Archive for the ‘1900s’ Category

Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919), an American businesswoman, was the first self-made Black American millionaire – and the first American woman too of any race according to the “Guinness Book of World Records”. She sold hair care products to black women, most notably the hot comb, which made straightened hair common among black women in the early 1900s.

She did not invent the hot comb. It had been invented in Paris in the 1800s at a time when Egyptian hairstyles were in fashion. Sears was already selling them to white women in America in the 1880s. But it was Walker who sold them to black women as an easy way to straighten their hair (though even she first used it to help hair grow rather than to straighten it).

She was born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana, across the river from Vicksburg, two years after the slaves were freed. Times were hard: yellow fever killed her parents, the Klan burned down her school, by age ten she was working picking cotton, by age 20 her husband was dead and she had a baby girl to take care of (A’Lelia Walker, who later became a figure of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s).

She moved to St Louis where her brother lived and worked as a washerwoman. As little money as she made, she still saved some of it to give her daughter the education she never had.

Then her hair began falling out. She tried all kinds of hair care products to make her hair grow back, but none of them worked. Some of them even made it worse!

In 1904 at the St Louis world’s fair she saw Margaret Washington, the wife of Booker T. Washington. Her hair was so thick and healthy! She wanted hair just like that.

That night she prayed, asking God to stop her hair from falling out. Then she had a dream: she was in Africa and a man was showing her the things she needed to make something that would help her hair to grow back.

That is how she tells it. Some say she had a pharmacist tell her what was in the hair grower of Annie Malone, a forerunner of Walker’s. At the time Walker was selling Malone’s hair care products door to door. She later modelled her company on Malone’s. (Some say Malone was the first black millionaire.)

In any case she moved to Denver soon after her brother died to be near his family. She spent nights working on her hair growing formula until she got it right. It came out in 1905. She called it Wonderful Hair Grower. It proved to be such a hit that other products soon followed and she started hiring saleswomen, training them in the  use of her products.

The rest is history: in time she built a factory in Indianapolis and moved to Harlem.

Her name comes from her third husband, newspaperman Charles J. Walker, her husband at the time she went into business.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Haiti was a land of the Tainos (Arawaks). But then one day in 1492 a white man named Columbus arrived from over the seas. He noticed they wore gold jewellery. He told them he would cut off the hands of any Taino over 13 who did not give him a certain amount of gold or cotton every three months. The Taino fled inland, but the Spanish followed, running them down with dogs and killing them, looking for the gold mines. They made girls into sex slaves. It got so bad that mothers were killing their own babies.

In two years half the Tainos were dead.  By 1555 they were all gone.

In 1505 Columbus’s son brought the first African slaves to the Americas, bringing them to Haiti. By 1519 there were already slave uprisings.

In 1697 France got Haiti from Spain and called it Saint-Domingue.

By 1789 Haiti produced three-fourths of all the sugar in the world, its black slaves producing more wealth than all of English-speaking North America. A third of slaves died within three years after arriving from Africa.

In the 1790s Toussaint L’Ouverture led a slave uprising that in time overthrew the French, making Haiti independent in 1804. The slaves were freed and the land divided among them. The 3,300 remaining French were killed and white was taken out of the flag, leaving red and blue.

For its loss France demanded payment of a crushing debt. France, Britain and America cut it off from overseas trade until it agreed to pay the debt. It took till 1947 to pay it off.

Like the Roman Empire, Haiti had no peaceful means for power to change hands. Often the government would be overthrown every few years.

From 1849 to 1913 America sent warships into Haitian waters 24
times to “protect American lives and property.”

Haiti was under American military rule from 1915 to 1934. Major General Smedley D. Butler said he hunted the Haitians “like pigs” and made Haiti “a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in.” American troops practised “indiscriminate killing of natives” while the American press called Haitians “a horde of naked niggers” in need of “energetic Anglo-Saxon influence”.

America rewrote Haiti’s laws so that Americans could buy up land. They sent 40% of Haiti’s income to American and French banks to pay back debts.

From 1957 t0 1986 Haiti was ruled by the Duvaliers: Papa Doc and Baby Doc. They ruled by terror through the paramilitary Tonton Macoutes. America backed them and opened factories there.

Since the fall of Baby Doc, Haiti has gone back and forth between military rule and democracy, with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a country priest, as the star democrat. America sent in troops in 1994 to restore Aristide to power, but it seems likely they were behind his overthrow in 1991 and 2004.

Democracy was last restored in 2006. The government is backed by a UN force but it is still weak. On top of that Haiti was hit by hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008 that killed over a thousand and by an earthquake in 2010 that has killed 110,000 at last count.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was a black American leader, teacher, speaker and writer. He founded the Tuskegee Institute in 1881, which was his life’s work. He became the most famous and powerful black man in the country. He spoke on race relations and had the ear of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1901 Roosevelt invited him to dinner at the White House, the first black American so invited. He wrote about his life in “Up From Slavery” (1901).

Washington did not openly push for equal rights, like the right to vote, he did not push for an end to Jim Crow. He said blacks must first pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Education, hard work, saving money and patience were the way. Rocking the boat will help no one. White people both North and South agreed!

But W.E.B. Du Bois did not agree. He and others founded the NAACP to fight for equal rights by challenging racism through the courts. In time it led to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the huge growth of black middle-class that followed.

Washington, in his defence, wanted to help people in the here and now. The best way he could do that was to start a school – Tuskegee – that would produce black teachers, tradesmen and farmers. He also raised millions for black education – for Tuskegee, Fisk, Howard and Hampton. None of this would have been possible if he openly opposed white power.

Washington, as it turns out, was for equal rights too – in private. We know that because he secretly gave money to help fight for them in court. From his private letters we know he was putting on something of a front for whites.

Washington started life as, yes, a house Negro. His mother, like him, was a slave in Virginia. She was a cook. He helped her out, learning the ways of white people. His father was some unknown white man.

The summer he was nine the slaves were freed. Soon after his family moved to West Virginia where his stepfather found work in the salt furnaces and coal mines.

More than anything he wanted to learn to read. His mother could not read but bought him spelling books. Although he worked full-time he still got as much education as he could – even if it was just two hours at night

At 16 he left home to go to Virginia to become a schoolteacher. He went to Hampton, which was founded after Emancipation to produce black schoolteachers.

At 19 Washington came back home to teach, but soon was asked back to Hampton to teach there. They loved him. The state of Alabama wanted a school just like Hampton and so at age 25 Hampton sent him to Alabama to start it. The state did not give him much money, but slowly he made it into one of the best black schools in the land – Tuskegee.

See also:

Read Full Post »

dumpyourpenfriendThe perpetual foreigner stereotype in America is applied mainly to Asian Americans. No matter how long they or their families have lived in the country, they are still not seen as True Americans, they are still seen as foreigners. That is why people are surprised at how good their English is and ask them, “Where are you really from?” – where New Jersey does not count as an answer.

Please note: Asians born in America speak perfect English with an American accent. For most of them America is the only country they know. It is their country too. They are every bit as American as white people.

The girl pictured in the Virgin ad that says “Dump Your Pen Friend” is not from Japan or anywhere in Asia: she is American – at an American barbecue, no less. If that surprised you, then you were applying the perpetual foreigner stereotype to her, as did Virgin.

This is not some small point.

For example, General John DeWitt, in charge of defending the western American states during the Second World War, said this:

A Jap’s a Jap … The Japanese race is an enemy race … It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese…  we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.

And so Japanese Americans, despite being native-born citizens charged with no crime, lost everything they could not carry and were sent to live in prison camps during the war. Even the Supreme Court thought their race mattered more than their citizenship.

Japanese Americans have been in America longer than most Italian, Polish and Jewish Americans. So, if anything, they should be seen as less foreign, but they are not.

Another example: Vincent Chin, a Chinese American engineer, had his brains beat in and was killed by two white men in Detroit in 1982. One of them had been laid off by Chrysler and blamed Japan. But Chin was not Japanese. He was not even Chinese: he was American!  But despite that neither white man served any time in prison: they got off with a fine of $3,000 and three years’ probation. The judge said of Chin’s killers: “These weren’t the kind of men you send to jail.”

Two ideas underlie the perpetual foreigner stereotype:

  1. America belongs to white people.
  2. Race and culture are pretty much the same thing.

Race, how you look on the outside, is seen as a good sign of how you are on the inside.

khanIn America the stereotype is mainly applied to those with East Asian roots, but lately, since 9/11, Muslim Americans are increasingly seen in this light too, so much so that their citizenship does not always grant them the protection and rights that it should.

The stereotype is assumed by those who call Obama a secret Muslim. Colin Powell made the excellent point that even if Obama were Muslim, so what? Plenty of Americans are Muslims, many have even fought and died for the country. If they are not True Americans, no one is.

See also:

Read Full Post »



The Aeta, also known as the Agta or Ita,  live mainly in the mountains in the north of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. They are Negritos: they are short with dark brown skin, woolly to curly hair, flat noses and, compared to most people in the Philippines, large, dark eyes. Most Filipinos look down on them because they are dark-skinned.

There are 40,000 of them left. They go to bad schools and live in poverty. Only a third of them live to see 15. And of those who live to 15, most are dead by 30.

The Aeta are like American Indians in America: they came there first but newcomers have been pushing them off their land into the less desirable parts of the country. They are seen as near-savages and do not receive equal protection under the law.

The government does not uphold their land rights. It stands by and does little to nothing while farmers, mining companies and others push them off their land. Neither does the government see to it that they have good schools. It was not any better when the Philippines was under American rule in the early 1900s.

The Aeta came to the Philippines from Borneo 30,000 years ago. They walked to the Philippines – because back then you could: it was the middle of an ice age and the sea was much lower. They and other Negritos were the main people in the Philippines till 5,000 years ago when the Austronesians, Asians from the north, began to arrive.

The Aeta have their own art, dance, music, etc. They used to have their own style of dress but that has been disappearing in favour of Western dress.

Some things they have taken on from the outside world: T-shirts, sandals, karaoke, gongs and, despite being short, basketball. Their languages too come from outside: they are Austronesian, not whatever it was they spoke in ancient times.

Religion: The Spanish tried to make them into good Catholics by forcing them to live in mission settlements. That failed. American missionaries in the 1900s did not have much better success. Most Aetas are not Christians. They believe in good and evil spirits that rule nature. They perform religious dances before they go on a pig hunt or gather shellfish.

Some say they eat men. That seems to be a stereotype: there is no proof of it. They also say they have little understanding of law, land rights or money. That sounds like a self-serving stereotype, but since many of them live off in the mountains and do not receive a proper education, it is not out of the question.

During the Vietnam War they were used to train American soldiers on how to live in the jungle.

Not all of them live in the mountains. Some live in towns and cities where they beg, sell things on the street or perform unskilled labour. They are almost never seen doing white collar work. They also do farm work – often on the very land that used to be theirs!

See also:

Read Full Post »


et-oromoOromia is one of the largest countries in Africa and yet few have heard of it – because it is inside another country, Ethiopia. Ethiopia was created as the empire of the Amhara. It is made up out of five or so other countries. The largest of these is the land of the Oromo, Oromia. It lies at the centre of Ethiopia and extends to the south and to the west. It is bigger than France but has only half as many people, about 30 million. In our own time it has become the scene of genocide.

OromiaRegionMapThe Oromo are much like the Somalis in language, custom and race. They speak Oromo, one of the top ten of the thousand languages of Africa. While the Somalis live in the eastern end of the Horn of Africa, the Oromo live just to the west of them in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. But while nearly all Somalis are Muslim, only half of the Oromo are: the other half are Christians, though some do still practise the native Oromo religion.

Most were herdsmen raising cows until the 1800s. Many still are, but now most are small-time farmers, a change that began in the 1800s. Trade also increased then. That gave great power and wealth to those who could control it, so in the early 1800s Oromia was ruled by warlords. Then in the late 1800s the Amhara took over and made Oromia a part of their country, Abyssinia, now called Ethiopia.

OromoWomanIt was not enough for the Amhara simply to rule, collect taxes and keep the peace. They went beyond that. They saw the Oromo as savages, as backwards and violent. They tried to make them into good Amharas, speaking the Amharic tongue and worshipping in Orthodox Christian churches. Amharic became the language that school was taught in (till 1995). Some Oromo were ordered to become Christians or lose their land. The Amhara outlawed the practice of the old Oromo religion. They also outlawed the Oromo flag of black, red and white (pictured above).

The Amhara broke down Oromo society to weaken it – although it had already been weakening under the warlords. They sent settlers to live on Oromo land and wrote in their history books that it was the Oromo, not they, who were the newcomers to the region.

Losing one’s Oromo ways and taking on Amhara ways became the way to get ahead. Most of those who did not remained poor – probably proof to some that Oromo ways are backward.

A third of Christians in Oromia are not Orthodox but Protestant. That is high for Ethiopia, but part of the appeal of Protestant Christianity is that it is not the Amhara sort of Christianity.

People like to point out how Ethiopia largely avoided becoming a colony of the European empires – it was ruled by Italy for only five years. But to the Oromo the black man merely took the place of the white man. And he is still there.

See also:

Read Full Post »


The Delaware in the 1640s.


The Delaware or, as they call themselves, the Lenape (leh-NAH-pay, meaning the “common or ordinary people”), were the Native Americans who lived in and near what is now New York and Philadelphia in the north-eastern US. They had lived there for at least a thousand years when Whites arrived.

Country facts (circa 1500):

  • Name: Lenapehoking;
  • Location: New Jersey and parts of neighbouring states;
  • Population: 30,000 to 85,000, maybe more;
  • Area: about 55,000 sq km;
  • Languages: Munsee in the north, Unami in the south, both Eastern Algonquian languages (related to those that Squanto and Pocahontas spoke);
  • Religion: ethnic;
  • Technology: Eastern Woodlands;
  • Government: decentralized, ruled by sachems (religious chiefs);
  • Currency: wampum, aka “glass beads”.


The Delaware grew maizebeans and squash, gathered strawberries and hunted deer (pictured), bear and elk. They lived in long houses, sometimes in towns of up to 300.  They were not the wandering bands of hunter-gatherers that most Whites imagine, much less “savages”.

Whites began arriving from Europe in number in the 1600s. Many Delaware died of White diseases, like smallpox, cholera and measles.

Whites got their land in three main ways:

  1. war, preferred by the Dutch but practised by Anglos too, like George Washington, who fought them.
  2. purchase, like when Manhattan was bought for $24 worth of trinkets and glass beads – a statement so misleading as to be a lie.
  3. court cases – where White judges upheld fine print, where the Delaware had few rights or protection. Preferred by Anglos.

Money: mostly wampum, shell beads on a string. Whites sometimes call it “glass beads”, which is like calling their money “pieces of paper”.

The Delaware knew how to fight in the woods better than most White men did, and they even had guns (which were too slow-loading till the 1800s to be much better than bows and arrows). But one thing they did not have were numbers. More and more Whites kept coming over the seas every year. And whatever land Whites could not get by sale or the small print of a contract, they took by force.

An excuse to fight the Delaware could always be found. Once it was because one of them took a peach. Small things like that grew into years of war. Even those who had taken on Western ways were killed. Even those who had become peaceful Moravian Christians were killed. Even women and children were killed. It did not matter to Whites.

lifeam1The Delaware who had lived through the White diseases and the White wars were pushed west bit by bit – through Pennsylvania in the 1600s and 1700s,  Ohio, Indiana and Kansas in the 1800s and so on till most of them came to Oklahoma by the 1860s. Some, though, wound up in Wisconsin, some in Ontario. By 2000 there were about 16,000. Unlike other Native Americans, few married Blacks.



Languages: They spoke Unami and Munsee.  In 2009, Munsee had seven or eight native speakers, Unami had none. You can still hear them in prayers and in place names, like Manhattan, the Poconos, Hackensack, Rockaway, Massapequa, Carnarsie, Parsippany, Minisink, Raritan and Jamaica (in Queens).


Mannahatta in 1609 | Manhattan in 2009. Image Mark Boyer WCS. Click to enlarge.

– Abagond, 2009, 2016.

See also:

Read Full Post »

L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000) was a writer of the Golden Age of science fiction in the 1930s and 1940s. Not quite on the level with Asimov, Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke, but up there.

He wrote over a hundred books in the course of 50 years. He especially liked to write about time travel, ancient history, magic and pseudo-science, mainly in the form of stories about adventurers, but sometimes as non-fiction. He helped to keep Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian alive into the 1980s when it made it onto film.

Ballantine books says he is “a man with the mind of an archaeologist, the heart of an adventurer, and the soul of Indiana Jones.” He was also a scholar and a gentleman.

His single best book is probably “Lest Darkness Fall” (1939). It is about an archaeologist who suddenly finds himself in Rome back in the year 535 in the time of Justinian. He becomes an inventor….

Most of his books are good, light reads. While he is a good writer, he has never taken his writing so seriously as to think of it as art. For him it was just a way to make a living. Yet he did win the Nebula (1978) and the Gandalf (1995) as a grandmaster of both science fiction and fantasy. He also won the Hugo in 1997 for his autobiography.

Born in New York, he went to Caltech to get his engineering degree. During the Second World War he worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with Asimov and Heinlein: “For three-and-a-half years, Heinlein, Asimov and I navigated desks and fought the war with flashing slide rules.” He and Asimov became good friends.

De Camp is a materialist, a big believer in science who applies reason to everything – particularly to things like UFOs, creationism, Atlantis and racism.

Even when he writes about a world where magic or time travel is possible, he is thorough in applying strict reasoning to it. He has that kind of mind. He is also careful to get his facts right and make sure that the science of his science fiction is, in fact, science.

His love of facts and getting them right and his love of telling stories of adventure and stories of what-if is what makes him good. You feel like you are back in time or in his other world.

His love of facts and adventure took him round the world to places like Uganda, Iraq, Guatemala, India and Easter Island. When he was writing a book about ancient cities, he went to visit their remains first-hand.

It also took him all over Texas when he wrote about the life of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan. His matter-of-fact truthfulness angered Howard’s fans. De Camp also wrote a book about another author he loved: H.P. Lovecraft.

De Camp wrote books well into his 70s.

He was married to the same woman for almost 70 years, his “rewrite gal”. He died on her first birthday after she passed away.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), the stage name of Norma Jeane Baker, was an American beauty and Hollywood actress. She appeared in the first issue of Playboy magazine and in dozens of largely forgettable films in the 1950s. What she is most remembered for is her beauty and a life cut short.

The best-selling song of the 1900s was written by Elton John about her: “Candle in the Wind”. Andy Warhol’s most famous painting is of her. She is far more famous now than she ever was in life.

Her best-remembered films are “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953) and “Some Like it Hot” (1959). She wanted to be a serious actress, not just a blonde beauty. She modelled herself on Jean Harlow and Lana Turner.

The daughter of a Hollywood film cutter, she grew up in Los Angeles never knowing her father and barely seeing her mother, who was in a rest home. In 1942 she married at age 16. Two years later her husband went off to war. While he was gone, she worked at a parachute factory and started modelling.

In 1946 she signed with Twentieth Century Fox as an actress, making $125 (150 crowns) a week. She coloured her hair, took the stage name of Marilyn Monroe and divorced her husband. “Monroe” was her grandmother’s name.

On May 27th 1949, short on money, she posed naked for some pictures for Tom Kelley for $50 (70 crowns). Four years later in 1953 those same pictures would appear across the country in the first issue of Playboy magazine. It made her famous.

She was different than most Hollywood beauties that came before her. In the 1940s they tended to be thin with dark hair and great legs. But Monroe had light hair (coloured, not natural), large breasts and an hourglass figure. She acted innocent and brainless, not worldly.

She shaped white American ideas of beauty and its effects can still be seen today more than 50 years later. The hourglass figure is out, but the blonde hair and large breasts are still in. Madonna in the 1980s and Anna Nicole Smith in the 1990s both modelled their look directly on hers.

Monroe was briefly married to baseball great Joe DiMaggio in 1954. Then she went to New York to study acting and there she had an affair with writer Arthur Miller. They were married from 1956 to 1961. He wrote “The Misfits” (1961), the last film she appeared in. He wrote her part especially for her.

Some say she slept with President John Kennedy in 1961 and maybe his brother Robert Kennedy. She certainly knew them.

She was found dead on August 5th 1962 at age 36 of a drug overdose. The police called it a “probable suicide”, but some suspect murder, perhaps at the hands of the Kennedys. The police said “probable” not because they thought it might be murder but because it is unclear if she meant to kill herself.

Her body is in a crypt in Los Angeles. Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, owns the place next to hers.

In 1986 feminist Gloria Steinem wrote a book about her life.

See also:

Read Full Post »

The American president, William McKinley, was shot on September 6th 1901 and died a week later. At the time of the shooting the president was being guarded by the Secret Service, 11 soldiers and some policemen.

What went wrong? As the Secret Service later admitted, they were too busy looking at an unarmed black man to notice the white man right in front of him who was hiding a gun in a handkerchief.

The killer, Leon Czolgosz (sounds like Cholgosh), a white man from Detroit, had got in line to shake the president’s hand at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Schumann’s “Traumerei” was playing. Behind him in line was a “dark complexioned man”, who turned out to be James “Big Ben” Parker, a waiter and former constable from Savannah, Georgia.

Czolgosz had bandaged his hand in a handkerchief to hide his gun. When McKinley went to shake his hand, Czolgosz shot him twice. Before he could get off a third shot, Parker hit him and knocked him down and knocked the gun out of his hands, saving the president from certain death.

They took McKinley to the exposition hospital for an operation. The second bullet had gone in, through his stomach and his kidney. The doctors could not find the bullet. Two of the new inventions shown off at the exposition – electric lighting and the X-ray machine – could have helped them find the bullet, but neither was used. No one thought to put electric lights inside the hospital and the doctors thought the X-ray machine was too dangerous.

When word first got out about the shooting, it was said that a black man did it.

In the days that followed McKinley seemed to be getting better, but then on the 12th, almost a week after the shooting, he took a turn for the worse. On Friday the 13th it got so bad there was nothing more the doctors could do. In the early hours of the 14th McKinley died.

Czolgosz was an out-of-work factory worker. His parents had come to America from Poland. When he heard anarchist Emma Goldman speak in Cleveland, he tried to become friends with her, but she thought he was with the police. Her words burned inside him. When he heard that the president was going to be at the Pan-American Exposition he went to Buffalo to kill him.

Czolgosz saw McKinley as the enemy of the good working people: his power only helped the rich against the poor, so Czolgosz was not sorry about killing him. This was a new position for him: he used to vote Republican.

His trial lasted less than nine hours. He was put to death by a new invention of the age: the electric chair.

What changed because of the shooting:

  • Theodore Roosevelt became president.
  • The anarchist movement got a bad name in America and lost ground to socialism.
  • The Secret Service was required by law to protect the president.

What did not change:

  • Racial profiling.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Colourism, or colorism, sometimes called shadism, is where light-skinned people are seen as more beautiful or just plain better than dark-skinned ones of the same race. You see it among blacks in America, the Caribbean, Britain, Brazil  and probably elsewhere. You also see it in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh where it probably goes back at least 3000 years.

This post is about the American sort.

In America anyone who looks at least part black African is considered to be “black” – the One Drop Rule. To whites the big thing is whether or not you are are white. While they may favour light-skinned blacks over dark-skinned ones, they still see both as black and all that goes with that. “Black is black”.

Blacks, on the other hand, make a much bigger deal about the different shades, even within families.

Some dark-skinned blacks think the light-skinned ones have an easier life and hate them for it – and yet wish they were more like them!

Some of the light-skinned ones, on the other hand, feel their blackness is doubted and questioned, even though they experience racism too – though, yes, some are glad they are not so dark and may even look down on those who are!

All this is an effect of white thinking on black people: white is good, black is bad and therefore light skin is better than dark skin. It is a part of black-on-black racism.

On one level everyone knows light-skinned people are no better than dark-skinned people. But at another level people believe what they have been told since they were children in a thousand ways: that light skin is better.

And, yes, in some ways light skin is better:

  • Studies show that light-skinned blacks have more education and make more money. Some say this goes all the way back to slave days when light-skinned blacks worked as house slaves – because they were often the master’s children – while dark-skinned ones were field slaves.
  • Many black men prefer women with light skin and “good hair” over dark skin and natural hair, despite their lip service to black beauty. Thus the phrase, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” Light-skinned women are more likely to get married. They also find themselves hated by dark-skinned women.

There has always been black men who truly love natural black beauty, all of it, over white beauty, even before the 1960s and the whole “Black is beautiful” thing. But, both then and now, they seem to be outnumbered by black men who prefer whiter-looking women.

But keep in mind that colourism can work both ways: sometimes light-skinned blacks are picked on growing up, being told that they are not “black enough”.

So how light is light? The most famous test is the brown paper bag test. In the early 1900s it was used to keep anyone darker than a paper bag out of paper bag parties.

But in practice it is not so simple. What is dark in Louisiana, for example, can be considered light in Georgia.

See also:

Read Full Post »

White flight is where whites move out of a neighbourhood in large numbers. You see this in America when a place becomes more than about one-tenth black. It is a big reason why so many whites left American cities in the 1950s and 1960s – because blacks started moving in.

White flight is the opposite of gentrification. It is how the white suburbs became the opposite of the black ghettos.

White Americans left the cities for many reasons:

  • In the suburbs you had much more floor space, more grass, more trees. And more quiet.
  • After the Second World War the government made it easier to get money to build a new house in the suburbs than to repair an old one in the city.
  • Government was shifting money away from trains, buses and streetcars to highways – before there was any huge demand for it.

But racism was a part of it too:

  • It is well-known that real estate agents in the city took part in what is known as blockbusting: they would sell houses to blacks in white neighbourhoods in order to get whites to rush to sell their houses for less than they were worth – and then turn a nice profit by selling these houses to blacks.
  • Once a neighbourhood becomes more than about 10% black, more whites will move out than move in. It becomes a snowball effect: white flight. After a point only the old people are white. When they die off it becomes all black.

Some whites say they are selling because they are afraid property values will fall: a self-fulfilling prophecy that all but admits that most whites are racist.

Some whites say they are selling because of crime. But the facts do not support that. They move out long before crime becomes an issue. Their move is based not on a close reading of police reports but on racist stereotypes about blacks.

Yes, some of their old neighbourhoods do become crime-ridden, but that takes years. In most cases whites are not selling to poor blacks, but middle-class ones. It takes years of bad police protection and maybe even a black flight of the black middle-class before a neighbourhood gets that bad.

White flight is not just a city/suburb thing: Nearly 90% of suburban whites in America live in a place that is less than 1% black, and yet 9% of the middle-class is black! White flight has little to do with class, crime or wanting a nice place in the suburbs. It has to do with whites not wanting to live with blacks no matter how rich blacks are.

White flight is not always a black/white thing or even a Hispanic/white thing. It seems that Cupertino, California in the Silicon Valley has experienced white flight because “too many” Asians have moved there. Some say it is because the public schools there have become “too hard”, but the schools in nearby Palo Alto, which is much whiter and far less Asian, are just as hard and yet whites there are not leaving in large numbers.

– Abagond, 2008.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Steada treated,we get tricked
Steada kisses, we get kicked

A black ghetto, also known as the hood or the inner city, is a part of an American city where nearly everyone is black. Most ghettos are poor, but not all. Some of the black parts of Queens in New York, for example, are richer than some of the white parts.

For many who live in black ghettos, even in some middle-class ones, racism seems like more than just a few bad apples. The police, the courts, the press, the hospitals, the schools, the housing market, all of it, seem to be based on the idea that black life is not all that important. Everything is second-rate or kind of broken.

When whites see a black ghetto they think it is completely the creation of blacks living there: drug dealers, hookers, crackheads, bad fathers, poor people, etc. True enough in so far as it goes, but ghettos are not on the moon – they are part of a larger American society.

For example, you would think that city services would be the same all across the city. Not so. They are way worse in black ghettos. Even in the black middle-class parts of town it is not that great. Things like trash pick-up, ambulance service, street repair but, most of all, schools and police protection. Those things are beyond the control of the ghetto.

Whites think ghettos are dangerous because the people there are poor and black. What they forget is that the police are not all that interested in protecting the lives and property of poor black people. Not as interested as they are in protecting rich white people or even not-all-that-rich white people. They will even protect white foreigners over black Americans. I have seen it with my own eyes.

When middle-class whites see buildings and houses falling apart in black ghettos they think it is because “blacks do not take care of their neighbourhoods”. What they do not know is that it is hard to get a bank loan or insurance for property in a place like that. Because the banks and insurance companies redline black ghettos, refusing to put much money there. You might think they are just being hardheaded businessmen. That would be understandable. But no, it goes beyond that into racism.

Government policies after the Second World War made it easier to get money to build a house in the suburbs than to repair an old house in the city. That is part of why so much of America’s cities began to fall apart. And that was just when blacks began moving to the big cities like New York and Chicago in huge numbers. And just when most whites left those cities – white flight.

Despite all this black ghettos have produced some of the world’s greatest music and some great writers too. Amiri Baraka says it is because people there are still in touch with their hearts. Yes, and they also see the world more clearly, they see through the middle-class lies.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Most Americans remember the Lakota Sioux Indians as Native Americans who live in the state of South Dakota: In 1876 Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeated Custer at his Last Stand. In 1890 more than 300 men, women and children were gunned down by the American army at Wounded Knee.

But where are they now?

The Sioux are among the poorest people in America. Of the ten poorest counties in the country, six are in Sioux lands in North and South Dakota. I once drove through one of those counties, through the Rosebud reservation: it looked poorer than Mexico.

On the reservations most men have no work, many turn to drink or drugs. Most families live in poverty. They live in small houses with too many people, some without power or water. They do not eat well, so many become fat or diabetic. Many do not have safe water to drink. Cervical cancer is way too common. Half drop out of high school. They have a high suicide rate. Their men are at least twice as likely to wind up in prison as white men.

They live in a ghetto with a big sky.

There are about 150,000 Sioux. Some live in white towns and cities, some on the reservations, what is left of their country. Only 14% can speak their own language, which was not allowed to be taught at school till 1978.

The Lakota Sioux had owned western South Dakota and neighbouring lands. In the middle of their lands were the sacred mountains, the Black Hills, which had silver and gold. When the whites found out, they took the mountains, robbing the Sioux of billions of dollars. Later they cut the giant faces of four white men into the side of one of those mountains, Mount Rushmore.

The Sioux fought several wars against the American government in the 1800s. In the end they lost. They lost most of their land. They lost the bisons, their livelihood. The men had no way to support their families. They had to go hat in hand and take government hand-outs.

It got worse.

The government took their children from them too. They put them in boarding schools far away to learn to speak the white tongue, worship the white god and live the white way. And to feel shame about being Sioux.

But it did not work. The Sioux were never accepted as whites. The government still ran their affairs as if they were children, telling them how to use their land. To this day they remain extremely poor, as they have been for over a hundred years.

In the 1960s they started taking pride again in being Sioux. They started to learn their language and their ancient ways.

In 2007 they said that since the American government has not lived up to any of the deals they made with the Lakota Sioux down through the years, neither would they honour any of the agreements. They wanted their land and their nation back, the Republic of Lakotah.

Thanks to the Angry Indian for his help on this post.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Korean adoptees (1950s- ), or KADs as they are called, are children from Korea who were adopted and grew up overseas. There are more than 150,000 of them, most of them in America, though a surprising number are found in Scandinavia. You see them in other Western countries too.

Most of those in America were placed with white families and were brought up white. They talk white, act white, have white friends, go to a white school, have white parents and may even have a white name.

And yet they do not look white.

Because of white racism it means that they are stereotyped by whites, that growing up they get called names, that white children, those darlings, pull up the corner of their eyes at them. It means whites will never truly accept them as they are. If they are girls, it means they do not look like what America sees as beautiful.

And so, many do not feel like they belong, they feel out of place in America.

Some go to Korea, to the country where they were born, where everyone looks like them. But most do not feel like they fit in there either. While Korea feels bad about sending so many of its children away, the KADs are too American to be Korean.

So they become lost souls, many of them, white on the inside, yellow on the outside, caught between two worlds, never truly belonging to either.

There are three main ways they deal with this:

  1. They try not to think about it and try to fit in as honorary whites.
  2. They learn about Korea. It helps but it does not become a part of their daily life.
  3. They seek out other KADs, people who understand them. They come to see themselves as KADs, as something neither white American nor Korean but something new.

In the 1950s Korea started sending children overseas to be adopted. Back then it was torn apart by war and very poor. But even as late as the 1980s one Korean child in 100 was being sent overseas. And even now in the 2000s, as rich as South Korea is and with South Korean women having only 1.2 children on average, even now one in 200 is sent overseas. Only China and Russia, much bigger countries, send more children.

South Korea is not proud of this and wants to stop the practice completely by 2015.

In America white parents at first were told to bring up their Korean children in a completely colour-blind fashion, just as if they were white. But that meant these children faced white racism completely unprepared and with no one to turn to who understood. Often they were the only Asian person at school or in town!

The common wisdom now is to teach the children as much about Korea as possible. Not sure where that leaves the racism bit, but it has to help to know where you are from and be proud of it.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: