Democrat Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries says he only has a “vague recollection” of the controversy surrounding his anti-Semite uncle; however, he wrote a controversial op-ed in college defending him.
In the 1990s, Jeffries’ Black studies professor, Leonard Jeffries, faced a backlash after making comments about the involvement of “rich Jews” he accused of being involved in the slave trade and Jewish executives he claimed launched “a conspiracy, planned and plotted and programmed out of Hollywood” to use films to denigrate Black Americans.
While Representative Jeffries was a college student at New York’s Binghamton University, he wrote a 1992 editorial defending Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his uncle. While Hakeem Jeffries served on the executive board of his school’s Black Student Union, the organization invited the university professor to speak after the controversy.
The younger Jeffries started his editorial by warning the “rise of the black conservative” would threaten to “sustain the oppression of the black masses” about the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas.
He compared Black Republicans to “House n*****s” who “sought to emulate the white master,” according to the document CNN unearthed. He also questioned why the media elevated some Black people like Secretary of State Colin Powell, author Shelby Steele, and Thomas.
“Do you think that a ruling elite would promote individuals who would seek to dismantle their vice-like grip on power?” asked Jeffries.
Jeffries continued, “Dr. Leonard Jeffries and Minister Louis Farrakhan have come under intense fire. Where do you think their interests lie?” suggesting the two were better representatives of black interests.
“Dr. Jeffries has challenged the existing white supremist [sic] educational system and longstanding distortion of history. His reward has been a media lynching complete with character assassinations and inflammatory erroneous accusations.”
Now-Rep. Jeffries wrote the piece for the BSU student newspaper, The Vanguard.
The younger Jeffries claimed that conservatism doesn’t represent black people because it stands up against the “redistribution of wealth.”
“Conservative political thought rejects the redistribution of wealth. Conservative political thought shuns social reforms and favors a huge defense industry. Conservative political thought does not advocate Civil Rights advances.”
Jeffries continued attacking capitalism, saying, “The black conservative buys into the idea of the American dream, the dream in which hard work and perseverance eventually liberate and reap benefits. However, this totally ignores the economic reality of this country’s capitalist system. Capitalism necessitates the perpetuations of a permanent underclass.”
Jeffries’ office maintains he doesn’t share his uncle’s views despite defending him in the past
Representative Jeffries’ office insisted he doesn’t continue to share the views his uncle did “over 30 years ago.”
“Leader Jeffries has consistently been clear that he does not share the controversial views espoused by his uncle over thirty years ago,” said spokesperson Christiana Stephenson to CNN.
In 2012, the Anti-Defamation League quoted the elder Jeffries as saying, “The evil genius of the Jewish community was to put together their powers to make business their religion and make it part of their culture.”
The Associated Press reported him saying in 1994, “Jews were like ‘skunks’ and ‘stunk up everything.’”
When asked about the comment, Professor Jeffries said, “He did not remember it,” and added, “Isn’t there free speech in America?”
At the time, he was condemned by Mayor David Dinkin and Governor Mario Cuomo. Finally, after a lengthy back-and-forth, he left his position as chair of the Black Studies Department at the City University of New York in 1995.
The then-student Jeffries explained why he compared black conservatives to “house negroes.”
“During the period of African enslavement, our ancestors were given the duality of the Field Negro and the House Negro. The Field Negro labored from dawn ‘til dusk, had nothing but contempt for his white master and, most importantly, the majority of Black slaves who were Field Negroes. In contemporary terms, what we would refer to as ‘the masses.’ The House Negroes didn’t labor in the field; they were domestic servants. The House Negro was dressed up and was led to believe that he or she was better than those in the field. Most importantly, the House Negro sought to emulate the white master. This emulation was not designed with the interests of the masses at heart. Rather, the motivating force was personal gain.”
He continued, “Perhaps this is the problem with the Black conservative politician of today. Their political agenda is not designed to contribute to the upliftment of their people. These right-wing opportunists espouse the political ideology of the power structure and, in return, they are elevated to positions historically reserved for whites.”
According to local press coverage, Professor Jeffries spent much of his speech at the college and defended himself against charges of anti-Semitism but reiterated that he believes there are “anti-black” Jewish moguls in Hollywood. He also reportedly compared Jewish opposition to his speech to Nazism.
“It’s ironic that members of the Jewish community felt compelled to take a position that is antidemocratic and…pro-Nazi in its viciousness,” he said.