photo by Alex Lear
WHY DO WE LIE ABOUT TELLING THE TRUTH?
"I put his head sort of on my lap. I just hoped and prayed he was still alive. It was hard to tell. He was having difficulty breathing. And other people came and they tore open the shirt. I could see that he was hit so many times."
This is a description of the death of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, bka Malcolm X. Who said these words?
A. Betty Shabazz, Malcom's wife who was present with their children when Malcolm was assassinated.
B. Gene Roberts, an undercover police agent who had infiltrated Malcolm's organization and was attempting to save Malcolm with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
C. Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American member of Malcom's organization who was present in the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.
If you have seen Spike Lee's movie Malcolm X you will be forgiven believing the answer is A-Betty Shabazz. If you have seen the death scene photo of a man leaning over Malcolm desperately trying to revive him, it is understandable that you believe it is B-Gene Roberts. But actually, the correct answer is C-Yuri Kochiyama, a follower and supporter of Malcolm X.
Why did Spike Lee lie?
Yes, I said "lie"! What else would you call it? Photos from the grisly death scene clearly show Malcolm's head cradled in Ms. Kochiyama's lap. Spike Lee's colorful and fictionalized pseudo-biography brazenly liquidates Ms. Kochiyama and replaces the truth with a lie. It's a lie because Spike Lee knew better and chose to misrepresent the truth. Spike's lie is particularly troubling when we consider 1. Lee argued a Black director should do the Malcolm X movie because no White director could honestly portray the real story of Malcolm X, and 2. Lee had been active in fanning the flames of Black/Korean clashes and antagonisms in New York.
Spike said Malcolm was a Black man and in the process of zoot suiting and focusing on the Nation of Islam, Spike completely ignored the internationalist that Malcolm became, as a result, one could see the movie and never know that Yuri Kochiyama was a welcomed and active member of Malcolm's organization, the OAAU. Although Spike Lee is not an elected leader, he is, unquestionably, revered as a major force in the imaging of Black people and has often cast himself (or agreed to be cast) as a spokesperson for a "Black" point of view.
Malcolm died trying to tell us something important, trying to lead us away from a morbid fascination with color and a limited conception of our struggle. Using the camera, the editing booth and deliberate falsification of facts, Spike Lee re-assassinated Malcolm X the internationalist. Why? Who knows. Spike may not know. But I'm willing to bet that a racial focus devoid of progressive politics had a lot to do with Spike doing the wrong thing.
Why do we lie about the truth of our existence? Because, even as we oppose racism, we often end up believing in racial essentialism.
Black people in America are victims of racism. The majority of us -- particularly our "appointed" leaders -- manifest a terminal case of internalized oppression. Far too many of us are incapable not only of loving ourselves as "mixed-race" human beings (or, mulattoes) forcibly born out of the crucible of chattel slavery, but also are incapable of relating to other so-called minorities without exhibiting a warped and essentially racist assessment of people of color.
Misled by leaders (most of whom are media created) who don't proactively lead but who rather pander to mass prejudices and misconceptions, the bulk of us USA Blacks tend toward a twisted and self-destructive color-based antagonism toward other socalled "minorities," or, in an equally self-destructive manner we advocate a mole-like insistence on color-blindness that liquidates diversity in the name of some idealized humanism. Both self-centered chauvanism and romantic humanism are manifestations of White-supremacy victimization. This skweded perspective of other ethnic groups is particularly troubling in terms of Black/Asian relations.
A graphic illustration of where the "I'm human not Black" system-induced viewpoint leads us is the movie "One Night Stand" starring Wesley Snipes. In the movie, Wesley's character is a West Coast-based advertising video director who is in New York to see a former best friend who just happens to be White and dying of AIDS. The character has a one night stand with a blonde rocket scientist and returns home to his Asian wife and two lovely mixed-race children (I'm not making this up!). The movie ends with spouse-swapping; yes, Wesley's character gets the White woman and his Asian wife gets with the cuckolded White husband.
What's wrong with this picture?
The main thing is that neither the Asian wife nor the African American husband exhibit any cultural self-awareness as people of color. They are portrayed as individuals who are culturally White and who just happen to have been born people of color. Although their race is obvious, they are oblivious to the culture of their people. They go through life neither identifying with other people of color nor advocating Black or Asian culture. This acceptance of racial difference but liquidation of cultural differences and distinctions, and avoidance of active identification with other people of color, is not ethnic diversity. This is white supremacy under the guise of "humanism" and "racial tolerance."
The deal is that you can approach ethnicity as a racial matter or as a cultural matter. If we focus on race and create a fetish out of color, regardless of what we may think, we are essentially adopting a White supremacist point of view which out-and-out propagandizes that blood is the essential determinant of human existence. Of course, when it comes to Black manifestations of White supremacy's racial essentialism, there are two approaches. One is that Black is intrinsicly good, moral and beautiful because of color and the other is that White is intrinscicly good, moral and beautiful because of power.
Those who argue the "scientific" melanin thesis, i.e. essentially people born with melanin are better (more moral and beautiful) than people born without melanin, have simply flipped the racist script, including the pseudo-scientific justifications. Indeed, some even argue that Whites are a separate species from people of color, hence, the Yacub-derived theories that Whites are grafted or manufactured people and not human beings like people of color. Those who are entranced by political (actually, economic and military) power basically believe that, since Whites are at the top, being White is the best one can be. In either case, there is a basic assumption that things are the way things are because of some sort of racial essentialism, some immutable result of racial origins and existence.
I would be the last to argue that melanin does not play some role in the human make up, but a determining and essential role? I think not. In any case, regardless of whether I'm right or wrong, what does this have to do with Black/Asian relations?
I think the basic problem is that we Blacks have become Americanized in our social thought via our formal integration into American society, an integration which earnestly began in the mid-seventies and has accelerated ever since. We have become nearly as jingoistic and racist as the dominant society which shapes and influences our pysches -- which may be why "skin creams," i.e. lye-based cosmetics which purportedly lighten the skin, and "hair relaxers" are reported to sell more today than they have ever sold. In terms of our relationship to other people of color -- whether continental African, Asian, Hispanic, or Native Americans, many of us are as racist or as color-blind (and, as I argue above, the willfull ignoring of real differences is also a form of racism) as the average American, if not more so. Indeed, as far as our attitudes towards others go many of us might best be defined as brown-skinned rednecks!
While it is common to hear Blacks argue that we are the most oppressed people in American history -- as if that were some sort of badge of honor -- nevertheless, what we don't often do is acknowledge the depth of our wretchedness as the most oppressed. If we are the leading victims of racism, it follows that we and those who create and maintain this barbaric system are the most affected by the system. No one else is as mesmerized by the splendour of the big house as are the master and his most loyal slave; the master out of material self-interest and the slave out of vicarious self-interest, i.e. psychic identification with the master.
This brings us to the recent rise of Black American jingoism -- recall the excessive flag waving of the Black atheletes at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, particularly it's sharp contrast to the Black Power salutes of the 1968 Olympics in Los Angeles. Admittedly, 1968 then is not 1998 now. Admittedly there are major differences in the conditions our people live and struggle under. However, what is remarkable is the embracing of America as though Black churchs were not being burnt to the ground, multinational corporations were not superexploiting Third World labor, African American males were not being systematically victimized by the criminal justice system, etc. etc. Judging from the mindless rah-rahing of how great America is, one would not know that our communities and neighborhoods have been devastated by drugs, riddled by bullets, sickened by disease, and dumbed-down by educational neglect, and, oh yes, that the best and the brightest have left the least and the darkest to fend for themselves in the concrete jungles of urban America. Can anyone really argue that America is the greatest country in the world if one looks at the living conditions of the majority of people of color in the United States?
We have boarded the bus of mindless patrotism and ride in the front. Regardless of where the stop is, whenever we step off the bus we step off, and proudly so, as full-fledged American patriots with all the racism that such blind patrotism implies. I'm waiting for the melanin experts to explain the ultra patrotism of American Blacks in embracing the twin evils of racism and captialism -- is it because being Black we do it better than the Whites who introduced it?
No, our skin color is neither the most important part of our oppression nor are color-based proposals the solution to our problems. Moreover, the more important truth is: if we are the most oppressed, we are also the most affected by oppression and, psychologically speaking, that effect has been overwhelmingly negative. Indeed, Black racial chauvanism is simply a manifestation of the pathology of oppression, and is, in the final analysis, nothing more than a variation on the classic white lie of racial superiority.
My first encounters with Asians happened in 1966 when I was in the U.S. Army stationed on a Nike-Hercules nuclear missle base, atop a mountain near the DMZ. The base was remote and the nearest city was a day's truck ride away. On one peak there were missles and on a close by peak there was the radar site. In the valley was the garrison area and a small Korean village separated by a dirt road, barbed wired and armed guards. The village's main function was to supply cheap labor and cheap thrills to the U.S. soldiers stationed there. I wrote a short story which heavily drew on my experiences and the experiences of my fellow soldiers during my army years. At that time the only locations for the Hercules missle were the U.S., Germany and Korea. By general consensus, the "brothers" loved Korea and the Whites loved Germany. The following excerpt from the story illustrates the social education I received in Korea.
I AIN'T NEVER GOING BACK NO MORE
It was raining by the bucket fulls. The door to Soulville, which is what we called our collectively rented hooch, was open and it was early afternoon. Rain softened daylight streaming in. And warm, a typical summer monsoon day.
Em, which was the only name I knew her by, was near me. She was reading the paper. I had a Korean bootleg Motown record spinning on the cheap portable player plugged into the extension cord that snaked out the window to some generator source that supplied this small village with a modicum of juice. Did I say village? The place was erected for one reason, and one reason only, to service the service men stationed on the other side of the road, to supply the base with cheap labor and even cheaper pussy. I know it sounds crude, but that's the way occupying armies work.
I had never fucked Em, and, as it turned out, never would. I remember one wrinkled old sergeant, a hold over from World War II, talking on the base one day about Em sucking his dick, but that was not the Em I knew. Somehow, the Em I knew, the woman reading the paper I couldn't read because I couldn't read as many languages as she could, somehow, the lady who put down the paper and, as the rain fell, calmly carried on a conversation with me, clearly that Em was not the same Em that the sergeant knew.
It would be many, many years later before I realized that sarge never knew Em. How can one ever really know a person if one buys that person? If you buy someone, the very act of the sale cuts you off from thinking of that someone as a human equal. Sarge simply consumed the pleasure given by a female body to whom he paid money, a body which kneaded his flesh and opened her flesh to him, made him shudder as her thighs pulled him in or as she sucked him. A business transaction. Nobody buys pleasure in order to get to know the prostitute. In fact, the whole purpose of the deal is to remove the need for a human connection while satisfying a desire.
I didn't think like that at that time, laying in the hooch with my boots off, day dreaming as I gazed out into the rain, my chin on my arm. In Soulville, just like in all the other hooches, which were usually little more than a large room that doubled as both a living room and a bed room, we took our boots off upon entering. Even now I like to take my shoes off inside. At the time it was a new thing to me, a difficult thing to get used to, especially with combat boots rather than the slip-ons which most of the Koreans wore. But that's the good thing about going to a foreign country: learning something that you don't already know, something that you can use for the rest of your life.
It's funny how stuff can catch up with you years later, and only after rounding a bunch of corners does the full impact of an experience become clear. I mean more than a delayed reaction, more like a delayed enlightenment...
...My reminiscence was broken by Em's hand on my arm. I looked over at her. This wasn't no sexual thing. We both knew and observed the one rule of Soulville: no fucking in Soulville. Soulville was a place to hang out and cool out. We put our money together and rented Soulville so as anytime day or night when you didn't feel like being around the white boys, if you was off you could come over to Soulville and just lay. And you didn't have to worry about interrupting nothing. It didn't take long for all the girls in the village to know Soulville was like that. So a lot of time was spent in here with Black GIs and Korean women just talking or listening to music. It was the place where we could relate to each other outside of the flesh connection.
From time to time we had parties at Soulville. And of course, some one of us was always hitting on whoever we wanted for the night. But when it came to getting down to business, you had to vacate the premises. We had had some deep conversations in Soulville. One or two of the girls might cook up some rice or something, and we'd bring some beer or Jim Beam -- although I personally liked Jack Daniels Black, Jim Beam was the big thing cause it was cheap, cheap, cheap -- and, of course, we brought our most prized possessions, our personal collections of favorite music. We'd eat, drink, dance and argue about whether the Impressions or the Temptations was the baddest group. As I remember it, there wasn't much to argue about among the girl groups, cause none of the others was anywhere near Martha and The Vandellas. Soulville, man, we had some good times there.
Em was getting old. She had been talking about her childhood and stuff. And when she touched my arm and I looked over at her, I could see a bunch of lines showing up in her face. Most of the time, when you saw the girls it was at night or they had all kinds of make up on their face. But it was not unusual for some of us to sleep over at Soulville and if we were off duty we'd just loll around there all day. Early in the morning we would hear the village waking up and watch the day unfold. Invariably, one of the girls would stop by to chat for ten or fifteen minutes. Or sometimes, two or three of them would hang out for awhile.
On days like this one, you'd get to see them as people. Talking and doing whatever they do, which is different from seeing them sitting around a table, dolled up with powder and lipstick, acting -- or should I say, "trying to act" -- coy or sexy, sipping watered down drinks through a straw and almost reeking of the cheap perfume they doused on themselves in an almost futile attempt to cover the pungent fragrance associated with the women of the night.
Just like when we was in Soulville we was off duty, well it was the same way for them. And I guess without the stain and strain of a cash transaction clouding the picture, we all got a chance to see a different side of each other.
I started wondering what it must have felt like to be a prostitute, a middle aged prostitute getting old and knowing you ain't had much of a future. A prostitute watching soldiers come and go, year after year. What it must have been like to have sex with all them different men, day in and day out and shit. Especially for somebody like Em who spoke Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese, and could read in Korean, English and Chinese. I mean, from the standpoint of knowing her part of the world, she was more intelligent than damn near all of us put together.
Her touch was soft on my arm. I looked down at her small hand, the unpainted fingernails, the sort of dark cream color of her skin. I looked up into her face. Her eyes were somber but she was half smiling.
"Same-o, same-o." She said, rubbing first my bare arm and then her bare arm. "Same-o, same-o."
Like most of my peers, my first encounter with Asians was a politically unconscious encounter. Although, I may like to think otherwise and understandably was reluctant to publicly admit it, I was an armed agent of imperialism -- no matter that I told myself, for example, that I was in Korea to avoid going to Vietnam; no matter that I tried to have more respect for the Korean people than did the White soldiers on the base; no matter that I understood that there was a connection of color between myself and the Koreans. Just like a Japanese-American friend whom it turns out was born in an internment camp during World War II and who served in the U.S. Army at the same time I did, regardless of all the historical and individual contradictions I had with America's domestic and foreign policies, regardless of my personal beliefs or how I dressed up my involvement, the reality was that I was a soldier in the Army, a collaborator with the dictators of democracy. Although I had my rationalizations, and though my "reasoning" did have some merit, there is a big difference between admitting one's contradictions and lieing to one's self about the existence of those contradictions. That's what Em was telling me -- prostitute to soldier, we're same-o, same-o.
My second major encounter with Asians was a horse of a different mule. In 1974 I was a delegate to the fifth Pan-African Congress in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I was an active organizer in my home community of New Orleans and considered myself a Pan-Africanist. Upon arriving in Tanzania one of my first quests was to stand on the TanZam railroad, a vital rail linkage between Zambia and Tanzania which gave land-locked Zambia seaport access for copper shipments. The railroad was built through the lead partnership of the People's Republic of China. During that time I also had the opportunity to visit Zanzibar and there took a tour of a cigarette factory which was built and transitionally managed by the Chinese. I spoke to none of the Chinese managers or workers, but I watched and wondered.
Our relationship to "foreigners" is inevitably a major barometer of our political consciousness. By 1974, the internal clash among Black radicals between the philosophies of Black Nationalism and Marxism was at an all time high. By then Amiri Baraka, the former chief propagandist of Kawaida-style Black Nationalism had declared himself a marxist. Also, within the Black power movement, the teachings of Chairman Mao were widely studied by nationalists and marxists alike. Moreover, struggles around the Vietnam War had also come to a head. Within this social context, political considerations were primary, and alliances between ethnic groups were forged for purposes of collective struggle against racism and capitalism. This was a high point in inter-ethnic alliances, not because of liberal "we are all humans" sentiments, but because of militant political calls for Third World liberation abroad and Third World self-determination at home. Hence, even though he has never been a marxist, Haki Madhubuti (formerly Don L. Lee) named the press he co-founded "Third World Press."
Less than two decades ago, we were identifying with people of color rather than antagonistic towards people whom many of us now contemptuously regard as competitors for "our jobs" and replacements for White neighborhood merchants who price gouge us in corner stores where we are charged a nickel to change a dime. What the Third World had in common was not really color, but rather anti-colonial struggle, and we within the United States were equally, if not moreso, colonialized subjects. Within that context, identification with the Third World was led by a political understanding which in many ways was much more mature than the good old boy "buy American" rhetoric we mindlessly spout today.
This same political concern with the Third World led our nationwide grouping of Black Nationalists, all of whom operated independent Black educational institutions for young Black children, to organize the first all-Black tour to China in 1977. We worked in cooperation with the marsixt-led U.S. China Friendship Association. During the course of the year long organizing to arrange the trip and raise money to make the trip we encountered, confronted and attempted to change anti-Asian sentiments in our community without liquidating our basic Black nationalist stance. In fact, at one point there was a concerted efforted by some members of the Friendship Association to force us to exclude Maulana Ron Karenga from our twenty member delegation. We took the stance that the make-up of our delegation was an internal matter not subject to the dictates of outsiders and if it meant that we had to forgo the trip then so be it. After some weeks of high level wrangling, our delegation proceeded as originally planned. We spent 18 days traveling throughout China and happened to be in Beijing (then Peking) when the rehabilitation of Deng Shao Ping was announced.
Although there was a massive demonstration in the city center by literally millions of people supporting Deng, I remained skeptical of Deng's line. Deng had argued that it doesn't make a difference what color the cat is as long as the cat catches the mice. Some of us argued that "color" (Deng was referring to ideology) did make a difference because if Black cats never learned to catch mice, Black cats would continue to be dependent on White cats for food. At the same time, I was not inclined to simply dismiss the Chinese view out of hand because by then I realized that there was a lot more to Chinese ideological developments than initially met the eye.
While we were in Beijing some of us met Robert Williams who was recuperating from an operation he had returned to China to have. When Nixon visited China and officially reopened diplomatic relations with the Chinese government, Robert Williams parlayed his knowledge and acceptance within the Chinese government into an opportunity to return to the United States. Williams made the tradeoff after over a decade in exile, being on the FBI's most wanted list, and on the CIA's hit list for his international activities which included publishing The Crusader, a militant newspaper, and, while in Cuba, broadcasting an incendiary radio program known as Radio Free Dixie. Indeed, our delegation had a photocopy of the issue of Dan Watts' Liberator magazine whose cover featured a famous photo of Robert Williams standing with Chairman Mao.
Robert Williams was overjoyed to see us in Beijing -- we were the first Blacks he had seen take an organized and direct interest in China, and Williams asserted it was extremely important for Black people to get involved in international affairs separate from America's foreign policy. Of course there were truckloads of Chinese-influenced Afro marxists back in the states, and of course some of the Panthers had passed through China, but most of these people came as individuals or as marxists in small, clandestine, and racially integrated groups. We were the first Blacks to enter as an organized body representing a broad grassroots constintuency from across the United States.
We spent over an hour talking with Brother Rob as he patiently encouraged us to develop an internationalist viewpoint. What I remember most is Robert Williams telling us about his stay in North Vietnam and how at a state dinner he rose to propose a toast to the Vietnamese people. Brother Rob said the Vietnamese made him sit down by responding that it was they who should be toasting him and the valiant struggle of the Afro-American people.
The North Vietnamese told Robert Williams that the Black power struggle greatly helped them understand that the United States could be beaten and that the urban rebellions, particularly in Detroit where the U.S. Army Airborne had to be sent in before "order" could be "restored," had given the Vietnamese the idea to stage the Tet offensive which was psychologically the major turning point of the Vietnam conflict. The reverberations of the Black Liberation struggle were felt not only internally, but also worldwide. From the Free Speech Movement, emergent Feminism, Vietnam antiwar demonstrations, gay rights and other internal struggles to the international arena, our struggle inspired and encouraged sundry peoples and interest groups who had their own particular battles with oppression and exploitation. These were heady and exciting days of political discussion, analysis and planning.
At our previous stop in Sian, China after over a week of inquiries, our delegation had engaged in a major ideological discussion with political theoricists of the Chinese Communist Party. I distinctly remember that these particular individuals in their mannerisms, dress and general physical appearance "looked" different from the majority of Chinese we had up to that point encountered. These men may have had "peasant" roots but their current status was cloistered within a circle of folk who "thought" for a living; they were part of the policy-making and implementation apparatus. They frankly stated a line I had never heard before: If the capitalist want to bring on world war three, so be it. Such a war would only hasten capitalism's demise.
These men with the confident-quiet of an armed but not yet exploded bomb calmly ran down their view of progress: Since the 1950s, America has been engaged in conflict with Asia, and has been steadily losing ground. First came Korea, and there was a stalemate. Then came Vietnam, and America lost. Should America decide to take on China the result would be more than simply another American loss. What would happen would be China's ascendency. The Chinese had the atomic bomb, there would be no more one-sided nuking of "yellow peoples" as happened in Japan during World War II. Also, the Chinese had constructed underground cities -- literarlly factories, housing, and shelters for not just a handful of select leaders but for masses of Chinese people. They knew that America was not similarly prepared to withstand nuclear war. They were prepared. They were not afraid. They didn't want to have a war, but if it came to that, so be it. Needless to say, we had not been prepared to argue world politics at that level.
For the Chinese, the subsequent disentegration of Soviet Russia far from reputing communism and the Chinese view, actually was just another wrinkle in the fabric of Eurocentric capitalism's eventual demise. The Chinese had long ago split with the Soviets and saw the Soviets as state capitalists who were hopelessly emotionally immeshed and ideologically interwined with the Western world. For we Black nationalists struggling to conceptualize and actualize some form of a Black nation in America, these discussions were eye-opening developments. When we returned to the United States we organized forums and community meetings to report on our trip to China. The general headline we used was "Black Nationalists in Red China." That was my second major interface with Asians.
My third encounter was the development in 1991 of a partnership with Chinese American baritone saxophonist and composer, Fred Ho. We knew of each other's political work and first met face to face in Houston, Texas. This meeting was arranged by a mutual friend Baraka Sele, who was then a producer with the Houston International Festival. Both of us were booked on the festival and Baraka arranged for us to all go to a dinner together. Fred and I talked. I knew his music from recordings. He had read some of my poetry. We talked that "yeah, let's get together and do something some time" talk in which one usually engages acquaintances at festivals and conferences. However, we took it further than wishful talk. We stayed in touch and decided to start working as a duo.
We had two denominators in common. First, we both had a long history of political involvement and were active as socially committed cultural workers who elevated our political concerns over the economic concerns of making it commercially within the system. Second, we both have a deep love for music and are heavily influenced by Black music.
When we got together we were able to work as a true duo rather than as one backing up the other. The music was not background for my poems and my poems were not just hooks for Fred to string together saxophone solos. At the same time, Fred and I were not always in total agreement on political and aesthetic matters. We debated each other. Fred remains a marxist and I, more than ever, am an advocate of socially committed, politically progressive Black culture. I no longer consider myself a Black nationalist.
Fred and I work together not because of color, nor because of some trendy concern with multiculturalism or pie in the sky "rainbow coalitionism." We work together because we are politically attuned to opposing the racist/capitalist/sexist status quo. We are searching to develop ideas, institutions, and ourselves as individuals who work to establish egalitarian and just social formations at every level of our existence, emphasizing both the personal one-to-one and the ongoing development of multi-generational organizations which work with young people to help uplift and empower our people and each other.
Our duo, the Afro Asians Arts Dialogue, has performed from Atlanta to Wisconsin, California to Maine and a number of places in between. The majority of our performances are sponsored by Asian student groups and by Third World/Minority offices on college campuses. We have yet to be booked by a Black student organization. Fred and I talk about why Black groups shy away from booking us. The answer is simple: the currents of Black struggle are at an all time low. Our heroes are atheletes and entertainers, politicians and academic "public intellectuals," all of whom directly depend on the status quo for their money and status. The bulk of our leadership lives in the big house and dreams of sleeping in the master's bed.
Nationalism is a bankrupt concept. While we strive to become fully integrated into America, the fact of the matter is that the working class masses of us are more isolated, more exploited, and more hopeless than we have ever been. The nineties wave of drug culture, or what we used to call "biological warfare," is nothing new. The "opium wars" in China are a precursor of the inner city "crack" epidemic. Whether we talk integration into America or separate development in Black countries such as those in Africa and the Caribbean, as reality has demonstrated neither option in and of itself is the solution for our people here in America.
We can argue about the causes of our oppression and exploitation but the effects are real and deadly. Moreover, the major issue to deal with is our collusion with capitalism and hence our own resultant racism. Do you think Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods could get away with endorsing Nike if the shoes were manufactured in Haiti or Senegal for ridiculously low wages under neo-slave conditions? Unfortunately, the answer is: Yes -- if our leadership continues to be apologists for capitalism and mesmerized by glitz.
The truth is we are doing the same thing that White American workers historically did, we are being bought off by a combination of materialism and isolation. And while we are busy ideologically waving the American flag, capital recognizes no national boundaries. The globalization of economic exploitation by structures such as the multinational corporations, the World Bank, and, the most famous of all maurauders, the IMF (officially the International Monetary Fund, unofficially the International Mother Fucker!) is the current form of economic exploitation.
Asia will unavoidably be the dominant battlefield of the 21st century, especially India -- the world's largest English speaking country -- and China. Which is not to say that Africa is insignificant or irrelevant, far from it. Africa will remain a major site of ongoing struggle and will remain particularly relevant to the future of Black people worldwide precisely because, as a result of disease (particularly AIDS) and famine, and as a legacy of the slave trade, in the 21st century Africa will be severely underpopulated. That is an important point to keep in mind. the needs of Africa notwithstanding, I believe Asia will be the major arena of future north/south, east/west clashes.
Only those of us who are prepared to relate to the whole world will develop and prosper. Everyone else will be left behind to wallow in their own parachialism. For too many of us "integration" has meant, as James Baldwin so prophetically argued, rushing into "a burning house." But the future is not White. The sun will set on Europe, and when the new day dawns, global cooperation will be the order of the day. Now is the time to prepare for that future.
Why do we lie about telling these hard truths? Our leaders lie to us for the benefit of short term material gain -- a salary, proximity to power, a high ranking career, a lucrative endorsement or consulting contract.
Exploited as both labor and capital, we were money -- our physical bodies. If anyone should understand the evils of capitalism, we, the descendants of ensalved Africans, we who were America's first form of venture capital, we should understand.
Moreover, in contemporary terms, when we advocate "free enterprise zones," "Black capitalism" under the rhetoric and rubric of small business entreprenuership, or preparing ourselves for "good jobs" we are merely adding another brick in the wall of our people's economic and political disenfranchisement. Business per se is not the problem (buying, selling and bartering existed long before capitalism). The elevation of an economic bottom line to the top priority of all our endeavors is the problem.
I do not believe that everything in America is wrong, nor do I believe that there is no hope. I do believe that this society is in the midst of a major meltdown and that in the next millenium we will look back on this stage and wonder why we couldn't see the problems for what they actually were. America is imploding. While this is certainly the most militarily powerful country of the 20th century, military power is no real measure of social wellbeing.
When we closely examine the social conditions of all people in this society, the conclusion that there are serious problems is obvious. This grand experiment called America was seriously flawed from the beginning, based as it was on the liquidation of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans, all justified in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of (material/economic) happiness. The main reason people came to and continue to come to America is because of the perception and the opportunity to make fortunes, but all such fortunes are made at the terrible expense of various peoples (mainly, but not exclusively, people of color) worldwide.
The problem is that the center can no longer hold. The world can not and will not continue to provide over sixty percent of its resources to a country which has far less than 10% of the world's population. There will be a change. The course and results of this change are what is in question.
In the here and now, the solution is for us to open our eyes, travel the world and begin to find out for ourvelves what is going on. The solution is to begin to think and act and live globally. The solution can be found by living harmoniously while putting ethics, and not economics, in the lead; by emphasizing cultural integrity rather than racial purity; by advocating and maintaining alliances with peoples of color and people of good deeds whomever they may be.
Korean shop keepers, Vietnamese merchants, Chinese restauranters, none of these are our real enemies. Multinational corporations, the American government, academic citadels, none of these are our real friends.
For particularly revealing insights on how America actually works, and insight into how minorities in high positions don't and can't make a major difference in the economic and political wellbeing of the masses read two books: Diversity in the Power Elite -- Have Women and Minorities Reached the Top? by Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff, and Who Rules America Now: A View for the 80's by G. William Domhoff. Many of us have never faced the truth about the society into which we are born and a society whose existence we accept as the work of "God" rather than the machinations of classes and interest groups often operating out of pure greed and material self-interest. Without serious study, we are not even prepared to argue our beliefs or make accurate analysis of our problems. For far too many of us, the popular media is the sum total of our education and understanding of both world affairs and the realities of American life.
You can believe the ideals, myths and outright lies if you want to, but I'll take a hard truth over a soft lie any day of the week. The truth is we are knowingly lied to everyday of the week by those who have a stake in the status quo. What we really need are leaders who will call into question all our beliefs and challenge us to address the pressing, very real and very difficult situations that confront us instead of advocating a mixture of metaphysics and fatalism, a mixture of traditional "put it in God's/Jesus' hands" and "there's no way like the American way." If those options are the solution, how is it that after nearly five hundred years of "one nation under god" we have the problems we have today?
The bulk of our socalled leaders lie about telling the truth because they are not our leaders but rather hand-picked and specifically groomed judas goats whose main task is to quietly lead us to economic and political slaughter. Regardless of what our leaders believe and what god they pray to, the results of their actions define them for what they are. And that's the truth!