Where Democrats Learned the Art of Racial Tribalism

A "civil rights" icon's contribution to her party's moral collapse.

Mary Frances Berry has been around, seemingly, forever. Today she is a Board of Directors member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society for Legal History. But notwithstanding these, and many other, impressive titles, Berry made her most lasting mark as an enthusiastic admirer of Communism who played a key role in transforming the once-noble civil rights movement into an ugly, pathetic racial-grievance industry whose principal objective is to pit whites and blacks against one another from now until the end of time.

In 1977, when Berry was chancellor of the University of Colorado, she accepted President Jimmy Carter’s invitation to serve as the Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education. Berry was in the habit, at that time, of carrying Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book in her purse wherever she went, and in 1980 she took a trip to Communist China. When she returned home, Berry publicly urged Americans to respect the Chinese education system for requiring students to “develop what they call socialist consciousness and culture.” Somewhat embarrassed by Berry’s remarks, President Carter transferred her to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where she remained a member for the next 24 years – including 11 years as the Commission’s chair.

From the earliest days of her career in government and academia, Berry has routinely denounced what she views as America’s systemic flaws while comparing the nation unfavorably to Communist states. In 1982, for instance, she lamented that the U.S. media’s “massive barrage of propaganda” had rendered black Americans blind to the many virtues of the Soviet Union, including its “safeguards for minorities,” its “equality of opportunity,” and its “equal provision of social services to its citizens.” Further, Berry characterized the 1960s as an era when blacks in America had lived under a perpetual “threat of genocide” that was “roughly comparable” to what Jews faced in Germany under Hitler.

Throughout her years with the Civil Rights Commission, Berry continued to articulate her belief that capitalism is an inherently inequitable economic system that feeds American racism. In a 1991 Journal of American History article, for example, she wrote: “The legal system supports our capitalist economic system. Because capitalism requires inequality, the only real question is who will be the repositories of the inequality. To date, black people have disproportionately been those repositories.”

Berry has long viewed America as a nation awash in white racism:

  • “The primary explanation for racially motivated violence against blacks,” she said in the 1980s, “has been the need of a segment of the white population to preserve [its] belief in the inferiority of blacks, and to maintain the social and political subordination of an historically outcast group by any means, including violence.”
  • In 1985, Berry and a fellow Civil Rights Commission member issued a joint statement saying that “civil rights laws were _not_ passed to give civil rights protection to _all_ Americans,” but rather, “out of a recognition that some Americans already had protection because they belong to a favored group,” while “others, including blacks, Hispanics and women of all races, did not because they belonged to disfavored groups.”
  • On another occasion, Berry described the placement of family-planning clinics in inner cities as part of an effort to inflict “genocide” on black people.
  • A strong advocate of racial preferences in employment and education, Berry unapologetically supports racial quotas as a necessary means of preventing Jews and Asians from occupying too many seats in America’s colleges and universities.
  • During the George W. Bush presidency, Berry charged that when Bush appointed blacks like Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell to some of the highest positions in his administration, he was merely using them as tokens for the purpose of fooling African Americans into complacency and a false sense of well-being.
  • Demonstrating her devotion to purposeful, tactical race-baiting, Berry in 2010 endorsed the practice of gratuitously smearing conservative Tea Party political activists as racists. “Tainting the Tea Party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats,” she said. “There is no evidence that Tea Party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness.”

These are the sentiments of a thoroughly corrupt and deceitful individual.

Center for Equal Opportunity chair Linda Chavez, who served for a period of time alongside Berry in the Civil Rights Commission, once wrote: “To describe Mary Frances Berry as a liberal, as she is frequently referred to in the media, is an insult to liberalism and Berry. She is a political radical well outside the mainstream of American politics.”

But Chavez wrote those words 12 years ago. Much has changed since then. Berry is no longer outside the mainstream. She is now emblematic of precisely what the Democratic Party has become: a party of rabid tribalists obsessed with identity politics and the promotion of racial hatred in every direction.

Mary Frances Berry was, in so many ugly ways, a woman ahead of her time.