Originally I planned to publish this at a time when everything was seemingly peaceful, that is to say, a time when a dead black body wasn't grabbing the national attention. News commentary functions on the existence of a news story to comment on, that means waiting around for something--another colored body-- to materialize on our TV and internet screens so we can have words about it.
Therein lies an inherent concession to this toxic system. Reaction-ism. Waiting around for another one of our brothers or sisters to be brutalized so that our voices can be given momentarily heightened volume. That's vulturistic opportunism of the most insidious. That's cannibalizing the bodies of our people to gain strength for a platform. Yes a platform to speak our outrage. But if our, my, outrage can only gain its prescience from the energy created by the deaths of our people, in the end we are nothing more than profiteers of their suffering.
Shots must be fired, not as a response to brutality, but in times of seeming peace. Shots must be fired to break the illusion that we have ever existed peacefully in this country. Shots must be fired to change us from reactionaries into true agents of revolution.
IF officer Darren Wilson was indicted I would still be just as outraged. Because the system is unchanged.
Understand that an indictment is simply the legal admission that a person's accountability for their actions should be investigated. It's asking, given the law and the circumstances, can we even assign guilt or innocence to this person. Is there sufficient evidence and reasoning even for a trial? A trial is then where any designation of guilt or innocence is assigned.
Of course the grand jury said no, there's not sufficient evidence to charge Darren Wilson. He's a cop with extreme latitude to "defend himself" and the laws of Missouri ask that the shooter's state of mind be taken into consideration. The shooter's state of mind, not the mind of any given rational person.
Yes, this is our country. This pattern:
white cop kills unarmed black person, and then nothing happens.
So the question again becomes what has to happen to make everyone see that? What has to happen to push people past the points of despair and disbelief and innaction?
Understand that even if Darren Wilson was indicted, tried, and found guilty, I would still be just as outraged. Because this is about more than Ferguson.
Every police officer is an agent of the state. They act with state authority and state sanction. Police violence against my community and all people of color, is state violence against my community and all people of color. And there is a long history of state violence against my people and all people of color.
When the state sanctions, either directly or through inaction, inability, or unwillingness to intercede, violence against you, it is both your moral right and obligation to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.
Yes that's an admission that we are at war. And while I can't morally condone any course of action which leads to more suffering and more death, of anyone, I also realize that just as it is immoral for anyone to take the life of another, it is also immoral to ask of a person being brutalized that they allow themselves to continue to be brutalized.
With that introduction: shots fucking fired
A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that justifies white supremacy—and therefore force—is a sick, morally diseased, and dying civilization.
The fact is that America has been shaped by two centuries of supremacist rule and thus is incapable of solving the major problems which its existence has given rise: the problem of supremacy and the problem of capitalism. America is unable to justify itself either before the bar of “reason” or before the bar of “conscience.”
By hundreds of millions of men and women who, from the depths of slavery, set themselves up as judges, the following charge is leveled: America is morally and spiritually indefensible. This indictment is brought against the country not by the American masses alone, but on a world scale, for America has claimed in full the loathsome estate of its European heritage; a heritage of white supremacy, of proletariatization, and of colonization.
To hide from these truths American society takes refuge in hypocrisy, which is all the more odious because the duplicity is less and less likely to deceive. This hypocrisy is not of a recent date. This nation’s enshrinement as a nation-state was accomplished through supremacist colonialist procedures. The Founding Fathers, whom this nation exalts to godhood, were all great liars and the most detestable flesh merchants. They pillaged, killed, and plundered the lands of Africa, Indochina, and North America. Then they became slavering apologists.
The chief culprit in this domain is the original European pedantry, which laid down the dishonest equation white=civilized, colored=savage, from which there could not but ensue abominable racist consequences who’s victims would be all peoples of color.
So we must discuss supremacy. We must discuss the pseudo-humanist thinking of the American bourgeois. We must discuss colonization and all the inhuman practices it gives rise to—brutalization, objectification, and destruction.
In discussing the supremacist, we can’t allow ourselves to be the acmes of gullibility—duped by the guise of good faith into aligning with cleverly misrepresented problems, the better to legitimize the hateful solutions provided for them. In other words, the essential thing here is to see clearly, think clearly—that is, dangerously—and to answer clearly the innocent question first: what fundamentally is white supremacy? To agree on what it is not; a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, or tyranny, nor a force for the protection of the proletariat, nor a means through which to expand the rule of law.
We must admit once and for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors are fascists, brutes, thieves, rapists and cowards. Behind them stand the police and the politicians, and behind them stand the stockbrokers, the hedge fund managers, and the commodities robber barons. All have inside them the pirate and the slaver, appetite and force. And behind them stands the baleful projected shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of its antagonist economies.
So we must study supremacy. We must study how the police as an institution, work to decivilize the policeman, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a man is shot in Missouri or beaten in New York, and in Washington they accept the fact; every time a woman is raped and in Washington they accept the fact; every time a prisoner-- be they in Arizona or Iraq or Mexico-- is tortured and in Washington they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and “interrogated,” all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of America and slowly but surely, our civilization proceeds toward savagery.
And then one fine day the bourgeois of America will be awakened to a terrific reverse shock: the police are all busy, the prisons full up, and the torturers around the racks will invent, refine, and discuss.
They will be surprised and indignant. “Outrageous,” they’ll cry. “This is the end of America!” their chants will sound. “It’s Nazi-ism,” they will say. And they will wait and they will hope and they will hide the truth from themselves. Yes it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms, is that, yes, it is Nazi-ism, but before they were its victims they were its accomplices. They tolerated Nazi-ism before it was inflicted on them. They absolved it, shut their eyes to it, and legitimized it because until then, it had only been applied to non-white people. They have cultivated Nazi-ism and thus they are responsible for it. Nazi-ism will engulf the whole of western civilization because it currently oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.
I speak about Nazi-ism in America because it should be talked about. Nazi-ism makes it possible to see things on a large scale. It allows us to grasp the fact that American civilization, at its present stage, is incapable of establishing a concept of the rights of all people, just as it has proved incapable of establishing a system of individual ethics.
Whether one likes it or not, at the end of the blind alley that is America, I mean the America of Roosevelt, of Truman, and of Reagan, but also the America of Hume, of Rand, of Atwater, of Palin, and owing back as far to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and all those original slave traders America mythologizes, there is white supremacy.
At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is white supremacy.
At the end of police militarization and the increasing police proliferation, there is white supremacy.
At the beginning and end of America, there is white supremacy.
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” Abraham Lincoln
That rings clear, haughty, and brutal and plants us squarely in the middle of howling savagery.
That point I drive at is this, supremacy does not come innocently. No one practices supremacy with impunity either. A nation which practices supremacy, that justifies supremacy, that tolerates supremacy—and therefore force—is a nation that is morally diseased. Irresistibly progressing from one consequence to another, one repudiation to another, calls for Nazi-ism, which will be this nation’s punishment.
White Supremacy, bulwark of Colonization. A bridgehead in a campaign to civilize barbarism, from which there may emerge at any moment, the negation of civilization. Pure and simple.
I pull old skeletons from our closet, and rightly so, for there is point in quoting the witnesses to the lynching of 17 year old Jesse Washington:
Washington was beaten with shovels and bricks, he was castrated and his ears were cut off. A tree supported the iron chain that lifted him above the fire. Wailing, the boy attempted to climb up the skillet hot chain. For this, the men cut off his fingers. “This is the barbecue we had last night” reads a postcard of the atrocity.
There is a need to travel to Georgia and upend old whiskey bottle grave markers to see which stories pour out, like that of Mary Turner:
After protesting the lynching of her husband, saying she would swear out warrants against all who were involved if she could, she was set upon by a mob, hung upside down, doused in gasoline, set on fire, and while she burned a member of the mob cut her stomach open letting her unborn 8 month old fall from her, where it cried before another member of the mob crushed it under the heel of his boot. Then her body was shot more than 200 times.
Laura Nelson still swings eternally from that bridge in Oklahoma; her image on all those thousands of post cards collected and traded. Her murder and the murder of her son defended as “a case of extreme passion which no law and no civilization can control.”
“Ancient” the supremacist begins his hand-waving.
I cite the assassination of Fred Hampton in 1969, drugged by an undercover FBI agent and then shot while passed out in bed next to his pregnant girlfriend.
“We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.” – FBI Special Agent Gregg York
The dragging of James Byrd behind a truck for miles until his head and arm severed. The murders of James Brissette and Ronald Madison on the Danziger Bridge, fired upon without warning by multiple officers while they fled hurricane Katrina. I point out Oscar Grant, shot while handcuffed and subdued. Kendrec McDade shot while unarmed, his last words, “why did they shoot me?” Kimani Gray, shot four times by the police after he left a friend’s birthday. Amadou Diallo, shot 19 times when he reached for his wallet. Patrick Dorismond, unarmed, shot and killed by the police. Ousmane Zongo, unarmed, shot and killed during a police raid on a counterfeit CD ring he had no involvement with. Timothy Stansbury Jr, unarmed, shot and killed by the police. John Crawford, shot and killed inside a Walmart for holding a toy gun. Sean Bell, unarmed, shot and killed outside of a club after his bachelor party. Eric Garner, an unarmed man choked to death on the street for selling cigarettes. Orlando Barlow, shot four times while surrendering on his knees, the murders later found to posses shirts reading BDRT for “Baby Daddy Removal Team.” Aaron Campbell, shot while surrendering with his hands locked behind his head. Tavares McGill, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Victor Steen, Steven Eugene Washington, Alonzo Ashley, Mike Brown.
Yes or no, did these injustices happen? If these things are true—as no one can deny—will it be said, in order to minimize them, that these corpses don’t prove anything? Shall I quote another of our lauded former Presidents?
“A slave dreads the punishment of stripes (that is whipping) more than he does imprisonment, and that description of punishment has, besides, a beneficial effect upon his fellow slaves.” - President James Polk
Tell me now how leaving a body in the middle of the street is different from leaving one hanging from a tree or bridge.
I recall these hideous butcheries not out of some morbid delight in them, but because I think these swinging black bodies, these collections of genitals and ears, these babies crushed under boots, the burned houses, these white-hooded invasions, the steaming blood, the towns evaporated at the edge of the sword, are not to be so easily disposed of. They prove that supremacy, I repeat, dehumanizes even the most civilized man. That supremacist activity, supremacist enterprise, supremacist conquest which is based on contempt for the native and justified by that contempt, inevitably tends to change him who undertakes it. That the supremacist, in order to ease his conscience, gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal. It is this result, this boomerang effect of supremacy that I wanted to point out.
“God works most inscrutably to the understandings of men; the negro is torn from Africa, a barbarian, ignorant and idolatrous; he is restored civilized, enlightened, and a Christian.” President John Tyler
The white supremacists justification for these acts of barbarism has not changed in either wording or tone.
“The floating colored population is unusually large, and Cairo, at some time or other, harbors most of the “bad niggers” from St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans. It is these whom citizens fear and for whom the police are constantly alert. The white people of Cairo have always dealt indulgently with the negro. […] Yet this negro population, coddled as it is, is a constant menace to the town. No white woman dare venture outside of the house at night alone for fear of assault. Many outrages of which the world has never heard have been attempted. This is why […] the effect of the recent lynching will be salutary.”
Truly there are stains that it is beyond the power of man to wipe out and that can never be fully expiated.
But let us speak of the oppressed.
I see clearly what supremacy has destroyed: civilizations destroyed and people turned to chattel.
I see clearly the civilizations condemned to perish at a future date, into which has been introduced the same principles of ruin.
I see less clearly the contributions gained. Security? The rule of law? In the meantime I look around and wherever there are supremacists and the dominated face-to-face, I see force, brutality, cruelty, sadism, conflict, and in a parody of education, the hasty manufacture of millions of subordinate functionaries, the “boys,” artisans, office clerks, and interpreters necessary not for the smooth function of society, but for the smooth operation of business.
I spoke of contact, between the supremacist and the subjugated there is room only for forced labor, intimidation, pressure, the police, theft, rape, contempt, mistrust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses.
No human contact but relations of domination and submission which turn the supremacist into a police officer, a prison guard, a slave driver, and the dehumanized subordinate man into an instrument of production.
My turn to state an equation: supremacy = “thing-ifcation.”
I hear the storm. They talk to me about progress, about “achievements,” diseases cured, improved standards of living.
I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out.
They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks.
I am talking about millions of men and women sacrificed to the Atlantic Ocean. I am talking about those who, as I write this, are being brutalized and murdered in the streets.
I am talking about millions of men in whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to have an inferiority complex, to tremble, to kneel, despair, and behave like flunkeys.
They pride themselves on abuses eliminated.
I too talk about abuses, but what I say is that on the old ones—very real—they have superimposed others—very detestable. They talk to me about local tyrants brought to reason; but I note that in general the old tyrants get on very well with the new ones, and that there has been established between them, to the detriment of the people, a circuit of mutual services and complicity.
They talk about civilization. I talk about proletarianization and mystification.
For my part I make a systemic defense of the oppressed.
Every day that passes, every denial of justice, every beating by the police, every demand of the workers that is drowned in blood, every scandal that is hushed, every rape, every punitive expedition, every police van, every gendarme, every militiaman, brings home to us the value of our societies.
If I am attacked on the grounds of intent, I maintain that supremacist America is dishonest in trying to justify its colonizing activity a posteriori by the obvious material progress that has been achieved in certain fields under the supremacist regime.
The proof is that at present it is the poor and disenfranchised people who are demanding schools, resources, and supremacist America which is niggardly on this score.
I make no secret of my opinion that the present day barbarism of America has reached an incredibly high level, and here I don’t mean Nazis, or the prison guard, or the police officer, or the adventurer, but about the “decent fellow” across the way. Not about the member of the KKK or the gangster or the cop but rather the respectable bourgeois. We’ve made progress, today it is the possessor of the Christian Virtues who intrigues—with no small success—for the honor of breaking black bodies according to the methods of torturers. Cruelty, mendacity, baseness, and corruption have sunk deep into the soul of the American. I repeat this is not about Nazis or the KKK or pogroms or summary executions but about a reaction caught unawares. A reflex permitted, a piece of cynicism tolerated.
Think of it, millions dead in this country, thousands more trampled underfoot, crushed to bits, assassinated, tortures brought back from the depths of the Middle Ages. Violence. The violence of the weak. A significant thing: it is not the head of a civilization that begins to rot first. It is the heart. I admit that as far as the health of American civilization is concerned, these cries of "Kill! kill!" and "Let's see some blood," belched forth by trembling old men and virtuous young men educated by their supremacist fathers, make a much more disagreeable impression on me than the most sensational riots that occur in Missouri.
And that, mind you, is by no means an exception. On the contrary, bourgeois swinishness is the rule. We've been on its trail for a century. We listen for it, we take it by surprise, we sniff it out, we follow it, lose it, find it again, shadow it, and every day it is more nauseatingly exposed.
And then lower, always lower, to the bottom of the pit, lower than the shovel can dig, the Giuliani cry of “black on black violence!”
One cannot say that the petty bourgeois has never read a thing. On the contrary he has read everything, devoured everything. And in that his brain functions in the fashion of a digestive system, it filters. And the filter lets through only what can nourish the thick white skin of the supremacist’s clear conscience.
“83% of all white deaths are at the hands of other whites yet there is no designation of white on white violence. When white people are killed en-masse it’s recognized as an unthinkable tragedy. Crime in the black community must be understood in the context of years of forced peonage, violent reprisal, economic perilousness, lack of access to basic resources and education.”
The white supremacist doesn’t want to hear anymore, he flicks the ideas away, annoying flies.
Therefore, brother and sister, you will hold as enemies—loftily, lucidly, consistently—not only sadistic governors and greedy bankers, not only police who torture, beat, imprison and murder, not only corrupt check-licking politicians and subservient judges, but likewise and for the same reason, venomous journalists, goitrous academics wreathed in dollars and stupidity, ethnographers who go in for pseudoscience, chattering intellectuals born stinking out of the thigh of Nietzsche, the paternalists, the male supremacists, the corruptors, the lovers of exoticism.
We must sweep out the obscurers of truth, and sweep out all 'the obscurers, all the inventors of subterfuges, the charlatans and tricksters, the dealers in gobbledygook. And do not seek to know whether personally these gentlemen are in good or bad faith, whether personally they have good or bad intentions. Whether personally - that is, in the private conscience of Peter or Paul – they are or are not colonialists, because the essential thing is that their highly problematical subjective good faith is entirely irrelevant to the objective social implications of the evil work they perform as watchdogs of colonialism.
Henceforth, all are answerable to expulsion from our civilization through revolutionary action.
Don't let the subtleties of vocabulary, the new terminology, frighten you! You know the old refrain: The-Negroes-are-big-children." They take it, they dress it up for you, tangle it up for you.
I speak about the past a great deal because in recalling these histories a simple fact shines out
The setting is changed, but it is the same world, the same men, hard, inflexible, unscrupulous, fond, if ever a man was, of "the flesh of other men."
Yes, in Ferguson, the hour of the barbarian is at hand. The modern barbarian. The American barbarian. Violence, excess, waste, mercantilism, bluff, gregariousness, stupidity, vulgarity, disorder.
American domination - the only domination from which one never recovers. I mean from which one never recovers unscarred. And since you are talking about factories and industries, do you not see the tremendous factory hysterically spitting out its cinders in the heart of our forests or deep in the bush, the factory for the production of lackeys; do you not see the prodigious mechanization, the mechanization of man; the gigantic rape of everything intimate, undamaged, undefiled that, despoiled as we are, our human spirit has still managed to preserve; the machine, yes, have you never seen it, the machine for crushing, for grinding, for degrading peoples?
The salvation of America is not a matter of a revolution in methods. It is a matter of Revolution, to be obtained “by any means necessary.”
All love and respect to Aimé Césaire and his most elegant deceleration of war from which I re-purposed