I associate my very first steps in the study of Latvian not with the poems of Janis Rainis, but with a little black girl. The memory is preserved to this day by a story from my textbook about a pug-nosed little girl who had come to a shoe store with her mother for new sandals. The sandals, which the woman had slaved for a week to buy, ended up being too small, and the mother asked for a pair a size larger. Here a total and unconscionable humiliation involving racial hatred began.
The white saleswoman asked the mother to pay for the sandals that had come in contact with the little one’s black skin, and would only then allow her to try on a second pair. The tears of the humiliated flowed onto the marble floor of the store; jagged icicles of fear frozen in the girl’s eyes.
But there he was, an unexpected savior, who had appeared, like all American heroes, “from out of nowhere.” He was pale-faced, rich and surprisingly compassionate. Having caressed the upset child’s coarse, springy hair, he paid for the two pairs of sandals, catching the saleswoman’s sidelong glance. After reading the story, I came away with the following moral: In the United States, all blacks are equivalent to second-class citizens, but they are all very good people and it’s necessary to pity them.
I felt unbearably sorry for the little girl. I also grieved when Soviet foreign correspondents put together their report from shots filmed in U.S. ghettos and dumps. The camera zoomed in on the face of a man who was difficult to make out in the night: “This is Steve. He is a mechanic by trade. Steve has been looking for work for 12 years now. He hasn’t eaten in two weeks, and his hope of surviving in the world of cruel capital is ever more illusory.” My good humor and appetite disappeared right before dinner. My parents’ admonitions added to my moral suffering: “Once again you haven’t finished your meat and potatoes, while poor kids in Africa are dying from starvation.”
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” made me sob. But even that’s not all!
In America, Angela Davis was being persecuted. Nelson Mandela contemplated the sky over South Africa through the bars of his cell. And the newspaper “Soviet Sport” vividly described how sharks from the world of sports were trading unfortunate NBA basketball players like slaves. I studied the album covers of Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, feeling sorry that I wasn’t living in the United States.
The thirst for revenge for the oppressed pounded in my heart. Sometimes I was even upset that I hadn’t been born black. I developed a guilt complex toward black people from allied and hostile nations alike.
The complex didn’t go away even after a July stay at the “Friendship” pioneer camp. I remember how Angolan students from the Institute of Civil Aviation Engineers came to visit us. At first they sang. Later, having spoiled the applause, they binged on vodka; our group’s teacher, Marina Valierevna, was nearly raped.
Even watching the movie “Le Professionnel” with the dictator colonel Njala as the antihero did not shake my belief in the need to empathize with members of the black race. In sum, to this day I associate blacks with humiliation, slave labor, jazz and basketball, despite the American authorities’ attempts to convince the world that in the U.S., they keep just as vigilant an eye on the rights of blacks as they do on the rights of gays and the disabled.
The shooting of Michael Brown in the town of Ferguson has served as clear confirmation that it won’t work to try to change my mind. But is it possible I’ve had this complex all this time for nothing? The policeman literally pumped the guy with lead even though the officer easily could have restricted himself to shots to the legs. Such brutal violence against the youngster was bound to cause a backlash from Ferguson’s large black community.
Rather than establishing a dialogue with the protesters, the authorities brought armored vehicles into the city, used tear gas, and proceeded to arrest the protest movement’s activists. Even a 90-year-old woman landed in jail. Journalists had been in the cell before her. I suspect they even beat those arrested. You can see what kind of selectiveness there is on the part of leaders who endorse a policy of double standards.
The American administration is ready to fully support the Maidan in far-off Kiev, while at the same time brutally suppressing attempts by citizens of its own country to protest. The unrest in Ferguson is yet another confirmation of the fact extreme racism exists in a country that teaches the entire world political correctness and tolerance.
There is a ton of proof. One need only recall the recent scandal involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling asked his young lady friend not to bring blacks with her to his team’s matches, and made derogatory comments about members of the black race as a whole.
In other words, both the election of the first black president by the American people and talk about the triumph of absolutely all democratic values is no more than decoration. The problem of blacks and whites did not disappear with the placards degrading blacks, or with the appearance of Hollywood agitprop in which African-Americans, flexing their muscles, triumph over evil.
Thus, right from the beginning of the unrest in Ferguson, statements emerged from representatives of the Black Panthers alleging the resumption of the organization’s activities. Considering the movement’s methods, one can say that the signal is more than serious. You watch — even the Ku Klux Klan will get out its dirty robes in defiance of the Panthers.
Barack Obama decided to preempt such a turn of events: “As Americans, we've got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that's been laid bare by this moment. But that requires that we build and not tear down. And that requires we listen and not just shout. That's how we're going to move forward together, by trying to unite each other and understand each other, and not simply divide ourselves from one another.”
One can only guess where and why Americans have suppressed their humanity, but the remark about “build and not tear down, listen and not just shout” is very sensible. Outside their own country, the “United Statesians” are engaged exclusively in sabotage that is disguised by slogans about the need to restore order, and it is impossible to out-shout them.
As I’m writing this, I’m watching a live broadcast from Ferguson: barriers, the wail of police sirens, a chanting crowd, and National Guard soldiers that remind one of Transformers robots. It is not a life-affirming image, but for some reason I feel lighthearted. My guilt complex toward blacks has disappeared. On the contrary, I’m happy for them. I’m happy that they can organize and protest. And then you watch, and an all-American Maidan is not far off.