Portraits & Poems
Part II

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People, Places, Neighbors and Things








Essay - White Privilege
Thoughts on why the system of white privilege is wrong
by Prof. Robert W. Jensen

A Call For Majority Self-Sufficiency
by Tim Wise

Essay - White Privilege
by Peggy McIntosh

The Moors of Spain

The Impact of the European Slave Trade on the
Social, Cultural, and Psychological Life of Africans in the Americas
by Molefi Kete Asante

America's 'War On Drugs' Looks Unfairely Warped
by Neal Peirce

African Holocaust / The Lessons of a Graveyard
by Brent Staples

Strong Men
by Sterling A. Brown

Compensate the Forgotten Victims Of America's Slavery Holocaust
by Randall Robinson

When the Holocaust Is Incomparable, It becomes Unwordly
by Henry Siegman

Let's Hear More About Leopold's Congo Holocaust
by Richard R. Hamilton

America, Too, Should Pay Reparations For Its Past
by Brent Staples

A Skull Stirs Up Prehistoric Debate
Fossilized Cranium Unearthed in Brazil Challenges Ideas on Peopling of Americas
by Larry Rother

Speech of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the launch of the African Renaissance Institute
Pretoria, 11 October 1999

by Robert Earl Price

Just War Theory
by Alex Moseley, Ph.D.

Racism in Cuba and The Failure of the American Left
by Sidney Brinkley





by Prof. Robert Jensen


Here's what white privilege sounds like:

I am sitting in my University of Texas office, talking to a very bright and very conservative white student about affirmative action in college admissions, which he opposes and I support.

The student says he wants a level playing field with no unearned advantages for anyone. I ask him whether he thinks that in the United States being white has advantages. Have either of us, I ask, ever benefited from being white in a world run mostly by white people? Yes, he concedes, there is something real and tangible we could call white privilege.

So, if we live in a world of white privilege--unearned white privilege--how does that affect your notion of a level playing field? I ask.

He paused for a moment and said, "That really doesn't matter."

That statement, I suggested to him, reveals the ultimate white privilege: the privilege to acknowledge that you have unearned privilege, but ignore what it means.

That exchange led me to rethink the way I talk about race and racism with students. It drove home to me the importance of confronting the dirty secret that we white people carry around with us everyday: In a world of white privilege, some of what we have is unearned. I think much of both the fear and anger that comes up around discussions of affirmative action has its roots in that secret. So these days, my goal is to talk openly and honestly about white supremacy and white privilege.

White privilege, like any social phenomenon, is complex. In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves. There are general patterns, but such privilege plays out differently depending on context and other aspects of one's identity (in my case, being male gives me other kinds of privilege). Rather than try to tell others how white privilege has played out in their lives, I talk about how it has affected me.

I am as white as white gets in this country. I am of northern European heritage and I was raised in North Dakota, one of the whitest states in the country. I grew up in a virtually all-white world surrounded by racism, both personal and institutional. Because I didn't live near a reservation, I didn't even have exposure to the state's only numerically significant non-white population, American Indians.

I have struggled to resist that racist training and the ongoing racism of my culture. I like to think I have changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. But no matter how much I "fix" myself, one thing never changes--I walk through the world with white privilege.

What does that mean? Perhaps most importantly, when I seek admission to a university, apply for a job, or hunt for an apartment, I don't look threatening. Almost all of the people evaluating me for those things look like me--they are white. They see in me a reflection of themselves, and in a racist world that is an advantage. I smile. I am white. I am one of them. I am not dangerous. Even when I voice critical opinions, I am cut some slack. After all, I'm white.

My flaws also are more easily forgiven because I am white. Some complain that affirmative action has meant the university is saddled with mediocre minority professors. I have no doubt there are minority faculty who are mediocre, though I don't know very many. As Henry Louis Gates Jr. once pointed out, if affirmative action policies were in place for the next hundred years, it's possible that at the end of that time the university could have as many mediocre minority professors as it has mediocre white professors. That isn't meant as an insult to anyone, but is a simple observation that white privilege has meant that scores of second-rate white professors have slid through the system because their flaws were overlooked out of solidarity based on race, as well as on gender, class and ideology.

Some people resist the assertions that the United States is still a bitterly racist society and that the racism has real effects on real people. But white folks have long cut other white folks a break. I know, because I am one of them.

I am not a genius--as I like to say, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I have been teaching full-time for six years, and I've published a reasonable amount of scholarship. Some of it is the unexceptional stuff one churns out to get tenure, and some of it, I would argue, actually is worth reading. I work hard, and I like to think that I'm a fairly decent teacher. Every once in awhile, I leave my office at the end of the day feeling like I really accomplished something. When I cash my paycheck, I don't feel guilty.

But, all that said, I know I did not get where I am by merit alone. I benefited from, among other things, white privilege. That doesn't mean that I don't deserve my job, or that if I weren't white I would never have gotten the job. It means simply that all through my life, I have soaked up benefits for being white. I grew up in fertile farm country taken by force from non-white indigenous people. I was educated in a well-funded, virtually all-white public school system in which I learned that white people like me made this country great. There I also was taught a variety of skills, including how to take standardized tests written by and for white people.

All my life I have been hired for jobs by white people. I was accepted for graduate school by white people. And I was hired for a teaching position at the predominantly white University of Texas, which had a white president, in a college headed by a white dean and in a department with a white chairman that at the time had one non-white tenured professor.

There certainly is individual variation in experience. Some white people have had it easier than me, probably because they came from wealthy families that gave them even more privilege. Some white people have had it tougher than me because they came from poorer families. White women face discrimination I will never know. But, in the end, white people all have drawn on white privilege somewhere in their lives.

Like anyone, I have overcome certain hardships in my life. I have worked hard to get where I am, and I work hard to stay there. But to feel good about myself and my work, I do not have to believe that "merit," as defined by white people in a white country, alone got me here. I can acknowledge that in addition to all that hard work, I got a significant boost from white privilege, which continues to protect me every day of my life from certain hardships.

At one time in my life, I would not have been able to say that, because I needed to believe that my success in life was due solely to my individual talent and effort. I saw myself as the heroic American, the rugged individualist. I was so deeply seduced by the culture's mythology that I couldn't see the fear that was binding me to those myths. Like all white Americans, I was living with the fear that maybe I didn't really deserve my success, that maybe luck and privilege had more to do with it than brains and hard work. I was afraid I wasn't heroic or rugged, that I wasn't special.

I let go of some of that fear when I realized that, indeed, I wasn't special, but that I was still me. What I do well, I still can take pride in, even when I know that the rules under which I work in are stacked in my benefit. I believe that until we let go of the fiction that people have complete control over their fate--that we can will ourselves to be anything we choose--then we will live with that fear. Yes, we should all dream big and pursue our dreams and not let anyone or anything stop us. But we all are the product both of what we will ourselves to be and what the society in which we live lets us be.

White privilege is not something I get to decide whether or not I want to keep. Every time I walk into a store at the same time as a black man and the security guard follows him and leaves me alone to shop, I am benefiting from white privilege. There is not space here to list all the ways in which white privilege plays out in our daily lives, but it is clear that I will carry this privilege with me until the day white supremacy is erased from this society.

Frankly, I don't think I will live to see that day; I am realistic about the scope of the task. However, I continue to have hope, to believe in the creative power of human beings to engage the world honestly and act morally. A first step for white people, I think, is to not be afraid to admit that we have benefited from white privilege. It doesn't mean we are frauds who have no claim to our success. It means we face a choice about what we do with our success.

Prof. Robert Jensen

By writing about the politics of white privilege--and
listening to the folks who responded to that writing--I have
had to face one more way that privilege runs deep in my life,
and it makes me uncomfortable. The discomfort tells me I
might be on the right track.




Last year I published an article about white privilege in the Baltimore Sun that then went out over a wire service to other newspapers. Electronic copies proliferated and were picked up on Internet discussion lists, and the article took on a life of its own. As a result, every week over the past year I have received at least a dozen letters from people who want to talk about race. I learned not only more about my own privilege, but more about why many white folks can't come to terms with the truism I offered in that article: White people, whether overtly racist or not, benefit from living in a world mostly run by white people that has been built on the land and the backs of non-white people. The reactions varied from racist rantings, to deeply felt expressions of pain and anger, to declarations of solidarity. But probably the most important response I got was from non-white folks, predominantly African-Americans, who said something like this: "Of course there is white privilege. I've been pointing it out to my white friends and co-workers for years. Isn't it funny that almost no one listens to me, but everyone takes notice when a white guy says it. "Those comments forced me again to ponder the privilege I live with. Who really does know more about white privilege, me or the people on the other side of that privilege? Me, or a black inner-city teenager who is automatically labeled a gang member and feared by many white folks? Me, or an American Indian on the streets of a U.S. city who is invisible to many white folks? Whose voices should we be paying attention to?
My voice gets heard in large part because I am a white man with a Ph.D. who holds a professional job with status. In most settings, I speak with the assumption that people not only will listen, but will take me seriously. I speak with the assumption that my motives will not be challenged; I can rely on the perception of me as a neutral authority, someone whose observations can be trusted. Every time I open my mouth, I draw on, and in some ways reinforce, my privilege, which is in large part tied to race. Right now, I want to use that privilege to acknowledge the many non-white people who took the time to tell me about the enduring realities of racism in the United States. And, I want to talk to the white people who I think misread my essay and misunderstand what's at stake.The responses of my white critics broke down into a few basic categories, around the following claims: 1. White privilege doesn't exist because affirmative action has made being white a disadvantage. The simple response: Extremely limited attempts to combat racism, such as affirmative action, do virtually nothing to erase the white privilege built over 500 years that pervades our society. As a friend of mine says, the only real disadvantage to being white is that it so often prevents people from understanding racial issues. 2. White privilege exists, but it can't be changed because it is natural for any group to favor its own, and besides, the worst manifestations of racism are over. Response: This approach makes human choices appear outside of human control, which is a dodge to avoid moral and political responsibility for the injustice we continue to live with. 3. White privilege exists, and that's generally been a good thing because white Europeans have civilized the world. Along the way some bad things may have happened, and we should take care to be nice to non-whites to make up for that. Response: These folks often argued the curiously contradictory position that (1) non-whites and their cultures are not inferior, but (2) white/European culture is superior. As for the civilizing effect of Europe, we might consider five centuries of inhuman, brutal colonialism and World Wars I and II, and then ask what "civilized" means. 4. White privilege exists because whites are inherently superior, and I am a weakling and a traitor for suggesting otherwise. Response: The Klan isn't dead.
There is much to say beyond those short responses, but for now I am more interested in one common assumption that all these correspondents made,that my comments on race and affirmative action were motivated by "white liberal guilt." The problem is, they got two out of the three terms wrong. I am white,but I'm not a liberal. In political terms, I'm a radical; I don't think liberalism offers real solutions because it doesn't attack the systems of power and structures of illegitimate authority that are the root cause of oppression, be it based on race, gender, sexuality, or class. These systems of oppression, which are enmeshed and interlocking, require radical solutions. And I don't feel guilty.
Guilt is appropriate when one has wronged another, when one has something to feel quilty about. In my life I have felt guilty for racist or sexist things I have said or done, even when they were done unconsciously. But that is guilt I felt because of specific acts, not for the color of my skin. Also, focusing on individual guilt feelings is counterproductive when it leads us to ponder the issue from a psychological point of view instead of a moral and political one. So, I cannot, and indeed should not, feel either guilty or proud about being white, because it is a state of being I have no control over.
However, as a member of a society--and especially as a privileged member of society--I have an obligation not simply to enjoy that privilege that comes with being white but to study and understand it, and work toward a more just world in which such unearned privilege is eliminated. Some of my critics said that such a goal is ridiculous; after all, people have unearned privileges of all kinds. Several people pointed out that, for example, tall people have unearned privilege in basketball, and we don't ask tall people to stop playing basketball nor do we eliminate their advantage. The obvious difference is that racial categories are invented; they carry privilege or disadvantage only because people with power create and maintain the privilege for themselves at the expense of others. The privilege is rooted in violence and is maintained through that violence as well as more subtle means. I can't change the world so that everyone is the same height, so that everyone has the same shot at being a pro basketball player. In fact, I wouldn't want to; it would be a drab and boring world if we could erase individual differences like that. But I can work with others to change the world to erase the effects of differences that have been created by one group to keep others down.
Not everyone who wrote to me understood this. In fact, the most creative piece of mail I received in response to the essay also was the most confused. In a padded envelope from Clement, Minn., came a brand-new can of Kiwi Shoe Polish, black. Because there was no note or letter, I have to guess at my correspondent's message, but I assume the person was suggesting that if I felt so bad about being white, I might want to make myself black. But, of course, I don't feel bad about being white. The only motivation I might have to want to be black -- to be something I am not -- would be pathological guilt over my privilege. In these matters, guilt is a coward's way out, an attempt to avoid the moral and political questions. As I made clear in the original essay, there is no way to give up the privilege; the society we live in confers it upon us, no matter what we want.
So, I don't feel guilty about being white in a white supremacist society, but I feel an especially strong moral obligation to engage in collective political activity to try to change the society because I benefit from the injustice. I try to be reflective and accountable, though I am human and I make mistakes. I think a lot about how I may be expressing racism unconsciously, but I don't lay awake at night feeling guilty.
Guilt is not a particularly productive emotion, and I don't wallow in it. What matters is what we decide to do with the privilege. For me, that means speaking, knowing that I speak with a certain unearned privilege that gives me advantages I cannot justify. It also means learning to listen before I speak, and realizing that I am probably not as smart as I sometimes like to think I am. It means listening when an elderly black man who sees the original article tacked up on the bulletin board outside my office while on a campus tour stops to chat. This man, who has lived with more kinds of racism than I can imagine through more decades than I have been alive, says to me, "White privilege, yes, good to keep an eye on that, son. Keep yourself honest. But don't forget to pay attention to the folks who live without the privilege." It doesn't take black shoe polish to pay attention. It takes only a bit of empathy to listen, and a bit of courage to act.


Robert Jensen is a professor in the Department of Journalism inthe University of Texas at Austin.
He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

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A Call For Majority Self-Sufficiency

by Tim Wise

Article Dated 5/22/2001

I think it's called 'projection.' When someone subconsciously realizes that a particular trait applies to them, and then attempts to locate that trait in others, so as to alleviate the stigma or self-doubt engendered by the trait in question.

It's a well-understood concept of modern psychology, and explains much: like why men who are struggling with their own sexuality are often the most outwardly homophobic. Or the way whites during slavery typified black men as rapists, even though the primary rapists were the white slave owners themselves, taking liberties with their female property, or white men generally, raping their wives with impunity.

I got to thinking about projection recently, after receiving many an angry e-mail from folks who had read one or another of my previous commentaries, and felt the need to inform me that people of color are "looking for a handout," and are "dependent" on government, and of course, whites.

Such claims are making the rounds these days, especially as debate heats up about such issues as reparations for enslavement, or affirmative action.

And this critique is a prime example of projection, for in truth, no people have been as dependent on others throughout history as white folks.

We depended on laws to defend slavery and segregation so as to elevate us, politically, socially and economically. We depended on the Naturalization Act of 1790, to make all European immigrants eligible for nearly automatic citizenship, with rights above all persons of color. We depended on land giveaways like the Homestead Act, and housing subsidies that were essentially white-only for many years, like FHA and VA loans. Even the GI Bill was largely for whites only, and all of these government-sponsored efforts were instrumental in creating the white middle class. But it goes deeper than that.

From the earliest days, "whites" were dependent on the land and natural resources of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Since Europe offered no substantial natural riches from its soil, European economic advance and expansion was entirely reliant on the taking of other people's land by force, trickery or coercion. That, my friends, is dependence.

Then these same Europeans relied on slave labor to build a new nation and to create wealth for whites; wealth that was instrumental to financing the American Revolution, as well as allowing the textile and tobacco industries to emerge as international powerhouses. From 1790 to 1860 alone, whites and the overall economy reaped the benefits of as much as $40 billion in unpaid black labor. That, my friends, is dependence.

Though apologists for black oppression enjoy pointing out that Africans often sold other Africans into slavery, this too indicates just how dependent whites have been on black people: having to pay and bribe Africans to catch their own and deliver them to us so as to fatten the profits of European elites. We couldn't even do that by ourselves.

Then whites were dependent on Native peoples to teach us farming skills, as our complete ineptitude in this realm left the earliest colonists starving to death and turning to cannibalism when the winters came in order to survive.

We were dependent on Mexicans to teach us how to extract gold from riverbeds and quartz--critical to the growth of the national economy in the mid to late 1800's--and had we not taken over half their nation in an unprovoked war, the emerging Pacific ports so vital to the modern U.S. economy would not have been ours, but Mexico's. That, my friends, is dependence. Then we were dependent on their labor in the mid 20th century under the bracero program, through which over five million Mexicans were brought into the country for cheap agricultural work, and then sent back across the border.

And we were dependent on Asian labor to build the railroads that made transcontinental travel and commerce possible. 90% of the labor used to build the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860's were Chinese, imported for the purpose, and exploited because the railroad bosses felt they could better control them than white workers.

In fact, all throughout U.S. labor history, whites have depended on the subordination of workers of color; by the marking of black and brown peoples as the bottom rung on the ladder--a rung below which they would not be allowed to fall. By virtue of this racialized class system whites could receive the "psychological wage" of whiteness, even if their real wages left them destitute. That too is dependence, and a kind that has marked even the poorest whites.

The plantation owners in the South were surely dependent on blacks, and for more than field labor. We relied on black women to suckle and care for our children. We relied on blacks to build the levees that kept rivers like the Mississippi from our doorstep. We relied on black girls to fan our sleeping white ladies so as to ensure their comfort. We relied on blacks to do everything from cooking, to cleaning, to making our beds, to polishing our shoes, to chopping the wood to heat our homes, to nursing us back to health when we fell ill. We prided ourselves on being (or aspiring to be) men and women of leisure, while black and brown folks did all the work. That, and a lot more, is dependence; and yet we still insist they are the lazy ones.

And northern industrial capitalism relied on black labor too, especially to break the labor militance of white ethnics by playing off one group of workers against the other. That also, is dependence.

During the civil war, the armies of the Confederacy relied on blacks to cook for the troops and to make the implements of war they would use in battle; and likewise, the Union relied on black soldiers--around 200,000 of them--to ultimately win the war. That too, is most assuredly dependence.

And white dependence on people of color continues to this day. Each year, African Americans spend over $500 billion with white-owned companies: money that goes mostly into the pockets of the white owners, white employees, white stockholders, and white communities in which they live. And yet we say black people need us? We think they are the dependent ones, relying as we assume they do on the paltry scraps of an eviscerated welfare state? Now let's just cut the crap. Who would be hurt more: black folks if all welfare programs were shut down tomorrow, or white folks, if blacks decided they were through transferring half-a-trillion dollars each year to white people and were going to keep their money in their own communities?

Or what about the ongoing dependence of white businesses on the exploitation of black labor? Each year, according to estimates from the Urban Institute, over $120 billion in wages are lost to African Americans thanks to discrimination in the labor market. That's money that doesn't end up in the hands of the folks who earned it, but rather remains in the bank accounts of owners. That my friends, is dependence.

Our dependence on people of color even extends to our need to have them as spokespeople for our ideologies and agendas: thus, the proliferation of high-profile conservatives of color who bash their own people for us, so we don't have to do it alone. Ken Hamblin, Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, Walter Williams, Linda Chavez: all of them, walking, talking, lawn jockeys, shining their lights for white supremacy. And oh yes, our need for them is most certainly a form of dependence.

Then, we rely on still more people of color to help further the agenda of white dominance: namely Asians, whom we proclaim to be "model minorities."

"See how hard the Asians work,' whites love to say, 'why can't blacks be more like them?" Of course, we fail to mention the staggering poverty among Southeast Asians; or the fact that the most successful Asian sub-groups came to this country with both business experience and usually college educations; or the fact that despite hard work, Asian Pacific Islanders still earn between 11-26% less than their white counterparts, even when their qualifications are equal. Never mind all that: the model minority myth has a power all its own, and is one more way in which whites have become dependent on those who are not.

Indeed, I am beginning to think that whites are so dependent on people of color that we wouldn't know what to do without them. Oh sure, some neo-Nazis say they would love to try, but in reality I doubt they could make it. If there were no black and brown folks around then whites would have no one to blame but themselves for the crime that occurred; no one to blame but themselves when they didn't get the job they wanted; no one to blame but themselves when their lives turned out to be less than they expected. In short, we need people of color--especially in a ! subordinate role--as a way to build ourselves up, and provide a sense of self-worth we otherwise lack.

To be sure, our very existence as white people is dependent on a negative: to be white has meaning only in terms of what it doesn't mean. To be white only has meaning in so far as it means not to be black or brown. Whiteness has no intrinsic meaning culturally: can anyone even articulate what "white culture" means? Not our various European cultures mind you--which do have meaning but have been largely lost to us in the mad dash to accept whiteness and the perks that come with it--but white culture itself.

In workshops I have asked white folks and people of color what they like about being black, white, or whatever they in fact may be. For African-Americans the answers always have to do with the pride they feel, coming from families who have struggled against the odds, fought injustice, persevered, and maintained dignity in the face of great obstacles. In other words, to be black has internal meaning, derived from the positive actions and experiences of black people themselves. Variations on the same theme tend to be expressed by Latinos, Asians and Indigenous peoples as well.

But for whites, if they come up with anything at all, it is typically something about how nice it is not to have to worry about being racially profiled by police, or how nice it is not to be presumed less competent by employers, or discriminated against when applying for a loan, or looking for a home. In other words, for whites, our self-definition is wrapped up entirely in terms of what and who we aren't. What it means to be white is merely to not be "the other." And for that to have any meaning whatsoever there first must be an "other" against which to contrast oneself.

And that is the most significant dependence of all.

Tim Wise is a Nashville-based antiracist writer, lecturer and activist.
He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com

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Peggy McIntosh


As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege....

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks....

After frustration with men who would not recognize male privilege, I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life....I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographical location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can see, My Afro-American co-workers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place, and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.


  1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
  3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
  4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  5. I can go shopping most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
  7. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
  10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
  11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another woman's voice in a group in which she is the only member of her race.
  12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
  13. Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
  14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
  15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
  16. I can be pretty sure that my children's teacher and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their race.
  17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
  18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
  19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
  20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
  23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
  24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to "the person in charge," I will be facing a person of my race.
  25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.
  26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
  27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
  28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
  29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present settings, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
  30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
  31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from the negative consequences of any of these choices.
  32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
  33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing, or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
  34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
  36. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
  37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps professionally.
  38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative, or professional, with asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
  39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
  40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
  41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
  42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
  43. If I have low credibility as a leader, I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
  44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
  45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
  46. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.


I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one's life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own. These perceptions mean also that my moral condition is not what I had been led to believe. The appearance of being a good citizen rather than a troublemaker comes in large part from having all sorts of doors open automatically because of my color.


Excerpted from "White Privilege and Male Privilege," by Peggy McIntosh, Working Paper No. 189, Wellesley College, Center for Research on Women, Wellesley, MA 02181, 1988.


from left: unknown, Joe Louis, Marian Anderson, Bill Robinson,
Paul Robeson, unknown, and Olivia De Havilland at a USO gathering.

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The Moors of Spain

In the centuries following the demise of Egypt and Kush, a new culture began to develop that would generate a resurgence of activity in the arts and sciences, as well as the fiery passion of a new religion. The religion was Islam, and those who carried it to the corners of the East were the Moors.

The term Moor originated with the Romans, who, in about 46 B.C., entered West Africa; there they encountered black Africans, which they called "Maures" from the Greek adjective mauros, meaning dark or black. To truly understand the historical role played by the Moors, one must begin with the prophet Mohamet and the Arab jihads, or crusades. Islamic historian and scholar Al Jahiz wrote in A.D. 860 that "Mohamet’s grandfather Al Matilib was the Grand Shariff of Mecca. He fathered ten sons, all of whom were ‘as black as the night and magnificent.’ One of these ten was the father of Mohamet." The two closest figures to Mohamet were both Moors. One was Bilal-i-Habesh, Mohamet’s closest friend, who in the hereafter was chosen by the prophet to protect him. The other was Zayd bin Harith, a great Moorish general who led the conquest of Mohamet’s legions. Historian Drusilla Houston states that Arabia itself had been first populated by black people: "The Cushites (Ethiopians) were the original Arabians, for Arabia was the oldest Ethiopian colony."

It is because of the Moors that Europe was catapulted from the Dark Ages into what came to be called the Renaissance. The Moors embraced the sciences and arts of Egypt, Greece, China, India, and Mesopotamia, which they brought to Europe via Spain. They were the first to trace the curvilinear path of rays of light through air. They not only enhanced the chemical composition of gunpowder, a Chinese invention, but invented the rifle. From India they brought astronomy, and they introduced the compass and astrolabe into Europe. Their houses in Spain were air conditioned in summer by ingeniously arranged drafts of fresh air drawn from the garden over beds of flowers; they were warmed in winter by hot air conveyed through pipes embedded in walls. Bathrooms supplied hot and cold running water, and libraries, hospitals, and stores were abundant.

The genius exhibited by the Moors seems all the more phenomenal when one realizes that these accomplishments took place between the seventh and fourteenth centuries. The Moors ruled Spain for eight hundred years. As one historian describes it, "the Moors were a borrowed light; then came the eclipse, and in that darkness Spain has groveled ever since."

A Journey into 366 Days of Black History, 1992 Calendar

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The Impact of the European Slave Trade on the
Social, Cultural, and Psychological Life of
Africans in the Americas

Delivered for the UNESCO "Slave Routes Conference" at the Schomburg Center for Research in African Culture, New York Public Library, Harlem, October 7, 1999

Molefi Kete Asante
Temple University

The five hundred years dismemberment of the African body politic and the accompanying brutalities constitute the most prolonged, violent, and invasive rape of the people in the history of the world. Carried out, as David Walker understood, by the white Christian world, the European rape of Africa left a continent and its peoples, scattered throughout the Diaspora, with only a modicum of dignity and a profound distrust in the white race.

Slavery like rape leaves the victim traumatized, debilitated, second-guessing and debating self worth and spending endless hours analyzing the nature of the perceived weakness that gave the rapist the idea that he could rape and win, in the first place. Our ancestors asked, "are we not men and women, too?" "Don't we have the same affections and emotions of love and desire for our children?" "Are not our children as precious to us as the rapist's children to him?" Ad infinitum. We asked these questions and we gathered our bitterness in a thousand ways, waiting until the brave and heroic men and women came. We would not be permanent victims. But we were violated in the most intimate ways, ripped from our Mother's womb, torn from the belly of Africa, stripped naked before the world, dehumanized in literature, liturgies, and litanies. WE were made to view our own bodies as disfigured, vile, inferior, and dirty. We were accused of causing our own rape, because we walked differently, held different beliefs, trusted the traditions of our ancestors, and rejected offers of voluntary bondage. What is King Kwame Ansah's history in 1482 when he told the Portuguese that trade was permitted, but a permanent settlement in Africa was not. The Portuguese razed his capital city and built El Mina, inserting into Ghana what they had inserted into Ceuta in 1415, a colony of whites bent on raiding and raping Africa. What was Haiti's sin in the eyes of Europe? It was nothing more than the audacity of an African people to say "we shall not be raped anymore and if you insist on it we shall fight you to the very end." Why is it that Boukman is not named among the great strategists of the world?

What is the impact of rape: self-doubt, fear, tentativeness, self hatred, anger, and trauma. The evidence is clear that we have not had collective therapy. No therapeutic treatment has ever been offered to us nor could it be offered by the rapist. We are responsible for repairing our psyches. This is why the African nationalists politically and the Afrocentrists theoretically, remain grounded in the organic cultural matter of our African consciousness. It is the defiance in self-definition and self-determination, the twin pillars of African nationalism, that gives hope to the victims of this half a millennium rape. I cannot ask the rapist to save me, to affirm me, to resurrect me: I can only ask the rapist for reparations.

The impact of the Maafa was sheer terror, raw, brutal, open terror orchestrated to maximize the psychological damage and cultural disinheritance of Africans. The slaughter of the kings, queens, priests, royals like the murder of the rebels, the incorrigibles, and the militants was calculated to grind our pride into the ground. Karl Peters, the German colonial officer in East Africa, finding his source in the actions of his European predecessors, took his pistol and went from village to village killing kings to demonstrate that one white man with pistol could subdue an entire ethnic group of Africans. The whole of the African continent is no different than the whole of the Diaspora. From South Africa to Libya, from Tanzania to Senegal, from Angola to Sudan, the story has been the same, rape, pillage, distortion of history, assaults against our vanguard forces, whether Nat Turner, Malcolm X, or Denmark Vesey. We see people in Africa and in the Diaspora reaching deep into the pit of their lost souls to find ways to bleach the blackness out of their skins, to marry whites to improve the race, and to disavow the ancestors because they are thought to be inferior to whites. They trample on the memories of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Edward Blyden, Alexander Crummell, Ida B. Wells, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. Our heroes are the enemies of this rape. And when we no longer have heroes who will stand with the interests of the people, we shall no longer be a people and thus fulfill the rapist's intention in the first place, that is, to reduce the victim to nothingness. Here in New York, Alton Maddox and Al Sharpton must be honored and respected for the risks they take in the cause of our psychological health. If they did not exist, we would have to create them.

The terror of rape can cause amnesia, historical amnesia or if not absolute forgetfulness, the wish to forget: "I ain't left nothing in Africa," "I'm more concerned about getting my piece of America than brining up the past." African people were so traumatized through terror that our gods were left lying in the broken shards of our broken hearts. Until we pray in public to African gods or acknowledge that we are the children of the continent we cannot ever hope to recover our memory, which is our sanity. To ask whose child you are is not a rhetorical question, but an existential one. It is not a matter of who is blacker than who, but rather who is down with black people and who is against black people. If you are down with black people, then you are up with humanity, but if your are against black people you are definitely down on humanity. I know the loss of memory when I look into your eyes.

Juanita Moore

Can the rapist be forgiven? No, not if the rapist refuses to acknowledge his crime. This is why the act of forgiveness must depend on the rapist, not the victim. He must acknowledge, confess his actions, vow never to repeat them, and make restitution to the victim. Only in this way as Ifa says, can balance return. It is through sacrifice that this cleansing will come, no sacrifice, no forgiveness, no healing.

The objective of the rape was to obliterate our consciousness and prepare us to be raped forever. To obliterate our consciousness we had to be reduced to nothing. This is not easy. Slaves are not born; slaves are made and the process of fabricating a slave is dangerous and treacherous. At any moment, the person can turn on the perpetrator and create havoc. It is the nature of our enslavement that we did not go easily to the slaughter. Our history, like all human histories, had enough reference points to jolt us to memory, to awaken fight and resistance. Ours was no acquiescence without resistance.

The obliteration of our consciousness took two forms: (1) destruction of memory, and (2) cultural and social disarmament. Since slaves are not born but made it is difficult to make slaves without destroying history, a sense of memory, or continuity of story. The rapist must disarm the victim. This must not only be physically, but culturally and psychologically as well. It is to be expected that someone will say, "I am not African, I'm Black Atlantic." The memory is dead. This the victory of the rapist. Others will confuse nationality with cultural origin and say that they are Jamaican, Haitian, or Trinidadian. The process of destroying memory or obfuscation memory is deliberate, willful, calculated. To maximize the effect of the rape the victims must not remember anything valuable of the past. It must be dirty, primal, degrading. One has to be exceedingly strong to withstand the technical assault on memory. Every memory that reminds you of personhood, peoplehood must be destroyed.


Diordorus says the Greeks stole cultural ideas from Egyptians.

Africa is the home of the human race.

Senusert, Thutmoses III, and Ramses were the greatest conquerors in ancient history.

Africa gave the world the first names of God.

Writing started on the continent of Africa.

Ahmed Baba wrote 42 books while serving as chancellor of the University of Sankore.

The basis of human science was laid in Africa.

Nubia had more queens than any country in ancient history.

Imhotep, an African, was the first personality in human history.

Amadou Bamba was the most prolific writer in history.

Abubakari sent ships across the Atlantic in 1311-1312

The Ghana Empire lasted 1500 years making it longer lasting than any European empire.

The European must claim that all of these are lies. They must have Arnold Toynbee of Britain, say that there was never any African civilization. They must have Hegel of Germany, the greatest European intellectual except Plato, say that Africa is outside of history. That is what the rapist must say in order to make a person lose memory and become a slave. These anti-memory messages must be delivered with brutality, violence, and sometimes with the participation of the victim's own family.

The second technique is psychological and cultural disarmament. Once history is gone you have no motifs, songs, symbols, totems or cultural landmarks. The rapist must insist that if you celebrate your culture you must be punished.

Have you heard the expression, to be scared of one's shadow. That is the condition of the person stripped of culture and psychological health. If we say, Africans do not need to be slaves anymore, they say, "I would rather be a slave in America than a free man in Africa." Didn't Keith Richburg say something like that in his book, Out of Ameriaca?

In the end when we say we want freedom we mean that we want to be free from the insertion of Europe into the belly of our cultural and psychological lives. Freedom is not simply a matter of economics or employment opportunities, nor is it going to college with whites, and neither is it having the ability to express frustrations and anger, but rather it is life free of the persistent European assault on our spirits without our permission. Thus, from the invading European hordes along the West Coast of Africa to the invasive eyes up our noses and the penetrating attacks on our cultural forms, institutions, organizations, and psyches, we have undergone a rape of consciousness. It is this rape that causes the victim to cry aloud that he or she is no different from the rapist, the victim thus wounded in the soul, becomes in his own mind one and the same with the victimizer. One can hear the victim saying, "Africans sold Africans into bondage so anyone can be a rapist." The problem is, no African economy was ever based on the dehumanization of human beings to the extent that they were considered chattel property and no African economy based its production on slave labor. We are here in the realm of the fantastic, when we hear the victim using the arguments of the victimizer.

Fortunately for us we have had enormous powers of resilience and it is this resilience that brings us, as James Weldon Johnson understood, safely into harbor each time we stray from the path. "Stony the we trod, bitter the chastening rod/felt in the days when hope unborn had died/Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet/Brought us to the place for which our parents sighed. We have come over a way that with tears have been watered, we have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out of the gloomy past, till now we stand where white gleam of our bright star is cast."


Dr. Molefi Kete Asante is Professor of Africology, Temple University, Philadelphia, and author of 45 books on various aspects of African culture on the continent and in the Diaspora. His latest book, The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism, is published by Africa World Press.

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America's "War on Drugs" Looks Unfairly Warped

By Neal Peirce


The United States, rarely shy about condemning other nations for human rights abuses, will get a dose of its own medicine when the World Conference Against Racism opens in Durban, South Africa, on Aug. 31. The Target will be America's "war on drugs," in which black men are being imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of white men.

A team of American lawyers, clergy and drug experts, organized as the Campaign to End Race Discrimination in the War on Drugs, will assert that America's criminal justice system has been turned into an "apartheid-like" device.

"We don't want to see the United States continue to get off the hook on this," says Deborah Small of the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, one of the American delegates. "There has been a lot more attention about racial profiling and to the death penalty internationally than to the drug war. But there is no other public policy in the U.S. that affects so many people detrimentally."

The campaign last week released a letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling on leaders in Africa and the international community at large to speak out against the United States for allegedly racist pursuit of its drug war.

What are we to make of this attempt to make an international cause célèbre of U.S. drug and incarceration policies? I would like to say it is based on exaggeration, oversimplification and half-truths. But I can't.

The motivation behind America's drug wars, its mandatory minimum sentences, its willingness to let the incarceration rate balloon to the highest in the world, was not race but "law and order" politics. Yet the impact of the policies has become profoundly racist. People know it. They just do precious little to correct it.

According to the Washington-based Sentencing Project, African-Americans are 13 percent of drug users but represent 35 percent of arrests for drug possession, 55 percent of convictions and 74 percent of prison sentences.

And there is little mystery why. First,, there is location. Poor black city neighborhoods, not calm white suburbs, are the scene of big street sweeps.

And then there is class. Jenni Gainsborough of the Sentencing Project notes: "If you're white middle-class and your kid is on drugs, you call the treatment center. In the inner city there's no treatment. Your first port of call is the criminal justice system - and it escalates. Once you have a record, every interaction leads to stronger sanction."

States fed these fires with their tough laws of recent years, and the federal government, if anything, is worse. Under a 1986 federal law it takes only one-hundredth the amount of crack cocaine (generally more popular in black neighborhoods) to trigger the same mandatory minimum sentence as powder cocaine (more popular among affluent whites).

In many city neighborhoods, more than half of young black men spend time in prison. Even those inclined to form permanent relationships can't do so from behind bars. For ex-felons, jobs are rare. Official policy, says James Compton, president of the Chicago Urban League, is leading to "incapacitation of future generations ... hopelessness and despair in the black community."

"Drug prohibition has become a replacement system for segregation," says Ira Glazer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It has become a system of separating out, subjugating, imprisoning ... substantial portions of a population based on skin color."

Few of the legislators who wrote today's laws anticipated such outcomes. But the results give strong credence to the charges of racist policy being leveled against the country.

The Washington Post
International Herald Tribune, August 22, 2001

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African Holocaust


The Lessons of a Graveyard

by Brent Staples


New York-

While New Yorkers celebrated a new century, a team of biological anthropologists at Howard University in Washington were intensely focused on a most grisly aspect of New York City's past.

Led by Dr. Michael Blakey, the team has spent several years examining the skeletal remains of more than 400 African slaves whose graves were accidentally uncovered during the construction of a federal office tower in lower Manhattan nine years ago.

That the graves existed at all surprised New Yorkers who grew up believing that theirs was a "free" state where there had never been slavery. But a series of reports from the Blakey team - the first due out early this year - will present statistics to show that colonial New York was just as dependent on slavery as many Southern cities, and in some cases even more so. In addition, the brutality etched on these skeletons easily matches the worst of what we know of slavery in the South.

The first slave ship that sailed into Jamestown Harbor in Virginia in 1619 contained a handful of captive Africans. But by the end of the Atlantic slave trade more than two centuries later, somewhere between 8 million and 12 million Africans had arrived in the New World in chains.

The historian Ira Berlin, author of "Many Thousands Gone," estimates that one slave perished for every one who survived capture in the African interior and made it alive to the New World - meaning that as many as 12 million perished along the way.

During the 16th century, the massive outflow of slaves decimated countries like the Kingdom of the Kongo, whose monarch, King Afonso I, wrote letters imploring King Joao III of Portugal to cease the slave trade because it was generating "depravity ...so widespread that our land is entirely depopulated."

He said that "a monstrous greed pushes our subjects, even Christians, to seize members of their own families, and of ours, to do business by selling them as captives."

Many of the stolen Africans ended up in America, some of them in the Dutch colonial city of New Amsterdam which later became New York City. The Dutch recruited settlers with an advertisement that promised to provide them with slaves who "would accomplish more work for their masters, at less expense than (white) farm servants, who must be bribed to go thither by a great deal of money and promises."

Integral to the colony from the start, slaves helped build Trinity Church, the streets of the city and the wall - from which Wall Street takes its name - that protected the colony from military strikes.

In life, slaves lived in attics, hallways and beneath porches, cheek to jowl with their masters and mistresses. In death, these same slaves were banished to the Negro Burial Ground, which lay a mile outside the city limits and contained between 10,000 and 20,000 bodies by the time it was closed in 1794, according to the historian Sherrill Wilson.

The graveyard was paved over, built upon and forgotten - until 1991, when the General Services Administration excavated the foundation for a new tower. After protests from black New Yorkers, the agency agreed to finance research on the skeletons, but failed to budget the necessary money and generally dragged its feet, putting one of the most important archaeological projects of the century years behind schedule.

The Howard team has yet to identify among the skeletons the many Africans who are known to have been burned at the stake during the rebellion-plot hysteria that swept the colony in 1741. But what the researchers have found is brutal enough on its own.

Of the 400 skeletons taken to Howard, about 40 percent are of children under the age of 15, and the most common cause of death was malnutrition. Most of the children had rickets, scurvy, anemia or related diseases. About twice as many infant girls seem to have died as boys, suggesting at least some infanticide.

As Mr. Blakey said, "Women who gave birth in these conditions knew that they were bringing their children into hell."

The adult skeletons show that many of these people died of unrelenting hard labor. Strain on the muscles and ligaments was so extreme that muscle attachments were commonly ripped away from the skeleton - taking chunks of bone with them - leaving the body in perpetual pain.

The highest mortality rate is found among women ages 15 to 20. Mr. Blakey has concluded that some died of illnesses acquired in the holds of slave ships or from a first exposure to the cold - or from the trauma of being torn from their families and shipped in chains halfway around the globe. But in many cases, he said, "what we see is that these women were worked to death by owners who could simply go out and buy a new slave."

The Blakey team will conduct two sets of studies in an attempt to determine more closely where the slaves were born. One study will analyze tooth enamel for trace minerals that would mark the captives as having grown up in Africa, the Caribbean or North America. If DNA research proceeds as planned, it will further pin down the country of origin by comparing the dead with known populations in Africa.

The skeletons will be returned to their graves by 2002. By then the burial ground will have rewritten the book on slavery in New York and given historians something to talk about well into the next century.


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African Renaissance


Strong Men

Sterling A. Brown


The strong men keep coming on. - Sandburg

They dragged you from the homeland,

They chained you in coffles,

They huddled you spoon-fashion in filthy hatches,

They sold you to give a few gentlemen ease.


They broke you like oxen,

They scourged you,

They branded you,

They made your women breeders,

They swelled your numbers with bastards . . . . .

They taught you the religion they disgraced.

You sang:

Keep a-inchin' along

Lak a po' inch worm . . .

You sang:

By and bye

I'm gonna lay down this heaby load . . .

You sang:

Walk togedder, chillin,

Dontcha gilt weary . . .

The strong men keep a-comin' on

The strong men get stronger.


They point with pride to the roads you built for them,

They ride in comfort over the rails you laid for them.

They put hammers in your hands

And said - Drive so much before sundown.

You sang:

Ain't no hammah

In dis lan'

Strikes lak mine, bebby,

Strikes lak mine.

They cooped you in their kitchens,

The penned you in their factories,

They gave you the jobs that they were too good for,

They tried to guarantee happiness to themselves

By shunting dirt and misery to you.

You sang:

Me an' muh baby gonna shine, shine

Me an' muh baby gonna shine.

The strong men keep a-comin' on

The strong men git stronger . . .


They bought offs some of your leaders

You stumbled, as blind men will . . .

They coaxed you, unwontedly soft-voiced . . .

You followed a way.

Then laughed as usual.

They heard the laugh and wondered;


Unadmitting deeper terror . . .

The strong men keep a-comin' on

Gittin' stronger . . .


What, from the slums

Where they have hemmed you,

What, from the tiny huts

They could not keep from you-

What reaches them

Making them ill at ease, fearful?

Today they shout prohibition at you

"Thou shalt not this"

"Thou shalt not that"

"Reserved for whites only"

You laugh.


One thing they cannot prohibit-


The strong men . . . coming on

The strong men gittin' stronger.

Strong men . . .

Stronger . . .

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Compensate the Forgotten Victims
Of America´s Slavery Holocaust

by Randall Robinson

LOS ANGELES - America owes African-Americans a debt. It is an old debt. It has lain around in edgy disregard for a century and a half.

Long-term neglect of it has aggravated exponentially its original consequence, itself being staggering. Its compounded interest can be measured in the social disrepair of its contemporary victims: black youth who menace one another and society in general; black mothers, weary and solitary beneath the burden of bleak prospect; black fathers, shorn of manhood before becoming man-like.

These, the heirs of slavery´s destructive promise, economically lag far behind whites as a group in American society.

Almost no one, black or white, expects blacks to close this gap in the forseeable future. So small is any such expectation that the very question of it occurs only to a statistically insignificant number of people, black or white.

About as motionless as China´s ancient terra-cotta Qin dynasty soldiers, the two groups have known since Jamestown where to find each other on the American economic ladder: whites at the top, blacks at the bottom. Americans have been pretty much left to figure out for themselves why this statistic verticality is so. Whites no doubt (even liberals privately) ascribe it to their innate superiority. Most blacks attribute it to contemporary racial discrimination, although more than a few would harbor a lurking doubt or two about their relative worth. Some blacks have simply come to hate themselves. It is the price of long-term unexplained socio-economic bottomness.

Almost never discussed in the United States is the seminal cause of what long ago cleaved us Americans into two unequal, mutually hostile racial societies. It is not that slavery is never discussed or publicly acknowledged, but simply that when slavery is discussed its story is told to us as an academic recollection of closed American chapter, as if the 246-year episode could be cordoned off in a blameless rubric of America´s sanitized version of itself.

Slavery was, and remains, an American holocaust. It lasted 20 times as long as the Nazi Holocaust. It killed at least 10 times as many people. It extinguished on three continents and a necklace of vegetal isles a people´s sustaining sense of selfhood. It eviscerated whole cultures: languages, religions, mores, customs.

It plundered. It raped. It commodified human beings. It mercilessly crushed African social and economic institutions in order to capitalize its own. It psychologically hulled empty its victims. It wrenched from them their history, their memory of what they had once meant to the world and to themselves, and replaced their estimable story of their people with another, alien and reproachful. All of this accomplished on a scale of human cruelty the worldtherefore had never witnessed.

And when this monstrous institution finally drained of energy a mere 135 years ago, America (which had for two and a half centuries hosted, faciliated and materially benefited from the forced labors of millions of uncompensated human beings) would embrace for the next hundred years, racial segregation and de jure racial discrimination, leaving a disproportionate number of American descendants of slaves bottom-stuck in debilitating poverty.

And then, rubble stilled, dust settled, silence. Even as around the world restitutions for less heinous crimes of shorter duration had been made to Koreans, Poles, Aborigines, first Canadians, even as the United States government made restitutions to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II.


Even as the U.S. undersecretary of state, Stuart Eizenstat, labored to make 16 German companies compensate Jews used as slave laborers during the Nazi era.


Slaves had built the U.S. Capitol, cast and hoisted the stature of freedom on top of its dome, cleared the forest between the Capitol and its co-symbol of American democracy, the White House.


Construction of the National Museum of the American Indian will begin soon on the National Mall in Washington. Plans have been laid to build near the mall a Japanese memorial par to commemorate Japanese-American victims of World War II internment. Daily, Americans queue in long ines to enter the Holocaust Museum, where the Nazi terror is remembered in wrenching detail.

Yet nowhere on the mall can anything be found - monument, memorial or stone tablet - to commemorate the hundreds of millions of victims of the American holocaust. While urging other nations to publicly atone for past misdeeds, the United States schizophrenically has repressed its own.

The American government for hundreds of years played a major role in deconstructing Africa and millions of its issue. It abused them as beasts of burden and released them uncompensated into a racial environment certain to hold them fast in perpetuity to the economic bottom of American society.

It is now the United States´ turn to atone. To pay its debt. To materially compensate slavery´s living victims. And to commemorate in its public architecture those tortured souls who can no longer hear a simple apology.


The writer, executive director of TransAfrica, is author of "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks."
He contributed this comment to the Los Angeles Times.

International Herald Tribune
Frankfurt, Friday, February 11, 2000

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When the Holocaust Is Incomparable,
It Becomes Unworldly

by Henry Siegman

NEW YORK - Gatherings like the high-level forum in Stockholm last week to ponder the lessons of the Holocaust should not be an occasion for repetition of conventional pieties, but an opportunity to look afresh, unblinkingly, at the lessons that half a century since the Holocaust, has to teach us.

Distinguished participants in Stockholm once again emphasized the uniqueness of the Holocaust, a singular and unparalleled expression of man´s capacity for evil. Celebrated Holocaust survivors and leading Holocaust historians have devoted their lives to the preservation of the singularity of the Holocaust in the hope that the memory would serve to prevent a repetition of such evils.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in the history of the past half-century to suggest that remembrance has had such an effect. Indeed, what we see is a repetition of large-scale and systematic destruction of human life in Europe, Africa and Asia, even as an earnest symposia on the Holocaust and its lessons take place within earshot of these more recent genocides.

I attended such a conference sponsored by the French government in Lyon in 1992 entitled "Resistance and Memory". Of the hundreds of speakers, very few even took note of the massacre taking place in Bosnia at the time.

The recurrence of genocide so soon after the Holocaust raises distressing questions about the effect of Holocaust memorials and their impact, if any, on human behavior.

It is difficult to maintain that the growing literature of the Holocaust, the witness of the survivors and the proliferation of museums and memorials have mitigated the cruelties of genocidal, ethnic and national conflicts in the world.

To make comparisons between Auschwitz and tragedies like Bosnia invariably draws reflexive condemnation by most, if not all, of those who have dedicated their lives to teaching the world the meaning of the Holocaust and its uniqueness. Yet it is difficult to escape the conclusion that this very emphasis on the uniqueness of the Holocaust is part of the problem.

To insist on the incomparability of the Holocaust is, in the end, to insist on its irrelevance.

Presumably, the purpose of memory is not only to memorialize the victims. What gives memory of the Holocaust its urgency and its sanctity is the expectation - indeed, the desperate hope - that memory will make a repetition of such evil if not impossible, at least less likely.

But to insist on the Holocaust´s radical uniqueness, as those who tell its haunting story inevitably do, and to condemn and scoff at those who see its echos in Kosovo or in Rwanda, is to doom the memory of Auschwitz to irrelevance.

The keepers of the flame of the Holocaust, by insisting on its difference, have paradoxically contributed to its detachment from history, and therefore to public indifference to subsequent genocides.

Despite arrogant claims by the U.S. government and others that we did in fact respond to the tragedies in Bosnia and Kosovo, the fact is that we did too little and too late. Neither in Bosnia nor in Kosovo did the international community prevent slaughter of hundreds or thousands, or the violent displacement of people in the millions, not to speak of mass rape and other atrocities.

If the world´s indifference to the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo suggest that the Holocaust has made little if any real difference, perhaps that is, in part, because the Holocaust "establishment" seems to react with greater anger at comparisons between Auschwitz and subsequent genocides than at the awful similarities.

It is time to take stock of how the Jewish community and the international community have dealt with the Holocaust. For if the meaning of the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews will continue to have little impact on how the civilized world responds to new threats of genocide, what is the purpose of memory so carefully nourished by witnesses to the Holocaust?

Does not such indifference, even as we repeat the traditional pieties about the Holocaust and its uniqueness, desecrate the memory of the 6 million?

I believe it does.


The writer, himself a Holocaust survivor, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
He contributed these personal views to the International Herald Tribune.

International Herald Tribune
Tuesday, February 1, 2000

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Let's Hear More About Leopold's

Congo Holocaust

By Richard F. Hamilton


In the years from 1885 to 1908, some 10 million people died in the Congo Free State, victims of one of the modern world's most terrible holocausts. This enormous crime has scarcely penetrated the public consciousness - no memorials, museums or cries of "Never again!"

The basic facts of the tragedy are well known to most historians and scholars, but textbooks and encyclopedias offer only a few bland sentences about it. This neglect dishonors the memories of the millions of innocent people who died as a result of a king's greed.

Adam Hochschild's 1998 book "King Leopold's Ghost provides an excellent account of what happened. The so-called Congo Free State was anything but.

It was a giant forced labor camp, personal possessions of Leopold II, king of Belgium. For nearly 30 years his armed thugs forced the Congolese to extract ivory, hardwoods and wild rubber from their homeland.

Many were beaten to death for failing to meet strict quotas, while millions more died from physical exhaustion, famine or infectious disease. In all, roughly half the region's people lost their lives.

International outrage finally forced King Leopold to give up his hold on the land. What followed, however, was what Mr. Hochschild called "the great forgetting."

Forgetting was easy because the Congolese were a poor, mostly illiterate people lacking the technologies needed to disseminate the fact of their suffering. Leopold ran an effective public relations campaign, helping to bury the extent of his crime for many years. It took the work of several dedicated activist researchers to uncover the truth of the holocaust.

Yet the forgetting continues.

Curious about what today's university students in America might learn about the Congo holocaust, I reviewed nine of the most frequently used history textbooks dealing with modern times. None provided more than a paragraph on the Congo holocaust. Most offered only a few indifferent sentences.

One book describes the holocaust by saying that the Congo's people "were treated with inhuman severity and compulsion." The account does not use the words "murder," "killing" or "atrocities." Nothing is said about the number of human beings who were killed.

Unfortunately, most other history books do not better. The interested student turning to the Encyclopedia Americana account would find only a vague single sentence suggesting the problems: "financial difficulties led to harsh economic exploitation, and mounting international criticism finally prodded Belgium to take over."

The current edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is slightly better, in that it contains a brief but frank description of the Congo holocaust. But the encyclopedia's entry under Leopold only hints at the atrocities he committed.

Students today might get some hint of the Congo holocaust through English literature classes, in courses that include reading Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." The 1899 novella provides a grim atmospheric portrait of persons and events in the Congo during this period.

Where is moral outrage at this holocaust? Why aren't students learning the full extent of the outrage? The Congo holocaust is not ancient history. Much of it occurred in the 20th century, a decade before the next catastrophe, World War I with its attendant Armenian holocaust, and just a few decades before the holocaust of World War II.

Three holocausts occurring within a few generations should be a sobering reminder of our civilization's fragility, of how close we are to barbarism. We need to be reminded - and often - of the extent of human cruelty in order to ensure that such things do not happen again.

We can start by making sure that textbooks and encyclopedias reveal to students the full tragedy of the Congo holocaust. The great forgetting must end.

The writer, professor emeritus of sociology and political science at Ohio State University, contributed this co mment to The Washington Post.

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America, Too, Should Pay Reparations for Its Past

by Brent Staples

New York - The German Parliament hoped to discourage a wave of lawsuits - and close the door on an ugly past - when it voted to support a fund through which corporations would compensate people who worked as slave laborers in Germany during World War II.

But by agreeing to pay reparations, corporations like DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank, Siemens and Volkswagen are tacitly admitting that German corporate wealth rests at least partly on slave labor extracted from Jews subjected to crimes against humanity.

This has been a big year for institutional contrition, with the Vatican apologizing for misdeeds of the past and Swiss banks seeking atonement for appropriating the accounts of Holocaust victims. But in the U.S. Congress, a bill that would bring about a similar reckoning with regard to two and a half centuries of slavery may never see the light of day. Legislation sponsored by Representative John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, calling for a study of reparations has failed to reach the House floor, even after being submitted to Congress every year for more than a decade.

The failure of Congress to take this bill seriously reflects the sense among Americans as a whole that slavery has no economic bearing on the nation as it exists today. But if a 34-year-old lawyer named Deadria Farmer-Paellmann has her way, a broader debate about reparations and the links between modern corporations and the slave economy may be on the way.

A part-time musician and amateur historian, Ms. Farmer-Paellmann attended law school solely to develop a legal argument for reparations. After scouring corporate archives, she has turned up connections between modern corporations and predecessor companies that seem clearly to have profited from the slave trade, in some cases obliquely but often quite directly.

Inspired by the German case, Ms. Farmer-Paellmann is planning to sue a dozen corporations for "unjustly enriching" themselves, and she has begun distributing archival records that provide provocative examples of corporate involvement in the trade.

The planned lawsuits are novel. But the news articles about her first few discoveries have already broadened public awareness of the extent to which the United States depended on slaves to build the national as well as the Southern economy.

Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, is among those paying attention. He says he is considering both litigation and legislation and is helping to plan a conference scheduled this fall on the reparations issue.

Modern-day Northerners tend to view slavery as confined to the Confederacy, thinking of the Northeast as having been made up of "free states." Americans are for the most part unaware that slavery covered all of the original colonies and their successor states and began to loosen its grip in the North only in the early 1800s, when personal liberty laws went into effect. New York City was a capital of human bondage, with more slaves than any other city with the possible exception of Charleston, South Carolina.

New England survives in the history books as the hotbed of abolitionism and the home of the crusading anti-slavery novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe. But Ms. Farmer-Paellmann has turned up documents revealing a different New England, one in which corporate founders and respected businessmen trafficked in slaves, even after aspects of the slave trade were made illegal.

One of the most serious offenders was the Rhode Island businessman John Brown, who founded Providence Bank, an early predecessor of the modern FleetBoston Financial Corp.

The Fleet corporate history portrays Brown as a "respected merchant." Ms Farmer-Paellmann has unearthed records showing that Brown owned ships that embarked on several slaving voyages and that he was prosecuted in federal court for participating in the international slave trade after it had become illegal under federal law.

Records show that Providence Bank lent substantial sums to Brown, and Ms. Farmer-Paellmann suspects that the bank both financed and profited from the founder's illegal slave trading. For its part, FleetBoston contends that incomplete records make a conclusion impossible.

The most disturbing document to emerge so far reveals that Aetna Insurance Co. Of Hartford actually insured slave owners against the loss of their human chattel. That Aetna knew the horrors of slave life is evident in a rider through which the company declined to pay the premium for slaves who were lynched or worked to death or who committed suicide. Aetna says that incomplete records forbid its knowing how many such policies were written.

After the policy came to light, the company apologized for having been involved in the slave trade.

Ms. Farmer-Paellmann claims too have found similar documents concerning more than a dozen corporations still doing business in the United States and has promised to file several lawsuits charging these companies with unjustly enriching themselves at the expense of slaves.

Whether the lawsuits succeed is almost beside the point. This exercise will have done its job if it reveals to the public the role of slavery in shaping American life. More than a few modern fortunes rest on the suffering of human beings who once accounted for a large portion of American wealth and lied in chains here for 250 years.

International Herald Tribune, July 25, 2000

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A Skull Stirs Up Prehistoric Debate

Fossilized Cranium Unearthed in Brazil

Challenges Ideas on Peopling of Americas

By Larry Rother


A human skull that is prominently displayed at the National Museum here has been attracting crowds and controversy since it was first unveiled this month. After two decades in storage, the fossilized cranium has now been identified by Brazilian scientists as the oldest human remains ever recovered in the Western Hemisphere.

The skull is that of a young woman, nicknamed Luzia, who is believed to have roamed the savannah of south-central Brazil some 11,500 years ago. Even more startling, a reconstruction of her cranium undertaken in Britain this year indicates that her features appear to be Negroid rather than Mongoloid, suggesting that the Western Hemisphere may have initially been settled not only earlier than thought, but also by a people distinct from the ancestors of today's South American Indians.

"We can no longer say that the first colonizers of the Americas came from the north of Asia, as previous models have proposed," said Walter Neves, an anthropologist at the University of Sao Paulo who made the initial discovery along with an Argentine Colleague, Hector Pucciarelli. "This skeleton in nearly 2,000 years older than any skeleton ever found in the Americas, and it does not look like those of Amerindians or North Asians." If the date is confirmed, the find could transform thinking about the peopling of the Americas. It may be some time before that work is completed, but archaeologists say the find is potentially very important.

Until Luzia, named as a playful homage to Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor found in Africa, the oldest known human remains recovered in the Western Hemisphere were those of a woman found in Buhl, Idaho, and repatriated to the Shoshone tribe in 1991. Radiocarbon dating tests have established the age of that skeleton as a bit more than 10,000 years old.

Luzia's discovery at a location in the state of Minas Gerais called Lapa Vermelha is consistent, however, with recent findings made at the celebrated Monte Verde site in southern Chile. There, evidence of human habitation as early as 12,500 years ago - stone tools and a footprint - has been uncovered though no human remains have been found.

The finds, along with recent discoveries in North America like those of the so-called Kennewick Man and Spirit Cave Man, are forcing a reassessment of long-established theories as to the settling of the Americas.

Based on such evidence, Mr. Neves suggests that Luzia belonged to a nomadic people who began arriving in the New World as early as 15,000 years ago. Luzia's Negroid features notwithstanding, Mr. Neves is not arguing that her ancestors came to Brazil from Africa in an early trans-Atlantic migration. Instead, he believes they originated in Southeast Asia, "migrating from there in two directions, south to Australia, where today's aboriginal peoples may be their descendants, and navigating northward along the coast and across the Bering Straits until they reached the Americas."

About one-third of Luzia's skeleton has been recovered, enough to indicate that she appears to have perished in an accident or perhaps even from an animal attack. She was in her twenties when she died and was part of a group of hunter-gatherers who appear to have subsisted largely on whatever fruits, nuts and berries they came across in their meanderings, plus the occasional piece of meat. "This is intriguing and interesting and I want to know more," said David Meltzer, a professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University and an expert on the paleo-Indian populations of North America. "Skeletal material of this age is extraordinarily rare, both here and in South America, so I am delighted to know that something of this antiquity is popping up."

The region where Mr. Neves and his associates are working has been the focus of archaeological inquiry since the mid-19th century, when Peter Wilhelm Lund, A Danish naturalist first encountered human skeletal remains there. Many of the specimens he uncovered are now stored at the University of Copenhagen, but if Mr. Neves went to examine them, he found that the material had not been catalogued by geological strata and therefore could not be used for his research.

Luzia herself was originally discovered in 1975 in a rock shelter by a joint French-Brazilian expedition that was working not far from Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third-largest city. The skull was buried under more than 40 feet of mineral deposits and debris, separated from the rest of the skeleton but otherwise in remarkably good condition.

"This is a site where the soil was high in limestone content, which helped to preserve these remains for so long," explained Andre Prous, a French archaeologist at the federal University of Minas Gerais, who was part of the initial team and continues to work in the area. "In other places, the bones disappear after a short time."

Mr. Neves bases his estimate of Luzia's age on the fact that the skull was found in a geological strata where the age of other organic material has been established through radiocarbon dating. The same procedure would ordinarily have been done with Luzia, but the specimen does not have enough collagen, the protein that gives bone its resiliency, to allow that technique to be used.

Health and Science

International Herald Tribune, Frankfurt, Monday, November 1, 1999

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Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa

Chairperson, Distinguished Elders of Africa, Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity, Your Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Distinguished participants, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am very pleased indeed to welcome you to the launch of the African Renaissance Institute. I sincerely thank you for giving us, as South Africans, the opportunity to host this launch and for me to speak at this Opening Session.

I would also like to welcome to our country those of our brothers and sisters who come from beyond our borders.

Once more, we would like to express our profound appreciation to you all for the contribution that you made to our own struggle for liberation.

Liberated South Africa is therefore your home, not merely because it is an African country, but because without your determined struggles, perhaps we would not be a free people today.

The sacrifices the peoples of our Continent made to end the apartheid crime against humanity, which denied the very humanity of everybody who was African, were many and varied.

Among other things, the countries of Southern Africa also paid a very high price in human lives lost, as well as property and infrastructure destroyed, as they withstood the campaign of aggression and destabilization conducted by the apartheid regime.

Undoubtedly, Angola and Mozambique paid the highest price in this regard.

I would like to take this opportunity, once more, to reiterate our profound appreciation to their governments and peoples for their extraordinary solidarity, which our people will never forget.

I am also very pleased to make special mention and pay tribute to our elders who are here, of whom we are justly proud and whose wisdom and African patriotism will make an important contribution to our common quest for an African Renaissance.

All of us are greatly distressed that that great son of all Africa, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is unable to be here, owing to a difficult health condition. I am certain that we would all agree that we should send him a heartfelt message of support and our wishes for his speedy recovery.

We have also received the apologies of another great son of our Continent, Ahmed Ben Bella, who could not joint us owing to prior commitments.


As you are aware, the movement of our own struggle for national liberation is the ANC, the African National Congress.

Brought up as we were by this movement and led by it, throughout the entirety of our political lives we have been exposed to the inspiring perspective of African unity and solidarity and the renewal of our Continent.

Beyond this, the struggle for our own liberation led to the development of perhaps the largest and most determined Pan-African movement of solidarity our continent has ever seen, involving both governments and all sections of the population, in every country.

We are therefore pleased and moved that some of our fellow Africans took the initiative to establish the Institute that we are launching today.

I am convinced that all of us present here share a common vision in favour of African unity and solidarity, African development and renewal and an end to the marginalization of our Continent in world affairs and development processes.

It would seem to us vitally necessary that whereas, for some time, the achievement of these objectives has been left to our governments, it is necessary that we return this vision to the people.

We are therefore of the firm view that there is a critically important and urgent need to develop a Popular Movement for the African Renaissance.

Accordingly, we believe that political organizations and governments in all African countries should be mobilized to act in furtherance of the objectives of the African Renaissance.

Equally, the masses and their organizations in all African countries should similarly be mobilized and drawn into action.

We must also pay attention to the intelligentsia, the professionals, the trade unions, business people, women and the youth, the traditional leaders, cultural workers, the media and so on, to bring them into the popular struggle for Africa's rebirth.

The question has been posed repeatedly as to what we mean when we speak of an African Renaissance.

As all of us know, the word "renaissance" means rebirth, renewal, springing up anew. Therefore, when we speak of an African Renaissance, we speak of the rebirth and renewal of our continent.

This idea is not new to the struggles of the people of our continent for genuine emancipation. It has been propagated before by other activists for liberation, drawn from many countries.

But is has been suggested that when this perspective was advanced in earlier periods, the conditions did not exist for its realization.

Accordingly, what is new about it today is that the conditions exist for the process to be enhanced, throughout the continent, leading to the transformation of the idea from a dream dreamt by visionaries to a practical program of action for revolutionaries.

What, then, are these conditions? These are:

  • the completion of the continental process of the liquidation of the colonial system in Africa, attained as a result of the liberation of South Africa;
  • the recognition of the bankruptcy of neo-colonialism by the masses of the people throughout the continent, including the majority of the middle strata;
  • the weakening of the struggle among the major powers for spheres of influence on our continent, as a consequence of the end of the Cold War; and,
  • the acceleration of the process of globalization.

As we take advantage of these changed circumstances, we must move from the fundamental proposition that the peoples of Africa share a common destiny.

Each one of our countries is constrained in its ability to achieve peace, stability, sustained development and a better life for the people, except in the context of the accomplishment of these objectives in other sister African countries as well.

Accordingly, it is objectively in the interest of all Africans to encourage the realization of these goals throughout our Continent, at the same time as we pursue their attainment in each of our countries.

We speak of a continent which, while it led in the very evolution of human life and was a leading center of learning, technology and the arts in ancient times, has experienced various traumatic epochs; each one of which has pushed her peoples deeper into poverty and backwardness.

We refer here to the three periods of:

  • slavery, which robbed the continent of millions of her healthiest and most productive inhabitants and reinforced the racist and criminal notion that, as Africans, we are subhuman;
  • imperialism and colonialism, which resulted in the rape of raw materials, the destruction of traditional agriculture and domestic food security, and the integration of Africa into the world economy as a subservient participant; and,
  • neo-colonialism, which perpetuated this economic system, while creating the possibility for the emergence of new national elite in independent states, themselves destined to join the dominant global forces in oppressing and exploiting the masses of the people.

During this latter periods, our continent has experienced:

  • unstable political systems in which one-party states and military rule have occupied pride of place, leading to conflict, civil wars, genocide and the emergence of millions of displaced and refugee populations;
  • the formation of predatory elite that have thrived on the basis of the looting of national wealth and the entrenchment of corruption;
  • the growth of the international debt burden to the extent that, in some countries, combined with unfavourable terms of trade, it makes negative growth in national per capita income inevitable; and,
  • actual declines in the standard of living and the quality of life for hundreds of millions of Africans.

The task of the African Renaissance derive from this experience, covering the entire period from slavery to date. They include:

  • the establishment of democratic political systems to ensure the accomplishment of the goal that "the people shall govern";
  • ensuring that these systems take into account African specifics so that, while being truly democratic and protecting human rights, they are nevertheless designed in ways which really ensure that political and, therefore, peaceful means can be used to address the competing interests of different social groups in each country;
  • establishing the institutions and procedures which would enable continent collectively to deal with questions of democracy, peace and stability;
  • achieving sustainable economic development that results in the continuous improvement of the standards of living and the quality of life of the masses of the people;
  • qualitatively changing Africa's place in the world economy so that it is free of the yoke of the international debt burden and no longer supplier of raw materials and an importer of manufactured goods;
  • ensuring the emancipation of the women of Africa;
  • successfully confronting the scourge of HIV/AIDS;
  • the rediscovery of Africa's creative past to recapture the peoples' culture, encourage artistic creativity and restore popular involvement in both accessing and advancing science and technology;
  • strengthening the genuine independence of African countries and continent in their relations with the major powers and enhancing their role in the determination of the global system of governance in all fields, including politics, the economy, security, information and intellectual property, the environment and science and technology.

These goals can only be achieved through a genuinely popular and protracted struggle involving not only governments and political parties, but also the people themselves in all their formations.

Such a popular movement for the fundamental renewal of Africa would also have to take into account the multi-faceted reality that:

  • it is engaged in an extremely complex struggle which would be opposed by forces of reaction from both within and without the continent;
  • it would achieve both forward movement and suffer occasional setbacks;
  • the continental offensive can only be sustained of the active populations of all countries are confident that none of the countries of the continent, regardless of the extent of its contribution to the renaissance, seeks to impose itself on the rest as a new imperialist power; and,
  • the forces for change have to be built up and consolidated within each country, without ignoring or underestimating the imperative and the potential for an increasing coordinated trans-national offensive for the mutually beneficial renewal of the continent.

From all this, it is clear that the achievement of the historically vital African Renaissance requires that the peoples of our continent should adopt a realist program of action that will actually move Africa toward its real renewal.

Accordingly, ways have to be found to ensure that:

  • the OAU is further strengthened so that in its work, it focuses on the strategic objective of the realization of the African Renaissance;
  • links are built across Africa's borders among all social sectors to increase the levels of cooperation and integration;
  • steps are taken to ensure that both Africa and the rest of the world define the new (21st) century as an "African Century", in furtherance of the objective of the mobilization of the peoples of the world to support the offensive for an African Renaissance; and,
  • work is done to persuade the rest of the world, including such important institutions as the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, NAFTA, the EU, MERCOSUR, ASEAN and others, to the point of view that we share with them the strategic view that it is obligatory that we all support the vision of an African Renaissance and that they should lend support to this process, guided by what the peoples of Africa themselves want.

The difficulty we will face with regard to the accomplishment of the last of these tasks is illustrated by the problem we are facing even as we stand here, of arriving at the point when we can conclude the bilateral agreement between our country and the European Union.

Stripped of all pretence, what has raised the question whether the agreement can be signed today or not, is the reality that many among the developed countries of the North have lost all sense of the noble idea of human solidarity.

What seems to predominate is the question, in its narrowest and most naked meaning - what is in it for me? What is in it for me? - and all this with absolutely no apology and no sense of shame.

None of us were present when the slaves were forced into the dungeons on the Isle of Goree in Senegal and on the island of Zanzibar.

But we would not be wrong if we came to the conclusion that those who survived these dungeons as well as their transportation across the oceans, did so because of a strong will to survive.

None of us were present when the people of the Congo were slaughtered in their millions, to satisfy the rapacious and insatiable greed of a Belgian monarch.

But we would not be wrong if we came to the conclusion that the Congolese people did not resort to mass suicide to escape the horror, because of a firm conviction that, in the end, as a people they were indestructible.

We were present when the colonial and racist powers put up the most determined resistance to deny the people of Algeria, Kenya, the Portuguese colonies, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa their freedom.

We know that the peoples of these countries and our Continent as a whole were not discouraged by what seemed to be overwhelming odds against them, because they were determined that the people's cause for national emancipation could never be defeated.

We bore witness to the unspeakable genocide that descended on the people of Rwanda in 1994.

We know that, in the end, these extraordinary Africans ended the slaughter themselves because they took it upon themselves to make the determination that Africa will not perish at the hands of her own sons and daughters.

That same spirit of optimism and commitment to overcome must inform all of us now as we build on the victories we have scored, to engage what will clearly be a titanic struggle to achieve Africa's Renaissance.

What will decide the outcome is not the strength of our opponents but our own determination to succeed.

Stretching through the mists, for a millennium, our common African history is replete with great feats of courage, demonstrated by the heroes and heroines and the heroic peoples, without whose loyal attachment to hope and the vision of a bright future for Africa, her people would long have perished.

The moment is upon us when we should draw on this deep well of human nobility to make this statement in action - that Africa's time has come!

We, in all our millions, including those of us who are in the Diaspora, will ensure that Africa will not be denied what is due to her!

The African century will not be proclaimed! It will come to be through struggle!

The struggle continues! Victory is certain!

We wish the African renaissance Institute success in the historic mission we are all called upon to carry out, to end a long and dark night without whose ending no human being anywhere in the world can claim to be fulfilled as a human being.

  • The only ailment that has no cure is the spawn of a curse.

I thank you for your attention.


The United Nations Conference against Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia
and Related Intolerance

Durban, South Africa

Thabo Mbeki opened the conference with a speech painting a bleak picture of a world split between rich whites and poor blacks. He said that it was necessary to convene the conference "because, together, we recognized the fact that there are many in our common world who suffer indignity and humiliation because they are not white. Their cultures and traditions are despised as savage and primitive and their identities denied. They are not white and are deeply immersed in poverty. Of them it is said that they are human but black, whereas others are described as human and white. I speak in these terms, which some may think are too harsh and stark, because I come from a people that have known the bitter experience of slavery, colonialism and racism."
International Herald Tribune, September 1, 2001

Die Konferenz der Vereinten Nationen gegen Rassismus,
Rassendiskriminierung, Fremdenfeindlichkeit
und damit verbundene Intoleranz

Durban, Südafrika

Thabo Mbeki eröffnete die Konferenz mit einer Rede, die ein trübes Bild einer Welt zeichnete, die zerissen ist zwischen reichen Weißen und armen Schwarzen. Er sagte, dass es notwendig war, diese Konferenz einzuberufen, "weil wir zusammen feststellten, dass es viele in unserer gemeinsamen Welt gibt, die unter unwürdigen Zuständen und Erniedrigung leiden, weil sie nicht weiß sind. Ihre Kulturen und Traditionen werden als unzivilisiert und primitiv verachtet und ihre Identität verleugnet. Sie sind nicht weiß und sie sind tief versunken in Armut. Man spricht von ihnen als Menschen aber schwarz, wohingegen andere als Menschen und weiß beschrieben werden. Ich benutze diese Ausdrucksweise, von der manche denken, sie sei zu schroff und zu krass, weil ich aus einem Volk komme, das die bittere Erfahrung von Sklaverei, Kolonialismus und Rassismus kennt."


The Honorable Nelson Mandela

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By Robert Earl Price


Georgia January pale sunlight
streaking pink polished marble
demarking the designated demonstration stage
as deaf, dumb and docile media creations
and self-elected grand potentates
follow the perpetual widow around
and around the empty grave
pausing for photo opportunities
before their postcard crypt


While the guileless and guiltless
glean garbage for their feast
and celebrate in cardboard castles
certain that Martin is not on holiday
because they have seen him
huddled under a viaduct
sharing the warmth of a rusty barrel
listening to a drunken quartet sing


Coretta, Coretta
What has gone wrong
Coretta, Coretta
What has gone wrong
Ain't had no loving
since he been gone


On bitter sweet Auburn Avenue
from inside Ebenezer Baptist
hollow bells herald
a poseurs' pilgrimage
to the theatre of greed and guilt
produced by Coors and Seagrams
written by Jesse Helms
and starring the US president
a morality play
to remind us
that the dead stay dead
but our fallen brother
our martyred Martin
shuns these heathen rites
where the ghoulish and the glib
bicker over recording rights
to we shall overcome
and turn this shared dream
into a fried chicken commercial


St Martin walks with paupers
along bloody boulevards
burdened with his name
where crack crazed women sing


Coretta, Coretta
Where you been so long
Coretta, Coretta
Where you been so long
We ain't had no loving
since he been gone


Smiling and waving
pretend protesters parade
deceit on their lips
stumbling through vagrant-free zones
tone deaf amnesia victims
and corporate systemazoids
self-ordained spokepersons


Frolicking under cement peachtrees
the unwelcome and uninvited
recognize their scam
because we know the difference
between parading and marching


Our dreaming drum major
taught us the difference
between parody and protest
the difference between
nonviolence and nonsense
between compromise and capitulation
we search their powdered faces
for rhythm or blues
but they shuffle out of sight
in time for action news
so we can be eye witnesses
to pigs that don tail coats
to hats and walk upright


While on winter's
wind bayonetted streets
a red eyed ragman
rummages through the refuse
and sings his holiday song


Coretta, Coretta
What has gone wrong
Coretta, Coretta
What has gone wrong
We ain't had no justice
since he been gone
Ain't had no justice
since he been gone

Malcolm X and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Just War Theory

Table of Contents (Clicking on the links below will take you to that part of this article)


Just war theory deals with the justification of how and why wars are fought. The justification can be either theoretical or historical. The theoretical aspect is concerned with ethically justifying war and forms of warfare. The historical aspect, or the "just war tradition" deals with the historical body of rules or agreements applied (or at least existing) in various wars across the ages. For instance international agreements such as the Geneva and Hague conventions are historical rules aimed at limiting certain kinds of warfare. It is the role of ethics to examine these institutional agreements for their philosophical coherence as well as to inquire into whether aspects of the conventions ought to be changed.

Historically, the just war tradition--a set of mutually agreed rules of combat--commonly evolves between two similar enemies. When enemies differ greatly because of different religious beliefs, race, or language, war conventions have rarely been applied. It is only when the enemy is seen to be a people with whom one will do business in the following peace that tacit or explicit rules are formed for how wars should be fought and who they should involve. In part the motivation is seen to be mutually beneficial--it is preferable to remove any underhand tactics or weapons that may provoke an indefinite series of vengeance acts. Nonetheless, it has been the concern of the majority of just war theorists that such asymmetrical morality should be denounced, and that the rules of war should apply to all equally. That is just war theory should be universal.

The just war tradition is as old as warfare itself. Early records of collective fighting indicate that some moral considerations were used by warriors. They may have involved consideration of women and children or the treatment of prisoners. Commonly they invoked considerations of honour: some acts in war have always been deemed dishonourable, whilst others have been deemed honourable. Whilst the specifics of what is honourable differ with time and place, the very fact of one moral virtue has been sufficient to infuse warfare with moral concerns.

The just war theory also has a long history. Whilst parts of the Bible hint at ethical behavior in war and concepts of just cause, the most systematic exposition is given by Saint Thomas Aquinas. In the Summa Theologicae Aquinas presents the general outline of what becomes the just war theory. He discusses not only the justification of war, but also the kinds of activity that are permissible in war. Aquinas's thoughts become the model for later Scholastics and Jurists to expand. The most important of these are: Francisco de Vitoria (1548-1617), Francisco Suarez (1548-1617), Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Samuel Pufendorf (1632-1704), Christian Wolff (1679-1754), and Emerich de Vattel (1714-1767). In the twentieth century it has undergone a revival mainly in response to the invention of nuclear weaponry and American involvement in the Vietnam war. The most important contemporary texts include Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars (1977), Barrie Paskins and Michael Dockrill The Ethics of War (1979), Richard Norman Ethics, Killing, and War (1995), as well as seminal articles by Thomas Nagel "War and Massacre", Elizabeth Anscombe "War and Murder", and a host of others, commonly found in the journals Ethics or The Journal of Philosophy and Public Affairs.

Against the just war (justum bellum) are those of a skeptical persuasion who do not believe that morality can or should exist in war. There are various positions against the need or the possibility of morality in war. Generally, consequentialists and act utilitarians may claim that if victory is sought then all methods should be employed to ensure it is gained at a minimum of expense and time. Arguments from 'military necessity' are of this type: for example, to defeat Germany in World War II, it was deemed necessary to bomb civilian centers, or in the US Civil War, for General Sherman to burn Atlanta. However, intrinsicists may also decree that no morality can exist in the state of war, for they may claim it can only exist in a peaceful situation in which recourse exists to conflict resolving institutions. Or intrinsicists may claim that possessing a just cause (the argument from righteousness) is a sufficient condition for pursuing whatever means are necessary to gain a victory or to punish an enemy. A different skeptical argument, one advanced by Michael Walzer, is that the invention of nuclear weapons alter war so much that our notions of morality--and hence just war theories--become redundant. However, against Walzer, it can be reasonably argued that although such weapons change the nature of warfare they do not dissolve the need to consider their use within a moral framework.

Whilst sceptical positions may be derived from consequentialist and intrinsicist positions, they need not be. Consequentialists can argue that there are long term benefits to having a war convention. For example, by fighting cleanly, both sides can be sure that the war does not escalate, thus reducing the probability of creating an incessant war of counter-revenges. Intrinsicists can argue that certain spheres of life ought never to be targeted in war: for example, hospitals and densely populated suburbs. The inherent problem with both ethical models is that they become either vague or restrictive when it comes to war. Consequentialism is an open-ended model, highly vulnerable to pressing military needs to adhere to any code of conduct in war: if more will be gained from breaking the rules than will be lost, the consequentialist cannot but demur to military necessity. On the other hand, intrinsicism can be so restrictive that it permits no flexibility in war: whether it entails a Kantian thesis of respecting others or a classical rights position, intrinsicism produces an inflexible model that would restrain warrior's actions to the targeting of permissible targets only. In principle such a prescription is commendable, yet the nature of war is not so clean cut when military targets can be hidden amongst civilian centers.

Against these two ethical positions, just war theory offers a series of principles that aim to retain a plausible moral framework for war. From the just war (justum bellum) tradition, theorists distinguish between the rules that govern the justice of war (jus ad bellum) from those that govern just and fair conduct in war (jus in bello). The two are by no means mutually exclusive, but they offer a set of moral guidelines for waging war that are neither unrestricted nor too restrictive. The problem for ethics involves expounding the guidelines in particular wars or situations.

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The Jus Ad Bellem Convention

The principles of the justice of war are commonly held to be: having just cause, being declared by a proper authority, possessing right intention, having a reasonable chance of success, and the end being proportional to the means used. One can immediately detect that the principles are not wholly intrinsicist nor consequentialist--they invoke the concerns of both models. Whilst this provides just war theory with the advantage of flexibility, the lack of a strict ethical framework means that the principles themselves are open to broad interpretations. Examining each in turn draws attention to the relevant problems.

Possessing just cause is the first and arguably the most important condition of jus ad bellum. Most theorists hold that initiating acts of aggression is unjust and gives a group a just cause to defend itself. But unless 'aggression' is defined, this proscription rather open-ended. For example, just cause resulting from an act of aggression can ostensibly be responses to a physical injury (e.g., a violation of territory), an insult (an aggression against national honor), a trade embargo (an aggression against economic activity), or even to a neighbor’s prosperity (a violation of social justice). The onus is then on the just war theorist to provide a consistent and sound account of what is meant by just cause. Whilst not going into the reasons of why the other explanations do not offer a useful condition of just cause, the consensus is that an initiation of physical force is wrong and may justly be resisted. Self-defense against physical aggression, therefore, is putatively the only sufficient reason for just cause. Nonetheless, the principle of self-defense can be extrapolated to anticipate probable acts of aggression, as well as in assisting others against an oppressive government or from another external threat (interventionism). Therefore, it is commonly held that aggressive war is only permissible if its purpose is to retaliate against a wrong already committed (e.g., to pursue and punish an aggressor), or to pre-empt an anticipated attack.

The notion of proper authority seems to be resolved for most of the theorists, who claim it obviously resides in the sovereign power of the state. But the concept of sovereignty raises a plethora of issues to consider here. If a government is just, i.e., it is accountable and does not rule arbitrarily, then giving the officers of the state the right to declare war is reasonable. However, the more removed from a proper and just form a government is, the more reasonable it is that its sovereignty disintegrates. A historical example can elucidate the problem: when Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940 it set up the Vichy puppet regime. What allegiance did the people of France under its rule owe to its precepts and rules? A Hobbesian rendition of almost absolute allegiance to the state entails that resistance is wrong; whereas a Lockean or instrumentalist conception of the state entails that a poorly accountable, inept, or corrupt regime possesses no sovereignty, and the right of declaring war (to defend themselves against the government or from a foreign power) is wholly justifiable. The notion of proper authority therefore requires thinking about what is meant by sovereignty, what is meant by the state, and what is the proper relationship between a people and its government.

The possession of right intention is ostensibly less problematic. The general thrust of the concept being that a nation waging a just war should be doing so for the cause of justice and not for reasons of self-interest or aggrandizement. Putatively, a just war cannot be considered to be just if reasons of national interest are paramount or overwhelm the pretext of fighting aggression. However, possessing right intention masks many philosophical problems. According to Kant, possessing good intent constitutes the only condition of moral activity, regardless of the consequences envisioned or caused, and regardless, or even in spite, of any self interest in the action the agent may have. The extreme intrinsicism of Kant can be criticized on various grounds, the most pertinent here being the value of self-interest itself. At what point does right intention separate itself from self-interest? On the one hand, if the only method to secure peace is to annex a belligerent neighbor’s territory, political aggrandizement is intimately connected with the proper intention of maintaining the peace. On the other hand, a nation may possess just cause to defend an oppressed group, and may rightly argue that the proper intention is to secure their freedom, yet such a war may justly be deemed too expensive or too difficult to wage; i.e., it is not ultimately in their self-interest to fight the just war. On that account, some may demand that national interest is paramount: only if waging war on behalf of freedom is also complemented by the securing of economic or other military interests should a nation commit its troops. The issue of intention raises the concern of practicalities as well as consequences, both of which should be considered before declaring war.

The next principle is that of reasonable success. This is another necessary condition for waging just war, but again is insufficient by itself. Given just cause and right intention, the just war theory asserts that there must be a reasonable probability of success. The principle of reasonable success is consequentialist in that the costs and benefits of a campaign must be calculated. However, the concept of weighing benefits poses moral as well as practical problems as evinced in the following questions. Should one not go to the aid of a people or declare war if there is no conceivable chance of success? Is it right to comply with aggression because the costs of not complying are too prohibitive? Is it not sometimes morally necessary to stand up to a bullying larger force, as the Finns did when Russia invaded in 1940, for the sake of national self-esteem? Besides, posturing for defense may sometimes make aggression itself too costly, even for a much stronger side. However, the thrust of the principle of reasonable success emphasizes that human life and economic resources should not be wasted in what would obviously be an uneven match. For a nation threatened by invasion, other forms of retaliation or defense may be available, such as civil disobedience, or even forming alliances with other small nations to equalize the odds. Historically, many nations have overcome the probability of defeat: the fight may seem hopeless, but a charismatic leader or rousing speech can sometimes be enough to stir a people into fighting with all their will. Winston Churchill offered the British nation some of the finest of war's rhetoric when it was threatened with defeat and invasion by Nazi Germany in 1940. For example: "Let us therefore brace ourselves to do our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Commonwealth and its Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'" …And "What is our aim?…Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival." (Speeches to Parliament, 1940).

The final guide of jus ad bellum, is that the desired end should be proportional to the means used. This principle overlaps into the moral guidelines of how a war should be fought, namely the principles of jus in bello. With regards to just cause, a policy of war requires a goal, and that goal must be proportional to the other principles of just cause. Whilst this commonly entails the minimizing of war's destruction, it can also invoke general balance of power considerations. For example, if nation A invades a land belonging to the people of nation B, then B has just cause to take the land back. According to the principle of proportionality, B's counter-attack must not invoke a disproportionate response: it should aim to retrieve its land. That goal may be tempered with attaining assurances that no further invasion will take place. But for B to invade and annex regions of A is nominally a disproportionate response, unless (controversially) that is the only method for securing guarantees of no future reprisals. For B to invade and annex A and then to continue to invade neutral neighboring nations on the grounds that their territory would provide a useful defense against other threats is even more unsustainable.

On the whole the principles offered by jus ad bellum are useful guidelines. Philosophically however they invoke a plethora of problems by either their independent vagueness or by mutually inconsistent results. They are nonetheless a useful starting point for ethics and remain a pressing concern for statesmen and women.

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The Principles Of Jus In Bello

The rules of just conduct fall under the two broad principles of discrimination and proportionality. The principle of discrimination concerns who are legitimate targets in war, whilst the principle of proportionality concerns how much force is morally appropriate. One strong implication of being a separate topic of analysis for just war theorists, is that a nation fighting an unjust cause may still fight justly, or vice verse. A third principle can be added to the traditional two, namely the principle of responsibility, which demands an examination of where responsibility lies in war.

In waging war it is considered unfair and unjust to attack indiscriminately, since non-combatants or innocents are deemed to stand outside the field of war proper. Immunity from war can be reasoned from the fact that their existence and activity is not part of the essence of war, which is killing combatants. Since killing itself is highly problematic, the just war theorist has to proffer a reason why combatants become legitimate targets in the first place, and whether their status alters if they are fighting a just or unjust war. Firstly, a theorist may hold that being trained and/or armed constitutes a sufficient threat to combatants on the other side. Voluntarists may invoke the boxing ring analogy: punching another individual is not morally supportable in a civilized community, but those who voluntarily enter the boxing ring renounce their right not to be hit. Similarly, those who join an army renounce their rights not to be targeted in war; the rights of non-combatants (civilians, or 'innocents') remain intact and therefore they cannot be justly attacked. Others, avoiding a rights analysis, may argue that those who join the army (or who have even been pressed into conscription) come to terms with being a target, and hence their own deaths. This is argued for example by Barrie Paskins and Michael Dockrill in The Ethics of War (1979). However, since civilians can just as readily come to terms with their own deaths, their argument is not sufficient to defend the principle of discrimination. Rights based analyses are more productive, especially those that focus on the renouncing of rights by combatants by virtue of their war status, leaving a sphere of immunity for civilians.

Warfare sometimes unavoidably involves civilians. Whilst the principle of discrimination argues for their immunity from war, the practicalities of war provoke the need for a different model. The doctrine of double effect offers a justification for killing civilians in war, so long as their deaths are not intended but are accidental. Targeting a military establishment in the middle of a city is permissible according to the doctrine of double effect, for the target is legitimate. Civilian casualties are a foreseeable but accidental effect. Whilst the doctrine provides a useful justification of 'collateral damage' to civilians, it raises a number of issues concerning the justification of foreseeable breaches of immunity, as well as the balance to strike between military objectives and civilian casualties.

Another problem arises in defining who is a combatant and who is not. Usually combatants carry arms openly, but guerrillas disguise themselves as civilians. Michael Walzer, in his Just and Unjust Wars (1977) claims that the lack of identification does not give a government the right to kill indiscriminately--the onus is on the government to identify the combatants. Others have argued that the nature of modern warfare dissolves the possibility of discrimination. Civilians are just as necessary causal conditions for the war machine as are combatants, therefore, they claim, there is no moral distinction in targeting an armed combatant and a civilian involved in arming or feeding the combatant. The distinction is, however, not closed by the nature of modern economies, since a combatant still remains a very different entity from a non-combatant, if not for the simple reason that the former is presently armed (and hence has renounced rights or is prepared to die, or is a threat), whilst the civilian is not. On the other hand, it can be argued that being a civilian does not necessarily mean that one is not a threat and hence not a legitimate target. If Mr Smith is the only individual in the nation to possess the correct combination that will detonate a device, then he becomes not only causally efficacious in the firing of a weapon of war, but also morally responsible; reasonably he also becomes a legitimate military target. His job effectively militarizes his status. The underlying issues that ethical analysis must deal with involve the logical nature of an individual's complicity, or aiding and abetting the war machine, with greater weight being imposed on those logically closer than those logically further from the war machine in their work. At a deeper level, one can consider the role that civilians play in supporting an unjust war; to what extent are they morally culpable, and if they are culpable to some extent, does that mean they may become legitimate targets? This invokes the issue of collective versus individuality responsibility that is in itself a complex topic.

The second principle of just conduct is that any offence should remain strictly proportional to the objective desired. This principle overlaps with the proportionality principle of just cause, but it is distinct enough to consider it in its own light. Proportionality for jus in bello requires tempering the extent and violence of warfare to minimise destruction and casualties. It is broadly utilitarian in that it seeks to minimize overall suffering, but it can also be understood from other moral perspectives, for instance, from harboring good will to all (Kantian ethics), or acting virtuously (Aristotelian ethics). Whilst the consideration of discrimination focuses on who is a legitimate target of war, the principle of proportionality deals with what kind of force is morally permissible. In fighting a just war in which only military targets are attacked, it is still possible to breach morality by employing disproportionate force against an enemy. Whilst the earlier theoreticians, such as Thomas Aquinas, invoked the Christian concepts of charity and mercy, modern theorists may invoke either consequentialist or intrinsicist prescriptions, both are which remain problematic as the foregoing discussions have noted. However, it does not seem morally reasonable to completely gun down a barely armed belligerent tribe. At the battle of Omdurman in the Sudan, six machine gunners killed thousands of dervishes--the gunners may have been in the right to defend themselves, but the principle of proportionality demands that a battle ends before it becomes a massacre. Similarly, following the battle of Culloden, Cumberland ordered "No Quarter", which was not only a breach of the principle of discrimination, for his troops were permitted to kill the wounded as well as supporting civilians, but also a breach of the principle of proportionality, since the battle had been won, and the Jacobite cause effectively defeated on the battle field.

The principles of proportionality and discrimination aim to temper war's violence and range. They are complemented by other considerations that are not taken up in the traditional exposition of jus in bello, especially the issue of responsibility.

 Jus in bello requires that the agents of war be held responsible for their actions. This ties in their actions to morality generally. Some, such as Saint Augustine argues against this assertion: "who is but the sword in the hand of him who uses it, is not himself responsible for the death he deals." Those who act according to a divine command, or even God's laws as enacted by the state and who put wicked men to death "have by no means violated the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.'" Whilst this issue is connected to the concepts of just cause, it does not follow that individuals waging a just, or unjust war, should be absolved of breaching the principles of just conduct. Readily it can be accepted that soldiers killing other soldiers is part of the nature of warfare, but when soldiers turn their weapons against non-combatants, or pursue their enemy beyond what is reasonable, then they are no longer committing legitimate acts of war but acts of murder. The principle of responsibility re-asserts the burden of abiding by rules in times of peace on those acting in war. The issues that arise from this principle include the morality of obeying orders (for example, when one knows those orders to be immoral), as well as the status of ignorance (not knowing of the effects of one's actions).

The foregoing has described the main tenets of the just war theory, as well as some of the problems that it entails. The theory bridges theoretical and applied ethics, since it demands an adherence, or at least a consideration of meta-ethical conditions and models, as well as prompting concern for the practicalities of war. A few of those practicalities have been mentioned here. Other areas of interest are: hostages, innocent threats, international blockades, sieges, the use of weapons of mass destruction or of anti-personnel weapons (e.g., land mines), and interventionism.

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by Alex Moseley, Ph.D.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

© 2001



Racism in Cuba and The Failure of the American Left

by Sidney Brinkley

"All citizens have equal rights and are subject to equal duties. Discrimination because of race, color, sex or national origin is forbidden and will be punished by law."
-The Cuban Constitution 1959

"I think we should see more black representation in the higher positions of leadership now. In the middle leadership, for example, in the youth organizations. This is a social problem we have not resolved. But there are economic problems that are critical at the moment, so it's difficult."
-Fidel Castro, "Crossroads," October 1993

What impressed me the most [about the meeting with President Fidel Castro] was the way in which his grounding in the history and reality of Afro-Cubans informs his view of Cuba; the sense of personal outrage he has over racial discrimination; and his willingness to be critical of how the revolution has not done all that must be done about racism and therefore the resolve to figure out what must be done.
-Dr. Johnnetta Cole, "The Cuba Report," TransAfrica Forum January, 1999

The TransAfrica Forum delegation, comprised of fifteen prominent African-Americans, arrived in Havana on January 2, 1999, to begin a five day "fact-finding" visit which concluded with a three hour meeting with Cuban president Fidel Castro. In addition to Dr. Cole, the delegation included Drs. Alvin and Tina Poussaint, author Walter Mosley, actor Danny Glover and Randall Robinson, president of TransAfrica Forum. The visit was described as a "watershed" event.

It's no surprise the Dr. Cole would be "impressed" by her meeting with Castro. The American Left are overwhelmingly impressed by Castro, sometimes to a fault. In the Cuba Report that followed the visit, TransAfrica praised the Cuban government for it educational system, its universal health care, its low infant mortality rate.

Following close on the heels of the TransAfrica visit, a six member delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus, led by CBC chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) arrived in Cuba on February 17, for its own five day fact finding tour. "We have come with our minds open to study the impact of the embargo on the Cuban population," Waters said. "We hope to exercise some leadership, even a modest amount, in the future debates on a resolution about U.S.-Cuban relations."

On February 19, the CBC delegation met with Castro for six hours. As with TransAfrica, the CBC delegation saw what Castro wanted them to see, talked with whom Castro wanted them to talk and came away with the "facts" that Castro wanted them to know.

In the July 1999 issue of "Essence" magazine Randall Robinson authored a simplistic article titled "Why Black Cuba Is Suffering." He lambasted the U.S. government embargo, saying it was the sole blame for the plight of Afro Cubans. There was no mention of the role the Cuban government plays in that suffering, and they do indeed play a part. Castro is invariably portrayed as victim but Castro is also victimizer but that's a fact that Robinson and most of the Left prefer not to acknowledge.

Robinson offered a qualified criticism of Castro's Cuba. "While Cuba has a one-party system and suppresses dissent, it still has a better record with respect to human rights than many Latin American governments the United States has steadfastly supported," Robinson wrote. What kind of reasoning is that? I would imagine the political prisoners languishing in Cuban jails would find little comfort in that statement. The same people that go ballistic over human rights abuses in China, go mute when it comes to Castro's human rights abuses in Cuba.

Cuba has a population of over 11 million people. Approximately 60% are Black. However, while the Cuban constitution declares everyone equal, Cuban society is stratified by race and color of skin. Viewed as a pyramid, White Cubans are at the apex, mulattos or mixed race are in the middle and Afro-Cubans are at the bottom. The same position they occupied before the revolution.

There are virtually no Afro-Cubans found in the hierarchy of the Cuban government. And they are not found anywhere else in anything close to their numbers in the population. When it comes to addressing Cuba's entrenched racism Castro plays the American Left like a fiddle. He knows that all he has to do is acknowledge the sorry fact and that will be enough to impress the Left. That Castro has done nothing to correct it is overlooked.

The truth is, the Black majority is being ruled by the White minority. If that wasn't acceptable in South Africa, why is it acceptable in Cuba? Indeed, that's one reason the Castro regime is so strongly opposed to democracy. There's the very real possibility, indeed probability, that for the first time in the history of Cuba, White Cubans would no longer be in control.

In 1994 I spent seven days in Havana with the U.S. based organization "Queers For Cuba." I was not a member of the group but went as a reporter and later wrote a series of articles about the trip that ran in several U.S. newspapers, both Gay and straight. QFC was the official guest of the Federation of Cuban Women (Federacion De Mujeres Cubanas). We stayed in the Federation's guest house in Vedado, one of Havana's nicer neighborhoods.

The Federation had arranged meetings and outings for the group but we also had a lot free time to explore Havana on our own. I went to a restaurant inside one of the hotels. It was not at all busy, perhaps four or five other people in the room, including a trio of Afro-Cubans, two men and one woman, sitting a couple tables away from me.

There were three White Cuban waiters on the other side of the room. After waiting several minutes I thought the service was slow but I wasn't paying much attention at that point. Several more minutes passed. Then, a European couple walked in and sat down. The waiters immediately rushed over with menus, water, napkins. The works. I remember saying to myself, "What's this?" Then it occurred to me, I was being deliberately ignored. I was furious. I walked over to the waiter station and said, "I was here before them," and pointed at the European couple, "why are they being served before me?" I didn't shout but I spoke loud enough to turn heads. At that point the waiter realized I was not Afro-Cuban. There was an immediate change of attitude. "I'm sorry," he said apologetically, "have a seat. Someone will be right over."

Now, they were so solicitous. They couldn't do enough. I was not mollified. When he returned with my order I asked about the trio of Afro-Cubans who were still sitting there, unserved. "Why haven't they been served?" I asked. "They were here before me." It was only then the waiter went to their table. That was first but not the last time I would see racism in Cuba.

The hotels are entirely staffed by White Cubans. I saw no Afro-Cuban workers in the hotels. When I asked one official why was that the case, his response was, the hotels were European owned and they did the hiring. He said [the government] did not oversee the hiring practices of the hotels. I was incredulous. He was telling me Europeans could come to Cuba and discriminate against Afro-Cubans and the government couldn't do anything about it. Obviously, one of the reasons Black Cubans are suffering is the jobs are going to the White Cubans.

It was then I began to ask the types of questions that Cuban officials, and the members of Queers For Cuba, found uncomfortable. Such as: What percentage of those 64,000 doctors in Cuba are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of the students at the University of Havana are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of the employed population are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of government officials are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of the prison population are Afro-Cuban? What percentage of the residents of Havana's poorest neighborhoods are Afro-Cuban?

The next time TransAfrica Forum, the Congressional Black Caucus, or anyone else, goes to Cuba for a "fact finding" excursion, ask Castro those questions. Bypass the Castro sponsored tour and go to the Black barrios of Havana and talk to the Afro-Cubans. Then come back and tell the rest of us those facts.

The American Left correctly castigates the United States government for its misguided policy towards Cuba. But they wrongly turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the blatant inequities between Black and White Cubans, inequities the U.S. government did not create and does not sustain.

By the time I Left Cuba I was disappointed and disillusioned. I thought that, except for the U.S. embargo, Cuba was a success story. There are people who have told me that I was viewing Cuba through an African American perspective. I see how that's true and colors my perceptions but I only allow that argument but so far. It's the same old racism wherever it is found and no one knows that better than the darker of us.

In every way, by whatever standard, White Cubans are better off than Black Cubans. If everyone is subject to the same embargo how can that be? The people whom the revolution benefited the most are White Cubans and given the present social structure of Cuba, if the embargo was halted tomorrow, it would be White Cubans who would benefit first and foremost.

I am not anti-Castro. I am pro-Black. Cuba is but a variation of the same old theme, White people getting over on Black people and that is the failure of the American Left. They stand by in silence and let it happen. They are so in "awe" of Castro. They are so "impressed" by Castro. After forty years they need to get over it and get on his case. The honeymoon is over. Until they are willing to do that, the Left are complicit in whatever the suffering of the Afro-Cubans.


  "I may not make it if I try, but I damn sure won't if I don't..." - Oscar Brown Jr.

"Mankind will either find a way or make one." - C.P. Snow

"Whatever you do..., be cool!" - Joseph Louis Turner

"Yes, I can...!" - Sammy Davis Jr.

"Yes, We can...!" - Barack Hussein Obama

"Yes, we can and Yes, we better...!" - Barack Hussein Obama and Donald Muldrow Griffith

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