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Losing Roy Innis

Friday, January 13, 2017 17:41
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By Douglas V. Gibbs
AuthorSpeakerInstructorRadio Host

While I never had the opportunity to personally meet Roy Innis, I felt like I knew him well.  Due to my growing role as Director of Civics and Constitution Studies with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), I have been working with Niger Innis, Roy's son, quite a bit.

Roy Innis was seen as an anomaly in the Civil Rights Movement.  Rather than take a Marxist position, or be a violent activist striking out against “the man,” he preached a more conservative message.  Individualism and taking responsibility while accepting consequences was his missive, a message that was unexpected by his civil rights contemporaries.  Roy Innis has repeatedly called for returning to the nuclear family by bringing dad home and eliminating dependency upon welfare programs, and stopping the destructive practice of abortion.  He also had taken a conservative stance on energy, climate change, and the constitutional role of government.

I have a copy of his book, “Energy Keepers Energy Killers: The New Civil Rights Battle,” of which his son Niger signed for me in lieu of his father.  I had planned to have Roy on my Constitution Radio program on KMET to discuss the arguments he presented in the book in the near future.

On January 8, however, we lost Roy Innis, Sr. to complications from Parkinson's disease.

Mr. Innis was the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, and had been since 1968.  His son, Niger, has been the national spokesman for the civil rights organization during the latter part of his dad's incumbency.

Roy Innis' rise to national recognition began in Harlem during the heat of the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s.  He had joined CORE, which was founded in 1942 by white and black students in Chicago. 

Mr. Innis described himself as “a serious economic and political and cultural black nationalist,” and led CORE into a new direction by applying a conservative worldview to his advocacy work.
As CORE followed Innis in the new direction, black activists like Al Sharpton became very critical of the organization.  Innis fought right back, describing Sharpton as being “politicized in left-wing nonsense” and once told Newsday that he was “sick” of them “defining the African-American community.” In 1988 on the “The Morton Downey Jr. Show” Mr. Innis and Sharpton got into a pushing match after the latter called Innis a “bigot.”
Mr. Innis' wake-up call to the need for black neighborhoods to be turned around with a more sensible conservative approach, according to Innis himself, could be traced back to the shooting deaths of two of his sons — Roy Innis Jr., who died at 13 while playing outside in 1968, and Alexander Innis, who died at 26 in 1982.
“After the murders of my sons I did not want other parents to go through what I went through,” Mr. Innis told Newsday in 1993. “My sons were not killed by the KKK or David Duke. They were murdered by young, black thugs. I use the murder of my sons by black hoodlums to shift the problems from excuses like the KKK to the dope pushers on the streets.”

He opposed busing, telling the New York Times in an interview that “you cannot define desegregation as the idea that black kids can’t learn outside the presence of white kids.” He instead advocated greater community control of school district finances and leadership, and blamed strong central governance for the problems in the cities and public education.

Gun control, he told blacks, “was not meant to protect your safety; it was meant to deprive you of your freedom.”  The first gun control laws in the United States emerged when Democrats passed them in the hopes of leaving blacks defenseless against the KKK, and other anti-black groups shortly after the War Between the States.  Innis was an active board member of the National Rifle Association.

Innis also stood against affirmative action laws, arguing that they worked against the advances of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included provisions outlawing from a federal standpoint discrimination in the workplace and in employment.

CORE, under the leadership of Roy Innis, has focused on education and job training.  The brand of conservatism he has brought to CORE is traditional, and in line with the style of governance originally intended during the founding of the United States, in terms of localism, and limited federal authorities.  He believed that kind of traditionalism to be the “most decent and rational expression of the American personality,” Mr. Innis once told the New York Times. “I believe that the success of America has been the application of pragmatism in society, and that view is particularly unfashionable in the civil rights movement.”

Which is why he has supported the effort to bring me, Douglas V. Gibbs, on board to coordinate educating minorities on the basic principles of American civics, and the United States Constitution.  The launch of the program has only been waiting for final approval by the executive board in New York City, who have been informed of our efforts in California – efforts of which Roy Innis was very excited about, and approving of.
We will miss Roy Innis.  He was a voice of sanity during a time of great turmoil, and at CORE it is our aim to continue his legacy of striving for greater racial equality in America through education, and turning around our Hispanic and black neighborhoods from within by teaching moral principles and the philosophies of governance consistent with those that have made this country prosper over the last two centuries.
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