“ON BEING WHITE AND OTHER LIES” James Baldwin, Essence Magazine 1984

ON BEING “WHITE” • AND OTHER LIES James Baldwin (1924-1987)

baldwinJames Baldwin was the greatest expert on white consciousness in the twentieth century United States. Born in what he described as the “southern community” of Harlem, Baldwin published six novels, including his brilliant treatment of fathers, sons, and religion in Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), and Giovanni’s Room (1956), a work concentrating on white, gay characters. Baldwin’s early essays, collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), and The Fire Next Time (1963), are works of remarkable range, lucidity, and compassion. But his scandalously underappreciated essays, generously sampled in The Price of the Ticket (1985), push Baldwin’s arguments regarding race and the meaning of America, racism, homophobia, and the “male prison,” and whiteness and the immigrant experience to unprecedented levels of insight. “On Being ‘White’ and Other Lies,” published originally in the popular African-American magazine Essence in 1984, is a dramatic reminder that “becoming American” meant learning to be white in a new way for European immigrants.

“ON BEING WHITE  AND OTHER LIES”  James Baldwin, Essence Magazine 1984

The crisis of leadership in the white community is remarkable—and terrifying—because there is, in fact, no white community. This may seem an enormous statement—and it is. I’m willing to be challenged. I’m also willing to attempt to spell it out. My frame of reference is, of course, America, or that portion of the North American continent that calls itself America. And this means I am speaking, essentially, of the European vision of the world—or more precisely; perhaps, the European vision of the universe. It is a vision as remarkable for what it pretends to include as for what it remorselessly diminishes, demolishes or leaves totally out of account.

There is, for example—at least, in principle—an Irish community: here, there, anywhere, or, more precisely, Belfast, Dublin and Boston. There is a German community: both sides of Berlin, Bavaria and Yorkville. There is an Italian community: Rome, Naples, the Bank of the Holy Ghost and Mulberry Street. And there is a Jewish community, stretching from Jerusalem to California to New York. There are English communities. There are French communities. There are Swiss consortiums. There are Poles: in Warsaw (where they would like us to be friends) and in Chicago (where because they are white we are enemies). There are, for that matter, Indian restaurants and Turkish baths. There is the underworld—the poor (to say nothing of those who intend to become rich) are always with us—but this does not describe a community It bears terrifying witness to what happened to everyone who got here, and paid the price of the ticket. The price was to become “white.”

No one was white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country. It is probable that it is the Jewish community or more accurately, perhaps, its remnants—that in America has paid the highest and most extraordinary price for becoming white. For the Jews came here from countries where they were not white, and they came here, in part, because they were not white; and incontestably in the eyes of the Black American (and not only in those eyes) American Jews have opted to become white, and this is how they operate. It was ironical to hear, for example, former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin declare some time ago that “the Jewish people bow only to God” while knowing that the state of Israel is sustained by a blank check from Washington.

Without further pursuing the implication of this mutual act of faith, one is nevertheless aware that the Black presence, here, can scarcely hope—at least, not yet—to halt the slaughter in South Africa. And there is a reason for that. America became white—the people who, as they claim, “settled” the country became white—because of the necessity of denying the Black presence, and justifying the Black subjugation.

No community can be based on such a principle—or, in other words, no community can be established on so genocidal a lie. White men—from Norway, for example, where they were Norwegians—became white: by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning the wells, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping Black women. This moral erosion has made it quite impossible for those who think of themselves as white in this country to have any moral authority at all—privately, or publicly. The multitudinous bulk of them sit, stunned, before their TV sets, swallowing garbage that they know to be garbage, and—in a profound and unconscious effort to justify this torpor that disguises a profound and bitter panic pay a vast amount of attention to athletics: even though they know that the football player (the Son of the Republic, their sons!) is merely another aspect of the money-making scheme. They are either relieved or embittered by the presence of the Black boy on the team. I do not know if they remember how long and hard they fought to keep him off it.

I know that they do not dare have any notion of the price Black people (mothers and fathers) paid and pay. They do not want to know the meaning, or face the shame, of what they compelled—out of what they took as the necessity of being white—Joe Louis or Jackie Robinson or Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) to pay I know that they, themselves, would not have liked to pay it. There has never been a labor movement in this country, the proof being the absence of a Black presence in the so-called father-to-son unions. There are, perhaps, some niggers in the window; but Blacks have no power in the labor unions. Just so does the white community, as a means of keeping itself white, elect, as they imagine, their political (!) representatives. No nation in the world, including England, is represented by so stunning a pantheon of the relentlessly mediocre.

I will not name names I will leave that to you. But this cowardice, this necessity of justifying a totally false identity and of justifying what must be called a genocidal history, has placed everyone now living into the hands of the most ignorant and powerful people the world has ever seen: And how did they get that way? By deciding that they were white. By opting for safety instead of life. By persuading themselves that a Black child’s life meant nothing compared with a white child’s life. By abandoning their children to 180 BLACK ON WHITE the things white men could buy By informing their children that Black women, Black men and Black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of Black people, they debased and defamed themselves. And have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white. Because they think they are white, they do not dare confront the ravage and the lie of their history. Because they think they are white, they cannot allow themselves to be tormented by the suspicion that all men are brothers.

Because they think they are white, they are looking for, or bombing into existence, stable populations, cheerful natives and cheap labor. Because they think they are white, they believe, as even no child believes, in the dream of safety Because they think they are white, however vociferous they may be and however multitudinous, they are as speechless as Lot’s wife— looking backward, changed into a pillar of salt. However-1 White being, absolutely, a moral choice (for there are no white people), the crisis of leadership for those of us whose identity has been forged, or branded, as Black is nothing new. We—who were not Black before we got here either, who were defined as Black by the slave trade—have paid for the crisis of leadership in the white community for a very long time, and have resoundingly, even when we face the worst about ourselves, survived, and triumphed over it. If we had not survived and triumphed, there would not be a Black American alive. And the fact that we are still here—even in suffering, darkness, danger, endlessly defined by those who do not dare define, or even confront, themselves is the key to the crisis in white leadership.

The past informs us of various kinds of people—criminals, adventurers and saints, to say nothing, of course, of popes—but it is the Black condition, and only that, which informs us concerning white people. It is a terrible paradox, but those who believed that they could control and define Black people divested themselves of the power to control and define themselves.

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OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

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Presidential Election 2016: An American Tragedy – The New Yorker

OUR COMMON GROUND Returns LIVE
“Rebooting for a New Era of Struggle”
CoHosting, Dr. James L. Taylor
USF and UC Berkeley Black Studies Department Chair, Professor; Author, “Black Nationalism in the United States: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama”

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November 12, 2016 LIVE ::10 pm EST::
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Presidential Election 2016: An American Tragedy – The New Yorker

The electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world.SOURCE PHOTOGRAPH BY JOE RAEDLE / GETTY

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

Source: Presidential Election 2016: An American Tragedy – The New Yorker

Ruby Sales — Where Does It Hurt? | On Being

RUBY SALES —Where Does It Hurt?

Where does it hurt? That’s a question the civil rights icon Ruby Sales learned to ask during the days of that movement. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now, but it gets at human dynamics that we are living and reckoning with. At a convening of 20 theologians seeking to re-imagine the public good of theology for this century, Ruby Sales unsettles some of what we think we know about the force of religion in civil rights history, and names a “spiritual crisis of white America” as a calling of this time.

[OCG NOTE: Dr. Ruby Sales is a frequent contributor and commentator of OUR COMMON GROUND.  In addition to being an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, she is an OCG Witness from the Bridge. Our visits with Dr. Sales can be found in our archives.   Please do check out a couple of  most important discussions that we had with her in our 2016 Season, “Hands Off Our Children: 300 Strong” Report from Field with Dr. Ruby Sales on 04/16; and, STOP THE WAR ON OUR CHILDREN™ • MARCH 18, 2016. We are proud of our association with Dr. Sales, our friendship and support from her and the Spirit House Project. Ruby Sales is a national treasure. ]

 GUESTS
RUBY SALES is the founder and director of the Spirit House Project. She is one of 50 African Americans to be spotlighted in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“WHERE DOES IT HURT?”: A NATIONAL INQUIRYAnger, name-calling, and division seem to be deepening in American and global life. They are public faces of human pain and fear. But they are not the whole story of our time. As part of The Civil Conversations Project, we’re launching a national inquiry, “Where Does It Hurt?” Please join with us and take part in a new conversation in our radio and digital spaces.

Source: Ruby Sales — Where Does It Hurt? | On Being

Their eyes were indeed watching God.

Remembering the victims of the Storm of ’28 – now honored Ancestors

I have such a deep personal history around this disaster. Not forgetting the stories told to me by my Mother who was a witness; and I never forgot. After many years away, In 1991,  using my radio voice on OUR COMMON GROUND I co-founded The Sankofa Society with Janice Jennings, a local Sister Attorney and Patrice Daniels, OCG Producer to  organize the community to remember, by organizing an African-centered consecration of the burial site and raising the names of our Ancestors buried there.

ABOUT THE 1991 CONSECRATION 

My thanks to Former WPB City Commissioner Robbie Littles, Robert Hazard, Patrice Daniels and many others who are now keeping this important history alive working to finalize the Remembrance Park. On September 16th, the community will come together for this year’s memorial.

sentinel-article

 

The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 62

Oct 21, 1991 –  Graham said she also plans to put together a housing committee that would …. Victims of 1928 hurricane in mass grave consecrated .-. … Janice Peak-Graham, Janice Jennings and Patrice Daniels were introduced as “the …

ABOUT the 2016 Memorial

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storm1

“To them, the Storm of ’28 will forever be remembered as Black Sunday, the night when death blew down Palm Beach County’s back door.

Landfall Even before the unnamed storm, packing 150 mph winds, slammed ashore in West Palm Beach, it had killed 1,500 in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

Within moments of making landfall on a Palm Beach County shoreline, its fierce winds left a trail of destruction from Pompano Beach to Jupiter. Sailboats were thrown from their moors, buildings in downtown West Palm Beach splintered and popped, choking Clematis Street with debris. The Episcopal Church on Swinton Avenue in Delray Beach was flattened, and in Boca Raton, railcars were blown off their tracks and a third of the buildings were demolished.”

woodlawn

Funeral service for the Black victims of hurricane victims at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach (1928).

 

coffin

Makeshift coffins stacked alongside the road between Belle Glade and Pahokee after the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928. Black victims were loaded onto trucks and buried in a mass grave at the corner of 25th Street and Tamarind Ave. in West Palm Beach.  The site later became the site of the WPB city sewer system.  Spewing odor across the Black community and desecrating more than 674 Black ancestors.

SEPTEMBER 16th, 1928

Okeechobee Hurricane Kills Thousands of Black Farm Workers in Florida

On September 16, 1928, a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour made landfall in Palm Beach County, Florida. The hurricane destroyed a levee that protected a number of small farming communities from the waters of Lake Okeechobee. Most of the residents of these low-lying communities were black migrant farm workers. When the levee was destroyed, water from Lake Okeechobee rushed into these communities, killing thousands.

After the hurricane, black survivors were forced to recover the bodies of those killed. The officials in charge of the recovery effort ordered that food would be provided only to those who worked and some who refused to work were shot. The bodies of white storm victims were buried in coffins in local cemeteries, but local officials refused to provide coffins or proper burials for black victims.

Instead, the bodies of many black victims were stacked in piles by the side of the roads doused in fuel oil, and burned. Authorities bulldozed the bodies of 674 black victims into a mass grave in West Palm Beach. The mass grave was not marked and the site was later sold for private industrial use; it later was used as a garbage dump, a slaughterhouse, and a sewage treatment plant. The city of West Palm Beach did not purchase the land until 2000. In 2008, on the 80th anniversary of the storm, a plaque and historical marker was erected at the mass grave site.

Downtown West Palm Beach Clematis Street following the storm.

HURRICANE OF 1928 MASS BURIAL SITE

Location:Corner of 25th St. and N. Tamarind Ave.
County: Palm Beach
City: West Palm Beach, FL
Description: Early residents of Glades had to survive many harsh elements. Their goal to create a thriving farming community was often tested by storms, insects, and the lack of many comforts. In 1928 the Glades area was devastated by a powerful hurricane that threatened to destroy the entire area. Several thousand residents were killed and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Despite the death and damage, those residents that survived continued to develop the area. The Glades eventually became a major agricultural community because of their desire and vision. This memorial honors those residents who lost their lives in the 1928 hurricane.
Sponsors: CITY OF PAHOKEE AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE

 

Hurricane of 1928 African American Mass Grave:

West Palm Beach, Florida

[photo]
Hurricane of 1928 African American Mass Grave Site
Photo by Sherry Piland, courtesy of Florida Division of Historical Resources

The Hurricane of 1928 African American Mass Burial site is important as the burial site of approximately 674 victims, primarily African American agricultural workers, who were killed in the hurricane of 1928 that devastated South Florida–one of the worst natural disasters in American history. A major event for the African American community, it was the source for literary inspiration by noted author Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God; well known educator Mary McLeod Bethune, along with 3,000 other mourners attended the memorial service at the mass grave.

The bodies brought to West Palm Beach, Florida, were delivered to two cemeteries: 69 bodies were buried in a mass grave intended for white victims at Woodlawn Cemetery, and an additional 674 victims were buried in a mass grave intended for black victims in the City’s pauper cemetery at 25th Street and Tamarind Avenue. The mass grave was never marked. In December 2000, responding to public interest, the City of West Palm Beach reacquired the property of the burial ground from the last owner, and plans to memorialize this site in the history of the community are underway.

 

IMPORTANT LINKS for more Information

When the Dam Breaks…

Florida Frontiers “The Hurricane of 1928”

 

OCG This Week:  “The Elusive Freedom – What is Freedom?”

What is Freedom ?
Guest: Brother Dr. Irami Osei-Frimpong
The Funky Academic
Saturday, July 16, 2016 <> LIVE <> 10 pm ET
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What is this elusive Freedom ? Do you know ?

Our people have been on the road, rampage and struggle for FREEDOM for over 400 years. We have rebelled, resisted, sung, marched and demanded. More Black people in prison; killed and brutalized by police; living under oppressive captialism and abandoned by corrupted politics. We watch Black men and women bodies fall in the street and in jails murdered under law. Most of us declare freedom, and some continue to fight for it. But what exactly is FREEDOM? A discussion with the Funky Academic about this convolution called FREEDOM.

We will discuss freedom in the context of police killings, mass incarceration, impotent political agency and elected officials.

Guest: Brother Dr. Irami Osei-Frimpong, Brandeis and U-Berkeley, Uof GA philosopher, The Funky Academic.

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Source:  The Elusive Freedom – What is Freedom?

OUR COMMON GROUND This Week :: “Global White Supremacy: Baltimore to Palestine” :: LIVE

“Global White Supremacy: Baltimore to Palestine”

09-26-15 Wintess Sales

RESISTANCE and REBELLION Series

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

Saturday, September 26, 2015            LIVE                    10 pm EDT

Our Guest Tonight:  Shardi Vardi

Dr. Ruby N. Sales, Co-Moderating
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RESISTANCE and REBELLION Series

We continue our series of discussions of REBELLION AND RESISTANCE required to fight American racism and white supremacy.

Tonight on OUR COMMON GROUND, we discuss white supremacy as a system of power which is a fundamental undergird and foundation of economic, political and cultural imperialism. Part of our discussion will focus on examining the parallels of the struggle to dismantle that system with the struggles of other victims of white supremacy across the globe. Joining us will be representatives of a visiting Palestinian activist group here in the US to make its case before the UN Commission on Human Rights. We are grateful to have Dr. Ruby Sales, a featured commentator on OCG to join us and to lead this discussion, taking your calls and comments.

 

Sahar VardiABOUT OUR GUEST, Shardi Yardi

“The bloody cycle in which I live…is a vicious circle that is sustained by the choice of both sides to engage in violence. I refuse to take part in this choice.”

Sahar Vardi is a Jerusalem based activist. She publicly refused her military service and was imprisoned in 2008. Since then she has been active with Israeli anti-militarist groups such as New Profile and today works as the Israel Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee based in Jerusalem. The focus of her work is on countering militarism in Israeli society, including challenging the Israeli military-industry complex. Sahar is also part of Boycott from Within (a group of Israelis supporting the Palestinian call for boycott) and has been active with direct action groups such as Taayush and Anarchists Against the Wall. Today much of her activism is in Jerusalem in Palestinian lead struggles against house demolitions, child arrests and discrimination of East Jerusalem.

‪#‎BlackLivesMatter: From Baltimore to Jerusalem
http://www.afsc.org/fr…/blacklivesmatter-baltimore-jerusalem

THE GLOBAL NATURE of WHITE SUPREMACY

White supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

White supremacy operates through racial oppression against people of color: slavery, genocide, anti-immigration, driving while Black, etc. White supremacy maintains real power for the ruling class who control the major institutions of society.  Racism is white supremacy; white supremacy is racism. There is no other form of “functional” racism in the known universe. Therefore it is illogical purporting victims of white supremacy (racism) worldwide are capable of practicing white supremacy simultaneously. It doesn’t compute.

“Racism | White Supremacy – One or more white persons using deceit, direct violence, and/or the threat of violence to promote falsehood, non-justice, and/or incorrectness against non-white people on the basis of “color” in order to “satisfy” white people, in one or more areas of activity including economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and/or war.”

“Everything that a Racist (White Supremacist) says, and everything that he or she does is intended to help establish, maintain, expand, and/or refine the practice of Racism (White Supremacy).”   – Neely Fuller Jr. The United Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept a textbook/workbook for thought, speech and/or action for victims of racism (white supremacy)

The local and global power system structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; this system consists of patterns of perception, logic, symbol formation, thought, speech, action and emotional response, as conducted simultaneously in all areas of people activity (economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war). The ultimate purpose of the system is to prevent white genetic annihilation on Earth – a planet in which the overwhelming majority of people are classified as non-white (black, brown, red and yellow) by white-skinned people. All of the non-white people are genetically dominant (in terms of skin coloration) compared to the genetically recessive white-skinned people.”    – Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, “The Isis Papers”

“To think of White supremacy in terms of American dynamics alone eschews the fact that much of the racism, the legacy of slavery in sheer size actually occurred outside of the United States (i.e. Brazil). Much of the colonialism globally impacts America (in terms of capitalism and trade) yet didn’t occur here. The idea that White supremacy evaporates when White people are not present or when some Whites are oppressed for other facets of identity beyond their race is simply untrue.”
“Racism Isn’t Only American. White Supremacy Isn’t Only Western.” Gradient Lair, http://www.gradientlair.com/post/63803685383/racism-and-white-supremacy-are-global

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This Week on OUR COMMON GROUND φ “40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests Later: “The Truth About the War Against Us” φ LIVE

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“The Truth About the War Against Us”
09-12-15 War on Drugs4
40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests – the war still rages against our community. IT WAS NEVER ABOUT DRUGS

 Saturday, September 12, 2015

10 pm EDT
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This week on OUR COMMON GROUND, we review and examine the truth about the policies and intent of the “War on Drugs”. We need to talk about the money making behind the politics; how the drug war can be considered slow Nazi policy on the poor and the racial profiling used. We look at these destructive and failed policy and manipulation in its historical context and destructive outcomes. We will present audio clips for our discussion which will assist us in understanding just how much the “War on Drugs” was really never about drugs.

For sheer government absurdity, the War on Drugs is hard to beat. After three decades of increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are more easily available, drug potencies are greater, drug killings are more common, and drug barons are richer than ever. The War on Drugs costs Washington more than the Commerce, Interior, and State departments combined – and it’s the one budget item whose growth is never questioned. A strangled court system, exploding prisons, and wasted lives push the cost beyond measure. What began as a flourish of campaign rhetoric in 1968 has grown into a monster. And while nobody claims that the War on Drugs is a success, nobody suggests an alternative. Because to do so, as Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders learned, is political suicide.

As a community we need to understand how Drug War fever has been escalated; who has benefited along the way; and how the mounting price in dollars, lives, and liberties has been willfully ignored. Where are the policy maker offices where each new stage was planned and executed? What happened in the streets where policies have produced bloody warfare. This is a tale of the nation run amok – in a way the American people are not yet ready to confront. Are you?

You are invited to bring your thoughts about the pressing issues facing our community. Come listen and learn. SHARE please.

OUR COMMON GROUND where friends come to confer with allies.

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