Michael M. Bates
August 16, 2005
Harry Belafonte: Still bananas after all these years
By Michael M. Bates

So what do you do if your major claim to fame is as a singer and your last big hit was almost 50 years ago? If you're Calypso has-been Harry Belafonte, you spend the last half century making a major league ass of yourself.

"Day-O" (The Banana Boat Song) was hugely popular in 1957. That year, it took $50,000 to snag Harry for make a television appearance. Elvis Presley was only receiving $40,000.

His celebrity gave Harry an opportunity. He has, he humbly told a graduating class, used his reputation as a singer "in the service of the human family."

Make that the human family, anti-American division. In Belafonte's universe, the United States is always to blame.

Harry speaks about peace and love and harmony. That's often a red flag. People talking in those terms can be filled with a seething rage.

His ire has been directed at blacks who serve in the Bush administration. Last week he described them as "black tyrants" and compared them to Jewish people who did the bidding of Adolph Hitler.

When asked about Jews serving in the Third Reich, Belafonte cited a book written by a history professor. The author responded by asserting Harry distorted his work and suggested Belafonte read the book.

Also reacting was the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. In a press release, Abraham Foxman said: "There were no Jews in the hierarchy of the Nazi regime. Besides being ignorant and offensive, Mr. Belafonte's comments are dead wrong. He clearly needs a history lesson."

Belafonte has talked this way before. Three years ago, he disparaged Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice as "house slaves" toiling on the Bush plantation. Miss Rice he compared to a "Jew" who was "doing things that were anti-Semitic and against the best interests of her people."

Yes, there are red flags with Harry. More accurately, Red flags.

He's helped raise money for the Rosenberg Fund for Children, an organization whose stated mission is to provide "for the educational and emotional needs of children of targeted progressive activists, and youth who are targeted activists themselves."

The fund is named for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Such progressive activists were they that they betrayed atomic bomb secrets to Russia. And were justly executed for their treason.

In 2000, Belafonte visited Cuba and spoke at a rally honoring the Rosenbergs. His pal Castro, another progressive activist, was hailed by Harry for his role in keeping Cuba "an example of keeping the principles the Rosenbergs fought and died for alive."

In the early 1980s Belafonte journeyed to Europe to participate in pro-Communist "peace" rallies that demanded unilateral disarmament by the U.S. and its allies. When American Indian Movement radical Dennis Banks was sentenced to three years in jail for rioting with a dangerous weapon and assault, the always helpful Harry sent a statement to the court on his behalf.

More recently, Harry identified the real culprit of September 11th. Speaking at St. Sabina's Church in Chicago in early 2003, Belafonte was quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times:

"We move about the world arrogantly, calling wars when we want, overthrowing governments when we want. There is a price to be paid for it look at 9/11."

The Homeland Security Act is a "great piece of villainy" and "our Constitution has just been taken away from us."

The Constitution hasn't been taken away. We need it to protect us from people like Belafonte. Earlier this year, he proclaimed any American who "fails to speak out against injustice should be charged with treason." Gee, I'd like to see how that would be enforced.

Harry's played the fool for a very long time. He was a dupe 40 years ago when he was used by the Kennedy brothers. Whitney Young, the National Urban League's executive director, was right when he belittled a 1963 meeting between Attorney General Robert Kennedy and "such people as Belafonte, which produces nothing of value, but is merely designed to impress that personality with what the President is doing for the Negro."

Belafonte thinks he knows why he's out of step with most Americans. It's because, as he modestly told Larry King, "the public does not come from the same kind of a sophisticated sense of history and all the different things that I've been exposed to."

Ah, yes, a sophisticated sense of history. The Rosenbergs' innocence, Castro's heavenly domain, the Soviet Union's workers' paradise, our disappearing Constitution, Jews for Hitler, blacks enslaved on the Bush plantation and America is to blame for everything must all be part of it.

Belafonte is an enduring example of the self-obsessed celebrity who thinks he's intellectually and morally superior. If only Calypso would make a comeback. Maybe then he'd just shut up and sing.

This appears in the August 18, 2005, Oak Lawn (IL) Reporter.

© Michael M. Bates

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Michael M. Bates

Michael M. Bates has written a weekly column of opinion or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint since 1985 for the (southwest suburban Chicago) Reporter Newspapers... (more)


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