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?