Another face of racism

Image_Marcio Costa


The real or fictional traditions invoked by ethnic identity contest cultural universalism and biological miscegenation, but do not refuse technical and business universalism

In an interview published in New York Times Magazine, in 1988, Saul Bellow quipped: “Who is Tolstoy of the Zulus? The Proust of the Papuans? I would like to read them”. Saul Bellow had won the 1976 Nobel Prize in Literature, in addition to other prizes and distinctions, and his conservative views were and are well known. But we lived in a time when political correctness did not yet exist and racists could express themselves clearly, that is, it was easier to criticize them. To the sarcasm of the famous writer, the black journalist Ralph Wiley would respond almost a dozen years later: “Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus. Unless it is considered advantageous to wall up the universal properties of humanity, converting them into exclusive tribal domains». This response from a universalist black to a racist white should serve as a mirror for us to appreciate the current black movement, and indeed all current forms of identity, which surround the universal properties of humanity with walls and convert them into exclusive tribal domains.

Interestingly, Saul Bellow's sneer remains familiar, while Ralph Wiley's retort seems to belong to another world. The limelight, and even the entire stage, are now occupied by authors such as Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Center for Anti-Racist Studies at Boston University, for whom the idea of ​​universalism is a white man's ruse and the fusion of cultures corresponds the «lynching of black cultures». As if fictional traditions attributed to people with whom African-Americans never lived were more real than, for example, the pages of Chester Himes. Why, moreover, does this black American writer seem forgotten? Blind Man with a Pistol (translated in Brazil stupidly, as usual, with the title Harlem Is Dark) would be an urgent read, meaning no one will read it. But, as always in racism, whatever the skin color it promotes, culture and biology are confused, and just as the fusion of cultures can be presented as a cultural lynching, in the same way in a parade on Avenida Paulista on 20 November 2017, National Black Consciousness Day, a banner proclaimed that «Miscegenation is also genocide». The current hysteria unleashed in the Brazilian black movement by the persecution of "false quota holders" is nothing more than a transposition into realistic terms of the labor market of what is presented in ideological terms as hostility to mestizos. The alleged racial divisions target competition between workers.


The attribution of a culture to a biology and, conversely, the restriction of that culture to that biology, which define modern racism and tragically marked the racist modalities of fascism, have deep roots in the black movement. When, in 1937, three years before his death, Marcus Garvey outlined the summary of his biography and the organization he had founded, saying that «we were the first fascists» and that «Mussolini copied fascism from me», it was not just boastfulness that characterized him. Garvey's starting point, which has always served as a guiding line, was the refusal of the fusion of cultures and biological miscegenation.

But blacks in the United States were too numerous to be confined to ghettos. The military recruitment of whites, due to the American participation in the First World War, allowed blacks to find jobs more easily in factories and, in addition, the high economic growth in the period from 1916 to 1918 and during the first half of the following decade required massive amounts of unskilled labor. On the other hand, the drop in cotton prices on the world market contributed to encourage blacks to leave the southern states. Under these conditions, the migratory flow reached an unprecedented dimension and it is estimated that between 1916 and 1918 about half a million blacks moved to the industrial centers of the north of the country. In Chicago, for example, while the number of white inhabitants increased by just over 20% between 1910 and 1920, the black population grew by almost 150%. Intending to maintain ethnic separation and faced with the impossibility of forming ghettos, Garvey suggested going to Africa as a solution. From the 1920s onwards, this was the exclusive theme of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which Garvey had founded in 1914.

The fight against cultural fusion was also understood as a fight against biological miscegenation, since to encourage a return to Africa it would be necessary to deepen the cleavage between North American blacks and the rest of the country's population. It was for this reason that Garvey adopted extreme racist theses, defending segregation, opposing miscegenation and excluding mestizos from his movement. "I believe in a pure black race," he declared, "just as all self-respecting whites believe in a white race as pure as possible." And he said again, in 1923, "I believe in racial purity and the conservation of standards of racial purity," publicly insisting on the same principles six years later. Garvey did not even hesitate before the political conditions required by his segregationism and sent a congratulatory telegram to President Warren G. Harding when he, in October 1921, declared himself against racial mixing and in favor of segregation. Likewise, the UNIA supported a bill presented by a right-wing racist senator, which proposed the repatriation of all black Americans to Africa. Though for opposite reasons, Garvey noted, their goals converged. This explains why Garvey benefited from the approval of the Ku Klux Klan and other white racist organizations, whose representatives were frequently invited to speak at UNIA rallies. "The American White Society, the Anglo-Saxon Clubs and the Ku Klux Klan have my full support in their fight for a pure race," Garvey stated bluntly, "at the very moment that we are fighting for a black race. pure». Incidentally, public praise was not enough for him, Garvey began secret conversations with Klan delegates and went to Atlanta in 1922 to meet with his supreme leader. This segregationism had repercussions across the Atlantic and in 1921 a racist right-wing organization, the German Emergency League against the Black Horror, sought Garvey's support in the campaign to have the Senegalese military withdrawn from the French troops stationed in Rhineland. Also Alfred Rosenberg, official doctrinaire of National Socialism, in his most important book, published in 1930, approved the migration of North American blacks to colonize Africa.

To provide an economic infrastructure for the return to Africa, Garvey created several companies, mainly the Black Star Steamship Line, a maritime transport company in the form of a joint stock company and supported exclusively by black capital, and also the Negro Factories Corporation, whose capital it was also reserved for blacks and its objective was to found and explore enterprises in the great industrial centers of the United States, Central America and Africa. Indeed, as Edmund Cronon observed, "the organization of the Universal Negro Improvement Association itself obeyed the same principles as any business." But Garvey's economic aspirations were even greater than his political dreams, and in February 1925 he was convicted of fraud related to the Black Star Line, jailed for nearly three years, and finally expelled from the United States in late 1927. Chester Himes reflected on all this in a 1965 novel, Cotton Comes to Harlem.

Just as he had sought the allegiance of the white extreme right, Garvey had harassed the left and the labor movement, both white and black, urging UNIA supporters to forcibly disperse left-wing rallies. He argued that white workers were the true rivals of black workers and that, as long as the black community had not been able to develop a capitalist economy independent of white society, black workers had an interest in keeping their wages below that of whites, in order to be competitive in the job market. And in August 1929, in a public debate with a representative of black unionism, Garvey declared that blacks should accumulate their own capital, so that black workers could carry out the activity for the benefit of bosses of the same color. The UNIA presented itself, in short, as a framework of solidarity between black workers and black capitalists.

Under these conditions, it is logical that Garvey would have given the UNIA a fascist structure, with uniformed militias and even having its own Church, the African Orthodox Church, headed by an expressly consecrated patriarch. A capitalist movement, obeying ethnic recruitment criteria and presenting a territorial expansion conducted in racial terms as a way of salvation, must be considered as a first edition of National Socialism. Garvey could legitimately proclaim in 1937: “We were the first Fascists. We discipline men, women and children and prepare them for the liberation of Africa. The black masses saw that only in this extreme nationalism could they place their hopes and they immediately supported it. Mussolini copied fascism from me, but black reactionaries sabotaged it».

The similarity between Garvey's notions and those of the contemporary black movement, in Brazil and other countries, is not occasional. The UNIA mobilized in the United States a number of participants that would only be surpassed by the civil rights campaign during the 1960s and, as it managed to have affiliates practically all over the world, it is still a unique case today, leaving an enormous influence. It is not even a question here of what I classify as post-fascist fascism, but of the unbroken continuity of a classic fascism, all the more so since, viewed with suspicion by the main black businessmen, the UNIA found its base of support among the black proletariat cities in the north and east of the country. As always happens in fascism, proletarian dissatisfaction was echoed in nationalist politics, and it was as «extreme nationalism» that Garvey presented his actions, leaving a line of continuous evolution drawn between the UNIA and the hostility to cultural fusion enunciated by Ibram X. Kendi or the aversion to biological miscegenation proclaimed on the main avenue of São Paulo on November 20, 2017.

But in a hundred years much has changed, both in the world economy and in the internal organization of social classes and in the relations between them. The UNIA's goal was to lead black Americans to Africa, where they would be a new elite and, in Garvey's words, would "help civilize backward African tribes." Today, what can be the objective of this black "extreme nationalism"? Elitism persists, no longer vis-à-vis «backward African tribes», but vis-à-vis the common population, while the main organizers of the black movement seek to rise to dominant positions. For this, the techniques of nationalism are also maintained, although the transnationalization of the economy has multiplied nationalism in various identity forms, but it is the same mobilization of discontented masses in favor of the rise of contesting leaders. However, this process of renewal of the elites is now taking place in an integrated world, where there is no longer room for returns to Africa. For this reason, the current form of Garveism has acquired an additional facet - hypocrisy.

This hypocrisy consists in the fact that the rising elites promoted by the black movement accept the technical universalism on which the economy is based and even its institutions, but at the same time consider “lynching” the fusion of cultures presupposed in that universalism. Quotas, or similar policies, secure places in European and North American-style educational establishments and companies. Electronics, computers and the successive generations of mobile phones (cell phones) were generated from an originally European and North American scientific base. In the same way, current medicine owes nothing to traditional remedies; even the modern form of witchcraft, psychoanalysis, has Austrian roots and does not come from the ancient shamans. The real or fictional traditions invoked by ethnic identity contest cultural universalism and biological miscegenation, but do not refuse technical and business universalism. On the contrary, they intend to ensure the ascension of black people in the current economic and technical framework, to integrate an elite where before whites held the exclusivity. In this context, racism remains, only the signs are reversed.


Apparently there is a movement immune to that identity hypocrisy — Boko Haram. The expression means, in the Hausa language, western education is sinful, or is prohibited, although at one time the movement adopted the broader designation Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, meaning those dedicated to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and to jihad. The movement was born in 2002 in Maiduguri, capital of Borno, a state in northeast Nigeria, on the initiative of Muhammad Yusuf, an imam who rejected Darwinism and defended that the earth is flat, which, incidentally, did not distinguish him from many other people. Yusuf was executed in 2009 by the security forces and, as in so many cases, he was more effective dead than alive, as in that year the movement turned into a violent insurrection and expanded into neighboring Nigerian regions and even into the three neighboring countries.

In addition to the ethnic and religious contrast between the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria and the Christian south, economic differences are also pronounced. With precarious infrastructure and a ruined industry, income per capita in the north it corresponds to half of that verified in the south. And while the literacy rate in the country's main city, Lagos, is 92%, it is 49% in Kano, the main city in the north. In Borno, the situation is even worse, with a literacy rate of 15%, which is not surprising, because the schooling rate is 75% lower than in the south, and in some regions of Borno, less than 5% of women can read and to write. Boko Haram intends to be the voice of these disinherited people, and the greater the ignorance, the easier it is to mobilize in favor of traditional beliefs.

Claiming the strict application of Islamic law, the Sharia, Boko Haram directs its armed actions against Christian churches and against mosques where Islamic worship adopts other orientations, and also against cinemas, bars and in general everything that is part of modern urban society. Boko Haram has left a trail of thousands of dead, perhaps forty thousand by mid-2020, and taken with it thousands of hostages. From the beginning of the insurrection in 2009 until the end of 2016, he kidnapped more than ten thousand boys to train them as guerrillas. The remaining kidnapped are either released against payment of ransoms or sold into slavery. It is curious that the indignation at the horrors of a certain enslavement that took place centuries ago leaves this contemporary hunt for slaves ignored.

But it is above all against schools that do not obey the strict Islamic model that the operations of these indomitable defenders of an Epistemology of the South have been most notorious. On a night in March 2014, Boko Haram killed about four dozen students in Yobe state, setting fire to a dormitory whose doors it had locked and shooting at anyone trying to jump through the windows. As a result, the government of the neighboring state of Borno decided to close all secondary schools, which affected 120.000 students in a region where the schooling rate is already very low. The following month, during an attack on the small town of Chibok, in Borno, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls, students of a school where teaching followed Western methods. Some died, a few dozen managed to escape and the remaining 219 were either given as brides to men of the movement or sold into slavery. More than three years later and after many efforts to free them, 112 of these girls were still enslaved. According to Amnesty International, between early 2014 and spring 2015 more than 2017 women were kidnapped by Boko Haram, and since then many more have suffered the same fate. It is curious that the western feminists who in XNUMX invented the #metoo apropos of a Hollywood tycoon remain indifferent to these cases of mass enslavement. As always happens, silences are the decisive component of ideologies. More recently, in March 2018, and thanks to one of the rare successful interventions by the Nigerian army, Boko Haram released most of the 110 girls that it had kidnapped from a school the previous month.

Can it be said, then, that Boko Haram does not share the identity hypocrisy and, in addition to rejecting cultural universalism, it also rejects technology from other cultures? Not even that, because Boko Haram both uses the weapons invented and produced by the infidels it hates and shows itself sophisticated in the use of computers and the use of the internet. When asked once if it wouldn't be inconsistent to have computers and modern medical equipment in your house, the founder of the movement, Imam Yusuf, replied: “They are technological products. Western education is different. Western education is Westernization».

Comparing Boko Haram with the ethnic identity that is rampant in Europe and the Americas does not only serve to highlight the myopia that affects them in the face of certain horrors, as long as they are perpetrated in Africa. It also serves to assess the hypocrisy of participants in the contemporary black movement, who reject western culture as harmful, but exclude from this rejection the technical and business aspects that directly benefit them. This hypocrisy constitutes the silent nucleus of identitarianisms, and it is from there that we must proceed with the critique.


In reality, the universal character of civilization was not even born with capitalism. The classic monumental work of James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, as well as the studies of Mircea Eliade, to limit myself to these two authors, show that the same myths and symbolic rituals were found in peoples who had never maintained direct relations. Long before a world economy was constituted, and independently of systematic trade networks or imperial expansions, culture already existed on a universal scale, and it is precisely to prevent this conclusion, which is so fatal to identitarianisms, that postmodernism discourages comparative history. and is dedicated to cutting the story into slices.

But the best demonstration of the global character of the evolution of human societies is obtained by comparing the pre-Columbian Americas and the rest of the world, completely separated for thousands of years. This is the most eloquent proof of the existence of universal historical laws. If Marxism, pardon me, if Marxists had not surrendered so abjectly to identity postmodernism, they would not have forgotten to invoke this uncontroversial argument. The interpretation of Maya writing is an illuminating example. In the early 1950s, Soviet linguist Yuri Knorozov suggested that various Mayan characters, or glyphs, would represent syllables and could be combined to form words, so that the meaning of the components would be irrelevant to the meaning of the compound, as had happened in writing. of Eurasian societies. Opponents of this phonetic interpretation of Mayan writing branded it Marxism, for admitting laws of evolution common to all societies, but it was Knorozov's interpretation that ended up being accepted in the academic environment, without apparently current Marxists understanding the importance of this fact to confirm the universality of historical laws and the evolution of societies.

*João Bernardo is a Portuguese political activist and essayist. Author, among other books, of Labyrinths of Fascism: At the Crossroads of Order and Revolt (Flash).

Originally published on the website word of mouth



Saul Bellow's Observation and Ralph Wiley's Rebuttal they are so easily found on the internet that it is unnecessary to cite sources. The quote from Ibram X. Kendi lies hereAbout the banner exhibited on November 20, 2017 at Avenida Paulista see hereOn the persecution of "false shareholders" see here e hereAbout Marcus Garvey and the UNIA see: Edmund David CRONON, Black Moses. The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Madison and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968; Arthur HERMAN, The Idea of ​​Decline in Western History, New York: The Free Press, 1997; George PADMORE, Panafricanism or Communism? La Prochaîne Lutte pour l'Afrique, Paris: Présence Africaine, 1960. Alfred Rosenberg's approval is found in his work The Myth of the Twentieth Century. An Evaluation of the Spiritual-Intellectual Confrontations of Our Age, pages. 450 and 452-453, hereAbout Boko Haram consulted mostly The Economist, de 27 August 201129 September 2012May 2, 201330 November 201321 March 20144 July 201419 January 201522 January 201526 March 2015May 19, 201611 August 20165 November 201630 November 201722 March 201824 November 2018 quality 4 June 2020On Maya writing consulted with Norman HAMMOND, The Maya, London: The Folio Society, 2000.



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