Fear and Loathing

As much as America seeks to wish away the race issue, the Trump presidency has proven that this controversial issue has not gone away, nor has it been fully resolved. As William Faulkner once said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” But from a foreign policy standpoint, the basic truth that was conveyed by the attacks on Capitol Hill on January 6 was that Americans who go overseas to moralize and preach at others for their flaws are essentially ignoring their own flaws and problems at home. On the international stage, it is now fair to say that all of America’s credibility and legitimacy – which is the main currency in international relations – is now lost. America has always been like any other country with ethnic and racial divides and flaws, if not worse than those of others. There are many commentators and talking heads in the United States and around the world who will seek to downplay the situation for self-serving purposes, but it cannot be downplayed.

            From Nietzsche to Sir Halford John Mackinder, a number of Western thinkers have confessed that Western civilization is premised on fear and paranoia towards others. But fear and paranoia ultimately manifest from within, as we saw with the 17th century religious wars in Europe, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic invasions, the American civil war, World War I, Fascism, Hitler, the Cold War, and now the demise of the American unipolar moment. There are allusions to white fear and paranoia in the immensely rich body of Black literature in the United States. Even in the present day and age, one cannot discount the possibility that the anger, language, and rage of those who proclaim to be Trump supporters stem largely from the fear that Blacks, Latinos, Jews, and Muslims will dominate white people.

            Although minorities in the United States may not approach white people through a zero-sum social paradigm, white people certainly approach minorities with that type of social paradigm. Malcolm X – in his autobiography – recounted an experience working at a convenient store where his Jewish boss told him that the only way for a person of color or a non-white person to survive in a white man’s world was to become strong through a sound education. Fear and paranoia is perhaps the foundation for segregation, Jim Crow, black voter suppression, and police brutality after the civil war. Nor can one ignore that a sizable portion of the American electorate voted for Trump, despite losing the election. Trump received more votes than any other sitting president in the history of the United States. Thus, what Trump says publicly is what many people in the United States think privately.

            For many people in the United States, being “American” equates to being white ever since the beginning of the American republic. In a book titled “The History of White People,” the African-American author Nell Irvin Painter writes:

“The economic barriers to voting by white men made the United States, in the then common parlance, ‘a white man’s country,’ a polity defined by race and limited to white men. Once prerequisites for active citizenship came down to maleness and whiteness, poor men could be welcomed into the definition of American, as long as they could be defined as white – the first enlargement of American whiteness.”

Black literature in the United States – which is always incredibly rich in terms of both content and quality as well as straightforward – gets to the core of the issue when observed closely. In a letter to a relative titled “My Dungeon Shook,” James Baldwin – who was one of America’s most famous Black writers during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s – wrote that blacks were “born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible” that a black person was “a worthless human being.” Most importantly, however, Baldwin added that the white man’s pattern of behavior “does not testify to [black] inferiority but to [white] inhumanity and fear.” Baldwin added that whites were “still trapped in a history which they do not understand” and “until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.” “Integration” and “inclusion” are words employed by whites towards minorities, but Baldwin spells out the truth behind these words, which is that minorities are expected to become white when in reality it is minorities which ultimately have to include whites into their fold.

            In an allusion to the roots of civil strife among White Americans – namely, the American civil war – Martin Luther King Jr. argued in a book titled “Why We Can’t Wait” that “the war had been won but not a just peace” and that “equality had never arrived.” As a result of the social turmoil stemming from an unachieved peace due to racial divides in the United States, the black protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” ultimately goes into seclusion and completely withdraws from American society. Yet, this is a reality that many White Americans are not ready to acknowledge. It is easy to divert attention away from one’s own flaws towards others who pose no imminent threat – i.e., Russians, Iranians, and North Koreans. But in the end, it becomes all the more difficult to pin police brutality, Islamophobia, and hyper-militarization both abroad and domestically on anything other than the Western psyche.

            Malcolm X once thought that the long-term solution to the racial divide between Whites and Blacks in America and thus the fear and paranoia on the part of White Americans is the separation of the races and ultimately the return of Black Americans to Africa as a corroboration of Marcus Garvey’s ideas. But in the short run, Malcolm X was also open to other plans or programs being crafted in hopes of making the racial divide more tolerable. Other minority groups have also had separation from whites in mind as a solution to the racial divide that never seems to close. Hannah Arendt coined the term “voluntary separatism” to suggest that Jews had to separate themselves from Whites in order to preserve their strict form of monotheism, which in turn contributed to the creation of the state of Israel.

            Also, after the Bush Administration framed Muslims at-large for the 9/11 attacks, the leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) crafted a long-term plan to modernize their country and create a safe haven for Muslims who sought to escape from Islamophobia in the West. To this day, Asian Americans are largely secluded in their own respective communities in the United States. But before we escape this harsh reality that is imposed on us by a status quo that is shaped by white patriarchy in the United States, minorities should try to make an effort towards remedying the situation.

After hitting rock bottom in life and ending up in prison for seven years because of a petty crime, Malcolm X sought to master the English language in order to truly understand the mind of White Americans. To what extent he explored Western philosophy in a prison library is unclear. When he began his life of social activism after being released from jail, Malcolm X took a hardline approach towards the race issue and believed that only radical solutions could remedy the situation. But in the end, Malcolm X conceded after a religious epiphany that the only way to overcome the fear and paranoia that besieges the Western mind is through compassion and understanding. Moreover, as James Baldwin wrote: “We cannot be free until they are free.” In other words, we as minorities in the United States cannot be free until white men – as well as white women – are finally free from the fear and paranoia that exists within them.

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