Mark Green, You Can’t Hide

Unmasking a Phony White Liberal

By October 7, the Post's campaign of denigration had joined Sharpton and Ferrer at the hip in one massive blob. "Sorry Al," Ferrer says to his Siamese twin, "but if I'm gonna win this election, I'm gonna have to distance myself from you." On the eve of the election, the Page Six cartoonist drew Sharpton as Fat Albert and a beanpole Ferrer on their knees against a white backdrop, daubing the floor jet black and painting themselves into a corner with their "Two New Yorks Campaign."

"Now what?" asks Ferrer, glancing at the dumbfounded, farting powerbroker.


Analyze this: Sharpton supporter Monique Code says Mark Green should apologize for not criticizing offensive material like this New York Post cartoon.
photo: Cary Conover
Analyze this: Sharpton supporter Monique Code says Mark Green should apologize for not criticizing offensive material like this New York Post cartoon.

Last week, in an indirect way, Al Sharpton unmasked a phony white liberal.

As the audience broke up at the House of Justice, one of Sharpton's followers pressed a copy of Randall Robinson's book, Defending the Spirit, A Black Life in America, in my hand. "Read pages five and six," she said. "When you're done, come back and tell me that Mark Green is not a closet racist." In the book, Robinson, the president of TransAfrica, recounts a classroom confrontation he and five other blacks had with Green while they were students at Harvard Law School in the winter of 1967. Robinson writes:

Professor Fried is superciliously droning on in a vaguely British accent about how the visitation of annoying or unpleasant conditions upon a neighborhood (grating noise or belching smoke, for example) can constitute a tort or cause of action for a civil lawsuit.

"Can anyone think of an actionable nuisance we haven't touched on today?" asks Professor Fried.

"What about black people moving into a neighborhood?" suggests Mark Joseph Green, liberal Democrat of Cornell University and Great Neck, New York.

A thoughtful discussion ensues. Henry Sanders looks at me. We five blacks in fact all look at each other. Our faces betray little. In any case, the privileged young white scholars are oblivious. There are legal arguments to be mustered, pro and con. The discussion of whether or not the mere presence of blacks constitutes an inherent nuisance swirls around the five blacks. We say nothing. We cannot dignify insult with reasoned rebuttal. The choice is between ventilated rage and silence. We choose silence.

Mr. Green does not prevail and is foreclosed from extending his argument. Encouraged, he might have made Harvard Law School a plaintiff in a theoretical nuisance suit against the twenty-five blacks admitted to its class since 1970.

Doubtless Mr. Green will not remember his attempt to expand the definition of nuisance as a tort. Thirty years later I will not have forgotten.

Does this mean that Mark Green harbors latent racist opinions about blacks? I told the Sharpton supporter that Robinson's story about a phony white liberal speaks for itself.


Additional reporting by Marissa Moss


pnoel@villagevoice.com

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