America became white—the people who, as they claim, “settled” the country became white—because of the necessity of denying the Black presence, and justifying the Black subjugation. No community can be based on such a principle—or, in other words, no community can be established on so genocidal a lie. White men—from Norway, for example, where they were Norwegians—became white: by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning the wells, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping Black women.
This moral erosion has made it quite impossible for those who think of themselves as white in this country to have any moral authority at all privately or publicly. The multitudinous bulk of them sit stunned before their TV sets, swallowing garbage that they know to be garbage and in a profound and unconscious effort to justify this torpor that disguises a profound and bitter panic - pay a vast amount of attention to athletic : even though they know that the football player (the Son of the Republic), their sons!) is merely another aspect of the money-making scheme. They are either relieved or embittered by the presence of the Black boy on the team. I do not know if they remember how long they fought to keep him off it. I know that they do not dare have any notion of the price of Back people (mothers and fathers) paid and pay. They do not want to know the meaning, or face the shame, of what they compelled - out of what they took as the necessity of being white - Joe Louis or Jackie Robinson or Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) to pay. I know that they, themselves, would not have liked to pay it.
There has never been a labor movement in this country, the proof being the abseence of a Black presence in the so-called father-to-sons unions. There are, perhaps, some n*****s in the window; but Blacks have no power in the labor unions.
Just so does the white community, as a means of keeping itself white, elect, as they imagine, their political (!) representatives. No nation in the world, including England, is represented by so stunning a pantheon of the relentlessly mediocre. I will not name names - I will leave that to you.
But this cowardice, this necessity of justifying a totally false identity and of justifying what must be called a genocidal history, has placed everyone now living into the hands of the most ignorant and powerful people the world has ever seen. And how did they get that way?
By deciding that they were white. By opting for safety instead of life. By persuading themselves that a Black child’s life meant nothing compared with a white child’s life. By abandoning their children to the things white men could buy. By informing their children that Black women, Black men and Black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of Black people, they debased and defined themselves.
And have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white, they cannot allow themselves to be tormented by the suspicion that all men are brothers. Because they think they are white, they are looking for or bombing into existence, stable populations, cheerful natives, and cheap labor. Because they think they are white, they believe, as even no child believes, in the dream of safety. Because they think they are white, however vociferously they may be and however multitudinous, they are as speechless as Lot’s wife - looking backward, changed into a pillar of salt.
However —! White being, absolutely, a moral choice (for there are no white people), the crisis of leadership for those of us whose identity has been forged, or branded, as Black is nothing new. We - who were not Black before we got here either, who were defined as Black b the slave trade - have paid for the crisis of leadership in the white community for a very long time, and have resoundingly, even when we face the worst about ourselves, survived and triumphed over it. if we had not survived, and triumphed there would not be a Black American alive.
And the fact that we are still here - even in suffering, darkness, danger, endlessly defined by those who do not dare define, or even confront themselves - is the key to the crisis in white leadership. The past informs us of various kinds of people - criminals, adventurers and saints, to say nothing, of course, of popes - but it is the Black condition, and only that which informs us concerning white people. It is a terrible paradox, but those who believed they could control and define Black people divested themselves of the power to control and define themselves.
"On Being White…And Other Lies," James Baldwin
Henry Giroux at Truthout.org:
The stories we tell about ourselves no longer speak to the ideals of justice, equality, liberty and democracy. Stories that once inspired our imagination now degrade it, treating it largely as a blank screen upon which to write advertisements that reduce our sense of agency to the imperatives of shopping. But these are not the only narratives that diminish the stories that allow us to imagine a better world. We are also inundated with stories that inhabit discourses of cruelty and fear that undermine communal bonds and tarnish any viable visions of the future.
“Private power doesn’t like public education, for many reasons. One is the principle on which it’s based, which is threatening to power. Public education is based on a principle of solidarity. So, for example, I had my children fifty years ago. Nevertheless, I feel and I’m supposed to feel that I should pay taxes so that the kids across the street can go to school. That’s counter to the doctrine that you should just look after yourself and let everyone else fall by the wayside, a basic principle of business rule. Public education is a threat to that belief system because it builds up a sense of solidarity, community, mutual support. The same is true of Social Security. That’s one of the reasons that there is such a passionate attempt to destroy Social Security, even though there are no economic reasons to do so, none of any significance at least. But public education and Social Security are residues of a dangerous conception that we’re all in this together and we have to work together to create a better life and a better future. If you’re trying to maximize profit or maximize consumption, then working together is the wrong idea. It has to be beaten out of people’s heads. Solidarity makes it hard to control people and prevents them from being passive objects of private power. So you have a propaganda system that overcomes any deviations from the principle of subjugation to power systems.”
— Noam Chomsky. Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire. (via getweirdtonight)
Just when you think it couldn’t get much worse in the military commissions at Guantánamo, something happens to prove you wrong. It all began in late January when, during pretrial hearings in the case against five men accused in the 9/11 attacks, the audio feed — which runs on a 40-second delay to prevent leaks of classified information — was abruptly cut off. The media and observers, who sit behind a soundproof glass wall at the back of the court, noted the silence. But the cut surprised even the military judge, who believed he was the only one with authority to press the button and who did not consider the information being discussed at that moment classified.
The audio cutoff was initiated “not by me,” the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said angrily at the time, and “I’m curious as to why.” He added, “If some external body is turning the commission off under their own view of what things ought to be … then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off.”
Read who cut the audio and how the how attorney-client meeting rooms were bugged »
Photo: Flags fly above the sign for Camp Justice at Guantanamo Bay.
© 2009 Reuters
“An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet?”
— Derrick Jensen, “Forget Shorter Showers,” Orion (July/August 2009).
As we think about what happened to Aaron, we need to recognize that it was not just prosecutorial overreach that killed him. That’s too easy, because that implies it’s one bad apple. We know that’s not true. What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn’t just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It’s also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There’s a reason whistleblowers get fired. There’s a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There’s a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriako - who told the world it was going on. There’s a reason those who destroyed the financial system “dine at the White House”, as Lawrence Lessig put it. There’s a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There’s a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There’s a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq. This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice.
Powerful. More here.