Black and Right: Forgotten Black Conservative, George S. Schuyler
It is a shame and a scandal that the name George Samuel Schuyler has fallen into obscurity. For roughly half-of-a-century, from the 1920's to his death in the 1970's, Schuyler wrote for several publications, from the iconoclastic H.L. Mencken's American Mercury to the Pittsburg Courier -- the second largest "negro" newspaper in the country. It was at the Courier that Schuyler served as assistant editor from 1922 to 1964.
Though he wrote for popular consumption, Schuyler was remarkably conversant in a wide range of literature. In his autobiography, Black and Conservative -- which even the black leftist academic Cornel West acknowledges as a "minor" classic in African American letters -- Schuyler relays the laborious efforts he made to read all of Marx's works, for instance.
Indeed, Schuyler was as well read as he was prolific an author. A distinguished member of the black cognoscenti who tirelessly argued on behalf of the legal and civil equality of blacks, Schuyler's was among the most influential of black voices during the middle of the last century. He was regularly sought after to appear on radio and television where he would routinely decimate his opponents in panel discussions over the issues -- typically racially related -- of the day.
So why is it that, in spite of the prominence that he once enjoyed, Schuyler is no longer mentioned these days?
One obvious reason, of course, is that Schuyler was a conservative. And he was a black conservative. But to know only this isn't to know the full story.
You see, unlike most of today's conservatives, black or white, Schuyler relished in taking a wrecking ball to just those persons and ideas that our generation has elevated into sacred cows.
For example, while few of our contemporaries who crave the company of "respectable society" would dare to publicly criticize Malcolm X or, more crucially, Martin Luther King, Jr., Schuyler repeatedly took both men to task.
He was particularly unyielding when it came to Malcolm, who he had debated on several occasions.
In 1973, eight years after Malcolm's murder, Schuyler penned a piece entitled, "Malcolm X: Better to Memorialize Benedict Arnold." In it, he said of Malcolm that he was "a bold, outspoken, ignorant man of no occupation," one of the many "mediocrities, criminals, plotters, and poseurs" that constitute "the past generation of...black 'leaders'" who have been "afflicting the nation [.]"
But Schuyler wasn't just insulting the memory of a dead man. He confronted Malcolm face to face while the former was alive and "was initially astonished by his wide ignorance." Schuyler explains that when Malcolm "launched into an excoriation of white people in the name of Islam, I called his attention to the fact that the majority of Moslems were whites [.]" Malcolm, he continued, was no better prepared to reply to this revelation than he was Schuyler's assertion that Moslems were more involved in the African slave trade than were Europeans. "He was surprised to learn this," Schuyler recalled.
Schuyler also informed Malcolm that the Nation of Islam's "anti-white" and "anti-Christian" ideology aside, American blacks are "the healthiest" and "the wealthiest" blacks anywhere in the world. They "have the most property" and are "the best educated" and "best informed group of Negroes" on the planet. This includes, Schuyler was quick to note, all of those blacks from "the Muslim countries."
Neither was Schuyler a fan of Martin Luther King, Jr.
When it was announced that King would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Schuyler was critical. In his article, "King: No Help to Peace," he declared unabashedly that "neither directly nor indirectly has Dr. King made a contribution to the world (or even domestic) peace." Alluding to King's alleged communist ties, Schuyler added: "Methinks the Lenin Prize would have been more appropriate for him [.]"
Schuyler stated: "Dr. King's principal contribution to world peace has been to roam the country like some sable typhoid-Mary, infecting the mentally disturbed with the perversion of Christian doctrine, and grabbing lecture fees from the shallow-pated."
Most tellingly, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was still a bill, Schuyler came out as one of its most formidable opponents.
In "The Case Against the Civil Rights Bill," Schuyler asserted that all such civil rights laws "are another typically American attempt to use the force of law to compel the public to drastically change it [sic] attitude to and treatment of a racial group, the so-called Negro [.]"
Although Schuyler finds this attitude to be "morally wrong, nonsensical, unfair, un-Christian and cruelly unjust," the fact is that "it remains the majority attitude" (emphasis original). Still, since 1865, he says, there have occurred "marked changes" in this arena, constructive changes, and "civil rights laws, state or federal, have had little to do with it [.]"
While by every conceivable standard, black Americans have made strides -- irrespective of whatever civil rights legislation may have been on the books -- more remarkable than any to which any other group can lay claim, "the principal case against a federal Civil Rights law is the dangerous purpose it may serve."
Such a law is but "another encroachment by the central government on the federalized structure of our society." What this means is that "armed with this law...to improve the lot of a tenth of the population, the way will be opened to enslave the rest of the populace." Schuyler denies that he is being hyperbolic on this score. "Under such a law the individual everywhere is told what he must do and what he cannot do, regardless of the laws and ordinances of his state or community." This can only be read as "a blow at the very basis of American society," a society "founded on state sovereignty and individual liberty and preference."
Schuyler insisted on being even more graphic: "We are fifty separate countries, as it were, joined together for mutual advantage, security, advancement, and protection. It was never intended that we should be bossed by a monarch, elected on born. When this happens, the United States as a free land will cease to exist."
Among the heroes of the past to whom we should turn as we approach this next election and reckon with those who would deprive of us of our liberty, George Samuel Schuyler must be placed at the top of the list.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith and Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, friend him on facebook, and follow him on twitter.