Shameless self-promotion. I will be on Ring of Fire TV this evening. I did my best to drop a bionic elbow on the corporate news media's dishonesty and intellectually flaccid thinking about the Charleston Massacre. We cannot talk about the white domestic terrorist murder Dylann Roof without talking about the relationship between racism, the Right-wing media, the GOP, guns, toxic and aggrieved white masculinity, and Right-wing domestic terrorism. We tried to do that on Ring of Fire TV. The interview went about 15 minutes, so it may be edited down for broadcast (the full interview should be available online).
In these times of trouble and tumult, it is important to practice mental self-care, disconnect from the Internet, and do the things that make you happy. The ultimate goal of elites in this era of Austerity, Cruelty, Neoliberalism, Surveillance, and Necropolitics along both sides of the colorline is to exhaust, mentally and physically, their victims. The herd is more easy to manage when you alternate punishment and pleasure while playing them to exhaustion and extinction.
A trip to the local used bookstore is one of my small pleasures. There, I made some great finds. I picked up The Blitzkrieg Myth, a much discussed and controversial book on World War 2 military strategy (the first chapter has got me raising my eyebrow in some consternation....and I am just a hobbyist grognard), a neat gem called Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Man, Roger Ebert's autobiography (I will cry while reading it), and Gunning for the Red Baron, which is a gift for a friend.
I love the treasure hunt and surprises to be had in used bookstores. Online sellers like Amazon can never create the experience of discovery in the same way. Books have personalities and lives all their own. As I was picking up Roger Ebert's book, a felt an urge to look over my shoulder. Looking at me was a book called A Hammer in Their Hands.
As a child, I was raised on the great black inventions, quotes, thinkers, and trouble-maker genre of books by my parents and god parents. I have a natural affinity for books like A Hammer in Their Hands. We are old friends. I had to open it.
[Perhaps, because of that and many other reasons, I have never felt a natural deference to, intimidation by, or fear of white people and Whiteness. What would noted child psychologist Dr. Benjamin Spock say?]
In the middle of the book, was the following page detailing the Confederate Patent Act of 1861:
The universe is always talking to us; we would learn so much if we only choose to listen.
The Confederate Patent Act was a way of stealing the intellectual labor of black people owned as human property:
The creation of the Confederacy, though, offered slaveholders a chance to square this circle. Through their new government, Southerners sought to institute legal structures that would allow them to deploy their human capital most efficiently -- whether toward manual or intellectual labor -- securing for slave owners the profits from that work.
With Jefferson Davis at the helm, the Confederate States enacted a patent law in 1861 that formalized slaveholders’ ownership of slave inventions.
If the “original inventor” was a slave, the act read, the owner of the slave may “have all the rights to which a patentee is entitled by law.”
Such legislative labors ultimately proved unnecessary. Of 274 patents issued by the Confederate Patent Office from August 1861 to March 1865 -- including improvements to rifle and cannon technology, submarine and torpedo models, and a new type of artificial leg -- none appears to have been the product of slaves. Montgomery’s case proved to be a rare exception.
Still, even after the war, some Southerners continued to promote and seek profit from the ideas of onetime slaves. One Southerner marketed a novel agricultural implement using the following testimonial: “I am glad to know this implement is the invention of a negro slave -- thus giving the lie to the abolition cry that slavery dwarfs the negro mind. When did a free negro ever invent anything?”Dylan Roof is a terrorist: he used violence to advance a political agenda by creating a sense of fear and vulnerability in a target population.
The media is focused--again--on the spectacle of black pain and suffering (there is also something very prurient in the White Gaze's relationship to black suffering and the violence rendered on the black body, a troubling dynamic that needs to be spoken about much more clearly in our public discourse).
The victims in Charleston, as well as many folks around the country, have retreated to religion and faith as a way of making sense of Dylann Roof's violence. Religion is a form of mental self-care, hypnosis, and mass psychosis. It is therapy. By manipulating the God part of the brain, be it by praying 3 times a day and conditioning one's motor responses, self-flagellation, fasting, chanting a certain series of words, singing gospel songs and laying hands, handling snakes, or believing that water magically turns into wine, people are made to feel good and connected to something greater than themselves.
I (obviously) believe in the metaphysical, collective group consciousness, and that we are luminous beings and not this crude matter. I am also a political materialist. Dylann Roof's white racial terrorism exists as part of a long history and continuum (into the present) of individual and State sponsored violence against black and brown Americans. This violence pays a psychological wage to White America. It also pays a substantial material wage as well. Together, they are key elements in what George Lipsitz incisively described as "the possessive investment in Whiteness".
Dylann Roof killed 9 black people by repeatedly shooting them. He hates black people. Roof, because he is a white supremacist, also wants to guarantee the ability of white people to economically and politically dominate and exploit non-whites at will, and without restraint from the law.
White Right-wing civil libertarians like Rand and Ron Paul are the polite face of such dreaming. The Republican Party as a whole is mainlining that political heroin and meth while denying their addiction. By comparison, Dylann Roof and his overt white supremacist brethren are unapologetic and honest about their agenda.
In his unique voice and through his deft mastery of the craft of writing, Ta-Nehisi Coates described the war on black folks across the colorline by White America as a type of economic plunder.
Because I am not as deft as he in bending the English language to my will, I will simply call white supremacy a type of (semi)organized economic banditry.
While it is appropriate and not incomprehensible that many Americans will primarily feel compelled to talk about the Charleston massacre, and its relationship to pain, loss, suffering, redemption, and forgiveness--what a tight story arc and narrative, is it not?--it is essential that we do not overlook how Dylann Roof's and white racial terrorism's goal is also the securing of a particular arrangement of money, power, and resources for the exclusive benefit of White America, and at the expense of everyone else.