Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fox Update + Poem: Hemphill + Cioran Quote

I can't claim any credit, but Yahoo! news is reporting that a "redfaced" Mexican President Vicente Fox is backing off his racist comments about Black people. It appears he did so after being labeled "racist" by Mexico's daily El Milenio in a headline; in an editorial, the newspaper condemned his comments as ""shameful, undignified, unacceptable," and columnist Yuriria Sierra added: "Can someone remind him of the race to which Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice belong?" (I won't go there.) Rev. Jesse Jackson, lately of the St. Schiavo shenanigans, beat everyone in Congress to the punch, noting Fox's comments' "ominous racial overtones." The White House's response--well, who knows. I haven't heard anything. But the US government, via the State Department, did officially note that this "level of dialogue doesn't merit comment. President Bush's commitment to immigration reform that is rational, legal, common sense, decent and compassionate is well documented." But I'd have to disagree with the State Department's appraisal (where was the dialogue? the Emperor's immigration commitment has been "compassionate"???). Fox now finds himself with less credibility in Mexico and the US, and less ability to influence the problematic immigration policies that are soon to be federal statutes.

* * * * *

I frequently link to the mainstream media, but I just as frequently criticize them for their timid, shoddy, poorly-informed, unprofessional approach to the profession of journalism. The last five years alone have demonstrated repeatedly the impact of even an inept, misguided and gullible press; from the steady drumbeat of misinformation and outright lies about the reasons for the War in Iraq, to the timorous accounting of the Emperor's and his administration's series of dissimulations and disinformation campaigns, to the execrable coverage of the most recent presidential election, the mainstream media have gone out of their way to show how lost and disoriented they are, and yet still manage to influence the public discourse and even more dangerously, real events, to a significant degree. Most recent example: Now we learn that numerous people may have died because Newsweek published a "brief item," by reporters Michael Isikoff (one of the key cogs in publicizing what became the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal) and John Barry, that may have erroneously claimed that US officials at the notorious Guantánamo Bay Prison tore pages out of the Muslim's most sacred text, the Holy Qu'ran, and flushed them down the toilet.

News of this alleged outrage sparked violent protests first in Afghanistan, causing 16 deaths and more than 100 injuries. The protests have since spread to Pakistan (in both countries it is a capital crime to desecrate the Qu'ran), Indonesia and the Gaza portion of Palestine, and provoked condemnation from a host of nations, beginning with Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam's holiest cities. It turns out that the off-the-record government source was unable, when pressed, to back up the claim that he had seen the charge in an official report, though
Newsweek noted that former detainees have made similar allegations. Based on the existing detailed accounts of abuse, torture and manipulative techniques supposedly used there and at other military prisons since the "War on Terror" began, this would not seem excessively farfetched. Still, shouldn't someone have pinned down a factual, textual source for such an explosive charge? Wouldn't multiple verifications be in order? Or are our media still that gung-ho on relying upon tainted or inaccurate sources (cf. Curveball, etc.) and just that tin-eared when it comes to other cultures' values, expectations and assumptions. (Well, yes, but....)

Newsweek has now apologized, but according an account I saw somewhere, the periodical
will be firing no one over this. I guess in addition to following the employment practices of this administration (not punishing those whose lies or ineptitude lead to others' deaths) they've got to keep Isikoff on board in case a Democrat reoccupies the White House in 2008.

* * * * *

Many thanks to Caesar N., President of NYPLC, for forwarding this Essex Hemphill poem to the group list. After seeing it again for the first time in a while, and after thinking about some recent experiences and converations I've had, I think it's extremely apropos.


by Essex Hemphill

I want to start
an organization
to save my life.
If Whales, snails,
dogs, cats,
Chrysler, and Nixon
can be saved,
the lives of Black men
are priceless
and can be saved.
We should be able
to save each other.
I don't want to wait
for the Heritage Foundation
to release a study
stating Black men
are almost extinct.
i don't want to be
the living dead
pacified with drugs
and sex.

If a human chain
can be formed
around missile sites,
then surley Black men
can form human chains
around Anacostia, Harlem,
South Africa, Wall Street,
Hollywood, each other.

If we have to take tomorrow
with our blood are we ready?
Do our S curls,
dreadlocks, and Phillies
make us any more ready
than a bush or conkaline?
I'm not concerned
about the attire of a soldier.
All I want to know
for my own protection
is are we capable
of whatever,

Copyright © Essex Hemphill.

* * * * *

And on a not so blue, but final note, the saturnine Cioran:

"Klee liked to quote: 'the art of drawing is the art of omission' (Liebermann). Which is how one might define the art of the aphorism.

For me, to write is to omit. That is the secret of laconicism, and of the essay as a genre."
--E. M. Cioran, from Cahiers


  1. The other messed up thing about this comment is that while it hurts to hear something like this (the presumption that "the blacks" *ought* to be the people who do the work nobody wants to do) it is also deeply troubling that there ought to be a racially coded class of people doing work nobody else wants to do. You know? It *is* racist, and -- as one of those blacks -- scary that he so easily underscores this presumption that "blacks" ought to be doing undesirable work. But what about this implication that we ought to or could find some other race do to this undesirable work at undesirable wages?

  2. Great point! It's very disturbing, Mendi, and I was glad to see that Mexican media, which has its own history of racism, took him to task for it. Yes, what about that racialized pariah class--there is a raced, non-white group so low that they would and ought to do this work for wages that are virtually unsustaining. It's also interesting to think about it in light of the issue of "forced labor," which of course happens both directly in the US and also under the rubric of US prisons, which are full of the "blacks" and Mexicans and poor (in all senses of the world) people in general....