Angela, she’s surely stunned, perhaps outraged, betrayed. Can Angela ever again be permitted to speak to black causes?

I suggest Patrisse issue a press release denouncing Davis and banishing her from the movement. Her publisher needs to remove Angela’s foreword. Angela’s roots, unfortunately, have condemned her. That’s just the way it is, pilgrim.

As for me, your humble columnist, I’m not surprised by any of this. As is known by anyone with common sense and not poisoned by idiotic ideologies, the history of ethnicity is not black and white. People are far more complicated. It’s fascinating to watch leftists insist that gender is not binary while they treat race as strictly binary. Most Americans, far and away, are a mix of all sorts of backgrounds. Two of my daughters just received their results. Each is a wide mix of at least a dozen different ethnicities. My youngest son (adopted) would be considered “black,” but he’s actually mixed race — as is Barack Obama, our first black president, who was raised by a white mother and her two white parents.

My kids are all over the map, literally. My wife is, too. She descends from northern Europe, eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Levant, with traces of Lebanese, Syrian, and even Jewish. She looks more Middle Eastern than anything else.

As for my own background, my mom is 100 percent Italian, and my profile tags me as more than 55 percent Calabrian. Our people came to America dirt poor, uneducated, and illiterate in the early 1900s. They had names like “Gentile.” Going way back, the Calabrians, like the Sicilians and many in that region, faced enslavement from Ottoman Turks and North African pirates. The Muslim Turks pillaged, raped, killed, and captured them. White Christians were taken into slavery.

My father’s family is Slavic. Our ignorant products of public schools don’t know this, but the roots of the word “slave” come not from black Africans brought to America but from the Slavic people, who were a constant source of forced labor. The Latin word for the Slavic people was Slavus, which inevitably came to mean “slave,” as Slavs came to be slaves under the Romans.

Thus, many of these Slavic slaves were enslaved by the Romans — i.e., by ancestors of mine on the Italian side!

Fast-forwarding to 20th-century America, my family faced bigotry on both sides. On my dad’s side, they were dubbed “Polacks,” usually supplemented with an adjective — “dumb Polacks” (an extraordinarily stupid charge given the intellectual accomplishments of so many prominent Poles). On my mom’s side, they were called “Dagos,” often bolstered to “greasy Dagos.” And both sides, being Catholic, were further disparaged for that sin.

My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was Pietro Giovanazzo, who escaped to America as a stowaway. The illegal immigrant jumped into the Hudson River and swam ashore. He eventually made his way to Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and then Emporium, Pennsylvania, changing his name along the way — and was subjected to much prejudice.

One day at the family farm, surrounded by his wife, Rose Maria, and many screaming little children (ultimately 11 in all), he got a visit from the Ku Klux Klan, led by a local Protestant pastor who spoke for the group of brooding men. “We’re going to burn you out,” he informed Pete. My great-grandfather brandished pistols in each hand and barked in broken English: “No touch! No touch! I shoot! I shoot!”

No doubt, it would infuriate a race-divider like Angela Davis to hear that my non-black family was threatened by the KKK, but such is reality in this complex world. Listen up, Angela and allies: You need not be black to have had a tough life. This is a fallen world, and groups from the ancient Jews enslaved to the Egyptians on have suffered at the hands of others.

So, comrade Angela might be stunned to learn she had ancestors on the Mayflower, but I’m not. I wouldn’t be stunned to learn if I personally had ancestors from Africa. In fact, Calabria is just across the water from Africa (look at a map).

History is not always so black and white. We should not be pitted against one another in two opposing racial camps, as divisive race-based ideologues would prefer. The category that should matter most is that we’re all children of God, made in the imago Dei. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw it that way. It’s a much better way to view and love your neighbor.

Angela Davis might want to take that to heart.

Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is Editor of The American Spectator. Dr. Kengor is also a professor of political science at Grove City College, a senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values, and the author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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