Where the World's Views of America Come into Focus
By Anwaar Hussain
August 6, 2005
In a small red-tiled home at the end of a rutted road in the Brazilian town of Gonzaga, Jean Charles de Menezes' parents cry silently each night over the tragic demise of their murdered son. During this ritual, the mother holds a recent photo of her smiling son, her tears cascading over her weather-beaten face onto the framed photograph. The mango and orange trees of the nearby farms have borne silent witness to her mourning since Friday, July 22, when the life of their innocent son was snuffed out by the London Police.—BBC NEWS VIDEO: Parents, Home Town Mourn Jean Charles de Menezes, July 30, 00:01:07
A routine commute for Jean Charles ended in the never-never land, courtesy of Her Majesty’s armed police who, in the wake of the recent bombing-attacks in London, were given shoot-to-kill orders for all Asian-looking suspects. With five shots to the back of Menezes’s pinned down head at point blank range, an innocent man was deprived of his youth and his dreams.—BBC NEWS VIDEO: British Police Explain Error of Killing Innocent Man, July 27, 00:03:03
Is it a one-off incident, or is it indicative of a resurgence in the once-thriving attitude toward people of color? This was an illness when the white man ruled supreme over a large swath of planet earth. And it is a disease that was never really cured: call it the Menezes Syndrome.
Perhaps it isn't possible for the white man
to get past those bygone days when the British Empire rose to its pinnacle,
showered in the blood of people of color. That the imperialistic genes are surging
again in the white man’s veins is amply demonstrated by Prime Minister Tony
Blair’s decision to grab on to the coattails of the latest empire-seeker, the
As the British lead their American cousins into the vacuum that their own empire left behind, the world must come to grips with the white man's method to better understand the new imperial master.
With open-season having been declared on men of color and the world cringing at each new atrocity that these international cousins commit against any non-Europeans still sitting on the leftovers of the planet’s resources, it would be worth our while to have a brief look at the white man’s imperial past.
The British, who now chaperon the Americans, did not massacre their subjects because decades later they wanted to make the world safe for democracy. These crimes happened, as all imperial massacres do, in a frenzy of absolute power. It occurred because of the sick conviction that all colonial masters have toward their subjects - that they have the god-given right to decide the course of history while gorging themselves on the loot from those very same subjects.
Perhaps more urgent is the fact that the
British Empire is the most commonly cited model for the United States, the
current overarching world power.
For centuries, the European white man has plundered and terrorized the non-European world, treating with contempt people with different skin color, culture, philosophy, religion, languages and way of life. Conquered nations were expected to give up their own cultures, religions, even languages and to convert to the set of beliefs and values defined as “civilized.” In the process, Europeans brooked no opposition. Any kind of expressed opposition was brutally suppressed. Today’s terrorist groups are like a bunch of kindergarten kids when compared to Europe's colonial armies. Using their armies, the white man killed people of color, terrorized the survivors, and with a reckless abandon justified it all by calling those they murdered pagans, heathens, savages, cannibals, etc.
The treatment of Aboriginal people at the turn of the 19th century is just one harrowing illustration of this attitude. The near extermination of Aboriginal people started in 1804 with an incident near Hobart, Tasmania, when British soldiers fired on a party of Aboriginal men, women, and children. Some of the 50 or so killed that day were reported to have been salted down and sent to Sydney as anthropological curiosities.
Perhaps the worst example of white man’s
contempt for people of color is the greatest such human tragedy: the trans-Atlantic
slave trade. Tens of millions of Africans were exported to the
In ''Bury the Chains,'' Adam Hochschild
says: ''So rapidly were slaves worked to death, above all on the brutal sugar
plantations of the Caribbean, that between 1660 and 1807, ships brought well
over three times as many Africans across the ocean to British colonies as
they did Europeans. … the Atlantic was a vast conveyor belt to early death in the fields of an immense
swath of plantations that stretched from Baltimore to Rio de Janeiro and beyond.'' Ironically, when a movement to set
them free began in
All European empires built their fortunes by looting the colonies. From gold and silver to spices and precious stones and human beings, no resource of these lands was left unplundered. The magnificent European palaces, the museums and theatres, the cathedrals and municipal buildings - all are built at the expense of the rest of the planet. All are founded on slavery, and nourished with the blood of slaves. The smiling, well fed facade of Europe has been built with the sweat and on the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians and the yellow races. Jean Charles de Menezes was just the latest brick in the façade.
As the new Robinson Crusoes continue to pulverize nations and create fiefdoms for themselves in distant lands populated with “lesser” people of a darker hue, let the fact be known that every aspect of colonial rule, including the superficial yet earnest efforts of the Empire builders to study and understand native cultures, is ultimately designed to maximize the looting and plundering of the subject peoples’ resources. Towering ambition and greed are twin evils joined at the hip. Empire and Empire building, therefore, can never be philanthropic.
Ironically, the white man continues to be called “cultured” and the rest “hadjis’” “brutes,” and “ragheads.” This incongruity cannot be clearer than in the answer of an Indian to a European settler that was taunting him. The Indian said, “White man, you have wiped us out, you stole our land, you destroyed our homes, you raped our women and brought deadly diseases to our people. You have done every unthinkable crime imaginable. It no longer hurts me. What truly hurts me and my people is that despite all of the crimes you have committed against my people, we are still considered savages and you "civilized" people. That truly hurts me the most!"
To people of color, the British are the embodiment of the white man and are therefore the symbolic flag carriers of what is best and worst in the white man. The tendency shown in the casual killing of Menezes is a dark omen marking the resurgence of an attitude of superiority in the white man toward people of color. It seems that the white man has not been able to immunize himself from this unfortunate, contemptible and skewed mind-set toward people of color - a curse of the white man’s imperial legacy.
The killing of innocent Jean Charles de
Menezes of Gonzaga [
"I'm begging God for justice," wails Menezes’s mother in a floods of tears. That the God seems to be white too - she has forgotten in her grief.