Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tit for Tat?

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." -- Mahatma Gandhi

It's been a rough week for America. And those of us who write for publication find ourselves in a bit of a bind. Political correctness has taken on a whole new meaning in the aftermath of the shooting spree by a mentally ill young man in Arizona a week ago yesterday. Six people are dead; thirteen more were injured. And even Sarah Palin (ever the clever) was reduced to defending her "don't retreat, re-load" rhetoric as the perfectly reasonable "political debate process" in which all elected officials participate (proving yet again that she believes no one else is paying any more attention to reality than she is).

Fwoan at For Want of a Nail discussed last week how the incident is now being used to suggest that any criticism of the Powers-That-Be may incite to violence -- using a tragedy to further entrench Power and push any fascist agenda. Jack Crow at The Crow's Eye reminds us in the wake of President Obama's oration at the funeral of nine-year-old Christina Green, one of the shooting victims, that the collective Presidency since 9-11 has been responsible for the deaths of many innocent children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (at least), so Obama's words are disingenuous at best. And, frankly, I think about violence so much -- because we are surrounded by it 24/7 -- I sometimes worry I'm going to succumb to compassion fatigue and be found in a closet somewhere with my thumb in my mouth. Even if I'm not bleeding, I ache for those who do.


Needless to say (this being a blog on race, after all), I'm particularly sensitive to the dialogue on violence as it intersects with the topic of race relations or perhaps, more importantly and more glaringly, Black-on-Black violence and the implications thereof. Actually, it's an on-going topic of discussion here and I refer to it often, directly or indirectly.

So I was not surprised to discover when the Black Youth Project announced a "Democracy Remixed" video contest, the top two winners were indicative of huge talent and about Black-on-Black crime:


"Black Youth of a Nation" by AGoodBlackMan84 (first place)


"Hate Crimes" by Chris Webb (second place)

So we're all on the same page here, right? We're all against violence. We abhor the shooting of a legislator, the killing of a little girl because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the heart-breaking homicides of one young Black male after another...don't we? Of course, we do!

Yet, if we look back into history to the very beginning of this nation, we know it was rooted in violence. For starters, the indigenous people of this continent were raped, robbed and murdered viciously while Europeans worked to help each other establish themselves in "their" "new" land. Then, Africans were systematically kidnapped, debilitated, brainwashed, raped and beaten into submission before being worked to death -- for hundreds of years -- like farm animals while "White" people reassured each other that they were superior to those against whom they daily dispensed blood-letting violence at will. Chinese were shanghaied, then thrown out to suit the needs of White-owned and operated corporation coffers. The independent kingdom of Hawaii was occupied and the queen taken captive so the islands could be turned over to Sanford B. Dole (ever seen that name on a can of pineapple?). Japanese-Americans were forced to walk away from their homes and businesses into concentration camps as a punishment for not having the power to prevent it. Right wing military types from all over the Western Hemisphere have been trained in torture and terror techniques at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia, so they can keep their nations' populations in line with the U.S. military-industrial complex's economic interests. And even to the present, African-American males all over this country are murdered by police officers one way or the other so often that it's impossible to keep track of all the incidents. And this history and these incidents were and are perpetrated by White people on people of color.

We want Black folks to play nice. We want people critical of those who so ruthlessly wield The Power in our country to shut up and lie down. And we want all the powerless to turn the other cheek and turn the other cheek and turn the other cheek. But all that cheek-turning requires something we don't talk much about. There's no need to turn the other cheek, if you haven't already been struck. And who exactly is it that doing the striking?

Black-on-Black crime appears at first glance to let the real villains off the hook, so the political and law enforcement pundits can blame the victims to their hearts' delight. Even African-Americans despair of the attacks young Black men and women are visiting on each other. But in a country where people of visibly African heritage are still denied their rights as full citizens in the land of their birth, the frustration and rage and pain and self-hate that is generated eats its way like a plague through poor Black communities. And it ain't their fault The Power in this nation is still in the same hands it's been in since the beginning. While I work to protect Black youth from the infection of internalized racism that triggers their self-destruction processes, I hold as ultimately responsible those with the power to change all this.

White folks established this country. They set up and still maintain the social institutions to this day. If there are problems with violence, they are rooted in all the violence we have set in motion. Violence is physical, but it's also psychological and emotional. Some social mechanisms -- like poverty -- are violence, as well. Sending children to severely underfunded schools is violence. Making military service the only way many youth can even think about college in a country where no college degree means a crappy job is violence. Using 59% of our tax money (or more) to fund the military is twice violent: once against the people (always people of color) who are incessantly and insanely bombed into submission and once against the taxpayers who are forced to pay for the bombing instead of being allowed to pay for schools and health care and other desperately needed goods and services. And all of this is driven by a White male power structure, which oddly enough, is now represented by a Black man who has no choice but to uphold the same principles that made this country's elite the richest on earth and its society the most violent.

Maybe what we need to do is stop acting White. Drop the White supremacy. And drop the violence as a way of life. Tell those in power we're in control, that we're tired of the violence and we're tired of paying for it. Bring the troops home. And the jobs. And quit pretending everybody wearing a uniform and a gun is above the law. All of us -- Black and White together -- could start acting in the best interests of ourselves and the human race and stop acting White.

The other day I posted a video of Dead Prez rapping about studying Malcolm, Garvey and Huey. At first glance, it looks and sounds as if it's recommending violence, but what it's recommending is strength -- physical, mental, emotional and intellectual. Knowing who you are and where you came from. Knowing where you live geographically, socio-economically and historically. Knowing the difference between the truth and the lies wrapped in excuses we have been educated to believe are the truth.

Attacking isn't the point. (And I agree with Malcolm that defending oneself is not the same as attacking.) If one is sane, one doesn't have to attack and certainly not first. In fact, there are those who believe that this country is in the mess it is at least partly because its cultural mindset from the beginning has been insane: brutal, selfish, self-centered and even psychotic. And that those who are in control still espouse that mindset. In that case, the answer is not to talk nicer in public, but to heal ourselves so we can heal our land. And we can't do that until we admit and face the truth -- about everything.

We don't have to study, to learn, to admit and face the truth, you understand, but if we don't, as Gil Scott Heron tells us below, the showdown won't be between Blacks and Whites or liberals and conservatives or even rich and poor. It'll be between us and the Devil. Inside ourselves.


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NOTE: A series of nine YouTube video segments of a lecture by Amos Wilson on Black-on-Black violence begins here. He also wrote a book entitled: Black-on-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in the Service of White Domination. I highly recommend both.

4 comments:

fwoan said...

Powerful words, thanks for the mention!

Changeseeker said...

Thank you. Yours were, too, or I wouldn't have linked.

Blaque Ink said...

Great videos.

I have that book by Dr. Amos Wilson, and what he said made a lot of sense.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks, Blaque. In addition to the book we're talking about, I also have one by Wilson on violence and young Black males. I found and read it while working with gang boys in Florida. I was blown away.