TA-NEHISI COATES — BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME — 2015
This small book is a pamphlet but this pamphlet is so strong that it will give nightmares to everyone who has in anyway been dependent on someone else who domineered them, harassed them, sexually or not, exploited them in all possible ways. The author described the black side of this dependence and he keeps in mind — and starts from — the crucial declaration of the most racist white Southerner I know, John Calhoun who wrote: “The two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black. And all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.” This clearly means the blacks are neither poor nor rich, hence are not human. More openly racist is not possible. Calhoun thought the two classes in society were the humans, necessarily white, and the chattel, necessarily black. And we have to remember a black person is less valuable than a horse. An escaping horse will never be put to death. They definitely do not shoot escaping horses. But an escaping slave will probably be put to death by a band of dogs sicked onto the slave who will be literally dismembered by the dogs and probably abandoned to die slowly in some ditch or in the middle of a road to be used as an example to other escaping candidates.
Ta-Nehisi Coates very rightly identifies this racism as the possession of the bodies of the slaves who could be — by principle and by white privilege — tortured, raped, maimed, exploited, whipped, let to die buried to their shoulders in the sunshine for three or more days if necessary, and many other monstrous treatments advocated by the very famous Jamaican Lynch who came to Virginia at the beginning of the 18th century to explain to Anglo-Saxon planters how a black man could be turned into a black slave by implanting in all the blacks the fear of slow violent extremely painful death exemplified to them by the quartering of one male slave by four horses tied up to his four arms and legs. This Lynch monster is unluckily not mentioned as such by the author, but he is behind the whole pamphlet.
This possession of the body of the slave is transformed after the Civil War into the same possession of the same body of the same slave now ex-slave but with new means to impose that constant control of the flesh of black people in everyday and every night life. That used to be lynching, today practically extinct. That used to be the KKK today revisited and re-energized by white supremacists who are raising their heads out of the manure pile of racism thanks to the victory of populism in the USA. That used to be segregation and this one still exists. That has become the slavery of imprisonment: there are more black people in US prisons than there used to be slaves in the USA in 1861. That has also become the free rein on all police forces, white or black, to shoot to kill in any situation any black male who is deemed by the shooter a danger to his security, and you can imagine what it becomes at night with no witnesses. That has become more difficult nowadays with smart phones because those racist police officers, men and women alike, black and white alike, are confronted with the filming of their heroic racial cleansing. Yet that does not bring the slightest penal or criminal prosecution not to mention conviction of any of these killing cops in any court whatsoever. At the most a few of them have deemed it more reasonable to resign and go continue their careers under some private flag. They will continue killing but with the best lawyers imaginable to protect them.
The author is thus totally justified in considering race and racism as the central piece of US heritage, and changing this fact will take more than two or three generations and probably more than two or three more presidents after the nincompoop that is in the White House today.
But the author who writes this pamphlet for his son when this son of his is seventeen does insist on the body, on the flesh of this body, on the suffering imposed to the flesh of this body via the suffering imposed to the mind and soul of this body via fear. But he is discreet enough not to insist as much as he should on the sexual dimension of this racial hatred among racists. Lynching is often reduced in the public sphere to hanging, burning, alive or not, beating to death. But very often before coming to such final stages the black man who was going to be lynched was emasculated, probably raped by a few KKKlanners like a last drink for the road, and other sexual acts and mutilations these lynchers could invent including breaking their knees on logs, eviscerating them before hanging them, amputating their fingers, their toes, their feet, their hands, and any other part of the bodies they could reach and cut off. All those acts on men were of course direct sexual acts, not simply symbolical but perverted into any form of amputation.
Women — few were actually lynched — were the direct victims of rape. For a long time and still even today if the occasion presents itself, they were raped at any encounter possible. Rape was a daily activity of all white males after twelve and still is. The white females concerned by these white males then could satisfy their sexual drives by having the concerned black females tortured in any possible and horrible way. That has been going on in northern America since the arrival of the first black slaves delivered by the Dutch from New Amsterdam to the tobacco planters in Virginia in 1619, John Rolfe being the first planter to buy these black slaves. And be sure if the white supremacists and the white KKKlanners and the white racists have today the opportunity to rape a black man, woman or child without any possible criminal investigation, they do it and often in bands, hence practicing gangbangs against any black person available when they feel the surge and impulse to do it.
Now what about the future, what about life for his son when he is an adult and he was in 2016? Can the blacks go on living on that Post Traumatic Slavery Stress Syndrome and can the whites go on living on that Post Traumatic Slavery Stress Syndrome? It is the very same “heritage” but in the former case from the experience of slaves and in the latter case from the experience of slave owners. We can easily understand the problem for black people who live in constant fear, if they are males, to be shot to death or imprisoned at times for life, and if they are females to be raped by any band of white hooligans who could have the opportunity to do this in full criminal exoneration. But we do not seem to understand that this PTSSS is active among the whites, maybe not all of them, but at the level of the federal state without any questioning. That’s probably the worst part of Obama’s heritage. He has not changed one iota in the racist functioning of all police forces, of the war on drugs and of the imprisonment of as many black males as possible in prisons where they are forced to work for practically nothing, and their earnings will only be delivered to them when they get out in several dozen years or more, if ever. It will take more than one white Senator to change this situation, even if he/she is as persistent as Bernie Sanders. Right now a campaign is being launched by the media against sexual harassment of women by men, but there is no campaign launched about the sexual harassment of men by men or women and certainly not any campaign launched by the media against the racial harassment of blacks by the state, the police, the school system, the dominant culture, etc.
That’s where the debate is slightly twisted, distorted, pushed to the side, out of the way. At best some activists, white or black, attack Donald Trump. But Donald Trump did not set up the basically racist American society. He only used the bigotry mainly of white people to be elected and to go on being approved, even when betraying his own electoral promises, because he cannot change the system that got him elected and the only personal change he introduces is a secondary stress and emphasis on immigrants, both Latinos and Muslims. But basically it is the same bigotry that is at play in such side issues when compared to the case of blacks.
There is unluckily another element Ta-Nehisi Coates does not consider. All human societies since the emergence of Homo Sapiens 300,000 years ago or so have inherited and kept a hierarchical division of labor that enabled them to emerge and to survive the Ice Age. This division of labor developed into some subservient dependence that could be slavery among the agricultural and herding workers of the farming and animal husbandry that developed after the Ice Age some 17,000 years ago onward. All human societies have to have a hierarchical division of labor that enables them to improve, innovate, develop new solutions to the basic question of survival of the people. The problem we are ALL HUMANS EQUALLY facing is to keep this hierarchical architecture fluid enough not to produce any sort of segregation and rejection. (check the poetical extension at https://medium.com/@JacquesCoulardeau/nigga-ya-black-87a8051b0706)
With modern technology developing at light speed we can wonder if tomorrow the top layer will not be reduced to a very small number of people controlling the various media that would control all our needs and actions. Are we on the verge of the emergence of a “Person of Interest” society in which half a dozen people could control the whole world with computers and cameras? That’s the real challenge and it concerns absolutely everyone in the world, in the USA among many other countries, and it is by far wider than any racial approach which is the basic element of bigotry in the USA. These white supremacists are just blind in front of the real danger today. But the blacks, if they keep centered on these white supremacists, will also miss the real challenge of the next twenty years, the two decades during which the USA will lose their leadership in the world. Next year India will overtake France as for their economic power. China is not the only challenger and the use of traditional force and violence shows in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, even in Palestine, that this violence is doomed to fail. After a few million casualties for sure but nevertheless fail it will. The real danger then in the USA is that an ever smaller minority of white supremacists or state supremacists, which is the same thing, who are the same people, takes over all control and imposes on the vast majority, mostly black, Latino, ethnic, Muslim or whatever is not White Anglo Saxon Protestant, utter alienation and exploitation, with or without a universal minimum income enabling them to survive without working pending their own suicide for and by boredom.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU