A powerful hatred.
There is a powerful hatred loose in the world. And everything and everyone we cherish is endangered. And so I would have to be some kind of really nearsighted fool to wallow in what's left of the world that's gorgeous and freely given and natural and sweet and hot and unpredictable and delicate and good for growing things. I'd be a wallowing fool unless I also tried to eliminate, or reduce, that hatred that can take all that we have away from us.
But how should I stage my fight? Who will listen to what I have to say?
Except for those occasions when the media smell a possible chance to pit black folks against other black folks, when do I get calls asking for my thoughts and opinions about anything whatsoever? If the media wanted to know what mainstream black folks think and feel about white folks, for example, they would regularly interview the head of the A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church and chairs of African-American Studies Departments and a representative sampling of black students at your nearest high school, and black writers and thinkers such as Adolph Reed and Angela Davis and Manning Marable and Cornel West and Bell Hooks.
And what the media would discover is that whether they're looking at somebody separatist or not, most black folks are very clear about one thing: who endangers their lives. Most black folks know he is a powerful white man, such as the President or the Governor or the distinguished U.S. Senator from almost anywhere. And that's how most of us feel most of the time about white men: that they are powerful and dangerous.
And we are not racist. We simply do not have power; white men do. And they--and the few black men invited in, such as Ron Brown, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Shelby Steele--use that power in ways that cause us enormous harm.
For two decades, Federal and state policies have combined to ensure a statistical tragedy of huge magnitude now unfolding in the national black community. Whether we use indices of unemployment or homelessness or drug addiction or domestic violence or levels of education never attained or official designation as a family on or below the poverty line, our people face a future deformed by boastful government neglect and by hysterical moves to further criminalize and further incarcerate greater and greater numbers of our young men and women. And our people face an uninhibited scapegoat campaign to stigmatize and invalidate the neediest among us: welfare families dependent on AFDC support that amounts to an average of $370 a month for a mother and her two children.
Is it not hateful to equate "crime" and "welfare" with "black"? That is the equation promoted by Bill Clinton and Pete Wilson, both of them white men who never tire of blathering about these issues they deliberately distort.
As the President tells it, welfare dependency (black) is a first-priority problem to be eliminated for the sake of good character and the budget. He mouths these sentiments despite the fact that the total percentage of our national budget available for welfare assistance is less than one half of 1 per cent. (And, incidentally, most recipients of welfare aid are white, not black.)
But Bill Clinton knows nothing about good character; good character doesn't follow from working a nine-to-five shift, as he suggests. Good character has to do with honesty and reliability and kindliness.
Clinton and other powerful white men impugn the character of (black) women on welfare. but where did these men get the idea that raising children is something other than full-time, supremely important, hard work? And exactly what kind of "workfare" are they talking about for single mothers when even white male college graduates cannot find employment? What kind of workfare do they have in mind besides some hideous update of legalized slave labor?
Then there is "crime," which means, according to Clinton and his powerful white cohorts, young black men. Well, it seems that the Almighty Budget will not tolerate help for the poor, and the Almighty -Budget has no money for job creation or for rescue and revitalization of our public schools or for drug rehabilitation or for development and implementation of effective, grass-roots community planning, or for social and psychological counseling: No funds available in the Almighty Budget!
But, hey! Bill has a plan: three strikes and you're out forever. And what will that cost California, alone, every year? More than $6 billion! And so, suddenly never mind about the budget. To punish/derogate/imprison/destroy, there are multibillions of dollars in hand, evidently. But to salvage/teach/train/enlighten/empower? No money in the bank!
Now, if you jail somebody at age twenty-five and sentence him to life, that will cost--supposing he lives another forty years--$1 million ($25,000 a year times forty years). So Bill Clinton and Pete Wilson have $1 million per black man to spend and it's the God's truth that they're putting that kind of money into his imprisonment, his $25,000-a-year retirement from society.
There is a powerful hatred loose in the world. And most black folks know it. most of us know it's white, not black. It's white, not Jewish. It's white and it's male, not female. It's white and it's male and it's heterosexual, not gay or lesbian. We who are weak make it our business to figure out who's strong--strong enough to help us or to crush our lives.
And so we pay attention to truly powerful white men. We notice that the guys who worship at the altar of Pentagon priorities (at a time when the former Soviet Union would not be able to muster a credible threat to Grenada) and who dump all over our human needs in the name of reducing the deficit are the very same guys who think up obscenities like how about taxing food stamps or what about three strikes and you're gone even from the potential for a useful, self-respecting life.
We notice that these are the same guys eagerly collaborating with racist wannabe gatekeepers to America: powerful white men whose ancestors for sure never asked permission to come to this country but just came hell-bent on owning slaves, exterminating Native Americans, and grabbing gold. These powerful white men now conspire to stop immigration to America by anybody who does not resemble themselves. These same powerful white men are the ones who waffle on or ignore women's issues and who betray and/or attack gay and lesbian Americans. These same powerful white men are the ones who will not broach the subject of education except to propose and/or execute additional cutbacks of funds accompanied by the jacking up of student tuition.
These same powerful white men apparently manage to sleep very well at night, thank you, even though their verifiable executive decisions mean that we coexist with absolutely documented genocide, a.k.a., ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.
There is a powerful hatred loose in the world. And it's obvious to most black people that this hatred is based upon a white supremacist ideology that determines domestic and foreign policies alike. We see American inertia vis-a-vis genocide in Bosnia as part of one horrible continuum that guarantees no action/no deliverance/ no beautification/no justice/no peace in South Central L.A. And that continuum is controlled by a white racist value system that does not regard human life as valuable because it's human, because it's alive.
The ruling racist value system of these United States asks three questions of each of us:
1. Does this citizen and his or her group look like somebody I would allow my daughter to marry?
2. Is this citizen and his or her group cheaply available for the enhancement of my profit margins?
3. What can I get away with? In other words, is it "safe" to condemn or ignore or impoverish or imprison or belittle this citizen and his or her group?
There is a powerful hatred loose in the world. And the most powerful practitioners of this hatred do not deploy a hateful rhetoric. They do not declare, "I hate black folks," or "I hate women," or "I hate Jews," or "I hate Muslims," or "I hate homosexuals." They make "civil" pronouncements, such as:
"The Defense Budget must not be cut further"
or "I made every effort to introduce a jobs bill to the Congress but . . . ."
or "Top military experts advise against our active intervention in Bosnia"
or "I do not feel comfortable with the writings of my friend, Lani Guinier"
or "The White House is anxious to get past the uproar over gays in the military in order to put its best efforts behind healthcare reform"
or "Crime is our number one domestic concern"
or "Illegal aliens threaten to bankrupt state treasuries."
And most black people notice something else. We notice a virulent, racist double standard. We notice how long we had to wait before the United States adopted any sanctions against South Africa. We notice that the United States has never even considered sanctions against Israel. We notice that the American media got all excited and riveted by Minister Louis Farrakhan when one of his lieutenants spewed forth loathsome anti-Semitic (and also, by the way, homophobic and misogynist) remarks. We notice that the American media absolutely failed to broadcast or telecast the news of Minister Farrakhan's December 4, 1964, column in Muhammad Speaks when he described Malcolm as "a dog returning to its vomit" and when he, Farrakhan, declared that Malcolm was "worthy of death."
Anti-Semitism is wrong. Anti-Semitism is evil. All scapegoating of any kind of people is evil and wrong. Farrakhan and Khalid Abdul Muhammad fulminate about white people, and they trash and vilify that most vulnerable segment of white America: the Jewish population.
I have already turned away from Farrakhan. I was never there. He was never on my side.
Farrakhan runs on hatred. His targets change. But the hatred continues. His views and preachments are not easily distinguishable from those of David Duke. But Farrakhan does not possess a fraction of the power invested in and represented by David Duke.
We notice double standards.
We notice no uproar remotely comparable to the Farrakhan controversy when U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings describes African heads of state as cannibals, or when Jesse Helms utters another unconstitutional commandment, or when Republican Presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan lets loose rabid scattershots against black folks and gay and lesbian Americans and women daring to dream of a life besides and beyond motherhood and vacuum cleaners.
And where were the media and Congressional calls for public repudiation of Baruch Goldstein and the rabbi who officiated at his funeral, the rabbi who said, "One million Arabs is not worth a Jewish fingernail," and "We are all Goldstein"?
Why is Baruch Goldstein "a lone, violent madman" and Farrakhan, on the contrary, Public Enemy Number One?
We notice double standards. And we do not like what we see. We do not like what that means. And so, yes, there is fury and there is rage in Black America today. For all of these two decades of terrible reasons, there is black fury and there is black rage.
Today the black community is victim to a national scapegoat campaign that promises to wreck our prospects as a people, irreversibly. And Farrakhan is a distraction, a calculated media distraction of our energies from the real deal: the power of white supremacist ideology here, and everywhere.
Is it conceivable that the media could open up to other black voices concerned by issues such as government responsibility and equality and justice and building political coalitions and exposing truly powerful white men such as Clinton and Wilson as ambassadors of programmatic hate?
I think it's inconceivable because American media uphold a racist agenda alongside Bill and Pete and Tom and Dick and Harry.
The media construct of Minister Farrakhan leads progressive white Americans and even some Americans of color to believe that the problem is black racism when, actually, the problem is racism and hatred of any color or kind. And the problem behind that is the problem of who has the power to make whose lives miserable or whose lives over or whose lives fresh and hopeful again.
There is a powerful hatred loose in the world. And there is a savagery of racist double standard ruling our lives. And the way to escape this horror of powerful hatred is to get serious and real clear.
What powerful white man, what powerful white Christian male heterosexual in America today will raise up the model of his lifework as an example opposite to that of Baruch Goldstein, Louis Farrakhan, Bill Clinton, Pete Wilson?
Where can we find a value system seeking to make rather than break connections among our various, frail lives? Where can we find such values invested in any man or woman wielding great political and/or corporate power?
When will we extirpate self-hatred as well as our hatred of folks weaker than we are from our own personal days and nights?
And what is to be done about the really big deal? The President? The governors? The U.S. Senator from almost anywhere? And you and you--whoever you are--perilously interposed between Sarajevo and South Central L.A., what are you going to do? Injustice and contempt breed hatred.
Hatred reaps hatred.
We need, each of us, to begin the awesome, difficult work of love: loving ourselves so that we become able to love other people without fear so that we can become powerful enough to enlarge the circle of our trust and our common striving for a safe, sunny afternoon near to flowering trees and under a very blue sky.
June Jordan, the poet, is professor of African-American Studies and Women's Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. Her latest book, "Haruko/Love Poems," is published by Serpent's Tail/High Risk, with an introduction by Adrienne Rich.
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|Title Annotation:||white male politicians' animosity towards blacks as evidenced by welfare reform|
|Date:||May 1, 1994|
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