Delusion of democracy

January 21, 2021

The idea of American democracy from its very inception, and as flagged by the ridiculous euphemism of its “exceptionalism”, is literally a racist proposition. It was never meant to...

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The idea of American democracy from its very inception, and as flagged by the ridiculous euphemism of its “exceptionalism”, is literally a racist proposition. It was never meant to include non-white people. It was born out of the genocide of Native Americans and built with the pernicious fruits of trans-Atlantic slavery. It was carefully designed to serve racist white settler-colonists, and racist white settler-colonists only, in perpetuity.

As a result, the white racists for whom America was built still have a sense of ownership over its “hallowed halls of democracy”. To see this sense of ownership in action, just look at the arrogance, the ease and the entitlement with which that mob stormed the Capitol. They attacked and ransacked what has been sold to the rest of the world as a “citadel of democracy”, because they see it as the alter of their racial superiority, and fear that it is being taken away from them by liberal whites to be given to liberal undesirables.

That angry racist mob was the barely repressed ego of the entire Republican Party unleashed. With that terror attack, white supremacist Republicans have done to America what America has long been doing to the rest of the world with equal ease. They attacked and briefly occupied the Capitol with the same sense of entitlement that Americans invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, and helped their fellow settler-colonists steal Palestine.

The racists who attacked the Capitol, like millions of their Republican supporters, are scared that the Democrats are plotting to take away their privilege and dismantle America’s white supremacist foundations. They are, of course, mistaken.

The liberalism that the Democrats are promoting has a different and more colourful constituency, but is no less white supremacist than the conservatism of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party allows Americans of colour, such as Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, to assume positions of power, but only after they prove themselves as defenders of the existing white supremacist order. No Black or Brown politician, for example, can come close to a position of power within the Democratic Party, or in a Democratic White House, without pleading their loyalty to, and undying support for, the apartheid state of Israel.

The drama we are witnessing unfold in the US today is merely a battle between two forms of white supremacy – one manifest and the other latent.

The Republicans falsely fear that the Democrats are working to take their privileges and give them to people of colour. The Democrats, however, will not give any privilege or power to any person of colour unless and until they fit the criteria British colonial officer Lord Macaulay set in his infamous treatise Minute on Education (1835) at the height of British rule in India:

“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

Macaulay anticipated the rise of Obama and Harris some 200 years ago. Although the former president and the incoming vice president are both Black, they are of “a class of persons” who are white “in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”.

So there is no reason for Republicans to fear the Democrats – in the end, both parties are working for the very same goal of keeping alive the white supremacist project that is American “democracy”.

Today, the real change that Malcolm X had dared to imagine is carried only in the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement. And as the Republicans are arming themselves to physically fight those calling for real equality and justice, the Democrats, led by Obama and Harris, are working to distort and divert their message.

This is what we write about when we write about America – the active dismantling of an illusion that has Obama and Harris on one side, Trump and Nikki Haley on the other, and the fate of an entire planet in the balance.

But the soul of America from which we write is not in the gaudy Romanesque citadels of power in Washington, DC and those who are drawn to it. The soul of America is in every listless site of every small or big city, town, or village, where people live. And for me, and millions of others like me, it is in New York City.

Like people all over this fragile planet, we too carve an actual or virtual niche for ourselves in New York City. It is from the meditative pulses of those niches that America keeps dreaming of itself in the Bronx, in Brooklyn, in Queens, in Staten Island, and yes even in Manhattan.

Excerpted: ‘What do we write about when we write about America?’

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