Cox says, “Not with the present system. I can’t see that. Like, what can change? There’s 750 families that own all the wealth of this country—”
“Dat’s not tdrue!” says Preminger. “Dere are many people vid vealth all over—”
“Let me finish!—and these families are the most reactionary elements in the country. A man like H. L. Hunt wouldn’t let me in his house.”
Barbara Walters says: “I’m not talking about—”
“I wouldn’t go to his house eef he asked me,” says Preminger.
“Well I almost—”
“Vot about Ross Perot? He’s a Texan, too, and is spending millions of dollars trying to get de vives of prisoners of war in touch with the government of North Vietnam—”
Cox says: “I would respect him more if he was giving his money to hungry children.”
“He is!” says Preminger. “He is! You dun’t read anyt’ing! Dat’s your tdrouble!”
“I’m not talking about that,” Barbara Walters says to Cox. “I’m talking about what’s supposed to happen to other people if you achieve your goals.”
“You can’t just put it like that!” says Julie Belafonte. “That needs clarification.”
Barbara Walters says: “I’m talking as a white woman who has a white husband, who is a capitalist, or an agent of capitalists, and I am, too, and I want to know if you are to have your freedom, does that mean we have to go!”
Barbara Walters and her husband, Lee Guber, a producer, up against the wall in the cellar in Ekaterinburg.
Cox says, “For one person to be free, everybody must be free. As long as one whole class is oppressed, there is no freedom in a society. A lot of young white people are beginning to—”
“Dat eesn’t vat she’s asking—”
“Let me finish—let me answer the question—”
“You dun’t even listen to de kvestion—”
“Let me finish—A lot of young white people are beginning to understand about oppression. They’re part of the petty bourgeoisie. It’s a different class from the black community, but there’s a common oppressor. They’re protesting about individual freedoms, to have their music and smoke weed and have sex. These are individual freedoms but they are beginning to understand—”
“If you’re for freedom,” says Preminger, “tell me dis: Is it all right for a Jew to leave Russia and settle in Israel?”
“Let me finish—”
“Is it all right for a Jew to leave Russia and settle in Israel?”
Most people in the room don’t know what the hell Preminger is driving at, but Leon Quat and the little gray man know right away. They’re trying to wedge into the argument. The hell with that little number, that Israel and Al Fatah and U.A.R. and MIGS and USSR and Zionist imperialist number—not in this room you don’t—
Quat stands up with a terrific one-big-happy-family smile on and says: “I think we’re all ready to agree that the crisis in this country today comes not from the Black Panthers but from the war in Vietnam, and—”
But there is a commotion right down front. Barbara Walters is saying something to one of the Panther wives, Mrs. Lee Berry, in the front row.
“What did she say to you?” says Lenny.
“I was talking to this very nice lady,” says Barbara Walters, “and she said, ‘You sound like you’re afraid.’”
Mrs. Berry laughs softly and shakes her head.
“I’m not afraid of you,” Barbara Walters says to her, “but maybe I am about the idea of the death of my children!”
“Please!” says Quat.
“All I’m asking is if we can work together to create justice without violence and destruction!”
“Please!” says Quat.
“He never answered her kvestion!” says Preminger.
“I can answer the question—”
“You dun’t eefen listen—”
“Let me answer the question! I can deal with that. We don’t believe that it will happen within the present system, but—”
Lenny says: “So you’re going to start a revolution from a Park Avenue apartment!”
Quat sings out desperately: “Livingston Wingate is here! Can we please have a word from Mr. Livingston Wingate of the Urban League?” Christ, yes, bring in Livingston Wingate.
So Livingston Wingate, executive director of the New York Urban League, starts threading his way down to the front. He hasn’t got the vaguest notion of what has been going on, except that this is Panther night at the Bernsteins’. He apparently thinks he is called upon to wax forensic, because he starts into a long disquisition on the changing mood of black youth.
“I was on television this morning with a leader of the Panther movement, he says, “and—”
“That was me”—Cox from his chair beside the piano.
Wingate wheels around. “Oh, yes . . .” He does a double take. “I didn’t see you here . . . That was you . . . Hah . . .” And then he continues, excoriating himself and his generation of black leaders for their failures, because non-violence didn’t work, and he can no longer tell the black youth not to throw that rock—
In the corner, meanwhile, by the piano, Preminger has reached out and grabbed Cox by the forearm in some kind of grip of goodwill and brotherhood and is beaming as if to say, I didn’t mean anything by it, and Cox is trying to grab his hand and shake hands and say that’s O.K., and Preminger keeps going for the forearm, and Cox keeps going for the hand, and they’re lost there in a weird eccentric tangle of fingers and wrist bones between the sofa and the grand piano, groping and tugging—
—because, says Livingston Wingate, he cannot prove to the ghetto youth that anything else will work, and so forth and so on, “and they are firmly convinced that there can be no change unless the system is changed.”
“Less than 5 per cent of the people of this country have 90 per cent of the wealth,” says Lefcourt the lawyer, “and 10 per cent of them have most of the 90 per cent. The mass of the people by following the system can never make changes, and there is no use continuing to tell people about constitutional guarantees, either. Leon and I could draw up a constitution that would give us all the power, and we could make it so deep and legitimate that you would have to kill us to change it!”
Julie Belafonte rises up in front and says: “Then we’ll kill you!”
“Power to the people!” says Leon Quat . . . and all rise to their feet . . . and Charlotte Curtis puts the finishing touches in her notebook . . . and the white servants wait patiently in the wings to wipe the drink rings off the Amboina tables . . .