Guest Editorial

"Black America" -- The Ultimate Anachronism
By Susanne M.J. Heine
S. Heine

They're pouring in from everywhere, taking every opportunity they can to get started in America and establish themselves. They're taking on jobs as dishwashers, car-caddies, computer engineers, nannies, burger-slingers, chemists, pool-men, programmers, gardeners, taxi-drivers, university professors, cleaning staff, cooks and the guy down the block who will do damn near anything for a buck. They're immigrants and they want America, want her like a lover wants the object of his love: blindly, intensely, passionately. The immigrant wants America with every drop of sweat and blood and tears and spit and spunk in his body. Wants her, wants her real bad!

But then, there is another America, the black one. Who wants her? The people -- American citizens since the Emancipation Proclamation -- who once populated this Black America, worked for her, fought for her, died for her in every war she was obliged to take part in, sacrificed for her, suffered her humiliations and setbacks with altogether heroic sanguinity. But most important, they always hoped and dreamed that at some level she would redeem them; that, because she was, after all, America -- though black -- their love for her would justify them in the face of White America. However it seems today that these people are gone, and no one is mourning their departure. Today the words "Black America" mean something altogether different.

The ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence that created White America as well as her black sister are the noblest testament to the idea that flesh-and-blood man was made in God's image that has ever been propounded in the realm of public thinking. Saints and visionaries throughout the ages had rambled on about the nobility of man as measured in God's eyes, but never before had the privileged class, the leaders of a Nation, articulated such perfectly absurd, saintly and wild ideas in ink on paper. In our own age, it is hard to understand how totally out-of-synch the Founding Fathers were with the prevailing attitudes of their time, how extraordinarily revolutionary their thoughts were in an age when lifetime serfdom and slavery were the order of the day in every country that had itself a king. Indeed, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" was as radical in its day as Alan Ginsburg's 'Howl' was back in the fifties. Worse, even. In the world of 1776, it was an idea as criminal as it was obscene. And it created America.

But what sort of America did it create? Can a 'white' and a 'black' America exist side-by-side?

Well, the United States of America has been doing its damnedest to accommodate this fiction for so long now, that no one alive today can even remember when it started. Even worse, no one really seems to care how absurd, counter-productive, deceptive, malignant and above all, expensive this fiction continues to be, these two Americas. It has crippled, mesmerized and hornswoggled this country since Day One, and in all its ever-more-absurd manifestations -- including affirmative action, racial categorization, increasing Balkanization and political chicanery based on race-myth -- it threatens to make this new century still another era of hatred and, in the truest sense of all (pace McCarthy), Un-American Activity.

What is more un-American than implying -- by voluntarily hyphenating yourself, linking yourself to a continent no one in your family has seen for centuries -- that your own country is somehow not really yours except by half? That you and yours are some kind of 'Other' that is not really part of America? That you should have, based on the hideous suffering of your forebears in America, privileges and exemptions under the law that your fellow countrymen are not eligible to enjoy because their forebears, while they may have suffered, did not do so in the same place or in the same way or at the same time? What is more un-American than flying in the face of every ideal this country has ever had about pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps? Or than demanding, on a silver platter, advantages and benefits that you have never even contemplated earning by your own efforts?

Where then, is the problem? The problem is the fallacy of the existence of a "Black America". It's a kind of ghost town. Although it may have thrived in the past, today it is becoming ever more insupportable, both as an idea and as a fact -- and soon it won't even serve as a proper tourist attraction, even with the odd gospel choir. The threads that make up the woof cannot define the cloth without the threads of the warp. That is our dilemma: We, black as well as white, have refused to accept our irrevocable interweave with each other for so long, that we cannot see that the one cannot exist without the other. We actually -- many of us -- believe in the existence of a 'white' and 'black' America, separate and sovereign unto themselves. Just look at the madmen bivouacking in the North Dakota woods, training for the Great Race War. And while we're at it, let's look at the mountebank and adulterer, Jesse Jackson, who, in 1984, hypnotized the American media into adopting the asinine term, "African-American", which is as ridiculous in its intended purpose (to raise 'black' consciousness) as it is in its implementation -- Mariah Carey and Halle Berry, even O.J. Simpson, being defined as 'African' anything. (These people are quintessential Americans, but more on that later.)

Of course if someone must be blamed for this state of affairs, then let's go back to its roots. "Black America" would never have existed in the first place if "White America" had not created it. But with the overthrow of Jim Crow laws, anti-miscegenation laws and all public forms of segregation (from schools and buses to drinking-fountains), America finally got the chance to become one nation, under God, indivisible. Has she taken that chance? Well, you see the mess we're in right now. Where did it all go wrong?

When Malcolm X (Malik al-Shabbazz) made his Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, he was shocked to see that a Muslim was a Muslim, period. A Muslim was not black, not white, not yellow, he was all things, all of them equal as one. And -- his hajj completed -- Malcolm returned to an America that he knew could be as successfully varicolored and multi-ethnic, as complete and all-embracing in terms of race, as the world of Islam. He died for finding that out.

Martin Luther King's dream was all he said it was. It was not a dream of each race, each tribe, beating its breast and demanding power and privilege; it was a dream of total integration, the warp blending seamlessly with the woof in a tight and durable weave that nothing could rend asunder. He, too, died for finding that out.

With these heroes fallen and their vision dispersed, the political coyotes of every color moved in to divide up the spoils, to gobble on the leavings and spit up what they could not digest. And that is where we are today. Bickering and squabbling, grabbing and accusing, lying and conniving and threatening, disgracing our country, our America. Our only America. And turning the gentle and motherly lap of Liberty, this supreme goddess, into a squalid place.

But then, she has her weapons too:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shores -- Give these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
And although in this game the deck has been fixed for a long time, suddenly the wild card that she foresaw. has turned up in it: the immigrants, the "tired", the "poor", etc. And with any luck, they will turn the game on its ear, no matter how rigged it may have been thus far.

For one thing, "Black America" is about to go the way of the zoot-suit. It is an anachronism, a dead parrot, a dodo-bird. With hundreds of dark-skinned people pouring into the country every month, getting a foothold in society, harnessing their ingenuity and singleness of purpose to get a firm stake in the American dream, how are the so-called "African- Americans" going to continue their self-imposed trek up the Calvary of "racial discrimination", whining and licking their wounds on prime time, claiming exceptional "rights" and privileges in a society where people blacker than they are, are finding no obstacle whatsoever to getting ahead? If you, Kwame Washington, and you, Latrisha Johnson, are not making it in this society because -- as you say -- you are "black", then why in hell are Moroccans, Tunisians, Egyptians, Tongans, Sri Lankans, Eritreans, West Indians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominguans, a whole Heinz' 57 varieties of South Americans, sub-Saharan Africans and people from the Gulf States, not to speak of Somalians and Senegalese -- why are they moving up the ladder of success so fast you can't see their dust? Hey, they're black too. In fact, a good many of them are a damn sight blacker than anybody has been in your family since the slave boats landed. So what's the beef? Or maybe you just don't want to work as hard as they do?

The difference between them and you, Kwame and Latrisha, is obvious. They are not traumatized by their own skin-color. They neither worship it nor abhor it, nor do they assign it any political or existential significance whatsoever -- hey, after all, it is just a skin-color. They don't use it to intimidate whites or anyone else. In fact; one reason why whites feel comfortable around them is that they wear their skins just like the whites do, like the suit God gave them -- a garment to be worn loosely -- and not like an armor of constant challenge and reprehension held together by studs of spite. Face it, these dark-skinned foreigners don't share your existential angst about being black. If you intend to run that concession, you're going to have to do it without their support. And most of all, they have no intention of hunkering down in your camp of hatred and self-hatred, mainly because they don't understand why you pitched it in the first place. They prefer their injira to your cornbread, and their roast goat to your chitlins. They don't see the point of your envying whites, or partitioning yourself off from them, or demanding anything of them, not even their attention. They simply roll up their sleeves and get on with the business of their lives, and they're not about to be harassed or dragged down by the demons that plague you. Sorry, Kwame and Latrisha, but standing out there in the cold in your tight, black, spite-studded racial armor, you are alone. And like the bound feet of a Chinese lady, you are an anachronism.

The other factor that will make "Black America" just one more of history's footnotes is intermarriage. With some 8 million 'mixed-race' kids on record today -- a ridiculously conservative estimate, by the way; I'd be inclined to think that number times three, and this is not to speak of all the race-mixing that is going on all over the place without the blessing of either padre or Justice of the Peace -- race-mixing may seem to be off to a fairly slow start. But with each succeeding generation of "blacks" who consider themselves "Americans", and with each new wave of immigrants who cause new mixes to arise, "Black America" and "White America" will continue to fade into each other, atrophying and losing their steam, even as "America", the one, the real and the only, that Destiny has as her ultimate design, begins taking shape.

I think that Thomas Jefferson may have sensed this -- through a glass darkly -- when he first looked into the eyes of his newborn octoroon son. There's no way a man of his intelligence and almost supernatural prescience could have missed what he saw there. And what he saw, at his own peril as a "white" man, was the future of America as a "mixed-race" nation.

The famous names I cited above -- Halle Berry, Mariah Carey and O.J. Simpson -- are particularly representative of what is to come in America. These people all represent the three great human families that are the foundation of the American nation. They are European, Native American and African. Is there anyone who more represents this fabulous continent than they? Why do we insist on calling them 'African-American', as if 'American' was a category to which they were some kind of exception? They are not the exception, they are the rule. They are true Americans, and one fine day this will be clear to the entire world, including ourselves.

In the meantime, we are plagued with racial categorization and division, dragging these silly ideas around like a dead cat in a wet sack. The Supreme Court made an ass of itself the other day, claiming that there was some virtue in affirmative action -- which is a complete lie; there will never, ever be a reason for judging one person against another except on the basis of his or her real qualifications. The color of a person's skin should have no more bearing on how he is treated in our society than the color of the shirt he has on.

A very wise man wrote the following:

"If Democrats want to use 'race' for preferences, then they must vote for a law requiring each citizen to carry an official 'Race I.D.' card -- as was done in Apartheid South Africa. We cannot authorize racial preferences and then let each person's 'race' be defined by whim or arbitrary guesswork."
And that's where the buck stops, folks. If we don't want to be obliged to carry Race I.D. cards around, let's all start being Americans, and back off from the 'race' nonsense once and for all.

And, most important, let's get on with the business of making America what she should be. Let's welcome our immigrants and thank God that they are making us look at ourselves in another light, that they (without realizing it) are drawing aside the veil that covers what we should be seeing in the mirror that reveals our own self-image.

Susanne Heine

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