O “Coloured” people of the global South…any of you angered by Donald Trump’s “shithole” comment?
Indeed, why are people upset that, as we say here in Trinbago (no doubt considered a shithole by many on that side of the Atlantic…and on this side too), the man eh have no cover for he mouth? Frankly I love his openness and honesty, none of the sugar-coated dog whistles that Senator Dick Durbin seem to prefer – because he sure as hell doesn’t seem to remember past presidents being as racist as Trump was…maybe my definition of what constitutes a racist remark is too broad.
Now don’t misunderstand, Trump is an entitled, misogynist, corrupt bigot who is a disgrace to humanity. I just love the fact that he was elected because his election exposed the racist, sexist, imperialist, shallow aspects of the US that a lot of people chose not to see before. When in the 60s, radical activist H Rap Brown infamously said that violence is as American as cherry pie; he meant it in the context of white supremacist racism. And as Dr Jacqueline Battalora, author of the book “Birth of a White Nation” tells us in this lecture here: “White supremacy has been embedded in the United States of America from its founding as a matter of law.” Or, as Dr Ibram X Kendi put it here, it’s stamped from the beginning.
But so too is Western Europe
All the United States has been projecting since it became an international power was the Eurocentric nationalism it inherited from the early settlers who came over from Europe, almost starved to death, were helped and fed by the First Peoples….and then set about showing their gratitude by seizing their lands, poisoning their water sources and generally trying to exterminate them. To this day they are still playing that game, hence Standing Rock.
How do people of the global south not see this pattern repeating itself again and again throughout the centuries is beyond me: Europe/Euro-America wants raw materials that it doesn’t have to survive, they locate the places where those resources are found, finds pretexts to go in bearing gifts….or guns….or both, make “agreements” with the people there to extract the minerals and then find ways to alienate said people from those same resources. Trump’s “shithole” comment is the underlying sentiment that has been encoded in the language and actions of the US, Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and indeed many Eastern Bloc nations for decades in their relations with the global south.
Perhaps it’s because a major part of that process is to use academia and the media to distort and/or erase anything that will point to the people encountered there having any legitimacy, or even existed. And the piece-de-resistance is to convince the people of the global south that they had no history and/or were in such a state of savage barbarism that they should be thankful that they were rescued from the “shitholes” they were living in. Aside from the Milner Hall affair of recent months, another perfect example of that is shown by the spectacle of this self-contemptuous fool:
Here you have the classic self-scorning shithound (who was once a Government minister) who, not content with disgracing his own ancestral land – which he referred to as another shithole in his video rant supporting Trump’s statement – but found a way to illustrate bell hooks’ statement that (white) racism has now become so sophisticated that you no longer need (white) racists. Compare his verbal effluence here to this one from a Trump admirer.
As far as he was concerned, Trump was quite right to say what he allegedly said. Africa, and the countries mentioned are shithole places (and there are plenty others). And the people who live there agree because they are leaving in droves. But when statements like that are made, what is frequently not said is how they got that way. But that is never important or relevant in Western narratives – unless it suits a Western agenda. How many discussions do you hear concerning Palestine that includes the Balfour Declaration or the 1967 borders? My point exactly.
So in the age of the internet where the entire world of libraries are available to you on your laptop or phone, there is no need to be thorough or to research anything. Just speak your mind and whatever racist, sexist thought that’s in your head. Who cares that once-prosperous Haiti was punished for becoming the first black republic that freed itself, abolished enslavement then sought to aid and inspire anti-slavery struggles in South America – thereby threatening slaveholding interests across the Americas? It’s not important to this topic that Haitians supported even the US war for independence from Britain which, as is now more openly discussed, was started largely because George Washington and the other elites were suspicious that Britain was going to stop the shipping of enslaved Africans and enslavement altogether. They wanted to keep the institution that ultimately led to their industrial revolution as much as British enslaved labour contributed to its own. And to point out that Haiti was isolated by all the major powers who sided with France after Haiti’s declaration of independence; that they were forced to pay the French reparations – which the French refuse to give back – and that the country was invaded and occupied by the US from 1915 to 1934 and who supported financially and militarily a succession of corrupt, ruthless regimes who allowed US corporations to come in and rape the country further, is just me finding excuses. Black people simply cannot run anything, isn’t that why the hugely popular Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted and kidnapped? It cannot possibly be because his liberation theology was strongly opposed by the then Pope as well as Ronald Reagan. Like John Foster Dulles before him, Reagan and his felonious group of shithounds saw communists everywhere and spared no expense to suppress them.
Take the next “shithole”, El Salvador. From 1953 Central and South America were the testing grounds for not only all manner of human depravity with the right-wing death squads that were trained by the United States – many in the US itself – but also the neoliberal capitalist policies of Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys. Operating in tag-team with another shithound, the criminal Henry Kissinger, they wrecked swathes of Central and South America. Thousands of people remain unaccounted for, having been disappeared by the death squads of Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Chile….the list is long. Jamaica too can talk about the escalation of violence in the 1970s when the US through the CIA flooded JLP garrison communities with drugs and weapons in response to Michael Manley’s decision to experiment with what he called Democratic Socialism so as to create a new model that saw Jamaicans enjoying the fruits of their own country’s resources. Now Jamaica is another “shithole” that is an outlet for white foreigners and their sexual fantasies with black and brown bodies. Similar sentiments can be expressed about Guyana and for the exact same reason.
Africa of course is where it got completely ridiculous. Whatever restraint may have been exercised in the other parts of the world were flung out the window when it came to the “dark continent.” Since the 19th century deeply racist phobias concerning dark skin, sexual openness and displays of gaiety in dance and music all played their perverse roles in shitting up the continent by the West. The carving up of Africa during the Berlin Conference by Western Europe has done untold damage to the social fabric of much of Africa. Even before that infamous conference Africa was struggling to recover from the deregulating of the monopoly of the sale of enslaved Africans. After the so-called “Glorious” Revolution of 1688 in which the monopoly of the British Royal Africa Company was broken, private merchants went wild; ships from the United States sailed up and were kidnapping African people on sight, bringing them back to the Americas and dropped many off in places like Antigua, Jamaica and Barbados. As Prof. Gerald Horne and William Pettigrew point out in their respective lectures, this marked the beginnings of free trade. Oh the irony.
Keep in mind that we are talking about sophisticated African societies and civilisations with their own dynamics that were systematically disrupted by Arab and European incursions. The Africa that had “huts in Nigeria” also had libraries – many of which are older than those in Europe and elaborate commercial and trading centres, often run by women. There were contrasting yet complementary all-male and all-female secret societies and councils of elders, titled women groups that often exercised immense power and influence over whole territorial-states with no monarch or “chief” in the Western sense. They dispensed justice, resolved conflicts, mediated warring nations and guided their societies. There were specialised guilds of stonemasons, carvers, weavers, medical specialists. A lot of the scientific advances that were appropriated by Europe and West actually came out of “shithole” Africa. Even the tariff that modern-day capitalists impose and then try to remove when it suits only them originated among trading practices of the African and Arab Moors.
Culturally, communalistic or collectivist ownership of land and property characterises much of African societies. This, along with the predominant role of women in daily social political and economic activities is what inspired the Europeans to consider them as savages. To them, societies that did not practice ownership of private property (it’s very instructive that the word comes from the root “privare”: to rob/steal or carry off) was proof of their immaturity and the “need” for them to be subjected to the guiding hand of the “superior” whites. You see it all over their writings as they contemptuously speak about African and Indian people. African, Indian and Indigenous peoples had no rights or humanity that Europeans/Euro-Americans were bound to respect. The presence of these peoples on the lands the Euro covet for the mineral richness simply meant and continues to mean that these people need to be forced off those lands (or slave on them and then move/kill them off) so as to continue “development” and “progress”.
The smugness of those like R. Balgobin Maharaj and Fuad Khan who want to claim that African and Asian countries are shitholes almost always choose to ignore the volumes of documentation from declassified reports, news stories, books and academic papers virtually cataloguing the many ways, wealth was and is taken out of Africa. They don’t see any relevance in making the connections between the shitty conditions and how African, Asian and Caribbean countries were forced to continue with certain economic systems upon “independence”, inheriting the debts created by the colonials, further stunted or destabilised because of Cold War rivalries between the West and the Soviets and China that had nothing to do with us. You go on Maharaj’s Facebook page and see him say:
And I’m suppose to explain to people like this shithound how Africa and Haiti became “shithole” places?! How hard it is to do research into the background of these places? It’s called the fucking internet Ravi, something I didn’t have 30 years ago when I began to collect books and frequent libraries to feed my head. How hard is it to locate the names of Patrice Lumumba, Modibo Keita, Kwame Nkrumah, Jean Bertrand Aristide, Salvador Allende, Mohammad Mossadegh and other progressive leaders who attempted to do exactly that and ended up being ousted and/or murdered? How hard is it to work out that the West has always needed countries to made into “shitholes” so they are in perpetual states of dependence of foreign aid? What, you never heard of Naomi Klein and her book on “disaster capitalism?” I guess it’s easier to spew out racist bile.
Western academia and media has become quite adept at exercising selective amnesia so as to remove whole sections of cultures and even continents’ history. This is the point made by Prof. Glenn Sankatsingh in this brilliant essay on trailer societies. There are whole institutions and think-tanks that partner with universities churning out narratives that present current conflicts and crises in ways that suggest that they all came about due to the immaturity, the tribal barbarism or the religious backwardness of the people in those locations. Haiti, Africa, El Salvador and (insert “Third” World location) are “shitholes” because the people are lazy, with corrupt, self-serving leaders and dictators. They are unable to manage their own society and flock to the US (and Trinidad according to a couple callers to i95.5 on Monday morning) to take away jobs from locals and spread crime. But I expect that racism and lack of deep analysis from them, Trump (and Hillary Clinton with her “superpredators”) doesn’t disappoint me in the least. What excuse do Maharaj, Khan, Boodan, Job and Ramcharitar have?
I also expect them to also gloss over the atrocities they commit against their own kind. Dr John Henrik Clarke wrote in one of his books that if you want to understand how the Euro (and Euro-American) will treat you, just look at how they treat their own people. When you do that, you’ll know not to expect any favours from them. Examine the atrocities committed by the United States and Britain (just to name two) against their own people. Examine the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 (which was supported by William Wilberforce, the supposedly benevolent abolitionist). Better yet, look into the Haymarket Affair or Shay’s Rebellion or the Colorado Coalminers strike or the Ludlow Massacre that was immortalised in this song by folk singer Woody Guthrie. If the capitalists who highlight when atrocities like this are done by communism and socialism did that to their own, what do you think they will do to you? Not the same thing they are doing now to ecological activists in the Amazon?
We have the descendants of those Africans and Indians using the same racism against their own selves and with pride too. For me, they are the true shithounds, not Trump and Hillary, not the Democrats and Republicans or the Tories and Labour. We need to deal with this and with each other as we seek to network with those other “shithole countries”. You have no friends in the northern countries Ravi; they only want what you have, they don’t want you. Try to understand that. Better yet, go to Washington and try to ingratiate yourself with your favourite president, perhaps change your name like Nikki Haley did see where that gets you.