The Only Issue in 2016: The Legacy of 1776

At this site I have already reviewed scholarship and recent history with which I would otherwise seek to illustrate my position. For the sake of brevity I will refrain here from submitting the entire indictment again.

However, the “Greatest Show on Earth” is starting to roll into a town near you — thankfully not one near me — and with it the usual battalions of charlatans and hypocrites will also come, those waving what George Carlin so poignantly called “America’s greatest theatrical prop” (aka as Bible, Holy Scripture etc.)

I’m not talking about the Fundamentalists or those of the Jerry Falwell generation that induce horse sweat in liberals and progressives. I’m talking about all those folks who belong to the mainstream religion — the worship of private property and possessive individualism — the biblical ecumenical movement that has kept white supremacy strong, healthy and unrepentantly racist since the Founding Oligarchs anticipated Rhodesia and declared independence for Anglo-Saxon white men and their progeny in the nascent North American Empire, later to be named the United States of America.

In the centre ring of what most sober observers have long admitted to be little more than a circus will be the white candidates for the eponymous house in Washington that serves as a modest imitation of the palace on the Mall near Constitution Hill in its British sister city. Now that the sour taste left by the run of the Bush litter has been more or less washed out of their mouths the Kenyan-American incumbent can be retired to further enrich himself like every one of his predecessors. So what performances await the entertainment addicts from sea to shining sea?

Well, every four years when the circus comes to town there is always at least one sword swallower, that is someone who believes that the rest of the world has not swallowed enough of the US sword. Then there is always the “fat man” — an ostentatiously rich aesthete whose mystic skill lies in turning as many people into jobless, homeless and malnourished as possible while balancing something on his nose he calls “the budget”. Then since 1964 there has always been the JFK-look-alike contest in which a hall of mirrors is erected around the entire audience while rich men and/or women leap from one social issue to the next without touching the ground. Of course, there are sideshows like old clowns pretending that there is more red to them than the rubber nose they are wearing. Clowns, of course, are always sent in to distract the audience between shows or when someone gets killed (accidentally or inexplicably).

But as I said, this is the circus. The circus is not real life — although in the quadrennial US circus the troupe is comprised entirely of people who are as bizarre outside the ring as they are in it.

Real life, however, has not changed that much in the 240 years since chattel slavery was held to be a truth self-evident on the western shore of the Atlantic. This truth has been so self-evident that with a brief respite 150 years ago, slavery has remained one of the constant, everlasting values of white-dominated America between the St. Lawrence and the Rio Bravo.

Chattel slavery has mutated as have the means for its enforcement: titled property turned to terrorised sharecroppers and industrial workers (e.g. the Black Legions), then cannon fodder in Vietnam and in the “all volunteer army” and finally a permanent prison population — at first state run and then privatized. The Klan yielded to the vice squad and FBN and vagrancy laws became drug laws. The terrorist side helps keep the racial divide intact.

I was in South Africa in 1991. The so-called petty apartheid had been repealed by PW Botha (e.g. Separation of Amenities Act). The most noticeable aspect of South Africa at that time was that with the abolition of separate amenities there ceased to be any public amenities at all. A crass example was that while there was a public library in Pietermaritzburg, it had no toilets for patrons. I spent a whole day until I realised that my only possibility was as a paying white guest in a restaurant or similar commercial facility — where blacks would scarcely be found. Everyone I knew in the liberal and progressive circles of South Africa was excited about the release of Mandela and non-racial elections. The very few who asked the embarrassing question about the 13% of the land available to the black majority were told not to worry. From 1991 to 1994 a dirty war was being waged against anyone in the majority who was not ready to accept a purely liberal dispensation. This war was waged by the NP and the ANC (under the returned exile leadership). The land reform passages of the 1994 Constitution were a dead letter when it was adopted.

Nothing is allowed to interfere with the paramount right to property (by those who already have it).

If South Africa cannot solve the problem of white supremacy with an overwhelming black majority, what chances are there that it can be solved in the US– certainly not by any red-nosed senators.

Black Lives Matter has become an important movement and one can be sure that they have a hard fight. There are still a few BPP members behind bars. Mumia al Jamal has now spent more time in prison than Mandela. Do you see any liberal or progressive white folks wearing chic armbands with his prison number?

I spent some 11 years in the Deep South watching the regular re-painting of the facades that make Charleston so attractive to white refugees from the snow and rust belts: where Gone with the Wind is considered a documentary film.

Not only is the ostentatious murder of Blacks in the US by blue uniformed “slave patrols” deliberate, it is systematic. These “slave patrols” and the white populations that support them every night when they tune into their favourite “police propaganda series” do not have to think about it. Of course, there are also organised systems behind these murders in a run up to the next circus. However, we will never see them because they remain “plausibly deniable”.

However, the fact remains. 2016 is another year of the Big Tent and the centre ring. The tickets have always been allocated equally between those who like the elephants and those who love the girls on or under what to the naive might look like horses. The sell-out always depends on which folks get into the tent on opening night. There is every reason, even for circus managers, to want the best audience for their show. So why not just scare away the undesired public before opening night? It was done before in Florida at least or so I’ve been told.

Outside the circus tent, there is really only one issue: as long as the US is a covert slave state there can be no other serious political change in the country and despite all the absurd fantasies of the “terrorism show”, only the inhabitants of the US itself can change it for its own good and for that of the rest of the world.

The degree to which public slaughter of Blacks is condoned, tolerated or at best ignored by White America exceeds what would in any other country be called a propensity to crimes against humanity. Allowing for endemic under-reporting one list of lynchings by year shows an average of just over a hundred annually between 1890 and 1901 — incidentally in the midst of the most serious depression until the 1929 Crash. The most recent annual reports of police murders of Blacks in the US put extrajudicial killings at four times that amount. Even poor statistics provide irrefutable evidence it is still open season on Black people in the US. The comparison shows that when white Americans find they have something to lose, more Blacks lose their lives. This is nothing more than another form of “downsizing”. Bosses and profiteers are not removed. Instead “excess” population is. It is hard for liberals and progressives to get hard on immigration when business turns bad — after all they were all once immigrants themselves.

But useless property is another matter; none of the white ones were ever slaves. They share no sentimental emotional bond to some distant country whose language is often forgotten or ignored in the climb up the ladder. You can read pages upon pages of Wiki biographies where the national or ethnic composition of famous or infamous people in the US is stated in the hundredths and the quantum of Jewishness. But rarely does an entry pronounce that the person was descendant of raped slaves as the leading ethnic identifier. I once lived on an island where there were absolutely no Black residents ever, and I still wonder how the town census measures 0.59% African-American or 0.15% Native American. The only African-Americans I ever saw were gardeners, maids, and manual labourers. Perhaps these statistics are really based on the same US Constitutional principle that declared a Black person 3/5ths of a white.

Until there are real white abolitionists again, there won’t be any serious change in the United States. It will take a few divisions of John Browns to even get started. In fact, no real revolution has ever succeeded without the rank and file military changing sides. However, the intensification of policing and militarisation in the country cannot be underestimated—but the real militarisation is in the heads of the circus goers.

No fanatics trying to save capitalism and its peculiar institutions are needed. This is also no struggle for personal salvation or finally really talking nice to “darkies”, the ones that are still left in your schools. Perhaps as Sam Greenlee’s1 Dan Freeman said: We have to force them to make a choice…

Blacks have been fighting to free themselves for centuries. White abolitionists do not need to free Blacks. They need to start freeing Whites themselves from their centuries-long addiction to racial supremacy and worship of private property– cynically anointed “free enterprise”.

Don’t look for any abolitionists in the coming circus.  It’s just not their town. A century and a half later ending slavery in the US is still unfinished business.

  1. Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, 1969, filmed in 1979. Ironically the story takes place in Chicago and the hero is the first Black CIA officer who has left the service ostensibly to do social work “among his people”. At least in Greenlee’s story the ex-CIA officer is a revolutionary Black nationalist. []
Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..