Racism as Sadism

The state exists through violence. Rules are enacted and people must comply (except if you are a big shot because rules are made to keep the little guys in line). The big shots consist of a tiny clique that greedily absorbs the wealth from the labor of the little guys — and little gals — who constitute the masses. Given the gargantuan disparity between the number of big shots and the number of those who comprise the masses, the big shots had to devise a system to lock in the egregious maldistribution of wealth. The masses must be manipulated based on prejudices held or inculcated. The masses must be divided into smaller and smaller groupings and set against each other. The big shots shared a European ancestry and skin color with the mass of the masses, so under this grouping, the big shots became in-group and the Others became out-group. The system, however, is sociopathic and engenders tremendous hatred of and precipitates vicious violence against the Other.

black_DVEarlier this year, Eakin Press published Black Holocaust: The Paris Horror and a Legacy of Texas Terror by E.R. Bills — a chronicling of the hatred supremacist White mobs manifested in the torching of Black victims. Bills wrote the book “to bring light to a specific, demonstrable campaign of holocaust to that spanned at least two generations of Texans” from the latter half of the 19th century into the 20th century. Black Holocaust — including its images, often graphic — tells a damning history of sadistic inhumanity that should never be forgotten.

For further elucidation, I interviewed E.R. Bills by email on his latest book. ((E.R. Bills is also the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious (2013) and The 1910 Slocum Massacre (2014). ))

Kim Petersen: What does the history of frenzied White mobs immolating Blacks reveal about American society as a whole? In your relating the history, there is no mention, other than some police and politicians as individuals urging due process (whatever that may be), of people organizing in opposition to the sordid widespread sociopathy. Did such opposition exist in Texas or other states?

E.R. Bills: To say that when I stumbled upon these lynchings I was shocked by them, is a gross understatement. As a writer and someone who considered himself fairly well-informed, the subject matter was as daunting as it was unsettling–yes, because I was White and American and Texan–but also because it seemed that my very language was inadequate to describe or convey these horrors. The gamut seemed brief: monstrous, vile, loathsome, despicable, odious, hellish; these words tease an outline of the images one conjures at a gut level, but they don’t really get there in terms of sheer ferocity, active virulence or gleeful inhumanity. And the repeated frenzies of the White mobs in these incidents I think evidenced the human extent of ferocity, virulence and inhumanity. There was some opposition, but it suffered the same fate as sanity today. It’s drowned out, threatened and crushed.

KP: It seems holocausts are entrenched in the history of the United States. David Stannard wrote of the American Holocaust (which he calls “far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world”), which is a prelude to the Black Holocaust you write of, and then come the WWII saturation bombings that caused the conflagration of Tokyo followed by the atom bombs. Fire as a means of inflicting death and terror – are Americans anesthetized to what is being done?

ER: It’s quite a thing to delve into or uncover behaviors or tendencies that evidence your forebears or your society grinningly and/or straight-facedly inhabited vast swathes of existential turpitude and cultural abyss. To say we’ve been anesthetized is kind. I think we as a people are actively ignorant and steadfastly oblivious to preserve our ludicrous, over-inflated sense of self-esteem. This shameless intellectual dodge preserves the lie and conveniently enables us to avoid accountability and keep on keeping on.

KP: You write circumspectly of alleged crimes of the Blacks who were burned. However, even if the suspects were guilty of the crimes of which they were accused, do you feel that would in any way mitigate the mob “justice” carried out?

ER: Absolutely not. The deranged perpetrators of these acts of summary justice (and their apologists) held up the deeds or alleged deeds of their victims simply to mitigate the outside world’s condemnation of their madness. These atrocities should be condemned as individual acts of rabid criminality and collectively as a horrific regimen of White terrorism.

KP: You end by writing, “If the malignance was in remission, there are certainly portents of its return.” Why do you consider the notion that the malignancy might ever have been in remission?

ER: I was referring to the acts of holocaust themselves, specifically as they involved the burnings of Black Americans at the stake in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. The last in Texas occurred in 1933. That particular strain of virulence seems in remission (though others obviously continue to thrive), but I wouldn’t rule out its return. Especially considering our current rhetorical diet of race- and hate-baiting.

KP: I assume that the “portents of its return” points to the social and independent media prominence given to the police shootings of Blacks. Do you see any links to the lynchings and holocaust of the past?

ER: Yes. Anything productive or meaningful being communicated in terms of these issues seems to wind up being shouted down by the proponents and/or enablers of racial double standards and blatant acts of racial terror that more gently or less maniacally achieve the same thing the burnings at the stake of Blacks did in the past. The message of the perpetrators and their supporters is the same now as it was then. They are telling persons of color that they are going to be openly and systemically maltreated because they are considered inherently less as human beings or fundamentally less deserving as fellow citizens. They are inspiring and condoning obvious acts of terror to maintain white primacy. Whether you like President Obama or not, it seems a Black man in the White House has endangered or aggravated White fragility and White monstrosity is on parade.

KP: Having researched the racism and discrimination of the past, what is your take on whether, or to what degree, racism has diminished today?

ER: Loaded question. I have to say racism in general is diminished today, especially amongst the young–but in many ways this seems to exacerbate the issue more than resolve it. The multitude of folks who, until very recent, were historically revered, generally accepted and clearly comfortable in their obvious racist (or even less obvious racist) dispositions are now suddenly and jarringly anathematic. They are not taking the news lying down and they have whole corporate networks, political entities and media outlets opportunistically and lucratively patting their hands telling them they’re okay, that it’s the rest of us who are wrong.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.