I probably never mentioned this before, but I think I was a black man in a former life. Not that I'm a big believer in reincarnation. Nor do I have any particular black tendencies, if such things exist, or physical traits. Yet I have a connection to American blacks that I cannot explain. And that connection is this: Whenever I am exposed to anything related to the black holocaust in America, I experience a deep physical response.
Don't get me wrong, I despise, as you probably do, all the oppressions throughout the ages-the concentration camps, the Crusades, the systematic slaughter of Native Americans and slavery are all equally repugnant to me on an intellectual level. However, for some inexplicable reason, the simple act of thinking about, reading or watching anything involving the black holocaust injects dark venom into my bloodstream that causes all sorts of disturbing, sometimes violent, physical reactions within me that other oppressions do not.
For instance, while researching a recent column I wrote about the inaccessibility of Mexican weed, I came across a sentence that stopped me cold.
It was a Salon article that recounted the history of pot prohibition in America during the early 1900s. The author explained how racism was a key factor in the criminalization of marijuana because blacks brought it into the mainstream via the jazz explosion. This, of course, scared the bee-Jesus out of white folk, so a huge propaganda campaign was waged to eradicate the evil cannabis. The writer quoted a newspaper editorial of the time that stated, 'Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men's shadows and look at a white woman twice.'
That's the sentence that stopped me cold, the sentence that injected the toxins into my veins. It's a sentence that makes one marvel at the tiny-minded depths to which racism can plummet.
The sentence, incidentally, was referring to The Black Codes.
The Black Codes were implemented shortly after the slaves were emancipated in 1865. They were composed and enforced by freaked-out white Southern racist fuckworms who were afraid that the newly freed Negroes were gonna start running around acting all free and shit and touching their stuff. So they enacted The Black Codes, which put the black man back in his place. The Black Codes made it illegal for Negroes to vote or own property. They established curfews, marital restrictions and dress provisions. The Black Codes kept African-Americans enslaved in shitty plantation jobs since they were not permitted to quit or take days off. If they did try to leave the plantation, they were considered fugitives from labor and hunted by people called Negro catchers, according to Wikipedia's entry on 'The Black Codes.' Flogging was permissible in most states under The Black Codes.
Yes, these were just a few of the hundreds of laws that made up The Black Codes, which were about as oppressive and racist as slavery itself, but it was this no-looking-at-white-woman-twice business that really slammed my sphincter shut.
For one reason, it's an astoundingly silly rule. I mean, OK, I understand why the hardcore white Southern racists of yore wouldn't want blacks to vote or quit the harvest-but no eye contact? No shadow-stepping? No white-women-twice-looking? What was this, the third grade?
The other reason is because it's an impossible rule to obey. The others are easy. Don't run away? Don't vote? Those are easy to keep yourself from doing accidentally. But don't look at a white woman twice? Impossible. If I were truly a black man in a former life, my black ass would've been flogged as surely as Tom Metzger never shared a hooker with Dennis Rodman. Because I'd be looking at white women twice all the time. How you not gonna look twice when you've been working in the field all day, tipsy from exposure to the raging Southern sun, when one of those breasty Southern belles comes strolling by, dressed to the twelves with a fan, a parasol and a wagon spoke up her ass giving her that special sashay?
Or what if I were the 'house nigger' working for some wealthy plantation family, bringing out a platter of tea and wafers to Miss Dolly sitting there on the garden patio with her perfect bosom splashing out of her camisole, and me with my tray standing over her, looking down at that cleavage like it was a milkshake to slip a straw into-well, I'd have no choice but to do a double- or triple-take.
You're once, twice, three times a felon.
You'd think the Southern male racists of that era would've empathized. You think they would've known that testosterone is colorblind. They would have known, as far as the female form goes, that a man's eyeballs have less control over where they land than a cow flying upside down in a hurricane.
No shadow-stepping? No eye contact? Can't look at a white woman twice? Freaking wow!
Doesn't it make you wonder sometimes how they did it, how all those people bought into such childishness and ignorance? How such an inane concept could undulate its way all the way up to state law? How does that happen except with the complicity of the masses? How could there be so many stupid people alive at one time? It wasn't even that long ago, you know? Less than 100 years. That's nothing! How much evolving do humans do in a hundred years? Almost none. Look around. What evolving have we done lately? There may not be much of a black holocaust anymore, but so many others are being holocausted all the time all over the world.
Ah, who am I kidding? I was never reincarnated. More likely, the explanation for my heightened sensitivity toward the black holocaust is that I, directly, have benefited from it. Being a white male in this country comes with advantages, thanks, in part, to slavery and The Black Codes. That's probably why I feel extra-guilty. Maybe. I don't know. I just know I don't want to think about it anymore.
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