Month: April 2010

Race War

It seems that it’s only a race war when white people die.  A week ago, avowed white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche died, killed in his bed by two African workers he allegedly mistreated.  The workers didn’t try to escape. They called the police and waited.  The killing of Terreblanche, a man who changed his name to evoke white superiority, occurred in the increasingly tense political atmosphere of South Africa in which African working class and peasant citizens grow impatient with a New South Africa lead by the ANC that replicates the social relations of the old South Africa.  Like Zimbabwe across the border, white settlers are growing unsettled by increasingly belligerent relations with the Black dispossessed peasants and workers.  White lives under fire make it a race war in the eyes of mainstream commentary.  Even though Black people die exponentially every month, the ordinary victims of violence and neglect, we are not seen as casualties of race war.  But race war is exactly what has been waged by the North in the Modern Era.  Indeed, race war from Europe marks the fundamental character of the Modern Era.

Woodcut of European atrocities against First Nations

The deaths of dark skinned people are taken for granted as one of the unfortunate vicissitudes of modern life and backwardness.  The relationship between industrial society’s living standards and the degradation of the world’s majority populations hides beneath chatter about good governance and development.  The primary beneficiaries of these uneven relationships remain blind to their own complicity in plunder and the frustration of genuine democracy and social transformation.  That people in Africa, Asia, Caribbean and Latin America, and the Pacific routinely die to maintain the flow of wealth from southern resources to northern companies, China and India notwithstanding, is an afterthought if it is a thought at all.  That African people, First Nations people and other people of color routinely die to maintain the flow of wealth from exploited communities in North America to primarily white communities in North America cannot even be mentioned in the mainstream media.  People of color are supposed to die.

But white people’s lives are precious.  The U.S. media’s obsession with missing, young white girls has become a running joke on primetime television.  The race of the victim of murder weighing heavily in capital murder cases has been admitted by the U.S. Supreme Court, cases with white victims earning capital categorization more consistently.  So when the media begin to express fears of race war breaking out, what they really express is fear of white people dying in large numbers at the hands of people who are not other whites.  That is the fear of the uprising on the plantation, the enslaved slitting the throats of the slaveholders as they lie in their beds; that is the great sense of betrayal for the gun runner who sells rifles to the Indians.  That is the fear of the oppressing minority ruling the majority with iron boot to keep at heel the wave of resistance that could overwhelm the minority if the majority ever could show a unified force around freeing the land rather than only dismantling a system of exclusion and segregation.  It is also the resentment that has flavored U.S. American politics since Nixon appealed to the Silent Majority who believed in law and order.  Law and order always carries a racialized taint of keeping the Blacks and Indians in check. So when a cop shoots a Black man, that is not race war, and when several cops shoot a young man after his bachelor party, some of them Black, that is not race war.        

Terreblanche was a white supremacist without the apology.  He thought that Black people were worthwhile only insofar as they served the purposes of white people.  The man was vile, an open fascist, and the more naked face of racism.  His people may have loved him, some openly and others secretly, but he was a spokesman and worker not simply for hate and inequality, but for genocide and slavery.  Terreblanche knew that race war was already the condition of relations in Southern Africa.  He fomented race war, war against people of color, especially Black people.  He understood the importance of Black people not recognizing the real character of the social and political relations in South Africa.  He may have railed against an ANC led government, against the “affront” of black power, but he knew that power relations in South Africa had only cosmetically changed, very much like the United States.  The fact of white privilege emboldened him to continue to treat his workers poorly.  What accountability did he have to fear?  He had already served prison time, making him a political martyr for the cause of white supremacy.  His behavior betrays the impunity under which he felt he operated.

So when Western pundits and “responsible” Africans condemn ANC youth minister Julius Malema as stoking racial tensions to the point of inciting race war through singing the song “Kill the Boer,” it would do them well to remember that race in this world is predictor of early death and frequent death.  Race war is already the condition of relations.  If the government of South Africa really wants to prevent more bloodshed, if the proponents of non-violent resolutions to colonial problems –some of whom were prepared to bomb Zimbabwe in order to “deal forcefully” with Mugabe, despite their clerical habits- want to prevent the outbreak of a full scale civil war, they should consider banning Black poverty rather than banning liberation songs from an earlier era of struggle.  Then again, those old songs do remind folks of what is really at stake: the struggle is for the land, and whites still own 87 percent of it.  They still control the economy and the military.  What kind of independence is that? 

Eugene Terreblanche died for his sins.  Who else dies is an open question, but an anti-apartheid struggle or a Civil Rights movement does not make a liberation struggle.  That struggle remains unfinished. Free Azania, Free the land!         

Read: panafricannews.blogspot.com; uhurunews.com; blackagendareport.com; voxunion.com; blackpowermedia.com

Forward ever, backward never!