Reckoning with What is Owed — and What Can Never be Repaid — for Racial Privilege

Nietzsche’s “guilt”, whiteness, and what the real cost is to live in the land of another | Oh, and the difference between freedom and liberty

[I once feared buying a house because I didn’t want to be owned. I had saved money with no purpose in mind other than the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Now I’m bound to this house, though I’m still free to lose it if I choose. But that isn’t the version of freedom that interests me at the moment. I’m more compelled by a freedom that would allow me to deserve what I have. Call it liberation, maybe. If debt can be repaid incrementally, resulting eventually in ownership, perhaps so can guilt.

What is the condition of white life? We are moral debtors who act as material creditors. Our banks make bad loans. Our police, like Nietzsche’s creditors, act out their power on black bodies. And, as I see in my own language, we confuse whiteness with ownership.]

 

KING: Why I’ll Never Stand Again for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ | JENNINGS: Why I Stand for the National Anthem

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Monday, August 29, 2016, 1:02 PM
There is more in the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. It goes like this:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

____________________________________________________________________

I like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In a dream world the bread is super soft, like the Wonder Bread of my childhood, and the sandwich will have crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam, and a cup of cold milk to go with it.

Maybe PB&J isn’t your favorite sandwich, but I want you to imagine your favorite comfort food for a moment. Maybe it’s a hamburger, a piece of pie, or a fruit smoothie. Whatever it is, just imagine yourself enjoying the very best version of your very favorite food.

It’s perfectly delicious. Then, imagine yourself glancing up on the wall and seeing that the restaurant had a score of C minuses on their health inspection. Then you go to the restroom and it’s filthy. A man emerges from the stall having followed by the foulest odor you’ve ever smelled in your life, and you notice he’s still wearing his apron from the kitchen. Then, the unthinkable happens — the man who made your comfort food walks right past the sink and doesn’t even wash his hands.

You leave the restaurant in disgust. As you stand outside without even finishing your meal, you see the world’s largest rat dart out from under a gaping hole by the restaurant door. You are now completely undone. You are “call the health department and post an angry one-star review on Yelp” level undone. You don’t even want your money back. You just want to get the hell away from there. Your new dream come true would be to have one of those “Men in Black” wands waved over your face so that you could forget the implications of the meal you just ate.

Would you ever go back to the restaurant? Of course you wouldn’t.

To me, right now, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is that peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I used to love it, but now I regret ever going anywhere near it. The man who made it — who uses the bathroom in his apron and doesn’t wash his hands, is the author of our national anthem, Francis Scott Key, who, as it turns out, was a terrible human being.

Now that I have learned the truth about our national anthem and its author, I’ll never stand up for it again.

First off, the song, which was originally written as a poem, didn’t become our national anthem until 1931 — which was 117 years after Key wrote it. Most of us have no true idea what in the hell we’ve been hearing or singing all these years, but as it turns out, Key’s full poem actually has a third stanza which few of us have ever heard. In it, he openly celebrates the murder of slaves. Yes, really.

While it has always been known that the song was written during American slavery and that when those words about this nation being the “land of the free” didn’t apply to the millions who had been held in bondage, few of us had any idea that the song itself was rooted in the celebration of slavery and the murder of Africans in America, who were being hired by the British military to give them strength not only in the War of 1812, but in the Battle of Fort McHenry of 1814. These black men were called the Corps of Colonial Marines and they served valiantly for the British military. Key despised them. He was glad to see them experience terror and death in war — to the point that he wrote a poem about it. That poem is now our national anthem.

While I fundamentally reject the notion that anyone who owned other human beings was either good, moral, or decent, Francis Scott Key left absolutely no doubt that he was a stone cold bigot. He came from generations of plantation owning bigots. They got wealthy off of it. Key, as District Attorney of Washington, fought for slavery and against abolitionists every chance he got. Even when Africans in D.C. were injured or murdered, he stood strong against justice for them. He openly spoke racist words against Africans in America. Key said that they were “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

While San Francisco 49ers quarter back Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem because of the overflowing abundance of modern day injustice in America, he has helped bring to light the fact that this song and its author are deeply rooted in violent white supremacy.

I will never stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” another day in my damn life. I don’t care where I am or who’s watching. The statue of the racist Cecil Rhodes, which stood tall in South Africa as a painful relic from white supremacists until March of 2015, was finally removed once and for all. It should’ve never been erected. It should’ve been removed a very long time ago, student leaders made it clear that they had had enough.

Like Kaepernick, I’ve had enough of injustice in America and I’ve had enough of anthems written by bigots. Colin Kaepernick has provided a spark.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” should’ve never been made into our national anthem. That President Woodrow Wilson, widely thought to be one of the most bigoted presidents ever elected, chose it as our national anthem, is painfully telling as well. We must do away with it like South Africans did away with their monument to Cecil Rhodes. We must do away with it like South Carolina did with the Confederate Flag over their state house.

Of course, removing the culture of white supremacy does not necessarily remove its effects, but we must simultaneously and passionately address both. I’m joining Colin Kaepernick, who joined in with the spirit of Rosa Parks, by standing up for our rights by sitting down. I hope you join us.

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NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Saturday, August 27, 2016, 6:49 PM

On Saturday, Jennings explained to the News that he’ll continue to stand for the national anthem. Jennings, 31, grew up in Virginia, and has strongly advocated for Black Lives Matter, so he understands much of the strife between the African-American community and police, understands the struggle against racism in the United States.

But the running back described himself as an “optimist,” and while some may see a nation that’s dishonoring its flag and its anthem, Jennings prefers to draw hope from the lyrics and history of that anthem: “I would say that it’s nice to know that we live in a country where sitting down during the anthem won’t land you in jail or worse. But I personally choose to stand and honor the anthem for what I hold it to represent to me.

I understand how back during that time when slavery was LEGAL, Francis (Scott) Key wrote the poem he entitled ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ based on his personal views and experiences with the war. When America decided to make the first verse of it our National Anthem, they left the controversial third verse out.

I’m an optimist. I figure if it was the intention of our founding fathers to keep America a nation of slaves, then it wouldn’t have chosen a song where all four verses end with ‘the land of the FREE and the home of the brave’ instead of ‘land of the free, home of the SLAVE.’

“Hey! I wish they would have kept verse four in, which says that heaven rescued us, God’s power preserved us and in God is our trust. But we don’t always get what we want, do we? I’m a black man who is free to achieve my dreams because I live in America and trust in God.”

Enslaved and Marooned on Remote Tromlein Island for Fifteen Years, with Only Archaeology to Tell their Story

[On the night of July 31, 1761, Jean de Lafargue, captain of the French East India Company ship L’Utile (“Useful”), was likely thinking of riches. In the ship’s hold were approximately 160 slaves purchased in Madagascar just days before and bound for Île de France, known today as Mauritius. It had been 80 years since the dodo had gone extinct on that Indian Ocean island, and the thriving French colony had a plantation economy in need of labor. However, though slavery was legal at the time, de Lafargue was not authorized by colonial authorities to trade in slaves.

 

According to the detailed account of the ship’s écrivain, or purser, as L’Utile approached the vicinity of an islet then called Île des Sables, or Sandy Island, winds kicked up to 15 or 20 knots. The ship’s two maps did not agree on the small island’s precise location, and a more prudent captain probably would have slowed and waited for daylight. But de Lafargue was in a hurry to reap his bounty. That night L’Utile struck the reef off the islet’s north end, shattering the hull. Most of the slaves, trapped in the cargo holds, drowned, though some escaped as the ship broke apart. The next morning, 123 of the 140 members of the French crew and somewhere between 60 and 80 Malagasy slaves found themselves stranded on Île des Sables—shaken and injured, but alive.

 

De Lafargue had some kind of nervous breakdown, according to the écrivain. First officer Barthélémy Castellan du Vernet took over, and rallied the crew to salvage food, tools, and timber from the wreck and build separate camps for the crew and the slaves. Under the first officer’s guidance, a well was dug, an oven and furnace built, and work on a new boat begun. Within two months, the makeshift vessel La Providence emerged from the remains of L’Utile. Du Vernet, before he sailed away with the crew, promised the Malagasy people that a ship would return for them. And so they waited. The few that survived waited a very long time.]

Read the full story | ARCHAEOLOGY

MAALAGASI

The Last of the Mard Gras “Indians” | A Story

Published February 10, 2016 

[Having grown up in a small town in Louisiana, away from New Orleans, our Mardi Gras celebrations didn’t incorporate all the nuances of typical French Quarter flair, Bourbon Street woes, or institutions like “Mardi Gras Indians,” yep, “Indians.” An umbrella classification identifying 38 organizations of black entertainers, that coin themselves as “tribes.” It turns out that the New Orleans’ tradition is rooted in the ever-present theme of slavery and indigenous removal.

Hundreds of African slaves that were freed after the Civil War, ultimately joined the “Buffalo Soldiers,” U.S. Cavalry Regiments of the United States Army comprised of African Americans (specifically 9th and 10th  Cavalry Regiment). You may have heard the term “Buffalo Soldier,” used in a song made popular in the late 20thCentury by Bob Marley. Sadly, these regiments had a significant hand in the mass killing, forced removal and relocation of the Plains tribes during the Indian Removal Act. Upon return to New Orleans, many former Buffalo Soldiers joined wild west shows. In 1885, it is recorded that about sixty Plains Tribesman marched during Mardi Gras in full regalia. Inspired by this, the black soldiers that participated in wild west shows, most notably Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, formulated their own entertainment troupes, eventually evolving into today’s “Mardi Gras Indians.”

Their exaggerated stereotypical dress, layered war paint, and beaded adornments of removal act scenes, are blatant evidence of, for lack of a better terms, misappropriation #OnFleek. A quick YouTube search and dozens of videos celebrating their “culture” are easily accessible, yet not one video calling them out for exploiting Indigenous traditions. Not one video testimonial of their unfortunate but traceable roots to the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples.

 

As a member of a tribe that celebrates Louisiana whole-heartedly, so much so that we incorporated the state into our name, the “Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana,” it is a hard pill to swallow when Louisiana’s most revered celebration of Mardi Gras is marred by such an ignorant procession of ill-natured Native Appropriation, based on foundations of Indigenous removal executed by former slaves. I’m not writing this as an exercise to point fingers at anyone, but rather, as an effort to wave my finger in disapproval of a society that allows this ignorance to be perpetuated. I like to think that once made aware of the offense, those that perpetuate it would rather participate in a dialogue to correct it. Add this one to the list Native America, lets end it.

“Today is a good day to die…” –Crazy Horse

Mardi Gras Indians

1885 – 2016]

The Last of the Mardi Gras Indians

Santiago X (Lawrence Santiago, M.Arch) is an Indigenous Artist, Architect, Singer/Songwriter, and Indigenous Youth Development Specialist. He is an enrolled member the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana (Koasati) and Chamorro (Hachamaori) People of Guam U.S.A. and currently resides in Chicago, IL.

The Slave Ship: An Operative Architecture Responsible for the Atlantic Crossing

A concentration on a micro-argument in the context of a greater argument some subjects of which include German citizens during WWII, non-black South African citizens during Apartheid, American citizens during slavery or their encounters with native Americans, soldiers carrying out illegal orders, Israeli citizens about the Palestinians, Japanese citizens during WWII, and the list goes on seemingly forever. Here it is:

The argument of these articles in the broader context of the research exposed on this platform is simple: although architecture and design (and through them, architects and designers) cannot be held responsible for the founding logic of the genocide that constitutes the slave trade, the latter could simply have never existed without their active contribution and, as such, architecture is fundamentally responsible for the operativity of slavery. (THE FUNAMBULIST)

1 SLAVESHIP

La Marie-Séraphine (1770) / Excerpt from Bertrand Guillet, La Marie-Séraphine: Navire négrier, Nantes: Editions MeMo, 2009

[… Here, more than ever, we need to forget any dissociation between the various scales of design: the plantation cabin is architecture, of course (see Clifton Ellis and Rebecca Ginsburg (eds), Cabin, Quarter, Plantation, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) but more broadly, any materialized form of whatever size or nature implementing the organization of bodies in space is also architecture. This includes the slave ship and its inherent tension between the fundamental cruelty of its design and the economization of life that its function requires vis-a-vis its “human cargo.”

What the example of slave ship allows, because of the world in itself it constitutes, is a representation of the holistic dimension of the weaponization of its architecture. In other words, every component of the slave ship is designed to contribute to the organization of bodies in a spatial configuration optimizing its function, as the illustrations (above and below) of the French slave ship La Marie-Séraphine (1769-1776), show well. This includes the bodies themselves: the sailors’ bodies, in their choreographed accomplishment of navigating this “vast machine” (see Rediker, 2007), the daily ‘care’ of the hundreds of bodies living under the deck, as well as the individualized or collective deadly suppression of potential forms of revolt. In The Slave Ship: A Human History (Penguin, 2007), Marcus Rediker describes the frequent deaths of these bodies during the triangular crossings, which we can interpret through a logic that shares some similarities with slavery itself: not considering bodies individually but rather, through their muscular operativity as a whole by the ship’s captain and owners. Nevertheless, the sailors’ bodies are not the only one engaged in the holistic optimization of the slave ship through its design. The imprisoned African bodies themselves, through the deliberate overpopulation of their space (see past article), were involuntarily acting as as much walls for each other — the illustrations presented here was drawn by the ship’s officer, not an abolitionist and, as such, is very likely to have minimized the amount of bodies present — in particular when these bodies were handcuffed by two, as Rediker describes in his book.]

http://thefunambulist.net/2016/01/08/the-slave-ship-an-operative-architecture-responsible-for-the-abysmal-atlantic-crossing/

Bacha Bazi of Afghanistan

“Bacha bazi” literally translates to “child’s play.” Upon first glance, the dancing ritual seems just like what’s it is called, at least on the surface. But in Afghanistan’s deeply religious society, this child’s play is anything but that. The young men who are made up like women and forced to dance for older men are really sex slaves with no way out.

There are many boys stolen from their families and made into a “bacha bereesh” or “boy without a beard,”  a commonly used term to refer to these emasculated sex slaves. Usually, the boys are taken away from their families with false promises of education and work to be turned into unpaid sex workers. In reality, the only things they learn are how to dance and how to be raped by the older males.

Most of the Dancing Boys of Afghanistan are between the ages of 13 and 15. They are shunned by society and by their own families, if their families even know where they are. These young men are certainly never acceptable for marriage. The masters, the ones who house and feed them, are admired for their wealth in a desperately impoverished country. No one really talks about the fact that these masters also have sex with these beardless boys.

The “bacha bereesh” often turn to drugs and don’t live very long. If they do, they become predators after they are too old to perform. They lure other young boys into the same life that destroyed their own.

For years, returning American soldiers told stories about hearing the boys being raped at night. They were told to do nothing because the practice is so deeply embedded in the country’s culture. After all, it was so acceptable that until now even policemen sat and watched the performances. It was only recently that the government prohibited the ritual of “bacha bazi” after decades of its existence.  Whether or not they took in the so called after-show is unknown albeit probable. Only the Taliban were able to stop the phenomenon by prohibiting the practice and executing violators, but it’s resurfaced since the group fell. (FIRST TO KNOW | 1/7/2016)

Watch THE DANCING BOYS OF AFGHANISTAN | PBS | FRONTLINE

Also… Confessions of an Afghan Boy Sex Slave | NEWSWEEK

 

 

Thanksgiving Coming Up and All… | Ask a Slave: What About the Indians?