POWER, RACE AND PERSONA [a short story]

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Western Civilization seems to be in need of defending. There are, as there have been for decades now, enough diatribes and tirades against this Civilization, even to the extent that there have been enough academics who have questioned if there ever was an historical thing called Western Civilization. Western Civilization not only needs a strong defense but deserves a passionate one to address appropriately just how much virulent critical resentment it has received from inside and outside the Academy. Let us make no mistake that there are many in academia who resent the intellectual, artistic and literary traditions of Western Civilization, all in an attempt to wrest hegemony away from what they used to call white male dominance in learning, something they used to assert was the only reason we raised Shakespeare to the heights he had achieved (or was it the heights he had been given?). We are faced with another crisis in civilization, as they have been repeated around the world across time (is that then history?). There is no need to ask me if I think history is progressive; you might as well ask me if I think the ocean is progressive. Neither is. I a also not suggesting that the problems we face socially or the crisis in our civilization today is correlative with critiques for the Western canon in academia; nor am I suggesting that the critique of Shakespeare’s position in the Canon have somehow lead to social unrest. That would be idiotic. I do, though, see that they are associative, although not contingent in the ways others less inclined to agree with me could suggest.

I will not take up the cause of the Western Canon of literature as it seemed I might have by having referred to Shakespeare’s position in the Canon. Any literary review, in both action and spirit, should be a defender of this tradition, a legacy that gives it the intellectual impetus to be the critical journal it is, to levy the critiques it does against the structures and dynamics of power. And it is this critique of power as power in itself power when opposed to the People, and not power as power not multicultural enough, that this review takes seriously and insists is necessary. So, let us not equivocate. There needs to be more literary reviews such as outlined briefly here. This necessity comes from the fact that many from the fore mentioned camps of resentment have lessened or loosened their critiques once they have made headway in the Academy, one of the principal reasons we have assessed in the past that all former criticism of the culture and the civilization from camps of resentment were not based on the necessity for their critical responses but resentment that they were not participating in the hegemony from inside the hierarchy. It never was about democracy, liberty, or addressing power as power, or the extent at which power’s dynamics of control have tentacled their way through our society. The only problem with power as perceived from any of the camps of resentment in the new push toward hegemony was that it was not multicultural. Furthering personal ends more than the ends of the People, or the ends of a segment of the People, seems central to critiques born of this kind of resentment. Let’s not address the social evils of greed, both personal and institutional, but let’s lament that this greed is in fact not more multicultural and diverse. Let us not address the problem of prostitution, but instead let us make sure that prostitution is more diverse, that prostitutes are representative of all ethnicities and races (a problem that does not seem to be real but hypothetical; prostitution exists has existed and will exist everywhere among all peoples). Let’s not address the problems of power as power against the People, only that we need more African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and women in the power structure set against the People. Perhaps African American People will accept a reaming from power if there are enough African Americans in the power elite to bend them over in a familiar way. Everyone to his familiar devil. Satan does not come to a devout Catholic woman in the garb of a Rabbi.

Does anyone imagine that formerly oppressed, repressed or socially excluded people are likely to manage power more even handedly or less corruptly? How could any thinking person imagine such? This is not likely, nor is it consistent with either history or human psychology. This is not a reactionary view insisting on a return to white hegemony, but a critique that power has remained the same, only now it wears different masks. This exchange of the masks that power wears is behind our critiques of the Obama Presidency as an unintended and unwilling form of Minstrel Show. Yes, Obama’s Presidency is the Power Elite wearing black face, making power appear more benign by presenting a face we would not likely suspect was a mask covering the grimace of power. In this way, we are endemically racist, endemically racist in the ways the media manipulates the ideas and images we receive, take in, absorb without question or hesitation. This does mean that everyone African American who advances socially does so for some manipulative purpose by power and for power. It is also not to say that all African Americans should be part of the eternal Left’s critique.

What remains of interest to us is that oftentimes once anyone from any of the fore mentioned groups has received critical attention that used to be reserved only for white males or whites, he or she falls right in line with the power dynamics. Power remains powerful as power has always been managed powerfully against the People; it is now more nearly representative of our ethnic and racial diversity. But power has not changed, and collateral with how more multicultural power has become, our liberties have waned. It seems, for example, the only criticism against Police using power and authority against the people comes not because it is power acting powerfully, but because it is doing so against African-Americans. There is no outrage from the African American community when the police shoot a white man or hispanic or asian in like circumstances when an African American is shot by the police. The police still shoot unarmed white men at a rate greater than they do African Americans and there might be statistics that show something revelatory about comparisons made between when Hispanics are shot and when African Americans are shot. Are African American males between 15 and 25 more likely to commit felonious assault against a police officer than white males of the same age? Are they more likely to flee when put under arrest–and arrest means stop; to be told to stop and freeze is to be put under arrest. Not to comply is a felony. So, felony rules apply to white males, but should not to black males because we must understand that black males have a different reality?????? When the police shoot a white man, is the response from African Americans, perhaps, good? We imagine that most would not, but we imagine that there would have  to be some who would say it. Racism in America can come from any direction and go in any direction.

There is a general assumption that if Eric Garner were white, he would not be dead. We insist that if Eric Garner had been white, the case never would have gone to grand jury, but he still would be dead. If the man in South Carolina had been white, the police officer would not have been charged with murder; but are we to determine unilaterally and without question that if the fleeing man in South Carolina were white, the police officer would not have shot? I know white people who fell he might have shot sooner. The numbers of unarmed white men shot by the police annually might support their feeling, even if they do not prove the hypothesis. These questions are not rhetorically set against the investigations; they are not to assume that there is no reason to investigate the incidents–and do not tell me a video tells everything because it does not. The video from South Carolina picks up in the middle, just as the Eric Garner video did not show that he had already been put under arrest and that the video showing him monologuing only proved he was resisting arrest which is a class six felony. That is all it takes to be considered resisting arrest. This is what we need to learn; the parameters within which the police operate are not understood by a population that has been systematically undereducated and a segment of the population that has been left to the peril of its systematic asocialization. There are still too many in segments of the media and the popular culture who benefit and get filthy rich from selling young black men the idea that America is endemically racist and the only authentic way to be black is to one or another form of gangsta. It does require higher literacy by the people to mange democracy for the people.

We would rather feel than think, emote than reason, accept the framing of sensationalism than discern the facts. Eric garner slapped a police officer’s hand away from him–a felony; yes, that is all that it takes. You cannot address that assault–which is what it was–without affecting all assaults. If a man had slapped his wife in a like manner in an elevator, we would have been outraged. Of course, if she shot him, some would have said, good, most others would have been horrified. No one was then or is now going to say anything we have said here, nor are they going to accept the possible validity of what we have said because the assertions made herein by our staff contradict what people want to feel (not think), what they have been conditioned to feel by the dissemination of images and sound bites through our media. Our assertions are contrary to the reflexes that the mallet of a sensationalizing media elicits.

One of the most reinforced received ideas in our culture perpetuated by the mainstream media is that we are an endemically racist society. Is the question ever asked, Are African-American males between 15 and 25 less likely not to comply with police commands because they might have been raised not to respect the police or the establishment? And every one here at The Falling Leaf Review knows there are many reasons historically evident that support the hesitation African American males feel when considering the response they should have when asked to comply with arrest. My father was a beat cop on Fulton Street in Brooklyn New York and he had pulled his revolver out of its holster only twice in twenty years, neither time firing his weapon. A question we need to ask is, Can a justifiable shoot also be a shoot that did not have to happen? The thing my father was most proud of from his career as a police officer was the fact that he never fired his weapon. Could my father justifiably have fired his weapon the two times he drew his revolver (and you cannot peel off 8 rounds with a revolver the way you can with a 9mm)? The answer is, Yes. If my father had fired his weapon each time, it would have been considered a good shoot. If the perpetrator had died, it would have been justifiable homicide. Why this is not part of the dialogue, I do not know. Perhaps it is. The media prefer another focus.  We seem to be concerned only for the fact that the perpetrators in the incidents were African-American; the perpetrators are the ones the police come to arrest. That is a disservice even to African-Americans who must first and fore mostly be embraced in this for their humanity and not their race primarily, and even when we chant that black is human, that is as far as we go. It is not enough. But then, perhaps we are not literate enough to sustain what it takes to disseminate freedom for all. The focus from the media is off in a way that leads to further manipulative control by the power elite that the media elite share effective influence in. The tribal nature of the critiques that come from anyone who used to be outside the parameters of hegemony or outside the mainstream is an impediment to furthering democracy. It is part of a Machiavellian effect socially. Diversity is a mantra now embraced by power; it has been manipulated by power. What then does diversity mean? Diversity in itself is not the problem, but how it is managed, manipulated, packaged and presented–sold–by the media. How are we not divergent socially? How is it that our cities cannot go up in flames?

 

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