Monday, January 29, 2007

Heady Hilarity for the Historically-Aware

This photo-quote has arrived twice now in my e-mailbox, causing some hilarity, but as my friend D. reminded me, the broader context and deeper historical connections are worth more than a cursory giggle. The following excerpt from page two of the article, entitled "President Bush is 'Our Bull Conner,' Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel Claims" (New York Sun, September 23, 2005), provides some background for the comment:

The storm, he [Charles Rangel] said, showed that "if you're black in this country, and you're poor in this country, it's not an inconvenience - it's a death sentence." Denouncing Mr. Bush for waging "a war that we cannot win under any stretch of our imagination" instead of providing for those devastated by the hurricane, Mr. Rangel left his audience with a parting thought.

"If there's one thing that George Bush has done that we should never forget, it's that for us and for our children, he has shattered the myth of white supremacy once and for all," the congressman said.

Rangel raises the fallacy of white supremacy in an unsubtle fashion that is seen as humorous by some, and "inflammatory" by others (see the article), but I would wager that many USAmericans won't even recognize or understand the profoundity of this reference to Bull Conners. Clearly the transparency (as acknowledged by many observers all over the world) of what happened to poor and black communities in the aftermath following Katrina has brought the historical irony of reinscribing racial inequality at home, while purporting to "defend democracy" and "freedom" abroad to the level of public discourse. The point he makes, if it needs explaining, is that blatant manifestations of institutionalized racism are among the many horrific and inevitable consequences of our current myopic priorities which focus on global power with very little attention to the local effects, here or elsewhere, and that we would do ourselves better to carefully examine the very recent historical contributions of racial supremacy theories to the strategic premises which undergird the USA's will to global influence/dominance.

Related, of course, is the discussion about reparations and who is responsible to whom for the brutalities of our historical past. See also, this article, "(Slavery) Get Over It."

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