“What’s Genocide?” by Carlos Andres Romez
their high school principal
told me I couldn’t teach
poetry with profanity
so I asked my students,
“Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Holocaust.”
in unison, their arms rose up like poisonous gas
then straightened out like an SS infantry
“Okay. Please put your hands down.
Now raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Rwandan genocide.”
blank stares mixed with curious ignorance
a quivering hand out of the crowd
half-way raised, like a lone survivor
struggling to stand up in Kigali
“Luz, are you sure about that?”
“That’s what I thought.”
they won’t let you hear the truth at school
if that person says “fuck”
can’t even talk about “fuck”
even though a third of your senior class
I can’t teach an 18-year-old girl in a public school
how to use a condom that will save her life
and that of the orphan she will be forced
to give to the foster care system—
“Carlos, how many 13-year-olds do you know that are HIV-positive?”
“Honestly, none. But I do visit a shelter every Monday and talk with
six 12-year-old girls with diagnosed AIDS.”
while 4th graders three blocks away give little boys blowjobs during recess
I met an 11-year-old gang member in the Bronx who carries
a semi-automatic weapon to study hall so he can make it home
and you want me to censor my language
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
your books leave out Emmett Till and Medgar Evers
call themselves “World History” and don’t mention
King Leopold or diamond mines
call themselves “Politics in the Modern World”
and don’t mention Apartheid
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
you wonder why children hide in adult bodies
lie under light-color-eyed contact lenses
learn to fetishize the size of their asses
and simultaneously hate their lips
my students thought Che Guevara was a rapper
from East Harlem
still think my Mumia t-shirt is of Bob Marley
how can literacy not include Phyllis Wheatley?
schools were built in the shadows of ghosts
filtered through incest and grinding teeth
molded under veils of extravagant ritual
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
“Roselyn, how old was she? Cuántos años tuvo tu madre cuando se murió?”
“My mother had 32 years when she died. Ella era bellísima.”
they’ve moved from sterilizing “Boriqua” women
injecting indigenous sisters with Hepatitis B,
now they just kill mothers with silent poison
stain their loyalty and love into veins and suffocate them
Ridwan’s father hung himself
in the box because he thought his son
was ashamed of him
Maureen’s mother gave her
skin lightening cream
the day before she started the 6th grade
she carves straight lines into her
beautiful brown thighs so she can remember
what it feels like to heal
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
this right here…
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.
… They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. Christopher Columbus, Captain’s Log, 1492 (Howard Zinn, “People’s History of the United States”)
“The Canary Effect” Was Way Too Close To Home.
Because it was home. Even though I live off-rez and have for the majority of my life… this is where half of my family lives. This is where I went for holidays when we still lived close enough when we didn’t go visit the other half of my family.
If you haven’t seen it yet, please do. I reblogged it earlier but here’s a link to the YouTube Video. What I’ve got to say next really won’t make sense unless you’ve seen it.
If you’re not Native American, you need to see it. And by that I don’t mean the “my great-grandma was a Cherokee princess” type. I mean unless you have cultural ties to your tribe, see it. (Even then, you should see it because it’s just that powerful.)
[TW: The video contains genocide, rape, brutality, and suicide]
This video just hit home for me on so many levels. It punched me right in the gut.
Especially when the interviews started halfway though. I noticed right away that one of the interviewees has my family name. And she was from one of the reservations near mine. That scared the shit out of me on a level I don’t think you can understand. It’s been over two hours since it ended and I’m still shaking.
I was panicking the entire rest of the video. I was so scared that they’d talk about something that had happened to one of my family members. Or that they’d interview one of my family members. The stories being told were heartbreaking enough to begin with, I couldn’t have handled seeing my family on my screen. I was already hearing about stuff that happens to my family, I couldn’t have handled seeing their faces with it at that moment.
But that’s the thing. The stories being told are the stories of my family. And they’re the stories of other people’s families too.
This is not how it’s supposed to be. Things are supposed to be better than this for everyone. Things aren’t supposed to be so terrifyingly bad for one specific group of people, and then somewhere in the range of “pretty damn bad, these people seriously need some help” to “unbelievably privileged, what the hell?”.
The US government is so apologetic for slavery, but they completely ignore the complete mistreatment of Native Americans. So is the rest of society. With the exception of a brief mention the Trail of Tears or Wounded Knee in history books. Briefly. For a paragraph, maybe two. That’s really about it. And that’s all we ever get, a footnote. A brief mention here and there.
Otherwise, we don’t exist to most of society.
(Unless somebody wants to be exotic, what with their 1/32nd heritage or their great-great-grandmother being Pocahontas or whatever.)
We’re just a monoculture for hipsters to ironically respect, or whatever bullshit they’re saying. We’re just a monoculture for people to dress up as for Halloween. We’re just a monoculture for mascots. We’re just a monoculture that’s synonymous with nature. We’re just a monoculture that doesn’t exist except for mainstream society’s pleasure.
And when we do, it’s in a very stereotypical view. Well, guess what? Not every tribe is rich from casinos. Not every tribe traditionally has pow-wows. Not every tribe does beadwork. (And for the tribes that do, the style differs from tribe to tribe.) Not every tribe lives in tipis or wigwams or goes on vision quests or whatever else you’re thinking of. Because we’re not a monoculture.
There is no “tradtional Native American religion.” There is no “traditional Native American food.” There is no “traditional Native American [fill in the blank].” If you want to get specific by tribe, yeah. There’s plenty of specific traditional stuff. By tribe. Want to know why? Because we’re not a monoculture.
I’m sick of playing nice.
I’m sick of walking around the DC Area seeing Washington Redskins gear everywhere. It makes me feel like I’m less than human. This is such institutionalized bullshit. And when I say anything to anyone they say not to be offended because it’s either (a) because Washington respects Native Americans, (b) not racist, or (c) some other equally racist and bullshitty answer. Best part? If there was any other racist slur in there people would be all up in arms and the team name would be changed in a heartbeat. If the New England Patriots had their name changed to the “New England Niggers” or the “New England Chinks” or the “New England [slur],” what would your reaction be? And you can bet your ass that they’d be forced to change their name within a day, maybe two. Possibly a week maximum.
But the Washington Redskins? Nah. Despite their fight song being “Hail to the redskins/hail victory/braves on the warpath/fight for old DC…“and having people dress up like your stereotypical view of a Native American, the whole idea of the team’s name and mascot are totally not racist at all.
Totally don’t make me feel marginalized. Or less than human. Nope, everything’s a-okay for me and for all the other Native Americans who also find this racist and have been trying to get the Redskins to change their name for years.
Seriously. I’m just done and if you’re a decent human being you should be too.
What is the Maafa?
The African Holocaust also known as The Black Genocide
The word Maafa is Kiswahili for DISASTER. Its pronounced Ma-afa. Maafa is now used interchangeably with the the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade was born out of greed. With the “discovery” of the New World, Europe saw the probability of amassing large amounts of wealth unknown to the region at that time. For the labor needed to collect this wealth gained from gold, silver, sugar, tobacco and other crops, Europeans went to the shores of Africa. For years the Europeans had traded with the Africans for crops and other items. But now they came for human bodies. The ensuing trade turned portions of the African continent into chaos, empires rising and falling based on their quota of slaves. The brutalities and degradation these victims existed under was daily and never-ending. And the legacy would continue to their children and descendants for generations to come. This was the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade: an event which destroyed peoples and whole cultures; an event which would destabilize a continent, changing it forever; an event which would enrich Europe, create empires, and build America.
Given its profitable nature, it is not surprising that nearly EVERYONE was involved in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Europeans would play the most significant role in the trade as they were the buyers and thus exercised the greatest amount of control. Europeans of various nationalities, status and religions engaged in slavery. This included the Spanish and the French, royalty and merchants, Catholics and Jews. Arabs, as in the East, played a significant role in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. They raided many African villages and were key intermediaries between Europeans and Africans.
The African Role in the Slave Trade:
The issue of African involvement in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade is a complex one. First it must be understood that, as with the rest of the world, slavery had long existed in Africa. The form it took however differed in various respects from its European counterpart. Slavery in Africa was a product of warfare in which the conquered were expected to become servants to the victors. Or it may have been a form of punishment for crime, taboo breaking, etc. There was certainly some level of cruelty as servitude demands such. Yet these captives were never treated as entirely sub-human beings. There were many cases of slaves marrying into the households which held them. Prior to European contact, a point at which the African system of slavery changed drastically, slavery was never the economic base of any African society. And it did not so fully deny anyone their humanity as European chattel slavery would do. The Arabic technique of “divide and conquer” was mastered by Europeans. They would give one group of Africans guns to raid another for slaves. They would then arm another to do the same and yet another to help them protect themselves from other African slavers. If one wanted guns to protect one’s self from slavers, one was forced to become a slaver also. This vicious cycle of bodies-for-guns-or -protection, spread like a disease. Some Africans, such as those of Dahomey, prospered immensely from slave trading. Slaves could be bartered for anything from glass trinkets to rum and whiskey. Especially traded, were guns. This greed on the part of Africans was key in their participation in the trade. It must be understood that there was no unifying “racial” identity of the period between diverse African ethnic groups. Making slaves of captives of war seemed “natural.” And the participants were mostly royalty and slave warrior groups. Only in the rarest circumstance did Africans actually raid their own villages for slaves. Most came from other ethnic groups as the product of war. It should also be remembered that many of those who participated in the trade often became slaves themselves. Ethnic warfare and chaos was needed continually to keep the trade alive. Africans owned no ships to transport the cargo of human bodies, no factories to manufacture guns and no large plantations to be operated by slaves. In essence had there been no need for slaves by Europe and her colonies, there would have been no slave trade. States such as Ashanti, Dahomey, Bambara and many others grew powerful from slave trading. This era of greed on the part of Africa’s ruling class would cost it dearly in the end. In the end it was Africa which was left weakened and disunited and Europe who prospered. As one historian has said, “Europeans did not come for the Ibo, Mandingo or Yoruba—-they came for us all.”
Capture and the Slave Dungeons:
European slavers and their African allies raided the Western coast of Africa with guns and cannons, setting fire to towns and villages. Women caught in these raids were usually sexually abused through rapes: public or private, gang or individual. This act of disempowerment served a dual purpose: to strip African women of any dignity and to force African men to watch as their sisters, daughters, wives, aunts, grandmothers and friends suffered while they stood by powerless. Children, male or female, endured the worst sexual abuse often leaving them bleeding to death or in a state of permanent shock. European diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea were often passed on to these victims. Captured and bound with ropes, nets, wood, iron, leather or other bindings, the Africans would then set upon a torturous march to the coast where many died along the way. If they survived the death march to the coast, the dungeons would be the next stop for these captive Africans. Here they were packed into small dirt-floored shacks known as baracoons which held 30 to 50 Africans within a 10 by 15 ft floor space covered with , urine, feces and blood. Day and night the temperature within the cell was well over 90 degrees. Dehydration through diarrhea and sweating was a common form of death. Here Africans were also branded with hot irons. In such unsanitary conditions, the burns often became infected inducing fevers or gangrene. These hapless victims were clubbed, whipped or shot to death as a warning to other Africans to remain in good health. African women, as would become the routine, were raped repeatedly thus creating a host of unwanted pregnancies. The ground in the women’s baracoons was said to often be littered with menstrual blood and aborted fetuses. Pictured here is the infamous slave dungeon of El Emina in Ghana. Hundreds of thousands of Africans died in these dungeons waiting, sometimes for months, to be transported through “the door of no return.”
The Middle Passage:
Jesus, the Liberty, and the Gift of God were some of the ships which dealt in human misery. Africans were brought aboard the ship near, if not fully, naked. Every space available was utilized for holding the human cargo who remained chained to each other. As Eric Willams put it, “Each slave had less room than a man in a coffin.” The floor was filled with blood, human waste, parasites and . The air was no better as decaying bodies and human excrement filled the nostrils, often causing suffocation. Parasites such as lice infested dirt matted hair while maggots lived within open sores. Many Africans went insane in this seemingly never-ending nightmare. For African women there was no rest as sexual abuse by the ship’s crew was an ever present threat. Death on these ships came in a variety of ways. Sometimes it came in the cells where disease and suffocation would finally take its toll. Sometimes it was the product of repeated rapes which women, men and boys were forced to endure. Some Africans were thrown overboard, half-alive, to be drowned or devoured by sharks who had learned that the slave ships often dispensed a feast of Black bodies. One slave captain, short on food, had 132 Africans thrown overboard because his insurance covered death by drowning but not starvation. Others still, tired of the rapes, beatings and abuse, jumped eagerly into the waters to escape the madness about them. Resistance and insurrection were daily thoughts on the captured Africans’ and fearful ship captain’s minds. Some, such as the famed Amistad Revolt, were successful. But the price of failure was harsh. For women it was gang rape preceded or followed by a flogging. Others were slashed with knives, slit from stomach to vagina. Men were often castrated and mutilated or in one known case, made to rip out and then devour the heart, liver or other organs of their comrades. It was common to make the remaining Africans—-men, women and children—- watch these gory spectacles.
——->How many Africans died in route to the new world? Some say hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of African bodies may litter the Atlantic sea floor.
Arrival: “The New World”
After enduring the horrors of the slave ships, the Africans were then sold and auctioned off, along with livestock, to the highest bidder. Some were sold in the Caribbean, some in South America, some in North America, and others in Europe. All were slaves. (About 49% of all slaves in the Western hemisphere went to South America; 38% went to the Caribbean; a little over 7% went to Mexico and Central America; 4.5% ended up in the United States.)Life in the new world was harsh for these recently arrived Africans. They were made to complete all types of tasks: from domestics to field hands. Black bodies were whipped, beaten, raped, mutilated, castrated, or worked to death in this strange new land. One terrible account tells of a slave master who nailed a Black woman to a tree by her ear for breaking a dish. Throughout all of this resistance was common. Many Africans, such as the famous Maroons of the Caribbean and South America, often revolted and escaped into the hillsides. Their courageous raids were a constant thorn in the plantation owner’s side. These rebellions would create the Gabriel Prossers, Denmark Vesseys, and Touissant L’Overtures. But revolt was costly. Unless complete freedom was won, as in the case of Haiti, revolts were suppressed brutally. In Santa Domingo there is the account of a large group of rebels being buried alive. The vast majority attempted to resist in any manner they could. But mostly they attempted to survive as Ogun and Oshun were replaced with Mary and Jesus, and Asante, Shakur, and Adun were replaced with John, Elizabeth and Tom. And the horror and humiliation would continue for centuries, endured by one’s children and their descendants. Pictured here is an artist’s recreation of the plotting of the famed Nat Turner Revolt.
Holocaust: The Numbers
The numbers for this Holocaust are unknown as many documents were falsified by smugglers and ship captains. The numbers however are well into the millions. The most moderate count places 24 million Africans being smuggled into the New World. Half of them would die en route. Others go as high as to claim 40 million Africans imported.