Stephen Kessler: Ethnovictimecology: protest, rebellion, thuggery, crime

My late friend the poet Wanda Coleman, a street-fighting homegirl from South Central Los Angeles who titled her first book “Mad Dog Black Lady,” used to call herself, only half-jokingly, an “ethnovictimecologist.” Her mock-social-scientific self-identification spoke to her deep study and broad experience of racism in everyday life. Just as she cynically approved of the O.J. Simpson verdict, she probably would have found the recent actions of UC Santa Cruz’s Afrikan/Black Student Alliance an encouraging expression of uppity people-of-color’s power to make white liberals uncomfortable.

So uncomfortable that Chancellor George Blumenthal humbly capitulated to their demands — the most ironic of which, mandatory “diversity training,” evidently does not extend to their own confused equation of Jews with white people and Zionists with racists. Verbal abuse of such straw figures is undoubtedly rationalized in the name of free speech, even though it also suggests that some speech is freer than others.

Intimidating liberals, also known as Mau-Mauing, has been a popular tactic in Black Nationalist circles since the 1960s. Amiri Baraka in his autobiography has a telling anecdote about a group of activists visiting Harry Belafonte at his Upper West Side Manhattan home to extract a cash donation to their Black Arts theater project in Harlem. Baraka, a celebrated poet formerly known as LeRoi Jones, at the time figured that thuggish aggression would be an effective way to…

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