Long Live Amiri Baraka!

Why is only a penny brown and got Lincoln on it?
Is that why they leave it on the ground.

-Amiri Baraka

The update about Baraka, the poet of the oppressed, is that he is not much talked about anymore. The sudden silence around him is a tragedy of our times. But it should come as no surprise. Going by a trend of how the system engulfs the same talents who once adorn its progressive horizons as cultural icons (albeit, countercultural icons, but icons nevertheless) it should come as no surprise that Baraka, the once emulated and idolized hero of the revolutionary times is not even reduced to a legend any longer.

LeRoi Jones, as he was known during the Beat period of early 1960’s, Baraka was companion to Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Gilbert Sorrentino. After the death of Malcolm X, Baraka became the Black cultural nationalist founding the Black Arts Repertory Theater School in Harlem. Till 1975, Baraka was well adored as the forerunner of black nationalism and culture.

Pause.

Lets get back to Paul Robeson. Or farther down the times to WEB Du Bois. As these brilliant minds served the interest of the groups that believed in the binaries of race stratification, they were hero-worshipped. Du Bois was looked at as the epitome of black intellect. Robeson was perceived as the epitome of black vigor. Towards the end of their lives, both of them had famously joined the world revolutionary struggles to condemn any form of global imperialistic designs. They reported that peoples of the world, if worked in unison, would change the face of the world, given the shared oppressed history of the colonized and the enslaved. That peoples of the world wanted peace at any cost and that was to come only by combating the world capitalism. As the world was becoming more visibly devoid of territorially encroached and was emerging as economically subjugated by interest groups, no narrow agenda of nationalistic fervor was going to do the trick. On the contrary, narrow racial agendas were going to be played up well by the ruling class to fight one against another by showering favoritism and encouraging suspicions among the oppressed groups.
Amiri Baraka

As Du Bois, the greatest of all Black scholars ever, formally joined the Communist Party and Robeson, the greatest of all Black athletes ever, supported the cause of international communism, all hell broke loose. The avowed religious Blacks, the comfortable leaders of the civil rights movement who wanted to work with the system (and not against it) and the politically correct ones belonging to the minorities whose families started reaping benefits (however silly that might be the case) started distancing themselves from these erstwhile heroes, even as they were still alive. Du Bois died tragically in Ghana, his revolutionary writings hardly honored and remained a literary icon in library corners of diversity loving campuses. Robeson died unwept, unknown and unsung.

Amiri Baraka after 1975 shunned the nationalistic struggles, called it fascist in nature, called for world unity of oppressed people in identifying and combating the class enemies. He became a pronounced Third World exponent, cried freedom for the majority of the world who suffered under tyrannical rules disguising as democracies. Once the focus shifted, like it happened with both Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X during their last few years of life, there was concern from three different quarters: the black nationalists who were not willing to budge from their agenda, the white racists who oh-so-hated Communism and the politically correct mix of different races who felt offended by such shifts that did not further their interests in their stronghold of media, military and state machinery. Baraka said, “I see art as a weapon of revolution. I define revolution in Marxist terms. Once I defined revolution in Nationalist terms. But I came to my Marxist view as a result of having struggled as a Nationalist and found certain dead ends theoretically and ideologically, as far as Nationalism was concerned and had to reach out for the communist ideology.”

As the poet laureate of New Jersey, when Baraka recited his poetry “Somebody Blew Up America” (reproduced here), he was accused of anti-Semitism. Of course he was asked to relinquish his position. Not just the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), but even many black so-called leaders came forward to ridicule him. Such is the irony of the times that the beat poet, the radical free voice who lent his creative voice to all peoples of color of the world had to come down with an explanation to prove his authenticity. http://www.amiribaraka.com/speech100202.html After that period of gloom, I saw him on an interview at a Sundance documentary called “The First Amendment Project” and noticed that his works are being sold on his own site for $5 onwards!

The entire poem written by the revolutionary poet Amiri Baraka is reproduced below. If allowed to add, I would only suggest an additional line: “Who are these ungrateful peoples of a contented era? Who forgot their own poet, the fearless poet who called a spade a spade, a violence a violence, a revolution a revolution?”

SOMEBODY BLEW UP AMERICA

(All thinking people
oppose terrorism
both domestic
& international…
But one should not
be used
To cover the other)

They say its some terrorist, some
barbaric
Arab, in
Afghanistan
It wasn’t our American terrorists
It wasn’t the Klan or the Skin heads
Or the them that blows up nigger
Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row
It wasn’t Trent Lott
Or David Duke or Giuliani
Or Schundler, Helms retiring

It wasn’t
the gonorrhea in costume
the white sheet diseases
That have murdered black people
Terrorized reason and sanity
Most of humanity, as they pleases

They say (who say? Who do the saying
Who is them paying
Who tell the lies
Who in disguise
Who had the slaves
Who got the bux out the Bucks

Who got fat from plantations
Who genocided Indians
Tried to waste the Black nation

Who live on Wall Street
The first plantation
Who cut your nuts off
Who rape your ma
Who lynched your pa

Who got the tar, who got the feathers
Who had the match, who set the fires
Who killed and hired
Who say they God & still be the Devil

Who the biggest only
Who the most goodest
Who do Jesus resemble

Who created everything
Who the smartest
Who the greatest
Who the richest
Who say you ugly and they the goodlookingest

Who define art
Who define science

Who made the bombs
Who made the guns

Who bought the slaves, who sold them

Who called you them names
Who say Dahmer wasn’t insane

Who/ Who / Who/

Who stole Puerto Rico
Who stole the Indies, the Philipines, Manhattan
Australia & The Hebrides
Who forced opium on the Chinese

Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers

Who owned the slave ship
Who run the army

Who the fake president
Who the ruler
Who the banker

Who/ Who/ Who/

Who own the mine
Who twist your mind
Who got bread
Who need peace
Who you think need war

Who own the oil
Who do no toil
Who own the soil
Who is not a nigger
Who is so great ain’t nobody bigger

Who own this city

Who own the air
Who own the water

Who own your crib
Who rob and steal and cheat and murder
and make lies the truth
Who call you uncouth

Who live in the biggest house
Who do the biggest crime
Who go on vacation anytime

Who killed the most niggers
Who killed the most Jews
Who killed the most Italians
Who killed the most Irish
Who killed the most Africans
Who killed the most Japanese
Who killed the most Latinos

Who/Who/Who

Who own the ocean

Who own the airplanes
Who own the malls
Who own television
Who own radio

Who own what ain’t even known to be owned
Who own the owners that ain’t the real owners

Who own the suburbs
Who suck the cities
Who make the laws

Who made Bush president
Who believe the confederate flag need to be flying
Who talk about democracy and be lying
WHO/ WHO/ WHOWHO/

Who the Beast in Revelations
Who 666
Who decide
Jesus get crucified

Who the Devil on the real side
Who got rich from Armenian genocide

Who the biggest terrorist
Who change the bible
Who killed the most people
Who do the most evil
Who don’t worry about survival

Who have the colonies
Who stole the most land
Who rule the world
Who say they good but only do evil
Who the biggest executioner

Who/Who/Who ^^^

Who own the oil
Who want more oil
Who told you what you think that later you find out a lie
Who/ Who/ ???

Who fount Bin Laden, maybe they Satan
Who pay the CIA,
Who knew the bomb was gonna blow
Who know why the terrorists
Learned to fly in Florida, San Diego

Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion

Who need fossil fuel when the sun ain’t goin’ nowhere

Who make the credit cards
Who get the biggest tax cut
Who walked out of the Conference
Against Racism
Who killed Malcolm, Kennedy & his Brother
Who killed Dr King, Who would want such a thing?
Are they linked to the murder of Lincoln?

Who invaded Grenada
Who made money from apartheid
Who keep the Irish a colony
Who overthrow Chile and Nicaragua later

Who killed David Sibeko, Chris Hani,
the same ones who killed Biko, Cabral,
Neruda, Allende, Che Guevara, Sandino,

Who killed Kabila, the ones who wasted Lumumba, Mondlane , Betty Shabazz, Princess Margaret, Ralph Featherstone, Little Bobby

Who locked up Mandela, Dhoruba, Geronimo,
Assata, Mumia,Garvey, Dashiell Hammett, Alphaeus Hutton

Who killed Huey Newton, Fred Hampton,
MedgarEvers, Mikey Smith, Walter Rodney,
Was it the ones who tried to poison Fidel
Who tried to keep the Vietnamese Oppressed

Who put a price on Lenin’s head

Who put the Jews in ovens,
and who helped them do it
Who said “America First”
and ok’d the yellow stars
WHO/WHO/ ^^

Who killed Rosa Luxembourg, Liebneckt
Who murdered the Rosenbergs
And all the good people iced,
tortured , assassinated, vanished

Who got rich from Algeria, Libya, Haiti,
Iran, Iraq, Saudi, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine,

Who cut off peoples hands in the Congo
Who invented Aids Who put the germs
In the Indians’ blankets
Who thought up “The Trail of Tears”

Who blew up the Maine
& started the Spanish American War
Who got Sharon back in Power
Who backed Batista, Hitler, Bilbo,
Chiang kai Chek who WHO W H O/

Who decided Affirmative Action had to go
Reconstruction, The New Deal, The New
Frontier, The Great Society,

Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for
Who doo doo come out the Colon’s mouth
Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza
Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro
Who give Genius Awards to Homo Locus
Subsidere

Who overthrew Nkrumah, Bishop,
Who poison Robeson,
who try to put DuBois in Jail
Who frame Rap Jamil al Amin, Who frame the Rosenbergs, Garvey,
The Scottsboro Boys, The Hollywood Ten

Who set the Reichstag Fire

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away ?
/
Who,Who, Who/
explosion of Owl the newspaper say
the devil face cd be seen Who WHO Who WHO

Who make money from war
Who make dough from fear and lies
Who want the world like it is
Who want the world to be ruled by imperialism and national oppression and terror
violence, and hunger and poverty.

Who is the ruler of Hell?
Who is the most powerful

Who you know ever
Seen God?

But everybody seen
The Devil

Like an Owl exploding
In your life in your brain in your self
Like an Owl who know the devil
All night, all day if you listen, Like an Owl
Exploding in fire. We hear the questions rise
In terrible flame like the whistle of a crazy dog

Like the acid vomit of the fire of Hell
Who and Who and WHO (+) who who ^
Whoooo and Whooooooooooooooooooooo!

AMIRI B 10/01

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Wealth is Health

Let’s talk about healthcare today. Logically, the most neglected sector in an individualistic society.

Needless to say, healthcare is not a state responsibility anywhere in the world. Even as the unwell are left to fend for themselves, they always have been needed to take care of financial needs of the medical professionals. As is with the doctors, representing a class of elites, they most certainly tend to their class interests. Hence the rich in the society get the best treatment and the poor are left in the lurch.

The irony however is that the poor, owing to health habits and sanitation practices are more likely to get affected and owing to their economic conditions, they are less likely to get treated. Statistics convene the direct correlation between wealth and health.

This is nothing surprising here, since it’s merely logical. What however is shocking, are the ways in which the ruling powers boast of their healthcare sectors to normalize the contrary claims to be unfounded. It works when one asks if there is a class system in society, and gets a prompt reply “Class? What class?”

Within the healthcare sector in the United States, for example, there are approximately 45 million people officially, who are without health insurance coverage. The number of uninsured rose 1.4 million annually (according to a study published by U.S. Census Bureau., August 2004 and prepared officially by DeNavas-Walt, C., B. Proctor, and R. J. Mills, titled “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States”). Nearly 82 million — about one-third of the population below the age of 65 spent a portion of a year without health coverage.

Millions of workers don’t have the opportunity to get coverage. A third of firms in the U.S. do not offer coverage. According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s Employee Health Benefits: 2004 Annual Survey published in September 2004, rapidly rising health insurance premiums is the main reason cited by firms for not offering coverage. Health insurance premiums are rising at extraordinary rates. Over the past five years the average annual increase in inflation has been 2.5 percent while health insurance premiums have escalated an average of 11.4 percent annually.

Of course, I am sure people are quite familiar with the figures. What however is often missed from the central discussion is the way a systematic class division thrives in healthcare sector, leading to even further (more than 80% of) disguised healthcare benefit losses. For example, a HMO deals with a provider/Individual Practitioner Association that maintains its own centralized medical facilities. In order to receive treatment, an individual must go to one of the HMO’s facilities only. This is the least expensive and most enrolled division and naturally enough, it’s most limited by choices.

The Point-of-Service (POS) plans, a relatively new concept in the health insurance industry combine the a limited freedom of choice with the medical management of a primary care physician typically found in HMOs. This costs way more than the HMOs. The third, which is the Preferred Provider Networks (PPO), is a group of doctors that has agreed to discount their fees for services in exchange for access to a group of subscribers. PPOs also provide one with the choice of using either a network doctor or a doctor of one’s own choosing. This type of plan gives the real freedom of choice because one can go to a specialist without a referral from any primary care physician.

With such clear class divisions—ranging from the patients limited by a few doctors to the doctors limited to a few patients—among healthcare, the elitist bias pervades beyond the obvious.

The latest issue of Rolling Stone has Robert Kennedy Jr. describing how the US government, after causing 15 fold increase in autism within its own population has decided to spread the same to China (after a couple of years I am sure autism will be alleged to be of Chinese origin).

Since 1991, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants — in one case, within hours of birth — the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteenfold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children. Kennedy says:

More than 500,000 kids currently suffer from autism, and pediatricians diagnose more than 40,000 new cases every year. ……The story of how government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal from the public is a chilling case study of institutional arrogance, power and greed. I was drawn into the controversy only reluctantly. As an attorney and environmentalist who has spent years working on issues of mercury toxicity, I frequently met mothers of autistic children who were absolutely convinced that their kids had been injured by vaccines. Privately, I was skeptical.

The article reveals the nature of medical profession as evolved today. From the elitist enrolments in rated schools in order to hike the rate of the doctors in the market to their heightened professional roles they play in staying detached from the patient welfare, to their collusion with the pharmaceutical companies which sponsor anything for them –free world tour to wine bottles—in lieu of their assured prescriptions of certain drugs over certain others, to finally allowing the profession be ruined by political will to shove corporate agenda down the throats of the unwell-financially and emotionally.

Not unusually then, the doctors have no connection with the Hippocrates Oath whatsoever. I am not even sure if today’s medical professionals go through the Oath made around 400 BC (some portions of it of course, like all classical texts, need radical corrections), where some thoughts about social commitments of doctors, stand as a wishful thought for the day in a competitively engaged inhuman society as ours is reduced today to:

I SWEAR by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!

(THE OATH by Hippocrates: Translated by Francis Adams)

We suspect, therefore we are – Part II

Well, do minorities in the US think they have a shared history?

Logically no, if they intend to continue remaining minorities. Else they would be the majority of people (just by the sheer volume of their class structure and solidarity with their White working class counterparts). But the amazing thing is there is a dearth of education regarding a subconscious that there could be anything shared among them.

It grows out of a feeling of selfish endeavor of human being to stay inhumanely competitive. A society such as American (by which I mean an individualistic society where education, healthcare, social security—are all based on individualistic formulae of secret numbers that the State asks folks not to share, than social commitments to welfare where people could organize themselves on basis of their shared knowledge of mutual discontents) teaches people to first take care of their own selves, than anyone else. In some crude form of defining family, the roles are assigned individually among spouses, the children are encouraged to stay separate as different units, and when the parents turn old, they have no constant family support since independent children have not been taking care of much of anyone else anyway (remember they are busy letting their own family become nuclearer).

In such a fragmented society, its ridiculous on my part to assume that people will think beyond their four walls (of course when it gets boring, you have got Oprah and Jerry Springer on the television within the four walls), let alone think of the different races, cultures, nations, languages and you name it, and you don’t have it.

Well, during times when individuals have suffered depending on their race status, they have got united, so that the struggle benefits them individually. And once economically few have benefited for having played the rules of the ruling game, the same members of the oppressed race, show their backs to the other members of the race and hence the wide disparity then becomes apparent between them and the majority members of their race which overwhelmingly remain dispossessed. So the “house slaves” as Malcolm X called these people, who loved playing the rules of the masters and who wept when their master wept saying “oh master, we are sick” when the master alone was sick, then become the torchbearers of the fruits of freedom. A freedom largely unknown to the 35 million homeless and hungry of this country.

In such a self-centered society which does not encourage people to look beyond their own self, in a classically disgusting Ayn Rand fashion, its stupid for me to assume that marginal classes of people will ever think themselves to be belonging to the same rank.

Its not fault of any individual as I see it, but it’s the mistake of the individuality that people flout today. This individuality shows itself on marches, and parades only when it concerns with a result which will eventually benefit the individuals, else not. Hence the anti-imperialist fight is not being fought today. What we have at most is the fights between the Hispanics with the Asians, the Blacks with the Jews. The shared history is denied at every juncture so that we can have many more divisions. At the university level, we can have Latin Studies, African American Studies, Asian American Studies. At the community level, we can have Latin communities, Black communities, Asian community housings.

People have clearly forgotten the systematic murders of the Native Americans, the Japanese, the Africans, the Philipinos, the Chinese, the Latinos, the homosexuals, the Muslims, the Jews, the atheists, the communists, the Black and White panthers. By degree they have all varied. The worst sufferers have been the Native Americans, and the least could be the homosexuals. But that’s just a numeric difference. In other words the numbers are so fluid that no one knows in near future whose turns will it be to be counted as the most unfortunate. Between the extremes, one remembers the most tragic and systematically orchestrated lynchings of the Blacks in the South.

What is important to remember in this context is the not just degree and the fact that the degree will vary in future times to include most of us, but also the type of exploitation. This has consistently been the case, not just in America whose natives were attacked most brutally, but also in other countries which were invaded by the European colonialists. The difference being, in the other countries like India and South Africa, the numbers of oppressed people far outweighed the number of the Europeans colonialists (ruling business and royal classes of Spain, France, Britain).

Going by the shared history of enslavement and tortures, I do not see for a moment, why any minority group must feel more privileged or less privileged than another. But the irony is, that this is how it works.

In a recent discussion, my African American friends commented that whereas Tsunami song evoked protests, where were the Asians when blacks were being called Niggers. My Asian American friends wonder why the racism should only address issues of the Blacks on prime time television resulting in a change to “their” favor whereas there is no black protest against discrimination of Asian who are missing from popular culture. The Ghettopoly protest vis-à-vis the naming of the “chinks” on hip hop are all opening the door to further divide the “their” and “our” issues.

The conflicts between the Blacks and the Jews is well recorded. The media, proverbially owned by the Jewish capitalists, tilting against the church going Black nationalists has been a debate historically waged. The conflicts between the Arabs and the Jews, even as one watched Fahrenheit 911 with wonder would vouch for. “Those Arabs.”

In a classic post colonial discourse, it would be miserably aping the behaviors called for by the colonialists so that one group will be more favorably looked upon than the others. These “others”, though logically would be belonging to the one and the same force, would need to fight against one another for them to be easily overwhelmed and left without a choice in the matters of their lives.

The stock of history always have been produced in manners that are in consonance with state interests. When the right-wing party in India decided to take off the chapter on Gandhi’s assassination (since the dastardly act was committed by a right-wing fanatic) it was no surprise. Or when the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC took off the main chapter of Niemöller’s warning on “First They Came” since it talked about 6 million Communist victims, it came as no surprise. Talking of Niemöller, its very apt to mention his original work here:

“First they came for the Communists
but I was not a Communist – so I said nothing.
Then they came for the Social Democrats,
but I was not a Social Democrat – so I did nothing.
Then came the trade unionists,
but I was not a trade unionist.
And then they came for the Jews,
but I was not a Jew – so I did little.
Then when they came for me,
there was no one left who could stand up for me.”

The legendary stanza has been largely rewritten by people who influence history, for obvious reasons. Time magazine, that primary source for historical researches used the quotation, moved the Jews to the first place and dropped both the communists and the social democrats!
American Vice-President Al Gore who claimed to have coined words even for the cyberspace, quotes the lines, but drops the trade unionists!
Gore and Time also have added Roman Catholics, who were never on the list of Niemöller’s at all. In fact on the Holocaust memorial at the Catholic city of Boston, Catholics were added to the quotation inscribed.
The US Holocaust Museum at the Washington DC, another place for historians have dropped the Communists but retained the Social Democrats!

As far as I can see the mutual resentment to delete certain sections could have to do more with the issues of class-based differences that were sought for to be resolved by this group of fabled people. Because its easy to attack someone as a Communist, as Stallman says, for having said the most uninteresting things. Things which interest people in individualistic societies have to do with individual progress/competitive clashes/power plays/merit games even in terms of narrating and positioning their “own” histories and not look at the shared history of exploitations in fear of not having a separate studies/housing/museum (which anyway gets founded on manipulated ideas).

If only we knew we stand to lose nothing if we got to tell our stories of common histories than of our discreet glories?

We suspect, therefore we are – Part I

The long history of conflicts between the marginal groups to vie for each others’ blood is a well known one.

One of the major reasons behind the conquerors’ successes in sustained oppression has been not just to divide and rule, but also to create a sense of suspicion among the ruled groups.

Let’s go one step at a time. When Amrita and I came to live by the Kreeger Drive in Adelphi, Maryland since two years now, I was advised by my fellow Indian relatives and friends that it was not a good place to go to. And if we had no other choice, at least we had to be very careful so as not to venture out in evenings. Not to walk around in the market, rather to drive only (and even while driving, looking out for those people who cross the roads insanely).

Without paying any heed of course, we never drove here. Always walked, even in the evenings, asked the people drinking in front of our apartment to at least reduce the noise so that we could study. We knew that they were working class wage earners toiling hard in the days (even standing by the 7/11s in line to be picked up for work by any generous White man for the day) and relaxing a bit on Friday evenings with one of two best offering of capitalistic societies—Miller’s booze (the other, Church remains closed in the evenings). After few weeks they not only stopped the noises, they also changed the venue.

We even knocked the door of my immediate neighbor in the first week, just to know them, you know. The man in the family did not open the door, instead looked out of the window and asked “hmm?” I said, “Hi there, we are your new neighbors. Just wanted to get to know you.” The neighbor, an African-American man in his 40’s, immediately closed the window itself. After a couple of months he was gone. A Latino family now is our adjacent neighbor. They of course don’t converse in English.

The neighbor on the second floor, another Black man in this case, happened to be a taxi driver. He exchanged his number and asked me to contact him directly instead of the cab service since most of the time he is looking for people to give rides to. After few months, he told me when I called, that his cab was stolen. He said, “These Mexicans, they steal man. Brother you have to be careful. Don’t go out on the street in the evening.”

After a month, he knocked my door. I was about to open it, when he shouted, “I am your neighbor, the cab guy. I came here to….” I opened the door quick enough to listen to him directly rather than encouraging that suspicion trip. “Hello, how u doin? Hey man I have a favor to ask. Can you please keep my TV for a week at your place for me to pick it up later? I am moving from here since my room mate is leaving for Nigeria. If that’s not a lot of problem, I know I can trust you with it.” For sure, no problem in that, I said. I even went up to lend a hand in lifting that huge machine. Both of us could not manage it. “Don’t worry. I will get some of those Mexicans to do it. Thanks man, for agreeing to keep it at your place.” Next morning, he got four of “those Mexicans” to do the needful, probably paying a couple of dollars to them. Instead of 7 days, he came back after three weeks to take the TV back.

While he was taking it back, he was noticeably grateful that I had taken care of his 30 inch tv in my one bedroom apartment for so many days. “What do you do in the university?” Looking at my little library, he was in doubts. “I am a graduate student,” I said. He had obviously thought I was a part time worker at the university (which I was by the way, apart from being a student). But being a graduate student at an elite university like that, “Wow! I never knew that.” He said, before showering me with some compliments.

And after three months I suddenly noticed an Indian man in our community. He would park his car in front of the nearby building and open the doors and play Hindi music at full blast. Maybe to say, “hey you people out there. The Indian civilized smartass has arrived now! Listen to my music” Not just Jay-Z and Shakira, but also a punch of Bhangra. Well, not much to add about it except that he once stopped Amrita on her way back, to self-introduce as, “Hey I am from Indian.” (Read: since we are Indians and neighbors, we should logically trust each other, than trust those blacks and latinos there, you know)

Our Cab guy’s advice was in essence: “Be aware of the Mexicans, my man.” My Indian relatives advice: “Be aware of the Blacks.” So its time for some to say beware of both the Mexicans and the Blacks. Half the time I take cabs to the campus and every time I end up discussing race related issues with the drivers, all of them invariably Africans (not African-Americans) in this area and almost all of them Indians (recent Punjabi immigrants, not Asian Americans) little ahead in Greenbelt area.

If you are wondering if anyone (Blacks, Latinos, Indians) in these working class neighborhoods have ever asked me to be aware of the Whites, you bet, no one has. Not that I need to be cautioned about them. But what’s so very predictive in a shocking manner is the way the minorities are very eager to call each other names and create a sense of insecurity and/or fear among themselves basing on assumptions about each of the other groups.

Well, where does this lack of faith among them stem from?

I see it as a drastic failure emanating from an inability to unify. This is what my observation is towards the whole issue of Crash in the American multicultural salad bowl.

And the second precept is that they are intentionally being kept away from being unified so that they shall continue to nurture inter-group suspicions. Once they be united owing to their larger shared history….

Sunday clash of ideas


Malik, Jared, Todd and I, the four usual suspects held our Sunday meeting. It went well, except that it turned out to be even more gleefully unmethodical than we had thought it would.

Crash had a sequel coming, called Trash. It was not Jackson who was being vied for, rather the magnitude of black innocent brothers who were being irresponsibly imprisoned that the issue found a channel through the MJ trial. Was Adorno alright about culture industry? And McLuhan more than the messages?

It was quite a journey. There are obviously gaps we need to bridge, journeys we have to pave a common path for, and ideas we have to look at their merits. But the struggle at understanding and getting educated over is one far from over.