Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

Israel: ‘Profundity’ of Ideas as Justification for Colonialism; Bodily Desire as Justification for Dispossession

Posted by NT Wrong on November 24, 2008

“For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country… the four great powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism… is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import tha[n] the desires and prejudices of 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit the land.”
– Arthur James Balfour, memorandum sent to Lord Curzon in 1919

Posted in Colonialism, Modern Israel, Racism, Violence | 2 Comments »

Yigael Yadin, the Bible, Archaeology, and Orientalism – When Captions Precede their Photos

Posted by NT Wrong on November 10, 2008


This picture is from Yigael Yadin’s Hazor (1975: 34), a populist book describing the archaeological finds at Hazor in Galilee. I hope somebody finds it as amusing as I did. The caption reads:

“A girl from North Africa felt ‘at home’ operating the two grinding stones, which are over 3,000 years old.”

What’s the scene here? Can you picture it? As soon as the 3,000-year-old relics are dug up, there’s a sudden rush, and a ‘North African’ woman (‘girl’) leaps up towards them, and starts to use them as though she were in her kitchen at home — because nothing in her world has changed in 3,000 years, and she couldn’t really tell the difference between archaeological ruins and her contemporary ‘North African’ (which bit exactly?) world.

What is encoded here is a commonplace of archaeology, in particular ‘biblical archaeology’. The Arab world is unchanging, permanent, in contrast to Western progress and change. So your average Arab can properly serve as a proxy for ‘the primitive ancient’ of 3000 years ago. But what is absent in this photo, although necessarily present? Look carefully. What’s not there? … the fact that the photo is being taken by a Western photographer who has asked the North African woman to pose in exactly this manner. The photo stages an idea in the Western photographer’s head. The caption wasn’t added to this photo — it preceded it.

“Orientalism is staked upon the permanence of the whole Orient, for without ‘the Orient’ there can be no consistent, intelligible, and articulated knowledge called ‘Orientalism’… the Orient is synonymous with stability and unchanging eternality… ‘the Orient’ as an unconditional ontological category does an injustice to the potential of reality for change.”
– Edward Said, Orientalism, 1979: 239-240

Posted in Colonialism, Racism | 23 Comments »

Christopher Columbus’ First Report on Native Americans

Posted by NT Wrong on November 10, 2008


“The people are loving and gentle and fit to be Christians. They are docile and will make good slaves.”
– Christopher Columbus, April 1493, in Foss, Undreamed Shores 1974: 18.

“500 years ago one man claimed
To have discovered a new world
Five centuries later we the people
Are forced to celebrate a black holocaust
How can you call a takeover
A discovery…
It’s as crazy as Hitler day
-Public Enemy, ‘Hitler Day’

Posted in Colonialism, Racism | 1 Comment »

Two 9/11s a Day: The War on Poverty That Never Was

Posted by NT Wrong on November 5, 2008

Bono, lead singer of U2:

“Right now there is the biggest pandemic in the history of civilization, happening in the world now with AIDS. It’s bigger than the Black Death, which took a third of Europe in the Middle Ages. Sixty-five hundred Africans are dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease. And it is not a priority for the West: two 9/11s a day, eighteen jumbo jets of fathers, mothers, families falling out of the sky. No tears, no letters of condolence, no fifty-one-gun salutes. Why? Because we don’t put the same value on African life as we put on a European or an American life. God will not let us get away with this, history certainly won’t let us get away with our excuses. We say we can’t get these antiretroviral drugs to the farthest reaches of Africa, but we can get them our cold fizzy drinks. The tiniest village, you can find a bottle of Coke. Look, if we really thought that an African life was equal in value to an English, a French, or an Irish life, we wouldn’t let two and a half million Africans die every year for the stupidest of reasons: money. We just wouldn’t. And a very prominent head of state said to me: “It’s true. If these people weren’t Africans, we just couldn’t let it happen.” We don’t really deep down believe in their equality.” (Michka Assayas and Bono, Bono on Bono: Conversations with Michka Assayas with a Foreword by Bono. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005: 81.)

Bono is then asked by the interviewer whether poverty is simply the fault of Africa itself for not addressing these issues, and if Africa is just behind Europe in terms of ‘civilization’:

“This is a fifteen-year-old’s geography textbook. I was looking at this today, and it tells about it exactly. [Eventually finds the passage and proceeds to read out] “Income gap. Two hundred years ago, it appears that very little difference existed in living standards between the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. Today, a very wide income gap exists: the North is many times richer than the South. What brought about this gap? The answer seems to lie in colonialism, trade, and debt.” They’re explaining to this fifteen-year-old kid how the reason why Africa is still in the Middle Age is largely to do with us, and our exploitation through French and British colonialism, but also in their present exploitation of unfair trade agreements, or old debts. You can’t fix every problem. But the ones you can, you must. To the degree we are responsible, we must fix. When you ask me to just accept that civilizations are just at a different level, there is a reason why they are. That is my answer.” (82-83)

And here’s a video of what could have been in poor, black New Orleans. Call me an old romantic, but this is a beautiful vision:

Posted in Justice, Music, Poverty, Racism, War | Comments Off on Two 9/11s a Day: The War on Poverty That Never Was