Oh Ye Peaceful Negroes
8 months ago Chad 0
Let this invisible alien state for the record, that like Paul Beatty’s slippery narrator in his magnificent book The Sellout, I’ve never committed a crime in my life. I’ve never stolen socks from Primark or bacon from Sainsbury’s. I’m a law and order sorta guy I guess. That may surprise you somewhat because I am black and black people are often projected as violent, venomous, riot-ready masochists. But after watching OJ Made in America and 13th in recent weeks, I’m wondering how is it we manage to be so peaceful? How are these long suffering people not more violent? How do ye oppressed black people of the world keep a lid on it?
From where did we get this stiff upper lip and these firm backs to take beating after beating after beating; from where did we get these soft cushy minds that are so easily infiltrated by Buddhist-like pacifism? From Brazil to Los Angeles, from London to Kingston, for four hundred years we have been abused and abused and abused. Apart from isolated riots in Los Angeles, Ferguson or London, where we make acquaintance with flat screen TVs, refrigerators and Nike tracksuits, we have never risen up in forceful revolution, coordinated or otherwise. The sun would turn to darkness and the moon to blood before the onset of the epic black rebellion. We are a patient, peaceful people, I guess.
Hmmm! The French Revolutionaries Weren’t Patient
The French Jacobins war neither peaceful nor patient. Their beef: taxes, a gluttonous king and high prices for bread. Sharpened and keen guillotines supplied severed heads for waiting baskets. The American Patriots weren’t going to wait. Afterall, the British (technically, themselves) decided to tax them without representation. Oh, the horror! Cast off teabags and gunpowder plots became the order of the day. These men are Patriots, you see. My history book tells me they were not violent men, but men who fought for justice, liberty and what’s right.
Hmmm! The American Revolutionaries Weren’t Patient
The American Revolutionary war, according to the dominant narrative, brought freedom and democracy from the dictatorial clutches of England’s King George. This claim conflicts with much of what is known about that history, including the fact that the thirteen British colonies that declared independence in 1776 built a regime of slavery and human bondage unmatched in much of human existence whilst relieving the American Indian of their land, limbs and lives. But they were peace loving patriots, you see.
You Got To Fight, For The Right, To Party
Julius Caesar is a celebrated military genius for stampeding across much or Britain and Egypt, leaving thousands of dead in his wake. Charlemagne is considered the ‘father of Europe’ after slaughtering thousands to fulfil a hazy pan European dream. The British bled in a noble civil war because Charles I thought God gave him the divine right to rule over his subjects how he saw fit. It was a war of enlightenment and reformation. At least, this is what my history book tells me.
We had a World War over a dead prince in Sarajevo and another over the Jewish holocaust. A quick Google check assured me that there are about 6 million Jews in the world. Another shows that there are about 1.3 billion black people across the globe. That is about 20% of the world’s population. One hundred and forty three million or thereabouts live outside of Africa.
One hundred and forty three million of disparate, unorganised, peaceful capitalists.
One hundred and forty three million in Brazil, America, the UK, Sweden, France, Germany or Australia who are related by skin; related by a common residence in a dim cave at the base of the totem pole; related by the yields of bigotry seen and unseen.
Have any other people in world history just taken this lying down? Forget what you heard. Black people are incredibly peaceful.
That Good Ol’ Churchillian Grit
In the face of German aggression Churchill was ready to fight them on the beaches, on the fields, on the streets, on the hills and wherever the Gestapo marched with their odious ideas. And rightly so, of course. The BBC is currently airing a period drama called ‘SS-GB.’ It is set in a 1941 alternative timeline in which Nazi Germany, having won the Battle of Britain, is now a
harsh occupying force in the United Kingdom. We are treated to scenes of arrogant Nazis dictating and bullying the conquered Brits.
There is no apartheid though, or police dogs or fire hoses washing away black bodies or billy clubs lowered on black heads or whips or mass incarceration or bullets unloaded in black backs or 400 accumulated years of psychological pain that makes one hates the image projected back from a mirror. But this was the worst of all possible scenarios for the Brits: to be told what to do, to be pushed around, to lose their precious democracy.
How would they cope, I wondered as I watched, if they were forced to walk on hot coals bare footed the way black people do every day? Is it not a wonder that black goodness, and sanity, survive the hidden and transparent injuries of race: the daily denials of opportunities; the withholding of resources, goods, and services; and the relentless assaults, both subtle and vocal, on the humanity of black folk?
Do As We Say; Not As We Do
On 2 April 1982, Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands, a remote UK colony in the South Atlantic. The move led to a brief, but bitter war. Argentina’s military junta said it had inherited the Falklands from Spain in the 1800s. The UK, which had ruled the islands for 150 years, quickly chose to fight. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said the 1,800 Falklanders were ‘of British tradition and stock’ even though the islands were 8,000 of miles away from Europe.
A task force was sent to reclaim the islands, 8,000 miles away. In the fighting that followed, 655 Argentine and 255 British servicemen lost their lives, as did three Falkland Islanders. The British nation drank deep of an experience it had not enjoyed since 1945: a clear military triumph. The victory dragged Thatcher’s leadership from the brink of collapse. She won global celebrity, in both the United States and the Soviet Union, and 10 points were added to her poll rating. Thatcher wrapped herself in the flag, denouncing all sceptics and crudely boasting the renaissance of the British people as a world power. Because this is how the British respond to aggression: with fight, belligerence, and violence.
The same could be said for the United States and their excursions into the Middle East, Caribbean and South Asia. Realpolitik asserts the inevitability of the strong puffing their chests out. Free market internationalism has projected the myth that ‘progress’ has led in a graceful arc from the Enlightenment to the liberal internationalism that has prevailed for the last half a century. It peddles the fable that the modern age of jihad and unconscionable violence are aberrations from the march towards emancipation, reason and dignity.
On the contrary, war, slavery, imperialism, racism and the use of power to hoard the gains of enterprise have all been key cogs of the liberal project. Liberals who celebrate the project but cannot count the costs are slow to understand resentments that heat the cauldrons of anger today.
The greater problem is the hypocrisy that surrounds much of this aggression. You will hear much about democracy and freedom and law and order and fairness. The fight, we are told, is a just one, for the right reasons. In Vietnam. In Grenada. In Iraq. In Chile. It’s for the survival of the nation state and the democratic ideals that bind it together.
The heroes of the liberal project have been recast in new roles; encrusted with myths and embellished virtues. The cold opportunist Abraham Lincoln, for example, who wrote that ‘my paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery’ is today a trailblazer who ended slavery on principle; the same Lincoln who in 1858 said, ‘I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.’
Voltaire the ultra-rationalist, who argued that the perfectibility of man was the true paradise, also made a commercial fortune and urged the Russian empress, Catherine the Great, to teach enlightenment to the Turks and the Poles at the barrel of a gun.
Does Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iranian revolution owe more to these ‘liberals’ and the likes of Robespierre than to the 12th century Imams? Can we find in Nietzsche’s 19th century resentment the seeds of the homicidal fanaticism of ‘Jihadi John, Mohammed Emwazi, who broadcast his victims being executed? Could the selfie-narcissism of Islamic State, its rape of girls and destruction of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra find its forbear in Woman-hating 16th century England or Filippo Marinetti, a misogynist Italian poet who wrote the Futurist Manifesto in 1909 stating: “we want to glorify war…and contempt for women. We want to destroy museums, libraries and academies of all kinds.”
Oh Ye Peaceful Negroes
Then a (black) people segregated into a Chicago ghetto, a Brazilian favela or a South London slum, herded into inferior schools and hospitals in neighbourhoods without playgrounds and Legos, riots or resorts to what can seem to be senseless violence is painted as the sign of a lesser people inclined to debauchery and wickedness. Black-on-black crime, it has been tagged. What is often missed is that these people are trapped in a world that largely refuses to listen; that what goes on in black communities across Britain, France, America, etc. is horrid, as it would be in any neighbourhood depleted of dollars (pounds, francs) and hope — emptied of good schools, and deprived of social and economic buffers against brutality.
People usually murder where they nest; they aim their rage at easy targets. It is not best understood as black-on-black crime; rather, it is neighbor-to-neighbor carnage. If their neighbours were white, they’d get no exemption from the crime that plagues human beings who happen to be black. If you want interracial killing, you have to have interracial communities.
Oh Ye Violent Negroes?
Beyond black people killing each other in a cycle of disheartened bloodshed, why is it that whenever black people are galvanized into political action, are called to arms, give a voice to their ‘struggle,’ we are painted as inherently violent? And by no means is this the reserve of the ghetto confined drug smuggler, Black Panther or gunman with a grudge? Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, for example, so revered today by the white world, were painted loudly and often, as terrorists. Collective amnesia has taken hold.
When considered in the round, the people of African heritage in the world are yet to launch anything like a systematic violent putsch on mankind. Of course, we have had our share of African dictators and Muslim inspired terrorists on the continent. We have Somali pirates starving to death in a desert that raid ships nearby and cause untold misery for those captured. We have Downtown Kingston, Lagos, Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro where a bitter colonial legacy, poverty and greedy politicians inspire a senseless series of unfathomable murders. All of this is a stain on our consciences of course but the popular myth of the black rapist or murderer is utterly unfounded, based on a longstanding desire to keep the Negro confined to the space defined as other.
But we must remember that black people of the last 400 years is greatest example of behaviour modification in history. We were stripped of our land, our culture, our religion, our freedom, our families, our ability to think, our very essence. It really is a wonder, a minor miracle that we have not been infected by brain abnormalities. We should bark, not at the instances of violence, but marvel and ask how, as Tupac Shakur so eloquently queried, ‘did these roses spring from the concrete?’
Please, Not Race Again!
Even whites who are not racists wonder the same thing: why are blacks so obsessed with race; why can’t they stop navel-gazing when the world lies before them for the taking; instead of moaning the blues, why can’t they make a honest go of it like whites had to?
There is a lot to be angry about in this world if you’re black. The truth is we walk upright. We feed our kids, teach them and strive for a better future. Franz Fanon spoke of the need for violence as an integral part of any revolutionary struggle. Even the Jews, post-Holocaust with wind of the world’s sympathy floating their sails, has perpetuated a cycle of unflinching violence on Palestinians in a bid to establish a Jewish state (and they have the support of the world’s biggest, baddest military to call on) because some time a few thousand years ago, they claim the land was theirs. But if the black man or woman whispers a peek about race or reparations then it’s the ‘race card’ or a people unable to get over centuries old grievances. It is this double standard and hypocrisy that is hard to swallow.
Nonetheless, a black nation has yet to go to war for the grievances of old and present (except Idi Amin in Uganda and Mugabe in Zimbabwe in limited instances, and look what an international pariah he has become). Aside from a riot here and a march here, black people have yet to full on revolt; to unscrew the bolts of injustice and tear down the walls of inequity. Oh, what a peaceful lot you are. If only the state’s arm of law and order and broader society could understand this basic truth.