In the early part of the 20th century, there was a broad movement of people in the United States who advocated the overthrow of capitalism. Among them were many revolutionaries like Eugene Debs, William Z. Foster, Lucy Parsons, and Paul Robeson.
However, there was another current of people who called themselves “socialists” but had no interest in revolution. They were called “sewer socialists.” The term originated in reference to Victor L. Berger, a “socialist” who ran on a platform of improving the city’s sewer system and eventually became the mayor of Milwaukee. The sewer socialists did not want to overthrow capitalism, but simply to be elected to local public office and improve government policy. They wanted to make a global system built on exploitation of people all over the world a little more comfortable for those living within the western economic centers.
The battle between these two poles of the left movement – with the revolutionary and anti-imperialist wing of socialism on the one hand and the “sewer socialist” wing on the other — played out on a global level. Commenting on the debate, Russian socialist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin described the trend this way: “The bourgeoisie of an imperialist ‘Great’ Power can economically bribe the upper strata of ‘its’ workers by spending on this a hundred million or so francs a year, for its superprofits most likely amount to about a thousand million… this little sop is divided among the labour ministers, ‘labour representatives’… labour members of War Industries Committees… labour officials, workers belonging to the narrow craft unions…”
In the modern United States, it isn’t sewer socialism but “Vermont socialism” that plays the role of the ‘Labor Ministers.’ US Senator Bernie Sanders is running for president, and openly describes himself as a “socialist.” Despite using this word to describe himself, with many well intentioned anti-capitalist activists supporting him, Sanders’ platform in reality articulates a strategy for strengthening global monopoly capitalism and its expanding militarism.
A 9-year-old girl who walked nearly 2,000 miles, most of it alone, from her native Honduras to the United States, pleaded Thursday with a hearing officer in Chicago to let her stay in the U.S.
Dina Mutate is among the estimated 68,000 unaccompanied minors who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last year. The girl traveled on foot, by bus, and at times by hitchhiking to join her mother and brother in Chicago and escape the gang-fueledU.S. sponsored violencein her native country [emphasis mine].
Editor’s Note: Of course mainstream media isn’t situating this girl’s story within the greater context of U.S. imperialism, a key force creating the violent conditions which children like her are fleeing. Instead of letting her story become another trumpet for “Land of the free” propaganda, please educate yourselves with the fuller picture. Here are two places to start:
“We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations. Such is the logic of patriotism.”
Emma Goldman, “Patriotism, a Menace to Liberty” (1911)
Under the suffocating pressure (which bordered on humiliation) of the lenders, the Greek government, being too weak to make a decision on its own, crawls towards a referendum next Sunday, on July the 5th.
Regardless of the reasons which led the government to this decision, it is a historic opportunity for a rematch with the capitalist mob of both the internal and the external troika.
The bourgeois reaction has already taken up battle positions. The New Democracy, the “River”, what remains of the PASOK, all the bourgeois political parties – as one – are screaming against the referendum and are trying to impose their own fake dilemmas. For them, the question is “yes or no to Europe”, not even yes or no to the Euro. With cheap stunts they are trying to avoid the real question, but they cannot hide: a “yes” vote means the acceptance of the measures of the lenders; it means the continuation of the bourgeois counterrevolution. It is more than certain that the reactionary human dust will attempt to make its move during the coming hours and days. The Euro-worshipping liberals, the courtyard of the usurers-lenders, the ludicrous far-right-wingers who are trembling that they might lose their privileges (of looting the public property and the sweat of the working class, privileges they held for decades) are now preparing their cacerolazo rallies while fantasizing about a colonel who will appear in order to save «democracy”.
The movement, the Left, the working class, the youth who, for five years now, have been suffering under the merciless attack against every kind of social and democratic right, must not leave any room for action to anyone who may try to block the referendum in any way. In this battle, the proletarian camp cannot stay neutral, supposedly to remain “pure”, not identifying itself with the government. A “no” to the ultimatum of the lenders may very well blow up the finance bubble that is leeching on mankind, threatening to strangle it. A “no” will stimulate the anti-capitalist movement worldwide, opening up a new round of class confrontation, while simultaneously revealing the weakness of the decadent western imperialist empire.
The Ottoman Empire was no less an empire than its British or French or Belgian counterparts. The Ottoman Empire was not diametrically opposite those imperial endeavors and was absolutely not an example of indigenous, non-white, anti-white statebuilding. It was an empire, rigidly hierarchical and brutally violent, monarchal and oppressive and at times genocidal. You do history and those people that suffered (and were destroyed) under Ottoman rule a great disservice in pretending otherwise.
Living in the First World*, we constantly hear about the glories of world travel. Travel is moralized as a good deed, an opportunity for spiritual transformation, or a test of the will. But in a world where global inequalities and borders dictate who gets to jetset around the globe and who must stay put, travel is largely the exclusive ability to consume in a world where others are selected to be consumed.
(*I will continue to use First World, Third World, Traveler, Backpacker, Native and Other to critique the imagined dichotomies that shape the culture of travel, not to say that these are accurate labels.)
Travel’s Imperialist Foundations
Colonization has always depended on controlling representations of the colonized Other, in order to deny their humanity and complexity, and both justify and facilitate their domination. That legacy is echoed in travel literature today, from guidebooks to blogs, which paint countries outside the West as primitive, exotic, and rich for exploitation, with their people, cultures, spiritualities, and natural habitats presented as products to consume or experiences to conquer.
While appearing neutral, travel literature is undeniably political, erasing global exploitation, shifting blame for historical injustices, and interpreting the world through white supremacist and Western-centric frameworks.
Contrary to the belief that travel makes one open-minded, travelers tend to approach cultural differences in ways that highlight their own sense of universality against the perceived deficiency of the Other. Poverty and chaos are seen as innate characteristics of the Third World, as proof of inferiority rather than evidence of exploitation. From their fleeting vacations in foreign lands, First World travelers believe themselves capable of evaluating and defining the Other’s complexities in ways they would find unthinkable with respect to themselves. While comments may range from sweeping generalizations about how uncivilized and strange the Natives are, to seemingly generous praise of how unmarred, beautiful, and peaceful they are, there is a shared subtext: that the observer has the ability to place the observed on a scale of human development, taking for granted their own position at the top of this scale.
And while the problems of the Third World are always seen as internally created, the solutions are expected to come from beyond. Those who feel guilty about the extreme inequalities that make their vacations possible can participate in a random assortment of volunteer opportunities–known as “voluntourism” or humanitarian travel–even though many of the charities and NGOs providing these opportunities are highly politicized, neoliberal organizations at the root of the problem. The voluntourism industry rests on the assumption that Third World people are so incapable of managing their lives that they can be saved by the natural ingenuity of any and every unskilled First World do-gooder.
Travel vs. Tourism
Distinguishing themselves from mere tourists by their oversized packs, Lonely Planet guides, and hill-tribe treks, the “Backpacker” travels not just as what they do but who they are, and their identities–predominantly privileged and white–are developed in relation to the exotic cultures they try on.
In spite of its veneer of grassroots independence, backpacking has become a large industry and prevalent culture that claims not only the land and resources of a country, but the very lives and identities of the Other as commodities. Seeking out the bizarre, problematic, and dangerous aspects of the Third World, backpackers turn whole countries into amusement parks, freakshows, and wild photo ops. Backpacking’s relentless obsession with adventure also fetishizes an "authentic" experience of the Other, with the goal of ever more completely possessing the Other’s being. Third World people are forced to sell and perform bastardized versions of their cultures in order to survive, while the Western world appropriates, commodifies, and dessicates. The existence of the Other is reduced to a badge on the First World traveler’s display of cultured enlightenment and superiority, available for purchase at tourist markets in the form of cheap and stereotypical imitations.
Backpacking has also been instrumental in “discovering” new areas, as communities previously untouched by tourism are initially penetrated by the backpacking trail and quickly transformed to fit touristic needs.
When the Third World becomes the premier destination for “budget travel,” poverty itself is commodified. Travelers seek cheap places to stay, cheap transportation, cheap sex, cheap food, but the prices are considered “fair” only in a world where Third World people are considered innately inferior and deserving of poverty. Rather than challenging Third World exploitation, budget travelers have the chance to exploit directly, as part of the fun, violently haggling down to the last cent with Third World laborers, who are pushed below subsistence wages.
Waltzing through their fantasies of the exotic, First World travelers transition old imperialist doctrines into contemporary forms. They rarely look at themselves and see the ugly history and circumstances that make their travels systemically possible. The elements of our world that are unjust, pitiable, broken, backwards–all that is everywhere but with them.
The Other at Home
Travelers of color occupy a space between privilege and marginality, knowing the violence of exploiting difference while simultaneously wielding the power to do the same. Notwithstanding their complicities and contradictions, travelers of color share the experience of being Othered by the global reach of white supremacy, and their perspectives offer an important challenge to the white supremacist moorings of travel culture.
Due to the structural inequalities that define the industry of travel, however, travelers of color confront the familiar experiences of exclusion and tokenization in an industry that justifies itself as a celebration of intercultural understanding.
About this Project
Inedible Roots seeks to challenge the exclusive and racist tendencies of travel culture by centering the perspectives of people of color, either as they experience tourism’s impact on their bodies, lands, and cultures or as they navigate their own travels.
It actively critiques seemingly independent or “humanitarian” forms of travel, such as volunteer trips, “backpacking,” and “eco-travel,” and the ways these forms of tourism exploit and commodify Third World Otherness.
Inedible Roots will share critical perspectives on travel–personal, journalistic, academic, and otherwise–and highlight activism around the world that challenges the neoliberal, racist structures on which tourism relies.
We welcome travel-related narratives, diatribes, artwork, and other forms of expression from people of color as well as resources related to the topics we discuss. Click Submit to find out how you can contribute.
Every phony leftist that peddled Barack Obama as a “progressive,” and every knave and fool in “Progressives for Obama” that spread rose petals at his feet in 2008, should do penance through five years of silence. The First Black President positioned himself at the far right wing of his own Democratic Party to pass his TPP rigged trade treaty. Only three Black congresspersons, and 25 other Democrats, joined with Obama and his Republicans.
Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian/African-descent are being
denationalized, discriminated against, and deported by the government of
Dominican Republic and ultra-nationalist Dominicans (many of them
Black) for being Black. But a racial analysis will only get us that far.
A class analysis will show you that Haitians have another
enemy: the government of Haiti. They represent the neoliberal interests
of the global north. Did you know that the
people of Haiti are in the streets calling for the Haitian president to
step down? Also remember there is still chaos in post-earthquake Haiti,
where UN “peacekeepers” are raping and prostituting women for food and
water, corporations are still looting the country, and big foundations
& charities are keeping the people on their knees for crumbs.
A class analysis will also show you that Dominican workers also have an
enemy in the Dominican and U.S. governments, for the very same reason.
Of course Haitian workers in the D.R. are more exploited than Dominicans
for being immigrant and Black, but they both have the same neocolonial
enemy in their respective governments.
More importantly, it is
not the Haitian government, nor the Dominican government, who are the
worst criminals. They are merely puppets, a distraction from the most
dangerous enemy known to humanity: The governments of the United States,
France, Spain, and their closest capitalist, imperialist, white supremacist allies,
all who have maintained a chokehold on the island of Ayiti (DR/Haiti)
since Columbus set sail there. They are the real masters of oppression, who miseducated those in power and the people who support them today. Only for about half a century did
revolutionary Haitians lead a free island truly independent of the
imperialist European and North American ruling class. But not even
Napoleon, the most notorious military leader of his time, could fathom
or allow a free Black nation to exist on “their” hemisphere.
must stop the racist deportations, and also push struggle the struggle
to go beyond that We need BOTH a racial AND class analysis.We must challenge ourselves to get to the source of
it all, the rotten, putrid root leaking the blood of our ancestors. The
system must be changed, fundamentally, at its foundation, flipped upside
down. to build a new sustainable society equal to all, where the people
are truly in power to control their lives and their communities, or
else our grandchildren will be repeating the same exact battles as
as summer and tourism season approach, here is a reminder: no one owes you to speak english. when you visit a country abroad where english is not a national language/not spoken by the majority, don’t expect people to speak it. don’t expect locals to make a special effort and learn english 101 just so they communicate with you. they don’t owe you any language; they don’t owe you well-spoken english, they don’t owe you grammatically correct english, they don’t owe you english at all. expecting everyone around the world to speak english because it’s the ‘dominant’ language is a form of imperialism: millions of people are forced to learn it, even forced to forget their mother tongue because of it. if anything, you should be the one making an effort to speak the native language if you are a tourist abroad.
At 02:06AM today (Gaza time) the “Marianne” contacted Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) and informed us that three boats of the Israeli navy had surrounded her in international waters, while sailing approximately 100NM from Gaza coast. After that we lost contact with the “Marianne” and at 05:11AM (Gaza time) the IDF announced that they had “visited and searched” Marianne. They had captured the boat and detained all on board “in international waters” as they admitted themselves. The only positive content in the IDF announcement was that they still recognize that there is a naval blockade of Gaza, despite Netanyahu’s government recent denial that one exists.
We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was “uneventful”, because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, the people on board the “Estelle” were badly tasered and beaten with clubs. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters.
It is disappointing that the Israeli government chose to continue the absolutely fruitless policy of “no tolerance”, meaning it will continue to enforce an inhumane and illegal collective punishment against 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel’s repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean. We demand that the Israeli government cease and desist the illegal detainment of peaceful civilians travelling in international waters in support of humanitarian aid.
We call on our governments to ensure that all passengers and crew from the “Marianne” are safe, and to strongly protest against the violation of international maritime law by the Israeli state. We call on all civil society organizations to condemn the actions of Israel. People all over the world will continue to respond and react to this injustice, as will we, until the port of Gaza is open and the siege and occupation is ended.
American Sniper has been in theaters a while now. On the surface it is the story of a Navy SEAL named Chris Kyle, dubbed “The deadliest sniper in American history”, and his military exploits throughout the American invasion of Iraq. But beyond the conspicuous lobby for patriotism I saw a window into something else, something that the Joseph Goebbels (read: Clint Eastwood) of America cannot take credit for. I am reminded that not only does war steal the lives of countless people, but it murders the living too — of lives we could have lived. Films like American Sniper highlight that war-idolizing is a weapon of mass destruction, and when wielded on the spiritual and moral fronts of a war for our collective humanity, often the battle rips asunder the relationships we hold most dear. It is a reminder that when the dust settles and the shells are spent, the casualties of war live far beyond the grave.
Every Casualty Doesn’t Get Buried
When my brother first left for basic training he was 17. I was a year and a half younger, a soon-to-be sophomore in high school. With my Aunt, Uncle, and my cousins whom I had come to call sisters, we drove the six hour trip to the training grounds of the Army’s mechanized infantry units in Fort Benning, Georgia. It was a small place. Were it not for the military it would scarcely have a name. We had come because my brother was graduating from the first half of his training, this before he had even entered his senior year in high school. Everybody was really proud of him. I was proud of him.
Seeing him for the first time after a summer was emotional. I had never fully agreed with his choice to join the military; but, he being my blood, I had committed myself to supporting him and his decision. After all, the young man standing in fatigues before me had been through more with me than any person on the planet. Together we had weathered growing up brown in Mississippi, where if you were not white and you were not black, you were the exotic anomaly constantly berated with the probing and dehumanizing question of “What are you?” We had survived our father, a white man imbued with the racism of a poor Southerner who had eaten Jim Crow and whose yelling and long lectures came from the nightly bartering of his soul with a bottle. We lived through the divorces, survived foster care, endured the court battles, and had begun to work ourselves from the poverty we were born into.
Through all of that I thought this man deserved my support. But more than anything I knew if he were to one day see combat I would want to see him home again — alive. That if ever in some small way his return would rest upon a brother’s unconditional love, then I would see that love through no matter what. So when he left for his first tour in Iraq I did everything in my power to make sure he had what he needed to get back home — writing letters, getting his friends to write letters, sending him little things like baby wipes because that mattered in desert warfare. Some semblance of being clean after the grit of combat mattered. Whatever I could do to keep his spirits high, I did. I wanted the chance to wrestle with him again, to hug him and have a beer with him again, to tell him he is a good man and that he could be something else, if he wanted.
Time has a way of changing everything. Throughout his absence, despite my material support, I had become increasingly politicized. I questioned more than anything whether my brother’s potential death in Iraq would be defending my right to exist in a free and just world, or was he being used by the United States government as a cog in the most prolific machine of violence the planet has ever seen.
I remember getting a call from him one night after he had a fight with his partner. It seemed that nobody, not her, not our family, nobody but his follow servicemen and I were being supportive of the stressful re-entrance into civilian life. That night he bawled as he shared a gut-wrenching story about an Iraqi girl whom, along with her family, had been killed and dismembered into a pile for helping coalition troops through an IED field. He shared other stories with me too. He often wielded a 50 caliber machine gun fixed atop a Humvee. One bullet from that gun could blast a watermelon to mush. It can fire over 500 rounds per minute, I learned. He never said it, but I got the feeling that he took his own personal retribution on behalf of that girl.
At some point I understood that he must have been struggling to understand his choices, to recreate a code of morality he could live with, that made sense after his own was shattered by the brutality of what he had seen and done. He would be the one to have to live with those memories, nobody else. As I sat there holding him, struggling to understand his PTSD and the situations he had been in — the reality of shooting back when if you hesitated you would surely die — I could not shake the fact that every bullet sent from his gun, every life taken, was still in service of the American war machine.
That thought kept coming back to me. The more I revisited why America had invaded Iraq, the more I came to a conclusion which placed me fundamentally opposed to my brother’s continued enlistment. Rapidly it became a point of tension between us.
That tension culminated in a moment before his departure for his second tour in Iraq. He came to me with an impossible question, one that in hindsight could never have mended the distance emerging between us. In a heated discussion he asked me, “If I died in combat tomorrow, would you be proud of my service?” Everything in me curled with the stress of telling him what he needed to hear, to again shoulder being the support he would need, or being honest. It is a moment I still think about frequently. I replay it saying something different, but then I feel I would have betrayed myself and the millions whom have died at the hands of American imperialism. In the moment I told him “No” I lost the family I loved most.
Nothing between us has ever been the same. Every time I mull it over salt rubs deeper into the wound. I wince. I cry. I relive the pain of no longer knowing my brother, of knowing the War Machine ripped him from me. He is still in the military and I am still in the streets fighting American oppression. We chose different sides, and the palpable truth of it is our brotherhood took a bullet the day he enlisted.
The wound from it still bleeds. It bleeds every day.
Effective Propaganda Makes You Feel
Watching American Sniper makes me think about my brother. That’s the point of it: Propaganda done right makes you feel. It makes you engage in a moral dilemma with yourself. And if it is targeted with accurate knowledge of its audience, the dilemma will almost always resolve itself. It’s a bit like playing a rigged game — if you were not a part of rigging the game, then the only way to win is not to play. This is the effectiveness of Clint Eastwood’s film. It was made for White America and therefore it intentionally pulls at the heartstrings of the people who feverishly believe in the myth that America is the bastion of freedom and democracy, because that too was a myth made for White America. And they believe it so thoroughly that a film like American Sniper slams the door shut on any discussion to the contrary. I know so, because I share many of the lived experiences of white Americans.
In one of the opening scenes a young Chris Kyle is out hunting deer with his father. Kyle shoots a deer and then runs over to the dead animal through tall golden grass and amidst sparsely branched pine trees. He drops his rifle in his haste and his father commands “Get back here! You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.” I knew that rule. My white father taught it to me before I was ten years old when I learned to hunt. The movie shifts to a scene in a church where a pastor is preaching the ways of God, that none can know them because man cannot see with the eyes of God. I knew that one too. A church full of white people told me this years before I was baptized into a Southern congregation.
Then the film snaps to a scene where Kyle is sitting with his family at the supper table. His father breaks off into a lecture about the three types of people in the world: the Sheep, the Wolf, and the Sheep Dog. He says the Sheep believe evil does not exist and if it were to show up on their doorstep they would not know how to defend themselves. He goes on to say then you have predators whom use violence to prey on the weak. These are the Wolves. Lastly, he says there are those “Blessed with the gift of aggression and overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the Sheep Dog.” He takes his belt off and slams it on the table and announces, “We ain’t raising no Sheep in this house and I’ll kick your ass if you become a Wolf!” Kyle’s little brother has a bruised eye, so his father questions them both only to find that Kyle had intervened in his brother getting beat up by the playground bully. His father says if somebody else starts a fight; they have his permission finish it. I learned that one too. My white father told me “Don’t throw the first punch, but if somebody hits you first, you better finish it.”
These three scenes frame the entire movie for the emotional engagement of a specific audience. You see, the first scene tells us that in the eyes of White America, only they have family values. Kyle learning to use a gun at such an early age is him gaining the values, which serve doubly as the literal tools, those which can only be acquired through the specific lived experiences of white Americans, necessary to defend freedom and democracy. The second scene tells us that White America’s God, the one true White Christian God, is the only giver of righteousness and that righteousness has been bestowed upon Kyle to use at his discretion. We are not supposed to question whether this is good or otherwise, or WHY it would be good, because we cannot see through the eyes of God. And finally, we learn that Kyle is a Sheep Dog imbued with all the tools necessary, with the “gift of aggression”, to do God’s will of defending America.
Ultimately this tells us the film is not even about Chris Kyle. The young man turned sniper is the physical incarnation of White America. Viewed through the third scene, Kyle becomes the stand-in for America’s imperialism, the embodiment of itself as the Sheep Dog bestowed with the “gift of aggression” and the overpowering charge to protect the Western way of life by any means necessary, and, of course, with God’s blessing. At this point we have to ask the obvious question: If Chris Kyle represents the Sheep Dog of White America, who then is the Wolf?
In overwhelmingly jingoistic fashion, film maker Clint Eastwood answers repeatedly: Muslims.
After watching Kyle — aka, America — repeatedly kill one Iraqi after another, all of whom miraculously are guilty of some crime, it is hard to arrive at any other conclusion. No matter how wrapped in star-spangled banners, Eastwood essentially tells us the real crime is being born brown, Iraqi, and Muslim. We are not supposed to question whether these things are actually criminal or punishable with death. We are not allowed to ask WHY because we are not meant to understand the God-guided ways of America. But that is the whole point of it: You cannot win a rigged game, remember. You can only win if you built the game, and those who built American Sniper want you to walk away with a specific belief system, namely:
White America, like Chris Kyle, is good, just, and knows best.
White Americans, like Chris Kyle, who love their country support American government.
Real Americans, like Chris Kyle, are patriotic and express their support.
White American lives, like Chris Kyle’s life, are more important than Muslim lives.
This belief system is everywhere. American imperialism is framed in such a way that when the United States commits violence against Muslims, it appears to White America as if the Sheep Dog is simply protecting a defenseless herd. This is the active dissemination of white supremacy and Islamophobia. From it Americans like Chris Kyle accrue social capital and power within a conception of Islam that perpetuates Muslim dehumanization and murder. Completing the cycle, White America, after participating in the process of dehumanizing Muslims slain by United States military personnel, then offers sympathy, material support, and memorialization to the most lethal of war veterans.
American Sniper is meant only to bolster that belief system by exploiting our lived experiences. It does so in such a way that if we do not side with Chris Kyle and the American War Machine, we may just be deciding our own brothers and sisters are facilitators of the evil we seek to eradicate from the world. For most of us the thought that we, or the ones we love, are the problem is unconscionable.
“So who’s paying for the war? America’s poor. Its students, its unemployed, its single mothers, its hospital and home-care patients, its teachers, and its health workers. And who’s actually fighting the war? Once again, America’s poor. The soldiers who are baking in Iraq’s desert sun are not the children of the rich. Only one of all the representatives in Congress…has a child fighting in Iraq. America’s ‘volunteer’ army in fact depends on a poverty draft of poor whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians looking for a way to earn a living and get an education. Federal statistics show that African Americans make up twenty-one percent of the total armed forces and twenty-nine percent of the U.S. Army. They account for only twelve percent of the general population. It’s ironic isn’t it—the disproportionately high representation of African Americans in the army and prison? Perhaps we should…look at this as affirmative action at its most effective. Nearly four million Americans have lost the right to vote because of felony convictions. Of that number 1.4 are African Americans, which means that thirteen percent of all voting-age Black people have been disenfranchised. For African Americans there’s also affirmative action in death. A study by the economist Amartya Sen shows that African Americans as a group have a lower life expectancy than people born in China, in the Indian State of Kerala, Sri Lanka, or Costa Rica. Bangladeshi men have a better chance of making it to the age of sixty-five than African American men from here in Harlem.”
Arundhati Roy, An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire p. 59-60