Happy Kwanzaa

Here is the late great Tony Snow’s legendary column on Kwanzaa:

BLACKS IN AMERICA have suffered an endless series of insults and degradations, the latest of which goes by the name of Kwanzaa.

Ron Karenga (aka Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga) invented the seven-day feast (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) in 1966, branding it a black alternative to Christmas. The idea was to celebrate the end of what he considered the Christmas-season exploitation of African Americans.

According to the official Kwanzaa Web site — as opposed, say, to the Hallmark Cards Kwanzaa site — the celebration was designed to foster “conditions that would enhance the revolutionary social change for the masses of Black Americans” and provide a “reassessment, reclaiming, recommitment, remembrance, retrieval, resumption, resurrection and rejuvenation of those principles (Way of Life) utilized by Black Americans’ ancestors.”

Karenga postulated seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith, each of which gets its day during Kwanzaa week. He and his votaries also crafted a flag of black nationalism and a pledge: “We pledge allegiance to the red, black, and green, our flag, the symbol of our eternal struggle, and to the land we must obtain; one nation of black people, with one G-d of us all, totally united in the struggle, for black love, black freedom, and black self-determination.”

Now, the point: There is no part of Kwanzaa that is not fraudulent. Begin with the name. The celebration comes from the Swahili term “matunda yakwanza,” or “first fruit,” and the festival’s trappings have Swahili names — such as “ujima” for “collective work and responsibility” or “muhindi,” which are ears of corn celebrants set aside for each child in a family.

Unfortunately, Swahili has little relevance for American blacks. Most slaves were ripped from the shores of West Africa. Swahili is an East African tongue.

To put that in perspective, the cultural gap between Senegal and Kenya is as dramatic as the chasm that separates, say, London and Tehran. Imagine singing “G-d Save the Queen” in Farsi, and you grasp the enormity of the gaffe.

Worse, Kwanzaa ceremonies have no discernible African roots. No culture on earth celebrates a harvesting ritual in December, for instance, and the implicit pledges about human dignity don’t necessarily jibe with such still-common practices as female circumcision and polygamy. The inventors of Kwanzaa weren’t promoting a return to roots; they were shilling for Marxism. They even appropriated the term “ujima,” which Julius Nyrere cited when he uprooted tens of thousands of Tanzanians and shipped them forcibly to collective farms, where they proved more adept at cultivating misery than banishing hunger.

Even the rituals using corn don’t fit. Corn isn’t indigenous to Africa. Mexican Indians developed it, and the crop was carried worldwide by white colonialists.

The fact is, there is no Ur-African culture. The continent remains stubbornly tribal. Hutus and Tutsis still slaughter one another for sport.

Go to Kenya, where I taught briefly as a young man, and you’ll see endless hostility between Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya and Masai. Even South African politics these days have more to do with tribal animosities than ideological differences.

Moreover, chaos too often prevails over order. Warlords hold sway in Somalia, Eritrea, Liberia and Zaire. Genocidal maniacs have wiped out millions in Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia. The once-shining hopes for Kenya have vanished.

Detroit native Keith Richburg writes in his extraordinary book, “Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa,” that “this strange place defies even the staunchest of optimists; it drains you of hope …”

Richburg, who served for three years as the African bureau chief for The Washington Post, offers a challenge for the likes of Karenga: “Talk to me about Africa and my black roots and my kinship with my African brothers and I’ll throw it back in your face, and then I’ll rub your nose in the images of rotting flesh.”

His book concludes: “I have been here, and I have seen — and frankly, I want no part of it. …. By an accident of birth, I am a black man born in America, and everything I am today — my culture and my attitudes, my sensibilities, loves and desires — derives from that one simple and irrefutable fact.”

Nobody ever ennobled a people with a lie or restored stolen dignity through fraud. Kwanzaa is the ultimate chump holiday — Jim Crow with a false and festive wardrobe. It praises practices — “cooperative economics, and collective work and responsibility” — that have succeeded nowhere on earth and would mire American blacks in endless backwardness.

Our treatment of Kwanzaa provides a revealing sign of how far we have yet to travel on the road to reconciliation. The white establishment has thrown in with it, not just to cash in on the business, but to patronize black activists and shut them up.

This year, President Clinton signed his fourth Kwanzaa proclamation. He crooned: “The symbols and ceremony of Kwanzaa, evoking the rich history and heritage of African Americans, remind us that our nation draws much of its strength from our diversity.”

But our strength, as Richburg points out, comes from real principles: tolerance, brotherhood, hard work, personal responsibility, equality before the law. If Americans really cared about racial healing, they would focus on those ideas — and not on a made-up rite that mistakes segregationism for spirituality and fiction for history.

14 thoughts on “Happy Kwanzaa

  1. T’was the night before Kwanzaa
    And all through the ‘hood,
    Maulana Karenga was up to no good.

    He’d tortured a woman and spent time in jail.
    He needed a new scam that just wouldn’t fail.
    (“So what if I stuck some chick’s toe in a vice?
    Nobody said revolution was nice!”)

    The Sixties were over. Now what would he do?
    Why, he went back to school — so that’s “Dr.” to you!
    He once ordered shootouts at UCLA
    Now he teaches Black Studies just miles away.

    So to top it all off, the good Doctor’s new plan
    Was to get rid of Christmas and piss off The Man.

    Karenga invented a fake holiday.
    He called the thing Kwanza. “Hey, what’s that you say?

    “You don’t get what’s ‘black’ about Maoist baloney?
    You say that my festival’s totally phony?

    “Who cares if corn isn’t an African crop?
    Who cares if our harvest’s a month or two off?
    Who cares if Swahili’s not our mother tongue?
    A lie for The Cause never hurt anyone!

    “Umoja! Ujima! Kujichagulia, too!
    Collectivist crap never sounded so cool!
    Those guilty white liberals — easy to fool.
    Your kids will now celebrate Kwanzaa in school!”

    And we heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight:
    “Happy Kwanzaa to all, except if you’re white!”

  2. Yeah, Kwanzaa is pretty much a crock. However this line —

    ” No culture on earth celebrates a harvesting ritual in December, …”

    A culture south of the equator might actually have a harvest festival in that period. It would be the height of the summer then. Many cultures do not, eg NZ and AU, because they carry forward the traditions of their home country.

  3. Pingback: Happy Kwanzaa! | Western Rifle Shooters Association

    • To quote Mr. Z, just under the cartoon, “Here is the late great Tony Snow’s legendary column on Kwanzaa:” Internet sources indicate he wrote the column in 1999.

  4. The silly -aa at the end of “kwanzaa” pretty much suffices to show the vapidity of it all: In Kiswahili the term simply is kwanza (= beginning), as the article correctly has it in a quote. It’s an imagined African la-la-land which “Maulana” (an Arabic Islamic term meaning “our master”) Karenga and his ilk conjured up and mentally inhabited.

  5. Read somewhere that Karenga’s REAL motivation for “Kwanzaa” was to create an excuse for several more days of heavy partying after Christmas!

    A much more logical explanation.

  6. Pingback: Happy Kwanzaa | IowaDawg Blogging Stuff

  7. I know of no blacks who are remotely concerned with Kwanzaa. It seems even the sturdy left ignores it. But the US Postal Service sells Kwanzaa stamps! I meant to ask the guy at the counter how many they’ve sold but it would probably get him into trouble. Shows how easy it is to get the media to pick something up and how long it persists in officialdom.

  8. Ur-Africa.

    I’ve been trying to make this point for years, and am met mostly with dull stares. I try to explain: “You have no idea how big Africa is…….all these tribes evolved in relative isolation from one another over millennia…….and your Barack Obama has as much in common with you culturally…….and genetically even……..as Leonid Brezhnev has with me…….

    The mountain of irrefutable evidence is met with………dull stares.

  9. The seven principles of kwanzaa are (were) the same as that of the Symbionese Liberation Army’s (of Patty Hearst kidnapping & subsequent bank robbing/shoot out fame) “manifesto”…

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