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Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

Is This America? (p. 527)

From chapter "The View From Inside"

Today, night riders do not often wear white robes as they visit the homes of uppity blacks in the American South, nor do they pull these blacks out of their homes and hang them. Instead, an equivalent force can be found wearing U.S.-made camo fatigues, shooting union leaders and uppity Indians with U.S.-made guns in Colombia. They can be found beating union organizers at factories owned by U.S.-based corporations in Mexico. They shoot indigenous peoples in Nigeria who resist despoliation of their land by oil companies. With U.S. assistance and U.S. weapons (or, sometimes, corporate assistance and corporate weapons), they form death squads and kill uppity non-Whites in Central and South America, in Africa, in Southeast Asia, in the Pacific, in Oceania. Between five hundred thousand and a million people were murdered at CIA urging and with CIA assistance just in Indonesia during the late 1960s. Why? Because the Indonesians did not vote the way the CIA—and this was no rogue CIA, but, instead, represented the corporate and governmental interests of the United States—wanted them to. Similar stories can be told in the Congo, Guatemala, Iran, Chile. Anywhere in the world that people do not vote the way the U.S. government and the corporations it serves want them to. The KKK of the 1860s had as its purpose the intimidation of the exploited into not exercising political, social, or economic autonomy. Death squads today—U.S.- backed and -funded death squads—have precisely this same function. The only reason this doesn’t happen so much at home is because we’ve been tamed.

Or, is it true that it doesn’t happen at home? Perhaps, now, instead of members of the KKK wearing white robes while they teach people of color to stay in their place, those whose job it is to keep the rabble in line wear the blue or green or black of police uniforms. Why should the Klan bother to break down the doors of African Americans when SWAT teams will do it far more efficiently, and at tax payer expense?

Imagine this. You’re in Fresno, California. You are a person of color. It’s past midnight, and you step onto your porch for one last breath of cool evening air before bed. You see some of your neighbors outside of their homes, too. You smile and wave, but you don’t think they see you. In any case they don’t respond. Then you think you see a slight movement in the shadows. Another movement confirms the first. In the distance, you hear the sound of a helicopter, and you think, “Oh, Lord, not again.” The chopper roars up, and a spot light turns the scene into day. You see dozens of white men in formation, wearing combat boots and black body armor, carrying submachine guns. You pray they’re not coming for you.

Then, it starts. Flash-bang grenades are thrown, German shepherds unleashed. White men shout, “Get down! Get the f*** down!” They shoot your neighbor’s dog. Bam. Bam. Bam. Three shots to the chest. An armored personnel carrier wheels around the corner, and more armored men jump out. You start to move back into your home, when one of the men sees you. He shouts, “Stay where you are, motherf***er! Don’t f***ing move!” You do what the man says. You know that he’s got the guns, and you know that he is the law. You treat him with a deference that your grandfathers and grandmothers understood, a deference that has permeated to your bones. You do not look him in the eye. You call him sir. You do not want him to take you away.

You are in Tacoma, Washington. You are a person of color. It’s past midnight, and you step onto your porch for one last breath of cool evening air before bed. You see those same movements, see them confirmed, hear those same choppers, see the same uniforms. You, too, pray they’re not coming for you.

You’re in Compton, California, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or New York City. You are a person of color standing outside your home. You see the dazzle and hear the explosions of the flash-bang grenades, smell the tear gas, your eyes water from the pepper, and you ask yourself, “Is this America?”

You answer your own question: Yes, it is.