Essay

Minstrel Show [Flash Fiction]

A letter from one friend to another several years ago.

Dear Alice,

Do you remember when John Lennon had said that woman is the nigger of he world? I remember this clearly, I think; at least I can imagine myself recollecting this one or more times in the about this further ago past from whenever it is I remember having recollected it.

I do not think that he genuinely understood the universal plight of women internationally, even if he did encapsulate it, and that is although he did enrage some people in the black community who felt that nigger was for them and only them, as no one who is not or was not a Jew could be the victim of Anti-Semitism, even if he or she could be the victim of race hatred of one kind or another.

The economic and sometimes social inequality faced in the world’s foremost democratic nations by women did or did not qualify her as a nigger in the world, certainly in other countries not democratic—although I am not always so certain how oppressed or repressed women’s lives were in the Soviet Union . . .

Understanding the plight of women should be easily enough to get, to infer. Lennon’s was an awareness of what the word nigger had meant in societies that use racism and racist rhetoric, views, opinions, laws, rules and a variety of media projected images to enforce order and control. Lennon applied the word nigger to yet another of history’s groups equally targeted for oppression or repression.

Now, whether you agree or disagree; understand or misunderstand; avow or disavow–whatever have we in words to express what response you had, you do have, you would or could have, will have . . . I say that anybody at any time anywhere can be a nigger, not in the way blacks have been the niggers in America—and I do understand if they or some get upset by this usage– or in any of the colonies or countries where they were slaves, or subject to other forms of oppression, nor exactly in the many ways women have been treated in kind with their brothers and sisters in oppression around the world, but similarly enough in the manner and matters of control.

Agree, disagree–you do not need me to draw up another litany of words that could represent any one of the many responses anyone might have for using the word nigger at all, let alone as a term to describe a group that may or may not be black.

When subject to the whims and the will of power and money, anybody anywhere can be a nigger, no? At least you can understand this as a hypothesis? as an analogy, as a comparison in parallel? I am beginning to repeat myself. In fact, everyone is the nigger of multi-national power and the corporate elite, including those corporations of finance on Wall Street, yes, even white people. If Obama can be the banker’s bitch–and he is the bitch of the banks–how is it that we are not the niggers of American Totalitarian Capitalism? (And Capitalism can be ordered through totalitarian systems of control as easily as Communism.) How have the Chinese people not been the niggers of the state, the niggers of Communist Party power in China? How were the serfs in Russia not niggers? Blacks under Jim Crow were niggers. Blacks under Apartheid were niggers. Thus, is it appropriate to say that the people in America are the niggers of the monied elite?

No one rational is going to compare our economic and political oppression at the hands of a power elite more monied and a monied elite more powerful than any at any time in our history with the brutality of chattel slavery; nor would any sensitive person connect our oppression point for point with exact dimensions of oppression blacks felt and suffered under JIm Crow. However, power is power is power and for power to continue, it adapts. Power elites and monied elites are more sophisticated than they have been in the past. There are correlations to be discovered in the dynamics of power now and the dynamics of power in the past. We do have to understand that a woman’s in many parts of the world throughout history has been no better than and might have even been worse than an African-American’s under Jim Crow; certainly for a great amount of the time and especially in some cultures it was no better than slavery. How have women avoided in some parts of the world being the chattel of men?

I know that this has nothing to do with what I have been saying about women, but Mike Bloomberg had increased his wealth nine times since becoming mayor. The Justice Department did not investigate him. I am still wondering why, but not with sustained earnestness. Politicians, when they are not themselves members of the monied elite, serve the monied elite, for that money is power because it is the base from which all political campaigns are waged. The government thus serves the elite; but today, so then does our press.

The media another set of corporations ruled by profit and thirst for more of it for fewer and fewer people aligned with them–only several corporations run all the major print and broadcast media in the United States. News in America, in a restricted way, resembles the old Soviet Pravda, an irony lost in the good marketing of news . . . the old totalitarian propaganda machines resembling and even mirroring advertising in the US.

How had Bloomberg used the office of the mayor to increase his coffers at the same time the city cried poverty and services for the people were slashed? Like Bloomberg, Obama will have us abdicate our responsibility to ourselves as a people who are free in order to become a public a bit more dependent on the state, a public who receives a few more crumbs from the dinner table of the elite.

We were once horrified at the historical existence of minstrel shows, of white men wearing black face imitating in derogatory, racist ways the supposed manners of black people. I am from the age of James Brown, Black Power, Black Panthers and the Mexico City Olympics when I was boy, so forgive me if I say black and not African-American. But what then is Obama’s Presidency except a half white puppet of the monied power elite wearing blackface to inverse effect.

I am not even going to discuss how rap has been another kind of minstrel show, no less stereotypical and cliched, no more indicative of what it purports to be than minstrel shows were. And rap does purport to be authentic black culture almost to the full displacement of any other kind of black reality–everything else is alleged to be less real or not real, or not able to be real or get real. A condemnation of a great deal of African American achievement as the product of one or another kind of Tom-ism, attributed to a mistaken desire to be white or defer to whitey, also sometimes maligned as being a self-loathing black, much the way any Jewish intellectual who opposes the reactionary politics of the current Zionist agenda is called a self-loathing Jew by his or her Zionist opponents.

I am not following the path of the most heinous opponents of President Obama, and I find Mister President the lesser of two evils when I weigh the opposition of Democrats and Republicans as the binary possibilities for our political future.

Yours, ever,

Simone

What are letters but essays of kind? What are personal essays but one of the great modern genres collateral in its rise and prolificacy with the novel. Journalism, the personal essay (including letters and journals of a kind) and the novel.

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