Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Defamation Edition

We know nothing about their language, their history, or what they look like. But we can assume this: they stand for everything we don't stand for.

--Zapp Brannigan, "War is the H-Word", Futurama

The one or two of you who read this blog already know that I've been researching the sorts of rhetoric involved in opposition to interracial marriages, so that I could compare it against the modern rhetoric against gay marriages. It shouldn't really come as any surprise that the arguments are almost identical--defaming a certain class of people almost always follows a particular pattern. For instance, John Aravosis of Americablog created a page comparing Nazi anti-semitic propaganda against contemporary anti-gay rhetoric; David Neiwert of Orcinus often compares modern anti-immigrant talk to anti-black actions or anti-Asian sentiments from previous decades; and I have already talked about zombie racism.

And today I'm going to talk about some of the anti-Arab bigotry out there--specifically in this post (via Jonathan Schwarz)--and comparing it to racism against blacks.

First of all, to temper down your bigoted tirades, you deny being bigoted. Consider how often someone you hear "I'm not racist, but..." or "I'm not homophobic, but..." right before launching into a racist or homophobic screed. So this post's second bullet point is: "When you meet them in just the right circumstances, they are a very likable people." See? He likes Arabs, so you can't accuse him of being a racist, now can you? He's just a dispassionate observer, objectively discussing the facts of the situation.

Now, since all conflicts boil down to us vs. them--it's okay to hurt "them" because "they", by definition, are not "us"--you first have to show that "they" are different from "us." A typical way of doing this is saying that they don't share whatever values it is you happen to prize, or that they stand for the opposite of those values (hence Brannigan's speech above). And so this man tells us, as the very first thing, "They [Arabs] don't think the same way we do." And third, "Their values are fundamentally different from ours, their self-esteem is derived from a different source."

In this bullet point, he first off points out that they still have slavery. And so dead racists pointed out that slavery existed in Africa (usually this was to defend enslaving blacks in America). Lindley Spring wrote in The Negro at Home, "All over Africa, man is a slave; a piece of property; the legal tender, the currency of the country. In many places he is an article of consumption, as well as of use and barter."

But the existence of slavery is mostly tangential to this man's point. He wants us to believe that Arabs are lazy--they utterly abhor doing work; and that they do not have familial love. He writes:
The point being, in a slave society, work is not honorable (as De Tocqueville pointed out) and cannot be a source of self-worth.


"Of conjugal love they know nothing." (Thomas Jefferson on the French aristocracy.) In a land of arranged marriages, where the whole society is geared towards a strict segregation of the sexes and women are at least semi-chattels, romantic love is rare - and greatly desired. ...

Without honorable work, romantic love or any accomplishments not overshadowed by those the West, their sense of self-worth comes from being the possessors of the One True Religion.

Both of these were common denigrations of blacks. John Fletcher, in Studies on Slavery, approvingly quoted:
"A man thinks as little of taking a wife as of cutting an ear of corn; affection is altogether out of the question."

And later he wrote:
We have before us the testimony of travellers in regard to the indifference felt by the Africans on being sold as slaves; of their palpable want of love and affection for their country, their relatives, and even for their wives and children.

And Judge Thomas Norwood, in his Address on the Negro upon his retirement, wrote:
In Africa, laziness produced sleep and sleepiness has always been the negro's normal condition in Africa. We know that condition is unchanged here.

In Africa he had never worked. The present generation here never works except from necessity, or from compulsion.

The man's next bullet point tells us "Not only can they not build the infrastructure of a modern [read: white --ed.] society, they can't maintain it either." This one is almost too easy, and I've already noted in several posts how people assumed that "civilized" = "white." So Theodore Bilbo wrote in Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization:
The Negro has had just as long as the white man to develop a civilization of his own. Thousands and tens of thousands of years have passed, and the black man has not lifted his people from the darkness of Africa. If the white and black races are equal in ability, then why have they not produced equal civilizations? Or why has not the African exhibited his ability to reproduce civilization and culture after the way has been blazed for him? It is a matter of historical truth that no Negro race has ever initiated a civilization and "only, when it is mixed with some other can it even be initiated into one."

And as for maintaining something they've had handed to them? We can turn again to Lindley Spring, who talks of E. B. Underhill's trip to Santo Domingo:
Of his journey through the island of San Domingo to Port au Prince, he writes, that he passed through many abandoned plantations, the buildings in ruins, the sugar-mills destroyed, and the iron pans strewing the roadside, cracked and broken. Only once did he come upon a mill in use; it was grinding cane, for sirup, of which to make tafia, the intoxicating drink of the country. With the exception
of a few banana gardens, or small patches of maize around the cabins, he found, nowhere, signs of cultivation. He tells us, that in the time of the French occupation "thousands of hogsheads of sugar were produced; now, not one. All is decay and desolation. The pastures are deserted, and the prickly-pear covers the land once laughing with the bright hues of the sugar-cane. The hydraulic works erected at vast expense for irrigation, have crumbled to dust," and "the plow is an unknown implement of culture."

Santo Domingo and Haiti were commonly used to show that blacks were incapable of culture, even if they had almost everything handed to them by whites.

This man continues,
In our civilization, when two men get down, either seriously or just "woofing", what do they say? Some variation of "I'm going to kick your ass." Am I right? Here's what I heard in the Kingdom, "Hey, don't f**k with me, or someday you get a knife in the back." I'm not saying that wouldn't happen to you in the West, but most men would be ashamed to make a threat of that nature. We don't understand that direct shock battle is not necessarily the law of nature. When overwhelming force is brought to bear on them, they become cringing and obsequious. To put it bluntly, they lie their heads off to get you to turn your back on them.

It was often said that blacks were really craven cowards, and that a display of force would have them quaking at your feet. I can't find one right now, but I'll be sure to post a follow-up with a quote to that effect.

This man continues with words to the effect of "Lookit them! They believe such stupid things!" Which I've heard a great deal as applied to blacks, and always amuses me, especially when people ignore the numerous idiotic things that we believe: UFO encounters, ghosts, tinfoil-hat conspiracies, etc. This man mocks Arabs because they believe wild conspiracies (which, of course, no Westerner ever fell for) and believe in djinns (and no-one in America believes in angels). So let's look again at what Judge Norwood had to say about blacks:
Briefly told, the facts are: A white man, named Bell, descended from Ohio, in Liberty county, and proclaimed himself to be Jesus Christ. Two negro churches were nearby, having large congregations with negro preachers. These congregations deserted their preachers and flocked to Bell's standard. He told them that he had come to carry them to the land of Canaan; that they needed no worldly goods. They deserted their homes and camped with Bell in the woods. They sold their cattle, hogs, chickens and crops, brought the money and threw it inside a circle formed with a rope. He told them that he had sent for a cargo of wings for them to fly to the land of Canaan. They believed him. They would not leave the camp for food or sleep lest Bell's start for Canaan would take place during their absence. This state of things continued for weeks. The two preachers being robbed of their congregation and perquisites (which were many), had Bell arrested for vagrancy and employed me to prosecute the case. A son of our great judge, William B. Fleming, was the magistrate for commitment. I advised him that the charge of vagrancy could not be sustained, as Bell was preaching and was supported by two congregations. Bell was released. After a talk with him, I was convinced that he was insane, and I sued out a commission of lunacy. The jury found that Bell was a lunatic and he was sent to the asylum near Milledgeville. The negroes prepared to resist the arrest of their Christ, but he quieted them by assuring them that he could not be confined against his will, and that, like Paul and Silas, he would break the prison bars and return to them. They believed him and remained in the camp.

Then a negro man named McIver, who was born and raised with the other dupes, proclaimed himself to be the Lord God. The dupes of Bell believed McIver and hailed him as their Lord. He stripped naked and paraded within the circle, and phallic worship commenced. McIver was arrested for indecency and put in jail.

Then a female divinity succeeded McIver. She had four children, which, it was said, were bastards. She proclaimed herself to be the Virgin Elizabeth. She established her throne and virgin couch in an old log corncrib on one of the plantations of the late George W. Walthour. She assembled twelve small girls, clothed them in white to sit around her throne as a guard. She would stretch out on her resting place, go into trances and mumble gibberish that her worshippers believed to be inspiration. As this fanaticism had disorganized labor and reduced these worshippers to want, and as stealing and burglary were feared by the white citizens, they sent the sheriff with a posse to the camp and dispersed the crowd. The negroes remained confident of Bell's return with the wings for them to fly to the land of Canaan.

As a side remark I state, that when in Congress, I wrote a full account of this retrogradation of the negro after twenty-five years of freedom and religious instruction by their own race and offered it to Northern papers, but it, was refused on the ground that the Northern people would not believe it, and that it was based upon the prejudices of the white race in the South. A thousand white men and negroes now living in Liberty county know all the facts I have given, and many more which, for brevity, I have omitted.

'Cause, y'know, white people never believe that speaking gibberish is a gift from god.

And finally, because you are setting this up as a conflict between "us" and "them", you have to obviate any middle ground--there can be no reasoning, no "live and let live", no talking. It must be us or them; one must die! So this man writes
Our civilization is destroying theirs. We cannot share a world in peace. They understand this; we have yet to learn it.

Another culturally-imposed blindness we have is the notion that everybody can get along with enough good will. There is absolutely no evidence to support this and a great deal to oppose it.

And so many people believed that whites and blacks could not possibly coexist in the same country. Thomas Jefferson himself wrote "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government." Many people, in fact, demanded the abolition of slavery for just that reason--they didn't believe that blacks and whites could coexist at all, and demanded that blacks be colonized away from whites. A great book on this is Race and the Rise of the Republican Party.

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