Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No Thanks: The Banality of Genocide

The Crisis, W.E.B. DuBois, 1910-1934
The New Negro, Alain Locke (ed), 1925
Maud Martha, Gwendoyn Brooks, 1951
Beyond a Boundary, C.L.R. James, 1963
Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism, Trinh T. Minh-ha, 1989
Her Head a Village, Makeda Silver, 1994
Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject, Carol Boyce Davies, 1994
'Who Set You Flowin?': The African American Migration Narrative, Farah Jasmine Griffin, 1995
Discerner of Hearts, Olive Senior, 1995
Turn Thanks, Lorna Goodison, 1999
Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch, Dwight McBride, 2005
"Once on the shores of the stream, Senegambia", Pamela Mordecai, 2006

I wish that it was possible to say "never again" and simply refuse genocide this Thanksgiving, but "never" is not absolution and "again" has that temporality that means I must be refering to something that is over (and not over and over and over and over and all over "again"). So we know that in 1637 the first Thanksgiving was a party to celebrate the massacre of 700 people, just a small slice of what adds up to cranberry sauce and shopping of all things...to this day 360something years later. I wish I could say "never again", but I am still at a sick, gluttonous celebration of superior weaponry and an unjustifiable invocation of somebody's shape of a god. All I can say without lying in ambrosia flavored anmesia is "no thanks". Some protest caged in by the langauge I speak it in. Inevitably deferential. Perpetually inadequate. What is this thing where you go to where someone is living and kill them and stay forever. Reread my fear of Santa Claus.
So this holy day seize in, this time I see clearly the need for "critical speech" as Carole Boyce Davies terms her smart alternative to high theory like Audre Lorde speaking the truth about exported racism in the US invasion of Grenada, like Jamaica Kincaid wishing everything that started with England would end the sentence displaced onto all of our heads "and then it all just died" like Lorna Goodison asking "when does the postcolonial end?" There is something that is not the patriliny of theory that is less logic than hope which means I have to call it critique. There is some way of beating this language like steal pan to say "no thanks" I do not comply with this, i will not inherit this, I refuse to make some imaginary body out of my time in this form that allows you to kill forever. No thanks. Empahsis on the no. There are women with no weapons but love for women making another place that doesn't mean ownership, that doesn't mean sneaking in the chimney and stealing the innocents, replacing their dreams with steel. This is a steal pan insistence towards the end of leftovers. No thanks.
Cedric Robinson says that somehow through bloodlines (disrupted and imaginary as they may be) African peoples would rather not fight..would rather retreat marooned into our own unacceptability, thanks, but that's not exactly the move I'm making. When Carole Boyce Davies says the subject can migrate, that something about subjectivity shifts when we move against, sneak through, hauntingly defy the violent claims to land ownership that would contain the lives that people make she (though she will use Black in the stretched thin way that Robinson did) she means that (contrary to Macon Dead) owning is not the only thing to do, and owning is making dead in deed if what we've learned here speaks. My father rejected my surprise 6 years ago when I spoke incredulous, holding the tenacious innocence of James Baldwin's spoken rhythm shock that Afganistan was under bombs. "I live in a nation, that drops bombs on Sunday morning before I wake up." My father rejected my surprise because to be surprised to to forget the already silence native trailway pretending to dissappear in us. My father laughed his anger at being right and asked what in the history of white people could justify my shock here. And this is the truth from they got here, from they got anywhere they made death, they took place, they owe owe oh they oh oh oh no. We're doing it again and I refuse to learn it. Like it's the macarena or the nuclear slide not learning it means a regular repeated slap in the face. We're doing it again and I refuse to learn it.
Farah Griffin says that there is something forever back and forever lack and forever black about migration but that it must not be the same as forgetting. Queen Farah makes a blues song out of reading softly repeating against foreclosure that we live here. We live here. We live everywhere and what we do is not leaving what we do is the bridge is the breaks is where we dance up close to meaning and push it off track. Is how we train for everlasting.
Though I may spin on my head, making globe and compass out of a cardboard box this is not a game. I should say there is not a relationship to this game, for CLR James this race I make of reading is a cricket move, black lines to swing, I should say there is no relationship to this game where I win, and become owner with out being owe without being oww without being ow that my body we're driving stakes into, no scholarship takes me beyond a boundary because this land we mark with chalk and claim with phallic everything is still, is still my body, is still and it hurts to pretend like this game we're playing is out somewhere else. I mean Pam Mordecai makes it clear that the crucial mistake in believing the worn out truth that our athletic, disease resistant hybrid fuel efficient bodies are (as Lipstye say in his introduction to james) "our...only capital", the mistake to believing that the Caribbean home is a wife to be claim to be beat to be properly owned to be made to produce is the literalization of the metaphor as it territorializes the reproductive possibility of women of color. Pam Mordecai means it literally that our wombs will be stolen like the affective labor that makes us Park Slope's favorite way to not raise your children. My father would ask me whether I had again missed the memo that black love embodies, black love in bodies, black affective and manual and symbolic labor perpetuates white wealth. It is not just a metaphor because the genuises of every time i read through can't say it any other way. It's not just a metaphor when Pam Mordecai writes the anesthesized nightmare that black women's bodies under the premise of health research are being used to farm bright cornfields of white babies, it is not just a metaphor. It is not just a story about who breed and who barren its that real policy that say that it is criminal for a black mother to have a baby of her own that says that pregnant civil rights protesters can be punished with mandatory abortions and that brown ladies can be imported from any where to raise white babies and that when that's not your flavor brown babies can be got cheap once the celebrity vogue dies down a little bit. The mistake is that this is not just words, a "figure of speech" this is me, my figure, telling you this is me, my body speaking. Where did you think these sounds and letters were coming from.
So like Jamaica Kincaid with her letter that can't be looked at can't be burnt with the never ending sentence that makes a mother an impossibility, that makes mother an impossible lover, with her false name in fact that makes a tourist trap of her brilliant mind, I resist and reveal the genocide that becomes normal. That is lived like a prison term in Maud Martha's kitchenette that is stalled against when DuBois wants to close ranks against Germany as if genocide has been contained as if he wasn't standing in it as if anyone knew better than him what eagles do (he tells us they make screams) and even in our satiric knowing we let them. We comply when we replace ourselves, new negro style with primitive framings of the humans we could one day almost be, we could earn the right to own some of this bloodsoaked land, we could earn the right to pretend that someone around here's hands are clean, that this relationship land that we're calling normal is just a worn rugged t-shirt branded in the style of Abercrombie and Fitch, something natural, something classic.
Even Dwight McBride, who demonstrates no explicit problem with owning stuff...in fact he seems to be suggesting in the tradition of the second Macon Dead that owning is the way to go, to have Af-Am departments that last forever and the power to pretend to be at the center of something sometimes, even McBride hates Abercrombie and Fitch, with the detailed hate of someone who has bought every last catalog on Ebay. He agrees with Gilroy that Hitler wore khakis and when even the queer can reproduce white supremacy we have need to be afraid indeed. Of course it would have stregnthened his argument to think these things, queer wealth, white supremacy at the same time instead of on very seperate occassions (like maybe including some interviews with Abercrombie wearers...instead of only with Abercrombie employees...) but the point remains, even Dwight McBride sincerly out for his piece of the pie can see that this is not a clean place. Consider this a an overlong qualification of seconds. Of not being able to sit at the table. No more, no less, no thanks.

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