Time for a new Black Power movement
Date: Thursday, October 31 @ 09:40:45 UTC
Topic: Enlighten

by Sean O'Hagan, Aug 18, 02, Observer UK


African Americans were appalled but not surprised by the terrorist attack, says author Walter Mosley

'I haven't met one black person who was surprised. Like everyone else, they were shocked by the magnitude of it, and appalled by the deaths, but they weren't surprised by the hate and anger that produced it. Black Americans are very aware of the attitude of America towards people who are different, people whose beliefs are different, people of a different colour. We live with that attitude every single day. We know how hated America is.'

'Because of our history and our experience right here in America, as well as in Africa, we have an understanding of the rage and anger of America's so-called enemies,' he elaborates. 'Black people know that most Arabs and Muslims are good people, that their beliefs are just as valid as Christian beliefs, that they have been at the receiving end of American so-called foreign policy for years. As a people of colour, we know how America treats other people of colour - with suspicion or disdain. What I am saying is that because of our unique position, we should be at the forefront of a new peace movement that starts the process whereby Americans start to see the world, and themselves, differently.'

'Americans only tend to see blacks who are kind of like them,' he continues. 'There are two Americas, and one is blind to the other. The way most black people live, the daily racism and the suffering, is transparent to white America. They just don't see it, or they choose not to. More importantly, they don't understand how most black people feel, how we live with rage every day, a rage against America.'

'We all need to be a part of an effort to understand the world we live in. We need to organise reading groups where people can disseminate the news, not just rely on big media corporations like Time-Warner.' I nod. I agree. Wholeheartedly. The only problem, I say, is that in America, I do not see the will for peace, nor for self-empowerment through self-education. Instead, I see an angry nation rallying behind a gung-ho President as he prepares to invade Iraq.

'I know all this is anathema to many Americans, and I can understand their trauma and confusion right now. But what is the alternative? We are on a precipice here. When people say, "Surely you don't want this to happen to America again?", my answer is, "I don't want it to happen to anyone again". If 11 September has taught us anything, it is that only by working for peace, can we ensure our own peace and safety. And, hey, hasn't Vietnam shown us that you cannot bomb for peace, or invade for peace, or attempt to destroy whole cultures for peace?'

'We have traditionally been America's cultural leaders,' he says. 'from Louis Armstrong to Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King.' It is as if, in the midst of 11 September, he caught a glimpse of a way to resolve the traumas - of race, allegiance, identity, inequality - that have beset America since it declared itself, vauntingly, impossibly, 'the land of the free'.

'When you write about 11 September, you should write about the next 10 years, not just about the moment itself. You cannot ignore rage. It just does not go away. It only goes away when the causes of that rage are addressed. You do not have to look outside America to see how that is the case.' [full article]

Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley is published by Serpent's Tail on 6 September, at 10. To order a copy for 8, plus p&p, call the Observer Books Service on 0870 066 7989.

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