Black on White

Racial conflict or rebellion against America’s own history?

One of the most incredible events of this crazy year, a year everyone wants to bid good riddance, was America’s revolt against its own history. And while the results of the presidential election, which was directly affected by this revolt, are already known, the long-term consequences of reevaluating basic values and norms are not yet clear either for the U.S., the world, or those who rebelled. Ogoniok looks into this new type of protest.

All color revolutions, although Black and white revolutions have not yet occurred, begin with a crisis of historical memory, and American events are no exception. In 2017, eight months into the Republican administration, the dismantling of historical monuments that documented slavery and racism in the U.S. began throughout the country. A monument to Christopher Columbus was the first, dismantled because it was seen as a symbol of the genocide of the Indigenous peoples of America. Next, the battering ram struck memorials in the South, where slavery lasted longer than in the rest of the United States. Finally, the sledgehammers reached the monuments of the Founding Fathers: George Washington, the first and only president unaffiliated with a party, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, including its famous “all men are created equal” language, and even Abraham Lincoln, although Black America owes the 13th Amendment to him, the amendment which abolished slavery and cost Lincoln his life.

Why does America show such ferocity to the past lived long ago? Why do the battles from past centuries require sacrifices once again?

A Teacher’s Lies

In his day, the French enlightenment thinker Baron de Montesquieu, reflecting on the results of the great geographical discoveries of the 15th-17th centuries as they occurred, concluded with subtle philosophical irony: “Were I to vindicate our right to make slaves of the negroes, these should be my arguments: The Europeans, having extirpated the Americans, were obliged to make slaves of the Africans, for clearing such vast tracts of land.”

It is still necessary to “clear such vast tracts of land,” but today it is what American historian and sociologist James W. Loewen, in comparing a dozen of the most popular history textbooks, has called “the teacher’s lies.” In his book, “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong,” he argues that the “blind patriotism” characteristic of Americans is explained by a steady flow of misinformation. And it begins with school history books that cover up the shameful pages of the past, and glorify the “white man’s burden” that built the great country of America. To understand this, you just need to look at the Anglocentric version of the country’s history from the point of view of the different communities that inhabit it.

As we know, at the moment, the role of the judge who decides which statues to dismantle and which to save was taken over by the Black Lives Matter movement and the countless antifa parasites that joined it, positioning themselves as fighters against fascism and racism. Together with the Democratic Party, these groups came out as a united front against Donald Trump.

Interestingly, herein lies the first inconsistency: Republicans led by Trump only came to power in 2017, while #BlackLivesMatter began trending on social media in the summer of 2012. Need we remind you who was the president of the United States at that time? More precisely, a second-term president, because Barack Obama was reelected in 2012.

It is worth recalling the movement’s history. A batch of lies spilling into the American media launched the Black Lives Matter movement after a tragedy in Sanford, Florida, where in February 2012, a Latino police volunteer, George Zimmerman, shot a Black teenager, Trayvon Martin, at point-blank range. The trial took place 1 1/2 years later. The jury (which included six white women one of them Latina) unanimously acquitted the killer, and he got his gun back right there in the courtroom, the same gun the 29-year-old man used to “defend” himself from a 17-year-old boy armed with a bag of sweets and a bottle of tea. After the verdict, a wave of protest swept America; the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing on the day of the murder became the signature clothing of demonstrators against police brutality, and the “BLM” was embedded in the political discourse.

Black Lives Matter waited for an assessment of the blatantly unfair verdict from of the court from the “president of all Americans,” as Obama constantly postured. Obama’s first reaction — “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” was confusing. Where was the president going with this? An explanation soon followed. Obama affirmed that in a state governed by the rule of law, all citizens are obliged to obey the decisions of the court. White America responded with a standing ovation, but Black America was outraged. And then, on a third attempt, Obama clearly identified himself with his fellow Black citizens. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he said. He also condemned racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. It was an unusual step on the part of the 44th president of the United States to recognize a dead Black teenager as being almost the son of the Democratic Party. It is now clear that this was action taken for the future.

‘Have the Wolf by the Ear’

When Obama was born, America was still covered by “White Only!” and “Black Only!” signs. Officially, there was no slavery; however, racial segregation flourished. It was only in 1964 (Obama was three) that the Civil Rights Act, proposed by the 35th president, John F. Kennedy, was signed by the 36th president, Lyndon B. Johnson. This was undoubtedly a historic achievement of the Democratic Party. However, the country remembered that the party also had a different kind of achievement.

Here it is necessary to look back, at least momentarily, at the history of the U.S. flipping through its pages by looking at each presidential era, it is impossible not to be amazed. Of the 15 statesmen who led the country before the Civil War, only John Adams and John Quincy Adams, the second and sixth presidents of the United States, father and son, never owned slaves and had a deep aversion to slavery.

All the others kept slaves and used them to earn money. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, who after his presidency returned to managing household affairs on his Monticello estate where 600 slaves worked in the fields, farms, spinning mill and nail factory, wrote to one of his friends, “But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

So much for the dilemma of the most celebrated teachers of democracy. They fervently defended the freedom and equality of people, for they were made by the Creator, but, how could we live without slaves? Therefore, there is no mention of slaves in the U.S. Constitution, but rather repeated references to “other persons,” and “person[s] held to Service or Labour.” Just like in Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls,” the ladies of N. never blew their noses but “relieved the nose through the expedient of wiping it with my handkerchief.”

As the American political landscape developed, this glorious tradition was continued according to the party line.” When the Democratic Party decided on a new name and a new program, it immediately initiated the “gag rule,” a legislative prohibition not to accept or consider petitions to abolish slavery.

What is not commonly remembered today but should be is that the founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson, “a land speculator, merchant, slave trader, and the most aggressive enemy of the Indians in early American history,” (as characterized by historian Howard Zinn in “A People’s History of the United States”), did not hide the fact he always carried a knife for scalping dead Native Americans. And after he became the seventh president of the U.S. (1829-1837), Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, relocating Indigenous populations to barren reservations on the plains beyond the Mississippi River. They were driven there in groups of 2,000 and 3,000. However, it was only possible to fully contain the resistance of Native Americans, who “were fat with eating beef” (a remark by the same Andrew Jackson), after the U.S. Army completely destroyed the bison herds, the main food source for the natives of the Great Plains.

At first glance, the Republican Party looks much more decent in historical comparison. An outstanding leader, Abraham Lincoln, appeared among its ranks, someone who American propaganda turned into a political icon for all people and for all times. He hated slavery, owned no slaves, tied his own shoelaces. But Lincoln’s legacy is extensive, and not everything he did is iconic.” “If I could save the union without freeing any slave I would do it,” Lincoln publicly admitted. And then, “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 … and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and Black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.” Surprising? Not at all: Lincoln was a man of his time, that says it all.

New Era

And what happened next in our time?

After a century of slavery, ended by Republican President Lincoln, and a century of racism, ended by Democratic Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, for the first time, all U.S. citizens became equal under the law. Even ethnic and racial composition is determined independently by the U.S. population, with only secondary support from all sorts of regulations, instructions and even a special memo from the Office of Management and Budget which defines all races and ethnic groups. These guidelines are not mandatory, since individual identification is voluntary and plays purely a statistical function. A mixed-race person has the right to specify any of their racial backgrounds or none at all.

However, this right is useless, when seen alongside the number of “white slaves,” which grew exponentially only because they had at least a drop of Black blood from their great-grandparents. If federal laws before 1964 recognized only mulattoes and quadroons (who are persons with one Black grandparent), then in Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, those with 1/64 of Black ancestry who lived seven generations ago could be considered Black. And American sociologists still operate under the idea of “invisible Blackness.” It has long been clear: Neither the dismantling of statues, nor the kneeling of police officers will help to overcome this gap.

How can one divide the descendants of former slaves and the descendants of former slave owners today without the risk of creating new unsolvable problems? After all, you can rock the country, and then the world, so hard that the Founding Fathers themselves will leave their pedestals. It seems that this is the case, but here we encounter the field of social psychology.

Outstanding Black thinker, historian and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) did not live to see the first Black U.S. president, but accurately described what this president’s state of mind would be. “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body.”

The thread of this subtle psychological analysis leads to an understanding of what happened to President Obama’s “two souls.” By showing the ability to see the wound of Black America as his own, he recognized his own difference from white America. The gratitude of Black citizens was not long in coming. The statement of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of the dead teenager, was the loudest among the chorus. “President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy,” they said. The next step toward reconciliation between the two communities was taken by the president himself, who invited Black Lives Matter leaders to the White House. After meeting with them, Obama said, “They are much better organizers than I was when I was their age, and I am confident that they are going to take America to new heights.”

This phrase was uttered in February 2015, when the extremist focus of the Black Lives Matter movement was already evident. And then the inevitable happened: The outwardly peaceful gesture of the president was perceived as encouraging extremism, and not only Black, but white, too.

The response came in June 2015, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof shot nine Black worshippers at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Although his social media profile was swiftly blocked, one was able to get around the block, and a lot of Roof’s photos were shared on the web, showing him posing with neo-Nazi symbols and proudly waving the Confederate flag. Before going to the church, the murderer drew up a manifesto:

“I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

After the church massacre, Black Lives Matter inscriptions appeared on many Confederate statues, which soon became seen as targets for dismantling. Here is an important detail: If the Democratic Party called on its members and supporters to fight back against the destructive actions of Black Lives Matter in 2013, two years later, the Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution in support of the movement. “The DNC joins with Americans across the country in affirming ‘Black lives matter’ and the ‘say her name’ efforts to make visible the pain of our fellow and sister Americans as they condemn extrajudicial killings of unarmed African American men, women and children,” it said. And then, in the light of day, it called for “demilitarization of police, ending racial profiling, criminal justice reform, and investments in young people, families, and communities … Without systemic reform, this state of unrest jeopardizes the well-being of our democracy and our nation…”

The year is 2015. Trump’s chances of winning in 2016 were regarded as nonexistent: He was not even a Republican candidate yet, but a new game of chess in the country had already begun, and a Black made the first move. (This is not a pun, but a fact.)

David Horowitz, a former Marxist and now a former “new left” author explained his transition to the conservative camp by the fact that the party of left-wing radicals and Black extremists had gone so far that it was “setting the country on fire.” In his FrontPage Magazine, Horowitz lists a whole array of major corporations and charitable foundations that are funding the turmoil. The list is impressive: the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, etc. Together, they are running a fundraising campaign for a coalition, centered on Black Lives Matter. To date, the most notable “systemic reform” of the Democrats and their Black Lives Matter allies has been a program of total “deconfederation,” which targets more than 700 statues that offend “the highest American ideals.” However, if one counts all the memorial plaques, streets, squares, parks, universities and schools that preserve traces of the Confederacy, then more than 13,000 objects are subject to being dismantled and erased from memory.

This is no longer just reform, but rather a coup d’etat. Of course, the Republicans object to such a general revision of history and have a different view on “ideals.” Accordingly, their opponents brand them as hardened racists. Well, we can talk about that, too.

By Another Name

Researchers have calculated that the American sociopolitical scene today is already in its 12th generation, descending from the first American slaves. In seven of those generations, from 1640 to 1865, slaves were legally property. This law, enforced by then British Virginia (the birthplace of the first five U.S. presidents) was, with time, revoked, but is still remembered. The eighth generation, along with the advent of personal freedom, had a fairly long period of reconstruction, which lasted until 1890. The transition of the former Confederate states to a system of free labor was carried out under the watchful eye of federal troops, but as soon as the U.S. Army left, everything went back to normal. Former slave masters once more entangled workers who were free but hungry. Now, however, they used loans, debts and other misdeeds as tools to burden their now servants with. With that, “slavery by another name’ arrived, a term coined by writer Douglas A. Blackmon (who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009).

This “new slavery” lasted until 1964 (two more generations) in the form of segregated schools, shops, canteens, separate toilets for “colored” people, separate seats on public transportation, signposted pews in churches, two different Bibles used for swearing to tell the truth in court, and at night, Ku Klux Klan robes out in force. Collectively, it was called “racial segregation,” but it must be understood that all these institutions except the KKK were regulated by law. Wild, inhuman, but lawful. And only the last two generations, since the mid-20th century, have experienced an era of political correctness, in which there is no longer any place for legislative racism. But subsequently, there is “institutional racism.”

What is this innovation, and where did it come from? The phenomenon of institutional racism was officially mentioned for the first time last summer in a statement by the White House on the death of George Floyd, strangled at the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin. (The protests and rioting continue to this day.) The White House statement acknowledged something valuable: “Experts agree that the era of formal political correctness has not brought true equality to the African American population of the United States.”* Historians, political scientists and other experts agreed that a “new racism” exists beyond the reach of legislation, and neither Democratic nor Republican administrations have yet been able to contain it.

Herein lies a resemblance to the distant past. Sometimes one group of elite holds the “wolf by the ear,” then another, but refuses to let go until the last minute. Is this an attempt to rile someone up?

Today, the 13th generation since the first American slaves form the strike force of the Black Lives Matter movement, but to understand what drives it, one has to consider its core. After Zimmerman shot Martin in 2012, three black women, Patrisse Cullors, an artist with a degree in religion and philosophy, and Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, both human rights activists and writers, launched the famous hashtag on social media; Black Lives Matter had begun. They immediately introduced themselves as “trained Marxists,” which is a very fashionable word among both educated and uneducated youths in the West, and the women immediately named “our beloved Assata Shakur” the “mother” of the new human rights movement.

The venerable 73-year-old Shakur calls herself a “modern escaped slave” and has lived on Liberty Island for 36 years, from where Radio Havana Cuba carries her voice around the world. What is known about her? Enough is known to understand how dangerous any association with her can be. However, judge for yourself.

When Black people in America still believed in the guiding star of the Baptist preacher Martin Luther King Jr. who called for joining forces with America and fighting for equal rights in a peaceful way, and not through racial hostility, Shakur was still a student at the City College of New York. She chained herself to the campus fence, demanding to replace white teachers with Black teachers. Then came the arrest and the subsequent rise in the extremist spiral: First, there was the Black Panthers, which disappointed Shakur (self-defense in closed ghettos is not a revolutionary struggle), then the Black Liberation Army with its underground networks and shootings when they came in contact with the “hostile system.” In May 1973, on the New Jersey Turnpike, two police officers stopped a car with a broken taillight, in which Shakur was a passenger. It appeared to be a routine stop; a check of documents and that would be it. However, Shakur decided otherwise, opening fire and killing the police officers, the names of whom Shakur would only learn behind bars. A trial followed, and Shakur sentenced to life in prison, along with 30 days for contempt of court. (Shakur refused to stand in court.) Then she escaped. She spent seven years underground. A $1 million reward for the capture of a No. 1 terrorist (on the women’s list, not to be confused with the men’s) remained unclaimed. Finally, Shakur claimed political asylum in Cuba. Such a “beloved mother,” the inspiration and symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Obama, who visited Liberty Island in 2016, had a unique opportunity to visit the person most wanted by American intelligence agencies. Understandably, he did not take it, as he would have had to bring the mother of the Black Lives Matter movement home, no doubt with an honorary escort, in full compliance with the resolution of the Democratic Party in support of Black Lives Matter, adopted in 2015.

And now we know what happened. But it is not clear to anyone what happens next. What is obvious is that “Black-white” turmoil will not settle by itself, and sooner or later politicians will have to put down confrontations on the street. And then we shall see whose turn it will be to hold the “wolf by the ear” in a new turn of history.

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quoted remark could not be independently verified.

About this publication

About Nikita Gubankov 100 Articles
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, I've recently graduated from University College London, UK, with an MSc in Translation and Technology. My interests include history, current affairs and languages. I'm currently working full-time as an account executive in a translation and localization agency, but I'm also a keen translator from English into Russian and vice-versa, as well as Spanish into English.

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