By Dr. Wilmer Leon III, Black Agenda Report (BAR), Nov. 8, 2023
Minstrelsy, "using Black faces to explain and rationalize racism/white supremacy" has returned in the arena of U.S. foreign policy.
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions…He will find his own “proper place” and will stay in it…You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
There have been defining times in history-moments, epochs and periods that are typically marked by notable events or particular characteristics that have changed the world forever. Nicolaus Copernicus’ publication of On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1543, postulating the model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than Earth at its center was such a moment. The Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840), was a defining period in the methods and processes of global production that transitioned most of the world away from hand production, towards more efficient and stable mechanical manufacturing processes. In 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, the earth's first artificial satellite, launching the “space race” that led to America landing the first humans on the moon in 1969.
These are just a few examples of moments in time that have changed people’s perceptions of the world as it was known. The world-humankind, once again finds itself in the midst of one of those epochs. Humankind is witnessing the fall of the Western empire. The shift is away from the unipolar world, financed by the US dollar and controlled by American military power projection and hegemony, to a new multi-polar geo-political landscape. This “new world order” will not be controlled by American interests. It will be managed by the cooperation of numerous countries, with a goal of establishing, “… a more just, balanced and stable multipolar world order, firmly opposing all types of international confrontation…”
People naturally tend to think that a “fall” or collapse of this nature would be more immediate, dramatic and easily recognized. To the contrary, empires tend to collapse over time. It’s analogous to going bankrupt. In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Mike Campbell, a bankrupt Scottish war veteran, was asked how he went bankrupt. Mike replied, “Two ways…Gradually and then suddenly.” When asked what brought his bankruptcy on, Mike replied, “Friends. I had a lot of friends. False friends. Then I had creditors, too.”
Just as Mike had “friends”, the US has allies. As Mike had “creditors”, the US is trying to finance multiple wars on multiple fronts. Treasury Secretary Yellen’s pronouncements that “…the U.S. can afford to support both Ukraine and Israel in their respective war efforts without hindering the nation's economy…”, reeks of OVERREACH. Financial overreach and military overreach are among the contributing factors that have historically led to the fall of empires.
As empires begin their decline messaging becomes very important. The narrative that’s created to control people’s perceptions of reality are key. MSNBC told us, the “…U.S. is using intel to fight an info war with Russia, even when the intel isn't rock solid.” Simply put, the government is lying to you in order to maintain some semblance of order. It’s Plato’s “noble lie”. This is very important. These are the lies that need to be told so Americans will believe that more US taxpayer dollars need to be sent to Ukraine and Israel while American infrastructure disintegrates. We’re told that the US needs to reinvade Haiti, that sovereign African countries should be sanctioned for doing business with Russia and a humanitarian pause in hostilities in Occupied Palestine is a bad idea and only benefits Hamas. These distortions and lies are part of the narratives that directly impact the development of our perceptions. These manufactured or misinformed realities then determine the policies put into place and actions taken. This becomes a vicious cycle as in the Easton model of systems analysis.
In telling the narrative, who tells it can be as important as what is being told. This is where the minstrel and “minstrel diplomacy” rears its ugly head. In the 19th century in the United States, a minstrel was a band of entertainers or an individual, typically white that would blacken their faces with burnt cork referred to as “corking up”. They performed songs, dances, and formulaic comic routines based on stereotyped and demeaning depictions of African Americans. Sometimes, African American performers wore blackface when taking the stage in order to make their presentations more acceptable to White audiences.
What was once found to be an effective entertainment device, the minstrel show has now become a device to disseminate the dominant imperialist and racist Western narrative of American foreign policy. Since the phenotype of many of the victims of these policies are people of the darker hue; the disseminators of the narrative have decided to “cork up” the people being used to sell the story. In a nutshell, using Black faces to explain and rationalize racism/white supremacy in order to make the audience more comfortable with and receptive to the message. These people are easy to find. They are part of what the late Glen Ford called “The Black Misleadership Class”, “…they have been busy selling out Black people for half a century…”. The late Amiri Baraka called them “functionaries of the U.S. government”. They know their proper place, stay in it and do their jobs well.
Former President Obama recently published an Op Ed entitled, Thoughts on Israel and Gaza wherein he stated Israel had a right to defend itself against the October 7 attacks and he reiterated the need to abide by “international law.” I agree that Israel has a right to exist, but not on occupied Palestinian land! According to the ADL, the Balfour Declaration continues to represent the first international recognition of the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in the land of Palestine. It clearly states, "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people … it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine...." Notice, the word “State” is never mentioned nor is the word “Israel”. Why are Zionists allowed to ignore their own documents and rewrite the historical narrative?
Obama’s noncontextual and ahistorical talking points are being passed off as substantive analysis. Obama goes on to write, “But even as we support Israel, we should also be clear that how Israel prosecutes this fight against Hamas matters… that Israel’s military strategy abides by international law…”. He does not acknowledge the humanity of the Palestinians. It’s as if Obama thinks that it’s okay to bomb them as long as we’re nicer about it or just use a nicer form of genocide. Also, Obama totally ignores the fact that Israel’s’ entire anti-Hamas strategy is based on the concept of “collective punishment” and is in violation of international law and is itself a war crime. Many ignore the historic realities of this conflict. If Obama is saying it and he’s Black, it can’t be racist.
AP reported that the U.S. recently vetoed Brazil’s proposed U.N. resolution condemning all violence against civilians in the Israel-Hamas war. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the council needs to allow current diplomatic efforts to unfold. She also criticized the measure for failing to underline Israel’s right to self-defense. It’s hard to negotiate the terms of delivering humanitarian aid to a people suffering genocide when, as was the case with African Americans, their very humanity is in question.
The US veto of the proposed resolution amounts to the U.S. giving Israel as much time as it wants to, as PM Netanyahu said, “…to turn them into rubble”. Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman recently described Palestinians as "horrible, inhuman animals”. Israel’s defense minister called for a “complete siege” of Gaza, describing the Palestinian fighters who attacked Israel over the weekend as “human animals.” None of this can be considered racist if Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield believes that humans can be exterminated because she does like the language in Brazil’s proposed resolution. Both Obama’s and UN Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s statements fail to provide historical context relating to the atrocities being committed against the Palestinians in Historic Palestine.
Other examples of “minstrel diplomacy” include U.S. Representative Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) supporting the Global Fragilities Act and the U.S. backed reinvasion of Haiti. Dr. Jemima Pierre writes, “The act and its prologue clearly articulate that the main goals are to advance “U.S. national security and interests” and to “manage rival powers,” presumably Russia and China.” The U.S. understands the poor optics of it leading the invasion into Haiti, so it is trying desperately to find a “Black led” country or “Black face” to take the lead. VP Harris and Rep. Jeffries traveled to Nassau in June for the U.S.-Caribbean Leaders Meeting in a failed attempt to convince a CARICOM country to back the play. They would not. Eventually, the U.S. was able to convince Kenya to take the lead in this U.S. misadventure and has agreed to pay Kenya over $100M million. This has also resulted in U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signing a five-year agreement with Kenya to shill for U.S. militarism on the Continent. Much to the U.S.’ dismay, a Kenyan court has temporarily suspended the government plan to send Kenyan troops into Haiti.
Another example of this minstrelsy is U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) championing the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act that sanctions sovereign African nations that decide to do business with Russia. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has vehemently expressed their collective opposition to this law. In a recent statement they said, “Africa Is Not For Sale. Africa is open for business not for sale or looting. We must defend what is ours and make sure that no one takes from us what is ours…” We must be vigilant and aware of the Black faces that are being used by the failing empire to sell us on failed raciest, white-supremacist, imperial, neo-colonial militarism.
If we continue to allow these narratives to go unchallenged, Americans will continue to blindly support money laundering schemes disguised as military and humanitarian support bills for countries such as Ukraine, Israel and Haiti. As Woodson stated, “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions…” The real goal is to pay stock dividends to investors in the military-industrial complex and bonuses to the CEO’s of companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin with Americans hard earned tax dollars.
These are just some of the dangers of minstrel diplomacy. As the late Fred Hampton told us, “it’s a class struggle… We know that in order to be able to talk about power, that what you’ve got to be able to talk about is the ability to control and define phenomena and make it act in a desired manner…”. Listening to the minstrels we continue to get confused. We continue to come up with, as Fred Hampton said, “…answers that don't answer, explanations that don't explain and conclusions that don't conclude.”
Dr. Wilmer Leon is a nationally broadcast talk radio host. An adjunct professor of political science. Author of Politics Another Perspective. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com © 2023 InfoWave Communications, LLC
Posted Nov. 14, 2023