Portraits & Poems
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People, Places, Neighbors and Things
Essay - White Privilege
Thoughts on why the system of white privilege is wrong
by Prof. Robert W. Jensen
Essay - BREAKING THE CYCLE
OF WHITE DEPENDENCE
A Call For Majority Self-Sufficiency
by Tim Wise
Essay - White Privilege
by Peggy McIntosh
The Moors of Spain
The Impact of the European Slave Trade on
Social, Cultural, and Psychological Life of Africans in the Americas
by Molefi Kete Asante
America's 'War On Drugs' Looks Unfairely
by Neal Peirce
African Holocaust / The Lessons of a Graveyard
by Brent Staples
by Sterling A. Brown
Compensate the Forgotten Victims Of America's
by Randall Robinson
When the Holocaust Is Incomparable, It becomes
by Henry Siegman
Let's Hear More About Leopold's Congo Holocaust
by Richard R. Hamilton
America, Too, Should Pay Reparations For
by Brent Staples
A Skull Stirs Up Prehistoric Debate
Fossilized Cranium Unearthed in Brazil Challenges Ideas on Peopling
by Larry Rother
Speech of the President of South Africa, Thabo
Mbeki, at the launch of the African Renaissance Institute
Pretoria, 11 October 1999
by Robert Earl Price
Just War Theory
by Alex Moseley, Ph.D.
Racism in Cuba and The Failure of the American
by Sidney Brinkley
WHITE PRIVILEGE SHAPES THE U.S.
by Prof. Robert Jensen
Here's what white privilege sounds like:
I am sitting in my University of Texas
office, talking to a very bright and very conservative white student
about affirmative action in college admissions, which he opposes and
The student says he wants a level playing
field with no unearned advantages for anyone. I ask him whether he thinks
that in the United States being white has advantages. Have either of
us, I ask, ever benefited from being white in a world run mostly by
white people? Yes, he concedes, there is something real and tangible
we could call white privilege.
So, if we live in a world of white privilege--unearned
white privilege--how does that affect your notion of a level playing
field? I ask.
He paused for a moment and said, "That
really doesn't matter."
That statement, I suggested to him, reveals
the ultimate white privilege: the privilege to acknowledge that you
have unearned privilege, but ignore what it means.
That exchange led me to rethink the way
I talk about race and racism with students. It drove home to me the
importance of confronting the dirty secret that we white people carry
around with us everyday: In a world of white privilege, some of what
we have is unearned. I think much of both the fear and anger that comes
up around discussions of affirmative action has its roots in that secret.
So these days, my goal is to talk openly and honestly about white supremacy
and white privilege.
White privilege, like any social phenomenon,
is complex. In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege,
whether or not they are overtly racist themselves. There are general
patterns, but such privilege plays out differently depending on context
and other aspects of one's identity (in my case, being male gives me
other kinds of privilege). Rather than try to tell others how white
privilege has played out in their lives, I talk about how it has affected
I am as white as white gets in this country.
I am of northern European heritage and I was raised in North Dakota,
one of the whitest states in the country. I grew up in a virtually all-white
world surrounded by racism, both personal and institutional. Because
I didn't live near a reservation, I didn't even have exposure to the
state's only numerically significant non-white population, American
I have struggled to resist that racist
training and the ongoing racism of my culture. I like to think I have
changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of
that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. But
no matter how much I "fix" myself, one thing never changes--I walk through
the world with white privilege.
What does that mean? Perhaps most importantly,
when I seek admission to a university, apply for a job, or hunt for
an apartment, I don't look threatening. Almost all of the people evaluating
me for those things look like me--they are white. They see in me a reflection
of themselves, and in a racist world that is an advantage. I smile.
I am white. I am one of them. I am not dangerous. Even when I voice
critical opinions, I am cut some slack. After all, I'm white.
My flaws also are more easily forgiven
because I am white. Some complain that affirmative action has meant
the university is saddled with mediocre minority professors. I have
no doubt there are minority faculty who are mediocre, though I don't
know very many. As Henry Louis Gates Jr. once pointed out, if affirmative
action policies were in place for the next hundred years, it's possible
that at the end of that time the university could have as many mediocre
minority professors as it has mediocre white professors. That isn't
meant as an insult to anyone, but is a simple observation that white
privilege has meant that scores of second-rate white professors have
slid through the system because their flaws were overlooked out of solidarity
based on race, as well as on gender, class and ideology.
Some people resist the assertions that
the United States is still a bitterly racist society and that the racism
has real effects on real people. But white folks have long cut other
white folks a break. I know, because I am one of them.
I am not a genius--as I like to say, I'm
not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I have been teaching full-time
for six years, and I've published a reasonable amount of scholarship.
Some of it is the unexceptional stuff one churns out to get tenure,
and some of it, I would argue, actually is worth reading. I work hard,
and I like to think that I'm a fairly decent teacher. Every once in
awhile, I leave my office at the end of the day feeling like I really
accomplished something. When I cash my paycheck, I don't feel guilty.
But, all that said, I know I did not get
where I am by merit alone. I benefited from, among other things, white
privilege. That doesn't mean that I don't deserve my job, or that if
I weren't white I would never have gotten the job. It means simply that
all through my life, I have soaked up benefits for being white. I grew
up in fertile farm country taken by force from non-white indigenous
people. I was educated in a well-funded, virtually all-white public
school system in which I learned that white people like me made this
country great. There I also was taught a variety of skills, including
how to take standardized tests written by and for white people.
All my life I have been hired for jobs
by white people. I was accepted for graduate school by white people.
And I was hired for a teaching position at the predominantly white University
of Texas, which had a white president, in a college headed by a white
dean and in a department with a white chairman that at the time had
one non-white tenured professor.
There certainly is individual variation
in experience. Some white people have had it easier than me, probably
because they came from wealthy families that gave them even more privilege.
Some white people have had it tougher than me because they came from
poorer families. White women face discrimination I will never know.
But, in the end, white people all have drawn on white privilege somewhere
in their lives.
Like anyone, I have overcome certain hardships
in my life. I have worked hard to get where I am, and I work hard to
stay there. But to feel good about myself and my work, I do not have
to believe that "merit," as defined by white people in a white country,
alone got me here. I can acknowledge that in addition to all that hard
work, I got a significant boost from white privilege, which continues
to protect me every day of my life from certain hardships.
At one time in my life, I would not have
been able to say that, because I needed to believe that my success in
life was due solely to my individual talent and effort. I saw myself
as the heroic American, the rugged individualist. I was so deeply seduced
by the culture's mythology that I couldn't see the fear that was binding
me to those myths. Like all white Americans, I was living with the fear
that maybe I didn't really deserve my success, that maybe luck and privilege
had more to do with it than brains and hard work. I was afraid I wasn't
heroic or rugged, that I wasn't special.
I let go of some of that fear when I realized
that, indeed, I wasn't special, but that I was still me. What I do well,
I still can take pride in, even when I know that the rules under which
I work in are stacked in my benefit. I believe that until we let go
of the fiction that people have complete control over their fate--that
we can will ourselves to be anything we choose--then we will live with
that fear. Yes, we should all dream big and pursue our dreams and not
let anyone or anything stop us. But we all are the product both of what
we will ourselves to be and what the society in which we live lets us
White privilege is not something I get
to decide whether or not I want to keep. Every time I walk into a store
at the same time as a black man and the security guard follows him and
leaves me alone to shop, I am benefiting from white privilege. There
is not space here to list all the ways in which white privilege plays
out in our daily lives, but it is clear that I will carry this privilege
with me until the day white supremacy is erased from this society.
Frankly, I don't think I will live to see
that day; I am realistic about the scope of the task. However, I continue
to have hope, to believe in the creative power of human beings to engage
the world honestly and act morally. A first step for white people, I
think, is to not be afraid to admit that we have benefited from white
privilege. It doesn't mean we are frauds who have no claim to our success.
It means we face a choice about what we do with our success.
By writing about the politics of white privilege--and
listening to the folks who responded to that writing--I have
had to face one more way that privilege runs deep in my life,
and it makes me uncomfortable. The discomfort tells me I
might be on the right track.
Last year I published an article about
white privilege in the Baltimore Sun that then went out over a wire
service to other newspapers. Electronic copies proliferated and were
picked up on Internet discussion lists, and the article took on a life
of its own. As a result, every week over the past year I have received
at least a dozen letters from people who want to talk about race. I
learned not only more about my own privilege, but more about why many
white folks can't come to terms with the truism I offered in that article:
White people, whether overtly racist or not, benefit from living in
a world mostly run by white people that has been built on the land and
the backs of non-white people. The reactions varied from racist rantings,
to deeply felt expressions of pain and anger, to declarations of solidarity.
But probably the most important response I got was from non-white folks,
predominantly African-Americans, who said something like this: "Of course
there is white privilege. I've been pointing it out to my white friends
and co-workers for years. Isn't it funny that almost no one listens
to me, but everyone takes notice when a white guy says it. "Those comments
forced me again to ponder the privilege I live with. Who really does
know more about white privilege, me or the people on the other side
of that privilege? Me, or a black inner-city teenager who is automatically
labeled a gang member and feared by many white folks? Me, or an American
Indian on the streets of a U.S. city who is invisible to many white
folks? Whose voices should we be paying attention to?
My voice gets heard in large part because I am a white man with a Ph.D.
who holds a professional job with status. In most settings, I speak
with the assumption that people not only will listen, but will take
me seriously. I speak with the assumption that my motives will not be
challenged; I can rely on the perception of me as a neutral authority,
someone whose observations can be trusted. Every time I open my mouth,
I draw on, and in some ways reinforce, my privilege, which is in large
part tied to race. Right now, I want to use that privilege to acknowledge
the many non-white people who took the time to tell me about the enduring
realities of racism in the United States. And, I want to talk to the
white people who I think misread my essay and misunderstand what's at
stake.The responses of my white critics broke down into a few basic
categories, around the following claims: 1. White privilege doesn't
exist because affirmative action has made being white a disadvantage.
The simple response: Extremely limited attempts to combat racism, such
as affirmative action, do virtually nothing to erase the white privilege
built over 500 years that pervades our society. As a friend of mine
says, the only real disadvantage to being white is that it so often
prevents people from understanding racial issues. 2. White privilege
exists, but it can't be changed because it is natural for any group
to favor its own, and besides, the worst manifestations of racism are
over. Response: This approach makes human choices appear outside of
human control, which is a dodge to avoid moral and political responsibility
for the injustice we continue to live with. 3. White privilege
exists, and that's generally been a good thing because white Europeans
have civilized the world. Along the way some bad things may have happened,
and we should take care to be nice to non-whites to make up for that.
Response: These folks often argued the curiously contradictory position
that (1) non-whites and their cultures are not inferior, but (2) white/European
culture is superior. As for the civilizing effect of Europe, we might
consider five centuries of inhuman, brutal colonialism and World Wars
I and II, and then ask what "civilized" means. 4. White privilege
exists because whites are inherently superior, and I am a weakling and
a traitor for suggesting otherwise. Response: The Klan isn't dead.
There is much to say beyond those short responses, but for now I am
more interested in one common assumption that all these correspondents
made,that my comments on race and affirmative action were motivated
by "white liberal guilt." The problem is, they got two out of the three
terms wrong. I am white,but I'm not a liberal. In political terms, I'm
a radical; I don't think liberalism offers real solutions because it
doesn't attack the systems of power and structures of illegitimate authority
that are the root cause of oppression, be it based on race, gender,
sexuality, or class. These systems of oppression, which are enmeshed
and interlocking, require radical solutions. And I don't feel guilty.
Guilt is appropriate when one has wronged another, when one has something
to feel quilty about. In my life I have felt guilty for racist or sexist
things I have said or done, even when they were done unconsciously.
But that is guilt I felt because of specific acts, not for the color
of my skin. Also, focusing on individual guilt feelings is counterproductive
when it leads us to ponder the issue from a psychological point of view
instead of a moral and political one. So, I cannot, and indeed should
not, feel either guilty or proud about being white, because it is a
state of being I have no control over.
However, as a member of a society--and especially as a privileged member
of society--I have an obligation not simply to enjoy that privilege
that comes with being white but to study and understand it, and work
toward a more just world in which such unearned privilege is eliminated.
Some of my critics said that such a goal is ridiculous; after all, people
have unearned privileges of all kinds. Several people pointed out that,
for example, tall people have unearned privilege in basketball, and
we don't ask tall people to stop playing basketball nor do we eliminate
their advantage. The obvious difference is that racial categories are
invented; they carry privilege or disadvantage only because people with
power create and maintain the privilege for themselves at the expense
of others. The privilege is rooted in violence and is maintained through
that violence as well as more subtle means. I can't change the world
so that everyone is the same height, so that everyone has the same shot
at being a pro basketball player. In fact, I wouldn't want to; it would
be a drab and boring world if we could erase individual differences
like that. But I can work with others to change the world to erase the
effects of differences that have been created by one group to keep others
Not everyone who wrote to me understood this. In fact, the most creative
piece of mail I received in response to the essay also was the most
confused. In a padded envelope from Clement, Minn., came a brand-new
can of Kiwi Shoe Polish, black. Because there was no note or letter,
I have to guess at my correspondent's message, but I assume the person
was suggesting that if I felt so bad about being white, I might want
to make myself black. But, of course, I don't feel bad about being white.
The only motivation I might have to want to be black -- to be something
I am not -- would be pathological guilt over my privilege. In these
matters, guilt is a coward's way out, an attempt to avoid the moral
and political questions. As I made clear in the original essay, there
is no way to give up the privilege; the society we live in confers it
upon us, no matter what we want.
So, I don't feel guilty about being white in a white supremacist society,
but I feel an especially strong moral obligation to engage in collective
political activity to try to change the society because I benefit from
the injustice. I try to be reflective and accountable, though I am human
and I make mistakes. I think a lot about how I may be expressing racism
unconsciously, but I don't lay awake at night feeling guilty.
Guilt is not a particularly productive emotion, and I don't wallow in
it. What matters is what we decide to do with the privilege. For me,
that means speaking, knowing that I speak with a certain unearned privilege
that gives me advantages I cannot justify. It also means learning to
listen before I speak, and realizing that I am probably not as smart
as I sometimes like to think I am. It means listening when an elderly
black man who sees the original article tacked up on the bulletin board
outside my office while on a campus tour stops to chat. This man, who
has lived with more kinds of racism than I can imagine through more
decades than I have been alive, says to me, "White privilege, yes, good
to keep an eye on that, son. Keep yourself honest. But don't forget
to pay attention to the folks who live without the privilege." It doesn't
take black shoe polish to pay attention. It takes only a bit of empathy
to listen, and a bit of courage to act.
Robert Jensen is a professor in the Department
of Journalism inthe University of Texas at Austin.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
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BREAKING THE CYCLE OF WHITE DEPENDENCE
A Call For Majority Self-Sufficiency
by Tim Wise
Article Dated 5/22/2001
I think it's called 'projection.' When
someone subconsciously realizes that a particular trait applies to them,
and then attempts to locate that trait in others, so as to alleviate the
stigma or self-doubt engendered by the trait in question.
It's a well-understood concept of modern
psychology, and explains much: like why men who are struggling with their
own sexuality are often the most outwardly homophobic. Or the way whites
during slavery typified black men as rapists, even though the primary
rapists were the white slave owners themselves, taking liberties with
their female property, or white men generally, raping their wives with
I got to thinking about projection recently,
after receiving many an angry e-mail from folks who had read one or another
of my previous commentaries, and felt the need to inform me that people
of color are "looking for a handout," and are "dependent" on government,
and of course, whites.
Such claims are making the rounds these
days, especially as debate heats up about such issues as reparations for
enslavement, or affirmative action.
And this critique is a prime example
of projection, for in truth, no people have been as dependent on others
throughout history as white folks.
We depended on laws to defend slavery
and segregation so as to elevate us, politically, socially and economically.
We depended on the Naturalization Act of 1790, to make all European immigrants
eligible for nearly automatic citizenship, with rights above all persons
of color. We depended on land giveaways like the Homestead Act, and housing
subsidies that were essentially white-only for many years, like FHA and
VA loans. Even the GI Bill was largely for whites only, and all of these
government-sponsored efforts were instrumental in creating the white middle
class. But it goes deeper than that.
From the earliest days, "whites" were
dependent on the land and natural resources of the Americas, Africa, and
Asia. Since Europe offered no substantial natural riches from its soil,
European economic advance and expansion was entirely reliant on the taking
of other people's land by force, trickery or coercion. That, my friends,
Then these same Europeans relied on slave
labor to build a new nation and to create wealth for whites; wealth that
was instrumental to financing the American Revolution, as well as allowing
the textile and tobacco industries to emerge as international powerhouses.
From 1790 to 1860 alone, whites and the overall economy reaped the benefits
of as much as $40 billion in unpaid black labor. That, my friends, is
Though apologists for black oppression
enjoy pointing out that Africans often sold other Africans into slavery,
this too indicates just how dependent whites have been on black people:
having to pay and bribe Africans to catch their own and deliver them to
us so as to fatten the profits of European elites. We couldn't even do
that by ourselves.
Then whites were dependent on Native
peoples to teach us farming skills, as our complete ineptitude in this
realm left the earliest colonists starving to death and turning to cannibalism
when the winters came in order to survive.
We were dependent on Mexicans to teach
us how to extract gold from riverbeds and quartz--critical to the growth
of the national economy in the mid to late 1800's--and had we not taken
over half their nation in an unprovoked war, the emerging Pacific ports
so vital to the modern U.S. economy would not have been ours, but Mexico's.
That, my friends, is dependence. Then we were dependent on their labor
in the mid 20th century under the bracero program, through which over
five million Mexicans were brought into the country for cheap agricultural
work, and then sent back across the border.
And we were dependent on Asian labor
to build the railroads that made transcontinental travel and commerce
possible. 90% of the labor used to build the Central Pacific Railroad
in the 1860's were Chinese, imported for the purpose, and exploited because
the railroad bosses felt they could better control them than white workers.
In fact, all throughout U.S. labor history,
whites have depended on the subordination of workers of color; by the
marking of black and brown peoples as the bottom rung on the ladder--a
rung below which they would not be allowed to fall. By virtue of this
racialized class system whites could receive the "psychological wage"
of whiteness, even if their real wages left them destitute. That too is
dependence, and a kind that has marked even the poorest whites.
The plantation owners in the South were
surely dependent on blacks, and for more than field labor. We relied on
black women to suckle and care for our children. We relied on blacks to
build the levees that kept rivers like the Mississippi from our doorstep.
We relied on black girls to fan our sleeping white ladies so as to ensure
their comfort. We relied on blacks to do everything from cooking, to cleaning,
to making our beds, to polishing our shoes, to chopping the wood to heat
our homes, to nursing us back to health when we fell ill. We prided ourselves
on being (or aspiring to be) men and women of leisure, while black and
brown folks did all the work. That, and a lot more, is dependence; and
yet we still insist they are the lazy ones.
And northern industrial capitalism relied
on black labor too, especially to break the labor militance of white ethnics
by playing off one group of workers against the other. That also, is dependence.
During the civil war, the armies of the
Confederacy relied on blacks to cook for the troops and to make the implements
of war they would use in battle; and likewise, the Union relied on black
soldiers--around 200,000 of them--to ultimately win the war. That too,
is most assuredly dependence.
And white dependence on people of color
continues to this day. Each year, African Americans spend over $500 billion
with white-owned companies: money that goes mostly into the pockets of
the white owners, white employees, white stockholders, and white communities
in which they live. And yet we say black people need us? We think they
are the dependent ones, relying as we assume they do on the paltry scraps
of an eviscerated welfare state? Now let's just cut the crap. Who would
be hurt more: black folks if all welfare programs were shut down tomorrow,
or white folks, if blacks decided they were through transferring half-a-trillion
dollars each year to white people and were going to keep their money in
their own communities?
Or what about the ongoing dependence
of white businesses on the exploitation of black labor? Each year, according
to estimates from the Urban Institute, over $120 billion in wages are
lost to African Americans thanks to discrimination in the labor market.
That's money that doesn't end up in the hands of the folks who earned
it, but rather remains in the bank accounts of owners. That my friends,
Our dependence on people of color even
extends to our need to have them as spokespeople for our ideologies and
agendas: thus, the proliferation of high-profile conservatives of color
who bash their own people for us, so we don't have to do it alone. Ken
Hamblin, Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, Walter Williams, Linda Chavez:
all of them, walking, talking, lawn jockeys, shining their lights for
white supremacy. And oh yes, our need for them is most certainly a form
Then, we rely on still more people of
color to help further the agenda of white dominance: namely Asians, whom
we proclaim to be "model minorities."
"See how hard the Asians work,' whites
love to say, 'why can't blacks be more like them?" Of course, we fail
to mention the staggering poverty among Southeast Asians; or the fact
that the most successful Asian sub-groups came to this country with both
business experience and usually college educations; or the fact that despite
hard work, Asian Pacific Islanders still earn between 11-26% less than
their white counterparts, even when their qualifications are equal. Never
mind all that: the model minority myth has a power all its own, and is
one more way in which whites have become dependent on those who are not.
Indeed, I am beginning to think that
whites are so dependent on people of color that we wouldn't know what
to do without them. Oh sure, some neo-Nazis say they would love to try,
but in reality I doubt they could make it. If there were no black and
brown folks around then whites would have no one to blame but themselves
for the crime that occurred; no one to blame but themselves when they
didn't get the job they wanted; no one to blame but themselves when their
lives turned out to be less than they expected. In short, we need people
of color--especially in a ! subordinate role--as a way to build ourselves
up, and provide a sense of self-worth we otherwise lack.
To be sure, our very existence as white
people is dependent on a negative: to be white has meaning only in terms
of what it doesn't mean. To be white only has meaning in so far as it
means not to be black or brown. Whiteness has no intrinsic meaning culturally:
can anyone even articulate what "white culture" means? Not our various
European cultures mind you--which do have meaning but have been largely
lost to us in the mad dash to accept whiteness and the perks that come
with it--but white culture itself.
In workshops I have asked white folks
and people of color what they like about being black, white, or whatever
they in fact may be. For African-Americans the answers always have to
do with the pride they feel, coming from families who have struggled against
the odds, fought injustice, persevered, and maintained dignity in the
face of great obstacles. In other words, to be black has internal meaning,
derived from the positive actions and experiences of black people themselves.
Variations on the same theme tend to be expressed by Latinos, Asians and
Indigenous peoples as well.
But for whites, if they come up with
anything at all, it is typically something about how nice it is not to
have to worry about being racially profiled by police, or how nice it
is not to be presumed less competent by employers, or discriminated against
when applying for a loan, or looking for a home. In other words, for whites,
our self-definition is wrapped up entirely in terms of what and who we
aren't. What it means to be white is merely to not be "the other." And
for that to have any meaning whatsoever there first must be an "other"
against which to contrast oneself.
And that is the most significant dependence
Tim Wise is a Nashville-based antiracist
writer, lecturer and activist.
Back to Table of Contents
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a white person, I realized
I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage,
but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege,
which puts me at an advantage.
I think whites are carefully
taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize
male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is
like to have white privilege....
I have come to see white privilege
as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing
in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White
privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions,
assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes,
compass, emergency gear, and blank checks....
After frustration with men who
would not recognize male privilege, I decided to try to work on myself
at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in
my life....I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attach
somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic
status, or geographical location, though of course all these other factors
are intricately intertwined. As far as I can see, My Afro-American co-workers,
friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact
in this particular time, place, and line of work cannot count on most
of these conditions.
- I can if I wish arrange to be in the
company of people of my race most of the time.
- I can avoid spending time with people
whom I was trained to mistrust and have learned to mistrust my kind
- If I should need to move, I can be pretty
sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford
and in which I would want to live.
- I can be pretty sure that my neighbors
in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
- I can go shopping most of the time,
pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
- I can turn on the television or open
to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
- When I am told about our national heritage
or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it
what it is.
- I can be sure that my children will
be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their
- If I want to, I can be pretty sure of
finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
- I can be pretty sure of having my voice
heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
- I can be casual about whether or not
to listen to another woman's voice in a group in which she is the
only member of her race.
- I can go into a music shop and count
on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and
find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into
a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
- Whether I use checks, credit cards,
or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance
of financial reliability.
- I can arrange to protect my children
most of the time from people who might not like them.
- I do not have to educate my children
to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
- I can be pretty sure that my children's
teacher and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace
norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes
toward their race.
- I can talk with my mouth full and not
have people put this down to my color.
- I can swear, or dress in second hand
clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these
choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
- I can speak in public to a powerful
male group without putting my race on trial.
- I can do well in a challenging situation
without being called a credit to my race.
- I am never asked to speak for all the
people of my racial group.
- I can remain oblivious of the language
and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority
without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
- I can criticize our government and talk
about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen
as a cultural outsider.
- I can be pretty sure that if I ask to
talk to "the person in charge," I will be facing a person of my race.
- If a traffic cop pulls me over or if
the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled
out because of my race.
- I can easily buy posters, post-cards,
picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines
featuring people of my race.
- I can go home from most meetings of
organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated,
out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
- I can be pretty sure that an argument
with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her
chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
- I can be pretty sure that if I argue
for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering
on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present settings,
even if my colleagues disagree with me.
- If I declare there is a racial issue
at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend
me more credibility for either position than a person of color will
- I can choose to ignore developments
in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them,
or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or
less protected from the negative consequences of any of these choices.
- My culture gives me little fear about
ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
- I am not made acutely aware that my
shape, bearing, or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
- I can worry about racism without being
seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
- I can take a job with an affirmative
action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that
I got it because of my race.
- If my day, week, or year is going badly,
I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has
- I can be pretty sure of finding people
who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps
- I can think over many options, social,
political, imaginative, or professional, with asking whether a person
of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
- I can be late to a meeting without having
the lateness reflect on my race.
- I can choose public accommodation without
fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated
in the places I have chosen.
- I can be sure that if I need legal or
medical help, my race will not work against me.
- I can arrange my activities so that
I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my
- If I have low credibility as a leader,
I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
- I can easily find academic courses and
institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
- I can expect figurative language and
imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
- I can choose blemish cover or bandages
in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.
I repeatedly forgot each of
the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me, white privilege
has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to
avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy.
If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one's life
is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no
virtues of their own. These perceptions mean also that my moral condition
is not what I had been led to believe. The appearance of being a good
citizen rather than a troublemaker comes in large part from having all
sorts of doors open automatically because of my color.
Excerpted from "White Privilege
and Male Privilege," by Peggy McIntosh, Working Paper No. 189, Wellesley
College, Center for Research on Women, Wellesley, MA 02181, 1988.
from left: unknown, Joe Louis, Marian Anderson, Bill Robinson,
Paul Robeson, unknown, and Olivia De Havilland at a USO gathering.
Back to Table of Contents
The Moors of Spain
In the centuries following the demise
of Egypt and Kush, a new culture began to develop that would generate
a resurgence of activity in the arts and sciences, as well as the fiery
passion of a new religion. The religion was Islam, and those who carried
it to the corners of the East were the Moors.
The term Moor originated with
the Romans, who, in about 46 B.C., entered West Africa; there they encountered
black Africans, which they called "Maures" from the Greek adjective mauros,
meaning dark or black. To truly understand the historical role played
by the Moors, one must begin with the prophet Mohamet and the Arab jihads,
or crusades. Islamic historian and scholar Al Jahiz wrote in A.D. 860
that "Mohamet’s grandfather Al Matilib was the Grand Shariff of Mecca.
He fathered ten sons, all of whom were ‘as black as the night and magnificent.’
One of these ten was the father of Mohamet." The two closest figures to
Mohamet were both Moors. One was Bilal-i-Habesh, Mohamet’s closest friend,
who in the hereafter was chosen by the prophet to protect him. The other
was Zayd bin Harith, a great Moorish general who led the conquest of Mohamet’s
legions. Historian Drusilla Houston states that Arabia itself had been
first populated by black people: "The Cushites (Ethiopians) were the original
Arabians, for Arabia was the oldest Ethiopian colony."
It is because of the Moors that Europe
was catapulted from the Dark Ages into what came to be called the Renaissance.
The Moors embraced the sciences and arts of Egypt, Greece, China, India,
and Mesopotamia, which they brought to Europe via Spain. They were the
first to trace the curvilinear path of rays of light through air. They
not only enhanced the chemical composition of gunpowder, a Chinese invention,
but invented the rifle. From India they brought astronomy, and they introduced
the compass and astrolabe into Europe. Their houses in Spain were air
conditioned in summer by ingeniously arranged drafts of fresh air drawn
from the garden over beds of flowers; they were warmed in winter by hot
air conveyed through pipes embedded in walls. Bathrooms supplied hot and
cold running water, and libraries, hospitals, and stores were abundant.
The genius exhibited by the Moors seems
all the more phenomenal when one realizes that these accomplishments took
place between the seventh and fourteenth centuries. The Moors ruled Spain
for eight hundred years. As one historian describes it, "the Moors were
a borrowed light; then came the eclipse, and in that darkness Spain has
groveled ever since."
A Journey into 366 Days of Black History, 1992 Calendar
Back to Table of Contents
The Impact of the European Slave Trade on the
Social, Cultural, and Psychological Life of
Africans in the Americas
Delivered for the UNESCO "Slave Routes Conference" at the Schomburg
Center for Research in African Culture, New York Public Library, Harlem,
October 7, 1999
Molefi Kete Asante
The five hundred years dismemberment
of the African body politic and the accompanying brutalities constitute
the most prolonged, violent, and invasive rape of the people in the
history of the world. Carried out, as David Walker understood, by the
white Christian world, the European rape of Africa left a continent
and its peoples, scattered throughout the Diaspora, with only a modicum
of dignity and a profound distrust in the white race.
Slavery like rape leaves the victim
traumatized, debilitated, second-guessing and debating self worth and
spending endless hours analyzing the nature of the perceived weakness
that gave the rapist the idea that he could rape and win, in the first
place. Our ancestors asked, "are we not men and women, too?" "Don't
we have the same affections and emotions of love and desire for our
children?" "Are not our children as precious to us as the rapist's children
to him?" Ad infinitum. We asked these questions and we gathered our
bitterness in a thousand ways, waiting until the brave and heroic men
and women came. We would not be permanent victims. But we were violated
in the most intimate ways, ripped from our Mother's womb, torn from
the belly of Africa, stripped naked before the world, dehumanized in
literature, liturgies, and litanies. WE were made to view our own bodies
as disfigured, vile, inferior, and dirty. We were accused of causing
our own rape, because we walked differently, held different beliefs,
trusted the traditions of our ancestors, and rejected offers of voluntary
bondage. What is King Kwame Ansah's history in 1482 when he told the
Portuguese that trade was permitted, but a permanent settlement in Africa
was not. The Portuguese razed his capital city and built El Mina, inserting
into Ghana what they had inserted into Ceuta in 1415, a colony of whites
bent on raiding and raping Africa. What was Haiti's sin in the eyes
of Europe? It was nothing more than the audacity of an African people
to say "we shall not be raped anymore and if you insist on it we shall
fight you to the very end." Why is it that Boukman is not named among
the great strategists of the world?
What is the impact of rape: self-doubt,
fear, tentativeness, self hatred, anger, and trauma. The evidence is
clear that we have not had collective therapy. No therapeutic treatment
has ever been offered to us nor could it be offered by the rapist. We
are responsible for repairing our psyches. This is why the African nationalists
politically and the Afrocentrists theoretically, remain grounded in
the organic cultural matter of our African consciousness. It is the
defiance in self-definition and self-determination, the twin pillars
of African nationalism, that gives hope to the victims of this half
a millennium rape. I cannot ask the rapist to save me, to affirm me,
to resurrect me: I can only ask the rapist for reparations.
The impact of the Maafa was sheer terror,
raw, brutal, open terror orchestrated to maximize the psychological
damage and cultural disinheritance of Africans. The slaughter of the
kings, queens, priests, royals like the murder of the rebels, the incorrigibles,
and the militants was calculated to grind our pride into the ground.
Karl Peters, the German colonial officer in East Africa, finding his
source in the actions of his European predecessors, took his pistol
and went from village to village killing kings to demonstrate that one
white man with pistol could subdue an entire ethnic group of Africans.
The whole of the African continent is no different than the whole of
the Diaspora. From South Africa to Libya, from Tanzania to Senegal,
from Angola to Sudan, the story has been the same, rape, pillage, distortion
of history, assaults against our vanguard forces, whether Nat Turner,
Malcolm X, or Denmark Vesey. We see people in Africa and in the Diaspora
reaching deep into the pit of their lost souls to find ways to bleach
the blackness out of their skins, to marry whites to improve the race,
and to disavow the ancestors because they are thought to be inferior
to whites. They trample on the memories of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X,
Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Edward Blyden, Alexander Crummell, Ida B.
Wells, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. Our heroes are the enemies of this
rape. And when we no longer have heroes who will stand with the interests
of the people, we shall no longer be a people and thus fulfill the rapist's
intention in the first place, that is, to reduce the victim to nothingness.
Here in New York, Alton Maddox and Al Sharpton must be honored and respected
for the risks they take in the cause of our psychological health. If
they did not exist, we would have to create them.
The terror of rape can cause amnesia,
historical amnesia or if not absolute forgetfulness, the wish to forget:
"I ain't left nothing in Africa," "I'm more concerned about getting
my piece of America than brining up the past." African people were so
traumatized through terror that our gods were left lying in the broken
shards of our broken hearts. Until we pray in public to African gods
or acknowledge that we are the children of the continent we cannot ever
hope to recover our memory, which is our sanity. To ask whose child
you are is not a rhetorical question, but an existential one. It is
not a matter of who is blacker than who, but rather who is down with
black people and who is against black people. If you are down with black
people, then you are up with humanity, but if your are against black
people you are definitely down on humanity. I know the loss of memory
when I look into your eyes.
Can the rapist be forgiven? No, not
if the rapist refuses to acknowledge his crime. This is why the act
of forgiveness must depend on the rapist, not the victim. He must acknowledge,
confess his actions, vow never to repeat them, and make restitution
to the victim. Only in this way as Ifa says, can balance return. It
is through sacrifice that this cleansing will come, no sacrifice, no
forgiveness, no healing.
The objective of the rape was to obliterate
our consciousness and prepare us to be raped forever. To obliterate
our consciousness we had to be reduced to nothing. This is not easy.
Slaves are not born; slaves are made and the process of fabricating
a slave is dangerous and treacherous. At any moment, the person can
turn on the perpetrator and create havoc. It is the nature of our enslavement
that we did not go easily to the slaughter. Our history, like all human
histories, had enough reference points to jolt us to memory, to awaken
fight and resistance. Ours was no acquiescence without resistance.
The obliteration of our consciousness
took two forms: (1) destruction of memory, and (2) cultural and social
disarmament. Since slaves are not born but made it is difficult to make
slaves without destroying history, a sense of memory, or continuity
of story. The rapist must disarm the victim. This must not only be physically,
but culturally and psychologically as well. It is to be expected that
someone will say, "I am not African, I'm Black Atlantic." The memory
is dead. This the victory of the rapist. Others will confuse nationality
with cultural origin and say that they are Jamaican, Haitian, or Trinidadian.
The process of destroying memory or obfuscation memory is deliberate,
willful, calculated. To maximize the effect of the rape the victims
must not remember anything valuable of the past. It must be dirty, primal,
degrading. One has to be exceedingly strong to withstand the technical
assault on memory. Every memory that reminds you of personhood, peoplehood
must be destroyed.
Diordorus says the Greeks stole cultural ideas from
Africa is the home of the human race.
Senusert, Thutmoses III, and Ramses were the greatest
conquerors in ancient history.
Africa gave the world the first names of God.
Writing started on the continent of Africa.
Ahmed Baba wrote 42 books while serving as chancellor
of the University of Sankore.
The basis of human science was laid in Africa.
Nubia had more queens than any country in ancient
Imhotep, an African, was the first personality in
Amadou Bamba was the most prolific writer in history.
Abubakari sent ships across the Atlantic in 1311-1312
The Ghana Empire lasted 1500 years making it longer
lasting than any European empire.
The European must claim that all of
these are lies. They must have Arnold Toynbee of Britain, say that there
was never any African civilization. They must have Hegel of Germany,
the greatest European intellectual except Plato, say that Africa is
outside of history. That is what the rapist must say in order to make
a person lose memory and become a slave. These anti-memory messages
must be delivered with brutality, violence, and sometimes with the participation
of the victim's own family.
The second technique is psychological
and cultural disarmament. Once history is gone you have no motifs, songs,
symbols, totems or cultural landmarks. The rapist must insist that if
you celebrate your culture you must be punished.
Have you heard the expression, to be
scared of one's shadow. That is the condition of the person stripped
of culture and psychological health. If we say, Africans do not need
to be slaves anymore, they say, "I would rather be a slave in America
than a free man in Africa." Didn't Keith Richburg say something like
that in his book, Out of Ameriaca?
In the end when we say we want freedom
we mean that we want to be free from the insertion of Europe into the
belly of our cultural and psychological lives. Freedom is not simply
a matter of economics or employment opportunities, nor is it going to
college with whites, and neither is it having the ability to express
frustrations and anger, but rather it is life free of the persistent
European assault on our spirits without our permission. Thus, from the
invading European hordes along the West Coast of Africa to the invasive
eyes up our noses and the penetrating attacks on our cultural forms,
institutions, organizations, and psyches, we have undergone a rape of
consciousness. It is this rape that causes the victim to cry aloud that
he or she is no different from the rapist, the victim thus wounded in
the soul, becomes in his own mind one and the same with the victimizer.
One can hear the victim saying, "Africans sold Africans into bondage
so anyone can be a rapist." The problem is, no African economy was ever
based on the dehumanization of human beings to the extent that they
were considered chattel property and no African economy based its production
on slave labor. We are here in the realm of the fantastic, when we hear
the victim using the arguments of the victimizer.
Fortunately for us we have had enormous
powers of resilience and it is this resilience that brings us, as James
Weldon Johnson understood, safely into harbor each time we stray from
the path. "Stony the we trod, bitter the chastening rod/felt in the
days when hope unborn had died/Yet with a steady beat, have not our
weary feet/Brought us to the place for which our parents sighed. We
have come over a way that with tears have been watered, we have come
treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out of the gloomy
past, till now we stand where white gleam of our bright star is cast."
Dr. Molefi Kete Asante is Professor of
Africology, Temple University, Philadelphia, and author of 45 books on
various aspects of African culture on the continent and in the Diaspora.
His latest book, The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism, is published by Africa
Back to Table of Contents
America's "War on Drugs" Looks Unfairly Warped
By Neal Peirce
The United States, rarely shy about
condemning other nations for human rights abuses, will get a dose of its
own medicine when the World Conference Against Racism opens in Durban,
South Africa, on Aug. 31. The Target will be America's "war on drugs,"
in which black men are being imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times
the rate of white men.
A team of American lawyers, clergy
and drug experts, organized as the Campaign to End Race Discrimination
in the War on Drugs, will assert that America's criminal justice system
has been turned into an "apartheid-like" device.
"We don't want to see the United States
continue to get off the hook on this," says Deborah Small of the Lindesmith
Center-Drug Policy Foundation, one of the American delegates. "There has
been a lot more attention about racial profiling and to the death penalty
internationally than to the drug war. But there is no other public policy
in the U.S. that affects so many people detrimentally."
The campaign last week released a letter
to Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling on leaders in Africa and the international
community at large to speak out against the United States for allegedly
racist pursuit of its drug war.
What are we to make of this attempt
to make an international cause célèbre of U.S. drug and
incarceration policies? I would like to say it is based on exaggeration,
oversimplification and half-truths. But I can't.
The motivation behind America's drug
wars, its mandatory minimum sentences, its willingness to let the incarceration
rate balloon to the highest in the world, was not race but "law and order"
politics. Yet the impact of the policies has become profoundly racist.
People know it. They just do precious little to correct it.
According to the Washington-based Sentencing
Project, African-Americans are 13 percent of drug users but represent
35 percent of arrests for drug possession, 55 percent of convictions and
74 percent of prison sentences.
And there is little mystery why. First,,
there is location. Poor black city neighborhoods, not calm white suburbs,
are the scene of big street sweeps.
And then there is class. Jenni Gainsborough
of the Sentencing Project notes: "If you're white middle-class and your
kid is on drugs, you call the treatment center. In the inner city there's
no treatment. Your first port of call is the criminal justice system -
and it escalates. Once you have a record, every interaction leads to stronger
States fed these fires with their tough
laws of recent years, and the federal government, if anything, is worse.
Under a 1986 federal law it takes only one-hundredth the amount of crack
cocaine (generally more popular in black neighborhoods) to trigger the
same mandatory minimum sentence as powder cocaine (more popular among
In many city neighborhoods, more than
half of young black men spend time in prison. Even those inclined to form
permanent relationships can't do so from behind bars. For ex-felons, jobs
are rare. Official policy, says James Compton, president of the Chicago
Urban League, is leading to "incapacitation of future generations ...
hopelessness and despair in the black community."
"Drug prohibition has become a replacement
system for segregation," says Ira Glazer, director of the American Civil
Liberties Union. "It has become a system of separating out, subjugating,
imprisoning ... substantial portions of a population based on skin color."
Few of the legislators who wrote today's
laws anticipated such outcomes. But the results give strong credence to
the charges of racist policy being leveled against the country.
The Washington Post
Back to Table of Contents
International Herald Tribune, August 22, 2001
The Lessons of a Graveyard
by Brent Staples
While New Yorkers celebrated
a new century, a team of biological anthropologists at Howard University
in Washington were intensely focused on a most grisly aspect of New York
Led by Dr. Michael Blakey,
the team has spent several years examining the skeletal remains of more
than 400 African slaves whose graves were accidentally uncovered during
the construction of a federal office tower in lower Manhattan nine years
That the graves existed
at all surprised New Yorkers who grew up believing that theirs was a "free"
state where there had never been slavery. But a series of reports from
the Blakey team - the first due out early this year - will present statistics
to show that colonial New York was just as dependent on slavery as many
Southern cities, and in some cases even more so. In addition, the brutality
etched on these skeletons easily matches the worst of what we know of
slavery in the South.
The first slave ship
that sailed into Jamestown Harbor in Virginia in 1619 contained a handful
of captive Africans. But by the end of the Atlantic slave trade more than
two centuries later, somewhere between 8 million and 12 million Africans
had arrived in the New World in chains.
The historian Ira Berlin,
author of "Many Thousands Gone," estimates that one slave perished for
every one who survived capture in the African interior and made it alive
to the New World - meaning that as many as 12 million perished along the
During the 16th century,
the massive outflow of slaves decimated countries like the Kingdom of
the Kongo, whose monarch, King Afonso I, wrote letters imploring King
Joao III of Portugal to cease the slave trade because it was generating
"depravity ...so widespread that our land is entirely depopulated."
He said that "a monstrous
greed pushes our subjects, even Christians, to seize members of their
own families, and of ours, to do business by selling them as captives."
Many of the stolen Africans
ended up in America, some of them in the Dutch colonial city of New Amsterdam
which later became New York City. The Dutch recruited settlers with an
advertisement that promised to provide them with slaves who "would accomplish
more work for their masters, at less expense than (white) farm servants,
who must be bribed to go thither by a great deal of money and promises."
Integral to the colony
from the start, slaves helped build Trinity Church, the streets of the
city and the wall - from which Wall Street takes its name - that protected
the colony from military strikes.
In life, slaves lived
in attics, hallways and beneath porches, cheek to jowl with their masters
and mistresses. In death, these same slaves were banished to the Negro
Burial Ground, which lay a mile outside the city limits and contained
between 10,000 and 20,000 bodies by the time it was closed in 1794, according
to the historian Sherrill Wilson.
The graveyard was paved
over, built upon and forgotten - until 1991, when the General Services
Administration excavated the foundation for a new tower. After protests
from black New Yorkers, the agency agreed to finance research on the skeletons,
but failed to budget the necessary money and generally dragged its feet,
putting one of the most important archaeological projects of the century
years behind schedule.
The Howard team has
yet to identify among the skeletons the many Africans who are known to
have been burned at the stake during the rebellion-plot hysteria that
swept the colony in 1741. But what the researchers have found is brutal
enough on its own.
Of the 400 skeletons
taken to Howard, about 40 percent are of children under the age of 15,
and the most common cause of death was malnutrition. Most of the children
had rickets, scurvy, anemia or related diseases. About twice as many infant
girls seem to have died as boys, suggesting at least some infanticide.
As Mr. Blakey said,
"Women who gave birth in these conditions knew that they were bringing
their children into hell."
The adult skeletons
show that many of these people died of unrelenting hard labor. Strain
on the muscles and ligaments was so extreme that muscle attachments were
commonly ripped away from the skeleton - taking chunks of bone with them
- leaving the body in perpetual pain.
The highest mortality
rate is found among women ages 15 to 20. Mr. Blakey has concluded that
some died of illnesses acquired in the holds of slave ships or from a
first exposure to the cold - or from the trauma of being torn from their
families and shipped in chains halfway around the globe. But in many cases,
he said, "what we see is that these women were worked to death by owners
who could simply go out and buy a new slave."
The Blakey team will
conduct two sets of studies in an attempt to determine more closely where
the slaves were born. One study will analyze tooth enamel for trace minerals
that would mark the captives as having grown up in Africa, the Caribbean
or North America. If DNA research proceeds as planned, it will further
pin down the country of origin by comparing the dead with known populations
The skeletons will be
returned to their graves by 2002. By then the burial ground will have
rewritten the book on slavery in New York and given historians something
to talk about well into the next century.
Back to Table of Contents
Sterling A. Brown
The strong men keep coming on.
They dragged you from the homeland,
They chained you in coffles,
They huddled you spoon-fashion in
They sold you to give a few gentlemen
They broke you like oxen,
They scourged you,
They branded you,
They made your women breeders,
They swelled your numbers with bastards
. . . . .
They taught you the religion they
Keep a-inchin' along
Lak a po' inch worm . . .
By and bye
I'm gonna lay down this heaby load
. . .
Walk togedder, chillin,
Dontcha gilt weary . . .
The strong men keep a-comin' on
The strong men get stronger.
They point with pride to the roads
you built for them,
They ride in comfort over the rails
you laid for them.
They put hammers in your hands
And said - Drive so much before sundown.
Ain't no hammah
In dis lan'
Strikes lak mine, bebby,
Strikes lak mine.
They cooped you in their kitchens,
The penned you in their factories,
They gave you the jobs that they were
too good for,
They tried to guarantee happiness
By shunting dirt and misery to you.
Me an' muh baby gonna shine, shine
Me an' muh baby gonna shine.
The strong men keep a-comin' on
The strong men git stronger . . .
They bought offs some of your leaders
You stumbled, as blind men will .
They coaxed you, unwontedly soft-voiced
. . .
You followed a way.
Then laughed as usual.
They heard the laugh and wondered;
Unadmitting deeper terror . . .
The strong men keep a-comin' on
Gittin' stronger . . .
What, from the slums
Where they have hemmed you,
What, from the tiny huts
They could not keep from you-
What reaches them
Making them ill at ease, fearful?
Today they shout prohibition at you
"Thou shalt not this"
"Thou shalt not that"
"Reserved for whites only"
One thing they cannot prohibit-
The strong men . . . coming on
The strong men gittin' stronger.
Strong men . . .
Stronger . . .
Back to Table of Contents
Compensate the Forgotten Victims
Of America´s Slavery Holocaust
by Randall Robinson
LOS ANGELES - America owes African-Americans
a debt. It is an old debt. It has lain around in edgy disregard for a
century and a half.
Long-term neglect of it has
aggravated exponentially its original consequence, itself being staggering.
Its compounded interest can be measured in the social disrepair of its
contemporary victims: black youth who menace one another and society in
general; black mothers, weary and solitary beneath the burden of bleak
prospect; black fathers, shorn of manhood before becoming man-like.
These, the heirs of slavery´s
destructive promise, economically lag far behind whites as a group in
Almost no one, black or white,
expects blacks to close this gap in the forseeable future. So small is
any such expectation that the very question of it occurs only to a statistically
insignificant number of people, black or white.
About as motionless as China´s
ancient terra-cotta Qin dynasty soldiers, the two groups have known since
Jamestown where to find each other on the American economic ladder: whites
at the top, blacks at the bottom. Americans have been pretty much left
to figure out for themselves why this statistic verticality is so. Whites
no doubt (even liberals privately) ascribe it to their innate superiority.
Most blacks attribute it to contemporary racial discrimination, although
more than a few would harbor a lurking doubt or two about their relative
worth. Some blacks have simply come to hate themselves. It is the price
of long-term unexplained socio-economic bottomness.
Almost never discussed in the
United States is the seminal cause of what long ago cleaved us Americans
into two unequal, mutually hostile racial societies. It is not that slavery
is never discussed or publicly acknowledged, but simply that when slavery
is discussed its story is told to us as an academic recollection of closed
American chapter, as if the 246-year episode could be cordoned off in
a blameless rubric of America´s sanitized version of itself.
Slavery was, and remains, an
American holocaust. It lasted 20 times as long as the Nazi Holocaust.
It killed at least 10 times as many people. It extinguished on three continents
and a necklace of vegetal isles a people´s sustaining sense of selfhood.
It eviscerated whole cultures: languages, religions, mores, customs.
It plundered. It raped. It commodified
human beings. It mercilessly crushed African social and economic institutions
in order to capitalize its own. It psychologically hulled empty its victims.
It wrenched from them their history, their memory of what they had once
meant to the world and to themselves, and replaced their estimable story
of their people with another, alien and reproachful. All of this accomplished
on a scale of human cruelty the worldtherefore had never witnessed.
And when this monstrous institution
finally drained of energy a mere 135 years ago, America (which had for
two and a half centuries hosted, faciliated and materially benefited from
the forced labors of millions of uncompensated human beings) would embrace
for the next hundred years, racial segregation and de jure racial discrimination,
leaving a disproportionate number of American descendants of slaves bottom-stuck
in debilitating poverty.
And then, rubble stilled, dust
settled, silence. Even as around the world restitutions for less heinous
crimes of shorter duration had been made to Koreans, Poles, Aborigines,
first Canadians, even as the United States government made restitutions
to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II.
Even as the U.S. undersecretary
of state, Stuart Eizenstat, labored to make 16 German companies compensate
Jews used as slave laborers during the Nazi era.
Slaves had built the U.S. Capitol,
cast and hoisted the stature of freedom on top of its dome, cleared the
forest between the Capitol and its co-symbol of American democracy, the
Construction of the National
Museum of the American Indian will begin soon on the National Mall in
Washington. Plans have been laid to build near the mall a Japanese memorial
par to commemorate Japanese-American victims of World War II internment.
Daily, Americans queue in long ines to enter the Holocaust Museum, where
the Nazi terror is remembered in wrenching detail.
Yet nowhere on the mall can
anything be found - monument, memorial or stone tablet - to commemorate
the hundreds of millions of victims of the American holocaust. While urging
other nations to publicly atone for past misdeeds, the United States schizophrenically
has repressed its own.
The American government for
hundreds of years played a major role in deconstructing Africa and millions
of its issue. It abused them as beasts of burden and released them uncompensated
into a racial environment certain to hold them fast in perpetuity to the
economic bottom of American society.
It is now the United States´
turn to atone. To pay its debt. To materially compensate slavery´s living
victims. And to commemorate in its public architecture those tortured
souls who can no longer hear a simple apology.
The writer, executive director
of TransAfrica, is author of "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks."
He contributed this comment to the Los Angeles Times.
International Herald Tribune
Frankfurt, Friday, February 11, 2000
Back to Table of Contents
When the Holocaust Is Incomparable,
It Becomes Unworldly
by Henry Siegman
NEW YORK - Gatherings like the
high-level forum in Stockholm last week to ponder the lessons of the Holocaust
should not be an occasion for repetition of conventional pieties, but
an opportunity to look afresh, unblinkingly, at the lessons that half
a century since the Holocaust, has to teach us.
Distinguished participants in
Stockholm once again emphasized the uniqueness of the Holocaust, a singular
and unparalleled expression of man´s capacity for evil. Celebrated Holocaust
survivors and leading Holocaust historians have devoted their lives to
the preservation of the singularity of the Holocaust in the hope that
the memory would serve to prevent a repetition of such evils.
Unfortunately, there is nothing
in the history of the past half-century to suggest that remembrance has
had such an effect. Indeed, what we see is a repetition of large-scale
and systematic destruction of human life in Europe, Africa and Asia, even
as an earnest symposia on the Holocaust and its lessons take place within
earshot of these more recent genocides.
I attended such a conference
sponsored by the French government in Lyon in 1992 entitled "Resistance
and Memory". Of the hundreds of speakers, very few even took note of the
massacre taking place in Bosnia at the time.
The recurrence of genocide so
soon after the Holocaust raises distressing questions about the effect
of Holocaust memorials and their impact, if any, on human behavior.
It is difficult to maintain
that the growing literature of the Holocaust, the witness of the survivors
and the proliferation of museums and memorials have mitigated the cruelties
of genocidal, ethnic and national conflicts in the world.
To make comparisons between
Auschwitz and tragedies like Bosnia invariably draws reflexive condemnation
by most, if not all, of those who have dedicated their lives to teaching
the world the meaning of the Holocaust and its uniqueness. Yet it is difficult
to escape the conclusion that this very emphasis on the uniqueness of
the Holocaust is part of the problem.
To insist on the incomparability
of the Holocaust is, in the end, to insist on its irrelevance.
Presumably, the purpose of memory
is not only to memorialize the victims. What gives memory of the Holocaust
its urgency and its sanctity is the expectation - indeed, the desperate
hope - that memory will make a repetition of such evil if not impossible,
at least less likely.
But to insist on the Holocaust´s
radical uniqueness, as those who tell its haunting story inevitably do,
and to condemn and scoff at those who see its echos in Kosovo or in Rwanda,
is to doom the memory of Auschwitz to irrelevance.
The keepers of the flame of
the Holocaust, by insisting on its difference, have paradoxically contributed
to its detachment from history, and therefore to public indifference to
Despite arrogant claims by the
U.S. government and others that we did in fact respond to the tragedies
in Bosnia and Kosovo, the fact is that we did too little and too late.
Neither in Bosnia nor in Kosovo did the international community prevent
slaughter of hundreds or thousands, or the violent displacement of people
in the millions, not to speak of mass rape and other atrocities.
If the world´s indifference
to the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo suggest that the Holocaust
has made little if any real difference, perhaps that is, in part, because
the Holocaust "establishment" seems to react with greater anger at comparisons
between Auschwitz and subsequent genocides than at the awful similarities.
It is time to take stock of
how the Jewish community and the international community have dealt with
the Holocaust. For if the meaning of the systematic slaughter of 6 million
Jews will continue to have little impact on how the civilized world responds
to new threats of genocide, what is the purpose of memory so carefully
nourished by witnesses to the Holocaust?
Does not such indifference,
even as we repeat the traditional pieties about the Holocaust and its
uniqueness, desecrate the memory of the 6 million?
I believe it does.
The writer, himself a Holocaust
survivor, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
He contributed these personal views to the International Herald Tribune.
International Herald Tribune
Tuesday, February 1, 2000
Back to Table of Contents
Let's Hear More About Leopold's
By Richard F. Hamilton
In the years
from 1885 to 1908, some 10 million people died in the Congo Free State,
victims of one of the modern world's most terrible holocausts. This enormous
crime has scarcely penetrated the public consciousness - no memorials,
museums or cries of "Never again!"
The basic facts of the tragedy
are well known to most historians and scholars, but textbooks and encyclopedias
offer only a few bland sentences about it. This neglect dishonors the
memories of the millions of innocent people who died as a result of a
Adam Hochschild's 1998 book
"King Leopold's Ghost provides an excellent account of what happened.
The so-called Congo Free State was anything but.
It was a giant forced labor
camp, personal possessions of Leopold II, king of Belgium. For nearly
30 years his armed thugs forced the Congolese to extract ivory, hardwoods
and wild rubber from their homeland.
Many were beaten to death for
failing to meet strict quotas, while millions more died from physical
exhaustion, famine or infectious disease. In all, roughly half the region's
people lost their lives.
International outrage finally
forced King Leopold to give up his hold on the land. What followed, however,
was what Mr. Hochschild called "the great forgetting."
Forgetting was easy because
the Congolese were a poor, mostly illiterate people lacking the technologies
needed to disseminate the fact of their suffering. Leopold ran an effective
public relations campaign, helping to bury the extent of his crime for
many years. It took the work of several dedicated activist researchers
to uncover the truth of the holocaust.
Yet the forgetting continues.
Curious about what today's university
students in America might learn about the Congo holocaust, I reviewed
nine of the most frequently used history textbooks dealing with modern
times. None provided more than a paragraph on the Congo holocaust. Most
offered only a few indifferent sentences.
One book describes the holocaust
by saying that the Congo's people "were treated with inhuman severity
and compulsion." The account does not use the words "murder," "killing"
or "atrocities." Nothing is said about the number of human beings who
Unfortunately, most other history
books do not better. The interested student turning to the Encyclopedia
Americana account would find only a vague single sentence suggesting the
problems: "financial difficulties led to harsh economic exploitation,
and mounting international criticism finally prodded Belgium to take over."
The current edition of the Encyclopaedia
Britannica is slightly better, in that it contains a brief but frank description
of the Congo holocaust. But the encyclopedia's entry under Leopold only
hints at the atrocities he committed.
Students today might get some
hint of the Congo holocaust through English literature classes, in courses
that include reading Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." The 1899 novella
provides a grim atmospheric portrait of persons and events in the Congo
during this period.
Where is moral outrage at this
holocaust? Why aren't students learning the full extent of the outrage?
The Congo holocaust is not ancient history. Much of it occurred in the
20th century, a decade before the next catastrophe, World War I with its
attendant Armenian holocaust, and just a few decades before the holocaust
of World War II.
Three holocausts occurring within
a few generations should be a sobering reminder of our civilization's
fragility, of how close we are to barbarism. We need to be reminded -
and often - of the extent of human cruelty in order to ensure that such
things do not happen again.
We can start by making sure
that textbooks and encyclopedias reveal to students the full tragedy of
the Congo holocaust. The great forgetting must end.
The writer, professor emeritus
of sociology and political science at Ohio State University, contributed
this co mment to The Washington Post.
Back to Table of Contents
America, Too, Should Pay
Reparations for Its Past
by Brent Staples
New York - The German Parliament
hoped to discourage a wave of lawsuits - and close the door on an ugly
past - when it voted to support a fund through which corporations would
compensate people who worked as slave laborers in Germany during World
But by agreeing to pay reparations,
corporations like DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank, Siemens and Volkswagen
are tacitly admitting that German corporate wealth rests at least partly
on slave labor extracted from Jews subjected to crimes against humanity.
This has been a big year for
institutional contrition, with the Vatican apologizing for misdeeds of
the past and Swiss banks seeking atonement for appropriating the accounts
of Holocaust victims. But in the U.S. Congress, a bill that would bring
about a similar reckoning with regard to two and a half centuries of slavery
may never see the light of day. Legislation sponsored by Representative
John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, calling for a study of reparations
has failed to reach the House floor, even after being submitted to Congress
every year for more than a decade.
The failure of Congress to take
this bill seriously reflects the sense among Americans as a whole that
slavery has no economic bearing on the nation as it exists today. But
if a 34-year-old lawyer named Deadria Farmer-Paellmann has her way, a
broader debate about reparations and the links between modern corporations
and the slave economy may be on the way.
A part-time musician and amateur
historian, Ms. Farmer-Paellmann attended law school solely to develop
a legal argument for reparations. After scouring corporate archives, she
has turned up connections between modern corporations and predecessor
companies that seem clearly to have profited from the slave trade, in
some cases obliquely but often quite directly.
Inspired by the German case,
Ms. Farmer-Paellmann is planning to sue a dozen corporations for "unjustly
enriching" themselves, and she has begun distributing archival records
that provide provocative examples of corporate involvement in the trade.
The planned lawsuits are novel.
But the news articles about her first few discoveries have already broadened
public awareness of the extent to which the United States depended on
slaves to build the national as well as the Southern economy.
Charles Ogletree, a professor
at Harvard Law School, is among those paying attention. He says he is
considering both litigation and legislation and is helping to plan a conference
scheduled this fall on the reparations issue.
Modern-day Northerners tend
to view slavery as confined to the Confederacy, thinking of the Northeast
as having been made up of "free states." Americans are for the most part
unaware that slavery covered all of the original colonies and their successor
states and began to loosen its grip in the North only in the early 1800s,
when personal liberty laws went into effect. New York City was a capital
of human bondage, with more slaves than any other city with the possible
exception of Charleston, South Carolina.
New England survives in the
history books as the hotbed of abolitionism and the home of the crusading
anti-slavery novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe. But Ms. Farmer-Paellmann
has turned up documents revealing a different New England, one in which
corporate founders and respected businessmen trafficked in slaves, even
after aspects of the slave trade were made illegal.
One of the most serious offenders
was the Rhode Island businessman John Brown, who founded Providence Bank,
an early predecessor of the modern FleetBoston Financial Corp.
The Fleet corporate history
portrays Brown as a "respected merchant." Ms Farmer-Paellmann has unearthed
records showing that Brown owned ships that embarked on several slaving
voyages and that he was prosecuted in federal court for participating
in the international slave trade after it had become illegal under federal
Records show that Providence
Bank lent substantial sums to Brown, and Ms. Farmer-Paellmann suspects
that the bank both financed and profited from the founder's illegal slave
trading. For its part, FleetBoston contends that incomplete records make
a conclusion impossible.
The most disturbing document
to emerge so far reveals that Aetna Insurance Co. Of Hartford actually
insured slave owners against the loss of their human chattel. That Aetna
knew the horrors of slave life is evident in a rider through which the
company declined to pay the premium for slaves who were lynched or worked
to death or who committed suicide. Aetna says that incomplete records
forbid its knowing how many such policies were written.
After the policy came to light,
the company apologized for having been involved in the slave trade.
Ms. Farmer-Paellmann claims
too have found similar documents concerning more than a dozen corporations
still doing business in the United States and has promised to file several
lawsuits charging these companies with unjustly enriching themselves at
the expense of slaves.
Whether the lawsuits succeed
is almost beside the point. This exercise will have done its job if it
reveals to the public the role of slavery in shaping American life. More
than a few modern fortunes rest on the suffering of human beings who once
accounted for a large portion of American wealth and lied in chains here
for 250 years.
International Herald Tribune,
July 25, 2000
Back to Table of Contents
A Skull Stirs Up Prehistoric
Cranium Unearthed in Brazil
on Peopling of Americas
By Larry Rother
RIO DE JANEIRO
skull that is prominently displayed at the National Museum here has been
attracting crowds and controversy since it was first unveiled this month.
After two decades in storage, the fossilized cranium has now been identified
by Brazilian scientists as the oldest human remains ever recovered in
the Western Hemisphere.
The skull is that
of a young woman, nicknamed Luzia, who is believed to have roamed the
savannah of south-central Brazil some 11,500 years ago. Even more startling,
a reconstruction of her cranium undertaken in Britain this year indicates
that her features appear to be Negroid rather than Mongoloid, suggesting
that the Western Hemisphere may have initially been settled not only earlier
than thought, but also by a people distinct from the ancestors of today's
South American Indians.
"We can no longer
say that the first colonizers of the Americas came from the north of Asia,
as previous models have proposed," said Walter Neves, an anthropologist
at the University of Sao Paulo who made the initial discovery along with
an Argentine Colleague, Hector Pucciarelli. "This skeleton in nearly 2,000
years older than any skeleton ever found in the Americas, and it does
not look like those of Amerindians or North Asians." If the date is confirmed,
the find could transform thinking about the peopling of the Americas.
It may be some time before that work is completed, but archaeologists
say the find is potentially very important.
named as a playful homage to Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor
found in Africa, the oldest known human remains recovered in the Western
Hemisphere were those of a woman found in Buhl, Idaho, and repatriated
to the Shoshone tribe in 1991. Radiocarbon dating tests have established
the age of that skeleton as a bit more than 10,000 years old.
at a location in the state of Minas Gerais called Lapa Vermelha is consistent,
however, with recent findings made at the celebrated Monte Verde site
in southern Chile. There, evidence of human habitation as early as 12,500
years ago - stone tools and a footprint - has been uncovered though no
human remains have been found.
The finds, along
with recent discoveries in North America like those of the so-called Kennewick
Man and Spirit Cave Man, are forcing a reassessment of long-established
theories as to the settling of the Americas.
Based on such
evidence, Mr. Neves suggests that Luzia belonged to a nomadic people who
began arriving in the New World as early as 15,000 years ago. Luzia's
Negroid features notwithstanding, Mr. Neves is not arguing that her ancestors
came to Brazil from Africa in an early trans-Atlantic migration. Instead,
he believes they originated in Southeast Asia, "migrating from there in
two directions, south to Australia, where today's aboriginal peoples may
be their descendants, and navigating northward along the coast and across
the Bering Straits until they reached the Americas."
About one-third of
Luzia's skeleton has been recovered, enough to indicate that she appears
to have perished in an accident or perhaps even from an animal attack.
She was in her twenties when she died and was part of a group of hunter-gatherers
who appear to have subsisted largely on whatever fruits, nuts and berries
they came across in their meanderings, plus the occasional piece of meat.
"This is intriguing and interesting and I want to know more," said David
Meltzer, a professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University
and an expert on the paleo-Indian populations of North America. "Skeletal
material of this age is extraordinarily rare, both here and in South America,
so I am delighted to know that something of this antiquity is popping
The region where
Mr. Neves and his associates are working has been the focus of archaeological
inquiry since the mid-19th century, when Peter Wilhelm Lund, A Danish
naturalist first encountered human skeletal remains there. Many of the
specimens he uncovered are now stored at the University of Copenhagen,
but if Mr. Neves went to examine them, he found that the material had
not been catalogued by geological strata and therefore could not be used
for his research.
Luzia herself was
originally discovered in 1975 in a rock shelter by a joint French-Brazilian
expedition that was working not far from Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third-largest
city. The skull was buried under more than 40 feet of mineral deposits
and debris, separated from the rest of the skeleton but otherwise in remarkably
"This is a site where
the soil was high in limestone content, which helped to preserve these
remains for so long," explained Andre Prous, a French archaeologist at
the federal University of Minas Gerais, who was part of the initial team
and continues to work in the area. "In other places, the bones disappear
after a short time."
Mr. Neves bases his
estimate of Luzia's age on the fact that the skull was found in a geological
strata where the age of other organic material has been established through
radiocarbon dating. The same procedure would ordinarily have been done
with Luzia, but the specimen does not have enough collagen, the protein
that gives bone its resiliency, to allow that technique to be used.
Health and Science
International Herald Tribune, Frankfurt,
Monday, November 1, 1999
Back to Table of Contents
SPEECH OF THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA,
THABO MBEKI, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE AFRICAN RENAISSANCE INSTITUTE
PRETORIA, 11 OCTOBER 1999
Chairperson, Distinguished Elders
of Africa, Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity, Your
Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Distinguished
participants, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased indeed to
welcome you to the launch of the African Renaissance Institute. I sincerely
thank you for giving us, as South Africans, the opportunity to host this
launch and for me to speak at this Opening Session.
I would also like to welcome
to our country those of our brothers and sisters who come from beyond
Once more, we would like to
express our profound appreciation to you all for the contribution that
you made to our own struggle for liberation.
Liberated South Africa is therefore
your home, not merely because it is an African country, but because without
your determined struggles, perhaps we would not be a free people today.
The sacrifices the peoples of
our Continent made to end the apartheid crime against humanity, which
denied the very humanity of everybody who was African, were many and varied.
Among other things, the countries
of Southern Africa also paid a very high price in human lives lost, as
well as property and infrastructure destroyed, as they withstood the campaign
of aggression and destabilization conducted by the apartheid regime.
Undoubtedly, Angola and Mozambique
paid the highest price in this regard.
I would like to take this opportunity,
once more, to reiterate our profound appreciation to their governments
and peoples for their extraordinary solidarity, which our people will
I am also very pleased to make
special mention and pay tribute to our elders who are here, of whom we
are justly proud and whose wisdom and African patriotism will make an
important contribution to our common quest for an African Renaissance.
All of us are greatly distressed
that that great son of all Africa, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is unable to
be here, owing to a difficult health condition. I am certain that we would
all agree that we should send him a heartfelt message of support and our
wishes for his speedy recovery.
We have also received the apologies
of another great son of our Continent, Ahmed Ben Bella, who could not
joint us owing to prior commitments.
As you are aware, the movement
of our own struggle for national liberation is the ANC, the African National
Brought up as we were by this
movement and led by it, throughout the entirety of our political lives
we have been exposed to the inspiring perspective of African unity and
solidarity and the renewal of our Continent.
Beyond this, the struggle for
our own liberation led to the development of perhaps the largest and most
determined Pan-African movement of solidarity our continent has ever seen,
involving both governments and all sections of the population, in every
We are therefore pleased and
moved that some of our fellow Africans took the initiative to establish
the Institute that we are launching today.
I am convinced that all of us
present here share a common vision in favour of African unity and solidarity,
African development and renewal and an end to the marginalization of our
Continent in world affairs and development processes.
It would seem to us vitally
necessary that whereas, for some time, the achievement of these objectives
has been left to our governments, it is necessary that we return this
vision to the people.
We are therefore of the firm
view that there is a critically important and urgent need to develop a
Popular Movement for the African Renaissance.
Accordingly, we believe that
political organizations and governments in all African countries should
be mobilized to act in furtherance of the objectives of the African Renaissance.
Equally, the masses and their
organizations in all African countries should similarly be mobilized and
drawn into action.
We must also pay attention to
the intelligentsia, the professionals, the trade unions, business people,
women and the youth, the traditional leaders, cultural workers, the media
and so on, to bring them into the popular struggle for Africa's rebirth.
The question has been posed
repeatedly as to what we mean when we speak of an African Renaissance.
As all of us know, the word
"renaissance" means rebirth, renewal, springing up anew. Therefore,
when we speak of an African Renaissance, we speak of the rebirth and renewal
of our continent.
This idea is not new to the
struggles of the people of our continent for genuine emancipation. It
has been propagated before by other activists for liberation, drawn from
But is has been suggested that
when this perspective was advanced in earlier periods, the conditions
did not exist for its realization.
Accordingly, what is new about
it today is that the conditions exist for the process to be enhanced,
throughout the continent, leading to the transformation of the idea from
a dream dreamt by visionaries to a practical program of action for revolutionaries.
What, then, are these conditions?
- the completion of the continental process
of the liquidation of the colonial system in Africa, attained as a
result of the liberation of South Africa;
- the recognition of the bankruptcy of
neo-colonialism by the masses of the people throughout the continent,
including the majority of the middle strata;
- the weakening of the struggle among
the major powers for spheres of influence on our continent, as a consequence
of the end of the Cold War; and,
- the acceleration of the process of globalization.
As we take advantage of these
changed circumstances, we must move from the fundamental proposition that
the peoples of Africa share a common destiny.
Each one of our countries is
constrained in its ability to achieve peace, stability, sustained development
and a better life for the people, except in the context of the accomplishment
of these objectives in other sister African countries as well.
Accordingly, it is objectively
in the interest of all Africans to encourage the realization of these
goals throughout our Continent, at the same time as we pursue their attainment
in each of our countries.
We speak of a continent which,
while it led in the very evolution of human life and was a leading center
of learning, technology and the arts in ancient times, has experienced
various traumatic epochs; each one of which has pushed her peoples deeper
into poverty and backwardness.
We refer here to the three periods
- slavery, which robbed the continent
of millions of her healthiest and most productive inhabitants and
reinforced the racist and criminal notion that, as Africans, we are
- imperialism and colonialism, which resulted
in the rape of raw materials, the destruction of traditional agriculture
and domestic food security, and the integration of Africa into the
world economy as a subservient participant; and,
- neo-colonialism, which perpetuated this
economic system, while creating the possibility for the emergence
of new national elite in independent states, themselves destined to
join the dominant global forces in oppressing and exploiting the masses
of the people.
During this latter periods,
our continent has experienced:
- unstable political systems in which
one-party states and military rule have occupied pride of place, leading
to conflict, civil wars, genocide and the emergence of millions of
displaced and refugee populations;
- the formation of predatory elite that
have thrived on the basis of the looting of national wealth and the
entrenchment of corruption;
- the growth of the international debt
burden to the extent that, in some countries, combined with unfavourable
terms of trade, it makes negative growth in national per capita income
- actual declines in the standard of living
and the quality of life for hundreds of millions of Africans.
The task of the African Renaissance
derive from this experience, covering the entire period from slavery to
date. They include:
- the establishment of democratic political
systems to ensure the accomplishment of the goal that "the people
- ensuring that these systems take into
account African specifics so that, while being truly democratic and
protecting human rights, they are nevertheless designed in ways which
really ensure that political and, therefore, peaceful means can be
used to address the competing interests of different social groups
in each country;
- establishing the institutions and procedures
which would enable continent collectively to deal with questions of
democracy, peace and stability;
- achieving sustainable economic development
that results in the continuous improvement of the standards of living
and the quality of life of the masses of the people;
- qualitatively changing Africa's place
in the world economy so that it is free of the yoke of the international
debt burden and no longer supplier of raw materials and an importer
of manufactured goods;
- ensuring the emancipation of the women
- successfully confronting the scourge
- the rediscovery of Africa's creative
past to recapture the peoples' culture, encourage artistic creativity
and restore popular involvement in both accessing and advancing science
- strengthening the genuine independence
of African countries and continent in their relations with the major
powers and enhancing their role in the determination of the global
system of governance in all fields, including politics, the economy,
security, information and intellectual property, the environment and
science and technology.
These goals can only be achieved
through a genuinely popular and protracted struggle involving not only
governments and political parties, but also the people themselves in all
Such a popular movement for
the fundamental renewal of Africa would also have to take into account
the multi-faceted reality that:
- it is engaged in an extremely complex
struggle which would be opposed by forces of reaction from both within
and without the continent;
- it would achieve both forward movement
and suffer occasional setbacks;
- the continental offensive can only be
sustained of the active populations of all countries are confident
that none of the countries of the continent, regardless of the extent
of its contribution to the renaissance, seeks to impose itself on
the rest as a new imperialist power; and,
- the forces for change have to be built
up and consolidated within each country, without ignoring or underestimating
the imperative and the potential for an increasing coordinated trans-national
offensive for the mutually beneficial renewal of the continent.
From all this, it is clear that
the achievement of the historically vital African Renaissance requires
that the peoples of our continent should adopt a realist program of action
that will actually move Africa toward its real renewal.
Accordingly, ways have to be
found to ensure that:
- the OAU is further strengthened so that
in its work, it focuses on the strategic objective of the realization
of the African Renaissance;
- links are built across Africa's borders
among all social sectors to increase the levels of cooperation and
- steps are taken to ensure that both
Africa and the rest of the world define the new (21st)
century as an "African Century", in furtherance of the objective
of the mobilization of the peoples of the world to support the offensive
for an African Renaissance; and,
- work is done to persuade the rest of
the world, including such important institutions as the UN, the IMF,
the World Bank, the WTO, NAFTA, the EU, MERCOSUR, ASEAN and others,
to the point of view that we share with them the strategic view that
it is obligatory that we all support the vision of an African Renaissance
and that they should lend support to this process, guided by what
the peoples of Africa themselves want.
The difficulty we will face
with regard to the accomplishment of the last of these tasks is illustrated
by the problem we are facing even as we stand here, of arriving at the
point when we can conclude the bilateral agreement between our country
and the European Union.
Stripped of all pretence, what
has raised the question whether the agreement can be signed today or not,
is the reality that many among the developed countries of the North have
lost all sense of the noble idea of human solidarity.
What seems to predominate is
the question, in its narrowest and most naked meaning - what is in it
for me? What is in it for me? - and all this with absolutely no apology
and no sense of shame.
None of us were present when
the slaves were forced into the dungeons on the Isle of Goree in Senegal
and on the island of Zanzibar.
But we would not be wrong if
we came to the conclusion that those who survived these dungeons as well
as their transportation across the oceans, did so because of a strong
will to survive.
None of us were present when
the people of the Congo were slaughtered in their millions, to satisfy
the rapacious and insatiable greed of a Belgian monarch.
But we would not be wrong if
we came to the conclusion that the Congolese people did not resort to
mass suicide to escape the horror, because of a firm conviction that,
in the end, as a people they were indestructible.
We were present when the colonial
and racist powers put up the most determined resistance to deny the people
of Algeria, Kenya, the Portuguese colonies, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South
Africa their freedom.
We know that the peoples of
these countries and our Continent as a whole were not discouraged by what
seemed to be overwhelming odds against them, because they were determined
that the people's cause for national emancipation could never be defeated.
We bore witness to the unspeakable
genocide that descended on the people of Rwanda in 1994.
We know that, in the end, these
extraordinary Africans ended the slaughter themselves because they took
it upon themselves to make the determination that Africa will not perish
at the hands of her own sons and daughters.
That same spirit of optimism
and commitment to overcome must inform all of us now as we build on the
victories we have scored, to engage what will clearly be a titanic struggle
to achieve Africa's Renaissance.
What will decide the outcome
is not the strength of our opponents but our own determination to succeed.
Stretching through the mists,
for a millennium, our common African history is replete with great feats
of courage, demonstrated by the heroes and heroines and the heroic peoples,
without whose loyal attachment to hope and the vision of a bright future
for Africa, her people would long have perished.
The moment is upon us when we
should draw on this deep well of human nobility to make this statement
in action - that Africa's time has come!
We, in all our millions, including
those of us who are in the Diaspora, will ensure that Africa will not
be denied what is due to her!
The African century will not
be proclaimed! It will come to be through struggle!
The struggle continues! Victory
We wish the African renaissance
Institute success in the historic mission we are all called upon to carry
out, to end a long and dark night without whose ending no human being
anywhere in the world can claim to be fulfilled as a human being.
- The only ailment that has no cure is
the spawn of a curse.
I thank you for your attention.
The United Nations Conference
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia
and Related Intolerance
Durban, South Africa
Thabo Mbeki opened the conference with
a speech painting a bleak picture of a world split between rich whites
and poor blacks. He said that it was necessary to convene the conference
"because, together, we recognized the fact that there are many in our
common world who suffer indignity and humiliation because they are not
white. Their cultures and traditions are despised as savage and primitive
and their identities denied. They are not white and are deeply immersed
in poverty. Of them it is said that they are human but black, whereas
others are described as human and white. I speak in these terms, which
some may think are too harsh and stark, because I come from a people
that have known the bitter experience of slavery, colonialism and racism."
International Herald Tribune, September
Die Konferenz der Vereinten
Nationen gegen Rassismus,
und damit verbundene Intoleranz
Thabo Mbeki eröffnete die Konferenz
mit einer Rede, die ein trübes Bild einer Welt zeichnete, die zerissen
ist zwischen reichen Weißen und armen Schwarzen. Er sagte, dass
es notwendig war, diese Konferenz einzuberufen, "weil wir zusammen
feststellten, dass es viele in unserer gemeinsamen Welt gibt, die unter
unwürdigen Zuständen und Erniedrigung leiden, weil sie nicht
weiß sind. Ihre Kulturen und Traditionen werden als unzivilisiert
und primitiv verachtet und ihre Identität verleugnet. Sie sind
nicht weiß und sie sind tief versunken in Armut. Man spricht von
ihnen als Menschen aber schwarz, wohingegen andere als Menschen und
weiß beschrieben werden. Ich benutze diese Ausdrucksweise, von
der manche denken, sie sei zu schroff und zu krass, weil ich aus einem
Volk komme, das die bittere Erfahrung von Sklaverei, Kolonialismus und
Back to Table of Contents
By Robert Earl Price
Georgia January pale sunlight
streaking pink polished marble
demarking the designated demonstration stage
as deaf, dumb and docile media creations
and self-elected grand potentates
follow the perpetual widow around
and around the empty grave
pausing for photo opportunities
before their postcard crypt
While the guileless and
glean garbage for their feast
and celebrate in cardboard castles
certain that Martin is not on holiday
because they have seen him
huddled under a viaduct
sharing the warmth of a rusty barrel
listening to a drunken quartet sing
What has gone wrong
What has gone wrong
Ain't had no loving
since he been gone
On bitter sweet Auburn Avenue
from inside Ebenezer Baptist
hollow bells herald
a poseurs' pilgrimage
to the theatre of greed and guilt
produced by Coors and Seagrams
written by Jesse Helms
and starring the US president
a morality play
to remind us
that the dead stay dead
but our fallen brother
our martyred Martin
shuns these heathen rites
where the ghoulish and the glib
bicker over recording rights
to we shall overcome
and turn this shared dream
into a fried chicken commercial
St Martin walks with paupers
along bloody boulevards
burdened with his name
where crack crazed women sing
Where you been so long
Where you been so long
We ain't had no loving
since he been gone
Smiling and waving
pretend protesters parade
deceit on their lips
stumbling through vagrant-free zones
tone deaf amnesia victims
and corporate systemazoids
Frolicking under cement
the unwelcome and uninvited
recognize their scam
because we know the difference
between parading and marching
Our dreaming drum major
taught us the difference
between parody and protest
the difference between
nonviolence and nonsense
between compromise and capitulation
we search their powdered faces
for rhythm or blues
but they shuffle out of sight
in time for action news
so we can be eye witnesses
to pigs that don tail coats
to hats and walk upright
While on winter's
wind bayonetted streets
a red eyed ragman
rummages through the refuse
and sings his holiday song
What has gone wrong
What has gone wrong
We ain't had no justice
since he been gone
Ain't had no justice
since he been gone
Back to Table of Contents
Table of Contents
(Clicking on the links below will take you to that part of this article)
Just war theory deals with the justification of how and
why wars are fought. The justification can be either theoretical or historical.
The theoretical aspect is concerned with ethically justifying war and
forms of warfare. The historical aspect, or the "just war tradition" deals
with the historical body of rules or agreements applied (or at least existing)
in various wars across the ages. For instance international agreements
such as the Geneva and Hague conventions are historical rules aimed at
limiting certain kinds of warfare. It is the role of ethics to examine
these institutional agreements for their philosophical coherence as well
as to inquire into whether aspects of the conventions ought to be changed.
Historically, the just war tradition--a set of mutually
agreed rules of combat--commonly evolves between two similar enemies.
When enemies differ greatly because of different religious beliefs, race,
or language, war conventions have rarely been applied. It is only when
the enemy is seen to be a people with whom one will do business in the
following peace that tacit or explicit rules are formed for how wars should
be fought and who they should involve. In part the motivation is seen
to be mutually beneficial--it is preferable to remove any underhand tactics
or weapons that may provoke an indefinite series of vengeance acts. Nonetheless,
it has been the concern of the majority of just war theorists that such
asymmetrical morality should be denounced, and that the rules of war should
apply to all equally. That is just war theory should be universal.
The just war tradition is as old as warfare itself.
Early records of collective fighting indicate that some moral considerations
were used by warriors. They may have involved consideration of women and
children or the treatment of prisoners. Commonly they invoked considerations
of honour: some acts in war have always been deemed dishonourable, whilst
others have been deemed honourable. Whilst the specifics of what is honourable
differ with time and place, the very fact of one moral virtue has been
sufficient to infuse warfare with moral concerns.
The just war theory also has a long history. Whilst
parts of the Bible hint at ethical behavior in war and concepts of just
cause, the most systematic exposition is given by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
In the Summa Theologicae Aquinas presents the general outline of
what becomes the just war theory. He discusses not only the justification
of war, but also the kinds of activity that are permissible in war. Aquinas's
thoughts become the model for later Scholastics and Jurists to expand.
The most important of these are: Francisco de Vitoria (1548-1617), Francisco
Suarez (1548-1617), Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Samuel Pufendorf (1632-1704),
Christian Wolff (1679-1754), and Emerich de Vattel (1714-1767). In the
twentieth century it has undergone a revival mainly in response to the
invention of nuclear weaponry and American involvement in the Vietnam
war. The most important contemporary texts include Michael Walzer's Just
and Unjust Wars (1977), Barrie Paskins and Michael Dockrill The
Ethics of War (1979), Richard Norman Ethics, Killing, and War
(1995), as well as seminal articles by Thomas Nagel "War and Massacre",
Elizabeth Anscombe "War and Murder", and a host of others, commonly found
in the journals Ethics or The Journal of Philosophy and Public
Against the just war (justum bellum) are those
of a skeptical persuasion who do not believe that morality can or should
exist in war. There are various positions against the need or the possibility
of morality in war. Generally, consequentialists and act utilitarians
may claim that if victory is sought then all methods should be employed
to ensure it is gained at a minimum of expense and time. Arguments from
'military necessity' are of this type: for example, to defeat Germany
in World War II, it was deemed necessary to bomb civilian centers, or
in the US Civil War, for General Sherman to burn Atlanta. However, intrinsicists
may also decree that no morality can exist in the state of war, for they
may claim it can only exist in a peaceful situation in which recourse
exists to conflict resolving institutions. Or intrinsicists may claim
that possessing a just cause (the argument from righteousness) is a sufficient
condition for pursuing whatever means are necessary to gain a victory
or to punish an enemy. A different skeptical argument, one advanced by
Michael Walzer, is that the invention of nuclear weapons alter war so
much that our notions of morality--and hence just war theories--become
redundant. However, against Walzer, it can be reasonably argued that although
such weapons change the nature of warfare they do not dissolve the need
to consider their use within a moral framework.
Whilst sceptical positions may be derived from consequentialist
and intrinsicist positions, they need not be. Consequentialists can argue
that there are long term benefits to having a war convention. For example,
by fighting cleanly, both sides can be sure that the war does not escalate,
thus reducing the probability of creating an incessant war of counter-revenges.
Intrinsicists can argue that certain spheres of life ought never to be
targeted in war: for example, hospitals and densely populated suburbs.
The inherent problem with both ethical models is that they become either
vague or restrictive when it comes to war. Consequentialism is an open-ended
model, highly vulnerable to pressing military needs to adhere to any code
of conduct in war: if more will be gained from breaking the rules than
will be lost, the consequentialist cannot but demur to military necessity.
On the other hand, intrinsicism can be so restrictive that it permits
no flexibility in war: whether it entails a Kantian thesis of respecting
others or a classical rights position, intrinsicism produces an inflexible
model that would restrain warrior's actions to the targeting of permissible
targets only. In principle such a prescription is commendable, yet the
nature of war is not so clean cut when military targets can be hidden
amongst civilian centers.
Against these two ethical positions, just war theory
offers a series of principles that aim to retain a plausible moral framework
for war. From the just war (justum bellum) tradition, theorists
distinguish between the rules that govern the justice of war (jus ad
bellum) from those that govern just and fair conduct in war (jus
in bello). The two are by no means mutually exclusive, but they offer
a set of moral guidelines for waging war that are neither unrestricted
nor too restrictive. The problem for ethics involves expounding the guidelines
in particular wars or situations.
The Jus Ad Bellem Convention
The principles of the justice of war are commonly held
to be: having just cause, being declared by a proper authority, possessing
right intention, having a reasonable chance of success, and the end being
proportional to the means used. One can immediately detect that the principles
are not wholly intrinsicist nor consequentialist--they invoke the concerns
of both models. Whilst this provides just war theory with the advantage
of flexibility, the lack of a strict ethical framework means that the
principles themselves are open to broad interpretations. Examining each
in turn draws attention to the relevant problems.
Possessing just cause is the first and arguably the
most important condition of jus ad bellum. Most theorists hold
that initiating acts of aggression is unjust and gives a group a just
cause to defend itself. But unless 'aggression' is defined, this proscription
rather open-ended. For example, just cause resulting from an act of aggression
can ostensibly be responses to a physical injury (e.g., a violation of
territory), an insult (an aggression against national honor), a trade
embargo (an aggression against economic activity), or even to a neighbor’s
prosperity (a violation of social justice). The onus is then on the just
war theorist to provide a consistent and sound account of what is meant
by just cause. Whilst not going into the reasons of why the other explanations
do not offer a useful condition of just cause, the consensus is that an
initiation of physical force is wrong and may justly be resisted. Self-defense
against physical aggression, therefore, is putatively the only sufficient
reason for just cause. Nonetheless, the principle of self-defense can
be extrapolated to anticipate probable acts of aggression, as well as
in assisting others against an oppressive government or from another external
threat (interventionism). Therefore, it is commonly held that aggressive
war is only permissible if its purpose is to retaliate against a wrong
already committed (e.g., to pursue and punish an aggressor), or to pre-empt
an anticipated attack.
The notion of proper authority seems to be resolved
for most of the theorists, who claim it obviously resides in the sovereign
power of the state. But the concept of sovereignty raises a plethora of
issues to consider here. If a government is just, i.e., it is accountable
and does not rule arbitrarily, then giving the officers of the state the
right to declare war is reasonable. However, the more removed from a proper
and just form a government is, the more reasonable it is that its sovereignty
disintegrates. A historical example can elucidate the problem: when Nazi
Germany invaded France in 1940 it set up the Vichy puppet regime. What
allegiance did the people of France under its rule owe to its precepts
and rules? A Hobbesian rendition of almost absolute allegiance to the
state entails that resistance is wrong; whereas a Lockean or instrumentalist
conception of the state entails that a poorly accountable, inept, or corrupt
regime possesses no sovereignty, and the right of declaring war (to defend
themselves against the government or from a foreign power) is wholly justifiable.
The notion of proper authority therefore requires thinking about what
is meant by sovereignty, what is meant by the state, and what is the proper
relationship between a people and its government.
The possession of right intention is ostensibly less
problematic. The general thrust of the concept being that a nation waging
a just war should be doing so for the cause of justice and not for reasons
of self-interest or aggrandizement. Putatively, a just war cannot be considered
to be just if reasons of national interest are paramount or overwhelm
the pretext of fighting aggression. However, possessing right intention
masks many philosophical problems. According to Kant, possessing good
intent constitutes the only condition of moral activity, regardless of
the consequences envisioned or caused, and regardless, or even in spite,
of any self interest in the action the agent may have. The extreme intrinsicism
of Kant can be criticized on various grounds, the most pertinent here
being the value of self-interest itself. At what point does right intention
separate itself from self-interest? On the one hand, if the only method
to secure peace is to annex a belligerent neighbor’s territory, political
aggrandizement is intimately connected with the proper intention of maintaining
the peace. On the other hand, a nation may possess just cause to defend
an oppressed group, and may rightly argue that the proper intention is
to secure their freedom, yet such a war may justly be deemed too expensive
or too difficult to wage; i.e., it is not ultimately in their self-interest
to fight the just war. On that account, some may demand that national
interest is paramount: only if waging war on behalf of freedom is also
complemented by the securing of economic or other military interests should
a nation commit its troops. The issue of intention raises the concern
of practicalities as well as consequences, both of which should be considered
before declaring war.
The next principle is that of reasonable success. This
is another necessary condition for waging just war, but again is insufficient
by itself. Given just cause and right intention, the just war theory asserts
that there must be a reasonable probability of success. The principle
of reasonable success is consequentialist in that the costs and benefits
of a campaign must be calculated. However, the concept of weighing benefits
poses moral as well as practical problems as evinced in the following
questions. Should one not go to the aid of a people or declare war if
there is no conceivable chance of success? Is it right to comply with
aggression because the costs of not complying are too prohibitive? Is
it not sometimes morally necessary to stand up to a bullying larger force,
as the Finns did when Russia invaded in 1940, for the sake of national
self-esteem? Besides, posturing for defense may sometimes make aggression
itself too costly, even for a much stronger side. However, the thrust
of the principle of reasonable success emphasizes that human life and
economic resources should not be wasted in what would obviously be an
uneven match. For a nation threatened by invasion, other forms of retaliation
or defense may be available, such as civil disobedience, or even forming
alliances with other small nations to equalize the odds. Historically,
many nations have overcome the probability of defeat: the fight may seem
hopeless, but a charismatic leader or rousing speech can sometimes be
enough to stir a people into fighting with all their will. Winston Churchill
offered the British nation some of the finest of war's rhetoric when it
was threatened with defeat and invasion by Nazi Germany in 1940. For example:
"Let us therefore brace ourselves to do our duty, and so bear ourselves
that, if the British Commonwealth and its Empire lasts for a thousand
years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'" …And "What is
our aim?…Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror;
victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there
is no survival." (Speeches to Parliament, 1940).
The final guide of jus ad bellum, is that the
desired end should be proportional to the means used. This principle overlaps
into the moral guidelines of how a war should be fought, namely the principles
of jus in bello. With regards to just cause, a policy of war requires
a goal, and that goal must be proportional to the other principles of
just cause. Whilst this commonly entails the minimizing of war's destruction,
it can also invoke general balance of power considerations. For example,
if nation A invades a land belonging to the people of nation B, then B
has just cause to take the land back. According to the principle of proportionality,
B's counter-attack must not invoke a disproportionate response: it should
aim to retrieve its land. That goal may be tempered with attaining assurances
that no further invasion will take place. But for B to invade and annex
regions of A is nominally a disproportionate response, unless (controversially)
that is the only method for securing guarantees of no future reprisals.
For B to invade and annex A and then to continue to invade neutral neighboring
nations on the grounds that their territory would provide a useful defense
against other threats is even more unsustainable.
On the whole the principles offered by jus ad bellum
are useful guidelines. Philosophically however they invoke a plethora
of problems by either their independent vagueness or by mutually inconsistent
results. They are nonetheless a useful starting point for ethics and remain
a pressing concern for statesmen and women.
The Principles Of Jus In Bello
The rules of just conduct fall under the two broad principles
of discrimination and proportionality. The principle of discrimination
concerns who are legitimate targets in war, whilst the principle of proportionality
concerns how much force is morally appropriate. One strong implication
of being a separate topic of analysis for just war theorists, is that
a nation fighting an unjust cause may still fight justly, or vice verse.
A third principle can be added to the traditional two, namely the principle
of responsibility, which demands an examination of where responsibility
lies in war.
In waging war it is considered unfair and unjust to
attack indiscriminately, since non-combatants or innocents are deemed
to stand outside the field of war proper. Immunity from war can be reasoned
from the fact that their existence and activity is not part of the essence
of war, which is killing combatants. Since killing itself is highly problematic,
the just war theorist has to proffer a reason why combatants become legitimate
targets in the first place, and whether their status alters if they are
fighting a just or unjust war. Firstly, a theorist may hold that being
trained and/or armed constitutes a sufficient threat to combatants on
the other side. Voluntarists may invoke the boxing ring analogy: punching
another individual is not morally supportable in a civilized community,
but those who voluntarily enter the boxing ring renounce their right not
to be hit. Similarly, those who join an army renounce their rights not
to be targeted in war; the rights of non-combatants (civilians, or 'innocents')
remain intact and therefore they cannot be justly attacked. Others, avoiding
a rights analysis, may argue that those who join the army (or who have
even been pressed into conscription) come to terms with being a target,
and hence their own deaths. This is argued for example by Barrie Paskins
and Michael Dockrill in The Ethics of War (1979). However, since
civilians can just as readily come to terms with their own deaths, their
argument is not sufficient to defend the principle of discrimination.
Rights based analyses are more productive, especially those that focus
on the renouncing of rights by combatants by virtue of their war status,
leaving a sphere of immunity for civilians.
Warfare sometimes unavoidably involves civilians. Whilst
the principle of discrimination argues for their immunity from war, the
practicalities of war provoke the need for a different model. The doctrine
of double effect offers a justification for killing civilians in war,
so long as their deaths are not intended but are accidental. Targeting
a military establishment in the middle of a city is permissible according
to the doctrine of double effect, for the target is legitimate. Civilian
casualties are a foreseeable but accidental effect. Whilst the doctrine
provides a useful justification of 'collateral damage' to civilians, it
raises a number of issues concerning the justification of foreseeable
breaches of immunity, as well as the balance to strike between military
objectives and civilian casualties.
Another problem arises in defining who is a combatant
and who is not. Usually combatants carry arms openly, but guerrillas disguise
themselves as civilians. Michael Walzer, in his Just and Unjust Wars
(1977) claims that the lack of identification does not give a government
the right to kill indiscriminately--the onus is on the government to identify
the combatants. Others have argued that the nature of modern warfare dissolves
the possibility of discrimination. Civilians are just as necessary causal
conditions for the war machine as are combatants, therefore, they claim,
there is no moral distinction in targeting an armed combatant and a civilian
involved in arming or feeding the combatant. The distinction is, however,
not closed by the nature of modern economies, since a combatant still
remains a very different entity from a non-combatant, if not for the simple
reason that the former is presently armed (and hence has renounced rights
or is prepared to die, or is a threat), whilst the civilian is not. On
the other hand, it can be argued that being a civilian does not necessarily
mean that one is not a threat and hence not a legitimate target. If Mr
Smith is the only individual in the nation to possess the correct combination
that will detonate a device, then he becomes not only causally efficacious
in the firing of a weapon of war, but also morally responsible; reasonably
he also becomes a legitimate military target. His job effectively militarizes
his status. The underlying issues that ethical analysis must deal with
involve the logical nature of an individual's complicity, or aiding and
abetting the war machine, with greater weight being imposed on those logically
closer than those logically further from the war machine in their work.
At a deeper level, one can consider the role that civilians play in supporting
an unjust war; to what extent are they morally culpable, and if they are
culpable to some extent, does that mean they may become legitimate targets?
This invokes the issue of collective versus individuality responsibility
that is in itself a complex topic.
The second principle of just conduct is that any offence
should remain strictly proportional to the objective desired. This principle
overlaps with the proportionality principle of just cause, but it is distinct
enough to consider it in its own light. Proportionality for jus in
bello requires tempering the extent and violence of warfare to minimise
destruction and casualties. It is broadly utilitarian in that it seeks
to minimize overall suffering, but it can also be understood from other
moral perspectives, for instance, from harboring good will to all (Kantian
ethics), or acting virtuously (Aristotelian ethics). Whilst the consideration
of discrimination focuses on who is a legitimate target of war, the principle
of proportionality deals with what kind of force is morally permissible.
In fighting a just war in which only military targets are attacked, it
is still possible to breach morality by employing disproportionate force
against an enemy. Whilst the earlier theoreticians, such as Thomas Aquinas,
invoked the Christian concepts of charity and mercy, modern theorists
may invoke either consequentialist or intrinsicist prescriptions, both
are which remain problematic as the foregoing discussions have noted.
However, it does not seem morally reasonable to completely gun down a
barely armed belligerent tribe. At the battle of Omdurman in the Sudan,
six machine gunners killed thousands of dervishes--the gunners may have
been in the right to defend themselves, but the principle of proportionality
demands that a battle ends before it becomes a massacre. Similarly, following
the battle of Culloden, Cumberland ordered "No Quarter", which was not
only a breach of the principle of discrimination, for his troops were
permitted to kill the wounded as well as supporting civilians, but also
a breach of the principle of proportionality, since the battle had been
won, and the Jacobite cause effectively defeated on the battle field.
The principles of proportionality and discrimination
aim to temper war's violence and range. They are complemented by other
considerations that are not taken up in the traditional exposition of
jus in bello, especially the issue of responsibility.
Jus in bello requires that the agents of war be held
responsible for their actions. This ties in their actions to morality
generally. Some, such as Saint Augustine argues against this assertion:
"who is but the sword in the hand of him who uses it, is not himself responsible
for the death he deals." Those who act according to a divine command,
or even God's laws as enacted by the state and who put wicked men to death
"have by no means violated the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.'" Whilst
this issue is connected to the concepts of just cause, it does not follow
that individuals waging a just, or unjust war, should be absolved of breaching
the principles of just conduct. Readily it can be accepted that soldiers
killing other soldiers is part of the nature of warfare, but when soldiers
turn their weapons against non-combatants, or pursue their enemy beyond
what is reasonable, then they are no longer committing legitimate acts
of war but acts of murder. The principle of responsibility re-asserts
the burden of abiding by rules in times of peace on those acting in war.
The issues that arise from this principle include the morality of obeying
orders (for example, when one knows those orders to be immoral), as well
as the status of ignorance (not knowing of the effects of one's actions).
The foregoing has described the main tenets of the just
war theory, as well as some of the problems that it entails. The theory
bridges theoretical and applied ethics, since it demands an adherence,
or at least a consideration of meta-ethical conditions and models, as
well as prompting concern for the practicalities of war. A few of those
practicalities have been mentioned here. Other areas of interest are:
hostages, innocent threats, international blockades, sieges, the use of
weapons of mass destruction or of anti-personnel weapons (e.g., land mines),
by Alex Moseley, Ph.D.
Racism in Cuba and The Failure of the American Left
by Sidney Brinkley
citizens have equal rights and are subject to equal duties. Discrimination
because of race, color, sex or national origin is forbidden and will be
punished by law."
-The Cuban Constitution 1959
think we should see more black representation in the higher positions
of leadership now. In the middle leadership, for example, in the youth
organizations. This is a social problem we have not resolved. But there
are economic problems that are critical at the moment, so it's difficult."
-Fidel Castro, "Crossroads," October 1993
impressed me the most [about the meeting with President Fidel Castro]
was the way in which his grounding in the history and reality of Afro-Cubans
informs his view of Cuba; the sense of personal outrage he has over racial
discrimination; and his willingness to be critical of how the revolution
has not done all that must be done about racism and therefore the resolve
to figure out what must be done.
-Dr. Johnnetta Cole, "The Cuba Report," TransAfrica
Forum January, 1999
TransAfrica Forum delegation, comprised of fifteen prominent African-Americans,
arrived in Havana on January 2, 1999, to begin a five day "fact-finding"
visit which concluded with a three hour meeting with Cuban president Fidel
Castro. In addition to Dr. Cole, the delegation included Drs. Alvin and
Tina Poussaint, author Walter Mosley, actor Danny Glover and Randall Robinson,
president of TransAfrica Forum. The visit was described as a "watershed"
no surprise the Dr. Cole would be "impressed" by her meeting with Castro.
The American Left are overwhelmingly impressed by Castro, sometimes to
a fault. In the Cuba Report that followed the visit, TransAfrica praised
the Cuban government for it educational system, its universal health care,
its low infant mortality rate.
close on the heels of the TransAfrica visit, a six member delegation from
the Congressional Black Caucus, led by CBC chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
arrived in Cuba on February 17, for its own five day fact finding tour.
"We have come with our minds open to study the impact of the embargo on
the Cuban population," Waters said. "We hope to exercise some leadership,
even a modest amount, in the future debates on a resolution about U.S.-Cuban
February 19, the CBC delegation met with Castro for six hours. As with
TransAfrica, the CBC delegation saw what Castro wanted them to see, talked
with whom Castro wanted them to talk and came away with the "facts" that
Castro wanted them to know.
the July 1999 issue of "Essence" magazine Randall Robinson authored a
simplistic article titled "Why Black Cuba Is Suffering." He lambasted
the U.S. government embargo, saying it was the sole blame for the plight
of Afro Cubans. There was no mention of the role the Cuban government
plays in that suffering, and they do indeed play a part. Castro is invariably
portrayed as victim but Castro is also victimizer but that's a fact that
Robinson and most of the Left prefer not to acknowledge.
offered a qualified criticism of Castro's Cuba. "While Cuba has a one-party
system and suppresses dissent, it still has a better record with respect
to human rights than many Latin American governments the United States
has steadfastly supported," Robinson wrote. What kind of reasoning is
that? I would imagine the political prisoners languishing in Cuban jails
would find little comfort in that statement. The same people that go ballistic
over human rights abuses in China, go mute when it comes to Castro's human
rights abuses in Cuba.
has a population of over 11 million people. Approximately 60% are Black.
However, while the Cuban constitution declares everyone equal, Cuban society
is stratified by race and color of skin. Viewed as a pyramid, White Cubans
are at the apex, mulattos or mixed race are in the middle and Afro-Cubans
are at the bottom. The same position they occupied before the revolution.
are virtually no Afro-Cubans found in the hierarchy of the Cuban government.
And they are not found anywhere else in anything close to their numbers
in the population. When it comes to addressing Cuba's entrenched racism
Castro plays the American Left like a fiddle. He knows that all he has
to do is acknowledge the sorry fact and that will be enough to impress
the Left. That Castro has done nothing to correct it is overlooked.
truth is, the Black majority is being ruled by the White minority. If
that wasn't acceptable in South Africa, why is it acceptable in Cuba?
Indeed, that's one reason the Castro regime is so strongly opposed to
democracy. There's the very real possibility, indeed probability, that
for the first time in the history of Cuba, White Cubans would no longer
be in control.
1994 I spent seven days in Havana with the U.S. based organization "Queers
For Cuba." I was not a member of the group but went as a reporter and
later wrote a series of articles about the trip that ran in several U.S.
newspapers, both Gay and straight. QFC was the official guest of the Federation
of Cuban Women (Federacion De Mujeres Cubanas). We stayed in the Federation's
guest house in Vedado, one of Havana's nicer neighborhoods.
Federation had arranged meetings and outings for the group but we also
had a lot free time to explore Havana on our own. I went to a restaurant
inside one of the hotels. It was not at all busy, perhaps four or five
other people in the room, including a trio of Afro-Cubans, two men and
one woman, sitting a couple tables away from me.
were three White Cuban waiters on the other side of the room. After waiting
several minutes I thought the service was slow but I wasn't paying much
attention at that point. Several more minutes passed. Then, a European
couple walked in and sat down. The waiters immediately rushed over with
menus, water, napkins. The works. I remember saying to myself, "What's
this?" Then it occurred to me, I was being deliberately ignored. I was
furious. I walked over to the waiter station and said, "I was here before
them," and pointed at the European couple, "why are they being served
before me?" I didn't shout but I spoke loud enough to turn heads. At that
point the waiter realized I was not Afro-Cuban. There was an immediate
change of attitude. "I'm sorry," he said apologetically, "have a seat.
Someone will be right over."
they were so solicitous. They couldn't do enough. I was not mollified.
When he returned with my order I asked about the trio of Afro-Cubans who
were still sitting there, unserved. "Why haven't they been served?" I
asked. "They were here before me." It was only then the waiter went to
their table. That was first but not the last time I would see racism in
hotels are entirely staffed by White Cubans. I saw no Afro-Cuban workers
in the hotels. When I asked one official why was that the case, his response
was, the hotels were European owned and they did the hiring. He said [the
government] did not oversee the hiring practices of the hotels. I was
incredulous. He was telling me Europeans could come to Cuba and discriminate
against Afro-Cubans and the government couldn't do anything about it.
Obviously, one of the reasons Black Cubans are suffering is the jobs are
going to the White Cubans.
was then I began to ask the types of questions that Cuban officials, and
the members of Queers For Cuba, found uncomfortable. Such as: What percentage
of those 64,000 doctors in Cuba are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of the
students at the University of Havana are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of
the employed population are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of government
officials are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of the prison population are
Afro-Cuban? What percentage of the residents of Havana's poorest neighborhoods
next time TransAfrica Forum, the Congressional Black Caucus, or anyone
else, goes to Cuba for a "fact finding" excursion, ask Castro those questions.
Bypass the Castro sponsored tour and go to the Black barrios of Havana
and talk to the Afro-Cubans. Then come back and tell the rest of us those
American Left correctly castigates the United States government for its
misguided policy towards Cuba. But they wrongly turn a blind eye and deaf
ear to the blatant inequities between Black and White Cubans, inequities
the U.S. government did not create and does not sustain.
the time I Left Cuba I was disappointed and disillusioned. I thought that,
except for the U.S. embargo, Cuba was a success story. There are people
who have told me that I was viewing Cuba through an African American perspective.
I see how that's true and colors my perceptions but I only allow that
argument but so far. It's the same old racism wherever it is found and
no one knows that better than the darker of us.
every way, by whatever standard, White Cubans are better off than Black
Cubans. If everyone is subject to the same embargo how can that be? The
people whom the revolution benefited the most are White Cubans and given
the present social structure of Cuba, if the embargo was halted tomorrow,
it would be White Cubans who would benefit first and foremost.
am not anti-Castro. I am pro-Black. Cuba is but a variation of the same
old theme, White people getting over on Black people and that is the failure
of the American Left. They stand by in silence and let it happen. They
are so in "awe" of Castro. They are so "impressed" by Castro. After forty
years they need to get over it and get on his case. The honeymoon is over.
Until they are willing to do that, the Left are complicit in whatever
the suffering of the Afro-Cubans.
"I may not make it if I try, but I damn sure won't if I don't..." - Oscar Brown Jr.
"Mankind will either find a way or make one." - C.P. Snow
"Whatever you do..., be cool!" - Joseph Louis Turner
"Yes, I can...!" - Sammy Davis Jr.
"Yes, we can...!" - Barack Obama
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Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre
International Cinema Berlin
Years of Black International Cinema Berlin Film Awards
1991 - 2017
Collegium - Forum & Television Program
Classic in Black
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Kramer, Anthony Phillips, Donald Muldrow Griffith].
Copyright © 1999 by [Fountainhead® Tanz Théâtre/ Black International Cinema
THE COLLEGIUM - Forum & Television Program Berlin
in association with Cultural Zephyr e.V.].
Revised: August 1, 2017