The late Chancellor Williams was no slouch when it came to researching African history. As he himself states near the beginning of his book, “(R)esearching African history is more tedious, laborious, and time-consuming than is true in other unsuppressed fields.” He is certainly right about that. Until very recently it was next to impossible to obtain substantial documents and data dealing with the history of sub-Saharan Africa. When “The Destruction of Black Civilization” appeared in 1971 the fabled libraries of Timbuktu were, in the minds of even the most ardent African scholars, largely still a fable. Unfortunately, his decades of thoroughgoing research in Africa, Europe and elsewhere had not amounted to much, if we have just this book to go on. The details in this meager book, generally speaking, and particularly in regards to Egypt and Sudan reveal nothing that one would not just as easily gleamed from other texts. About Ghana, Mali and Songhay he says precious little–in fact, all the information Dr. Williams provides about these three West African states could fill an article in the New Yorker. (There is, to be fair, invaluable, substantial, and much-needed information on the little-known Kingdom of Kuba.) However, in these instances–and much in line with his accounts of Egypt, Meroe, Axum and other kingdoms–the details are all overladen with heavy-handed rhetorical generalizing about “The Blacks” and, most especially, their fateful encounters with Europeans and Asiatics.
The gist of Williams’s generalizations is that a bunch of bloodsucking, homicidal ofays and gooks wrecked the African continent. Which, as nasty as it sounds, is quite true. No doubt about that. The crushing of Songhai at the hands of the Moroccans on March 13, 1591 (mirroring an earlier crushing of Ghana at the hands of the Almoravid Berbers in 1076) is a prime example, as was the Hyksos invasion of Egypt thousands of years earlier. And of course, one need only look at the mad scramble for Africa that took place after the Berlin Conference of 1885 (and let’s not make mention of both slave trades–the European and the Arab–the latter of which lasted far longer and took many more lives). So on one level, Williams is right about Eurasian homicidal mania towards Africa. Where he is wrong–for the most part, that is–is in deducing the intent of Eurasian destruction of Africa, at least before the arrival of the Portuguese.
Williams says (not suggests) that Black Africa was originally one big continent full of Black people who–at one magical, mythical point in its prehistory–all spoke one language and belonged to one tribe: the magical, mythical Black African tribe, who all saw, felt, ate, drank, copulated, lived and died as Blacks. On the one hand, that’s not earth-shattering news: 20,000 years ago, virtually every homo sapien on the planet was more or less still “African” in appearance, if not in language. Williams, on the other hand, was eager to assert that all these mythical Black Africans had “Black Consciousness” in the face of a white enemy waiting with sharpened knives outside the gates of Sinai–and that typical Black moral failings (divisiveness, pettiness, selfishness, greed, self-hatred, disrespect for centralized authority, and naivete in dealing with non-Blacks) led to its destruction.
Another false assertion that he pushes in his little book is that Eurasia’s ancient rape of Africa was really done solely out of racist envy and spite, rather than desperate plunder by barbarous groups of non-Africans (who may not have been nearly as “white” as he imagined them to be) with meager resources and even less patience for the civilized graces of more established nations. The same fate that befell Egypt and Carthage also befell Mycenae, Elam, Sumeria, Sassanid Persia, Mohenjo-Daro, Ancient China, Ancient Vietnam (at the hands of China), and even Rome itself. There is also the question of the desire of imperial conquest, which naturally drove China to quash and colonize Vietnam for over 1,000 years beginning in 111 BC; or the destruction of medieval Cambodia at the hands of the Siamese c. 1431. Lest anyone think this is entirely race-motivated, one need only research the destruction of Constantinople at the hands of the Venetians in the latter part of the 13th century: both parties were white Europeans, yet clearly despised each other for reasons that had nothing to do with skin color.
The same held true in Africa, whether North or South, east or west. It sounds cliched, but building an empire is much like making an omelette: one has to break some eggs in the process. Medieval Mali and Songhai, respectively, were about the size of the entire European continent. Yet neither empire was built by the consent of the peoples it subjugated–and no group of people, anywhere in the world, has ever really cottoned to the idea of being subjugated to another, whether in the form of vassalage (as was the case with much of Mali’s empire) or outright conquest (also true of Mali as well as Songhay, which were largely built on the ruins of Ghana and Susu). Indeed the very creation of Mali came about as a result of a crippled Mandinka, Sundiata Keita, who not only felt humiliated to be subject to the Sosso (an upstart kingdom which had encroached upon Mandinka land in its expansionist moves across West Africa)–but who, according to the national epic of Mali, was prophesied to be a great leader by the oppressed Mandinka. Mali’s national epic is essentially the story of a liberation struggle against an imperialist nation that was neither European nor Arab, and in human history prior to 1400 this is no anomaly.
The best I can say about “Destruction” is that it is superbly written. It would have made an excellent historical novel. As for straightforward history, the book is marred by false and romantic assumptions about African history. My point is not to argue whether or not the Ancient Egyptians were Africans, since most of the evidence gathered about them strongly suggests that they were of sub-Saharan origin. (Actually most of the period portraiture, mummies and DNA evidence speaks for itself.) My point is that in no period of pre-colonial African history did Africans have the kind of “black consciousness” that Dr. Williams so vehemently espouses, and with which he so vehemently lambastes Africans for lacking. “Black consciousness” (notwithstanding the revealing name KEMET) was almost entirely a product of an anti-colonial and anti-slavery sentiment that began long after the fall of Songhai in 1591.
Aside from the chapter dealing with the Bushongo of Central Africa, there is very little nuance anywhere to be found in The Destruction of African Civilization. This book, had it purported to deal with the myriad factors and fine details as to what caused the collapse of African civilization–should have been at least four times as long as it is. Of course, even today, it is extremely difficult to write cogently about sub-Saharan African history without filling in the gaps with conjecture and outright solipsism, so maybe one should at least give some credit to Dr. Williams in opening up a discussion on a subject which had been previously ignored. But that is not enough, for there is a more troubling issue at stake here.
Williams was naive enough to assume that pre-colonial Africans were actually infected with the profound self-loathing and depersonalization–what Dr. Du Bois rather politely called “double consciousness”–that Africans suffer today. He was even more naive in assuming that all black people everywhere were essentially the same in nature and outlook. Indeed, the last thing that Africans anywhere in the world need is yet another piece of work that reduces them down to a common denominator, however positive that denominator may appear to be. This alone should be enough for a half-way intelligent person to put the book down. What Dr. Williams says concerning Africa’s downfall could just as well apply to the Chinese downfall, the Arab downfall, the Roman downfall, the Byzantine downfall, the various downfalls of India, South East Asia, and naturally the total annihilation of Pre-Columbian America. Dr. Williams projects the anxieties of a mid-twentieth century Black American pan-Africanist back into Africa’s pre-colonial past, and as a result, THE DESTRUCTION OF BLACK CIVILIZATION should be taken with a cup of salt.
“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.”
*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).
The so-called “Third World” is the biggest carrier of the disease of White Imperialism; in fact all of the sicknesses and taints of European thought and values, all of their lies, ignorance and stupidity, are magnified a hundred-fold in the so-called Third World. Third World does not connote anything positive. Third World is a by-word for everything wrong in the Universe.
The so-called Third World is obsessed with keeping alive all the old values of Queen Victoria, King Leopold, Cecil Rhodes, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt and other imperialist scum while in the West, young whites are increasingly rejecting these same rotten values. Therefore the invasion of the West by uneducated and misguided refugees does not represent a positive browning of Europe; it does not represent any kind of “de-honkification”; if anything it is, ironically, a re-honkification of the Western World for reasons stated above. The refugee, in some respects, is even more of a white man than the contemporary European, depending upon his class and educational status. The refugee—to say nothing of the African, Arab and Asian elite—maintains white, honky values at their purest and most racist, because he or she has either not been properly educated, or the education they have received is generally Westernized, or—most likely—the minds of too many of these refugees have already been contaminated with bad Western ideas and values. When they are educated, it is invariably a cracker education since the so-called Third World has not even attempted to revolutionize its own educational systems; they have not even thought about creating entirely new and improved systems of education that may rival or even surpass Western systems.
The task of the Third World, upon liberation from Western Colonialism, was to build an entirely new set of civilizations–NOT to serve as vassal states, or appendices or apprentices to the rotten white First World. The task of Africa, Asia, and Latin America was to create a viable alternative to Western Civilization. Instead what we got was Europe on steroids, but in blackface–and still more or less owned by Europe and/or America. What we got was more of the same white, honky bullshit, but dressed up to look “African” or “African-American” or “Brazilian” or “Indian” or “Nigerian” or “Vietnamese” or “Chinese” or even “Romanian” (if you can call Romania Third World, which it practically is in many respects).
Please note: Nigger and Honky are two flip sides of the same coin, and always have been. Scratch a nigger and you will always find a honky bleeding.
Is it any surprise that the Third World is completely fucked, and will continue to collapse just as the First World continues its own implosion? This author is not. He has not seen it all but he would naturally assume that the so-called “Third World” would belly up when the West bellies up, because Third Worlders suffer from a horrible dependency complex. The election of either Trump or Hillary will essentially spell the end of the West as we know it, as the US is the leader of the alleged “Free World” (free for those who can afford it, of course). And since your average Third World big shit lacks ideas of his own, we should expect the Third World to ape America once again. They always do, and without fail. Every single US-influenced nation will probably take Trump’s lead and elect a lunatic dictator.
If this happens, the bulk of the blame for the ensuing Armageddon must naturally go to the Third World. Because they represent the lion’s share of humanity; because their nations are in desperate need of retooling in every conceivable area, they hold the responsibility of reshaping world civilization; they hold the responsibility of holding the greedy and war-profiteering capitalist West in check. Their primary responsibility is to THEIR OWN PEOPLE.
Instead, they have repeatedly shirked this responsibility and served as hand-maidens, butlers, shoe-shine boys and prostitutes to Europe and America, often literally: Morocco, Tunisia, Brazil, DR, Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia and countless other so-called “Third World” nations are nothing but cheap brothels for the Developed World.
Morally speaking, these people are arguably worse than the average European or White American. The bulk of the blame for their moral degeneracy, naturally, must be placed on the shoulders of the Third World middle-classes and elites, who (with few exceptions) are the nastiest and most disgusting human beings ever to walk planet earth. They already have their own Hitlers; they have yet to start a World War. Unfortunately, that possibility cannot be ruled out, as nobody in the world seems to have the balls to try and stop them. The Indonesian elite, the Malay elite, the Rwandan elite, Congolese elite, Tunisian elite, Libyan elite, Egyptian elite, Nigerian elite, Chinese elite, Afghani elite and the Brazilian elite (just to cite a few of these respective horrors) can’t be criticized or exposed.
Of course not. There is no genuine intellectual tradition among these elites, short of sodomizing scholars, or baking students in ovens or simply forcing intellectuals into exile, into isolation in the West. Many of these intellectuals are themselves fraudulent, of course.
In the end we don’t have a new world, we don’t have a new civilization or any new way of thinking; just a bunch of ugly, dirty cities that look like a bunch of rotting projects; just illiteracy, disease, rudeness, vulgar tribalism, insanity, war, open sewers clogged with shit, rotting carcasses and flies. We have a return to feudalism and the bloodthirsty spirit of Neanderthal Man in blackface. The white man loves it, because it serves to make him look far more civilized and cultivated than he actually is. Every second the white racist whines about niggers and gooks but that is really just a part of the fun: dim-witted coonery and monkeyshines has always been a hot-ticket item for fat Western tourists.
The next great revolution should not be against the West, believe it or not: it should be against that stinking monstrosity the so-called “Third World,” the West’s loathsome half-castes; the half-Westerners who do the white man’s dirty work and who (as we should see) are indispensable to the success of the Western imperial adventure. For every redneck singing “Dixie” there are a hundred niggers, gooks and spics providing the back-up harmonies. They think the redneck is God. Without these spineless bastards, white supremacy would be defeated in a matter of months.
“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.
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.
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” 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.
“the whites are the implacable foe, the traditional and everlasting enemy of the Blacks’. . . The necessary re-education of Blacks and a possible solution of racial crises can begin, strangely enough, only when Blacks fully realize this central fact in their lives: The white man is their Bitter Enemy. For this is not the ranting of wild-eyed militancy, but the calm and unmistakable verdict of several thousand years of documented history.”
Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization, p.310
After fuming over some racist nonsense that an Egyptian (!!) shat on YouTube, I had to put this out–if only in lieu of putting my foot up this dumb motherfucker’s ass.
It seems that everybody and his brother is still pulling their hair out from the roots about the ethnic origins of the Ancient Egyptians. I had hoped this matter had been settled in the 1970s, but you can’t keep a good bunch of honky assholes down. Not for too long. They always need to have the last word on everything.
Why all the words, sweat, bile and tears wasted on bodies that haven’t breathed a breath of life in over 4,000 years? Because these bodies laid the fundamentals of our current civilization. That civilization is also currently rotting, for various reasons, but this is beside the point.
Or maybe it isn’t. The white, right-leaning intellectual would have us believe (usually inadvertently) that the rot in our current civilization is due to the unwanted presence of blacks in the halls of power, when (according to them) they should be in the fields, picking cotton or watermelons, or in the kitchen, frying chicken, or otherwise back in the jungle—where we supposedly belong. The liberation of the “blacks” resulted in the decay of learning, the decay of morals, the decay of music, of the cities, of the economy, of the environment, of the weather, of everything.
“Multiculturalism” is code-talk for niggers, or spics, or—in Europe—towelheads; specifically, “multiculturalism” is (to the neocons and neo-liberals) a heavy-handed attempt to force primitive peoples and their primitive, superficial cultures into the halls of a sophisticated and venerable Western civilization. The only thing they can do is piss all over the walls and shit on the floors of this great, white Parthenon. Schiller? What the hell do niggers know about him, anyway? Or Voltaire? Kant? Schopenhauer? Etc., etc.
But the presence of barbarians in the halls of western civilization could be better tolerated if these same barbarians did not try and rewrite the history of Western Civilization to suit “their” purposes. Of course, on close scrutiny, these black “barbarians” are merely attempting—often awkwardly—to set the historical record straight. Westerners are actually attempting to maintain an historical fantasy which deems them, with incredible arrogance and presumptuousness, the only Civilized.
From the Afrocentrists
Much of Afro-centrism is indeed silly. Chancellor Williams, the virtual Dean of Afrocentrists, has done a good deal of damage in regards to excavating and reassessing African history. His book, The Destruction of Black Civilization, is essentially a Nationalist polemic against Whitey. Nothing wrong with that, of course, if taken strictly at face value: the white man brought the bulk of his miseries upon himself–not least of all because he refuses to look at himself in the mirror; he refuses to ask himself whether or not there is anything about him that is worth liking. But that is beside the point. The point is that those among us who are responsible for writing our history as Africans are fundamentally incapable of objectivity of any sort. Hence, Professor Williams and his Destruction.
Williams’s anger at the white and Asiatic world was perfectly understandable. He was well-versed in virtually all aspects of African history and knew, like the open-minded among us, that Ancient Egypt was in fact an African civilization that originated in Africa, and that the people who made up that civilization were, of course, black Africans. But Egypt was also the first empire the world had ever seen, and like all empires it subjugated and attracted people from all over the known world at the time. This is what empires always do. And like all imperialists, the Egyptians naturally came to see themselves as being somehow “greater” than the people they subjugated, who subsequently began to be perceived as “lesser” folk.
In world history there have been utterly no exceptions, and this includes both so-called “Black Africa” (an invention of Arabs and Europeans) and “pre-Columbian America” (an invention of Euro-Americans). The great Mali Empire was built upon the ruins of Ghana and the Soso Kingdom. The grander Songhai was carved from the weakening Mali State (which, ironically, outlasted Songhai by roughly a half-century). Songhai, like Mali, depended at the very least upon the semi-subjugation of numerous vassal states which, not long after this empire’s establishment, chafed under Songhai rulership. The Fall of Songhai in March 1591 had been, in reality, a long time in building. A handful of military miscalculations–such as the use of elephants to quash the invading Moroccan army–sealed the empires’ fate. But Afrocentrists such as Professor Williams would have us believe otherwise.
In The Destruction of African Civilization, Williams constructed his own fantasy of “black history,” the history of the African people, as being an eternal conflict between Africans and white outsiders. He has stated that the Africans were trusting and naïve saps who allowed Europeans, Arabs, Romans, etc., into their continent and were enslaved and exploited in return. This does not explain why Africa was the very last continent to resist European or Arab domination. It also does not explain why Arab domination of Africa was impossible without the Arab’s enlistment of African help. The Arab colonization of “Sub-Saharan Africa,” so-called, was extremely short-lived in the West and largely backed by the power of Europeans (namely, the Portuguese) in the East. Although well-written, Williams’s writings are simply slightly more sophisticated “ghetto scholarship,” seeing ancient Africa as a mere extension of mid-twentieth century Harlem.
Afrocentrism gets sillier when it attempts to claim certain Europeans, such as Beethoven, as Africans. Although Beethoven has been described as “swarthy” and having rather broad features this does not necessarily mean he was a mulatto. He may, in fact, have been a Romany/Gypsy, and his musical innovations rooted in Romany heritage.
Some Afrocentrists such as Runoko Rashidi have gone so far as to claim the Shang dynasty as “black.” How can we know they were indeed “Africans”? They may have been darker-complected than the Mongolian Han peoples, but not necessarily “black.” The Montagnards and Cambodians of the south (some of whom are visibly black) may be the descendants of the Shang people. “Shang,” according to some unverified sources, means dark-skinned. (But not necessarily “black” as in African black.) India, on the other hand, is clearly another case altogether: several unrelated anthropological studies clearly reveal that the Buddha was depicted as a “negro.”
Unquestionably the most obvious bit of foolishness from Afrocentrism comes from the notion that there was a “black empire” in the U.S. South thousands of years ago. There has been—unlike the obviously Negroid Pushkin or Alessandro De Medici, the blatantly Negroid Olmec heads, or blatantly Negroid pharaohs of Egypt or Buddha statues of Southeast Asia—absolutely no evidence to back up these wild claims, and appear to be lame attempts to link black Americans to the U.S. Southern soil.
From the Eurocentrists
But Afro-centrism is an attempt, as I said, to set the record straight. According to the “official” record, the Ancient Egyptians were in fact Caucasians who bore little or no relationship to the people of Sub Saharan Africa simply because, of course, they were not “negroes” or so-called “true Negroes.” Although the theory of the “true Negro” has been officially debunked, many historians and anthropologists write and speak as if it hasn’t. Many of these historians are in fact themselves Egyptians or even other Africans who are either incapable of drawing their own independent conclusions about the history of Africans or—as is usually the case of the Egyptians—so violently prejudiced against darker Africans, so ashamed of their own ethnic heritage, that they take great pains to disassociate themselves with anything “African”—African in their minds being Inky, Rastus, Al Jolson, and all the spearchuckers who tried to kill Tarzan.
However, there has never been a consideration for who or what exactly is the “true Mongolian” or who is the “true Caucasian”; apparently there have been several varieties of “Caucasians,” the most notable being those in India who founded the great civilizations of Mohenjo-Daro, and those in the Middle-East, so-called, who gave us Sumeria, Babylonia, Elam, and so on; and those in North Africa who gave us Phonecia, Carthage, and naturally, Ancient Egypt. It is tacitly assumed that the Caucasian is some sort of superior man who can in fact do anything (except, maybe, dance, fuck or eat watermelons), who has started everything, who has created “Our World.” According to a piece of Neo-Nazi drivel circulating around the web, “the white man has sailed the seven seas,” etc. These notions were called into question 40 and 50 years ago during that dreadful moment in history called The Sixties (when everything began to fall apart), but thanks to brilliant scholarship by enlightened minds such as Mary Lefkowitz and Dr. Zahi Hawss, things are once again being set right, in ways that reinforce our sense of superiority as white people.
The African “true negro,” on the other hand, is a pepper-corn haired, long-armed, narrow-hipped, flat-footed, thick-lipped creature—a little monkey who has really done nothing but hang from the trees until the European had the hindsight to remove him from these wretched conditions and put him into slavery, in the New World (so-called). Sure, the slavery was nasty, it was degrading and dehumanizing, and maybe a few hundred thousand “blacks” perished in the long, arduous trip across the Atlantic (the true number is closer to 85-150 million; for each of the 11-15 million Africans who are known to have arrived in America, 8-10 more did not). But there were benefits as well. The African learned to speak a civilized tongue—English, French, or Spanish—instead of babbling like a gorilla. He learned to wear clothes instead of a grass skirt. He learned to wipe his ass with toilet paper rather than using a banana leaf or his left hand. Moreover, he became a Christian. It was out of his exposure to the Christian faith that his heart-rending “spirituals” arose. From this, arose other forms of music that revealed to the white West (and subsequently to the world) his “natural” sense of rhythm, his innate “sensuality,” unequaled and unparalleled by any group of people in the world. It had come from Africa, of course; it had come from his gene pool.
Although this doesn’t exactly explain Timi Yuro, Dusty Springfield, Christian Rannenberg, Muggsy Spanier, Paul Butterfield, Jamie Lidell, Amy Winehouse, Bix Beiderbecke, or Benny Goodman—all of whom sing or play with obvious soul, and neither of whom were or are Africans.
So goes the official explanation of Africans or their place in history—as the servant, the buffoon, the hip cat, or the spear-chucking, oversexed jungle-bunny. These are the inventions of a fear-stricken, panicking white mind which may not actually conceive of itself as being “racist” in the classic sense, yet nevertheless feels its universe threatened on all sides. The threat comes from the “loony” Afrocentrics who dare to tamper with “The Truth” as this white Western mind sees it. This mind can be as liberal and broad as it wants, so long as its basic preconceptions are not threatened. The more “liberal” Western mind will dispense (publicly, anyway) with the spearchuckers stereotype, or at least grant it a degree of dignity which it does not need: a stereotype, after all, is a stereotype, a lie is a lie. The “noble savage” is a lie; Africa as a land of “soul” and “rhythm” and “dance,” bereft of human knowledge, is a lie. No matter how hard one clings to the obsequious rubbish of Africa’s alleged “friends” (such as Ryzyard Kapuczinski), they will never be made right.
There are attempts to patronize black students by offering them the examples of Mali and Songhay, or Benin, and usually in ways which separate their histories from the rest of humanity, the better to reduce their relevance. Images of rickety mud mosques and half-decayed buildings held up as examples of the “brilliance” of African architecture—assuming, of course, that these buildings were as half-decayed, crooked and rickety in 1411 as they are in 2011. Mali and Niger are extremely poor nations; they barely have the funds to maintain their manuscripts and buildings, which are in a sorry state. Today’s Mali mosques and today’s Timbuktu is no more reflective of their medieval state than today’s Roman forum, a collection of bits and pieces, reflects the way it used to look 1500 years ago.
To offer up the Great Wall of Zimbabwe as a prime example of “African” architecture is an insult. Naturally, it does not begin to compare to anything in the West, let alone the East, in terms of architectural design. This is just as stupid as offering up Stonehenge as a prime example of Western architecture, which no historian anywhere in the world would be so foolish to do. It is just as stupid as saying that Italian architecture is the same as Russian or German architecture because, after all, it is “European.” With African civilization or “culture” one can afford to be slapdash and casual, because, after all, it’s “African,” nothing important.
The notion of the non-existence of African history was a carefully constructed lie, already in full throttle by the time of the Berlin Conference of 1885. Note that the British conquerors did not bother taking any photographs (any known ones; the British Government may be keeping them under wraps) of the old Benin City they soon destroyed. There is one sketch, of a small section of the city, only.
The true flowering of African civilization was in the East rather than the West, just as the true flowering of European civilization lay in the west, rather than the East of Europe. And all anthropological evidence suggests that the flow of civilizing spirit was Northward from Africa—namely, from the Sudan and present-day Somalia—than the other way around. All this phrenology babble about the shape of ancient Egyptian skulls being akin to Nordics; all these absurd speculations about the shape of the pharaoh’s noses, or the color of their skins (were they light or dark?), or the texture of their hair, is belied by evidence that can be gleamed by recent (and relatively unbiased) research:
“Recent work on skeletons and DNA suggests that the people who settled in the Nile valley, like all of humankind, came from somewhere south of the Sahara; they were not (as some nineteenth-century scholars had supposed) invaders from the North. See Bruce G. Trigger, “The Rise of Civilization in Egypt,” Cambridge History of Africa (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982), vol I, pp 489-90; S. O. Y. Keita, “Studies and Comments on Ancient Egyptian Biological Relationships,” History in Africa 20 (1993) 129-54. (Mary Lefkowitz (1997). Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. Basic Books. pg 242) [/QB][/QUOTE]
“not surprisingly, the Egyptian skulls were not very distance from the Jebel Moya [a Neolithic site in the southern Sudan] skulls, but were much more distance from all others, including those from West Africa. Such a study suggests a closer genetic affinity between peoples in Egypt and the northern Sudan, which were close geographically and are known to have had considerable cultural contact throughout prehistory and pharaonic history… Clearly more analyses of the physical remains of ancient Egyptians need to be done using current techniques, such as those of Nancy Lovell at the University of Alberta is using in her work..” (Mary Lefkowitz)
“There is now a sufficient body of evidence from modern studies of skeletal remains to indicate that the ancient Egyptians, especially southern Egyptians, exhibited physical characteristics that are within the range of variation for ancient and modern indigenous peoples of the Sahara and tropical Africa.. In general, the inhabitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia had the greatest biological affinity to people of the Sahara and more southerly areas.” (Nancy C. Lovell, ” Egyptians, physical anthropology of,” in Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, ed. Kathryn A. Bard and Steven Blake Shubert, ( London and New York: Routledge, 1999) pp. 328-332)
“The Nubian tribute-bearers are painted in two skin tones, black and dark brown. These tones do not necessarily represent actual skin tones in real life but may serve to distinguish each tribute-bearer from the next in a row in which the figures overlap. Alternatively, the brown-skinned people may be of Nubian origin, and the black-skinned ones may be farther south (Trigger 1978, 33). The shading of skin tones in Egyptian tomb paintings, which varies considerably, may not be a certain criterion for distinguishing race. Specific symbols of ethnic identity can also vary. Identifying race in Egyptian representational art, again, is difficult to do- probably because race (as opposed to ethnic affiliation, that is, Egyptians versus all non-Egyptians) was not a criterion for differentiation used by the ancient Egyptians… (Lefkowitz)
“Overall, when the Egyptian crania are evaluated in a Near Eastern (Lachish) versus African (Kerma, Kebel Moya, Ashanti) context) the affinity is with the Africans. The Sudan and Palestine are the most appropriate comparative regions which would have ‘donated’ people, along with the Sahara and Maghreb. Archaeology validates looking to these regions for population flow (see Hassan 1988)… Egyptian groups showed less overall affinity to Palestinian and Byzantine remains than to other African series, especially Sudanese.” (Keita 1993)
“When the unlikely relationships [Indian matches] and eliminated, the Egyptian series are more similar overall to other African series than to European or Near Eastern (Byzantine or Palestinian) series.” (Keita 1993)
“Populations and cultures now found south of the desert roamed far to the north. The culture of Upper Egypt, which became dynastic Egyptian civilization, could fairly be called a Sudanese transplant.”(Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa: Their Interaction. Encyclopedia of Precolonial Africa, by Joseph O. Vogel, AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California (1997), pp. 465-472 )
“Analysis of crania is the traditional approach to assessing ancient population origins, relationships, and diversity. In studies based on anatomical traits and measurements of crania, similarities have been found between Nile Valley crania from 30,000, 20,000 and 12,000 years ago and various African remains from more recent times (see Thoma 1984; Brauer and Rimbach 1990; Angel and Kelley 1986; Keita 1993). Studies of crania from southern predynastic Egypt, from the formative period (4000-3100 B.C.), show them usually to be more similar to the crania of ancient Nubians, Kushites, Saharans, or modern groups from the Horn of Africa than to those of dynastic northern Egyptians or ancient or modern southern Europeans.”
(S. O. Y and A.J. Boyce, “The Geographical Origins and Population Relationships of Early Ancient Egyptians”, in Egypt in Africa, Theodore Celenko (ed), Indiana University Press, 1996, pp. 20-33)
“There is no archaeological, linguistic, or historical data which indicate a European or Asiatic invasion of, or migration to, the Nile Valley during First Dynasty times. Previous concepts about the origin of the First Dynasty Egyptians as being somehow external to the Nile Valley or less native are not supported by archaeology… In summary, the Abydos First Dynasty royal tomb contents reveal a notable craniometric heterogeneity. Southerners predominate. (Kieta, S. (1992) Further Studies of Crania From Ancient Northern Africa: An Analysis of Crania From First Dynasty Egyptian Tombs, Using Multiple Discriminant Functions. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 87:245-254)”
“The predominant craniometric pattern in the Abydos royal tombs is ‘southern’ (tropical African variant), and this is consistent with what would be expected based on the literature and other results (Keita, 1990). This pattern is seen in both group and unknown analyses… Archaeology and history seem to provide the most parsimonious explanation for the variation in the royal tombs at Abydos.. Tomb design suggests the presence of northerners in the south in late Nakada times (Hoffman, 1988) when the unification probably took place. Delta names are attached to some of the tombs at Abydos (Gardiner, 1961; Yurco, 1990, personal communication), thus perhaps supporting Petrie’s (1939) and Gardiner’s contention that north-south marriages were undertaken to legitimize the hegemony of the south. The courtiers of northern elites would have accompanied them.
Given all of the above, it is probably not possible to view the Abydos royal tomb sample as representative of the general southern Upper Egyptian population of the time. Southern elites and/or their descendants eventually came to be buried in the north (Hoffman, 1988). Hence early Second Dynasty kings and Djoser (Dynasty 111) (Hayes, 1953) and his descendants are not buried in Abydos. Petrie (1939) states that the Third Dynasty, buried in the north, was of Sudanese origin, but southern Egypt is equally likely. This perhaps explains Harris and Weeks’ (1973) suggested findings of southern morphologies in some Old Kingdom Giza remains, also verified in portraiture (Drake, 1987). Further study would be required to ascertain trends in the general population of both regions. The strong Sudanese affinity noted in the unknown analyses may reflect the Nubian interactions with upper Egypt in predynastic times prior to Egyptian unification (Williams, 1980,1986)…” (S. Keita (1992) Further Studies of Crania From Ancient Northern Africa: An Analysis of Crania From First Dynasty Egyptian Tombs, Using Multiple Discriminant Functions. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 87:245-254)
“When the Elephantine results were added to a broader pooling of the physical characteristics drawn from a wide geographic region which includes Africa, the Mediterranean and the Near East quite strong affinities emerge between Elephantine and populations from Nubia, supporting a strong south-north cline. (Barry Kemp. (2006) Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. p. 54)
“Distance analysis and factor analysis, based on Q-mode correlation coefficients, were applied to 23 craniofacial measurements in 1,802 recent and prehistoric crania from major geographical areas of the Old World. The major findings are as follows: 1) Australians show closer similarities to African populations than to Melanesians. 2) Recent Europeans align with East Asians, and early West Asians resemble Africans. 3) The Asian population complex with regional difference between northern and southern members is manifest. 4) Clinal variations of craniofacial features can be detected in the Afro-European region on the one hand, and Australasian and East Asian region on the other hand. 5) The craniofacial variations of major geographical groups are not necessarily consistent with their geographical distribution pattern. This may be a sign that the evolutionary divergence in craniofacial shape among recent populations of different geographical areas is of a highly limited degree. Taking all of these into account, a single origin for anatomically modern humans is the most parsimonious interpretation of the craniofacial variations presented in this study. (Hanihara T. Comparison of craniofacial features of major human groups. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1996 Mar;99(3):389-412.)
“.. all their features can be found in several living populations of East Africa, like the Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi, who are very dark skinned and differ greatly from Europeans in a number of body proportions.. There is every reason to believe that they are ancestral to the living ‘Elongated East Africans’. Neither of these populations, fossil and modern, should be considered to be closely related to the populations of Europe and western Asia.. In skin colour, the Tutsi are darker than the Hutu, in the reverse direction to that leading to the caucasoids. Lip thickness provides a similar case: on an average the lips of the Tutsi are thicker than those of the Hutu.” [Jean Hiernaux, The People of Africa (1975), pgs 42-43, 62-63)
“In sub-Saharan Africa, many anthropological characters show a wide range of population means or frequencies. In some of them, the whole world range is covered in the sub-continent. Here live the shortest and the tallest human populations, the one with the highest and the one with the lowest nose, the one with the thickest and the one with the thinnest lips in the world. In this area, the range of the average nose widths covers 92 per cent of the world range: only a narrow range of extremely low means are absent from the African record. Means for head diameters cover about 80 per cent of the world range; 60 per cent is the corresponding value for a variable once cherished by physical anthropologists, the cephalic index, or ratio of the head width to head length expressed as a percentage…..”- Jean Hiernaux, “The People of Africa” 1975 p.53, 54
“We also compare Egyptian body proportions to those of modern American Blacks and Whites… Long bone stature regression equations were then derived for each sex. Our results confirm that, although ancient Egyptians are closer in body proportion to modern American Blacks than they are to American Whites, proportions in Blacks and Egyptians are not identical… Intralimb indices are not significantly different between Egyptians and American Blacks. ..brachial indices are definitely more ‘African’… There is no evidence for significant variation in proportions among temporal or social groupings; thus, the new formulae may be broadly applicable to ancient Egyptian remains.” (“Stature estimation in ancient Egyptians: A new technique based on anatomical reconstruction of stature.” Michelle H. Raxter, Christopher B. Ruff, Ayman Azab, Moushira Erfan, Muhammad Soliman, Aly El-Sawaf, (Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008, Jun;136(2):147-55
“However, Brace et al. (1993) find that a series of upper Egyptian/Nubian epipalaeolithic crania affiliate by cluster analysis with groups they designate “sub-Saharan African” or just simply “African” (from which they incorrectly exclude the Maghreb, Sudan, and the Horn of Africa), whereas post-Badarian southern predynastic and a late dynastic northern series (called “E” or Gizeh) cluster together, and secondarily with Europeans. In the primary cluster with the Egyptian groups are also remains representing populations from the ancient Sudan and recent Somalia. Brace et al. (1993) seemingly interpret these results as indicating a population relationship from Scandinavia to the Horn of Africa, although the mechanism for this is not clearly stated; they also state that the Egyptians had no relationship with sub-Saharan Africans, a group that they nearly treat (incorrectly) as monolithic, although sometimes seemingly including Somalia, which directly undermines aspects of their claims. Sub-Saharan Africa does not define/delimit authentic Africanity.” (S.O.Y. Keita. “Early Nile Valley Farmers from El-Badari: Aboriginals or “European” Agro-Nostratic Immigrants? Craniometric Affinities Considered With Other Data”. Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 191-208 (2005)
“The Mahalanobis D2 analysis uncovered close affinities between Nubians and Egyptians. Table 3 lists the Mahalanobis D2 distance matrix… In some cases, the statistics reveal that the Egyptian samples were more similar to Nubian samples than to other Egyptian samples (e.g. Gizeh and Hesa/Biga) and vice versa (e.g. Badari and Kerma, Naqada and Christian). These relationships are further depicted in the PCO plot (Fig. 2).
The clustering of the Nubian and Egyptian samples together supports this paper’s hypothesis and demonstrates that there may be a close relationship between the two populations. This relationship is consistent with Berry and Berry (1972), among others, who noted a similarity between Nubians and Egyptians.
Both mtDNA (Krings et al., 1999) and Y-Chromosome data (Hassan et al., 2008; Keita, 2005; Lucotte and Mercier, 2003) indicate that migrations, usually bidirectional, occurred along the Nile. Thus, the osteological material used in this analysis also supports the DNA evidence.
On this basis, many have postulated that the Badarians are relatives to South African populations (Morant, 1935 G. Morant, A study of predynastic Egyptian skulls from Badari based on measurements taken by Miss BN Stoessiger and Professor DE Derry, Biometrika 27 (1935), pp. 293–309. Morant, 1935; Mukherjee et al., 1955; Irish and Konigsberg, 2007). The archaeological evidence points to this relationship as well. (Hassan, 1986) and (Hassan, 1988) noted similarities between Badarian pottery and the Neolithic Khartoum type, indicating an archaeological affinity among Badarians and Africans from more southern regions. Furthermore, like the Badarians, Naqada has also been classified with other African groups, namely the Teita (Crichton, 1996; Keita, 1990).
Nutter (1958) noted affinities between the Badarian and Naqada samples, a feature that Strouhal (1971) attributed to their skulls possessing “Negroid” traits. Keita (1992), using craniometrics, discovered that the Badarian series is distinctly different from the later Egyptian series, a conclusion that is mostly confirmed here. In the current analysis, the Badari sample more closely clusters with the Naqada sample and the Kerma sample. However, it also groups with the later pooled sample from Dynasties XVIII–XXV.
The reoccurring notation of Kerma affinities with Egyptian groups is not entirely surprising. Kerma was an integral part of the trade between Egypt and Nubia.
However, the archaeological evidence actually showed slow change in form over time (Adams, 1977) and the biological evidence demonstrated a similar trend in the skeletal data (e.g. Godde, in press; Van Gerven et al., 1977). These conclusions negate the possibility of invasion or migration causing the shifts in time periods. The results in this study are consistent with prior work; the Meroites and X-Group cluster with the remaining Nubian population and are not differentiated.
Gene flow may account for the homogeneity across these Nubian and Egyptian groups and is consistent with the biological diffusion precept. Small geographic distances between groups allow for the exchange of genes.
The similarities uncovered by this study may be explained by another force, adaptation.. resemblance may be indicative of a common adaptation to a similar geographic location, rather than gene flow
Egypt and Nubia have similar terrain and climate. Because of the similarity between and the overlapping of the two territories that would require similar adaptations to the environment, common adaptation cannot be discounted.
Gene flow appears likely between the Egyptians and Nubians, although common adaptations to a similar environment may have also been a factor in their cranial similarities. This study does not rule out the possibility that in situ biological evolution occurred at other times not represented by the samples in this analysis. “– Godde K. (2009) An Examination of Nubian and Egyptian biological distances: Support for biological diffusion or in situ development? Homo. 2009;60(5):389-404.
The analysis (also) found Rameses’ hair to be cymotrich or wavy, again a characteristic quite within the range of overall African or Nile valley physical and genetic diversity. A “pure” Nordic type of straight hair was thus not established for Rameses. Hence the notion of white Europeans or red-headed Caucasoids from other areas flowing into ancient Egypt to add hair variation is dubious. Inflows occurred during the Greek and Roman eras but reddish or brown hair is within the range of African variation. Genetic studies (Tishkoff 2009, 2000) show Africans have the highest diversity in the world. Skeletal/cranial studies confirm the pattern. Relethford (2001) shows that “.. methods for estimating regional diversity show sub-Saharan Africa to have the highest levels of phenotypic variation, consistent with many genetic studies.” (Relethford, John “Global Analysis of Regional Differences in Craniometric Diversity and Population Substructure”. Human Biology – Volume 73, Number 5, October 2001, pp. 629-636) Hanihara 2003 notes that [significant] “..intraregional diversity are present in Subsaharan Africans..” While ancient Egypt had gene flow in various eras, hair variations easily fall under this pattern of built-in, indigenous diversity, as well as the above noted cultural practice of using wigs with hair from different places obtained through trade.
Okay, iam(NOT!)egyptian. Okay, alt-righters. Okay, Dr. Haw-ass. Choke on that you fat motherfucker.
I wasn’t so sure if I needed to write anything concerning Prince’s life and death, since I felt everything I wanted to say concerning the man had already been said by so many others, and probably better than anything I could reasonably attempt. When I found out about it, I was deeply disturbed by it.
To start with, I was never a fan of his music. At all. He did not operate in my idiom, and still does not. I am a jazz, ragtime, blues and (sometimes) gospel head. I would rather listen to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto than Raspberry Beret, which frankly, I can’t stand. I remember Prince all too well. When he was at his height in the mid-eighties he was also at his most commercial and accessible with hits like 1999, Purple Rain and Kiss. I thought he was very campy and over-the-top.Me and my friends used to make fun of him while most of us dug his music…yet slyly, I found something strangely moving in his music, especially Purple Rain.
All of this is coming from someone who hated 80s music and 80s culture with a passion when he was growing up. And still does, when I think back on it. For it was in the Eighties that I decided to become a writer, a radical and a bohemian. I have not changed.
Many people who never lived through that MTV nightmare called the eighties thinks it was a wonderful time. It was not. Of course seen in retrospect the eighties was a hell of a lot more creative and off-beat than today’s decade. But that isn’t saying much. We have simply fallen so far down the toilet historically and culturally speaking that the Eighties, in retrospect, seems like a cultural height.
May I repeat: it was not.
Personally, I would prefer not to relive the eighties. The music was brittle. The clothes were ugly. The art was nasty. Sex was AIDS and drugs were crack. Politics was even grosser than usual. –Stephen Marche, GQ Magazine, June 10, 2010
You had to have been there, I guess, to see what an ugly, shallow, racist, marginalizing scene it really was. I guess you needed to have a bit of melanin in your skin, too. Celebrities said things on national television that they would not dare say now. Islamophobia? It was normal. Nobody thought anything about it.
The Eighties: described once by Stephen Marche as “the shittiest of decades,” in which the “music was brittle” and the “art was nasty.” All true. Totally true. And the reverse–“the art was brittle and the music was nasty”–summed up the 80s culture even more so. Romeo Void? Please. The late David Bowie? China Girl, Dancing with the Big Boys, etc. etc. Sorry sir, you’re time was up c. 1977 or so. Wham!? Fuck you. Duran Duran? Cyndi Lauper? Boy George and the Culture Club (and all that other slop from England)? Miles Davis’ inauspicious comeback doing some seriously light-weight things in contrast to even his seventies experiments? Art of Noise? UTFO? Ice T? NWA, the negro nightmare that spawned an entire generation of jungle-bunny chest-beating bojangling sambo thugs? Or Ghostbusters, The Other Woman (Ray Parker Jr.–no offense, but I could not stand this motherfucker’s music, not one track: from Jack and Jill to The Other Woman to Ghostbusters, it was so corny that (to quote Mezz Mezzrow) the husks were still on that shit). To think that many people think this shit is hip literally makes me cringe, though it shouldn’t: many people get off on being whipped and shitted on, so what can I say?
The Eighties wasn’t simply the Reagan Era, or the MTV Era, or what the hell have you: it was the age of AIDS. Born in 1967, I remember rubbing my hands with glee at the thought of joining the still-ongoing sexual revolution of 1980-3…and being bitterly disheartened to watch the country to an about-face when it came to carnality in the proceeding years. The freewheeling sexual revolution (which probably never even existed outside of TV and movies and songs) dried up like old prunes, and horny young men like me were left with less than the crumbs from what we imagined was a sexual feast. Mini-skirts were back in but thanks to this hysterically inflated AIDS scare, they didn’t mean shit. According to its creator, Mary Quant, the mini-skirt represented precisely sexual liberation. In the 80s and beyond the mini-skirt represented nothing but a huge middle-finger to those of us who’d hoped we could have some sixties sunshine.
Michael Jackson. Yes, his death was disturbing, a shock, but one could see it coming; it was just a question of when: would he make it his life’s goal to make himself back into a black man again, I often thought. Michael was universally worshiped and reviled by the same jackasses that made him into a god. But Michael Jackson was corny. Michael seemed, at least, a safely packaged little black eunuch for the masses of people everywhere to drool over–a perpetual Toys R Us kid, the man from Neverland, who never wanted to grow up and subsequently became idolized just for that specific reason, in my opinion: here was a black superstar who seemed not to have any balls, basically safe and tame, until he was suspected of sniffing up young white boy’s butts.
Prince, on the other hand, was a spade of another color. Only an inspired lunatic like Prince Rogers Nelson would dare to walk out on stage with his goddamn hair fried (wearing conks was not exactly popular among black men in the seventies), and with a perm and eyeliner that made him look like a Cuban transsexual. And on top of that, huge hooped earrings, a g-string, fishnet stockings, and spin-off bands like Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6 prancing about on stage singing Sex Shooter and Nasty Girl: the music was not great, but I dug the message. I, who went to an uptight Catholic parochial school, where girls were non-existent, where teachers tried to instruct us on the evils of masturbation, “fornication” and the terror of looking into Playboy and getting sexually aroused and where half the fucking school, it seemed, was on the down-low. When my fellow students tried grabbing my crotch or touching my thighs, I naively thought that this was something that also went on in sexually integrated high schools. It didn’t.
Prince was the only pop idol I recall from that time who, even remotely, had a healthy slant on sex.* With Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson, UTFO and the lot, sex seemed shrouded with the usual American hangups. With Prince it was different. Sex was not evil; it was good, it was healthy. It was a reason for being-in-the-world. Prince sang about erotic cities and I began to dream of Berlin and Bangkok. The square popsters tipped their hats to the AIDS hysteria and sang “That’s What Friends are For”; Prince responded with “Erotic City,” “Kiss” and “Jack U Off.” Subconsciously Prince shaped many of my attitudes toward sexuality, along with Burroughs and Henry Miller. Subconsciously I developed a begrudging admiration for Prince. Prince was one of the few pop idols who I found to be a hepcat in disguise. Maybe he was not too hip in my cynical adolescent eyes–Miles, Duke, Louis, Fletcher Henderson, Charlie Parker, Hawkins, etc. were and still are my musical idols–but even within the brittle nastiness of eighties synth-driven junk music I could still sense Prince as head and shoulders above the majority of them. One could feel his music. Prince put 101 percent into virtually everything he put out.
Even I could not be sure if I really hated Let’s go Crazy or not. I did not “like” it, in the same way that I so obviously liked Potato Head Blues or Shanghai Shuffle. But I knew I didn’t hate it. in fact it was a relief to my ears after the synth-driven cacophony of Art of Noise or Wham or Men at Work or Romeo Void or some other asshole New Wave shit band–after hour upon hour of hysterically overwrought lyrics and shitty melodies, and almost always backed up by some hideously squawking saxophone: some were so bad they sounded like busted kazoos. Not Prince. Even “When Doves Cry” was like a mild balm to my ears. And I could listen to Purple Rain without sneering because I heard something in his music that I didn’t hear in Wham!: humanity.
You don’t have to like any form of music to hear the humanity in it. Hopefully, the humanity in music and art forms that are not to our taste can lead us to listen a little harder, not dismiss it outright because it uses chord changes that we are not familiar with, because it is in a style we are prone to sneer at, because it is pop music and may well be shot through with silliness and artifice. Sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we are obliged to look and listen past what appears on the surface. With Prince’s music, this is possible. One can NOT say the same for most of Michael Jackson’s work. Unlike Michael Jackson, Prince, even at his most tasteless, mediocre and meretricious, was never corny. Even those songs of his I despise the most are never corny. My ear for music is fairly sharp; I can compose music myself.
Ironically Prince hit his musical peak long after the party died down: say, mid-1990s, when he got fed up with picking Warner Brother’s cotton and scrawled slave on his face–just to let everybody know that the big media party of the previous decade (Graffiti Bridge, Cherry Moon and Purple Rain) was not nearly as fancy-free as MTV made it out to be. For a time he even got rid of his name.
No popular music figure I knew of in that culturally benighted decade–not even the old warhorse Miles Davis, reduced to rehashing Cyndi Lauper and a few of MJ’s less cheesy pieces–could hold a candle to Prince. Prince stood for something else besides the music. As I said, the man did not give a damn what other people thought about him. No man today, let alone a black man, could get away with such shameless gender-bending (and apparently just for the sheer hell of it, since Mr. Nelson was apparently straight). Oh, no. Minstrel rap performers today take great pains to let you know they are “no homo,” to the point where the idiotic phrase has entered the vocabulary. The phrase is as much an insult to heteros as it is to “homos”: if you really weren’t a fucking “homo” you would not need to obsessively remind everyone that you are not. The sexual insecurities of today’s rap-tards is getting old already. They should be lucky enough to live in an age where nobody shits their pants in fear at the sight of a bare buttock. For when I was turning eighteen, today’s crude, ugly parade of mafia strip-club sexuality was unthinkable; a Nicki Minaj or a Lil Kim or Foxy Brown or Miley Cyrus was equally out of the question.
And like Jimi Hendrix, an obvious influence, Prince was very much in the tradition of African-American music. He could play the blues. He was no B.B. King but by my ear he’s authentic and If I Had a Harem is in the sexual boasting tradition (“I got 49 women and only need one more”). In fact his signature tune “Purple Rain” is a mere re-working and updating of two old tunes: “Blueberry Hill” and the traditional “Bucket’s Got A Hole In It”. It takes careful listening, of course, to hear that the chord progressions between these three tunes are nearly identical. Prince in fact operated in the shadows of Jimi, Sly Stone, Little Richard, Esquerita, Cab Calloway, all the way back to old-timers such as Frankie “Half-Pint” Jackson, and possibly even Jelly Roll Morton, Tony Jackson and Louis Chauvin, the three masters of whorehouse piano. So maybe this is why, unlike when I heard of the death of Michael Jackson, I felt deeply troubled that this scrawny little high-yellow kid from Minneapolis, who set the whole musical world on its ear for four decades, ended his life on the floor of an elevator, sick and all by himself. When it is all over, and people stop painting their asses purple in heart-felt tributes to Prince (he has already been cremated!), we will go back to wringing our hands over talentless assholes like Kanye West or Miss Sticky-Fingers Minaj and her escort-service antics. (As I write this, the media is pissing all over themselves about Justin Bieber’s dick–Justin Bieber, the talentless little bimbo-boy who can’t write or sing a decent line about anything–not even himself:
“This past Tuesday night before my show I was picking out an outfit…I was so tired from the past week of endless traveling and gigging that I grabbed my Prince shirt and said fuck it I’m gonna channel the purple one tonight…I didn’t shower after the gig out of pure exhaustion…I went to sleep in that shirt and then I wore it again all day yesterday…today waking up to this news I am truly beside myself…devastated…the last of the greatest living performers…my guitar idol…his connection to ALL his instruments yielded a sexual transcending aura and the world is just less fucking cool without him walking on it… ‘Electric word life — It means forever and that’s a mighty long time — But I’m here to tell you — There’s something else… The after world’ #RIPPRINCE,” Andrew wrote on Instagram April 21.
Sadly, I have to report that Justin Bieber is alive and well and still churning out corny hit tunes like his pals Kanye, Jay Z, Miley Cyrus and all the rest of them. Vanity, who never had much talent, yet oozed a sensuality and eroticism that Miss Kay’s cakes can’t even touch, is dead, too. Mercifully, however, so is the brain-dead and thoughtless Eighties, where no one dared say what they really thought about America’s endless problems. I am starting to feel old. But not that old.
*Sorry, George Michael, but I Want Your Sex didn’t quite cut it.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN KONCH MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2013, under PHILIP HENDERSON.
“Home” was a one-room, 35 square meter sublet on Hasenheide. From the outside it looked fairly glamorous; the walkway was lined with stately tenement houses, old-fashioned gas lamps, and chestnut trees. The marvelous 19th century Südstern cathedral was within close walking distance; overall the ambience was one of understated Gothic elegance.
From inside the flat was cursed with dim lighting, a non-existent kitchen, and faulty electrical wiring. “Fire hazard” was an understatement. The cheap Ikea bed was right next to the table on which I feverishly worked, digging myself deeper into an aesthetic hole. The “bathroom,” if one could call it a “bathroom,” was just a cheap shower stall with a toilet jammed next to it. Hot water was non-existent. The toilet itself was one of those horrible things with a built-in porcelain plank in place of the watery hole—one in which you could not only see your shit, but smell it, too.
Two years ago, I found myself stuck in this Kreuzberg hole with a disappointing realization. I had hoped for the better of three years that things would improve, that my financial fortunes would turn around, and that I would finally meet somebody special—the last being one of the main reasons why I came to this city. The realization was that—unfortunately, and for the foreseeable future—none of this was going to happen.
And another realization: that aside from an unfinished (and unfinishable) novel I had nothing to show for my being in Berlin.
It sounds like a corny cliché—just like something that would have happened anywhere else in the world, to anybody else—maybe in Paris, or even Harlem, where I originally wished to live. It was not heartening to know that in Harlem or Paris a flat similar to mine would have gone for four times its going price. Payday had been dragged out for over a week, and when I last checked my bank account, I had considerably less than the 420 euro it cost to rent it per month.
Nothing else that I had planned, either in my art or my writing, had been completed. I did not write a single one of the short stories I imagined I would write. My play—if you could call it a “play”—did not get beyond the basic sketch. There were a few minor poems, and a larger one that had just been published earlier that year; it turned out so far to be my only publication in Germany. The unfinished morass of a novel I had been slaving on for over five years.
Today, my situation is the same; only the dwelling has changed. It is considerably larger, yet considerably older, too. The bathroom is better constructed, although ice-cold in winter time (the flat is coal-heated). The rent is less than half of the old dwelling. My novel, thank God, is finished. But there is no publisher in sight, and absolutely no money to my name.
Even by the sorry standards of my expat friends, my case may be somewhat extreme. I can’t say for certain that I was “happy” to be in the hole. But I was certainly glad I was there, and not in a youth hostel—or, worse, back home in Maryland. I came to Berlin because I found it impossible to function there as an artist and an individual. In the U.S., in spite of having won an American Book Award I had the nagging suspicion that my ambitions were misguided, that I was devoting my life to a false vocation. “Real people” didn’t do art: they pushed papers in an office or, at least, lawnmowers. In America, real artists don’t need to be censored or imprisoned, because no one ever sees us. In Berlin—so we believe—people like ourselves are an integral part of the city’s cultural life. Although this notion is certainly open to doubt, it is true that Berlin as a rule is more congenial to the artist than New York, or Los Angeles. Rents are significantly lower than anywhere in New York or Los Angeles. Crime is also significantly lower, as is the police presence; one can walk most streets at any time of the day or night without fear of being killed.
For an African American expat—especially for one coming from a crude, philistine “urban” America—this may sound especially appealing. Adventuresome U.S. black artists must be surfeited with America’s overwhelming social problems, its lingering racism, its adolescent notions of “authentic blackness” gleamed from Hollywood and hip-hop; Berlin may well offer these artists a way out of such mindlessness. The space to create, to broaden one’s mind, to meet with other like-minded souls from all walks of life, still exists here—it has been eradicated in New York—and for that one can be thankful for the existence of Berlin. But unless one is already well-established upon coming here, financially or otherwise, the poverty and neglect one will face will not necessarily be less than that which one is already experiencing say, in New York, or Los Angeles.
In America, real artists don’t need to be censored or imprisoned, because no one ever sees us.
Naturally, one doesn’t think of such things in the very beginning. One is taken away by the euphoria of merely being in Berlin, of being free to take off one’s masks, to dress, walk, talk, or simply be any way one wishes. Now—unlike the South Bronx—you can walk the streets without perpetually looking over your shoulder for a thug, or cop, or both. Now you are free to seek out all those thousands and thousands of like-minded spirits who are said to be congregating in the innumerable bars, cafes, and bookshops across the city. You have been warned about the Neo-Nazis but you already know not to go too far out East. All the action, anyway, is in “Kreuzkolln,” a vague geographical sliver encompassing Kottbusser Damm, Mariannenstrasse, Planufer, and other connecting streets. And among the crowds of young students at the terraces and bridges are, mercifully, faces of color. You hear Spanish spoken—not merely the Spanish of Spain but also of Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. And naturally, you hear American English—not merely that of American whites, but also, if one listens further, of American blacks. The scenery—most notably, around Chamissoplatz—makes you wonder just what it was you saw in Brooklyn. The buildings’ fancy façade work puts to shame everything you had ever seen in Boston or Philly. The upright street lamps are, indeed, gas lit. The streets are largely cobbled; the corner bar, which evokes in Americans many romantic notions of Europe, still exists. And of course there is an abundance of alcohol (which no one minds drinking out in the open), drugs (one can smell it wafting through the air of various Kreuzberg streets), and sex: love affairs of all kinds proliferate, prostitution is legal, and as the back-pages of Bild or B.Z. amply illustrate, anything one would want is literally available, for a price. There are galleries opening up, readings in abundance, and hoards of buskers—most of them “gypsies” from Romania or Bulgaria, whose jaunty music fills the summer air with the rhythmic blasting of horns and drums. (And as in virtually every other Continental nation, they are perceived as a menace.)
The first scale to fall from one’s eyes may take some time. You are too busy ambling along the streets of your new neighborhood, enjoying your new sublet or—if you are lucky—your new flat. While filling it up with furniture, or picking up stuff shipped over from the U.S., you notice that the faces of the employees at Postbank or DHL do not necessarily correspond to those in your neighborhood. Of course, one could have seen this the moment one’s plane landed in Tegel. There are no faces of color working on the tarmac; exceedingly few ones exist behind the desks at the airport. Berliners have found it easier to put colored faces on a poster than in any position where they may wield influence, or even, for that matter, earn a living wage. So far I have personally counted exactly six black bus drivers and about twice as many Turkish ones; there may be Asian bus drivers, I have yet to see them. (I have counted about two Asian cab drivers.) Black, brown and yellow faces are equally difficult to find behind cash registers in Kaisers and near non-existent in Aldi, Netto, Reichelt and other Berlin grocery stores and shopping outlets. There are exceedingly few transit employees or construction workers who are black, brown or yellow and virtually no black, brown or yellow cops, no black, brown or yellow executives, and no black brown or yellow faces in the halls of so-called Berlin culture. In virtually every respect—right down to Germany’s conspicuous lack of adequate civil rights legislation—Berlin reminds one unpleasantly of America fifty years ago.
Personally, I have no illusions as to what Berliners think of blacks—I had been to Berlin before taking up residence here, and have heard “nigger” used more frequently on these streets than in Richmond, Virginia. I have had confrontations with Nazi scum, as well as Turks, Arabs or Africans who despise black Americans. One doesn’t come to Berlin to escape the overwhelming racial tension that exists in, say, New York, the way that black expats came to Paris to escape the overwhelming tension of pre-Civil Rights America; one comes because one imagines it’s better to simmer in the German pot than to roast in the American fire.
Yet to simmer in the pot still means you are being cooked. The cooking is slower, more leisurely, but the end results are the same. James Baldwin wrote that the “weight” of New York City was “murderous.” Berlin’s weight seems lighter in the beginning—before you realize just how difficult it is for a foreigner to get a permanent flat in this extremely xenophobic city; before you realize that, even for Germans, jobs are impossible to come by, or before you have ever experienced winter-time Berlin: the longer one prolongs his stay in this city, the closer one gets to the unsettling truth about the city’s true spirit. “There’s a bold breed of people living in Berlin,” Goethe has written, “for whom delicacy means little. One must have hair on one’s teeth and be a little rough sometimes in order to keep one’s head above water (Goethe 127).”
Berlin is not a new Prague, let alone a new Paris. Berlin’s equivalents of Paris’s old Left Bank, Montparnasse or Montmartre don’t really exist. Paris, like Berlin, is a Northern city, yet with a distinctively Latin flair; Berlin’s Prussian hauteur is leavened with Yankee silliness and Slavic spunk. The names of some city boroughs (“Treptow,” “Pankow,” “Stralau”) and streets (Paul-Robeson Strasse) bear this out—even the very name Berlin itself; contrary to local lore it does not mean “Bear” but “swamp” in an old Slavic tongue. Perhaps this is no accident, for spiritually Berlin bears all the hallmarks of a human swamp: full of crabby people, constantly snapping at each other and pulling one another down to the same mean level.
One can sense this during any time of the year—certainly during the summer, when the celebrated Kufurstendamm fills up with the most obnoxious tourists in Western Europe. Yet even the sheer vulgarity of a Berlin summer is no match for the unspeakably raw meanness of a Berlin winter. It is not just the brusqueness in so many Berliners taking on a harsher edge, or even the Berliners bringing your own ugliness out of you. It is—as Henry Miller once wrote in Tropic of Cancer about Paris’s cold spells—a winter of the soul. Ernst Jünger, writing to Gottfried Benn said emphatically “one simply cannot be healthy” here. Elias Canetti also writes, in his autobiography, “… (H)ow quickly Berlin used up people. Anyone who didn’t know how to arrange things for himself was doomed….If you had awakened to your own animality before coming here, you had to increase it in order to hold out against the animality of other people; and if you weren’t very strong, you were soon used up (Canetti 294).”
One does have the feeling here that one is perpetually navigating through a vast, unruly jungle. Berlin does not have a spectacularly high homicide rate like, say, Detroit, or Moscow, or even a moderately high one like London or Madrid. Gun possession is relatively rare; what homicides do occur happen usually with a knife, or a club. Berlin has more understated ways of destroying an individual; its weapon of choice is apathy.
Passive-aggression is another. Recently neo-Nazis marched in the very heart of Kreuzberg, beating and stomping anything that wasn’t white. Locals certainly saw the march coming; few, however, cared enough to prevent it. Nazis had even gathered in heavily-Turkish Hermannplatz (which also has a considerable number of blacks) with little or no opposition. My guess is that the residents of “Kreuzkolln,” so called, thought themselves too cool, hip and “sophisticated” to bother with trivial things like violent racist attacks. (By contrast, the planned Nazi march in ultra-square Leipzig was quashed: anti-Nazi demonstrators prevented them from exiting the train.)
Berliners have found it easier to put colored faces on a poster than in any position where they may wield influence, or even, for that matter, earn a living wage.
It is this utter incivility and moral chaos—however low-key—that inevitably leads to bitter disillusionment. We had naively hoped the city would provide a refuge from the sickening vulgarity of Boston, or Baltimore, or Birmingham. Unfortunately Berlin’s boroughs have no shortage of philistines; in fact they tend to be in the majority, particularly in the impoverished East. Two years ago, or even six months ago, one might have blandly accepted these flaws as a part of Berlin’s local color. Now they are simply a major headache. Berliner “Schnauze”—the churlishness of a parochial people stuck in the 19th century—is as ubiquitous and hopelessly ineradicable as the bad weather, bad food and dog shit. We realize this after living in their dingy flats and riding the U-Bahn with them; shopping alongside them in Karstadt, Kaisers, Kaufland, and other stores; barhopping along Bergmannstrasse, Oranienstrasse, Prenzlauer Allee, and other so-called “bohemian” streets. And we begin to note details about local life that we, in our earlier enthusiasm, overlooked. You note that the next door neighbor who has seen you come and go for years has yet to acknowledge your presence; or that people of color in Berlin—perhaps more so than any other city in Europe—generally tend to avoid each other. You also note the Turkish kids hanging on the corner, perennially unemployed, dressed in fashions copied precisely from Jersey Shore, the popular reality TV show; you also note that too many seem to have copied precisely Italian-American racism. You see, of all things, “darky donuts” offered at the local bakery; you see the bullet-holes still in the dainty facades, the U-Bahn rails eternally under repair, the overabundance of broken glass, the ugly graffiti scrawled everywhere, the indescribable rudeness of store clerks and metro workers, the trash cans either burned or haphazardly opened by bored teens. In Ernst-Reuter Platz, a well-known comedian has a “political” poster of himself—in blackface. And above the old-time gas lamps, new NPD posters we never paid much attention to screaming for racial purity, promising to fly the “niggers” home on a carpet or, God forbid, “GAS geben!!”
It gets worse. There are the everyday events, the absurd happenings that occur anywhere but somehow shock deeper when they happen here. Coming out of the Yorckstrasse S-Bahn one night, ones eyes follow a trail of splattered blood all the way down the stairs to an ambulance outside, where an obese man lay inside with a knife buried in his chest. A confrontation in a Kaiser’s on trendy Bergmannstrasse one night ends with a man being hurled physically out of the store and into a woman on a bike, who strikes her head on a curb. In another Kaiser’s, a “wigger” wanna-be roughly kicks your roller bag and shouts obscenities at you—for kicks. You board a bus from Gesundbrunnen back to Kreuzberg one happy night and run into the most virulent Spanish fascists. A woman walks down the street on a clear spring day with a radiant smile on her model’s face which, shockingly enough, has been scarred with a razor blade. A friend of yours—a twenty-something white guy from Minnesota—comes to Berlin to be a writer and performance artist and winds up shooting heroin; another friend, German-Turkish, born into a high station in life (his father is quite wealthy and living in Sydney) nevertheless finds violent crime as his only recourse for securing the funds to complete his education. And yet another—a cheeky, twenty-something Latina from Seattle who also wished to be a writer and to taste Berlin’s “outré” vibe—wound up getting brutally stomped by her German boyfriend in front of all their friends who, not surprisingly, were also German. (Their “friends” simply sat and watched.) This is, unfortunately, but the tip of the iceberg, and not to make mention of your German friends who simply turned up dead one day in the bathtub or on the toilet bowl, having been burnt out by their own excesses, or simply years of hard-ship and scuffling.
Yes, it’s true. Berlin has its own ugliness which often rivals—and sometimes surpasses—that of the cities and towns we fled. We realize now that its streets and allees offer no true liberation of the spirit. This very flat city—much unlike Paris, or even Prague—does have its romanticism in choice areas (like Chamissoplatz, for example) but even these somehow unsettle with a bombastic glumness. It is not obscene and foreboding like New York so often is, but something cold and Gothic, sinister as a haunted house; it precipitates a certain unease in the spirit. Paris (according to rather unsubstantiated rumors) was a city of romance; Berlin, a city of cheap, tawdry sex, is where romance comes to die.
Naturally one’s resentment towards the city grows in proportion to one’s increasing awareness of its all too obvious flaws. And the main target of our exasperation will not be what we imagined we had escaped, but very thing we came here to embrace. Berlin’s much-touted “bohemia,” as it turns out, is an insufferable fraud, a mere middle-class pastiche. We were fooled by the proliferation of café terraces along Kreuzberg’s Bergmannstrasse or Oranienstrasse, or Prenzlauer Berg’s infamous Schonhauser Allee; the infestation of loud bars along Wiener Strasse, or the rash of hippies in Gorlitzer Park, where the stench of dope is stronger than the exhaust fumes. The truth is that where Paris had its Picassos, its Henry Millers, Chester Himes’s, Milan Kunderas and James Baldwins, Berlin merely has snarky, thinly talented young “hipsters” from Williamsburg. There are rare exceptions, of course, but nearly all of these new “artists” are white, over-privileged, thoroughly middle-class and thoroughly reactionary. The “Ex-Berliner,” a ridiculous rag which recently ran an article about a bike thief from Detroit (!), exemplifies what these privileged buffoons imagine “culture” to be. Few of its writers or artists would make the grade anywhere else outside of Berlin—not even in Williamsburg.
Add to this an unrelenting stream of German yuppies from Swabia (Germany’s Rhode Island) and Bavaria (Germany’s Texas), and you have a Berlin today that scarcely resembles the Berlin of even five years ago. German, Scandinavian, and Irish yuppies above all eroded the true bohemian spirit of 1990s Berlin, by buying most of the decaying flats and tenements in which this bohemia flourished. (In Kreuzberg, they were often bought from Turkish owners eager to sell their property and return to Turkey as wealthy men, rather than continue to live marginalized lives in a country that despised them.) Kreuzberg’s new bourgeois residents wished their new kiez to resemble their hometowns of Baden-Baden, Ulm or Ulster as much as possible. One by one, the notorious Berlin squats of the 1980s were killed off, sometimes violently; punk clubs began to wither and die, or—like Schokoladen—forced to clean up their outré acts.
And unfortunately, the cultural and political outlook of these new yuppie residents is no different than that of Ronald Reagan. It is bitter (saying you are a person of color) to walk along Bergmannstrasse and Oranienstrasse, not to mention Prenzlauer Allee, and watch them snatching their purses away, or hastily locking their car doors, or to overhear disparaging remarks about your race, or “auslanders” in general. It is nauseating to enter a reception in some supposedly “hip” neighborhood in Berlin and find oneself a source of amusement or contempt. It is nauseating to have to sit at a döner shop and endure the scornful stares of Germans and Turks alike. One can only build up a tolerance for such rubbish by developing a skin as thick as an elephant’s hide. Or do what so many other people of color do to survive in Berlin: forget you ever heard or saw it, or simply get drunk.
Of course, the typical Berliner Schnauze answer to the above dilemma would be curt and simple: why stay if you don’t like it? And, above all: why did you even bother to come, if you don’t like it? I know I am expected to answer such questions, which after all are posed by people who assume that it is acceptable to treat others with contempt—simply because they happen to be outsiders, moreover, of a different hue. For me, the questions are moot: given Germany’s history, and given that racial tolerance in Berlin was considerably higher before the collapse of the Wall, one need not answer them. A better question would be: where in hell is Berlin’s legendary Left when it comes to dealing with gentrification and rampant racial discrimination?
The truth is that Berlin’s so-called “leftists” have done nothing but waste a lot of words about “yuppie scum” and “revolution” while allowing this same “yuppie scum” to buy them out of their neighborhoods. On the other hand they’ve burned a good deal of trash cans during Berlin’s traditional May Day riots—a kind of political Mardi Gras where the alienated and frustrated let off steam for a day. Ideally, they should have been more tenacious in their resistance to yuppie incursions; burning their cars or, better yet, kicking their behinds would have helped (if they truly were as “leftist” or “radical” as they claimed they were). But that would have required of the Berlin left a political integrity they never truly possessed.
Nonetheless, Berlin’s true Bohemia is still very much alive. Truthfully it is mostly a musician’s bohemia, a direct carryover from the Paris expatriate jazz scene of the forties, fifties and sixties. Some of these musicians are undoubtedly brilliant, even geniuses, which is all the more shameful to see them—after so many years—reduced to playing in the street, or still passing the hat in fifth-rate watering holes, still playing the same trite arrangements of “Summertime” or “Mustang Sally” and, needless to say, completely unknown outside of Berlin. The sordid details about their everyday lives—drugs, drinking, infighting, arguments, the failed and failing relationships with lovers and spouses, the constant withering of old friendships and partnerships, the hot air about new projects that usually comes to nothing—I won’t mention here.
Any artist here serious about creating must be prepared to build another Berlin Wall—around oneself.
The rest of this bohemia is typically in dire straits. There are street performers, many from Spain, Italy, the United States, and Latin America, who have found it more lucrative to deal directly with the crowd than to slog it out on stage. There are actors, acrobats and dancers of all persuasions, a few whom are known, most of whom are not. There are painters here, who—unless they have gained a degree of fame from outside—do not fare particularly well; even street artists fare poorly here compared to other cities. (However, this is understandable in light of Berlin’s obvious material poverty.) Most of the new fly-by-night galleries feature new art that is less than mediocre: color Xeroxes of donuts, cassette tapes (which I have actually seen in Neukölln), and other junk referencing the bored, cushioned lives of Berlin’s art hipsters. The situation for writers is scarcely better. From this writer’s perspective the scene was far more lively and open in the late 90s when, according to the late Erich Maas, “a lot of second-rate artists (were) fucking around on the scene.” Unfortunately, it has worsened: the second-raters have become a new Berlin literary establishment, cranking out hermetic little poems and short stories about—you guessed it—the lives of the bored and cushioned. (Anybody who writes of anything else is routinely marginalized.) There is no “writer’s district;” though tiny, picturesque Friedenau once boasted the likes of Günter Grass, Uwe Johnson and Rainer Maria Rilke, they can hardly be found there today.
Berlin’s appreciation of the schriftsteller is a mere two steps above New York City. I believe this is only because Berlin does not have a Madison Avenue culture that thoroughly marginalizes writers. One thing you quickly realize is that you are not respected more because “schriftsteller” is scrawled into your visa—so long as you don’t write in German, of course. German audiences at German literary institutions generally ignore the speaker if the reading is not in German—this regardless of whether or not they can understand English; their ingrained chauvinism prevents them from even acknowledging your presence. It is made uglier by an equally ingrained cultural arrogance—the German audience pretends it knows more about the reality of the auslander than the auslander knows about his, or hers.
And there are virtually no publications that take good writers seriously. A few very small magazines (such as Sand) have appeared, all too briefly, and disappeared through lack of funding or interest. The Ex-Berliner doesn’t count; their “writer’s series,” hosted at Kaffee Burger is limited to the usual quirky Rick Moody schlock, with as much depth and taste as a soy bean café latte. And unless they are grinning exotics from Martinique or Zimbabwe—something charming, humorous, and above all, irrelevant—black writers are generally ignored.
However, I think it is still possible to actually create in Berlin. The aspiring artist will note that the French flaneur tradition can still work here, for there is certainly a lot to observe, much of it amusing, more of it tragic and ridiculous. (Berlin, above all, is a city of grotesques.) Such a person will not be held in much regard by Berliners (who don’t seem to hold much of anything in regard) but at least, one won’t be so relentlessly questioned by landlords as to one’s ability to pay; nor are the police going to stop and question you, as they might do in modern-day Manhattan. Nor are your friends as inclined to drag you through the coals for your not having a job—most likely your friends themselves won’t have jobs—for being on Hartz-4 in Berlin does not quite carry the same social sting as Welfare does in the United States. (Many years ago, on the super-hip, super-swinging Lower East Side, I casually admitted to being “lazy” to a friend of mine, an art dealer, who had spent a good deal of time in Berlin before the Wall collapsed. His response was typical of a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. “Lazy!?” he shouted in my face. “Why the fuck would you even SAY such a thing? Don’t you know other people have to get up to work in the morning?”)
And yet—in the 22 years since the Wall has collapsed—there have been absolutely no artistic movements in Berlin. In fact there has been in the main a serious shortage of genuinely challenging, groundbreaking Berlin art. A probable cause for this began to dawn on me, shortly after my seventh or eighth trek to the city, after I had settled into an apartment in a cozier, quieter section of Kreuzberg. I found myself unable to produce anything of any real value my entire time there. Maybe it was because, having recently left America, I needed a necessary “time of isolation” to start seeing the world through my own eyes again, and not those of my family, friends, or CNN. Yet just the same, I felt (in spite of my relative ease) somehow distracted by my new surroundings, the readings and concerts I felt obliged to attend, the parties I felt obliged to crash, the lure of too much wine, weed and of course, too many dates with too many needy women. Any artist here serious about creating must be prepared to build another Berlin Wall—around oneself.
But there are more concrete causes for Berlin’s artistic stasis. Aside from the chronic laziness and lack of focus on the part of their artists, Berliners are simply disinterested. This cheeky, inward-looking, blue-collar bunch is simply not keen on seeing all these foreigners in their city, invading their corner pubs and occupying their apartment houses. Whatever they think of art in general, they really do not care at all to hear some spade woodshedding on violin or piano or tenor sax, or some spic typing away in a third-floor, one-room wohnung he managed to sublet from a German. Berlin is keen on one thing only—gentrifying: gentrification meaning corporations who can pump money into a city which remains, after all, very poor by Western standards. The rents are low for a reason, of course. The unemployment rate stands at a sobering 25%. The hoards of junkies congregating at Kottbusser Tor, the drunks gathering at Viktoria Park and Hallesches Tor station are also there for a reason. They are Berlin’s “block boys,” as are the gel-haired, leather-jacketed, uptight Turkish youth, who kill time on street corners, in internet cafes and hookah bars. Most of them collect Hartz-4 or Arbeitslosengeld. Corporations, not third-rate artists, bring in cash; so does mass tourism, which means that Berlin’s image must be scrubbed squeaky clean. Bergmannstrasse has become indistinguishable from any East Village avenue. Dunckerstrasse, once the center of East Berlin’s radical culture, looks like any street in Georgetown, District of Columbia. The club scene has also significantly deteriorated. People with brains generally avoid Yorckschlössen and similar clubs, leaving them to ugly, middle-aged tourists (or ugly, middle-aged Germans). Night after night, one hears nothing but the same junk played by the same lazy musicians, largely ex-military blacks, who have been clowning since 1980. The night-club owners are largely to blame for the situation; they should be put in the dockets at Nuremburg. After all, who in one’s right mind wants to hear “Summertime” played until one can’t even see?
The yuppie, of course, wishes to hear nothing. He doesn’t need a “night club”; he can listen to his iPod and stay at home, or in his Mercedes. So inevitably the clubs will shrivel up and die. Yuppies don’t want any “scenes,” any wild punks, any bohos. And as the city grows more gentrified, the former punk/bohemian centers are forced to uproot themselves (along with people of color, now currently pouring into Berlin at unprecedented rate) to Wedding; and when Wedding shows signs of gentrification, possibly to Adlershof, or Lichtenberg. And of course, it won’t end there.
So it dawns on you that Berlin—in spite of its having saved your ass—is merely a stepping stone, a halfway house. You also realize that you are staying in Berlin not so much because you love it, or even like it, but because you are simply afraid of moving on. In some instances, there may be no other stones left. So you stay on the Berlin stone and find a tolerable (if not entirely comfortable) niche; you further enmesh yourself in the illusion that you are doing something (or going to do something) significant. If you are lucky you stumble into a relationship with a German that ends in marriage; with marriage comes an unbefristet visa, and with an unlimited visa comes Arbeitslosengeld, and with Arbeitslosengeld a slackening and loss of determination. You are going under—not dramatically, in the New York fashion, but gradually, piece by piece, in the understated German manner; it shows in the increasingly shriveled look your face gets with each passing year. Even if you do leave—as many of us do, sometimes for years—you inevitably find yourself coming back, drawn in by memories of a Berlin that now exists solely in your head.
Or finally the last scale will fall from your eyes the day you realize you are even more obscure and unheralded than the day you first landed at Tegel; that all of your relationships have ended in failure; that you are denied the flat you wanted, or denied a gig, or laughed at or beaten up in the streets of your favorite kiez simply because your skin, or even your hair, is too dark. And then—stones be damned—you finally leave for good.
Of course, the same can be said about every single oppressed group of people all over the world, including my own.
Now, if only African Americans with brains can revolt against our own increasingly nazified police forces, and that neo-plantation monkey culture (aka “urban culture” or “unhip hop”) and the uber-wealthy white demons that spawn all this trash: the 1% Oligarchy that thinks Negro entertainment should not only entertain clueless middle-class white people all over the world, but psychologically prepare young black kids for a lifetime of slavery–inside supermax plantations. The new plantations are worse than the old, of course: on the old plantations the slave, however shackled, was as close to nature as one could get. In the new supermax gulag/plantations the slave is as far away from nature as one can get. One can call it “progress” in a very sick way.
This is a revision of an old article that was originally posted in 2010 on Open Salon, which is now defunct.
At the time I wrote this article–around 2009 or so–I feared that my assessment of Egypt, a country I had lived in briefly at the end of 1987 and early 88 and visited again between 1990 and 1994, was too harsh. Maybe my recollections had been tainted by my disgust over Egyptian racism. Like most visibly black people who have visited that country, I have fond memories of tangling with Caironians (or Cairenes), many of whom were darker than me, yet despised me all the same for being insufficiently light enough for them to kiss my ass. “Soudani” was the word I recalled being used at the time; I don’t remember being called “abid”–I guess I wasn’t so dark to be considered a slave by their myopic eyes. (Then again, I was virtually indistinguishable from a very large number of young Egyptian men.) And them good ole Transit Thugs (aka Cairo’s notorious Transit Police, which they proclaimed themselves to be with crude-looking armbands in both English and Arabic), who loved to hang out every night on street corners and back alleys, beneath bridges and the entrance to metros and in doorways, bayonets drawn (and usually with the sheaths removed), cheap AK-47s at the ready to shoot down whomever they felt like; the unbelievable filthiness of streets such as Clot Bey and Sharkas el-Wastany, easily the dirtiest and most decrepit streets I have seen anywhere in the world.
My reason for being in Egypt? Simple. I was trying to make it to Bangkok, by way of Bombay, Madras and Penang, on the money I was to save teaching English! Of course, it sounds silly. I was only 20 years old and was completing my first novel, Life of Death, which would go on to be a smashing failure in the years to come.
In the fall of 1987, I lived in Cairo, largely on Emad-el-Dine Street and Ramsis Street, in the Hotel Claridge and the Fondouk Monte-Carlo. I hated the city with a passion.
Naively, I assumed I could obtain a teaching job simply because I spoke good, proper English. Little did I realize that these jobs almost always went to Caucasians. (Coincidentally a Mexican-American woman had attempted to do as I did a few years later, with identical results.) I was eaten alive by mosquitoes in a series of charming hotel rooms in Cairo before I was down to my last hundred dollars; by sheer luck I managed to find the very basic yet very friendly and cheap Monte-Carlo, which offered me a bed for two Egyptian pounds a night. (At the time, that was 90 cents.)
Alexandria was much more to my liking. I found Alexandria to be infinitely friendlier, easy-going, cosmopolitan, languid, suggestive of a sensuality which, upon closer scrutiny, either no longer existed or just perhaps, never did. I learned the long, hard way that whatever Alexandria appeared to be in my Durrell-infested imagination, it was not a “wine-press of love.” It was not Havana, let alone Salvador de Bahia. Hell, it wasn’t even Athens.
Cairo was worse. It was, and remains, an overcrowded, surly, sectarian, materialistic, hopelessly anti-intellectual (primarily for outsiders who don’t know where to go to find people to talk to, of course), sexually repressed, bigoted, feces- and syringe-ridden cesspool. Ever see the video clips on YouTube showing a day’s walk through the streets of Cairo? Well, that is exactly how I remembered it, only slightly worse–or maybe slightly better? I can’t tell. In my recollection a film of greyish-brown dirt coated the entire city, from the airport to the tenements to the minarets to the palm trees and, finally, the people–myself included. There was an all-pervasive, lingering stench that hit your nose once you landed in Cairo International Airport (CIA, indeed) and did not leave until you departed Egypt. The stink is still there.
After 1994, the allure of Egypt and the so-called “Orient” had faded. I was never a good Orientalist; I was too cynical, too inclined to see things as they were and not the way other people had wished to see them. I could no longer close my eyes to the sheer wretchedness of Egypt, and the Mediterranean in general: the cultural, intellectual and sexual barrenness, the suffocating uber-conservatism, the sub-Neanderthal machismo, the obsessive white-worship, the subtly snide Negrophobia and hatred of darkness (which undoubtedly extended to South and Southeast Asians, primarily Filipinos), and a host of other nice things that, today in the 2010s, appear to have overwhelmed the entire region. For instance, it is difficult to imagine that the cute hotel I once stayed in during my first evening in Aleppo is now just a pile of dust; that most of the people I met there, as well as in Damascus and Latakia, are either dead, injured or in exile. But this is exactly what has happened.
In Egypt, the ruin appears to be internal rather than external. The country at times looks like a distorted cross between Ceaucescu’s Romania and Apartheid South Africa, with a touch of Bush’s Texas thrown in. The poor Egyptian people, then as now, appeared to be scared of everything: their minds, their bodies, their very souls. Egypt has degenerated into a primitive place, a savage monstrosity, a barbarian empire at the edge of Africa—something straight out of the minds of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the creators of Danger Island. It was not just the extraordinary evil of the Mubarak regime nor the current psychosis of the Sisi regime, but the even more extraordinary acquiescence of the Egyptian people in the face of this monstrous evil (much of which is paid for by U.S. tax dollars, to the tune of 3 billion per year). The outright moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Egyptian leadership has trickled down and infected literally every class of Egyptian to the tiny urban professional middle class to the mass of fellaheen in the villages along the Nile. This country has become, quite literally, a cancer unto itself.
Quite unbelievable to many outsiders—given their actually being in and of Africa–is their anti-black racism. In recent years, this racism, which was always quite bad, has reached pathological proportions, owing to the immigration of large numbers of Sudanese refugees to the country. Sudan has, in effect, become Egypt’s Mexico, South Sudan being its El Salvador. In proportion to the waves of anti-Mexican and anti-Salvadoran feeling sweeping the U.S., one now sees a hysterical Negrophobia, infesting the minds of the average Egyptian on the street. It also seems oddly concomitant to the even more hysterical anti-Arab hate festering in the minds of Israeli Jews, particularly settlers on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Movies–with one or two exceptions–showing Sudanese as hookers and drug dealers and boabs look suspiciously like racist American movies of earlier decades. Of course it would be too easy for an Egyptian to explain his way out by blaming this racism on America; Egyptian Negrophobia predates the very existence of the USA, and certainly the existence of Israel.
Their anti-black racism is all the more ridiculous seeing that Egyptians themselves, in their physical makeup and temperament, are largely African or half- or quarter-African. Physically many of them resemble African-Americans, Afro-Cubans or Brazilians. Ridiculous, but, for those of us who are of the African diaspora, and familiar with the idiotic self-hatred that African-Americans face concerning hair, skin-color, etc., obnoxiously commonplace. This author has heard it all, not merely from racist Egyptians, but from equally racist Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians and, naturally, African-Americans. What person of color coming from a racially mixed family hasn’t heard this rubbish, whether they care to admit it or not?
In Egypt, the “tragic mulatto” mentality is virtually the national temperament. They are also the biggest, most slavishly subservient Uncle Toms, perhaps in the entire world, second only to Sudan (who are Uncle Toms to Egyptians). They show no shame in their obsequious worship of white skin and white blood, and when you listen to them they sound less like Arabs or Africans and more like retarded Ossis from Mahrzan or Hellersdorf, in East Berlin. The obscene rage and hate they inflict upon the Sudanese is really a collective outpouring of self-abnegation. They do to the Sudanese what they wish they could do not only to their own worthless, despicable government; their mass-murdering, rapist-closet-queen police; their lying, perverted, hypocritical religious leaders; their phony, shallow, posturing, know-nothing “intellectuals,” their wanna-be white-boy bourgeoisie, but also to themselves, for actually being alive and so, well—Egyptian. In the niggerness of the Sudanese, they see their own niggerness reflected back at them, their own hopelessness in their decades-long cause to whiten their skins and souls. All appearances to the contrary, honkification has failed miserably in Egypt, and they know it.
The lumpen-elite of a cursed nation shows its fat, stinking arse to the world
The Egyptian people have come to personify everything that is wrong with either Arabs or Africans. They are ashamed of their own history, one of the world’s oldest; they are both disgusted and ashamed at their own sexuality (hence their hysterical Puritanism, which makes major cities like Cairo and Alexandria look like England in the 1880s); their own physical appearance, which is closer to that of the black Africans they despise than the Arabs or Europeans they so pathetically worship. Their lives and souls are so ruled by hate, ignorance and stupidity that they have indeed become numb—in the way that Germans, before the advent of Hitler, became numb. It would not surprise this author if Egypt became the seat of a new, ugly, fascist empire, with a genocidal hostility towards anything and everything African, or even Arab: I was not surprised to find an Egyptian blogger one day bitterly ranting about how much he despised “dirty Arabs”.
But it would be even less of a surprise if what we know today as Egypt simply collapsed like a deck of cards, consumed by its own frustrations and hatreds, leaving itself wide open for invaders either from within or from without—something which has happened far too often in Egypt’s extremely long history.
In 2010, I referred to the late twat/caliph/pharaoh/HNIC Mubarak as a vampire but the term still applies to Sisi, the latest in a long line of pharaoh/vampires. HNIC is Head Nigger In Charge (or Head High Yaller Coon In Charge, to be more accurate).