Race Relations and the Natures of Our Beasts

Still from Robinson Crusoe (1954). Producciones Tepeyac. FU.

For the next month Americans will be “celebrating” two major holidays — aside from the coveted gleeful call-in-a-sickie Super Bowl hangover Monday, with fuzzy dreams of halftime ads still staggering like sugar plum fairies in our heads — MLK’s birthday bash on January 17th, followed by the hallowed Washington’s birthday on February 21st.

We will once again remember everything that MLK stood for — his dream of world domination by peace, brothers in arms linked to arms — and forget that the FBI once tried to torment him into suicide, and that, whatever he stood for on that Memphis balcony that fateful night, loads of salty crackers had a hoedown in the backwoods, way back where the still waters run deep. There’ll be no talk of Malcolm. No talk of the white devil at the crossroads who goes by the name of Pred Lending.

And on Washington’s Birthday — now known as President’s Day — an apt change in recognition of the homogeneity and pasteurization of the vanilla milkshake handed out every four years — nicknamed the Lesser of Two Evils — you’re forced to drink, if white, and forced away from drinking by whites, if you’re Black, as if you were trying to imbibe the transubstantial blood and bread without confession or even conversion, jumpin’ like a Calaveras County leapfrog to the head of the line, all because you suffered longer. Boo-fuckin-hoo, they seem to cry, before they be-bop you blue again, fascist men in tights wearing George Floyd tees — beat you over the head with redacted copies of Huckleberry Finn.

And in the meantime (and don’t they all seem mean now?), it’s the 24-hour around-the-clock Blatherscheissen Show on TV and NPR, the Corporate Media going on about Jan 6th this and Russkie hacking that, boarding school Blacks — and Al Sharpton — bussed into the studio to “sugar over” the plight of common African-Americans dying, as usual, in outrageous numbers from the usual assortment of neglects in health, education, and general welfare.  We have no interest (get it?) in ending slavery. We’ve just moved the operation from the cotton fields to the credit card yields. Meantime, the cash cow coverage of Donald Trump and his presumed Return to Power is — on some level — menacing in its implications, but also indicative of the level of infantile thinking the media have sunk to for money. As I recall, and I’m getting long of tooth, back in the Sixties guys like that got shot at the drop of a hat. (It wasn’t all peace and love.) Maybe the MSM is protecting him.

Who would take Jan 6 seriously? I keep thinking that it’s no coincidence the Barnum and Bailey, from Sarasota, dissolved shortly after the inauguration of the Trump presidency (you could hear the bagpipe deflate, like the onset of depression)  and the clowns and elephants were just lost without a Big Tent to house sideshow freaks and legally abuse animals in, so brought their show to DC in glum proud girlyman protest. They even tried to make/fake a Black man as a ringleader, later calling him an informant for the FBI.  (Haven’t seen any up-to-date reports on that one.) But really — Jan 6 as insurrection from the nation that gave the world Fat Boy and Little Man? — is that all there is to a circus? America.  Greatest Show on Earth my ass.

It’s tough being a white boy with conscience these days. The Right hates the Left like never before. The Left hates the Left like never before. And, for the Left, this is a real problem, because we really only have the persuasion of words to defend ourselves with.  I want to punch myself in the face every time I hear that there are still “people” out there who want to beat my lifelong hero Ralph Nader into guava jelly for running as a Green in 2000. Are they just plain stupid?

It was only recently that I found an articulator who could sum up the nonsense we’ve endured for generations. Ed Asner. In his The Grumpy Historian, he reminds us that the “sacred” forefathers, many of whom became our presidents, saw the Constitution as a document designed to protect the rich. He cites Professor Charles Beard and his An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913):

Beard begins by dividing the Framers into five financial categories:

1) Plantation owners and slaveholders.
2) Those heavily invested in lands for speculation.
3) Bankers and money lenders.
4) Bond holders–those who held “paper”–i.e., creditors who owned government securities and military debt.
5) Wealthy merchants, manufacturers, and ship owners.

Sound familiar?  Ed also reminds us in his book (see my review) that the “sacrosanct” Bill of Rights was bone thrown to dogmatists who wouldn’t ratify the new Constitution without the Amendments.

So while They have Us beating the snot out of each other over Black and White, and equal this-and-that, and middle class erosion caused by the deplorables, and the color palette people over-sensitive to racist tomfoolery, and laughably accepting the notion that Bernie is a Socialist, and BLMs on the subway and BMT at Subway (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit System), antifa versus neo-mussolinis, the Fat Cats are, as usual, laughing their assholes off — and that makes them a buck a new diet craze. The Laugh Your Ass Off Diet.( I’ll give them credit there: Everybody says I have a flat ass, which I used to find unflattering, but now I just titter.)

For Ed, and for all us white bread Mea Culpa types out there, it all really seems to come down to the Constitutionalists versus the Bill of Righters. You can’t seem to have both. Me? Fuck the Constitution. Let’s start over with the Bill of Rights, take the money back they stole by hook and crook, and amend from our point of view. Throw them some chum. Let them stand in line for Food Stamps. Send Eric Schmidt on his own holographic adventure in slumdog Mumbai and lose the key (Maybe he’ll find Buddha out there where the other half lives.) I mean, tune in to how these pampered fudge-makers think:

If you’re feeling bored and want to take an hour-long holiday, why not turn on your holograph box and visit Carnival in Rio? Stressed? Go spend some ti m,;\ me on a beach in the Maldives. Worried your kids are becoming spoiled? Have them spend some time wandering around the Dharavi slum in Mumbai. Frustrated by the media’s coverage of the Olympics in a different time zone? Purchase a holographic pass for a reasonable price and watch the women’s gymnastics team compete right in front of you, live.

Unh-huh, and remember that those “women” gymnasts you want to tumble with are little girls. Kinky future ahead for those elites who can afford it. But what about the rest of us? Where’s our slice of the pie? Constitution versus Bill of Rights.

Racism.  Belief in race superiority. Belief that because someone had the “misfortune” to be born with the wrong integument that they are evolutionarily inferior. To actually believe it. That, I can’t fathom.  I can see the dog-eat-dog advantages of pretending to believe, of keeping it in storage for the right moment, to jump a negro when the mighty whitey inside pushes you, but to actually believe it — in the 21st century? Seems impossible.  Yet, I was watching an old film not long ago — Betrayed (1988), with Debra Winger and Tom Beringer  — and there’s a scene that takes the breath away from any human, while the crackers smile their approval, in which Winger’s character (undercover FBI) says good night to the young children of Berenger (her target white supremicist) who she has started to fall for, and the root of evil rears its head as she tucks them in, asking her about the N-words and the J-words.


This is shocking.  And yet, as when they told MLK to commit suicide, the FBI is still sleeping with enemy of humanity. And there are parents in 2022 America who still tuck their children this way. The film also contains a scene where a Black man is kidnapped from a city street and brought out to some woods and chased for a sportkill.  It’s extreme, until you read that Blacks are still being assaulted and shot by cops every day, like a blood sport for the fascists. The film’s trailer promises that “it will change you forever.”  No it won’t.

We’ll pretend to be outraged by the implications for our democracy and rule of law system.  But Jordan Peele really caught the flavor of a new way of walking (do you want to lose your mind?) in his political horror film, Get Out!  The Mighty Whitey has new plans. No more kidnappings off the street. Now, let’s honeypot them to dinner with the parents, hypnotize them, and own them from within (no spoilers). Why? Because Black is the new Black, and white folk want nothing so much as to be Black, deep down inside. There’s a new form of co-optation afoot. Remember Rosemary’s Baby and the milkshake crowd. They seem welcoming, supportive. Then next thing you fuckin know you got yourself some red flashing eyes to contend with. One Black man tries to warn another.

Sometimes though you can’t get out, surrounded at a party by white picket smiles.

Race relations. Right. It makes you wonder about us as a species.  When I re-read Robinson Crusoe a couple of years ago, I was appalled at how little I remembered about the actual story, that I’d bought the idea early on that RC was a book that remains an ideal of rugged white individualism. But it’s bosh. Crusoe whose maiden trip by ship abroad results in his being captured and made a slave, pays back fate by selling into slavery a young man who helps him escape captivity.  That’s right and white, he was a slaver.

Further along, as a South American colonist raising tobacco, he decides to go full hog on slavery and return to Africa where he was imprisoned to buy slaves for hos plantation. That’s when he’s shipwrecked. We think, with Polly, his parrot, Poor Crusoe.  But nuh-uh, the ship was fully laden when it sank and went down off the coast of his “deserted island” and, as I note in my review of Crusoe and His Consequences by James Dunkerley:

Let’s recall that, in a series of raft trips to and from the grounded ship, the stranded Crusoe manages to salvage just about every possible useful item from the fully laden ship. He rescues “the seamen’s chests… filled with provisions…bread, rice, three Dutch cheeses, five pieces of dried goat’s flesh… cordial waters… five or six gallons of sack… two or three bags full of nails and spikes, a great screw jack, a dozen or two of hatchets… a grindstone… two or three iron crows… muskets… powder more… all the men’s clothes… a spare fore-topsail, hammock, and some bedding… small ropes and rope twine… spare canvas… a great hogshead of bread, and three large runlets of rum or spirits, and a box of sugar, and a barrel of fine flour…” And that’s just after three of the dozen trips he made.

Yet, we continue to make movies about RC the survivalist, reducing his politics to nil — the Tom Hanks vehicle, Castaway (2000), for instance.

But again, this MAGA whitey, was a slaver.  He spends 39 years alone on an island when one day he spies cannibals about to fry up some man-vittles, and watches him escape — toward Crusoe!  And when the cannibals don’t give Friday chase, Defoe’s Crusoe reasons,

I smil’d at him, and look’d pleasantly, and beckon’d to him to come still nearer; at length he came close to me, and then kneel’d down again, and laid his head upon the ground, and taking me by the foot, set my foot upon his head; this, it seems, was in token of swearing to be my slave forever . . .

This moment has been almost-comically re-enacted in a Bunuel version of the film.

But perhaps the best Crusoe version of all is the one where the true race relations are delineated fair dinkum style, as the Aussies would say, is in Man Friday, starring Peter O’Toole and Richard Roundtree, where in one dishing scene, Crusoe, who’s had decades to build a metaphysics unchallenged by otherhood, let’s his captive (and paid) audience in on a secret: Man is a monster.  Especially, if this scene is indicative, the Mighty Whitey.


Richard Roundtree, who plays Friday, is shafted by Crusoe who, at least in this film has the insight to shoot the charging lion between the running lights. Crusoe is the predator.

So, this Black/White dialectical season between “master” and “slave” mentalities who need ach other like Big Pharma needs viruses, be honest with your evaluations of where we are at in our responses to each other’s needs.  When Joe Biden, from a slaver state that today is a legal haven for credit card predators, gives his first State of the Union address on March 1, remember my diet suggestion, and my flat ass. Remember it’s just a pep talk from the serutan guy.

But why would we want nature to go backwards? What, are we monsters?

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.