Saturday, September 10, 2011

American terrorism - "you can dress it up" tomorrow, "but you can't take it out" - of reality

"In the church I come from - which is not at all the same church to which white Americans belong - we were counselled, from time to time, to do our first works over. Though the church I come from and the church to which most white Americans belong are both Christian churches, their relationship - due to those pragmatic decisions concerning Property made by a Christian State sometime ago - cannot be said to involve, or suggest, the fellowship of Christians. We do not, therefore, share the same hope or speak the same language. (emphasis mine)

To do your first works over means to reexamine everything. Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road and tell the truth about it. Shout or testify or keep it to yourself but know whence you came." (emphasis his)

James Baldwin
"The Price of the Ticket"

First of all, I apologize to those of you who've been periodically returning for the end of the "Homegoing" series.  I so appreciate your patience and I assure you, Part 5 is forthcoming.  But since Part 4 - as is its wont - life just kept happening, mightily challenging many of my remaining realities and making "All My Bones Shake."

In the interim, I sporadically posted and/or commented elsewhere, as I watched the HN(Over-seer)IC  - partner with the usual imperialist suspects in raining down all manner of death-delivering armaments on a sovereign, African country with the intent of assassinating its leader; authorize and actually oversee the orchestrated murder (true or not - that visual was disturbing) of another, non-alabaster-skinned brother; play a shell game with brown brothers and sisters at the border, even as he and Brother-Ass-Coverer played a botched game of Fast and Furious - all, while totally ignoring what his privileged, string-pullers are doing to Blacks - here and in Haiti.

(An interesting, electioneering aside - my friend, Eric Sheptock left a message on my phone this morning (What?  It's Saturday!  And - I'm an hour behind him!  Let me tell you, voicemail is all anyone will get from me before noon, especially on a Saturday!), advising that the Changeling, himself, will be visiting the CCNV Homeless Shelter this morning.  Since our meeting during my first - and last - year of grad school in DC, he keeps me up on all things activism.  Now, you mean to tell me, that in two-and-a-half years, he couldn't make it the 1.5 miles to 2nd St., NW (I know that's the distance, because I lived off of 3rd St, NE while in school)  - to see about the homeless living in the shadow of the Big House??  Puh-leeze!  I returned his call once I got up and movin' - and got his voicemail.  I left him a message saying, "I know you're in the throes of Obama-love right now, but call me when you're done.")

Yes, all my bones have surely been shaking, signalling that it was way past time to do some of "my first works over."  And that's pretty much where my mind's been (and often still is).  And alas, I've been side-tracked yet again, with the convergence of these recent events, which prompted forced me to write this post on American terrorism before publishing Part 5:

With the continued twisting of Dr. King's legacy, reducing him to a, "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" kinda brother, HamdenRice rightfully puts American terrorism on blast.  Having been born in the Jim Crow South two years after Brown v. Board, raised there until 1974 and subsequently getting my "higher learning" at an HBCU there until 1978 - this piece really hit home:
The reason I'm posting this is because there were dueling diaries over the weekend about Dr. King's legacy, and there is a diary up now (not on the rec list but on the recent list) entitled, "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream Not Yet Realized." I'm sure the diarist means well as did the others. But what most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That's why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind. (emphasis mine)
Thank you HamdenRice!  Dr. King's legacy was never - EVER - color blind.  And the continued co-option of it as such - is merely, more white folk, trying to make white folk, feel comfortable with, and unnaccountable for, their seemingly irrevocable,  often-depraved and most assuredly fearful and insecure, "Divine Right"-thinking,  power-mongering, imperialist - terrorism.

From the "no running water" to the "much more under slavery than under freedom, and all of it under some form of racial terrorism, which had inculcated many humiliating behavior patterns" - the writer's background in Virginia sounds very similar to my own South Carolina upbringing.  But I was never sarcastic about what Dr. King had accomplished, because like his father, I personally understood Dr. King's herculean, and ultimately fatal-for-him efforts to try and end (at least as we knew it) "...the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south."  And while he wasn't 100% successful in that regard (as the terror continues, even today) - what he accomplished was, in fact, a far cry from giving "this great speech" and marching.
It wasn't that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn't sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus...It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
Though I get his meaning in the first sentence, I do have a small quibble with it - having lived it.  While the "main suffering in the south" indeed, "did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain or ride in the front of the bus" - I think he misses the soul-murdering effects (especially on children) of those, absolutely intended and daily attacks on our dignity; of always seeing one's parents or one's self, being considered some unclean, inhuman animal after which no "civilized" person, in their right mind, would drink.  It does something to your psyche, believe me.

And that back-of-the-bus thing?  Ditto.  I remember riding home from my Black, Catholic school in the 60s, minding my own damned business in the back of the bus (despite the Supreme Court-ordered mandate to desegregate, many southern states ignored it until the Freedom Rides - and they started getting fined), when an older white boy from the white Catholic high school, running up and down the aisle with his friends - stopped, looked at them laughing and then - hawked up a big, green glob of snot, and spat on me.  I froze, first in roiling anger and disgust, but within seconds, as I watched it run down the right strap of my green, plaid jumper uniform - embarrassment and yes, fear, quickly took hold.  Even though we were s'posed to be free, I knew I couldn't retaliate because:  1) all eyes from the "white section" were on me, 2) he was white and way, bigger than me, and 3) I was afraid of what the repercussions would be at home, or at school if I hit his ass.  So I stayed put, fighting back the tears until my stop.
I needn't have worried about the home front though.  My, by-then-divorced Mama, struggling to ensure we got the "best education" possible - wasn't havin' it.  When I came in the door crying, she called me in the kitchen to ask what was wrong.  And between those choking sobs (during which you can barely catch your breath), I pointed to the glob, now crusty from being exposed to the air, and said, through a fresh flod of tears, "One of those white boys from Bishop England (he was wearing their uniform) spat on me!"   She asked me, her voice rising, "Then what did you do?!"   Hoping to, at least, keep my ass out of the sling, I responded, "Nothin' - cuz I know I'm not s'posed to be fightin'."  She got mad as hell, saying, "I'm gonna call that damned school, cuz nobody's spittin' on my child and gettin' away with it!"  She did - they did nothing.  I was in the 6th grade!  And while I felt so loved and protected by her efforts, I not only got, how little the emotional well-being of a little Black girl mattered to white folk - I saw, how my Mama's standing up for me meant even less to them.

So while the writer is dead-on with the second sentence about lynching, I think it extremely important we not forget how effective, long-standing, emotional terrorism is as well (Baldwin also wrote about that!).
So please don't tell me that Martin Luther King's dream has not been achieved, unless you knew what racial terrorism was like back then and can make a convincing case you still feel it today. If you did not go through that transition, you're not qualified to say that the dream was not accomplished.
Seeing as I "knew what racial terrorism was like back then" (to include the KKK purportedly meeting upstairs over the Edward's 5-and-dime around the corner from our rented house downtown; my Grandmama's house being mysteriously burned to the ground out on the Island; my Daddy having to engage in many of those "humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people" - at times, in the presence of his children and particularly his son), and - because I "can make a convincing case" that I definitely "still feel it today" here, in "the belly of the beast" - I think I'm qualified to say, unequivocally, that the dream was not accomplished.

And while the knowledge of racial terrorism remains a reality for plenty of us, these days it seems, making a "convincing case you still feel it today" is purely relative and matters not in the big picture (unless of course, you unwaveringly know, like the Freedom Riders of old, what you're "willing to ride (and die) for").
Once the beating was over, we were free.
A hundred times - Yes!   In our hearts, souls and minds, we were freer than we'd ever been before, from American terrorism, which propelled us even further toward our rightful place as citizens in this country we built, by the sweat of our brow.  But, if one takes the statement literally - Fannie Lou Hamer might have been the last Black woman, sterilized without her knowledge and consent (she was not), nor would she have had to deliver this speech (video) to the DNC in 1964; the descendants of Henrietta Lacks (video), some medically uninsured, wouldn't STILL be waiting for some kind of recompense for the universal use, and profitting from, of her HeLa Cells which have saved countless lives; Medgar, Malcolm, Martin, along with a host of others, would have lived well into their old age; there'd have been no need to fight for Affirmative Action; we would not currently have, the highest unemployment and imprisonment rates that we do; we would not today, have a toothless Congressional Black Caucus (some of whom are ex-Freedom Riders!), getting rich like the white fat cats (both legally and illegally), while their constituents still live in poverty and poor housing; etc., etc, etc.
It wasn't the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us. It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid. So, sorry Mrs. Clinton, as much as I admire you, you were wrong on this one. Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.
No, it wasn't any of those acts that freed our hearts, souls and minds, but we'll just have to agree to disagree with what Hillary Clinton (whom I used to admire) said.  As Joseph A. Califano Jr., Lyndon Johnson's special assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969, said in 2008 - "It Took a Partnership."

All that being said however (I know, I was kinda full) - I salute HamdenRice, for not allowing the white-wash to continue by putting his finger smack-dab on the pulse of Dr. King's achievements.

Look, I know this piece is link-heavy, but I thought it was necessary to illustrate how Black folk have endured a shit-load of American terrorism - and continue to.  Read them at your leisure but please - do, at least, watch the videos.

But, we are certainly not alone.  Even those immigrants who came here on the ship, instead of in the belly of it (and who insist, now, "On Being White and Other Lies,") - have also suffered at the hands of that pesky, American exceptionalism with which, I suspect, we will be inundated tomorrow on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

I stumbled upon a six-part series on You Tube awhile ago entitled, "Violence:  An American Tradition."  I'm posting Part 1 - but as the disclaimer says on each part, "Caution:  Contains scenes that may be disturbing to young or sensitive viewers" - because it, and the other five parts - are not for the faint of heart!:

I've been trying not to watch much TV at all these days, and I'll certainly not be watching any between now and tomorrow.  Because, I know I won't be able to stomach all the government/Hollywood hypocrisy, mourning the almost 3,000 killed, while literally and figuratively laying waste - to many, many millions more, both here and abroad.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. I've been trying to tell people the same things you are. They don't want to hear me, though. Keep up the good work.

Deb said...

Anon...Thank you, I will - if for no other reason than to keep my own head from exploding!

Anonymous said...

I watched the Violence in America videos and was...affected. How? I'm not sure I'm sure, if that makes sense. Many things struck me, so to speak, most of them are now competing for my mental attention. However one thing that stands out is how in one of the early portions, care was taken to make the point that gun violence perpetrated by young males against white society was largely due to the availability of guns, youthful masculine self-image, and media glamorization. Yet when it later came to the question of violence by young black males against other black people, the blame was lain at the feet of those still-popular old standbys of poverty, television, and of course, absentee fathers. Both explanations were given by the same woman, probably at the same time in the same interview. Why did the producers make the distinction separated by a half-hour or so of video time? Why not the same youthful masculine reaction to glamorized violence and the availability of weapons? No one hour-long television show can adequately or comprehensively address as complex an issue as human violence, even if one limits one's focus to American violence. But, you'd think somebody would have noticed the discrepancy I mentioned and at least offered a line or two of further context and consideration. Or, maybe not.

nomad said...

Great article. Me too admire Baldwin.

Racial terrorism. What a concept! I remember thinking, shortly after 911, with the fear trembling in the voice of MSM, "White people were feeling for the first time what I feel every day of my life."

Deb said...

Anon...(care to uncloak?)

"How? I'm not sure I'm sure, if that makes sense

It makes sense, particularly if one's been taught something totally different than what is portrayed in the videos for an entire lifetime.

"However one thing that stands out is how in one of the early portions, care was taken to make the point that gun violence perpetrated by young males against white society was largely due to the availability of guns, youthful masculine self-image, and media glamorization." Yet when it later came to the question of violence by young black males against other black people, the blame was lain at the feet of those still-popular old standbys of poverty, television, and of course, absentee fathers.

When I first watched it, yes, the hackles rose on my neck at those particular points (as it always does) when we are characterized with, as you say, "those still-popular old standbys."

And as "produced" things go, I wasn't a bit surprised that they chose a "Light-Bright" from "Harvard" to express the two, differing explanations - the former which, IMO, normalizes white violence, while the latter patronizes Black violence "only" through what is perceived as only our weaknesses. Yet early Italian immigrants, living under similar prejudice and poverty, had their violence against one another characterized (in Pt.4 around the 1:59 click) as the result of being "oppressed and angry" - go figure.

I could go into a long rant about the why, but I'd have to write in a whole 'nother post (which I may do at some point)! Suffice it to say, to ask the question ("Why not the same...?"), is to answer it. We were not, are not, and probably never will be - SEEN as "the same."

Deb said...

nomad...Hey, Man! Thanks. Yep, for me - Jimmy Baldwin is a true race man, telling it like it was (still is) with neither apology, nor concession.

"I remember thinking, shortly after 911, with the fear trembling in the voice of MSM, "White people were feeling for the first time what I feel every day of my life."

I know, right? And yes, I think it was their fear, that produced such an flat-out, lying, overblown response. And they're still, "responding" - 10 years later. Funny you should say that though. I remember writing, once the Islamophobia really ramped up, that "Muslims now know what it feels like to be Black in America." Or something to that effect.

Marsha Warfield said...

Uncloak? Well, okay, since you asked...
I enjoy your blog. I make many of the same points on my Facebook page.

Deb said...

"Well, okay, since you asked..."

HE-E-E-Y, SIS!!! How-the-hell-are you??!!

Now you know - I've been missing the F*ck outta you!! I thought I'd lost you forever when I found the blog had been deleted (particularly since I'd linked to your ass on several occasions!). I wanted to call plenty times, but I didn't want to become your personal pest! :-)

I STILL don't have a damned FaceBook page! Just can't bring myself to sign up for another damned thing! Obviously my loss, especially if you're writing over there! Maybe I'll sign in on the husband's - just so I can read your shit. Girl, I miss that biting, witty, truth-telling that you do so well!!

Seems, as my Grandmama used to say, "I thought you right up!" I found a comment in my spam folder on 9/11, on a post where you and I had had a l-o-o-ng back-and-forth. The commenter had a question based on one of your comments, with which I couldn't help him. I've not answered him yet, cuz I wanted you to - speak "fo' yo'self" - if you wanted to. Email the same? If it is, I'll forward it to you (If not, mine is - so send me the damned new one!).

So much going on in this world that needs "our" kind of discussion, Sis! I promise to get on FB some kinda way (you know I'm done with being a "joiner!"), just so we can continue to hash shit out - like we used to.

So proud of you for "uncloaking" - here, there and everywhere!! Yours, is a sorely needed voice "in the wilderness," as my brother, nomad would say.

Email me (or call, the number's the same).

You just made my f*ckin' day!! :-)

Marsha said...

You, me and the lamppost, okay? Deleted some things on purpose, others not so. Lost my phone, so you have to call me. I managed to keep the same number, but lost my contacts. Been trying to get you to call me by telepathy, but when that didn't work I had to resort to more desperate methods. Let's keep in touch, okay? Missed you/

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