NEW YORK (Jan. 16)
An anti-Semitic poem read by a controversial Negro teacher on a public subscription radio station broadcast last month is the newest element in the ongoing struggle between the New York City teachers’ union and the advocates of community control of public schools. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has lodged a strong protest with the Federal Communications Commission over the poem, read on WBAI-FM by Leslie R. Campbell Dec. 26. It was purportedly written by a 15-year-old Negro boy, was dedicated to Albert Shanker, head of the teachers’ union, and opened with the lines, “Hey, Jew boy, with that yarmulka on your head/you pale-faced Jew boy, I wish you were dead.”
Mr. Campbell, a key figure in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville school dispute, was suspended on charges of harassing union teachers but was reinstated earlier this month when a state panel, headed by Dr. John Fisher, president of Teachers College, found evidence against him “insufficient to warrant disciplinary proceedings.” Mr. Campbell read the poem as a guest on the Julius Lester Program. The UFT has charged WBAI-FM with spreading anti-Semitic propaganda in general “and attacks against New York teachers in particular.” The station, owned by the Pacifica Foundation of Berkeley, Calif, and supported by contributions from listeners, is known for broadcasting intensely controversial material. Mr. Lester, host of the weekly program is field secretary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the author of a book about the black revolutionary movement. He said his intention in allowing Mr. Campbell to read the poem was “to demonstrate what a lot of people don’t want to take seriously — the strong and growing hostility and resentment of Jewish whites among ghetto blacks.” The poem linked Israel’s struggle with the Arab countries to white supremacy in the city’s recent school crisis. One verse read, “When the UN made Israel a free independent state/ little four- and five-year-old boys threw hand grenades; they hated the black Arabs with all their might/ and you, Jew boy, said it was all right.” Mr. Shanker, in a statement issued yesterday, said that the WBAI program ought to provide new grounds for Mayor John V. Lindsay and Dr. Fisher to reverse Mr. Campbell’s reinstatement. He said his reading of the anti-Semitic poem “is an indication of his teaching approach.”
In a related development. Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York today assailed a section of a catalogue for the cultural exhibition “Harlem On My Mind” that opened tonight at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It suggests that black Americans have joined a national majority not by their efforts for justice and dignity, but through anti-Semitic feelings. This is a slander on both the black and white community, as well as an insult to the Jewish community,” he said. He declared that “no exhibit which bears the endorsement of the city…should reflect this kind of bigotry.” He urged the museum to withdraw the publication from distribution until the remarks are expunged.