Friday, July 22, 2011

a demonstrable fact revealed to be a grand illusion

Ta-Nehisi Coates reflecting on reading about the 30 Years War as an African American, demonstrating again why I think he's the best writer on the internet.

A piece:
First, it's really startling to read about the utter barbarism which Europe sank to during the War, and then contrast it with popular images of Africa as "the dark continent." I hope this doesn't sound cold, but immediately it occured to me that all the sins the proto-white racists put on Africa--cannibalism, slavery, wanton rape--were very much known to them. The very Germans who fled from Palantinate to a country that derided Africans as savages, were, themselves, the children of such savages.

From that perspective, racism is again revealed as not simply amoral but as phrenology, as Intelligent Design. Its mission is to evade, or conceal a painful past, and overlay with the legacy of the Greeks or the Romans. But the Moors and Muslims have as much claim to classical civilization as the Germans. Any exploration of Muslim scholarship reveals that not simply to be philosophically true, but tangibly true.

This is not schadenfreude. Much to the contrary, it's the continuous realization that humans are humans.

I don't know how to explain this, but it takes quite a bit of intellectual work, as black person--and probably as a white person--to feel that race really doesn't mean anything; that there really isn't anything wrong with you, and upon figuring that out, that there isn't anything wrong with them; that what feels so deeply like it must have some meaning--my brown skin, the shape of your eyes, their blonde hair--has none.

Do you know what it is, not to just to tell yourself that, not to just repeat it as mantra, not to just think it's true, not even to know it intellectually, but to actually believe it? To feel it? It takes awhile for the thing to set in.

No comments: