Excerpts from a recent interview with Ward Churchill (by Josh Frank)
Reciprocation of the dehumanizing treatment They have accustomed Themselves to visiting quite universally upon valueless Others is often --perhaps always -- requisite to penetrating the veil of Their delusion so deeply that They, some of Them, will be jarred into conceding that the realm of meaning might perhaps not be reserved unto Them alone, that the Other can never be consigned-was never in fact consignable-to a terrain “outside of history,” that s/he or “it”, too, is endowed with a fully human face.
A longer quote that includes the above: In his Benevolent Assimilation -- a truly excellent book -- the historian Stuart Creighton Miller chronicles a very similar assertion of "radical innocence" by mainstream Americans immediately following revelation of the genocide perpetrated by the U.S. during its conquest of the Philippines at the turn of the last century. This is from one example. From there, you can -- as I have in A Little Matter of Genocide, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens and elsewhere -- trace the record of comparably self-serving denials of reality all the way back to the inception of the Republic, or forward into the present moment. What you encounter adds up to a seamless whole. In this sense, the history of the Euroamerican mainstream has been undeviatingly consistent. As Susan Griffin observes in A Chorus of Stones, "there are whole disciplines, institutions, rubrics in our culture which serve as categories of denial." Put another way, denial is not just integral to but definitive of what Griffin, writing as a white woman, perceives as being the "American Character." And, coming as it does from an explicitly Euroamerican perspective, her perception is both entirely accurate and commendably honest. But here's the catch. Who does Griffin mean by "our" when she refers to "our culture," the one she describes as being so pathologically afflicted with denial? Black folk? Brown? Those of Asian or Polynesian descent? How about American Indians? You see? Even as she critiques the American Character to devastating effect, she frames it -- or perhaps even conceives of it -- exclusively and not very subtly, in terms of her own whiteness. That which is white thus equals "America," for Susan Griffin no less than for crudest of aging Mississippi Klansmen. Here, it seems to me, we find the pulsating heart of white racism. In its essence, it consists of the presumption that anyone Other than white holds meaning -- hence, value -- only in relation to whiteness, a dominion in which, in and of themselves, unwhite "others" possess no meaning or value at all. Often, as I suspect is the case with Griffin, the attitude is so deep-set as to operate well below the level of awareness, and is therefore intractable. So subliminal is the mindset at its core that, confronted with evidence of her own display of it, Griffin would no doubt seek to deny it, thereby consummating the very pathos she herself has explicated with utmost eloquence. I've been working on an analytical essay developing this theme for the past couple of months. Let me read a bit of it into the record, so to speak, because doing so will probably get us to where I want to end up faster-and, hopefully, more clearly-than whatever I might spin off the top of my head at this point. Okay by you? JF: Sure. WC: Okay, here goes: In its most discernable manifestation, white racist presumption appears in its carriers’ assertion of a unilateral entitlement to define -- that is, to “name” -- the Other in terms constructed entirely of utility and convenience to themselves. For those cast as Other, the true measure of white racist imposition is encountered first, foremost and always in this perpetual process of naming: They, and They alone, are positioned to determine who you are, are not, might be, what each station denotes, and why. This is because, so They continuously declaim, that which is knowable is truly “Known” only to Them, or in ways devised and sanctioned by Them, for purposes They themselves approve. Hence, They not only “know you better than you know yourself” but “what's best for you” as well. Predictably, the latter turns upon the perceptions of Those who Know as to what might at any given moment be of most benefit to Them. For the Other, this entails an existence captioned in the language of intrinsic inferiority at best, or, in the worst case, out-and-out existential negation (figuratively, literally, often both). Within a perception of “reality” based in the strata of such presumption, the wielding of white supremacist prerogatives becomes so familiar as to go unnoticed by Those who enjoy them, seeming natural, therefore inevitable, and thus both right and just. Wherein lies the potential for culpability? White supremacism, speaking in its emic voice, admits to none. It is in fact incapable of such admission. Guilt cannot be reasonably said to inhere in being and doing that which is right and natural, irrespective of how it might effect essentially irrelevant Others. Within the psychoconceptual parameters by which they are established, whiteness and its attendant privileges comprise their own justification. By the terms of its very existence, then, the cognitive structure of white racism denies even the possibility that genuine empathy, less still such sentiments as regret or remorse, might be extended beyond the pale of itself. Only the most forceful of etic intrusions are sufficient to disrupt the fantasies of innate superiority and concomitant entitlement to possession of all and everything entertained at the most primal level as a conception of Self by Those infected with the mass psychosis of white racism. Reciprocation of the dehumanizing treatment They have accustomed Themselves to visiting quite universally upon valueless Others is often --perhaps always -- requisite to penetrating the veil of Their delusion so deeply that They, some of Them, will be jarred into conceding that the realm of meaning might perhaps not be reserved unto Them alone, that the Other can never be consigned-was never in fact consignable-to a terrain “outside of history,” that s/he or “it”, too, is endowed with a fully human face. The jolt of such cognition, however momentary, produces a series of aftershocks: recognition that the life and fulfillment of a brown-skinned child is just as “important” --which is to say “worth” every bit as much -- as that of a white-skinned child, for instance. Thence, it will be all but invariably admitted that the Other is, or might yet become, “just as good as We are.” Promising on its face, this supposedly “enlightened acknowledgement” is actually the most cynical of white supremacist ruses, evading as it does the very possibility that whiteness might reduce to the signification of anything other than “goodness”, thereby reasserting its station as the condition to which all Others can/should/must aspire. It is thus no more than a reaffirmation of white supremacism, albeit in a form clad in the soft trappings of liberal sophistry rather than the fundamentalist armor of “conservatism”. For the instant of cognition generated by an exemplary act of reciprocation to produce a different result, it is necessary that the intervention be continued with equal force, but in another manner, one expressly designed to increase rather than alleviate cognitive dissonance within the status quo. This is to say that the Other must seize the moment of Their greatest cognitive disarray to (re)claim the all-important power of definition; that is, to call what has just happened by its right rather than Their preferred name and, in the process, bestow the correct name upon Them. To clarify: The Other cannot be content with liberal concessions as to her/his/their basic humanity; it is essential that They be forced to confront and ultimately confess the implications of what They, in their whiteness, have done-are in fact still doing-to fully human but unwhite Others.
. It's worth mentioning that Richard Oxman immediately responded with a line-by-line demolition of Albert's attempt at extending blanket exoneration to those I've referred to as "little Eichmanns." The same basic formula has been employed by so many pundits on the white left over the past few months that it's become seriously boring. Dare I call it "hackneyed"? Now, contrast this sort of "support" to that articulated by Mumia Abu Jamal when he wrote that I not only have the right to say what I've said, but that I've been analytically correct in saying it. Or Yuri Kochiyama's public statements repeatedly comparing my circumstances to those of Malcolm X. Or the Seneca writer Scott Richard Lyons' powerful affirmation of my work -- and of me personally, for that matter -- in Indian Country Today. Or the sheer force of Haunani-Kay Trask's and Kathleen Cleaver's declarations in my behalf. Or Rafael Renteria's commentary, "Ward Churchill and White America," in which he advises those signified by Albert and Shapiro to "look in the mirror" for a full-face view of racial chauvinism at play. I could keep going, but I think you get the drift.