FOREGOING FEARS: WHY SOME AMERICANS BELIEVE BLACKS WILL RIOT IF OBAMA WINS OR LOSES
FOREGOING FEARS: WHY SOME AMERICANS
BELIEVE BLACKS WILL RIOT IF OBAMA
WINS OR LOSES
From the hub of the South we find an example of forums that concern themselves with topics such as: "Will blacks riot if Obama not elected?" Some have suggested that "blacks" may riot if Obama is elected or loses the elections and that the nation is in danger of reliving the internecine conflict of the civil war - even though, they misconstrue the socio-economic sources of that conflict. Although, Mr. Obama does not describe himself as an afro-centric figure bent on some messianic mission attached to black concerns about civil rights nevertheless, his ascendancy has set an atmosphere of fear and trepidation among some Americans - the economic crisis has augmented the elusive sources of these fears. To this fearful sector of America, senator Obama personifies rebelious anti-establishment historical figures such as, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner and Toussaint L'Ouverture -- even Martin Luther King notwithstanding the nonviolent nature of his agitation.
Neither Prosser's nor Vesey's rebellions against the plantocracy actually succeeded; despite the atmosphere of fear they instilled. Nevertheless, European-Americans believed that, in the end, God had protected them. This would all change however, when a man that slaves simply called Prophet, Nat Turner, led a short revolt in which God did not protect slaveowners and their parasitic institution.
On the appointed night, a Sunday, the nine would-be revolutionaries left Turner's slavehouse and entered the residence of his master where, with only one hatchet and one broadax between them, they executed all the members, including two teens, with the exception of an infant. They then moved from house to house throughout the night and executed every European-American they could find with the exception of a white family that owned no slaves. Will, one of the revolutionaries, chopped up his master and his wife so passionately that Turner called him "Will the Executioner." As they went from house to house they gathered slaves and weapons.
Very few, if any, African-Americans accepted their status as slaves. Most, if not all, slaveowneres were completely aware of this and, in general, they lived in fear of the African-Americans under their constabulary control. Not only did slaveowners expect slaves to run away, letters and diaries give strong evidence that slaveowners (and even non- slaveowners) in the south believed that rebellion was imminent. They had lived with the realization of this fear since 1792 when the Haitian Revolution proved unambiguously that slaves were ready to revolt and could do so with a passion that was awe-inspiring. Added to this mix was the fiery rhetoric of abolitionists, both black and white. The most frightening, to the slaveowners, of these abolitionists was Henry Highland Garnet who had escaped from slavery at the age of ten. In 1843 he called for a slave strike and suggested that it escalate to a slave revolt. By this point, the south had been rocked by three slave revolts, which struck fear to the very hearts of the south's elite. (From: The African Diaspora, By Richard Hooker and Washington State University)
Left: General Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture served as general in the Armies of the British, French and Spanish who would later use his military skills to help forge a nation in a 13 year war against all 3 empires to abolish slavery.
In August 1791, a massive slave uprising erupted in the French colony Saint- Domingue, now known as Haiti. The colony shares the island of Hispanolia (little Spain) with what is today the Dominican Republic. The culmination of this revolution saw the entire island freed from the yoke of slavery and come under the dominion of its former slaves. The revolution's site was one of the very first stops (second) of Columbus in his trek in the Americas. The epic occurrence in Hispaniola, is the one example in history where slaves sacked their masters and established sovereignty.
The rebellion was ignited by a Vodou service organized by Boukman, a Vodou houngan (High Priest - banished by the British in Jamaica and sold to the French in Saint Domingue because he had been a troublemaker). Historians stamp this revolt as the most celebrated event that launched the 13-year revolution, which terminated in the independence of Haiti in 1804.
This revolution only 90 miles from Florida became the quintessential calamitous event in the psyche of not only the oppressors in America, but also had repurcussions throughout the slave owning empires. Forthwith, the island was endowed with pariah status and an economic blockade was instituted by all the slave owning powers of europe and the United States against the new black republic -- even south American nations where slavery slithered took similar steps.
Left: In the aftermath of a revolution that saw excesses committed by both sides the victorious slave army exacted a sharp brand of justice.
The success of those brave men and women 90 miles away from these shores helped to realize the long felt and fermenting fears of black revenge in America. Instead of their human chattel being lynched it was now europeans who met the noose of the black hangman.
The rulers of America therefore, always slept with revolvers near their pillows. Slavery is now long gone in its stark and most obvious form be as it may, psychological and social vestiges of the institution never completely removed themselves from the culture of the United States, especially, but not limited to the southernmost and frontier regions of the country. The arduous work Martin Luther King and other components, both white and black, of the civil rights movement have propelled blacks far from the shackles of slavery.
In 2008 we find America a place where a legal fortress has been erected in order to guard against some of these lingering aspects of the old order and where exists many successful blacks. Yet, it is naive to think that mere laws will negate fundamental attitudes that were prevalent in the nascent stages of a developing tradition, which continue to be instilled -- such attempts to legislate the likes and dislikes of a people have proven cumbersome, (legal deliberation and other such contractual obligations) but have failed to eradicate these personal and social dispositions.
These reticent racial emotions, conventions and tendencies, which are subliminally experienced and expressed to a great extent -- such edifices become part and parcel of the very institutions raised to combat them, e.g., the legal system and the educational system -- in a social dynamic not readily apparent. Systemic discrimation at an institutional level can rarely be pointed to precisely, because their effects run across society and are embeded stealthily in routine aspects of discourse -- i.e., the machinations of privilege are difficult to ascertain on an idividual basis. Only a societal examination may assess some of the ramifications of class, gender and racial bias - there will exist cases of great success as Obama embodies.
African Americans are not the only subgroup who has met this sort of gradation and degradation in America. The Irish, Jews and currently the Muslim people have all been effected to some degree. For example president Kenedy met the ire of many Americans because he was Catholic; similarly, "no jews" signs were once not infrequent in many urban enclaves in the nation -- yes, difficult to imagine in light of the immense success of Jews today.
Yet still, among all these subsets of Americans, the African American may have suffered the most precisely, because it is difficult to assimilate one's skin color. All the other groups have been able to merge within society since at a cursory view they look like the dominant class -- taking into account that there are black muslims and Jews. Blacks have a difficult time overcoming this descriptive aspect of their humanity - even if they go to extremes like Michael Jackson and attempt to chemically lighten their skin. (Although, some blacks try to "pass" as white if they are light enough and have straight hair and can be seen as white at first sight - however, most cannot.)
On his Fox News radio show, March 20,2008, Tom Sullivan predicted that African-Americans would be rioting in the streets similar to what happened after the O.J. trial in the 1990s.
"Let me put it to you a different way. What if Barack Obama is not -- does not win the Democratic nomination, or he does win it, and loses in the presidential race against John McCain? Is black America going to throw their hands up and say, 'Man, you know, I thought we were getting somewhere in this country, but this is just a bunch of racial bigots in this country and they still hate blacks and, I mean, if Barack Obama can't get elected, then we're never gonna have anybody that's a black that's gonna be elected president.' And will there be riots in the streets? I think the answer to that is yes and yes." Sullivan has also compared Obama to Hitler in the past and assessing that that they both had similar speech patterns.
Certanly, some of this fear emanates from the fringes of American society however, some of the same sentiments have been expressed in the mainstream. Newsweek carried an article titled "What If Obama Loses? African-Americans thought he had no chance—then they started to believe. Now they fear defeat," in which is stated:
In the African-American community, the thinking on Obama's candidacy has gone something like this: In the beginning, there was disbelief that a black man could become president. Then, when Obama became the Democratic nominee and soared in the polls, listeners were concerned for his safety. Now that the race with John McCain is as tight as Sarah Palin's smile, Baisden's audience has started to worry about Election Day itself. There is still a fair amount of optimism in the black community, but it's being tempered by two words: what if. What if Obama loses? How should people respond? What should they feel? It's a common election-season concern, but it's all the more acute in the African-American community, where more people are paying attention to the campaign—and planning to vote—than ever. Managing expectations and reactions has become Topic A in many black homes and on blogs such as Bossip, Stereohyped and Angry Black Male. "People that I know that have never cared about politics are registering to vote this time: gang members, ex-cons, you name it," says rapper Snoop Dogg. "I hate to see a lot of that hope go down the drain, and if he loses, it will."
What will happen? The piece continues and does not disappoint by recounting this piece of perception management - the picture above of course sets the scene for the reader to imagine the coming disaster:
There's not a lot of anger—yet—but you can start to sense the potential for it. "I'm going to be mad, real mad, if he doesn't win," says Daetwon Fisher, 21, a construction worker from Long Beach, Calif. "Because for him to come this far and lose will be just shady and a slap in black people's faces. I know there is already talk about protests and stuff if he loses, and I'm down for that." Baisden hears a lot of that incipient resentment on his show, but he tries to soothe people rather than incite them. "Look, if he loses we have no one to blame but ourselves because that meant we all didn't go out and vote in the numbers we should have," says Baisden. "Yes, people will be upset, but it will be in a productive way. There will be a rational reaction if things are fair."
Well, for every rational reaction there must be an equal and opposite irrational commotion, no? Racism is dynamic and can exist in the most benign person, even if they dedicate themselves to overthrow the regime of bigotry -- and can become a function of either race. These skewed preferences are experienced at a human heuristic level and may not be conscious to the person. These attitudes are a shared social phenomenon and should not be posited totally to the individual -- to some extent each camp feeds the other's fears, i.e., unwitting action and reaction act to perpetuate and reinforce the system. They after all, are only a product of their society.
Will blacks riot whether Obama wins or loses cannot be forecasted with accuracy however, the question can be scrupulously, pinpointed within the culture of America -- for better or worse, this is where we are at in our social development. We as Americans need to accept this fact and forge the future together - it is an inclusive journey, which must involve both blacks and whites.
Win or Lose, There Are Probably Going To Be Some Sort Of Race Riots
For a fuller treatment of the Bradley effect, see Debunking the Bradley Effect