I lis cross upon Calvary. It was the Negro troops underrnTeckK Roosevelt who won the battle of San Juan Hill. . . .rnIt was the genius of the Negro which had invented thernsteam engine, the cotton gin, the air brake, and numerousrnother things—but conniving white men had seen thernNegro’s inventions and run off and put them into practicernbefore the Negro had a chance to do anything aboutrnit. ‘I’hus the white man got credit for what the genius ofrnthe Negro brain had produced. Were it not for the envyrnand greed of the white man, the Negro would hold hisrnrightful place—the noblest and greatest man on earth.rn1 lurston’s lifetime spanned the years from Marcus Garvey’srnBack to Africa movement to W.E.R. Ilu Rois’s support for PanrnAfrican Congres.ses, but the Afroccntrist mvths are at least severalrngenerations older. As 1 lurston recognized, “I did not knowrnthe word for it at the time, but it did not take me long to knowrnthe material was traditional.” Some of the themes—includingrnP’.gvpt as a black civilization—arc found in cady 19th-eentur’rnpam]5hlets, such as David Walker’s Appeal to the ColoredrnCitizens of the World {]H2%rnI low are F.uropean Americans to respond, either as individualsrnor as the still-dominant ethnic majoritv, to Afrocentrism?rnI’or scholars, the dutv is clear. A fanatical regard for the truth,rneven at the expense of other virtues, is the defining qualityrnof the true scholar. Not all historians, of course, arc scholars;rnnianv of the best historians have been storvtellcrs who shaperntheir information into the mvths and legends that define theirrnpeople as a nation. (1 would argue, if pressed, that this is thernprimarv function of the historian.) Ikit the scholar, includingrnthe scholar-historian, must sav ultimatelv, “Let my nation berndamned: I stand bv the truth.”rnI’lie refutation of Afrocentrie mvthologv, especiallv in thernsuperficiallv academic form in which it has been presented bvrnMartin Beriial, has come not from political conservatives—howrnmanv conservative scholars arc competent to discuss the t|ucstion?rn—but from responsible liberals such as Kmilv Vermeulernand Marv I .efkowifz. On the level of intellectual discourse, thernscholars sliould have the last word, although 1 doubt that willrnhappen. But, as I have alreadv hinted, history serves more thanrnone legitimate purpose. 1 have never particuladv liked the kindrnof debunking scholarship that seeks to delegitimatc the cherishedrnmvdis and legends on which a social order rests, hi generalrnI prefer to leave such hooliganism to the rock-throwingrnJacobins who deface |5ublic monuments and to tlic iXhislimsrnwho burn books, decapitate statues, and gouge out the eves ofrnicons. Of course, where an iconography has been imposed Iwrnmain force b an ideological tvrannv, everv sensible personrnwants to take a hand in tearing down the colossal images ofrnStalin or repealing the MI,K holidav, but no sane man wouldrnattack his own nation’s monuments, and no honoralole enemyrnwould refuse to respect another people’s symbols. If black peoplernb themselves wanted to honor Mr. King, or if Lincoln werernworshipped only in the North, their white and Southern criticsrnwould do well to leave other pe(5ple’s national heroes alone.rnGerman criticism of the statue put up in London in honor ofrn•• Bomber I larris” is one of the fruits of F,uropeau union. Suchrna protest is ineoneeivablc in a Lurope made up of independentrnnation-states.rnI’his laissez-faire attitude is harder to sustain toward peoplernwho belong, in principle, to the same societv and the samerncommonwealth. Hut tliis is e.xaetlv the point at issue: Do peoplernwho call themselves African-Americans really regard themselvesrnas Americans at all? Increasingly one hears middle-classrnblacks saying, “I don’t call myself African-American anymore,rnbecause 1 don’t want anvthing to do with this country.” Butrnsuch an attitude is latent in the very terms Afro-American andrnAfrican-American. Back in the 60’s, when Stokely Garmichaclrnwas promoting “Afro-American,” he was also making trips tornAfrica and reviving the nationalist imagery of Garvcy and DurnBois, and Jesse Jackson, who has bullied the American pressrninto treating him as a liberal Democrat, came up with “African-rnAmerican” obviously bv analogy with Jewish-American orrnGreek-American. American Zionists have been very successfulrnin two ways that must have caught his attention: they have succeededrnin influencing, even determining, American policy inrnthe Middle ICast, while at the same time using Israel as a symi)rnol around which to rallv many Jewish-Americans. Jacksonrnseems to have concluded that if Africa as a whole could bernmade to function as Israel, then he could be a sort of NormanrnPodhoretz or Meir Kahane, making state visits back to thern”homeland” and crying bigotry everv time an American majoritvrndoes not cave into demands. As African-American leader,rnJackson functions not just as a shadow senator for the Districtrnof Columbia but as shadow president of Africans in the UnitedrnStates.rnLet us agree, then, my readers,rnthat you and I shall respectrnthe efforts of American blacks,rnincluding Mr. Jackson and Mr.rnFarrakhan, to redefine themselvesrnas a nation. But let us also bernclear what this would mean.rnIt is easy to ridicule Jackson’s pretensions: his insistence onrnbeing given diplomatic status, when he visits Japan or Southrn.Africa, his presumption in entering into negotiations with nation-rnstates and nationalist groups as if he were either a head ofrnstate or, at least, the leader of a national liberation front. RushrnLimbaugh mocks him as a clown who cannot speak English—rna strange charge coming from a man whose solecisms mightrnhave been scripted by George “Kingfish” Stevens, ‘lb underraternMister Jackson is, as Clyde Wilson has pointed out in thesernpages, a grave mistake. For all the obvious flaws in his characterrn—Chicago liberals still speak with genuine awe of the scopernof his flim-flams—^Jackson has a coherent and consistent visionrnof black nationalism. His apparent mistakes and gaffes are allrnnecessary steps in a difficult two-track strategy to position himself,rnsimultaneously, as an ethnic ward-healer who can deliverrn(or refuse to deliver) the black vote to the Democratic Party,rnSEPTEMBER 1995/11rnrnrn