Humans Repeat History. Race Wars Are Back – by Heather Mallick

Humans Repeat History. Race Wars Are Back

Racism is back in all its forms, locally, nationally and continents-wide

by Tuesday, September 04, 2018 by thestar.com – Comments
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which rises from the dirt in Berlin, reminds us we are in danger of repeating the past if we allow racism and intolerance to fester, Heather Mallick writes. (Rick Steves / Toronto Star file photo)

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which rises from the dirt in Berlin, reminds us we are in danger of repeating the past if we allow racism and intolerance to fester, Heather Mallick writes.  (Rick Steves / Toronto Star file photo)

History repeats itself. That’s the truism but it’s not quite ight. People repeat history.

As some European nations return to authoritarianism, as the U.S. sees neo-Nazis marching and entering mainstream conversation, as migrants are described as vermin and the 2008 economic catastrophe has become deathly austerity, we see prime conditions for tyranny once again.

U.S. Republicans are regaining control over women’s bodies, and many Canadian Conservative Party delegates wish to emulate that. Journalism is deplored. Anti-Semitic bullying has erupted in the British Labour Party. Indigenous Canadians are tormented, and some Chinese-Canadians demonstrate against “Nigerian” migrants crossing the U.S. border into Canada.

We are breathing violent air. Small groups are being encircled. Tribes are accreting.

Seven hundred words won’t do justice to what we face now. So I will describe two pieces of art as memorial that attempt to head off people from repeating the worst of history.

One, at the Alabama lynching museum, hangs over you from above; the other, a Berlin Holocaust monument, rises from the dirt.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin — it puzzles me that it wasn’t named the Memorial to European Jews Murdered by Germany — is frightening, as it should be. Designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman, it takes the visitor down into a forest of 2,711 dark concrete slabs — finally brutalism finds its true purpose — like tombstones. Some are small. Others are tall and lead you among taller ones until you become sliced off from your companions and grow claustrophobic even on a sunny day.

At some points, your face is turned up, looking directly into the sky, and you realize you are surrounded metaphorically by Nazi camp guards. You are hemmed in by being forced to wear a yellow star, unable to work or use public trams, held to curfews, charged money to attempt to leave the country, and finally imprisoned or shot, worked to death, or robbed, shaved, gassed and burned to ash.

On the grass surrounding the memorial, which is near the Brandenburg Gate, people sit and children play, much as Germans did beside Nazi work-to-death camps and death camps.

It’s easy to be offended by careless visitors who jump about on the slabs and take selfies — “everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster,” Auden wrote — but then you realize that it’s a living part of the artwork: those who laughed while it happened, those who didn’t care to know.

I don’t write about art I haven’t experienced, but I’ll break the rule for the Legacy Museum’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened this year in Montgomery, Ala., for I choose to visit Alabama precisely never.

The memorial square is terrifying. It comprises 816 steel columns hanging from above, their bases labelled, one for every U.S. county where whites lynched Blacks, and their sides with the names of the victims. As in Berlin, the ground slopes, which means that at first you see the dead slabs at eye level but then, gradually, they come to hang above you.

This puts you in the place of white Southerners, male and female, looking up at their achievement. Above you is a dangling man. Black men were tortured and hanged for the most minor of matters, being near a white woman, “standing around,” or failing to call a policeman “mister.”

As the New York Times wrote, one name is that of “Mary Turner, who after denouncing her husband’s lynching by a rampaging white mob, was hung upside down, burned and then sliced open so that her unborn child fell to the ground.”

The memorial, by Mass Design Group, is part of the museum, which is on the site of a slave warehouse halfway between a former slave market and a train/dock station where tens of thousands of slaves were brought in. Again with the trains.

The white Alabama reaction to the memorial has been resentful. And the white supremacists are back, dressed absurdly as ever. Racism is back in all its forms, locally, nationally and continents-wide.

People are repeating history. Not enough people are fighting back or even voting. This time it’s different, the white supremacists-misogynists say. No, this time it’s the same.

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Comments

  • Michael O Alstrom  On September 5, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Try to find time to read this right through.We are been warned all the signs are present .Whites are going after us again.There’s none so blind as he who would not see.

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  • Ron Saywack  On September 5, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    “And the white supremacists are back, dressed absurdly as ever. Racism is back in all its forms, locally, nationally and continent-wide.”

    Frighteningly, they are emboldened by the antics of the current occupant of the White House, the despicable, deranged demagogue.

  • michael hawkins  On September 6, 2018 at 3:58 am

    Well the US leads the way on this subject, and there is very little that can be done at this time

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 6, 2018 at 11:09 am

    • Emanuel  On September 6, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      What the heck is going on up there? America has elected dumb bell to the big office. And what the heck is the reason for sending top government officials down here? We don’t want them here. They sure don’t care about us.

      • Xavier TD  On September 7, 2018 at 12:51 pm

        Are you taking about the US congressmen who held private meetings in Guyana? They’re here to set up a military base in Guyana to attack Venezuela.

      • Emanuel  On September 8, 2018 at 1:56 am

        Guyana is playing with fire. Americans aren’t to be trusted. Look at their presence all over the world.

  • S Laydee  On September 6, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    I had a HORRIBLE experience at Louis Vuitton in Toronto, Canada.

    My boyfriend (black Nova Scotian Canadian) and I (Guyanese & Haitian) went to Louis Vuitton to purchase a wallet for myself and we basically got financially profiled, if that’s even a thing.

    First off the security guard followed us through the entire store like we were going to pick something up and run out with it. Is it because of my skin color?

    My teachers would tell me that racism doesn’t exist in Canada, but knowing that 90% of my teachers were WHITE or Jewish, I wonder if Canada hides racism., since Canada is a country of immigrants and there should be more teachers of color?

    I PERSONALLY had to walk up to a sales representative to get help with a product which took them another 10 minutes to find someone, but as soon as a white lady wearing head to toe designer walked in they found someone for her immediately to help her out. But I have to say the fact that the security guard kept eyeing us was the WORST part. I definitely will not be returning to this store.

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 8, 2018 at 7:36 am

    S Laydee: You are in good company – Check out Oprah at a Louis Vuitton store:

    and Oprah is a BILLIONAIRE ….

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 8, 2018 at 7:43 am

    Xavier TD: The Monroe Doctrine has spelt out the intentions of the USA for quite a while, now. The USA don’t need to establish a base in Guyana … if you see a Battle Group sailing south in the Caribbean Sea – WORRY.

    • Ron Saywack  On September 8, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Profound and significant words, Clyde Duncan.

      How many of you have heard of PNAC (Project for the New American Century), a once-secret document?

      The following video will give you a hint. I may have more to say on this later, as I pressed for time at this moment:

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