The death of a great man highlights an even greater hypocrisy
This is the first of Rock Hackshaw's three-part series on the passing of Nelson Mandela.
In this country, whenever I want to find the best coverage of unfiltered news on cable television, I go to CSPAN. For the most part you only have to bring your intellect to the viewing chair. It seems as though most of the other networks aim to either indoctrinate or proselytize. I doubt that’s an objective at CSPAN.
Recently CSPAN showed a documentary on Birmingham, Alabama. I was fortunate enough to catch it, while surfing the airwaves one morning. It was quite enlightening and mentally uplifting: so now I am back to writing my political columns, after a spell of inactivity and reflection (I will get to an explanation of that entire ordeal one of these days).
A high school social-studies teacher recently took a film crew and peregrinated the town of Birmingham; focusing on places where significant civil rights issues emerged during the 20th century. He showed the church where a few Negro girls were killed one Sunday morning: when racist white-supremacists bombed it. He showed the sites of various marches in which Martin Luther King took part. He traversed the city and showed places where news events made the morning papers all over the USA (United States of Amnesia), and at times all over the world too.
Then he got to a relatively mundane part of the show which turned out to be the most profound. He started showing some of the major commercial strips on the main streets, and started describing what happened on an everyday basis for blacks in that city.
What really stunned me was the showing of a particular shoe store there. In this shoe store -similar to quite a few shoe stores all over the country then- Negroes were not allowed to try on the shoes before purchase. They were also prohibited from returning shoes once purchased: a commercial rule which was particularly hard on them.
In order to purchase a shoe, a black man would place his foot on a piece of cardboard and trace an outline of his sole. He would then cut it out and take this caricature to the store. He would then place that caricature inside a shoe he wished to purchase in order to see if it fits.
What emerged as a general practice for black men was the purchase of loose fitting shoes, since those were preferable to being stuck with tight shoes you couldn’t return. It was just one of thousands of little ways blacks made adjustments, in order to deal with -and survive- overt and covert racism, brutal oppression, blatant injustice, constant humiliation, perpetual repression, daily ridicule, and the like.
So why do I tell you this?
Because after more than half a century in this world, I have come to the conclusion that the average white person just doesn’t understand racism and its everyday viciousness; and this was just one of many simple but classic examples.
You see, most of us know about Rosa Parks, blacks relegated to the back of the bus, and the Montgomery bus boycott; but how many know about Elizabeth Jennings who did much more than Rosa parks did about 100 years sooner?
Most of us also know about Oprah Winfrey being snubbed in a high-falutin boutique in a Scandinavian country; but how many are aware that Ms. Winfrey has been treated horribly by clerks and proprietors, in stores all over the USA, France, England and other countries.
The point is this: racism dishes out millions of cuts, hurts and stings every single day; in near every country in this world. In general, we only hear of the ones that are seen as “sensational”; or deemed “newsworthy”; or the ones wherein celebrities are involved.
And that’s why I find this entire media-hoopla about Nelson Mandela -after his death- a bit hypocritical. Mainstream media in the USA is having a “Mandela-orgy” while perennially refusing to focus on racism’s everyday atrocities.
It seems as though the white-controlled mainstream media loves to celebrate non-whites after they die; more so than when they are living: Gandhi and Martin Luther King are prime examples; and now we have Nelson Mandela.
This media hoopla is taking place while racism is still alive and thriving in the both United States of Amnesia and the world at large. Do we need to bring up the Dominican Republic and its sordid history of racism towards Haitian blacks? Go research a dictator named “Trujillo”: a man the US government once propped up for years.
Look; in the everyday viciousness of racism, certain things about Negro males became cliché in the lingo of Caucasian males. In the 1970s -during President Jerry Ford’s short tenure- this “loose shoes” cliché cost an agricultural secretary his job within the Ford administration/cabinet.
If memory serves me correctly, the man’s name was Earl Butz; and he turned out to be a real butthead. I believe it was on a plane flying somewhere between US cities -while having a few drinks and yakking it up with other white male friends- he said something to this effect: that black males have an affinity for three things mainly: (1) tight pussies, (2)“loose shoes”, and (3) a warm place to shit.
Of course he was promptly fired; but the point is this: racism imposes millions of subtle and unsubtle indignities every day all over this country and all over the world; and whites generally refuse to see that because of the color of their skin there are not only privileges, but also daily indignities from which they are spared.
Look; I hate hypocrisy; and from that simple statement you can extrapolate a corollary hate for hypocrites. I also hate duplicity, subterfuge and deceit. I hate liars. I detest those who deny simple and/or objective truths. I dislike people who often tend to contradict without an iota of intellectual retrospection. I try not to hate too much, but sometimes I can’t help it; especially when it relates to human beings and their ostensibly unconscious inhumanity to fellow humans.
In the end I always try to keep myself in check. Hate usually makes way for hoping, wishing and praying. I always try to stay hopeful despite umpteen disappointments; it’s one of the many reasons why I try to introspect often. It’s one of the reasons why I usually take a time-out to look at things retrospectively.
There are some basic philosophical views about humans to which I subscribe. I believe that most of us aim to do well and be good. I believe that there are many many more good people in this world than evil people. I also feel that there is good and bad in everyone, and that we must always strive to develop the good parts of ourselves while simultaneously destroying the bad parts; once we arrive at an awareness of their existence.
I also believe that no one race, nationality, ethnicity or creed has a lock on good, bad, evil, suffering, or God’s love even. There are no “chosen people” (by God); that is -and has always been- total bullshit.
I also believe that most of us are mediocre people though a few great ones always lurk among us. I believe that most of us have average intelligence. I believe a limited few attain exceptional intellectual heights. I also suspect that in this regard there is more than just a liberal sprinkling of fools spread all around and every- which- way-and-where. And that’s too bad really.
So there you go: Rock’s nutshell world-view about the human race(s).
Now, when it comes to people who I consider to be (or have been) great humans by the exemplary lives they lived, I don’t have a very long list. There are many many good ones, but there are limited numbers of “great ones”. Here is a short list; and please note that there are many others on the list: this is just an example of where I come from as it relates to “greatness”.
I like to start off with males like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln; then I go to females like Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells and Mother Theresa. On my list, I also include people like Granville Sharpe, William Wilberforce, Muhammad Ali, Elizabeth Jennings, Oprah Winfrey, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. I accept that the inclusion of Malcolm X might be controversial to some; but he makes my list mainly because of where he came from to get to where he arrived. He epitomized the unlimited potential of humans to change for the better; after all, he was once nothing short of a racist.
I know I probably should include Jesus Christ on this list since his religious philosophy is proverbial and profound; but I don’t want to offend those who see him as either a God or demi-god; or at least something (or someone) transcending mere human mortality.
And then I eventually get to a South African man better known as Nelson Madiba Mandela: born in Transkei, on July 18th, 1918. He passed away on Thursday 5th December, 2013. Right now, it seems like the whole world is in mourning. He was a great man: no doubt.
The highlight of his life is arguably the 27 years he spent doing hard labor, while imprisoned by the immoral South African government, for what many saw as treasonous actions against that state. Mandela eventually became the world’s most celebrated felon since Jesus Christ. A whole international movement was built around demands for his freedom; and simultaneously, demands for the dismantling of South Africa’s inhumane apartheid system.
For the past week -and probably for the foreseeable short term- US radio stations, television networks, media outlets, magazines, newspapers and the like, have been inundating us with tributes to this great man. That’s fine. It is deserved. He was a great man indeed.
But wasn’t the CIA part of the group of folks who sold out Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress? Aren’t they complicit in his capture, trial and imprisonment? And guess who setback the anti-apartheid movement for decades? Guess who inspired the oppressive laws of apartheid anyway? Guess who clandestinely helped the immoral white-led apartheid regimes of South Africa to develop nuclear weapons (with an assist from Israel)? Guess who helped dismantle this very same nuclear weapons program, once the inevitable was ascertained: that blacks will eventually inherit -and take over- the South African government one day? So it was quite alright for whites to possess nuclear weapons when blacks were being oppressed; but not quite right for blacks to possess said weapons once they were in political power? Do you see the hypocrisy folks?
To every question posed here you will find that the answer lies with the US government via various presidents, their administrations, diplomats and spies. Also complicit are various media outlets-entities, corporations, institutions, agents, US law-enforcement and/or military forces/sources, allies, willing citizens and others.
The USA was arguably the biggest obstructionist in the quest for an early dismantling of South Africa’s horribly inhumane apartheid policies. To someone like me -who made sacrifices as part of this “apartheid” fight- this country’s media-orgy celebrating Nelson Mandela’s life is a bit too much. It’s too hypocritical to be taken without a laxative.
Those whites who apologized for, and even viciously defended South Africa’s apartheid system (President Ronald Reagan and Vice-president Dick Chaney/for example) were never reprimanded or punished for attempting to defend the morally indefensible apartheid system: and that’s a goddamn shame.
In 1986 Ronald Reagan vetoed legislation from Congress that imposed crippling economic sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime. It took a protracted fight, but his veto was eventually overridden by the decency, wisdom and foresight of republicans and democrats in and out of Congress, coming together for a monumental cause. One republican senator (Richard Lugar/Indiana) said it was the single most important thing he did during his decades in Washington.
“Mister Warmonger” himself (Dick Chaney) voted against a simple congressional resolution calling for Mandela to be released from prison, after more than two decades of incarceration.
I have always stressed that in politics too many people get away scot free from being held duly responsible for their action(s) or inaction(s). Whenever I say that, it appears as though most people seem to miss the point.
Folks; research suggests that America’s involvement in South Africa’s internal affairs may go as far back as the War of 1812. This clandestine involvement definitely heightened during the 20th century, and by the time the apartheid laws were fully implemented around 1948, US involvement was approaching its zenith.
Research also suggests that apartheid had its roots in the West-African based slave trade. In 1797 many non-whites in South Africa had to obtain passes to freely travel around the country -as most did while seeking gainful employment. Prior to this, passes were only needed by slaves travelling away from their masters. Eventually, this new policy affected East Indians, Negroes, Arabs, Orientals, and the like. It was an epic of worse things to come for non-whites in this land.
Another series of repressive initiatives in 1806 further polarized the country and led to pockets of unrest. In 1894, the Glen Gray Act -backed by Cecil Rhodes- effectively minimized the land rights of non-whites in many areas of the country. And as time marched on, more and more restrictive rules were brought into effect with the obvious aim of subjugating the large black masses which had a vast numerical superiority over whites, and other non-blacks.
In 1912 the ANC was formed. By then, progressive whites and militant non-whites had already started pushing back on some of these restrictive regulations legally imposed by Afrikaners (Caucasians), and backed by the implied military might of imperial European colonial powers.
Left-leaning political organizations -including communists and socialists- started to politically organize progressives and non-whites for the many challenges that lay ahead. With the help of trade unions seeking to protect workers’ rights, these actions laid the groundwork for the resistance that came after 1948; the year that symbolizes the formal crystallization of South Africa’s numerous apartheid laws.
By the late 1950s a young lawyer named Nelson Mandela had already risen to a prominent leadership role in the ANC. He was committed to overthrowing the immoral apartheid system by any means necessary. Any scholar of Black History in the USA would know that Malcolm X loved to repeat this phrase:”extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”. Any objective historian can draw his or her own conclusions as to Mandela’s complicity (as a new leader) in most of the violence that took place in South Africa before, during, and after he was imprisoned.
The fact that Mandela headed up the ANC’s strategic militant response to apartheid, leaves us to conclude that it will be naïve to assume Mandela did not know (or even sanction at times) some of the terroristic actions of the group and its allies during armed insurrection, rebellion and protracted struggle. Let me repeat: extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.
After Mandela’s death, Newt Gingrich -a former Republican congressman- tweeted to his followers that Mandela was indeed a great man. His comment was met with a barrage of negative responses from right-wingers in this country. These responses shocked the usually placid Gingrich; but he shouldn’t have been: right-wingers in this country harbor many racists within their ranks. Right wingers in this country brook crassly racist remarks on a daily basis. Try to visit their various blog-sites on any given day and you will see what I mean.
Some of the respondents to Gingrich -and also many who commented on various public blogs relative to Mandela’s death- called Nelson a terrorist; a criminal; a murderer; a communist; an anarchist; and more. Gingrich shot back with as powerful a question as could be asked in the situation: “if you were in Mandela’s shoes what would you have done?”
South Africa’s apartheid laws were oppressive, immoral and inhumane: there is no debating this. Blacks weren’t allowed to be citizens in the land of their birth. As the system evolved over time, it became even more oppressive. Blacks were routinely repressed in every which way, form, fashion and manner. You name it, and blacks faced it: daily.
If you think that the “stop and frisk” procedures of various police departments in the USA is intrusive and unconstitutional, then try to imagine what non-whites in South Africa had to endure for decades. They were routinely stopped anytime and anywhere. And they had better have the proper documents on hand; otherwise they were subject to legal entanglements that could always lead to their disappearance (sometimes) forever, in a maze where thousands upon thousands are still to be accounted for: even today.
During apartheid’s reign, Blacks in South Africa were lower than second-class citizens even -as say blacks were in the USA during a parallel universe. Apartheid laws killed millions of blacks over its “legally sanctioned” timeframe of roughly half a century. Everyday indignities were meted out routinely. Injury, harm and even death were common place for blacks who lived there.
South Africa’s apartheid system was nothing but modern day slavery. It was coupled with the viciousness of those who professed to be of a superior race (Caucasians); and for decades the powerful USA did little -or practically nothing- to end this atrocity of man’s inhumanity to fellow man.
For decades, the average white US citizen appeared to be inured by South Africa’s horrible political system. And I suspect the reason was simply because the average white US citizen was practicing something similar right here in these dis-united states. As I implied before: white-skin privilege has no limits.
You see; in these the United States of Amnesia, what was practiced during this time-parallel was a first cousin to South Africa’s apartheid system. It was systematic racism propagated by too many whites (not most) against their non-white fellow citizens. In the USA, there was a systematic, constitutionally sanctioned, legally crafted atrocity, which also inflicted millions of vicious wounds daily. Remember that “loose shoes” story? Well I can tell you limitless stories about colored only bathrooms; routine refusals to sell or serve to black folks; denial of the right to register and vote; no entry into kindergarten, public schools, colleges and/or universities; no drinking for blacks at certain water fountains; no eating at certain public restaurants; no medical treatment at certain hospitals; and so on, and so on, and so on. The list is long and sometimes deadly.
Structural white racism as practiced in the USA then, flowed right alongside South Africa’s apartheid system: for years. It started long before South Africa’s apartheid system (I will get to its genesis in my next column). It flourished when the US Constitution was ratified: a document wherein blacks were immorally counted as three-fifths human. It flowed without much interference until decent people of conscience and civility -coming from all races, religions, nationalities and ethnicities- decided it was too obscene to be tolerated without some pushback. People of this ilk are still pushing back -even today- as we continue to fight for true equality, freedom and justice for all.
Racism -with its octopussian tentacles- employs countless daily weapons in its deadly arsenal. It inflicts millions of wounds regularly. All over this world racism is alive and well. I will expound on this further as I continue this three-part column.
Stay tuned-in folks. I am not finished yet.