Saturday, January 30, 2010

The real looters

The real looters

We’ve all seen the images so many times: a Black youth, or maybe it’s a Black mother, or a Black elder taking food, clothing, items to be sold “illegally” from a store.

This person is possibly hungry, undoubtedly poor and in some level of distress — whether it be from the ravages of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; the combined devastation and racist neglect in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005; or even the righteous anger, in response to police brutality, that leads to rebellions. The person has few, if any, options and, in all probability, hasn’t had any for a long time.

And yet when times get desperate, and this person is captured on camera securing necessities for his or her family, this person is demonized as a “looter.” When natural disasters occur in areas with a high concentration of people of color, the highest concern echoed on the TV networks and in the printed press is that of “security.”

It is the height of racism that allows government figures and their talking heads in the corporate media to even mention looting during such tumultuous events. It’s based on the old colonialist mentality that people of color are “savages” who need to be kept in line by the white man. And it’s reinforced by the one-dimensional images of people of color that are shown all the time — images that, fundamentally, refuse to take into account the legacy of pain and suffering, the will to survive or the right to resist.

What’s the theft of basic items of survival compared to the theft of whole lands and peoples? The very imperialists who raise charges of looting, if they had their way, would loot and exploit all the peoples of the world and the very environment we live in, until there’s nothing left. These imperialists employ every manner of violence — from starvation to guns and bombs — to get what they want.

While the threat of “looting” by the oppressed is in reality very minimal to the imperialists, they do face a real security issue. It’s the threat that those who have been oppressed for centuries will rise up, perhaps employing the same violence that they have always been subjected to. That is why the U.S. sends troops rather than aid to Haiti in its time of need.

The imperialists face a second threat, one that significantly augments the first. It’s that the oppressed have allies who will rise up with them, who realize they face the same oppressor, who are aware that their strength lies in unity. In an attempt to avoid this, they ply us with images of the dreaded “looters,” who are really our sisters and brothers in struggle.

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