Dinosaurs, now long extinct, seem to have earned themselves a special place in the hearts and minds of white American folk.  White America beholds them with a passion that surpasses the enthusiasm they hold for animals, much less humans of color that are still extant.  More than any other humans, White America has taken it upon itself to scan remote corners of the globe seeking to unearth the remains of this long vanished creature.  It would seem that the sole purpose of this curious exercise is to allow the race the exclusive pleasures and joys of holding the beast in awe.  One cannot help but surmise that a Freudian infatuation and identification with brute power and force underlie what may seem to the rest of us an utterly pointless exercise.  Thus, having accustomed itself to centuries of brute dominance over fellow humans of color, this ongoing white fascination with morbid symbols of majesty and power becomes a means of reinforcing self-identity, no matter how fossilized the source of such symbols may be.  The same may be said about White America’s obsession with the imagined power and brutality of extraterrestrials, to the extent that a crazed segment among them will cheerfully partake of lethal poison, hitch a ride on Haley’s Comet with the hopes of forging a posthumous union with the imagined beasts somewhere deep in the cosmic wilderness.

It would also seem fruitless to condemn dinosaurs, whatever the reason, simply because they are extinct.  Besides, the condemning of disappeared phenomena will not likely aid in mending their ways.  Unless, of course, such condemnation was issued with the express purpose of accruing benefits for posterity.  But it requires a special turn of mind to imagine virtues that might obtain from condemning an extinct period that bears no special relevance to the present human condition, except deep in the psyche of White America.  It is in this light that George W. Bush’s trip to Africa might be usefully viewed.  For in condemning slavery at Goree Island in Senegal, George W. would in fact appear to be flogging a dead horse.  Because it is hoped that slavery is indeed dead.  But in contrast to condemning dinosaurs, the reproach of slavery would be more meaningful if Mr. Bush had chosen to deliver it in politically more pertinent contexts.  Whereas dinosaurs have no known modern day descendants that might benefit from condemning their beastly forefathers, descendants of African slaves constitute an inseparable part of the American landscape and narrative.  Thus the censure of slavery will only carry significance if the real intent is to redress the balances and right those cruel wrongs among a people still suffering the inhumanity of that legacy of White America.  Regardless, Mr. Bush’s stand on affirmative action and his silence on reparations are too well known for such concerns to enter into his political agenda.

Natives and Blacks “noble” in death

Lessons on the evils and brutalities of slavery might be better served if they were delivered closer to Mr. Bush’s birthplace, where an entire community and a culture, to which he belongs, and one that forms the backbone of his political support and base, arose.  It is a community of White Americans loosely referred to as rednecks and one that subscribes to the ideology of White superiority, constituting his core constituency and the rank and file of the neocons.  But Mr. Bush, the Supreme Chief of Rednecks, hardly dares take that challenge, lest he be labeled a “nigger lover”.  On occasion, his kinsmen, with an uncommon patriotic zeal, are known to derive sadistic pleasure from lynching citizens of African descent and dragging them to their death on the back of pickup trucks.  One might then be inclined to believe that while there may be political and economic rewards in a hastily arranged trip to Africa, a guided tour of American inner cities for Mr. Bush, where African Americans and people of color predominate, would be a more useful start.  Because therein are to be found in vivid color, the enduring and wicked effects of the legacy of slavery.  Having thus delivered his condemnation in such relevant settings, with unequivocal denunciations of racism – crude or subtle – and the initiation of unambiguous federal programs of redress for the wrongs visited on African Americans, only then might the first steps toward healing begin to emerge.

Mr. Bush claims that slavery made White America value freedom.  This is perverted logic.  Freedom being a natural human right, remained a persistent yearning among the enslaved, for what must have seemed to them in their state of bondage, an eternity.  To White America, freedom – even in its distorted sense – was a given; to the enslaved it was hope unrealized and a dream to aspire to.  To assert that slavery taught White America the virtues of freedom is to commit yet another Freudian slip of unwittingly justifying this heinous crime: that what constituted a natural human right should require that Whites enslave Africans in order for Whites to learn and appreciate the virtues of freedom.  But for whom one might ask?  We read of similar logic in the writings of Robert M. Pirsig (Lila: An Inquiry into Morals): that the Native American gave the world the idea that “all men are created equal” and that the frontier culture and freedom are native American-inspired.  That may well be.  But to so state arrogantly, and conveniently sidestep the horrors that Native Americans suffered in what is considered among history’s worst genocides and dispossessions on a continental scale, is to assert that as a result, White America appreciates the merits of freedom, justifiable by such gruesome acts against fellow humans.  Quite the contrary, one would be inclined to reason that it is the dispossessed more than the aggressor that appreciate the true meaning of freedom, which continues to elude them.  If the aggressors, in this case White America, are to even begin to comprehend it’s meaning, it will require they embark on an arduous path of self-discovery, one that will require abandoning their sense of superiority and invincibility.

Real intentions revealed

Together with the racist lies that the public had been fed to justify aggression against Iraq, Mr. Bush’s visits and his remarks in Africa must therefore be seen for what they characterize: more lies and deceit.  It is from this perspective that the real intention of his visit to Africa might be revealed.  First, given Mr. Bush’s track record of blatant lies that were spun to justify the criminal invasion of Iraq, the bona fide rationale for this visit might be understood much less from what issues from the mouth of the Supreme Commander of Rednecks than from what he does not say.  Since much of the fabricated facts behind justification of the invasion of Iraq are now being retracted one at a time, we suspect that the declared purpose of visiting Africa will likewise become evident in time and not from the daily briefings from the White House, which has now become America’s undisputed reservoir of official lies.  But be that as it may, it was not for nothing that Mr. Nelson Mandela, that statesman of courage rarely visible among African leaders today, confirms what we already know about George:  that he cannot think properly.  True to form, Mr. Mandela had better things to do than keeping company with a racist idiot. Mr. Mandela promptly left town.

It is doubtful that all African leaders, indeed Africans in general, are unaware of the fact that the American President, in his bid to garner and consolidate his conservative constituency, one of his first acts was to deliver a campaign speech to an institution, Jones University, where the practice of social apartheid was very much in vogue.  He could not have been oblivious of that fact and in delivering a speech with no mention of such unconstitutional and blatantly racist practices, the President became a willing accomplice to the apartheid and confirmed his status as a thoroughgoing racist himself.  It is not therefore unreasonable to suppose that such racist postures issue from deep inside, manifesting themselves in the now familiar supercilious disregard for people of color. Africans themselves, having lived under racist colonial yokes for decades, understand only too well the nature of the beast they are confronting.  They are therefore unlikely to be convinced that Mr. Bush’s heart all of a sudden has developed a soft spot for Africans and is dying to help them.

Besides, Africans in the run up to the Iraq invasion had expressed their displeasure along with the rest of the civilized world, and were opposed to the invasion almost unanimously.  Mr. Bush then paid no attention.  It is with these same people that he now is seeking to promote what would obviously be a now familiar monologue.  It is also tempting to speculate that Mr. Bush’s two favorite African Americans, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, needed to be rewarded for their unwavering support of Mr. Bush’s criminal agenda in Iraq.  But while these two minions, whose intelligence quotients cannot be too far removed from that of their boss, are keen to present their chief as a person with empathy for people of color and that the visit to Africa is intended to demonstrate that Mr. Bush was neither in Iraq nor in Africa for oil.  Neither were honest Enron CEOs motivated by greed.  And Mr. Cheney did not label Mr. Mandela a terrorist while assiduously condemning apartheid by his kindred racists in South Africa.  It should now be obvious that the two cronies did not and could not insist that Mr. Bush first undertake an internal tour of Black America, where they themselves presumably came from.  Meanwhile, they must be content to serve as unprincipled quislings surrounded by opportunists and racists alike in the persons of Cheney, Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and criminal power mongers like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.  In the company of such distinguished con artists, Ms. Rice and Mr. Powell will continue to discharge their functions as errand boys and girls and no doubt with distinction, Harry Belafonte’s characterizations of them notwithstanding.

To many, the offer of some $15 billion to help fight AIDS must seem like a godsend.  Maybe.  But with little doubt most of the money will be redirected to the coffers of American pharmaceutical firms.  Now, having destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in one of the world’s poorest nations, the Sudan, and killing an unknown number of civilians in the process, the United States may not be in the mood to encourage African countries, now reeling under the devastating effects of globalization, to help nurture a pharmaceutical industry that will enable African countries to produce anti AIDS medications affordably.  That would do little to placate the American pharmaceutical corporations who have shown scant regard for the millions of Africans that have already died and continue dying of this scourge.  And it is to corporations that Mr. Bush owes his existence and hopes for recapturing the presidency in the next elections.  That could well be one other compelling reason for Mr. Bush’s desire to visit Africa: to do the bidding of his corporate masters.

Another “civilizing” mission

Not unexpectedly, Mr. Bush declared U.S. intentions to use Africa as a base to launch his “war on terrorism.” In his characteristic ignorance of world affairs, much less those of Africa, the President needs to be reminded that Africa itself has been reeling under racist terrors of colonialism and imperialism.  In the days of anti-colonial struggles, such characterizations of colonized Africa must have sounded bizarre to White America.  Along with its imperial brethren, the U.S. regarded colonization as a divinely ordained phenomenon and a blessing calculated to civilize “African savages” and reinvent Africans in the image of their colonizers.  That said, Mr. Bush studiously avoided visiting the two nations hardest hit by terrorist operations: Tanzania and Kenya.  The two countries suffered hundreds of casualties as a result of terrorist bombings targeting United States embassies.  It did not escape the attention of the two countries in the immediate aftermath of the attacks that racist American rescue efforts were directed solely toward helping their own kind.  That callous disregard for African lives was not lost on the African public.  Now pressure is being applied to these countries to legislate against terrorism solely to protect American interests and such legislation, if passed, amounts to yielding sovereignty to American authorities and basically racist interests.  This, in addition to the fact that religious communities that had co-existed for centuries are now being polarized and their Muslim minorities hounded in defense of a racist agenda.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, many African countries have been censured repeatedly in the past for curtailing individual freedoms in the name of national security.  Now that many of them have adopted more tolerant political regimes with an independent press that would be the envy of much of the American cheerleading brand of journalism, they are being told to reverse these immense gains.  Now racist interests and pressures from the US, where civil liberties for targeted populations have almost ceased to exist in the name of the war against terror, are about to reverse the hard-earned nascent democratic institutions in some African countries.

It also merits mention that Mr. Bush is reported to be in agreement with Thabo Mbeki, the South African President, over the questions of Liberia and Zimbabwe.  Be that as it may, many corrupt and tyrannical regimes have fallen by the wayside, because Africans themselves are changing the political landscape via the electoral ballot.  Zimbabweans are no doubt capable of following suit.  But the real issue of who owns land in Zimbabwe is being obscured by Mr. Bush, presumably coming under the able tutelage of Mr. Tony Blair, both of whom are descendants of the world’s most efficient land grabbers.  To date, however neither of the two leaders has updated us as to how many farms in their countries are owned by Black Zimbabweans.  Their concerns cannot therefore go beyond racist and kinship ones with little regard for the masses of landless Africans in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.  It therefore becomes quite clear that Mr. Bush must have other undeclared intentions behind this bizarre visit.

Perhaps the following quote from the South African newspaper The Guardian, which likened the Bush administration to prostitution, is an apt summary for this visit:  “Like the world’s oldest profession, the Republican Administration of United States President George W. Bush has interests rather than principles…it would be a mistake to take Bush’s ‘compassionate agenda’ seriously.”  The paper went on to say that Bush’s concerns are “domestic security, the advancement of corporate America and the securing of strategic assets, mainly oil.”  In conclusion, “Africa can exert some…influence in bringing the world’s most destructive and rogue state back into line.”  Certainly true, but wishful thinking.  In any event, such influence would hopefully dissuade Africans from turning their own countries into agents of a rogue and racist state.

Dr. Kweli Nzito is an Assistant Professor and Scientist at the University of Miami. His e-mail addres is [email protected].

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Issue Number 50
July 17, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story: Barefoot, Sick, Hungry and Afraid - The real U.S policy in Africa

The Consequences of Believing Your Own Propaganda by Mamadou Chinyelu

Cartoon: Hollywood's Magic Negro

Think Piece: The Pretense of Hip-Hop Black Leadership By Dr. Martin Kilson

Affirmative Action as a Tool of Imperialist Expansion and Aggression by Mark P. Fancher, Guest Commentator

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Contents of Issue 49 July 3, 2003:

Cover Story
The Slow and Tortured Death of Affirmative Action - Redress of racial wrongs no longer public policy

Supreme Court Affirmative Action Decision

A message from Clarence Thomas to all African Americans.
View the BuzzFlash Cartoon by Eric Harrison.

GOP Bullies DC on Vouchers - No democracy for Black city

Strom Thurmond survived by Black daughter... Can the world survive "bubble" America?... DLC could be fatal to Democrats

Movies' 'Magic Negro' Saves the Day - but at the Cost of His Soul by Rita Kempley

Fear of a Black "Street" Army By Glen Ford, Co-publisher, The Black Commentator

The New York Times’ Racist Lies about Africa by Milton Allimadi, Guest Commentator

The "Enronization" of America by Ahmed M.I. Egal, Guest Commentator

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.