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Saturday, July 19, 2014

White Studies and the Blood of Palestine

White Studies and the Blood of Palestine


“Americans are not anti-Semitic. Their tax dollars help the State of Israel to purchase weapons of destruction.”  (from a declassified NSA document; call Senator David Vitter for confirmation.)

“Invisible histories” appear in my mind, especially when I am listening to the blues.  Then, stigmata appear on the palms of my hands.  The stigmata come from Palestine, Nigeria and Mississippi. They spill photographs and sugar on the floor. They bear the smell and color of blood.  Lye soap will not wash them away. Aztec children converse with “invisible histories” as they burn and die in the American Dream.

Clues about these “invisible histories” are contained in the interview George Kent conducted with Chancellor Williams on August 30, 1973, part of which was published in The Black Position, No. 3 (1973): 7-38. The original clues, of course, are in Williams’ seldom read book The Destruction of Black Civilization (Chicago: Third World Press, 1974). Clues inform us about the foundations of scholarship.  They tell us that knowledge accumulates when the absence of remembering is present.

Speaking to Kent, Williams acknowledged that some of his scholarly habits were indebted to the teaching of Leo Hansberry at Howard University.  Hansberry urged his students to find “missing pages of black history,” often by anointing their minds in the presence of their enemies.  Such advice is still solid in 2014.  Williams learned from Hansberry that “you’ve got to draw on sources that you might call non-existent sources, because you’ve got to look into areas where you wouldn’t even expect to find anything. In other words, so much of your material if fragmentary --- a line here, a paragraph there, a sentence in some other work, or a footnote somewhere ---- all of the highest significance, but in works which in no ways directly relate to African history at all” (17-18).

Right.  But the words which might produce nightmares regarding White Studies are those Williams used in talking about secrets: “Now, I get a whole lot of criticism because the records show that we are vulnerable too.  We’re backward and need to be given just as much hell as the whites in a whole lot of things that I was to uncover. They don’t want me to do that.  They say you’re washing our dirty linen in public. I say it’s already in public. We’re no vast secret society so that we can do a lot of stuff nobody knows about. The white man knows about it better than we do in a sense, because he’s the architect of many of the things we are doing; he’s seeing how well we are carrying out his program.  He’s all right; he’s safe until we begin to turn the search light on criticism of ourselves” (28).

Yes. When the Holy Land has satisfied its thirst for the blood of Palestine, White Studies will quote the final stanza of Bob Kaufman’s magnificent poem “The Ancient Rain” from The Ancient Rain: Poems 1956-1978 (New York: New Directions Books, 1987): 81.-----“I remember the day I went into crackling blueness. His indescribable voice saying Black Man, Black Man, for the mole and the water jet, stay out of the cleft, seek out the great Sun of the Center.”

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.         July 19, 2014

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