The recent passing of "poet" Amiri Baraka set in motion an outpouring of grief by the mainstream media. The taxpayer-funded NPR called him "one of America's most important literary figures" and called his legacy "achingly beautiful". The Washington Post gushed that Baraka was "one of the most influential African American writers of his generation". Baraka was held in such high regard that he was even appointed New Jersey's poet laureate.
But what are some examples of Amiri Baraka's "influential" and "important" poetry and thought? In his poem "Black Art" predictably lauded as "influential" by the Post, he wrote: "We want poems that kill ... Poems that wrestle cops into alleys ... setting fire and death to whities [sic]". In an interview with US News and World Report, Baraka crowed: "I don’t see anything wrong with hating white people".
In an essay, he further developed his "influential" and "important" ideas: "Most American white men are trained to be fags. For this reason it is no wonder their faces are weak and blank.…The average ofay [white person] thinks of the black man as potentially raping every white lady in sight. Which is true, in the sense that the black man should want to rob the white man of everything he has."
Decades later, in an infamous poem called "Somebody Blew Up America", Baraka wrote these charming lines: "Who Knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed?/Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/ To stay home that day/Why did Sharon stay away?" This proved too much even for the mainstream politicians and media and Baraka's tenure as poet laureate came to an end. He obviously overreached himself by attacking Israel. If Baraka would've stuck to homicidal fantasies about "whities", the Jersey politicians would've left him alone.
Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.