I was driving around in the little red truck t’other day, listening to some old BDSR cassette which had some sped-up, backwards spoken word parts and I liked how that sounded and I haven’t pulled out that cliché in a while so I decided to rehash it on the thing I’m currently working on. I was gonna use one of those tapes of some Baptist yammering that you can pick up for free all over the Bible Belt, but the one that I found first had been laying on the floor of the truck and was even more static-hissy and blighted than I wanted and then I found a discarded library set of The Autobiography Of Malcolm X. I’ve used Malcolm X before – the “By Any Means Necessary” speech, on a split cassette that was released in Germany a couple years ago – but why not? I pulled out a tape at random and started working with it.
I dig Malcolm X. That cat was right on. He scared the piss out of white folks just by saying things like black people should defend themselves when they’re attacked. Granted, scaring the piss out of white folks isn’t difficult, but Malcolm took to the next level. Then he went to Mecca, got born again again and started talking shit even the Nation of Islam couldn’t handle. Bad ass muthafucka. I put Malcolm in the same category as Stonewall Jackson who – eeeeeeeeeeewhat? Yeah, that’s right – Malcolm X and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. If you’re not from the South, you might believe that Jackson was in favor of slavery. He wasn’t. Neither was Robert E. Lee. Both of those guys were opposed to slavery and both of ‘em fought for the Confederacy because they were native Virginians and loyalty to their home state took precedence over all other concerns.
X and Jackson were both fighting for the freedom of the population they identified with; both were religious men; both stood up for their beliefs knowing that lead was gonna fly. Jackson was no more in support of the oppression of blacks than X was in support of the oppression of whites. If it ever comes down to it, I hope I have the courage and conviction of either of ‘em.
We live in an era of mass ignorance. Maybe that statement has always been true, but it sure is now. I am surrounded daily by people who are apparently incapable of understanding any perspective other than their own and who assume that any attempt by any one not in their in-group to improve their own quality of life is an attack on them. Which is ridiculous. I’m white and male and I’ll be danged if I can see how blacks and/or women making progress is going to harm me. I certainly don’t see any benefit to me in helping to perpetuate the racist/sexist status quo.
What’s to be done about racism? I certainly don’t have the answer. I try to avoid public controversy, but even so, I sometimes find myself straying into dangerous territory. I have a couple back-up medicine hat/masks for people who want to participate in BDSR, want to wear headgear and don’t have anything handy. One of them is a straw hat with a Confederate flag sewed over it hanging down over the wearer’s face. I made it assuming that it was obvious that any band which promoted religion in general and shamanism in particular could not possibly be a racist group. I figured anybody would assume that the Confederate flag hat was a way of addressing stereotypes about Southerners and racist symbols. So far, only one person has been willing to wear that particular medicine hat onstage: Joshu Mu, a native Virginian who generally enjoys causing trouble and ain’t got a lick of sense. He ended up ditching the hat halfway through the set because it was dusty ad he has allergies or some shit. That show happened in the basement of the local Ethiopian restaurant, where I worked at the time. The manager of the place then was a woman whose parents immigrated to Virginia from Ethiopia. She has a tattoo of the Confederate flag on her arm right next to a tattoo of Africa. Native Southerner with African roots. Makes sense to me. Other people have responded to the Confederate flag hat like it was a burning cross or swastika.
The swastika, now there’s a symbol which has been debased and maligned. For tens of thousands of years, the swastika had only positive connotations. Usually, it was associated with the Sun. Hitler knew that, of course, when he adopted the swastika as the symbol of the Third Reich. It’s tragic and pathetic that the entire Western world just gave up on the swastika and let it be turned into a symbol of anti-Semitism. Hindus and Buddhists continue to use the swastika as they had for centuries, which demonstrates an admirable commitment to a perfectly good symbol, as well as a certain amount of balls. I wish Jews would co-opt the swastika. That’d be fucking awesome. That would be a blatant slap in the face to all neo-Nazi shitbags who currently enjoy inspiring anger, fear and general antipathy every time they scrawl a hooked cross on a wall. That power should be taken away from them. All power should be taken away from them.
What would the KKK do if Southern blacks started sporting Confederate flag shirts? They’d have to give up the Stars and Bars, that’s what. They’d lose the power.
We might not be able to eliminate racism entirely from the world, but we can drive it into a corner and strip it of everything it has. The way to achieve that goal is through education. Not public school education, of course, that’s mostly lies and the rest is partial truth. The public school system caters to the lowest common denominator and they’re not really interested in teaching so much as indoctrination which is why they spread bullshit like about how the Civil War was all about slavery. Slavery was a big issue at the time, but it wasn’t the only problem that needed dealing with. And the Civil War didn’t end it. Maryland and Delaware had slavery after the Civil War ended.
The truth is much more complicated than any of us were taught in history class and much more interesting. Contemporary accounts help a lot. Abraham Lincoln believed that black people were inferior to whites in all ways, but he was opposed to slavery. In order to understand his position, you have to understand the attitudes of his time. He may have changed his mind about the white/black thing. He met frequently with Frederick Douglas, an educated black man, all through the Civil War and very well may have reconsidered that, but he was assassinated by an avowed racist before he demonstrated a change of heart.
The best education any of us can get on the issue of race relations is through personal interactions with people of other races. (To white readers: I know, they’re scary, but they’re really just like you under the skin. Stay calm – they can smell fear.)
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.