ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)


The poor are over-represented in US prisons and in the US military.

One of  the most prominent accused, Lynndie England, is a girl of 20

who joined the army to pay her way through college.



Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

*   *   *   *   *

Trickle Down Racism

By John Maxwell


Nations are supposed to get the Governments they deserve. I am not sure that any country deserves George Bush; the Americans didn’t elect him President and the Iraqis, over whom he is attempting to rule, obviously don’t want him.

In Jamaica there is a saying that “wha’ start bad a mawning, can’t come good a evenin’ – Oh!”

The American air is filled with protestations about the essential goodness of the American resolve to bring Freedom™ (Reg. US Pat. Off.) to the ‘darker parts of the world”, an unfortunate phrase, which suggests that Mr Bush may have been thinking of  some of the hapless  people  he spoke of last week. Then, apropos of nothing, he blurted  some gibberish about his not believing what some people felt – that dark skinned people are unable to govern themselves.

That this was rubbish is demonstrated by Bush’s own behaviour and by  the US foreign policy establishment which has directed forcible interference with dozens of darker skinned peoples over the years, the most recent being Haiti. And within the last few days the US president has declared his renewed intention to sabotage and bring down the government of Cuba.

The aim of course is quite simple and humane: to install US Freedom™ wherever the lesser breeds without the law pullulate in obvious menace to the United States of American and world peace.

Mr Bush at the moment is in the grip of his latest and most severe crisis, although in typical fashion, he appears not to understand this fact. Speaking about the torture of Iraqis by US servicemen he has stated a few elementary truths, which we must accept: "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit." He was unable to say he was sorry when he  tried to explain his position on two Arabic language television networks. It was only the next day, in a meeting with the King of Jordan that he told the King – obviously in reply to a direct question –that he was sorry for what had happened. King Abdullah, one expects, will dutifully carry this message back to the Arab and Muslim worlds.

“This is not America, “ Mr. Bush told the Arabic language audiences, “America is a country of justice and law and freedom and treating people with respect.”

Unfortunately the Arab world and much of the rest of the world, including his own countrymen, don't believe him.

After having ‘spanked’ Mr Rumsfeld on Thursday, Mr Bush offered a pathetic defense of his Defence Secretary. Apparently searching for words he said of Mr Rumsfeld:  “a really good Secretary of Defence” who had been with him through two wars and would ‘stay in my Cabinet.”

Rumsfeld too didn’t appear to understand the need for an apology until some days after the political Krakatoa exploded in the Administration’s face. Men of character, which is what they claim they are, don’t need to be told when to apologise.

Al Jazeera used a cricketing metaphor to describe Bush’s dilemma: he was, the station said, “on the back-foot.”

The Usual Suspects

Watching the Senate Armed Forces Committee interviewing Mr Rumsfeld and his aides, one got the impression that not all members really wanted to get at the facts. Among those who did were Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Teddy Kennedy and Carl Levin. Some others, including two of the women, Senators Dole and Collins, were convinced that this was a local difficulty, an outrage obviously, but perpetrated by one or two (or maybe a dozen or two) bad apples.

Others were concerned about whether the rot was systemic, whether the military was covering up and why it took so long for the investigations to be communicated to the President and to the Congress. General Myers, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, was very comforting. His belief in the US constitution, the effectiveness of military justice and his desire not to prejudice the trials of the accused malefactors were the reasons the Congress didn't get the story. And while the President had been told about the atrocities toward the end of January no one explained how it came about that according to him, he didn’t know what was happening until last week.

It was all, apparently a matter of the pictures of the abuse, and General Myers had called Dan Rather at CBS to ask that the pictures not be shown just now because of the outrage they would produce and the probability that they would have inflamed Arab opinion. Not to worry, apparently some even more incendiary videos are still to come

The poor are over-represented in US prisons and in the US military.

One of the most prominent accused, Lynndie England, is a girl of 20 who joined the army to pay her way through college.

The relatives of Lynndie England, Ivan Frederick and Charles Graner all profess surprise at the charges against them, although Graner is a former prison officer with a bad record.

Clearly, however, the army inquiry is likely to find that the accused enlisted men and women were guilty of a peculiar and isolated depravity and when they are found guilty, the whole miserable affair will be over, they hope.

Unfortunately, the Arab and brown-skinned world, and much of the world, brown-skinned or not, do not quite see things that way. They believe that the torture is a predictable expression of American culture.

The perspective outside of the US is that the United States believes that:

1    It can do what it bloody well likes;

2    It can call on the rest of the world to clean up when it makes a mess of things.

The first principle is exemplified by the US disdain for treaties and international conventions like the Kyoto protocol, the ABM Treaty, the International Criminal Court, the Hague and Geneva Conventions and others.

The second is exemplified by Iraq and Haiti, most recently. In both of these, when the US has accomplished its primary objective, gaining control or the appearance of control, the rest of the world is invited to repair the damage.

In Iraq that scenario is looking less and less likely.

The Iraqis are tired of being misrepresented by Americans as a bunch of uncouth savages. It was Rumsfeld, remember, who stood by while organised gangs stole and destroyed priceless artefacts of civilisations going back 8,000 years. “Freedom is untidy” he said then.

The Iraqis are being blamed for the run down state of their country after ten years of UN sanctions and American and British bombing of the infrastructure. Senator Dole, and I imagine many Americans, appears to be under the impression that Iraqi women had no rights under Saddam  People like Dole and Rumsfeld, not to speak of the ‘Great Non-Intercontinental,’ George Bush, see the US presence in Iraq as a civilising mission and one that can be contracted out to mercenaries.

The importance  of Honour

Part of the problem with the American perspective is that they have objectified everyone but themselves. The French are lazy, erratic winebibbers, the Germans are a plodding lot addicted to dictators and the Swedes have a predilection for socialism and suicide.

In the real world, the hapless Iraqis, lacking freedom, are, along with the Cubans, and contrary to US perceptions, among the best educated people in the world, a fact unknown in the North Atlantic world.

When the US speaks of fanatics and Saddam ‘bitter-enders’, they are not conscious that they have in just one year, managed to provoke the enmity of almost the entire population of Iraq , radicals and moderates alike, and the people on whom they came to bestow freedom have an entirely different concept of what freedom is.

An American serviceman may see no harm in a woman ordering a man to masturbate in front of her, but one Iraqi said the acts were so offensive to him that he could not bring himself even to speak about them.

Mr Rumsfeld, who feels that such acts were “terrible” is, however, the man who professed no great concern for the way detainees were treated in the law-free zone of Guantanamo Bay. The tortures at Abu Ghraib may have happened ‘on his watch’ but so too did the massacre of more than 2,000 men in Afghanistan at Shebargan, where people were suffocated in freight containers and buried by American bulldozers, while a thousand or so were simply gunned down at the Qala al Jangi fort outside Mazar al Sharif during the war against the Taliban. No one has ever been held responsible for these war crimes. The system does work.

The culture of revenge is now so cold-blooded and depraved that honour can be satisfied by contract killers.

As one Arab told the Al Arabiya, network, it is true perhaps that the American atrocities were carried out by 'only a few people', but that was also true of  September 11 and clearly 'only a few'  were involved  in the desecration of American bodies in Fallujah.   And since the American punishment of Fallujah was not only illegal but also disproportionate, it would appear to licence any over-reaction by anyone to whatever insult he decides must be revenged.

As someone once said, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. And old William Shakespeare, or whoever, said

“O, It is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.”

That is a thought which has obviously not occurred to the American Press, who are, in my opinion, responsible for inducing Americans to view life as a kind of video game. According to my bete blanc, Wolf Blitzer, “Mr Rumsfeld made a robust apology.”

That apology and all the others are meant for American consumption, as far as Arabs and Muslims are concerned.

What was needed is something more profound, but apparently, unattainable in this age:  it is that the United States should be able to recognise other people – Haitians, Iraqis, Nigerians, Cubans and the rest of us – as human beings, not perhaps  part of  the American dream, but at least, entitled, inalienably, to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, however we choose to define it.

What we want, in a word, is respect.

Copyright©2004 John Maxwell

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music)






update 17 February 2012




Home  John Maxwell Table

Related files: America With Its Pants Down