Racism

Tuesday 2nd December 1997

 

I have started on two books. Both on Jamaica, the one by Barry Chavannes is called Rastafari and the other by Sir Philip Sherlock is called The story of the Jamaican People. The conflicting emotions I feel when reading these testimonies is confusing me. If before I came to Jamaica I felt no guilt because of my ignorance, here I am, against all m inclinations, forced to it, by my reading. It means that I am part of something called Europe and feel the memory of it to be part of me. And yet at the same time, I love the idea of Europe, wallow in its beauties and bombastic nature, in its energy, it prusuit of the storm from paradise which Benjamin calls progress I am awed at its unspeakable capacity for atrocity in the name of beauty and purity. The more so as the category is false. Europe is Don Quixote. At the same time I feel resentful that the wonderful society created by Europeans in their struggle against and towards aristocracy, its chaotic harmony of open conflict was somehow delayed here. The fatigue of aristocracy came late to the caribbean, and the lies to keep people down, so convincing in themselves, worked so well. Still so much of the pride in being black seems only to be a relative pride, a pride in lieu of a self-referential pride, a tautological pride: I am proud of what I am, because I am what I am, and feel happy with that. Not everywhere of course. There must be people, who have a dignity which they have not bought. Where do I read the signs? Simply in the relentless sensitivity I encounter, which always appears to be eager to put me in my place. By standing out I have failed to become a part of Jamaica, it would seem. Racism has deepened, in that it has become a comfortable way of co-existing without confrontation, without merging. And all because of the myths that rule the mind of those who drink only what they want to hear. Racism is a question of will. People want to be racist. They want to generalise about people with a different colour skin. Not overtly, and much of the pronographic nature of racism has been taken out, thankfully. But in becomeing comfortable, racism now resides in polite generalisations, which result in polite exclusion, and exclusion with a high degree of tolerance for invasion, but not high enough to start describing invasion with a different word.

 

So racism is a set of rules for co-existence, a language of belonging, like dress and architecture, like youthism and its accompanying machismo. Racism also has its machismo. Why do I alwayslaugh at machismo? Why does it appear so ridiculus to me? It is ridiculous because it is so outward, it does not respect the inside, it is a way of being whereby the girth and the girthed match so well that it makes mans inside too visible.

 

The differences claimed by youth and those of a different race are empty categories, filled with the myths of difference. They are meaningful only in sofar as they are full of the desire to be different, to be unlike, to be allowed to dislike. The desire to dislike is as irreducuble as the desire to like. To dislike is mediated by the desire to be unlike. But those who impose their unlike, are thus alike. Pragmatism is an intellectualisation of liking and disliking. My dislikes always disappear as soon as they are intellectualised and played with within perspectives. Therefore the process of thinking of intellectualising must be the development of morality.

 

But, imagine if we manage to move the world on? What would happen with what we have left behind, the very ground upon which we stand would no longer be there!. Take away ignorance and irreducible desires and dislikes and there is no foundation left to construct this morality with any permanence. We therefore have to invent a flying morality, a morality which needs a less certain earth of prejudice, evil and stupidity to push against.

 

Tuesday 27.1.98

 

Lets get one thing straight. Racism is a thing indulged in by the stupid, the ignorant and the cunning. The cunning is that species of man whose aim is too narrow to comprehend a wider good and thus justifies evil means to narrow, that is solipsist, ends. His selfishness ultimately is self-destructive. The stupid are those who allow themselves to be manipulated through their own inertia. The ignorant are those who, through little fault of their own, have no access to a wider view through the cultural barriers by which they are insulated, which in many cases, but not all can be called a collective stupidity. Antithetical racism, retaliatory racism, although in the first instance more understandable, is ultimately just as stupid or cunning. It makes the same assumptions as racism does, namely that there is a we and a they who are, somehow fundamentally different.

 

If racism is then something indulged in by the stupid and the cunning, why should it be of interest intellectually? Surely the intelligent should scorn racism and get on with life itself. Is the intellectual interest akin to the anthropological interest? Is it the self-satisfying study of instinct without conscious and self-conscious thought? In this case the study of racism is the study of stupidity and low cunning in history and the study of stupidity and low cunning sociologically. The reason that racism is so interesting is that it is part of life. The challenge is to overcome it, self-consciously. This is an act where morality transcends the habit that is culture. The study of racism makes us familiar with the smallest habits in which racism lurks and their equally damaging antithesis. Equality is a stark principle, a puritanical monster. To be equal means that any insult necessarily reflects back on the insulter. Equality is a reciprocal agent. Where any gesture cleaves the gesturing and opens his narrowness to the world.

 

But the problem goes deeper. There is no one I There are hundreds of Is which divide up along the uncertainty that is the hallmark of intelligence. Therefore even the intelligent weaken. Even so, racism comes to the fore when we are being stupid, ignorant or, worst of all, cunning.

 

The only way forward is an absolute equality, and equality that knows us to be of this small world, to dwell on its surface and then to be ploughed back. That is the principle of fertility: To be on the surface, breathe and then to be ploughed back to be digested in the earth. Equality is unforgiving to the stupid, helpful to the ignorant and ferocious to the cunning. It allows big fish to get bigger only so long as they serve the common good. It helps the stupid and the ignorant to emerge or allows them to disintegrate into their own chaos. But it s essential that this equality be pursued vigorously.

 

How? By letting people know that any racist behaviour ultimately reflects worse on the racist. That it is he that is despicable in despising others.

 

Not to mistake an overt and arbitrary loving as the compensation for hate.

 

To know that no compensation can redress imbalances except equality; that compensatory priveledges are as bellows to the flames of stupidity and cunning.