Open Letter to Dr. Clayborne Carson of Stanford University

Dr. Clayborne Carson
Professor, African-American History
DirectorMartin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute
Stanford University

Dr. Carson:

On October 28, 2013 I introduced myself to you as someone who was respectfully critical of your work.  I took issue with what I saw as your decidedly anti-Israel (and therefore, biased) position as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The fact that you are the Director of the Martin Luther King Institute at Stanford University only made your untenable position even more bitterly ironic.

Still, Dr. Carson, as I mentioned, I am a man who was raised to honor his elders.  I never once publicly addressed you – until now.

Stanford Debate
November 11, 2014 debate at Stanford University R-L: Dr. Clayborne Carson, Kristian Davis Bailey, Shiri Krebs (seated); Chloé Simone Valdary (on screen via Skype from New Orleans)

Stanford debate 2

Chloé Simone Valdary is a close personal friend and colleague of mine.  I helped her prepare for the debate she had with you, Kristian Davis Bailey and Israeli law student, Shiri Krebs on Tuesday, November 11, 2014.  Both Chloé and I were under the impression that Ms. Krebs would be Chloé’s partner in the debate, as Mr. Bailey (a former student of yours, and president of Stanford’s Students for Justice in Palestine) clearly shares your anti-Israel, pro-BDS views.  I was slightly concerned that a tenured professor of African-American history would join a debate against a 21 year-old undergraduate who was joining via Skype, but I chose to help Chloé anyway, trusting that there would be some semblance of fairness and decency.  I was wrong.

(Here it should be noted that Chloé has debated Mr. Bailey on two previous occasions.  I was able to observe both the Huffington Live as well as the Steve Malzberg events.  That Chloé roundly defeated Mr. Bailey is made evident by the fact that you joined him against Chloé for the third installment).

According to Chloé (as there is no existing recording of your “debate” with her) it was three against one.  Dr. Carson, not only did you attempt to take Chloé to task for her pro-Israel, pro-justice views, you had back up.  I cannot begin to tell you how utterly disappointed and, quite frankly, ashamed I am of what took place.  Regardless of your position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue (Chloé rightly pointed out that you neither defend the human rights of the Jews in their native homeland, or the Palestinians systematically oppressed and killed by their own leaders), you chose to gang up on a young adult as if she were a peer.   I have five daughters, sir, three of whom are around Chloé’s age.  If some college professor had treated them the way you did Chloé, I’d be in his office the next day, calling him out for his intellectual dishonesty and lack of professionalism or decorum.  As a father, I’d call out the inappropriateness of being the only person in his 70s appearing on a panel with three twenty-something’s; two of whom were on your side.  Yes.  I am as outraged about your reprehensible treatment of Chloé as I would be if she were one of my own girls.

In my lectures as well as my book (Zionism & the Black Church) I point out that the anti-Zionist rhetoric of the 1960s (which Dr. King vehemently condemned) has become sanitized and institutionalized today. Dr. Carson, it is quite deflating to see that institutionalized anti-Israel doctrine being championed by a man purporting to uphold Dr. King’s legacy.  Though I am from the generation after yours, I too share a deep love and respect for Dr. King’s work. You, sir, are conducting a grave miscarriage of justice by misrepresenting the man you claim to honor.  My heart is grieved both as a Black man who is proud of his African-American heritage and as a Christian pastor.


Dumisani Washington

Director, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel

About the Author
Dumisani Washington is the Founder and CEO of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI), and the former Diversity Outreach Coordinator for the over 10-million-member Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Dumisani is a pastor, professional musician—graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music—and author whose latest book is the second edition of Zionism & the Black Church: Why Standing with Israel Will be a Defining Issue for Christians of Color in the 21st Century. He and his wife, Valerie, have been married 33 years and have six children and two grandchildren.