Friday, April 21, 2006

Paul Gilroy: against the grain

Colin MacCabe in open democracy

"Paul Gilroy has good claim to be the most influential intellectual writing in Britain today. His first major book There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack: The Culture and Politics of Race and Nation (1987, 1991) was an inspiration to a generation of young students and artists in the 1980s who wanted to be black and British. A signature of its impact is that even the title of this pioneering study of national identity in post-empire Britain became absorbed into the culture without reference to the author.

A series of pivotal books has followed, along with a host of essays, reflections and collaborations that cohere into an unmatched and still evolving body of work. The second key text in Gilroy's career was The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness (1992), which transformed academic geography and history. It made clear that Gilroy really had learned Hegel's lesson that only the slave truly understands a freedom which the master simply enjoys. As important, he had listened long and hard to the music in which the slaves and their descendants had articulated this understanding. read more

Ellen Kuzwayo (1914-2006)

Thanks to black looks

"RIP - One of Africa's most respected and most dedicated women, South African anti-apartheid and women's rights activist and author, Ellen Kuzwayo.

Appearing before the TRC (Truth & Reconciliation Committee) in November 1996, Khuzwayo said: "They ruined our children. They turned our children into animals. I will go to my grave with this pain in my heart."

She was one of the most qualified female black teachers in South Africa but left her profession in protest against the introduction of Bantu Education which she believed was meant to impoverish generations of black children.

"I can forgive them for what they did to us adults but I cannot forgive them for what they did to the children," she said at the TRC hearings in Soweto. read more

"Ellen Kuzwayo; South African Rights Pioneer" by Alexandra Zavis in Washington Post

"South African author, women's rights and anti-apartheid champion Ellen Kuzwayo died April 19 after a long illness. She was 91. [...]

She was the first black writer to win South Africa's premier CNA Literary Prize for her 1985 autobiography, "Call Me Woman," a book that made her a spokeswoman for the suffering and triumphs of black women under apartheid.

"My motivation for writing the book was born out of the negative image about black women in South Africa, promoted by the general community of white people of this country, in particular the women . . . who employed African workers as domestic workers," Ms. Kuzwayo said. read more

"Big Business Sees A Chance For Ethnic and Class Cleansing"

Gary Younge originally in The Guardian

"There are two types of power," said Linda Jeffers, addressing an accountability session of New Orleans mayoral candidates at the city's Trinity Episcopal church. "Organized money and organized people." Since Hurricane Katrina, the battle between those two forces has shaped the struggle to rebuild New Orleans. With mayoral elections on Saturday it is set to intensify.

The one thing both sides seem to agree on is that neither wants the city to return to the way it was before the hurricane. The people of New Orleans, most of whom are black and many of whom are poor, want schools that will educate their children, jobs that will pay a living wage, and neighborhoods where capital investment matches the large pools of social capital created by their churches and close-knit communities. Organized money has something else in mind: the destruction of many of those communities and permanent removal of those who lived in them, a city that follows the gentrification patterns of racial removal and class cleansing that have played out elsewhere in the US. [...]read more

"Beyond 40 Acres and a Mule"

Scott Jaschik in Inside higher ed

But the reason members of the Organization of American Historians held an open forum on reparations as part of the group’s annual meeting is that many scholars consider this an issue that won’t go away — and that poses particular challenges to their discipline. So many delicate issues in history and public policy — defining who is black, defining who should feel either guilt or complicity for slavery, the relative evil done to groups like slaves, Holocaust victims or Native Americans — relate in some way or another to the reparations debate. And many were in evidence Thursday.

Participants said that the while the issue isn’t exactly capturing attention from Congressional leaders, it is getting attention in scholarship and in classrooms. “Most white Americans view the idea of reparations as a new or strange idea, but in fact it isn’t new or strange,” said Ray Finkenbine, a professor of history and director of the Black Abolitionist Archives at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Finkenbine traced the history of the reparations idea back to before the United States was a country, when the topic was discussed in colonial circles. The main reason the idea has seemed so “fringe” to white people recently is that, after the Civil War, the reparations movement changed from one with interracial support to one that was taken seriously only by black people. He added that historians today have a responsibility — and one he said that they are starting to fulfill — to fight this “racial amnesia” in white more

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Retired Colonel Sam Gardiner on Iran War Plans

"The Issue is Not Whether the Military Option Would Be Used But Who Approved the Start of Operations?" Amy Goodman Democracy Now

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to retired Air Force colonel, Sam Gardiner. You were quoted on CNN on Friday night, saying the question isn't if we would attack Iran, that military operations are already happening. What do you mean?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, the evidence is beginning to accumulate that a decision has already been made to use military force in Iran. Now, let me do a historical thing, and then I'll tell you what the current evidence is. We now know that the decision and the actual actions to bomb Iraq occurred in July of 2002, before we ever had a U.N. resolution or before the Congress ever authorized it. It was an operation called Southern Focus, and the only guidance that the military -- or the guidance that the military had from Rumsfeld was keep it below the CNN line. His specific words. The evidence that we've already --

AMY GOODMAN: Keep it below what?

COL. SAM GARDINER: The CNN line. In other words, I don't want this to appear on CNN, okay? That was his guidance to the military, you can begin to bomb Iraq, but don't let it appear on CNN. You're catching your breath.


COL. SAM GARDINER: I think the same thing has happened, and the evidence -- let me give you two or three evidences. First of all, the Iranians in their press have been writing now for almost a year that the United States is involved inside Iran conducting and supporting those who conduct military operations, attacks on military convoys. They've even accused the United States of shooting down a couple airplanes inside Iran. Okay, so there's that evidence from their side.

I was in Berlin three weeks ago, sat next to the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and I asked him a question. I read these stories about Americans being involved in there, and how do you react to that? And he said, oh, we know they are. We've captured people who are working with them, and they've confessed. So, another piece of evidence.

Let me give you a couple more. Seymour Hersh, in his New Yorker article, said that there are Americans in three locations operating inside Iran. Another point. We know that there is a group in Iraq, a Kurdish group called the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, that crosses the border from Iraq into Iran, and they have taken credit for killing numbers of revolutionary guard military people. And the interesting part about that is, you know, we tell the Syrians, ‘Don't let that happen. Don't let people come across the border and stir things up in Iraq,’ but we don't seem to be putting any brakes on on this unit. So, you know, the evidence is pretty strong that the pattern is being followed.

Now, the question that really follows from that is “Who authorized that?” See, there is no congressional authorization to conduct combat operations against Iran. There are a couple of possibilities. One of them is that it's being justified under the terrorism authorization that occurred in 2001. The problem with that is that you would have to prove a connection to 9/11. I don't think you can do that with Iran. The second possibility is that it's being done under the War Powers Act. I don't want to get too technical, but the War Powers Act would require the President to notify the Congress 60 days after the use of military force or invasion or putting military forces in a new country under that legislation, and the President hasn't notified the Congress that American troops are operating inside Iran. So it's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran. read more

Wole Soyinka with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now

Legendary Nigerian Writer Wole Soyinka on Oil in the Niger Delta, the Effect of Iraq on Africa and His New Memoir

I asked him about his perspective on the invasion and occupation of Iraq and how it affects Africa.

WOLE SOYINKA: Not only for the African continent, but for the entire world, this is one of the most unbelievably monumental disasters, miscalculations, acts of governmental irresponsibilities with consequences which will be with the world for a very, very long time. A lot of Africans do not fully understand the issues in Iraq or else are indifferent. They have their own problems. If you like, they have their own mini-Iraqs on their hands, and so the blunders of countries like the United States are spoken of almost in a kind of academic way, not in terms of the effect, the impact of such blunders on the world, impacts such as the distrust of the United States, distrust even of some of the very positive role it can play in a situation like Darfur, for instance. But that distrust runs so deep that the soul of Darfur can just expand and pollute the entire region, whereas if the moral authority of the United States had not been so badly damaged, it might have been able to influence what's happening in Darfur a lot more, operating through the Africa Union or through the United Nations. So Iraq, the ramifications of the events in Iraq really have been very bad for Africa, generally.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Niger Delta, we talked about it in our first part of the interview, but the level of militancy, the anger at the oil companies coming into the Niger Delta, this organization called MEND, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, can you tell us who they are?

WOLE SOYINKA: They're very young, mostly, very highly motivated people who, however, have links with some of the elders, the progressive elders in the region, in Bayelsa, for instance, in Ijaw region, many belong to the Ijaw ethnic group, and from all indications, they're very articulate. The ones whom I’ve spoken to asked me to intervene in a number of ways in Nigeria, very articulate, and at the same time, they're reluctant rebels. Take, for instance, an email which one of them sent to me, said, “Prof, listen. We are people who would rather be with our families raising our children, sending them to school. We’re not happy sort of carrying out operations in the creeks. We want to be home. We want all this to be over so we can return to our families, but what future do our children have? There are no schools, there are no clinics. All the wealth in this region is going to Abuja, is going to sustain the rest of the nation, so it's about time that we took a stand. We want you to understand this.” This is the kind of language which they use. It's not bravado; it’s not crude, thuggish kind of people, at least the ones whom I’ve spoken to. read more

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Why a Hairstyle Made Headlines"

I know this is really, really late but...

Robin Givhan in The Washington Post on Cynthia Mckinney's hair:

"When Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) summoned the media to Howard University last week to tell her side of the story in an altercation with a Capitol Police officer, she assumed the traditional news conference position behind a podium and a bank of microphones.

She stood there wearing a coral-colored jacket and dangling earrings and raising the serious issue of racial injustice. But it was impossible not to stare at her hair. As your plainspoken mother might say, it appeared to be standing all over her head. [...]

Aesthetically speaking, it was not one of McKinney's better moments. Her hair, which she had for years worn in thick braids, seemed to be in a limbo between a polished Afro and a head of funky twists. Had the humidity gotten to it? [...]

Anyone who has the smarts and the tenacity to be the first black woman elected to Congress from Georgia clearly understands the visual politics of wearing milkmaid braids and gold tennis shoes into the corridors of power. Her choices drive home the point that she is exceptional. She rolls hair, clothes and race into a tight ball. And it becomes impossible to talk about one without getting tangled up in the others. read more

AND PATRICIA J WILLIAMS IN THE NATION A Short History of the Pads of Brillo

[...] On our way out of the House of Representatives, we noticed a small scuffle as the Capitol Police wrestled with a dark, angry headful of illicit hair; a "dangerous do" had been trying to smuggle its way into the halls of power. [...]

I suppose this blinding power of hair is why facial recognition is so low in the humans' arsenal of self-protection. However it may seem to us, to the humans' hair is somehow more potently identifying than width of brow or color of eyes. "Who could notice the cheekbones, the nose and the smile with the loaded distractions of that washerwoman crown of braids?" asked an editorial in their widely circulated newspaper the Washington Post. Notice the placement of the word "loaded." They use that same word when speaking of guns. In other words, it would appear they can tell whether someone is a "loose cannon" or "safe" by whether the hair is "scattershot" or "a smooth, controlled cap."

Anyway, can you get a few of the Terran anthropologists on this? The hair doesn't speak to us; we don't hear a thing. But to the humans, the hair is yelling "confrontation!" and it makes everyone's optic nerves turn to stone when it stands up or lies down and it is "impossible not to stare" at anything but that bad, bad hair. One possible clue: The only thing the humans fully agree on is that the hair is all about race.

But the guidebook says race is a "card" more