Tag Archives: racism

Too much.

I think the idiot in the white house has stepped over the line with his latest comments about “shit-hole” countries.

Even though there is no longer a line, or at least we thought there was no longer a line to step over because he had obliterated all expectation of decency or even rationality from the person who supposedly represents our country.

But, for me there is a line. He has stepped over my line.

I can no longer sit and remain silent in the presence of anyone — anyone — who countenances him as worthy of respect or even as worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt. I will say, and repeat, to anyone who may still be in that state of delusion — are there still people that stupid and deluded? — I will say to them, he is an idiot and a crass, ignorant asshole of the highest degree.

I suppose this is particularly offensive to me because I have friends from Haiti, wonderful people who I know are hurt by such ignorant comments.

I think it may be over lots of people’s lines as well, since several mainstream commentators are calling him on it.

For one, Anderson Cooper said, “Not racial. Not racially charged. Racist… The sentiment the President expressed today is a racist sentiment.”

Cooper also called the president “woefully ignorant” about the contributions of Haitians and Africans and other non-white countries of the world.

Esquire’s Jack Holmes also sees the comment as “a crystalizing moment for observers.” He laments the “continued damage this disgrace of a presidency is doing to the image and reputation of the United States…” and points to comments from other world leaders to support this.

Cooper also quotes my recent favorite writer, James Baldwin, as saying that “ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

And Holmes says this quote has never been more prescient.

Yes, Mr. Holmes, Baldwin is our most profound critic and prophet.

Holmes also indicts the president for his idiocy.

Holmes said, “The president is profoundly ignorant in any number of ways. He is almost completely incurious about the world. He has no real knowledge or expertise, and often disdains those who do. He does not read books—or newspapers, or much of anything else—and before he became president, he rarely traveled abroad despite his substantial means. He is wary of the world outside of own properties, and possibly afraid of it.”

Which sums it up nicely. In fact, perhaps too nicely.

There’s ignorant and there’s willfully ignorant.

I think the president falls into the latter group.

As Holmes says, it’s the president’s racism that leads him to these conclusions and allows him to “dismiss the contributions of people who come to America from these countries and their children. Just take Haiti: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roxane Gay, Wyclef Jean, and Mia Love (the first black female Republican elected to Congress) are all Haitian-Americans. Do their stories and accomplishments count for nothing because we have elected a president who simply doesn’t know anything, and cares less?”

In an even more detailed and explicit exposure of the extent of the ignorance of the president and his defenders, Jonathan Katz, who has written a book about Haiti, lays out the history and the complicity of the “white” nations in creating the poverty that plagues Haiti today.

Katz, who tweets as #KatzOnEarth, laid it out in a thread Jan. 11:

“In order to do a victory lap around the GDP difference between, say, Norway and Haiti, you have to know nothing about the history of the world. That includes, especially, knowing nothing real about the history of the United States.

You have to not understand anything about the systematic theft of African bodies and lives. And you have to not understand how that theft built the wealth we have today in Europe and the US.

You’d have to not know that the French colony that became Haiti provided the wealth that fueled the French Empire — and 2/3 of the sugar and 3/4 of the coffee that Europe consumed.

You’d have to not know how rich slave traders got off their system of kidnapping, rape, and murder.

You’d have to not realize that Haiti was founded in a revolution against that system, and that European countries and the United States punished them for their temerity by refusing to recognize or trade with them for decades.

You’d have to not know that Haiti got recognition by agreeing to pay 150 million gold francs to French landowners in compensation for their own freedom.

You’d have to not know that Haiti paid it, and that it took them almost all of the 19th century to do so.

You’d then have to not know that Haiti was forced to borrow some money to pay back that ridiculous debt, some of it from banks in the United States. And you’d have to not know that in 1914 those banks got President Wilson to send the US Marines to empty the Haitian gold reserve.

.@RichLowry would have to not know about the chaos that ensued, and the 19-year US military occupation of Haiti that followed (at a time when the US was invading and occupying much of Central America and the Caribbean).

He and others have to not know about the rest of the 20th century either—the systematic theft and oppression, US support for dictators and coups, the US invasions of Haiti in 1994-95 and 2004 … the use of the IMF and World Bank to impose new loans and destructive trade policies, including the now-famous rice tariff gutting that Bill Clinton apologized for but had been a policy since Reagan, and on and on …

And you’d have to understand nothing about why the US (under George W. Bush) pushed for and paid a quarter of the UN “stabilization mission” that did little but keep Haiti’s presidents from being overthrown and kill 10,000 people by dumping cholera in its rivers. Etc.

In short, you’d have to know nothing about WHY Haiti is poor (or El Salvador in kind), and WHY the United States (and Norway) are wealthy. But far worse than that, you’d have to not even be interested in asking the question.

And that’s where they really tell on themselves …

Because what they are showing is that they ASSUME that Haiti is just naturally poor, that it’s an inherent state borne of the corruption of the people there, in all senses of the word.  And let’s just say out loud why that is: It’s because Haitians are black.”

I think this pretty well indicts as racist anyone who defends the president to any degree.

Katz nails the argument:

“If Haiti is a shithole, then they can say that black freedom and sovereignty are bad. They can hold it up as proof that white countries—and what’s whiter than Norway—are better, because white people are better.

They wanted that in 1804, and in 1915, and they want it now.

So if anyone tonight tries to trap you in a contest of “where would you rather live”—or “what about cholera” or “yeah but isn’t poverty bad?”—ask them what they know about how things got that way.

And then ask them why they’re ok with it.

Which is what I’m committing to do.

Son of Baldwin…

[Re-blogging from Medium.com – Son of Baldwin on James Baldwin…]

On James Baldwin and How Oppressors
Try to Misuse Him to Shame Me

by Son of Baldwin, Medium.com

This is a great article on Baldwin with some fiery quotes I’d not heard. Much like Malcom, he was non-violent, but only to a point. As Malcolm said, we have the right of self-defense. Understanding that of course, is always tricky. This article is in response to people who criticized the author for suggesting that oppressed people should not feel constrained to follow traditional moral standards in protecting, saving, or helping the lives of their oppressors. I responded to the original article, “Let them fucking die”, by suggesting that though I understand the impulse, as Gandhi said, “An eye for eye will leave the whole world blind.” His response to me was:

“But it seems, John F. Eden, that white Americans are only concerned about a “true objective moral standard for our common humanity” when they fear that it may be them who are in danger, that it may be that their own lives are on the line.

Black people are expected to Mammy and Uncle Remus everyone else, to always, perpetually worry about the lives of others and to treat those lives as though they matter more than our own, but when we’re victims, everyone else uses sophistry and inhumanity to somehow blame us for our own predicaments.

We say Black Lives Matter, and white people lose their fucking minds at the thought, and simultaneously want to shoot us and want us to take bullets for them.

No. No longer.

I’m not advocating violence, but I am, indeed, advocating that white people, and any other anti-Black/anti-Queer people be left to their own devices.

The wages of bigotry is death and I say let bigots get what they paid for.”

 Which is pretty good. I still advocate we need to search for some ‘objective’ standard to which to hold the haters and the fascists and the alt-right etc. accountable. He is  absolutely right in that ‘they’ (the white patriarchy) created the moral system they expect us to go by but they don’t follow, at least not when it comes to anyone they consider ‘other’. But I would hope we can begin to find and live by something that affirms our common humanity.
It may be a few generations in the making, if we survive, but we need to consider it.
Baldwin and Malcolm sound the same notes often, as in this quote from Baldwin:
“People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.”
Sounds a lot like what Malcolm said about the chickens coming home to roost.
It’s an interesting article, and I have found all his writing that I’ve read well-done and thought-provoking in the extreme.

Over the edge…

It seems to me that humanity is poised at the edge of a great and unforgiving precipice.

I often feel in these times that I am standing at that edge peering over into the void below, wondering what a plunge over would mean and how it would be possible to step back away from that edge, reimagine ourselves as part of this vast universe, redefine our place on this great spinning rock with its thin blanket of air, water, and life, and perhaps find our way back to the forests and grasslands that are our home.

Stimulated by an essay on Medium, I have just re-read, and re-posted on Shunyata’s Apprentice, something I wrote back in September of 2015, an essay on Ta-Nahisi Coates’ wonderful book Between the World and Me. Reading it in the context of the explosion of hatred and virulent, open racism that has characterized our society in the past six months leaves me a bit breathless, anxious, even fearful.

Coates’ brilliant conflation of the social forces that create racism and war with the impulses and social/economic structures that lead to the continuing destruction of the environment, viewed in the light of current events, puts me in fear of our lives.

We are truly clinging to that crumbling precipice by our fingernails.

I will re-post some of my past essays from Shunyata’s Apprentice here, and intend to transfer most of my current-events-related blogging to this site.