This is a chapter from the new Angryindian Reader #7 ‘Do American Negroes Dream of Alabaster Sheep?: An Indigenist Deconstruction of African Assimilationist Pathologies & Other Anti-Colonialist Writings’ by TheAngryindian. Download the full title (6.5 M)PDF here: ourmediaCollection
Art, Blood, and Steel
‘What happens to the Russians, what happens to the Czechs, is a matter of utter indifference to me… Whether the other peoples live in comfort or perish of hunger interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture; apart from that it does not interest me.
Whether or not 10,000 Russian women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch interests me only in so far as the tank ditch is completed for Germany’.
– Heinrich Himmler
If we are really serious about this subject we could look again to another well-respected European source that used the reality of White racism to provide some allegories that really bring the point home. When the English writer William Shakespeare wrote ‘Othello
’ and ‘The Tempest
’, the perils and contradictions of White racism were installed at the very centre of the plots, but how many educated people can claim to have considered these aspects when analysing modern racial bias and discrimination? Especially in regards to popular mainstream media?
In Othello, the play’s African military hero is placed into a disastrous crisis out of pure professional and personal jealousy just because one White man whispered a complete lie into the eager ear of another. The character of ‘Honest’ Iago found it extremely easy to upset Othello’s secure social position in the story precisely because Othello was a Black man in Europe. A successful man perhaps, but still isolated by his physical differences in an overwhelmingly ‘White’ sociopolitical environment. If Othello were an ‘equal’, his marriage to Desdemona would not have needed to be conducted in secret. By playing his string of falsehoods against the inner sexual fears and racial animosities most European males have in regards to Black men, Iago was able to surreptitiously direct the other characters to his own ends driven by their own prejudices. Without question Iago was evil. But what gave his evilness energy was the underlying xenophobia that gave weight to his untrue suggestions in the first place. The only dynamic that gave Othello any initial reprieve as the tale unfolds is his excellent service to the established political order.
When we look at The Tempest we can discern similar background themes of Europocentric bias and assumed racial privilege over non-Whites and their territorial rights. Here we have a story about a White man and his young daughter who are wrongfully ejected from their upper-caste position in European society and sent into exile on an island already populated by a twisted, misshapen being who is half-Witch and half-Devil. Aided by magical knowledge, arrogance and a reluctant but duty-bound spirit servant, the White man haughtily claims complete ownership over the entire island and all who chance to be found there. This is challenged by the original inhabitant who is forced into de facto slavery after an aborted act of revenge against his occupiers.
The Native then attempts to negotiate his freedom by angling between the other invading Europeans for a weaker master. In the end, these efforts fail and the Native is forced right back into servitude with the first European that claimed to own him. Just like in real life, this Native is not ignorant to the real plight of his predicament:
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st first,
Thou strok’st me and made much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in’t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and then I lov’d thee,
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile.
Curs’d be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king.
– Caliban, (Act I of ‘The Tempest’)
If Shakespeare is truly the best there is in the English language, why have these social commentaries not been utilised broadly to deal with the issue of ethnic bias and racism in the English-speaking colonial world? What excuse could there possibly be for using the Judeo-Christian Bible to discuss racialism when Shakespeare’s insight made much more sense? Examined objectively, the Christian holy book, any version, remains to be the most dangerous, genocidal, racist and anti-Female literary work available in the western world
. Very few other collections of written theology even come close to the level of brutality found in the ‘Good Book’. And it does not take a rocket scientist to understand the role of religion and its influence, both good and bad, on European ideas of race, ethnic bias and the wholly ethnocentric pseudo-science of Eugenics
This is where things really get interesting because even western science, which despises being proved incorrect once they have agreed as a body politic to accept a particular hypothesis, is not at all safe from bias-free research. Piltdown Man
, the favourite debunking tool of Christian Fundamentalists
, was a rashly concocted ruse seeking to diffuse further serious interest and study into non-European geographic locations as the original birthplace of Homo Sapiens. From 1912 to 1953, the Eoanthropus dawsoni ‘discovery’ was hailed as definitive proof of the superiority of the European races
. And even better, Piltdown Man was not only White, he was Anglo, (with respect to the biases against the Original Peoples of Ancient Britain). As I mentioned earlier, hardcore Christians utilise the Piltdown hoax regularly as a means of discrediting science in favour of another fraud, Creationism
or its contemporary pseudo-scientific cousin, Intelligent Design
Instead of using the incident to illustrate the faulty thinking within European general society, religious zealots of all ethnicities merely augment the hoax’s racialist aims by ignoring that fact completely. Think about the images that purport to depict Jesus the Christ in churches all over the world and I think you will see where I am going with this
. Scientifically, there is no possible way a Jew born and raised in Palestine during that period could have looked as European as the personification of Jesus
generally accepted by modern believers. This is just one more reason why racism is such a moronic system. If religious believers ever concede to the scientific view, their faith becomes essentially worthless as it has no other basis other than a claim of ‘belief’. On the other hand, by denying empirical science and common-sense, western Jews, fundamentalist Christians and bigoted Arab Muslims can keep on peering through the looking glass by pretending that the ancient peoples of their respective religious fables were all ‘White
’. They might admit to a few Black slaves here and there and concubines from Ethiopia, but that is all.
In a sane world, one would think that after so many centuries of such mistreatment,obfuscation and apathy that Africans in the Diaspora would be universally adamant in seeking workable answers to their numerous, multifaceted dilemmas. Sadly this isn’t the case. This is not to in any way diminish the efforts of those Africans and Native Americans who do work, at great personal risk to themselves and their families, to address the colonialist question. But as Mao has suggested, revolutions in any form are only effective when supported by the popular will of the people who trust that they are being represented by the vanguard. Examined from this perspective, liberation movements undertaken by African and Native organisations in the United States were almost always doomed from the start. Far too many of us have either been too fearful of standing up for our rights or too blinded by promises of White love and acceptance to struggle for legitimate African rights to self-determination and social justice.
It is common knowledge that neither organisation ever sought any goals other than due realisation and recognition of the human, civil and territorial rights of their peoples under the extant laws of the US government system. But what is not well known is that both groups faced intense moral and peer disapproval from within their own communities and that despite their laudable efforts, were never fully accepted, or respected, by their own people. There are various reasons for this but it is important to understand here that White racism, as a matter of social control, is not simply an issue of everyday White folks just hating Black and Indian peoples. There are other serious factors to consider and much more to the story than just a collective will to keep things ‘as they are’.
Oppressed peoples must understand that seeking justice in the courts of the oppressor is like asking Jesse James to sit in judgment of robberies committed by his brother, Frank. You simply can’t win. And anyone who really thinks that Africans and Natives have not progressed under the American system because of a suspected genetic fault are, besides being dim-witted, totally ignorant of the shadowy forces used by governments to suppress our legitimate rights to human freedom and determination.
While it is true that COINTELPRO
was also used against the Ku Klux Klan, it is also true that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was a rabid anti-African bigot who was himself very sympathetic to White racist sentiments. In hindsight, Hoover really only used his authority against White racist organisations when compelled to by the White House, the courts or public opinion. This view is supported by the fact that his career as a federal government officer began with his involvement in anti-subversive intelligence activities for the Justice Department during the infamous ‘Palmer Raids
’ which saw the forced deportation of hundreds of left-wing sympathisers and other ‘undesirables’ from the US. Often to countries that were not necessarily their home nations, (French anarchists were shipped to Russia for example). Anarchists from Italy, Slavic Europe, Russian Jews and Greeks were particularly singled out for detainment and deportation due to the notion, at the time, that these ethnic groups were politically radical because they were not really ‘White’ and were fighting for social acceptance.
That’s how he treated foreigners, anarchists and suspected ‘Fifth Column’ agents of the Communist Party. But his Nativist attitudes towards American citizens
who were not European was just as bad if not worse than his ultra-conservative opposition to the political left. American Africans were not in any way spared from his zealous mission from God to protect Whiteness as the dominant culture in the United States. As head of The Bureau of Investigation, (forerunner to the FBI) Hoover singled out Jamaican Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr
. for special consideration as a threat to White American cultural security and ended up through a series of questionable measures, succeeded in annihilating the entire international African liberation movement as a whole. An atrocious and underhanded psychic blow that Africans around the world have never, ever, recovered from. He later went after the ‘National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
’ (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality
(CORE), the Black Panther Party for Self Defence, the Watts Writers Workshop
, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee
(SNCC), Muhammad Ali
, the United Slaves or ‘US Organisation
’, Stokely Carmichael
, activist actors Paul Robeson, Beah Richards
, Canada Lee
, Harry Belafonte
and writers such as James Baldwin
and Richard Wright
American African religious leaders such as The Hon. Elijah Muhammad
, Bro. Min. Malcolm X
(El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), Father Divine
, Noble Drew Ali
, the entire board of the SCLC and members of the King family were under government surveillance long before
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. became a leader in the movement following the much ballyhooed 1963 ‘March on Washington’ event which inspired the Bureau to labeled Dr. King as ‘The most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country’. The Director, who was well known for his personal hatred of Dr. King, publicly called him the ‘The most notorious liar in the country’, falsely accused him of being a communist agent controlled by Moscow and apparently believed that his work to unite African labour groups was a threat to the US social order.
It was later revealed that under Hoover’s direction, COINTELPRO agents mailed audio recordings of Dr. King’s sexual indiscretions
, some with White northerners working in the south during ‘Freedom Summer’, to his wife and other underhanded means to blackmail him. The worse documented case was a letter, mailed to him anonymously from the Bureau, that squarely encouraged him to commit suicide within a prescribed number of days before he was ‘exposed as a fraud’. And today there are many, including members of the King family, who do not accept the official story concerning Dr. King’s assassination
J. Edgar Hoover’s handling of the Bureau, indeed, his entire career as a government officer, clearly shows that his polices were based more on his own personal prejudices rather than real violations of the law. In his world, violent organised crime did not exist in the United States
. Nor did White racism. Like President Woodrow Wilson
, his idea of an ideal Black American was a silent, appreciative worker-bee who stayed far in the shadows, found honour in being called a ‘Nigger’ and was over the moon about the ‘privilege’
. Hoover, like most Whites at the time had no use for Negroes, unless of course you were shining their shoes, serving them sexually or needed as human cannon fodder for White wars of colonial aggression
He had to be forced politically into involving the Bureau’s resources to investigate White racist terrorist and other civil rights abuses against Africans and their White supporters before, during and after the Civil Rights era. This is true, but that never stopped good propaganda from injecting popular fibs into the public consciousness. The Hollywood film ‘Mississippi Burning
’ was a work of propaganda, it made it appear that the government was on the job going after the Ku Klux Klan on moral grounds. The reality could not be further from the truth. Depending on who you might ask, there are estimates that upwards to 60% of the organised Klan during that period were either undercover informants reporting directly to the Bureau, or, career southern born and bred agents who were card-carrying members of the KKK
. Further, it is not a big secret that many of the Bureau’s employees, like most of the general US population, were themselves bigoted against Africans, Natives and other non-Whites to degrees no less intense than the Klan’s
As ‘Director for life’, J. Edgar Hoover and his spouse Clyde Tolson ran the Bureau as a private intelligence agency
, illegally obtaining and collecting personal information on entertainers, politicians and especially those Hoover personally felt were ‘questionable or dangerous’ to the American way of life. Hoover was a product of the Victorian social and personal biases of his times. His strongly Protestant Europocentric worldview was informed by Christian extremists such as Anthony Comstock, the fundamentalist ‘reformer’ famous for his rabid opposition to Negroes, women’s rights, birth control and the ‘lewd character’ of sexual vice. Dedicated to a stern view of American life as an Anglo dominated nation and culture, Hoover viewed even the slightest suggestion of social justice and equality as ‘un-American’ and fair game for his agents to attack.
Just about every Black and Native American cultural and political organisation in the United States, no matter how benign, faced covert surveillance and possible infiltration during this period. Organisations such as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defence
, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SCLC), the American Indian Movement
(AIM) and members of various Puerto Rican, Native Hawaiian and Appalachian Ulster-Scots community groups were all targeted by the Bureau at one time or another. The Bureau used false rumors to ‘bad-jacket’ movement leaders and subversion tactics that included illegal wiretaps and the distribution of fabricated paper-trails to frame effective leaders. Some researchers such as John Judge
have openly suggested that COINTELPRO methods were not above using or inciting violence against designated American African targets
The scope and authority of the Church Committee’s findings
were in the end severely limited by the very nature of the spying community’s own garbled hubris. Although the committee did expose an extremely long series of acknowledged abuses of the public trust, (such as the covert and immoral forced sterilisation of Native American women
in the continental United States
, (including Puerto Rico
) and Guatemala
) they were intentionally hampered by ‘missing’, incomplete or heavily redacted records, departmental wrangling and the obtuse, often comedic testimony of career intelligence officers. Despite the circus-like atmosphere surrounding most of the investigation, a great deal of very important, if not disturbing, information that was revealed shocked the US and international news-reading community.
‘There were 7,000 pages of top secret documents that demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates — I, for one — who had participated in that terrible, indecent fraud over the years in Vietnam, lying us into a hopeless war, which has, of course — and a wrongful war — which has, of course, been reproduced and is being reproduced right now and may occur again in Iran. So the history of that, I thought, might help us get out of that particular war’.
Officially terminated in 1971, COINTELPRO-like tactics against suspected groups and individuals have either been alleged, proven or admitted to by the Bureau itself. Independent researchers go even further and suggest that the government, under the guise of combating international Islamic terrorism, may never have ended truly the programme. Conspiracy theories aside, COINTELPRO in name may not exist any longer but undue government surveillance of suspected anti-establishment theorists, anti-war activists, socialists, atheists, feminists who aren’t White and Muslims irregardless of ethnic origin
is now a matter of popular interest if only because the private-sector has gotten into the spying business
The ugly side of American politics, political assassinations
, torture, kidnapping (extreme rendition
) and other methods intended to be addressed during the 1970’s by these various intelligence community oversight committees continue today unabated
. Primarily because the general public is simply not informed about the issues.
This is also in large part due to professional journalistic apathy but unlike the excellent level of objective reportage seen during the Vietnam Occupation, today’s news media is centred around revenue, propaganda and amusement, not informational sustenance. And in the case of Rupert Murdoch’s fascist FOX Network, lying in news media is a legally protected endeavour
Modern news media is little more than the public mouthpiece of the economic and political elite-classes of the establishment. Independent, unbought and unbossed journalists such as Seymour Hersh
, Amy Goodman
, John Pilger
, Ida M. Tarbell
, Jeremy Scahill
, Gil Noble
, Anna Politkovskaya
, Veronica Guerin
, Hrant Dink
, U?ur Mumcu
, Listervelt Middleton
and George Seldes
are a rare breed. Investigative journalism teams such as Edward R. Murrow
and Fred W. Friendly
, Donald L. Barlett
and James B. Steele
, Bob Woodward
and Carl Bernstein
, the good people of ProPublica
, the Indymedia Collective
have done more to defend the public interest from establishment state and corporate repression than any other single sociopolitical factor this writer can think of. The ‘system’ as we understand it will never face any justified serious opposition to abuses of the public trust without a literate, educated public duly informed about the issues and affairs of the nation. Modern news and entertainment media does much to dissuade our attention away from what is best for us towards what is best for the rich and the powerful. And White Christian conservatives who are struggling to make ends meet are complete idiots for supporting social, political and economic policies that do them serious harm so long as they think it will limit the upwards mobility of African people and other minorities that need to hate in order to measure themselves against an ‘outside-class’.
‘The U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son’.
The blatant anti-African racism inherent in such a statement is astounding enough, but the fact that it comes from a person-of-colour who himself was born in country sodomised by both by the racialist religion of caste-conscious Hinduism
and by English colonialism and neo-colonialism is shocking
. It is also indicative of where the United States as an ideal and as a country is going in terms of a continuance of the old ways. When an India-born immigrant can sound like a racist pig and not be censured by the lukewarm conservatives who swear on Jesus the Christ and a stack of Gideon Bibles that they ‘love the Black man and woman to their very core…’ you know that insanity has become the acceptable standard in American politics
. And since everything, including the history of the United States and its involvement and protection of African slavery, racist anti-mixing laws and the Ku Klux Klan, is open for wild, often revisionist, pro-White Christian interpretation
Racism, like capitalism, distorts everything it touches. Even the original source of inspiration for the book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ has been twisted beyond belief in order to satisfy the White racist need to dehumanise its victims into entities of pity and sorrow. The author understood this and intelligently tried to beat the bigots to the punch. She knew that Whites would reject an honest morality tale and couched the African characters into roles that would both offer some humanity and dignity to people otherwise depicted as monkey-like half-people
. The ‘Tom’ in the book was based on a real escaped African slave, Josiah Henson
, who actively worked for the liberation of slaves making their way up to British Canada and freedom. The author of the story presented the character of the mature slave ‘Tom’ romantically and in accordance with the White racial attitudes of the country. Had Ms. Stowe written the book accurately, reflecting an abolitionist-minded, ‘thinking’ African as a central figure, not only would Whites not have read the book, she may have placed herself in even more danger than she did following its release.
Ms. Stowe was called a ‘Nigger-Lover’ in the North and a ‘Friend of the Devil’ in the South by both democrats and republicans, Christians all, proving that racism in American political terms simply means ‘keep the Niggers at bay at all costs
’! Let not the Black man be humanised, as it is bad for business and it causes sensitive White folks to cry incessantly over their morning coffee
. This is the attitude and always has been. So believe me when I say that when neo-cons like David Frum
are embarrassed by the blatant racism
seen in the GOP that it really means something. And when moral midgets like Newt Gingrich
and Pat Buchanan
are given major media soapboxes in which to peddle their far-right, neo-Confederate diarrhoea it also proves that those who own the media want that message out there for the general public to absorb and accept as legitimate political discourse.