The scandal of Los Angeles Council Member Nury Martinez’ racist remarks earlier this week included her mention of Jews and Armenians, but most pointedly she called the adopted Black child of a colleague a “little monkey”. This was sad and unfortunate.
Racist prejudice exists not only between Whites and Blacks but also among Brown folks who are sensitive to their skin color gradations: Who is darker than whom? This ugly concern of “being better than”, is still alive even though it’s a very old movie. Latinos and Latinas are not immune.
Keep in mind that the Indigenous Peoples in the American Continent were all eventually conquered peoples, and some among them were twice conquered like the Mexicans.
First conquered under the boot of the Spanish Catholic Church for three hundred years, the Mexicans were then conquered again during the Mexican-American War of 1848, a war Abraham Lincoln considered the most shameful one this country had ever engaged in.
Mexicans were told, You can leave or you can stay and become part of the United States. They said Hey, we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us! It literally did when the US took half the total area of what was then Mexico.
In the bigger picture, what I also find interesting and even worse than the Martinez incident itself is how the speech police immediately snapped into action to punish the woman. People celebrated her resignation happy that justice was done. Even President Biden chimed in that she should resign.
In the meantime, our more quiet and sinister systemic racism, which is where the money is, goes on unabated in the United States.
I mean voter suppression, redlining by the banks, gerrymandering, racist bias in the rates of mass incarceration under the infamous “war on drugs”, a dismally failed project designed to remove from American society millions of mostly Black men they don’t want around.
There are also the unequal rates of pay between Whites and Blacks, to say nothing of the cost of lost opportunity for people of color.
In real estate, owners dread communities “turning” and losing value. Meaning White homeowners take flight when Black folks move in, which translates directly into money.
You can see American systemic racism at work in the demographic lines of prosperity which hew close to the lines of racial division, in a system of laws that sustains this disparity.
As we see political correctness explode again and again in righteous indignation at racist verbal transgressions, deeper aspects of the built-in racism in the structure of our economic system that were normalized long ago remain out of view and mostly unchanged.
As unchanged as the terminally cruel and inhumane concentration of wealth in the hands of a very tiny number of dynastically-rich family fortunes that will never change hands or give back to the community that enriched them. And by the way, the inborn entitlement so prevalent in the ruling class still holds racist views of the laboring class. The issues of money and race are features, not bugs in our capitalist society.
Recall the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, where hundreds of peaceful, hard-working and financially prosperous Black folks were murdered by angry White mobs. The Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as the Black Wall Street never recovered. The public record shows how this sociopathic act of racism remained covered up for so long.
Without a doubt, the ultimate act of racism was the demented level of greed in slavery, an unspeakable evil that was founded on the kidnapping of entire peoples by pirate privateers stealing African men, women and children they then enslaved for life. The bandits captured the bodies of those unfortunate peoples and erased their histories. Millions of innocent, peaceful human beings were uprooted and erased forever.
Most of the merchants and families who bought them saw Black slaves as sub-humans incapable of kinship ties. Their marriages counted for nothing. Slaves were sold like cattle, children and parents often getting separated forever, those deepest of human bonds torn apart. Goons like Stephen Miller in the Trump administration replayed some of these old themes, breaking families apart as “deterrent” to dissuade others from coming to the Southern border of the US.
Black slaves were thought not to feel any of this because they weren’t people like you and me so nobody cared. Business went on.
Slaves had no agency, no rights, no home, and violent disdain was all around them. Some academics have written about slaves having had “agency” in matters of how they styled their hair, for instance. I find such boutique notions condescending because along with their bodies, the cultures and traditions slaves came from were equally victimized with the whip and the rope, and for no pay. So the word “agency” doesn’t belong at all.
The collective insanity of slavery, with its incessant raping and pillaging generated big profits for the criminally-sick brutes that got rich on blood money. It was so lucrative that white Americans would eventually kill each other in the Civil War over continuing or abolishing this savagery. Many referred to it as “states’ rights” or “the peculiar institution”, euphemisms they used instinctively to hide what they knew deep down was an abomination.
Three-quarters of a million Americans perished over keeping or ending institutionalized slavery. The Three-Fifths Compromise was formally written into our Constitution and stayed there for its first eighty years. The Southern states got Congress to count their Black populations as three-fifths human in order to increase their political representation. Of course Blacks could not vote.
To this day, the Thirteenth Amendment still allows for the actual slave labor of felons in jail. Over a million of them today are inducted to forced labor for pennies an hour and sometimes nothing, to produce quality goods that sell at full retail in the biggest stores in America. No one talks about this. Slavery has never stopped for people in jail. Many of the firefighters who put out some of the deadliest wild fires are felons facing forced labor, under threat of solitary confinement if they refuse.
It was only on March 8 of THIS year, 2022, that the Senate finally passed a law against lynching, with a penalty of thirty years attached to it. That was a long time coming!
It is true that slavery was rampant all over the world and not only in the United States. But specific to the United States were the centuries-long enslavement of five million mostly Black Africans, along with the genocide of nine million Indigenous Peoples.
These two profoundly American issues are still the insufficiently-addressed beginnings of what became the United States, which then grew into the Empire we all know.
The first recorded sale of slaves along the Eastern Seaboard goes back to 1619, when an Englishman of means purchased twenty-three African slaves that had come over in a Portuguese ship. That was over 400 years ago and we’re still fighting about race.
Slavery was pure, undiluted, dehumanizing racism taken to its absurd extreme. It lasted for centuries and it informed many generations including that of our own Founding Fathers.
It has been fatally ineffective for this country to insist on skipping those pages of our history just so we can “move on”, without first pausing, or doing a national-level deep study of it all. We are now having racially-motivated mass shootings every week. American civil society is unraveling.
In my view woke culture, political correctness and the industry of grievance are emotional, third-rail issues with the power to divert our collective attention away from the barbaric and continuing thievery of the parasitical ruling class whose vast fortunes were made by the ruthless exploitation of people and the unchecked extraction of resources. Said fortunes remain in place and are now bigger than ever by so-called global financialization. No one is stopping this.
The mass media, mostly owned by the rentier class, serves to keep these scions away from the limelight. The 24-hour news cycle peddling scandal, shock and schlock, including this Martinez incident, is an effective diversionary tactic to keep the ruling financial monarchy mostly out of view, and free to go on indulging undisturbed their pathological and sociopathic greed.
Just recall the Citizens United Decision of 2010. I rest my case.