Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Editor's Note: I have just returned to Houston from being out of town. I have a backlog of comments and my "Comcastic" ISP didn't exactly help me get to them this morning. My apologies for taking a little longer to get to them.
There is a story in today's Houston Chronicle that caused me to drop my jaw for a moment. A local race-baiter, Quanell X, has apparently seen the errors of his ways (at least with respect to the Holocaust) and wants to make amends.
Reflecting on some belligerent remarks he had made about Jews just before the Million Man March in 1995, Quanell X sounds like a man jolted to the core by the revelation that he has been grossly, tragically mistaken about something very important through his entire adult life.
"I apologize to every Jewish (Holocaust) survivor that may have heard anything I have ever said," Quanell said at the end of his tour, which culminated with his placing a stone at an outside memorial, a Jewish custom at a gravesite. "How could I say anything in a vile, malicious or repugnant manner to anyone who has been in one of these camps? I should have never threatened like that.And if this doesn't remind one of Boris Yeltsin's "supermarket epiphany," the following will.
"I seek the forgiveness of every survivor who has heard the words I've said," he continued. "I did not say them in the proper manner to make the point I was trying to get across. I can see and understand how they might be utterly paranoid (of) a person such as myself."
Michael Goldberg, the chair-elect of the museum's board of directors, welcomed Quanell[ X]'s visit despite initial concerns that he might be using the museum as a backdrop for a different agenda.
"I think the apology and emotions I heard today were ones that fall within the scope of this museum," Goldberg said. "Quanell said he understood that I could be taking some risk by having him come here. My view is that the message of this museum is to turn hate into hope. The chance of sharing the message of the museum was too great not to take the risk." [bold added]
He said the change began about six years ago when he came face to face with racism within the Muslim community. After helping to organize a pro-Palestinian protest at the Israeli consulate in Houston, he discovered that some Palestinian protest leaders were not happy that an African-American Muslim would play such a visible role. The source of their discomfort was the color of his skin.Quanell X remains Moslem and sympathetic to religious terrorism as far as I know, and has, as recently as late 2006 continued to engage in racial demagoguery, so if this really is a change -- and not simply an attempt to grab the moral high ground by grandstanding -- it is only the very beginning of his journey to enlightenment.
"It was almost like somebody had taken two electrical currents and stuck them to me and touched me. It shook me," he said. "I grew up believing that racism did not exist among Muslims. ... I grew up believing that whenever I saw a Muslim, he would see me as his brother ... no matter where he was from or what racial background he came from, or what race or group of people he belonged to."
That led him first to depression and disillusionment, then to a period of education and enlightenment. He said he found out that racism has existed in the Muslim world since its earliest days, and that Muslims played a role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. [bold added]
Today's civil rights movement should be furthering the goal of individual rights, not striving to pit racial collectives against each other in pressure group warfare or actual fighting. Even if Quanell X is genuinely contrite, the concept of individual rights is complex, its foundations nontrivial, and the requirements for the protection of individual rights remain at odds with everything I know of that this man has said until recently and has done in his public life. The cause of freedom, of individual rights, can be harmed even more by an incompetent ally than by an overt enemy. I hope Quannell X is not just sincere, but diligent.
And I will be paying attention.