Recolonization Is No Solution to Africa's Real Problems
I must respond to William Pfaff's column "Africa's Dilemma" (Opinion * Commentary, June 23).
The real problem in Africa today is not a lack of an educated professional middle class. Most African countries have more masters and doctorates in the social and physical sciences than their economies can absorb.
Most have more qualified citizens driving taxi cabs and laboring in the cities of developed countries than are needed to develop Africa. Most are being destroyed not by the ignorant military stereotype of an Idi Amin but by a highly educated elite, who facilitate the tyranny and wholesale governmental corruption that typify most African governments.
Their motive is personal enrichment. The luxury cars and lavish homes in the cities of Africa's poorest countries amply testify to howsuccessful they are at this.
These men are not different from the African chiefs who sold Africans into slavery for tobacco and rum 500 years ago. They are today's slave traders.
The inhumanity of slavery and the inhumanity of the war-torn, drought-stricken plains of Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, of the genocide in Rwanda, of the devastation in Liberia are basically the same phenomenon. They all happen because of the greed and the insatiable lust for power of very ruthless men.
Well-meaning, ill-informed or simply miseducated experts compound the problem with the misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatments. Such experts abound in the development agencies of the United Nations and the World Bank. You just have to look at the long legacy of failed programs spanning four decades, and amounting to billions, to know that there is something very wrong with their methods.
It is no secret that Western aid in Africa was more a weapon of the Cold War, wielded to combat the spread of communist influences, than a tool of development.
The primary intention was control and influence of African leaders, and any development was merely incidental. That is why countries like the United States, in spite of their unending rhetoric on human rights, have traditionally supported the worst tyrants in Africa.
The failure of democracy in Africa is not due to the absence of a political middle class. Whatever exists of this class is the primary culprit in the destruction of Africa today.
Democracy failed because it was abruptly introduced into former colonies in which the political structure by which they were administered was necessarily tyrannical, exploitative and perpetuated by violent means. African leaders who inherited this legacy merely continued the usurpation and exploitation, with the moral and material support of the superpowers competing for influence.
The tribal differences that colonial powers exploited to divide and rule Africa are still being exploited by African leaders today. Replacing a European tyrant with an African tyrant in countries ,, that have structurally been conditioned to facilitate tyranny and exploitation by over 200 years of domination by Europe is the reality of Africa's independence.
These are some of the real reasons behind the seeming hopelessness in Africa. Any suggestion that Africa lacks the capacity to develop itself is absurd and dangerously approaches the realms of racism.
The ill-conceived notion of recolonizing Africa for its own good evokes frightening images of slave masters who indulged in the belief that Africans were better off in slavery than in freedom.
While proponents of such dangerous ideas may honestly believe in them, and assuming their intentions are benign, encroaching on any people's right to self-determination is a prior presumption of superiority.
If a country like America, the obvious leader in the developed world, is so adept at " . . . allocating resources for the development of civil society," why then can it not fix the problems in the ghettos of its cities?
By all indications, various Third World conditions persist in America's inner cities, where infant mortality rates, life expectancy, literacy, crime, violence and prison population indexes approximate those of the Third World.
If the developed world really wants to help Africa develop, it must stop supplying arms to Africa's terrorist leaders.
It must stop protecting the looted wealth of Africa's politicians. It must stop harboring fugitive tyrants. It must stop condoning crimes against Africans.
If the world imposed sanctions against South Africa because of injustices against its African population, then it must do the same against any other African country guilty of the same injustices.
Africans are fully capable of fixing their own problems. But we will never have the chance to prove it if the world continues to arm our rulers against us.
Denton L. Watson, former director of public relations of the NAACP, may well have the clearest perspective of anyone you have published on the problems faced by the NAACP and Executive Director Benjamin Chavis (Opinion * Commentary, June 21).
In fact, more and more black leaders are in agreement that it was a terrible mistake to take a new path that is a radical departure from previous victories and alliances.
These leaders believe that one of the reasons for the successes of the 1960s was a rejection of the Black Muslim philosophy and militancy based on hatred and bigotry. They add that Mr. Chavis does not seem to be learning much from history.
In dealing with the problems surfacing between blacks and other ethnics, these leaders who are taking Mr. Chavis to task have astutely noted that "no scapegoating of Jews, Koreans, Hispanics, Catholics or any other group can diminish the abject failure of blacks themselves to develop a coherent program to build on the gains of the 1960s. Rather than remedying this failing, Dr. Chavis is only compounding the problem."
The prevailing opinion among these leaders in disagreement with Mr. Chavis is that although a new direction must be taken, it cannot be a platform based on law suits against restaurants or demonstrations against baseball teams.
Logically, it must begin with the all-important task of keeping children in school, where they can learn what they need to become productive and contributing members of society.
It means dealing effectively with the huge problem presented by teen mothers and fathers. This, along with recognizing and confronting the drug problem, which was hardly mentioned at the recent black summit conference, if at all.
It means moving from an organization that deals more with global concerns and less with grass roots crises to one that hears the voices of the streets crying out for help.
It means preparing the young for a proper education and a happy, fruitful life. It means networking with other non-profits like the United Negro College Fund, rather than competing with them for the same limited pool of discretionary dollars.
It means learning from history -- especially recent history. We should not forget that just 10 years ago, at the Democratic National Convention, Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan announced that their mission from that day forth was to attack the very problems the convention representatives announced they would attack.
Jackson and Farrakhan, during the period since, say they have attacked these concerns. But most remarkably, no one has questioned or attacked their right to mint money as key players ** in the poverty business.
The question must be asked: Why should these two become multi-millionaires while the problems of the masses they claim to serve are ten-fold or a hundred-fold worse than they were back in 1984?
Maybe it's time to look for new leadership if nothing has improved and these defenders of the faith are living like monarchs, with their wealth gained by exploiting the oppressed they supposedly represent.
New leadership and a linkage with an emphasis on quality education -- no drugs nor grade school pregnancies -- is the direction the NAACP must take in the 1990s and beyond if it is to be a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Farrakhan Has a Right To Criticize
Chaim Landau's June 27 letter criticized Carl Rowan's article criticizing Jews for their over-reaction to the NAACP's inclusion of Minister Louis Farrakhan in its unity meeting.
While I am not a big fan of Mr. Rowan's, I would like to submit the following comments.
The minister has made some comments regarding people of the Jewish faith which I am sure they find offensive and hurtful.
Before we pass judgment on these statements we must examine their underlying truth or falsity.
Minister Farrakhan bases his statements on his interpretation of history.
The historians upon which the minister has relied are not the same as those who have written the history which is taught in public schools. The minister rejects much of that history because, when compared to the teachings of people from other (non-European) parts of the world, the popular rendition of history amounts to little more than European self-promotion.
Just as many Europeans (mostly in America) reject the tenets of Afro-centrism and the logical conclusions to be drawn from the findings of Richard Leakey and others, so too does the minister reject the European or popular version.
Is it not his right to adhere to the teachings of those he deems most credible?
Minister Farrakhan is extremely knowledgeable regarding the history and central tenets of most popular religions, including Judaism.
Therefore, if he attacks the Israeli leaders for their involvement with South Africa, is he attacking Judaism or is he attacking the Israelileaders for their non-adherence to their Jewish principles?
Can those who remind us year after year about atrocities in which we took no part participate in atrocities elsewhere and still maintain adherence to the tenets of Judaism?
Also, it does nothing to exonerate Israel by stating, as Mr. Landau does, that African nations also did business with South Africa.
When members of the Anti-Defamation League were found to have maintained surveillance on black leaders, were they adhering to good Jewish principles?
And when the president of the ADL was allowed to pre-empt Minister Farrakhan's live news conference on CNN and refer to the Minister as "Louis," was he acting as a good Jew? Shouldn't Minister Farrakhan be allowed to criticize? Shouldn't Mr. Landau?
Finally, after attending the minister's men-only meeting, I was left feeling that the only thing Jews and others have to fear from Minister Farrakhan is the possible loss of revenue as blacks become producers and consumers of the products they produce.
I was also left to ponder the presence of those who would protest the presence of a man whom they have never heard speak (media sound bites don't count) while failing to protest against the "gangster" rappers who consistently preach violence, crime and degradation toward women.
If the reason these activists are so passive in the face of the rappers is because the poison they spew is directed against blacks, then these activists are not good Jews.
Michael G. McFadden
Carroll Park's Historical Significance
Antero Pietila's June 18 column, "Building Fever in the Southwest," refers to several important new projects under way in this section of the city. To the east of Martin Luther King Boulevard, the University of Maryland's bio-technology complex is rapidly coming on line.
On the west side, the mercury is rising due to several commercial and cultural projects that are taking shape -- from Ryland's planned residential development on the old Kopper's lot to the new Baltimore Playwrights Theatre on Washington Boulevard. Revitalizing Washington Boulevard is high on the community's agenda.
The "Boulevard," once the area's retail hub, twists like some medieval lane through an urban landscape of two-story, Formstone row houses, churches, bars and storefronts.
Eight blocks west of MLK, it opens unexpectedly onto Carroll Park. The park, however frayed at the edges, is still a beautiful green oasis with its ball fields and picnic groves, its historic mansion and the memories it holds for many residents of a less complicated time.
Providing a focus and a sense of connectedness, the park is very much a symbol of the rich, shared heritage of the neighboring communities. The strategic and symbolic importance of Carroll Park to any planned revitalization of Pigtown or of Washington Boulevard should not be underestimated.
The Carroll Park Foundation's plan to re-create an 18th century, Williamsburg-like attraction in the park and to renovate the surrounding recreational facilities can be a powerful incentive for reinvestment in the area. There is no other single amenity which affects the quality of life in this part of town so deeply and for which there is such universal respect.
Among local residents, young and old alike, lore and legend about the park abound. Everyone has a story about ghosts, secret tunnels, the underground railroad. The park has an aura of magic about it. Actual history is sometimes just as compelling: In 1778 the Baltimore Company Iron Works encompassed 2,300 acres west of the Gwynns Falls, including all of the present park.
The company's iron furnace was the largest in the mid-Atlantic colonies, except for perhaps the Principio Works. The Baltimore furnace exported pig iron to England on its own ships, which were built at Carroll's Point on the nearby Middle Branch of the Patapsco. The company's co-owner and manager, Charles Carroll the Barrister, built his home here, part of which remains today as Mount Clare Mansion.
Carroll was responsible for framing our state's Constitution and was part of the Council of Safety, which directed the Maryland colony's activities during the Revolution.
What remains of the Carrolls' iron-making estate in the park will enable us to offer more than just a quaint re-creation of colonial life.
Visitors will be given a rare opportunity to learn about emerging African-American culture, and we will be able to portray an inclusive interpretation of mid-Atlantic colonial society that takes into consideration the contributions of all Americans.
Visitors will experience the everyday world of ordinary people and we will catch a glimpse, through a 225-year-old mirror, of ourselves.
With the park serving as the cornerstone of any serious $l revitalization of Washington Village or Washington Boulevard, the Carroll Park Foundation needs the renewed commitment of the mayor and the director of recreation and parks to be full partners in the effort to save one of the most important historical sites in Maryland. Carroll's 100, as it will be known, is the only remaining Revolutionary-era site in Baltimore; it is held under a historic easement by the Maryland Historical Trust.
The Mount Clare Mansion in the park, operated by the National Society of Colonial Dames, is listed by the Trust for Historic Preservation as a National Historic Landmark. As Baltimoreans and Marylanders, we are all stewards of this important symbol of our shared heritage.
The writer is executive director, the Carroll Park Foundation.
Why has there been a decrease in the annual number of abortions since 1990?
In a June 16 article, Dr. Stanley Henshaw questions whether women have been convinced by the arguments and protests against abortion, or simply intimidated. Maybe neither; perhaps there is a growing aversion to abortion which is simply the result of women's own experience.
There have been about 30 million abortions since 1973. Over one-fourth of pregnancies currently end in abortion. Women who were 19 in 1973 are only 39 or 40 today. Abortion has been legal during the entire span of their reproductive lives.
Many of these women have experienced the reality of abortion. So have millions of men who were involved in their decisions, or paid for the procedure.
So have thousands of doctors who performed these abortions. So have nurses, social workers, school counselors, parents, relatives and friends.
Although almost half of abortions are reported to be repeat abortions, there are, nevertheless, a sizable percentage of women who are unwilling to have a second abortion or a third or a fourth.
Perhaps there are many people who, having experienced how different the reality of abortion is from the rhetoric of choice, may quietly try to dissuade their friends, spouses or children from making an abortion decision.
This may be one reason why a recent University of Cincinnati study showed that only 30 percent of Americans favored making abortion a covered benefit in national health insurance.
Doctors may cease to do abortions not because of harassment but because of their own moral qualms.
The decline in abortions may have less to do with "anti-choice terrorism" and lack of access than it does to a growing awareness by individuals of what has really happened during the last 20 years.
A June 30 news report in The Sun noted that Yasser Arafat's plan to visit Gaza and Jericho "inflamed the hardened passions that have kept the region in conflict since Israel itself proclaimed statehood in 1948."
In fact, Israeli "passions" are not what have kept the region in conflict; Arab opposition to Israel's existence is to blame for that.
Prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948, Palestinian Arabs repeatedly slaughtered Jews in the Holy Land, staging organized anti-Jewish programs in 1920, 1921, 1929 and 1936-39. Since 1948, Arab states have repeatedly invaded Israel, vowing to destroy it.
They have sponsored tens of thousands of Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and they have mercilessly waged economic warfare against the Jewish state by blackmailing foreign companies that do business with Israel.
When the Arabs sincerely reconcile themselves to the legitimacy of Israel's existence and cease their military and economic aggression, the Arab-Israeli conflict will end.
Until that day, there is no point blaming Israeli "passions" for a conflict that Arab aggression has caused.
Morton A. Klein
The writer is president of the Zionist Organization of America.
I am writing in response to your June 23 editorial titled "Safety at Oriole Park."
The safety of Marylanders in the use of escalators is one of our primary and over-riding concerns.
Staff from the Division of Labor and Industry became involved in the investigation of the escalator malfunction at Camden Yards within minutes of the malfunction. The chief elevator inspector, two supervisors and an inspector have all been involved on a daily basis in the investigation.
My department does not comment on ongoing investigations. Speculation and conjecture based on inconclusive evidence serve no purpose in an investigation.
Please do not mistake our silence for a lack of activity or of interest. The results of our investigation will be made public when it is completed.
William A. Fogle Jr.
The writer is Maryland secretary of licensing and regulation.
Lack of Morals
Two unrelated news items in The Sun June 25 served to emphasize the apparent lack of any sense of moral standards on the part of public officials.
The first item reports that a prayer for O. J. Simpson was issued from the floor of the U.S. Senate, where that chamber's chaplain asked for comfort for the fallen football personality and those who admired him.
The Rev. Richard Halverson was further quoted: "We pray for O. J. Simpson . . . our hearts go out to him on his profound loss . . . our nation has been traumatized by the fall of a great hero."
If the chaplain had any compassion for the victims, O. J.'s ex-wife and her friend, and did indeed include them in his prayer, the reporter certainly made no reference to it.
Accepting the fact that O. J. is innocent until found guilty, it is shocking that the Senate chaplain and the news media offer and report sympathy for the hero and utterly fail to have compassion for the victims of a gruesome murder.
The second reference to the sad state of ethics on the part of public officials relates to your story that the Schaefer administration was sending seven political appointees to Harvard at a cost to taxpayers of more than $45,000.
I am not judging the merits of the case but am appalled by the comments made by Del. Howard Rawlings.
He not only expressed no concern over these expenditures, but he was quoted as supporting them because the governor had just funded a project in his district.
For the House Appropriations Committee chairman, who in this capacity supposedly represents all citizens of Maryland and not just his local constituency, to have such disregard for the proper expenditure of public funds is reprehensible.
Moreover, to say so publicly is an insult to all taxpayers and raises questions as to Mr. Rawlings' ethics.
Franz J. Vidor