Brief Reflections on American Prudery (1)

“Still, when I’m not engaged in sexual activity, it makes me sad to think that my arousal is based in crude animality. On the most basic level, there is little difference between my fantasy life and a lion’s mating rituals: male finds desirable female; subdues; ejaculates. Yet I want sex to be a shared delight so strong it releases me from the strictures of everyday living. So the urge to dramatize poses of degradation is what Miller calls “a sultry, passionate rebellion” against the fact that one’s needs do not result in what one wants. I will always want sex to be more than the physical act of intercourse it will always insist on being.”

Hannah Tennant-Moore, A Rosier Crucifixion: the erotic world of Henry Miller

Americans, on the left as well as the right, seem to be using all kinds of rhetorical alibis to justify their fear of human contact; the right uses the old saw of “moral values,” “Christianity” and “immorality” and the left (like good Stalinists) loves to hide behind a solipsistic smokescreen, denouncing heterosexual desire as inherently “phallocentric,” “patriarchal” and “misogynist.” This is not quite true. It is just as idiotic as assuming that all white men are inherently Nazis with a genetic disposition to kill anything that does not look like them. Scratch the surface of either one of these posters and you will find just another uptight middle-class blue-stocking who simply believes that old white, patriarchal notion that sex is essentially “filthy.”

I know what I am talking about. I grew up in Reagan-Era America and attended a Parochial Catholic school which was rife with puritanical views about sex, heterosexual or homosexual, but largely heterosexual. It was an all-male high school. Every other day it was drummed into our heads that sex outside of marriage was “sinful” or that reading Playboy was “immoral” and “disrespectful towards women” and all sorts of other prissy bullshit. And yet the school teachers and administrators turned a blind eye to young male bullies molesting and even raping more vulnerable young boys in study hall, in the bathroom and in the gym shower. In fact homosexual harassment and bullying was so widespread it was considered a joke. I know because such bullying happened to me, and more than once. Yet on the other hand, gays were openly sneered at by the student body, porn (hetero) was passed around under the table and more kinky sex was being had by many of these students than in a public high school. The hypocrisy that these people had concerning sexual matters was so glaring that to this day, I refuse to believe a damned thing that Americans have to say on the subject of sex. The bottom line is that we still think sex is dirty, yet we have found far more creative and convincing ways of justifying our essential hatred of the physical.

The thing that browns me off about all of this is the way that many of these supposedly “liberated” and “self-actualized” women have internalized white, Victorian male paternalism towards their own gender–the main difference being that these women have reshaped these anti-sexual Victorian values to justify their own basic revulsion towards physical contact. It is nothing new, really. Anthony Comstock has made a comeback, albeit shaved, trimmed, toned, wearing hipster clothes and shrieking “misogyny” when he really means “too little morn and too much maid!”

It never ceases to amaze me, even now, how something as beautiful as a woman being confident in herself, in her body, in the power of her sex could be twisted into something dark, something shameful, something dirty. For a long time, I was blinded to its beauty because of that. I felt like I had to answer to society before I answered to myself and allowed parts of me to be hidden because I was afraid of what would happen if I let that truth out.

Sheriden Channel, “Confession: I Have an Insatiable Appetite for Sex”

We “Americans” love to prate on and on about “values.” We throw the word around without even thinking to analyze precisely what we mean when we bring it up.  Values to whom? Values for whom? And what on earth do you “value” so? And what is this thing do you call morality? I already know, the answer’s right there. “Morality” and “values” in that fucking country is simply a choice between putting a dick in your mouth and not putting it in your mouth—that’s all. Keep the dick out of your mouth and you’ll be fine, you won’t go to hell, and Jesus won’t shit all over your ass. You can bomb all the ragheads you please, but please don’t lick your girl’s cunt outside the confines of holy matrimony, because THAT is a sin. If it all sounds idiotic and primitive, that’s because it is.

This is a white, Christian hangup. It is no accident that among people who are not WASP or WASP-oriented (as are Saudis, many South Asians, evangelical Africans, etc.) these hangups are rarely, if ever present. Progressives in Brazil, in Italy, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Ghana, etc. thankfully deal with the issue of male privilege, patriarchy and domination in their own fashion and according to their own respective needs and generally avoid middle-class American solipsism about sexuality. It is very sad to see even progressives in that lousy country (USA) demanding more and more chains under the guise of “security.” If this insanity continues, one day the USA will be the least free nation on earth, and we will have nobody to blame but ourselves and our fear of our own minds and bodies, and our basic stupidity and spinelessness.

Henry Miller, the Cops, and Keith Lamont Scott

“Months have passed since the incident and yet I can’t forget his face, his manner, his whole being. He’s a man, and I can say it calmly and soberly, whom I could kill in cold blood. I could shoot him down in the dark and go quietly about my business, as if I had just brushed a mosquito off my arm.

“He was unclean, unfit to associate with human kind, even with those misfits behind the bars. As long as I live I shall never forget that cruel, ash-grey face, those cold, beady man-hunter’s eyes. I hate him and all that he stands for. I hate him with an undying hatred. I would a thousand times rather be the most incorrigible convict than this hireling of those who are trying to maintain law and order. Law and order! Finally, when you see it staring at you through the barrel of a rifle, you know what it means. A bas puissance, justice, histoire! If society has to be protected by these inhuman monsters then to hell with society! If at the bottom of law and order there is only a man armed to the teeth, a man without a heart, without a conscience, then law and order are meaningless.”

–Henry Miller, “The Soul of Anesthesia,” The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.

*

Miller’s books are a grab-bag of sheer genius, sharp insight, German romantic bombast, and occasionally flat-out nonsense. Sometimes all four can manifest themselves on the same page, or even the same sentence. I have always been a fan of his works. Personally I take issue with his Orientalizing of blacks, Chinese, Jews, and others whom he idolizes as much as he trashes (well, that is Miller for you: he is, or was, a walking mass of contradictions). And you can have his romanticized view of the Old South, which comes perilously close to that reactionist old-school Agrarian crap–the kind of nonsense that Allen Tate and Company eulogized in I’ll Take My Stand (1929).

As a self-admitted “Brooklyn Boy,” I don’t think Miller ever truly understood what the South was all about, anymore than he truly understood Jews or African Americans or in particular the Chinese, whom he was overtly fond of extolling in long rhapsodic passages in his books. Miller was a first-generation German-American profoundly alienated from mainstream American culture. For Miller, the Others–whether artists like Kenneth Patchen, Beauford Delaney or Dr. Marion Souchon, or Jews (like Bezalel Schatz or his second wife, June Smerdt-Smith-Mansfield-Miller-Corbett), or blacks (like Duke Ellington, Delaney, DuBois and Armstrong)–were screens onto which he projected his own rage and disgust at Anglo-Celtic-Germanic America. Miller extols Patchen and Delany to tear down a philistine America. Not that it was necessarily a bad thing, however: Anglo-America needed it. It still does. But all of this is beside the point.

I did not need Henry Miller to tell me anything about the brutality of American police, because I already know what American police are capable of. I posted the above quote because Miller’s sentiments about American law enforcement are precisely in alignment with my own. Miller’s disgust corroborates my own. Miller’s rejection of America’s phony sense of innocence regarding its treatment of criminals–not to mention the very society and culture that helps spawn these criminals–corroborates my own.

Keith Lamont Scott was not a criminal, but the cops in Charlotte-Mecklenburg wished to believe that he was. It’s an old, old story. Today the police in Charlotte have “confirmed” (not) that Keith Lamont Scott, who was killed on Tuesday, September 19th, actually did have a gun in his hands when they confronted him. Purportedly, the video footage (if one looks hard enough) shows that Mr. Scott was armed. According to Yahoo News:

Police say Scott was holding a handgun, which investigators recovered from an apartment complex in Charlotte, and posed a threat because he was not obeying police orders to remain in his vehicle and drop the weapon. An officer subsequently fired his gun, hitting Scott, who was later pronounced dead.

Scott’s family, however, said he was not armed and was holding a book while waiting for his son to be dropped off from school.

The officers were searching for a suspect who had an outstanding warrant, according to a police statement. Police said Scott was not the suspect officers sought.

Police have identified the officer involved in the shooting as Brentley Vinson, who has been employed with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department since July 21, 2014, and is currently assigned to the metro division. He has been placed on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues, according to Putney.

Vinson was not wearing a body camera at the time, but the other officers who responded to the incident were.

My answer to all of this is simple. It does not matter if the late Mr. Scott was or was not carrying a gun in confrontation with the cops. I have not seen the footage. In my mind, it does not matter whether I see the footage or not. I am convinced that Mr. Scott would have been killed whether he was or was not armed. In that case he would have been better off taking one of those suited-up thugs with him to the other side.

There is really no point in going over this ground again. To quote the late, great James Baldwin, “it has been said, and said, and said; it has been heard and not heard.” It is well known that the American police, like the bulk of law enforcers the world over, simply do not, never have and never will have the interests of the average man or woman on their front burners. The cops may be human beings, but they serve the interests of beasts. The cops are in the streets of Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Houston, Baton Rouge, Baltimore, London, Paris, Harare, Mumbai, Istanbul and other urban cesspools to maintain what the elite of these respective nations has determined to be “order.”

This “order” can be spelled out in layman’s terms. We already know what it means. The order is a pyramid. We know that; it’s just that we are generally far at the bottom of the pyramid or, just perhaps, somewhere in the center, sandwiched between the big shits in the capstone and unwittingly putting more weight on those at the bottom of it. Those at the bottom are generally black, generally Africans, and carrying the stinking weight of the world. For them, life is often more unbearable than death; yet we wonder why so many of them resort to drugs or alcohol or kill each other in impotent rage, filled with anger that they feel they can’t take out on a cop, let alone an Elite. For the elites, life is generally light, airy, whimsical, full of humor and goofy things; that Hollywood actor is always full of gags if he’s not full of drugs.

But there is a difference. Mister Mega-Star takes drugs because it’s fashionable, not because he can’t deal with the struggle to feed himself, let alone his family. He can live wherever he wishes; he can have the sex partner or car of his choice, and show up wherever in the world he feels like in the blink of an eye. Hell, he can buy an island! If he feels miserable, it’s his own undoing, not that of society, since he IS society: his misery is simply an existential hangover, a feeling of emptiness, a crisis of conscience after being confronted with the cold reality of his fake, shallow lifestyle: Jay Gatsby multiplied by a thousand.

Mister Gatsby has several McMansions at his disposal; the poor darkie is lucky to have a room in a flophouse. Mister Gatsby is a gourmand who enjoys dining and stuffing himself until he bursts; the poor darkie who does the same in a fast food joint is a glutton. Mister Gatsby “collects” things but that blue-collar darkie is just wasting his money buying sneakers. Mister Gatsby has super-models waiting on him hand and foot, ready to sacrifice whatever radical feminist sentiments they may hold dear at a moment’s notice. The poor darkie, or wetback, or gook, who does the same, is “promiscuous,” not a “playboy.” His woman is a “skank” and a “hoodrat.” If he has no status within his community he has to content himself with his imagination; outside of his head, people flee from him in horror. He uses his right hand, or pretends he is gay; every day you see him haunting peep show booths and adult book stores, smelling like a goat and pawing over young men on buses and subways.  The entire value system of the society is determined strictly by color, even more so than class–which explains why an outrageous elite snob like Bill Cosby can have his reputation irreparably damaged yet Roman Polanski, Woody Allen or even Ed Gein and Charles Manson can be begrudgingly admired as “outlaws.”

Lousy food, lousy education, shitty housing, filthy streets, dysfunctional families, high unemployment or underemployment, tainted water, unclean air, a staggering murder rate, an out-of-control drug trade–not to mention the proliferation of alcohol establishments and shady “store-front” churches that no one likes to talk about: this is the world of the poor darkie. (The last two are just part of an underground economy in the black ghettos that has existed for literally centuries; again, nobody likes to talk about it.) This world is not “Africa” or “Ape-frica”: it is simply the dirty end of the American cloth, the one Uncle Sam uses to wipe his ass with. This “order” exists all over the world in varying degrees of severity. Not all of the ghettos are “black,” of course–sometimes they are white–but they might as well be: “black” is not a race, it’s a condition, as well as a state of mind. The overwhelming majority of the elites are on the precise opposite end of the color/caste spectrum, even if a few happen to be blacker than my wallet.

In other words, the very existence of cops is to protect Mister Gatsby from the poor darkie.

So in re-reading the above statement by Henry Miller, I am willing to absolve any one in those Benighted States who deems it necessary to carry a gun to defend himself against the cops. My heart does not in any way bleed for a cop shot in the head by some random citizen. Maybe I’m wrong on this score; maybe a murdered cop can be a “good guy.” But we all know that these “good cops” have usually toed the thin blue line of silence and complicity and kept their goddamned mouths shut as to the large number of domestic terrorists* among their ranks. Moreover, the police in America (and elsewhere) have made it perfectly clear that they see black people as moving targets. And seeing how they treat Native Americans on a regular basis, these cops still see themselves as a bunch of gun-toting cowboys–settlers, in other words. White, European settlers on red land.

We Afro-Americans know more than most that the cops are not our “buddies.” They are nobody’s friend, in spite of a few shining examples of cops who are caught doing some wonderful, charming things like buying ice cream for kids, or leading prayers, or partying–all caught on video camera to show the human side of an overwhelmingly oppressive force. Personally, I could fucking care less. A storm-trooper is a storm-trooper, even if he is doing the Charleston or the Suzy-Q. A nazi is a nazi, no matter if he reads my books or digs my paintings or my music. That nazi does not cease to be a nazi even if he takes off his uniform. He has to drop not only the Nazi ideology but the emotional and irrational racialism that made him put on the uniform in the first place.

There are many idiots, even avowed “liberals,” even Blacks, who still insist that in spite of the rapidly mounting evidence of police corruption and brutality, that The Law is The Law. It is not possible to tell these idiots that their forefathers spoke those exact same words at the height of Southern Jim Crow or even during slavery itself, or that Hitler’s, Stalin’s and Mao’s stooges operated precisely upon this same principle. No, sir. The Law is NOT The Law when it is 1) written by greedy psychopaths for the benefit of greedy psychopaths; 2) reinforced by murderous thugs. The Law is not Holy Writ. When the two situations above mutually manifest themselves within a given society, “The Law” has lost all moral authority–in which case, there has to be a new Law. But before there can be a New Law there must be a new and more just order. Until that time, citizens are obliged to defend themselves–even if violently–against the current socio-political Mafia that calls itself the New World Order.

*

“He had paid for his crimes in full, that is my belief,” writes Henry Miller. “If he should commit fresh ones I would blame it on the police, on the lawmakers, on the educators, on the clergy, on all those who believe in punishment, who refuse to help a man when he is down or try to understand him when in impotent rage he turns against the world. It doesn’t matter to me what crimes are chalked up against Clausen; our crimes, all of us who are on the outside, who go off scott-free, are greater. If we did not actually force him to become a criminal we most certainly helped him to remain one. And in speaking of Bud Clausen I am speaking for the great majority of men and women who suffered the same fate; I am speaking for all those to come, who will follow in his foot-steps and who have no redress until we on the outside become more enlightened and more humane.”

Thank you, Mister Miller.

 

*It has been found that a disproportionate number of neo-Nazis and closet Klan members have also infiltrated America’s police, as well as America’s military (or “killitary,” to be more accurate). 

Cry, the Benighted Country: No More Gifts or, “Which Side are the Savages on?”

“This letter is a gift for you. Bear in mind, though, that some gifts can be heavy to bear. You don’t have to accept it; there is no obligation. I give it freely, believing that many of you will throw the gift back in my face, saying that I wrongly accuse you, that I am too sensitive, that I’m a race hustler, and that I blame white people (you) for everything.” George Yancy, “Dear White America,” New York Times, Dec. 24, 2015

I’m sorry, but statements like the above make my eyes hurt. I see exactly what the author intended in writing his open letter to White America. What I don’t understand is why he felt he had to write it.

Between this letter and the massive wave of police terror afflicting black and brown (and, apparently, young white) people in the United States, absolutely nothing is new. The only thing that has surprised me is the speed with which the scales have fallen from our eyes concerning America these past two years. In spite of a black President, in spite of the enormous contributions that African Americans have offered to those United States, we are still considered somehow inferior, unworthy of the same respect shown people who are not black. Even our own elite conspires to keep the bulk of us at the bottom of the world’s racial totem pole: by refusing to invest their hundreds of billions in poor black communities, by refusing to educate those of us who are semi-literate (or worse), house our homeless and keep the drugs off the streets and the gangsters from destroying the lives of our children. Better yet, our elite has never once given a thought to creating industries that can offer employment to millions of African Americans; instead they hoard their money somewhere on some little island in the Caribbean, and blow it on dope, hookers, fancy cars and McMansions. Meanwhile, everyday black people keep getting casually gunned down–if not by cops then certainly by thugs from within the community and racist scum from without.

I repeat: none of this is new, save for the cell phones recording it.

 

I have heard–and in some cases witnessed–horror stories involving the police wherever I’ve been in the United States. One of my older brothers, who is autistic, was brutally beaten by P.G.County Police about 20 years ago. My youngest brother, who doesn’t have a criminal record, was pulled over by the police for kicks and called “boy,” among other things. When I was a student at Howard University, I overheard a story about a young pregnant woman (in D.C.) who was body-slammed on the sidewalk by an irate rookie cop; the two drunks (both black) who were telling the tale were laughing about it. My mother spoke of an incident in the 80s in which a cop literally rode upon the back of a black “suspect” as one would ride a horse–in broad daylight. At Howard, the campus police could be as thuggish and corrupt as the police off-campus; in fact, campus police once casually brutalized a fellow student who turned out to be the son of Andrew Young. (As a side note: decades earlier, an uncle of mine was lynched in Depression-Era Florida by a mob of rednecks; my father witnessed it first-hand.)

I witnessed one loathsome incident back around 1992. It was directly in front of the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, ironically enough. There was a drunken black man being collared on the ground in front of the library being taunted and tortured by a black DC cop. I referenced this incident in my previous novel, “NATE,” published in 2006. The only people who had stopped to stare at the incident were blacks and an occasional white; everyone else kept passing by, I wrote, unmoved, unconcerned. It was true.

Many years later and I would find a cop in front of our door in Langley Park, Maryland, after my mother called to report a racist incident being perpetrated by our Latino neighbors. I recall talking to the cop and he appeared to be trying to say two things at once—the first thing being the words which could be heard and the second carefully couched whispers under his breath. I realized what the cop was telling me under his breath: fuck your mother. He said it more than once. It was a white cop with a Latino partner.

Naturally, I didn’t fall for the bait.

After that incident, and a number of others, I became convinced that a lot of the police brutality incidents were in fact carefully (and perhaps subtly) provoked by the officers themselves—they knowing full well that they are policing communities full of desperate, despairing, angry, divided, bitter people. And for sheer spite and a petty sense of their own omnipotence, these rogue cops continued to subtly and overtly push people around.

George Yancy wrote an article for the New York Times in December of 2015. The gist of the article was a plea—yet another—on the part of Black America to White America. After three centuries of such pleas on Black America it does not bear repeating what the gist of this plea is. We already know it, or should know it.

I have read many of your comments. I have even received some hate mail. In this letter, I ask you to look deep, to look into your souls with silence, to quiet that voice that will speak to you of your white “innocence.” So, as you read this letter, take a deep breath. Make a space for my voice in the deepest part of your psyche. Try to listen, to practice being silent. There are times when you must quiet your own voice to hear from or about those who suffer in ways that you do not.

In other words, it is the same old hoagie sandwich in a new wrapper. White America, I really am a human being. White America, accept me as your brother. For I really am your brother. I bleed like you. I eat, drink, vomit, defecate, urinate, copulate, walk, talk, sing, dance and even die like you. In fact, I may even be related to you.

The sad part about this plea is that—like countless other attempts on the part of black intellectuals to gain the ear of White America—it passed unnoticed, unheard. George Yancy shouted his self-effacing and mock-eloquent words into a massive white void where nothing of substance gets heard, anyway. It is hard to be heard above a sea of racial slurs, fat demagogues, ringtones and auto-tuned, Stepinfetchit gangsta rap.

What if I told you that I’m sexist? Well, I am. Yes. I said it and I mean just that. I have watched my male students squirm in their seats when I’ve asked them to identify and talk about their sexism. There are few men, I suspect, who would say that they are sexists, and even fewer would admit that their sexism actually oppresses women. Certainly not publicly, as I’ve just done. No taking it back now.

In my opinion, Mr. Yancy is demanding far more from White America than what it can possibly give. His plea is couched in abstraction and riddled with clueless idealism. I would assume that Mr. Yancy is not a stupid man, and not half as blind as he makes himself out to be. I say “blind,” because somehow Yancy conflates his sexist tendencies with the overwhelmingly oppressive power of a racist state which, as it turns out, is the most powerful nation on earth—a state that can literally erase him at the slightest whim, with not a tear shed, and with the flimsiest of alibis. Yancy confuses his having been “fed a poisonous diet of images that fragment women into mere body parts” with America’s massive adult entertainment industry, which actually provides such sexual malnourishment to hundreds of millions around the world.

Meanwhile, Michael Eric Dyson has a few choice words of his own–his own “gift” to White America, one could say–concerning America’s KKKiller KKKop Mania.

 You hold an entire population of Muslims accountable for the evil acts of a few. Yet you rarely muster the courage to put down your binoculars, and with them, your corrosive self-pity, and see what we see. You say religions and cultures breed violence stoked by the complicity of silence because peoples will not denounce the villains who act in their names.

Yet you do the same. In the aftermath of these deaths, you do not all condemn these cops; to do so, you would have to condemn the culture that produced them — the same culture that produced you. Condemning a culture is not inciting hate. That is very important. Yet black people will continue to die at the hands of cops as long as we deny that whiteness can be more important in explaining those cops’ behavior than anything else.

You cannot know how we secretly curse the cowardice of whites who know what I write is true, but dare not say it. Neither will your smug insistence that you are different — not like that ocean of unenlightened whites — satisfy us any longer. It makes the killings worse to know that your disapproval of them has spared your reputations and not our lives.

You do not know that after we get angry with you, we get even angrier with ourselves, because we don’t know how to make you stop, or how to make you care enough to stop those who pull the triggers. We do not know what to do now that sadness is compounded by more sadness.

Oh, well. Dyson says here what has been said countless times before, from Douglass to Baldwin to Ishmael Reed. The white majority response to such remarks has always been the same, their reprisals  only slightly softening with each passing decade. But from day one the overall intent of the white majority towards Blacks in the U.S. has been unwavering.

The intent is to keep the niggers corralled. Keep the niggers in their proper place. Keep the niggers from freaking out—or, to be more precise, to keep African Americans from fully recognizing that when they bleed, it is no different than when a European or a Euro-American bleeds; that like any other people on the planet, they have a right to their own outrage and moral indignation, and that they have the human right to redress and ultimately correct the injustices heaped upon them in any way they see fit.

But the African American is not an abstract concept that can be manipulated and defined by entertainment execs or U.S. senators or alt-right demagogues or Tom Wolfe. The African American is a human being, and demands to be recognized as a human being. The African American is not “different,” deep down. All we “want” is what everyone else wants—to live, no more or no less free as anyone else on this planet.

Screen-Shot-2014-11-13-at-11.11.02-AM
“Which side are the savages on? Where is barbarism?”

If your average white American bled like the black American bled; if the average white American lived merely one week in the body of the average black American; if the average white American were forced to live just for five months as a Native American in the bowels of the Oglala Reservation, or a Puerto Rican in Spanish Harlem, or a Salvadoran in Langley Park, Maryland, the entire country—and not just white Americans—would be screaming for a bloody revolution. The rest of the country would fall in line with the rebellious white man without a second thought, because in America—even today—whatever any white man says is elevated far above what anyone else has to say. The white American’s views of reality are held as the laws of the universe, and this unfortunate fact has led hundreds of millions of people around the world to embrace the neo-coon Rap culture, to beat niggers and firebomb mosques, or to take a fat, ignorant thug like Trump seriously.

In fact, it took far less abuse from England to rouse the American colonists to revolt against the British crown. And it is considered not only just, but necessary, for a Ukrainian, or a Chinese, or a Romanian, or an Egyptian, or a Libyan to take up arms against a corrupt regime. Of course one must remember that the American mass media takes great care in defining precisely which Egyptians, or Romanians, or Libyans are actual “revolutionaries” and which ones are simply “terrorists”; and those of us who understand the U.S. media know damned well that all too often, those freedom fighters designated as “terrorists” are those who are fighting for interests not compatible with those of the U.S. Government, or U.S. economic interests.

“They require of me a song,” James Baldwin once said, “less to celebrate my captivity than to justify their own.”

How the Black Lives Matter Movement fits into this remains to be seen; judging by the rough treatment they receive at the hands of American police, and their demonization in the American mass media, one would think that the aims of BLM are precisely in opposition to those of the American State. Actually, in a real sense, they are: for the American State—judging by its bloody record alone—has never given serious consideration to the civil rights or the human rights of African Americans. The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution have been repeatedly violated in cases too numerous to mention here.

But I doubt this new movement’s ability to implement change in America. I have the gut feeling that BLM is essentially a controlled opposition, funded and directed by the same oppressive force it appears to confront. Maybe I’m wrong. But I have noticed a glaring difference between BLM’s reaction to the death of an African-American, no matter how socially dubious–and that of a non-black. When Dylan Noble, an unarmed, emotionally disturbed 19 year old white man, was casually killed on June 25th by Fresno, CA police, BLM was mum. They were equally silent when, in the previous week, six Latinos–Anthony Nunez, Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, Vinson Ramos, Melissa Ventura, Pedro Villanueva and Raul Saavedra-Vargas–were gunned down in cold blood by “America’s Finest.” Tactically, this is as mindbogglingly stupid as it is racially divisive. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I feel that there is an ugly method in such madness from this new movement–if one can call it a movement.

Whether BLM will up the ante by striking at the heart of American racist oppression–that is, the American economy–remains to be seen. Their hearts appear to be in the right place. But at my age–and having seen a previous (and much milder) pro-black surge in the late eighties to early nineties–I know that these kids are barely making a scratch upon the behemoth of racist oppression in the United States. The “Black Lives Matter” movement is howling into that same white void–the void of white noise–that Dr. Yancy and Dr. Dyson shouted into, and with the same result: stasis.

*

Black America has given enough “gifts” to White America. Pick virtually any era and one can find such “gifts” in abundance. Our own bare, black asses were “gifts” from Africa, by which both Northern and Southern slave-owners used to build the very foundations of the American metropolis; indeed, much of the White House and the Capitol was built by slave labor. (And let’s not mention Crispus Attucks and Benjamin Banneker.) In the 1890s, at the beginning of the “Nadir” of race relations in the United States, Americans were given the gift of Ragtime—the first truly American musical art form. (Naturally, Native Americans mght dispute this, with good reason.) For decades after that the “gifts” came and went: Jazz (via King Oliver, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, etc.), The Negro Renaissance (via Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Alain Locke, W.E.B. DuBois and too many other names to mention here), and innumerable inventions such as the golf-tee, the light-bulb filament, the ironing board, the gas mask, mobile blood banks, the internet, the cotton gin, ice cream, the potato chip, and food which was actually edible and a way of speaking English that didn’t stink of England. And a new way of comprehending reality–particularly among black intellectuals–that offered a spiritual alternative to the colonial cultures imposed upon the rest of the world by Europe. Hip-hop was but one of the manifestations of this new spiritual reality.

I, myself, and many of my artist friends who are black, have offered our own gifts to America; some of us have pleaded and continue to plead with white America to recognize our humanity. I, for one, never bothered and will never bother to plead my humanity to a group of people who, collectively speaking, always thought of me and my life as a bad joke. I personally don’t see the point of giving anything to such a people. America, at this stage in history, is not worth the trouble. It persistently demands of Black America that we “like” them. Unfortunately, in America these days, there doesn’t seem to be very much to like. I don’t need to waste my time tallying a laundry list of America’s ills, since the reader can find these details elsewhere, and in abundance.

America is not the center of the Universe. There are certainly other nations on earth where a creative black person can apply his or her genius, talent and drive. White America imagines that we have no memories and no history; they are wrong. They have almost always been wrong about the world, and most particularly about their own countrymen. They have never known us, anymore than they have known themselves, or anybody else on earth. We already know what our past gift-bearers have gotten in return for their “love” of America.

No: it’s too late. Worse, actually: it’s over. Done.

*

When Frederick Douglass declared in his Fourth of July speech that the crimes committed against black Americans* would “disgrace a nation of savages,” he was not being hyperbolic, but stating a simple fact. The worst crime committed by these white American savages has not, ironically, been these countless lynchings, beatings, burnings, brandings, castrations, rapes, nor scorched-earth pogroms such as Wounded Knee or Elaine, Arkansas (where up to 600 blacks were butchered in 1919). It has been the outright insistence that the African American—particularly the African American—be “happy” in the face of such systematic dehumanization.

“They require of me a song,” James Baldwin once said, “less to celebrate my captivity than to justify their own.” The African American was told to smile when getting raped and to tap-dance after being castrated; and to add insult to injury, the narratives of such sickening racist brutality were either denied outright, dismissed as “paranoia” or, still worse, carefully re-shaped to appear as comedy. It makes one ask the question that Jean-Paul Sartre asked, in his well-known preface to The Wretched of the Earth, “which side are the savages on?”

 

*Douglass could have just as well mentioned Native Americans, or the Chinese or even the Irish.

Cry, the Benighted Country: Essays on America (1)

“Cry” is to be a series of essays and ruminations on the state of America. At present they are still in embryonic form. The whole idea behind these sketches is to articulate certain problems pertaining to America and American culture that very few people wish to face up to.

The Emasculation of the American language (2014)

In some instances you are probably better off being a stranger in a strange land. For people can’t read you in those disgustingly familiar ways that they do in your home country; of course, this can very well be a danger in itself, since the hosts of this strange land can read all kinds of things into you that have nothing to do with who and what you really are. And many of these hosts can and will take their cues from clueless and bigoted American tourists, as well as internet trolls and American mass-media. Or perhaps the cues they take will leave them in doubt once they interact with you.

Well, at least they–the foreigners–are more willing to interact with you than your countrymen. Your countrymen already have you pegged, so to speak; they “know” you before they even sense your presence; their minds are made up in advance about who and what you are as a marginalized person within their own society. In this instance, of course, I am referring to myself as an “African-American.”

As a “black American” in the world, particularly in America, you are already “known.” This supposed “knowledge” of who you are (on their part) naturally precludes any hope of genuine communication with your countrymen. Most of them, before you even open your mouth, before you move a finger, have decided that you are an enemy or, at best, an interloper with dubious intentions. No amount of deep-hearted communication with these other people can really strike at the core of their deep-seated and deep-rooted doubts and suspicions about what YOU are, as a person.

In fact, you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince these Others that you are even a person at all. Because of these false and deep-rooted preconceptions about your person, you find yourself endlessly reminding people–sometimes, those people closest to you–of who and what you really are. Naturally, these other people are disinclined to believe a single word you say. The best you can get out of these people is a half-hearted nod and an empty “yes, I understand.” And if you find it difficult to believe them when they say they “understand,” it’s only natural: their reassuring voices are belied by the hysterical anger they show you whenever you fuck up, however lightly. You know in your gut that in spite of what you tell them and how reassuringly you do so; in spite of any “gifts” you may offer to remind them of your humanity, or that you are indeed “one of them,” in “their camp,” waving “their flag” and marching to the beat of “their” own drums, you will never be one of them.

Of course. It is human to make mistakes. But the outlandish way in which your so-called peers, your so-called family, your so-called wife or husband or best friend–your countrymen–react when you, out of simple human failing, cross the line: well, it’s simply their way of telling you that you are something of a child, somehow–how else can one say it?–less than they.

Your peers will tell you it’s not what you think; they would not dare judge you as inferior to them. After all, they know you and you know them. You work with them, bleed with them, laugh with them, sleep with them, die with them. They lash out at you because (if one were to believe them) you keep on crossing the line. However, you have also observed your peers crossing that very same line time and time again. How do your peers react, then? Not so harshly, one observes, to great dismay. A lot more forgiving and understanding. More winks and pats on the back. It’s okay, Justin. No problem, Dave. We all make mistakes. To err is human.

Better yet, observe how those same peers react when the question comes down to color, class, race, nationality or sexual preference. The very first thing you see is what your peers refuse to see, what they refuse to even mention: the question of color. It trumps every other consideration, up to and including that big bugaboo class and the slightly smaller bugaboo of sexual preference. Very often, they refuse to mention it not because they won’t, but, surprisingly enough, they can’t; they lack the vocabulary to deal with your reality. In fact, they, your so-called countrymen, lack the vocabulary to deal with you–which is tantamount to saying they lack the vocabulary to deal with themselves.

One need only to look on YouTube and see the horrendous videoclips; see what is happening to American society; see what is happening to Europe, to Africa, the Arab World, to Asia and Latin America. Taken collectively it looks like a prelude to a global war. In fact this prelude often makes the opening salvos of World War Two look extremely tame. Historians have often referred to 1939 and 1940 as the “Phony War,” or sit-down war. How on earth will historians refer to our time period when, or if, we survive it? Not a second goes by in which another insufferable ethnic conflict erupts in some benighted part of this monstrous so-called “civilization,” and not only in America: now, the Algerians are pummeling the Malians and Burkinians in Ouargla; now there is a bloodbath between Turks and Kurds in Hamburg; now the Senegalese and the Nigerians chop each other to pieces in Omonia Square; now there is a brawl between Tajiks and Russians somewhere in Moscow and St. Petersburg; now “hard-working” Albanians brawl with “lazy” African-Americans, who raid grocery stores and quicky-marts and shopping malls and fight or get fought by Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Palestinians, Chinese, Cambodians, poor whites, Italians, Jews, and so on and so forth.

Apparently, this is not even the tip of the iceberg’s tip. It is happening right now, as you read this, in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit (itself a code-word for “niggers”, as if “niggers” shut down the auto industries in Michigan and not the Fords), Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans. The entire planet is springing leaks on every known shore.

My reaction to all this–especially the unceasing ethnic conflicts in the U.S.–was and is one of resigned disgust. They’re better off simply blowing up New York, I find myself thinking too often. Hell: nuke Chicago. Or at least run a few more airplanes into the city center, loaded with atomic bombs. It’s 2016,* and yet the same poisons that contaminated this country in 1916, or 1816 or 1716 or even 1616, still exist. Even the presence of a so-called “black” president has not only not changed the sociopolitical and socioeconomic game in America–it has merely reinforced this sickening game. My gut reaction, then? Go fuck yourselves. If you assholes can’t get it together by now–if you are still falling for all that old “divide and conquer,” British colonial honky bullshit, you might as well hang it up. Forget it, you all failed. This so-called “Great Experiment,” this thing you call the “United States of America,” needs to be scrapped; it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

So what, then? If one has to start over, how do you start? With the language, with the American vocabulary.

You can’t change anything if you are unable to articulate your reality. Of course, this also means being able to psychologically face your reality. Facing, as opposed to accepting American reality, because there is nothing in the current American reality that should be accepted. The reality is that America is, simply put, a zoo, and we are the animals, shitting all over ourselves while those outside the gates–those with the money and power–feed us some fucking bananas every now and then. Meanwhile they come and go, laughing at us and pointing to us, and then they go back to their fine homes while we stew in our own shit and claw our eyes out for scraps of rotten meat.

The zoo-keepers don’t like it, of course. We all stink, so they imagine; think they are doing us a favor by cleaning up our shit; they think we need to stop yapping at them. They should have never locked us up in cages to begin with. But there’s one problem with this “zoo” analogy is that the zookeepers are generally white men, or, like Eric Holder or Barack Obama, colored men appointed to the highest levels of zoo-maintenance. Maybe Obama really is the Head Zoo-Keeper, and I’m all wrong. But who ever keeps the zoo–black or white–does not own it. The owners, whoever and wherever they are, are white men.

So what does all this have to do with the impoverishment of the American language? Simply this: our intellectuals (if you can call them that) speak and write as if our collective misery does not really exist.

America, by and large, is a horrible place to live in. There are exceptions, and distractions. But take them away, rip the scales from your eyes, and you will find a country which is simply quite unendurable. If our “intellectuals” have the gumption to to acknowledge that human suffering actually exists in the “Greatest Nation on Earth,” they–with precious few exceptions–place the blame of that suffering on those who are suffering, of course. You should get a job and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Man up. Stop being sexist and check your privilege. Stop having children out of wedlock; respect your body; stop selling drugs; respect other people; learn to read, etc., etc., etc. This language, aimed not just at the “Urban Community” (read: niggers and spics), but basically at anybody black  in the US (and in slightly rarer cases, poor whites, browns, reds or even yellows) is not designed to enlighten or encourage them to lift themselves out of the American social mire: it is designed specifically to chastise them as a parent would scold a naughty child. It is designed to maintain the centuries-old chasm between speaker and listener–the speaker being the colonizer and/or his mouthpiece and the listener being the colonized/native. For the language these mainstream intellectuals speak to us is the language of Colonialism: EUROPEAN Colonialism.

It is the language of a paternalistic oppressor so smug in his or her attitudes towards his or her “inferiors” (and so clueless and alienated from the reality of the oppressed) that he or she really has no clue at all that he/she is an oppressor. He/she thinks this is perfectly normal. This means that the speaker may not even harbor any ill intentions towards the person she is speaking to, for she does not know of any other way to talk to him. In fact the intellectual bankruptcy of US culture was carefully wrought; the bankruptcy of the American language was carefully wrought over a number of decades, if not centuries. The American language, in its intellectual manifestations, has a curious way of being overly analytical while simultaneously saying little of substance. It is a curious achievement. America is not the only nation which has managed to pull off this strange feat, yet it strikes one as rather odd why in a land that prizes itself on “freedom of speech” do the inhabitants insist upon not speaking.

Or maybe not, when one gets to know Americans well. Until very recently Americans have said what they wanted to say–which means they really didn’t wish to say anything pertinent to their miserable lives. Anything that would have shattered the little bubbles they lived in (their American “dreams”) might have completely thrown them off balance. Until very recently the American who found a place to stand in his/her country would patronize those beneath him as “losers,” knowing full well how difficult it really is to obtain wealth in America but refusing to admit it, even to himself. (Art Blakey, jazz drummer extraordinaire, had gone on record years ago as saying America was the greatest country in the world because, in his words, “you can be anything you want.”) In recent years, however, there has been a substantial change in attitude on the part of Americans towards their country. There is substantially more anger and outrage at American incompetence in politics, economics, culture and at American society in general. The rank-and-file American has come to identify a common enemy that holds him in check, that takes the bread from his mouth, that poisons his water and threatens to push him out into the street: the One Percent. That One Percent, by and large, is white and male. And yet in spite of this sudden sociopolitical epiphany among the rank-and-file, the level of good old fashioned American prejudice–towards blacks, especially, and now towards Muslims, transgendered persons and so-called “illegals” (Latinos)–has remained consistent.

But not only that. The racial animosity has found a new lightning rod in the rise of Donald Trump and the alternative-right–primarily made up of lonely, disaffected and broke young white men who, according to Republican strategist Rick Wilson, “masturbate to anime” and “are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity.” The same could have been said, of course, about Hitler’s Brown Shirts in Weimar Germany: Berlin considered them a laughingstock. Yet it only took a few years and some careful political maneuvering (and a lot of street brawls) for them to get inside the Reichstag–and burn it to the ground. Rick Wilson is sadly mistaken if he thinks these cockroaches will simply stick to whacking off over Chun Li.

The well-off white American (or even non-white American) won’t admit that he/she is essentially a settler, a colonizer or, at best, simply doing the settler’s dirty work. Like every other settler who has ever existed, these American “settlers” are filled with obscene myths about the people whom they either keep in check or help to keep in check. They use the exact same language. The stinking “native quarters” or “casbahs” of French Algeria, of British India, Burma, Dutch Indonesia or French Indochina, Tangier, Belgian Congo, the “townships” of Apartheid South Africa, etc., etc. are more or less the same as the “banlieues” of contemporary Paris or the “ghettos,” “projects,” “barrios,” “Chinatowns,” “trailer parks” and “reservations” of the USA. The “American” uses precisely the same language to refer to the “ghetto” and the “urban community” as did the pied-noir of Algeria used to refer to the Casbah or “native quarter”. It is a “jungle,” a “zoo,” a “no-go zone.” (The latter is used very commonly here in Berlin to refer to the Turkish/Arab/African “jungles” of Wedding, Neukolln and above all, “Kotti” or “Kottbusser Tor.”)

And in these no-go zones, these jungles and human zoos, we see the obvious. The niggers, to paraphrase Frantz Fanon, beat each other up. They have a need to see blood. And when they kill, they don’t just do it half-heartedly; they do it with panache. They get angry when you look at them funny or pull a knife or a gun when you step on their shoe, even if by accident. The towelhead reaches for his gun whenever he sees his daughter dating outside the community. The fucking bodies pile up, and everyone is left shaking their heads in disgust and disbelief. Those people, say those on top. There’s simply no understanding why they do these things. Perhaps violence, as Ta-Nehisi Coates once insinuated (albeit with tongue in cheek), is encoded in the very DNA of these “black males” or “Turkish males” or “African males” or “Hispanic males.”

Yeah, sure. We get that; we’ve been getting that all of our lives. The question of violence is one that’s continually turning over and over in our skulls like the hamburgers we always eat. But why?

Colonialism, writes Frantz Fanon, “tends to turn every colony into a jungle, where the only law is that of the knife.” The contemporary European, as well as the American–smugly dogmatic and ignorant of history and even language, would undoubtedly wax indignant at such a comparison. Today’s European would have you believe that colonialism was indeed horrible but it is a thing of the past, and the failures of Africa and the Middle East are due to the moral, psychological and perhaps even ingrown failings of Africans and Arabs themselves. America, on the other hand, is not even a colony. We have a black president, a healthy black elite, and black entertainers are among the most influential trend-setters in the world; in fact not an hour passes on this planet where no one is talking about the fandangos of Jay Z and Beyonce, or discussing Bill Cosby’s sex/drug scandal, or Chris Brown and Rhianna, or Kim Kardashian and Kanye West–or, needless to say, The Most Powerful Man in the World Himself, President Obama. The Americans are very slick con-artists; they have devised an ingenious (or, perhaps not so ingenious and more than a little obvious) mass-media smokescreen–a very gaudy and flashy one–with which they present themselves to the world.

They are so slick that they fool many people into thinking Kanye West is a rank-and-file African American, when he is not. They also fool many people into thinking that the Trinitarios, the Crips, Bloods and La Eme are rank-and-file black and brown Americans. They are not. Most of us are simply trying to put food on the table, send our kids to school or even keep from starving. But the individual stories of black and brown people trying to stay afloat in a hostile American sea aren’t very exciting, not to mention very sexy. They also aren’t very funny. Ergo, these stories can’t be packaged and sold to a jaded American public, which insists upon being amused and titillated by the dysfunctional lives of certain blacks and browns. The Great American Smokescreen of lies, distortions and stereotypes is there for a reason, of course. “No true account of black life can be held, can be contained, within the American vocabulary,” James Baldwin said in his last interview.

But there is hope. Thanks to the internet, it is much easier to look behind that smokescreen than ever before. The year after Obama was elected President, the writer encountered an Arab in Berlin who had already decided that the President was, in his words, “scheisse.” Naturally I still imagined that Obama was still one of the good guys and I took offense, seeing this outburst as yet another manifestation of Arab racism. But I was wrong. “Obama,” said the man, who was working in a schwarma shop in Mitte, “is just a puppet of the war machine.”

And this man had no interest whatever in immigrating to America. Unlike the 1980s–when MTV, and Reagan’s glib smile, greasy hair and cheap rhetoric fooled much of the world into thinking America was some special, magical sort of super-Oz–outsiders can see the reality of America from YouTube clips and decide for themselves whether or not New York is really worth it.

And not only outsiders. For the first time ever the American has allowed a few scales to fall from his eyes. It took 9/11 and the combined disasters of the Bush and Obama regimes for them to see that no, they will not become millionaires if they work hard enough and save their bread. No, they will never land the girl of their dreams and live in the house of their dreams in the cleanest neighborhood in town, because the neighborhood is now a gated community, the house is unaffordable and shoddily constructed, and the girl you dreamed of really wants a sugar daddy or a bad boy, or has herpes or HIV, or is a lesbian or, better yet, imagines herself to be one. Now you find yourself jumping through all sorts of hoops to get a fat, sloppy bar girl to even smile at you, or find yourself sending out resumes by the tens of thousands and getting no offers save for a temp job at Career Blazers or, worse, at McDonalds. You are stuck in your parent’s basement or a homeless shelter or at the Y. Worse yet, the niggers, or the Ay-rabs, or the honkies, or the spics, or the kikes are out for your ass. ISIS wants to eat your children. Or just perhaps, it’s the One Percent, The Matrix playing every fucking body in the world like a chess piece, keeping everyone divided so they can continue to grab everything–your money, your job, your property, your possessions, your woman, your man, your car and eventually, if you are not careful, your mind: that, before they take your corpse.

Now, everybody knows it; everybody can see massive fraud taking place in this country on every conceivable level, right down to our very bedrooms. Unfortunately the knowledge of such fraud has led to a kind of outrage that, all too frequently, can not be tempered with reason. I am not suggesting that one be so stupid enough to be “reasonable” in the face of rising fascism, cultural decadence and hyper-militarism. Very often “reason,” when it pertains to blacks, is simply a phony appeal on the part of white liberals for blacks to shut the fuck up and keep grinning. (That is what they mean when they talk about “dignity” and “perseverance” in the face of racism.) What I am suggesting is that this new anger towards a failing West is–as usual–striking old targets. And that the solutions for this failing West are, once again, just the same old shit in new diapers.

And naturally, in such a chaotic political situation, any hope of you communicating your own reality to your fellow countrymen would be dashed from the start. It would be darkly humorous to imagine a Jewish academic writing Dear Gentile Germany from the depths of Buchenwald. But one can easily imagine Germany’s reaction. It wouldn’t have been funny. In fact, it wasn’t.

 *I finished this essay today but the bulk of this was taken from a notebook I kept in 2014.