Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers – Tom Wolfe (1970)

Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers is a 1970 book by Tom Wolfe. The book, Wolfe’s fourth, is composed of two articles by Wolfe, ‘These Radical Chic Evenings’, first published in June 1970 in New York magazine, about a gathering Leonard Bernstein held for the Black Panther Party, and ‘Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers’, about the response of many minorities to San Francisco‘s poverty programs. Both essays looked at the conflict between black rage and white guilt. Radical Chic’ The first piece is set in the duplex on Park Avenue in Manhattan inhabited by conductor Leonard Bernstein, his wife the actress Felicia Cohn Montealegre, and their three children. Bernstein assembled many of his wealthy socialite friends to meet with representatives of the controversial Black Panthers and discuss ways to help their cause. The party was a typical affair for Bernstein, a longtime Democrat, who was known for hosting civil rights leaders at such parties. The Bernsteins’ usual staff of white South Americans served the party. Some of the Bernsteins’ typical friends in the arts and guests in journalism (including Oscar-nominated director Otto Preminger and television reporter Barbara Walters) are labeled the ‘radical chic’, as Wolfe characterizes them as pursuing radical ends for social reasons, partially because organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had become mainstream. Wolfe’s criticism is implicitly of the general phenomenon of white guilt and armchair agitation becoming facets of high fashion. When Time magazine later interviewed a minister of the Black Panthers about Bernstein’s party, the official said of Wolfe: ‘You mean that dirty, blatant, lying, racist dog who wrote that fascist disgusting thing in New York magazine?’ Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers’ The second part of Wolfe’s book is set at the Office of Economic Opportunity in San Francisco which was in charge of administering many of the anti-poverty programs of the time. Wolfe presents the office as corrupt, continually gamed by hustlers diverting cash into their own pockets. The essay centers on the irony of these failed programs fortifying not the diets but the resentment and contempt of the Black, Chicano, Filipino, Chinese, Indian, and Samoan communities of San Francisco. …”
Wikipedia
BBC: When Leonard Bernstein partied with the Black Panthers
NY Mag: Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s By Tom Wolfe
amazon


Leonard and Felicia Bernstein with Field Marshall Donald Cox, a leader of the Black Panther Party, at their New York penthouse apartment on 14 January 1970.

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