Almost twenty years ago, the late black arts poet and playwright Amiri Baraka wrote his now-infamous poem “Somebody Blew Up America.” The poem arrived on the heels of the 2001 terrorist attack that shook a seemingly unshakeable nation. Baraka’s rhetoric shook a fragile ideology, his words spoke the truth and unearthed accountability in a time where the nation placed blame externally. Labeled anti-Semitic, Baraka’s poem cost him the poet laureate of New Jersey honor to which he sai: “I don’t have regrets about writing the poem. Because the poem was true.”
Baraka’s poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” in essence, personifies the premise of black art, an incendiary poem that casts an unadulterated gaze on the anti-black climate that encompasses black people. The poem reveals what the world looks like from a black gaze and personifies what it means to calls things as they are. The anti-Semitic label that follows strides toward black power reveals the consequences that follow when member of the black collective make strides to decide what’s racist.
This praxis is precisely what the black community witnessed last week when Viacom publicly fired Nick Cannon after he articulated new insight onto semiticism as a term. Cannon’s work to highlight the black trajectory in America, though seemingly in accordance with the nation’s “black life matters” state of mind, reflect a depth that a nation espoused to white nationalism cannot afford. Specifically, superficial engagement with race and civil rights proves worthy of national engagement, but anything that seems to alter the cognitive bondage the western world violently imposes onto the African in America must be deflected entirely. Thus, to paint blacks as hateful in a world that hates them deliberately shifts culpability from those responsible to the oppressed. Thus, antisemitism accusations function solely to maintain focus on white people and underscore that as long as white people draw the reigns on who and what is racist, the fires of racism will continue to burn black people.
As Cornell West reminds us in “On Black-Jewish Relations,” the Jewish faction occupies abject status in Europe, but they assume positions of power in America. So, while the Jewish plight abroad delineates the savagery of global white supremacist wrath, the anti-semitic accusations tell the black collective that even the most historically despised subcultures of whiteness matter more than black lives. Moreover, the white world, when on the ropes with racial discourse, pulls out its most hated factions to wield anti-black hate onto the black collective.
Furthermore, what many witnessed last week on the news or social media has little to do with Nick Cannon and everything to do with white America’s warning to those striving for depth in a shallow world. A black man striving to publicly re-define racism through logic will be labeled hateful to sway the masses against their influence. In an anti-black world, it is perfectly fine to break the internet, but for he or she who wishes to “blow up” America with racial truth shall be alienated and villainized. Thus, Nick Cannon, like Baraka, and countless other black voices who articulate or made any strides toward intellect and insight in the twenty-first century, must be a Nazis in a white supremacist world. A world that does not wish to acknowledge the totality of its evil, for fear not of retaliation but of anaccountability that exposes white greatness as the biggest farce in history.
West, Cornel. Race Matters. First Vintage Books, 1994.