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Tale-Tale Heart (Part 1 of 3)

How do you turn a nightmare into a justification and a salient basis for ‘the dream’ of American prosperity? You flex your parental muscle and appeal to the childish mind with logic and reasoning that explains away (eRaces) the ‘boogie man’ that haunts the ‘American Dream’ as a figment of post racial imaginations that should be rebuked with happy thoughts.

Television host, social critic, political commentator and comedian Bill Maher posed an interesting question to a panel of black activists on his former show Politically Incorrect. He set the question up by expressing his regret and disgust for slavery, Jim Crow and racism. Then he began to describe conditions in several countries on the continent of Africa. He spoke of famine, war, drought, disease, corruption and genocide. With comic timing, he put the question that he wanted to ask his panel in the middle of a pause that he allowed as the horrors of Africa settled in their minds.

‘In your heart of hearts…’ he ventured carefully, ‘ aren’t you thankful for slavery and that you are here and not there?’

This will be a three part post. Part one, focuses on what Bill Maher’s question implies about ‘the white man’s burden’ and the biblical justification for slavery that centered around redeeming the heathen. The second installment of this post will explore how Maher’s question lays the foundation for understanding the current social and economic conditions of blacks in the United States by referencing points other than those that make the connection between prosperity and disparity. The third and final part of this series will outline how the expropriation and exploitation of Africa’s human and natural resource along with arms sales, proxy wars and puppet dictators created the poverty, famine, disease, despair and devastation that plagues modern day Africa.

This blog post is related to the theme eRacism, in that it addresses what was eRaced from the public discourse as it pertains to categories of diversity and Maher’s question. eRaced from Bill Maher’s knowledge and understanding of history are facts and perspectives that makes it clear that the ‘American Dream’ was (is) a product of countless unique ‘American Nightmares’.

How do you turn a nightmare into a justification and a salient basis for ‘the dream’ of American prosperity? You flex your parental muscle and appeal to the childish mind with logic and reasoning that explains away (eRaces) the ‘boogie man’ that haunts the ‘American Dream’ as a figment of post racial imaginations that should be rebuked with happy thoughts. The happy thought for black Americans according to Maher’s question is that we are here safe from the ‘boogie man’ haunting the nightmares of millions of blacks on the continent of Africa.

The critique of Bill Maher should begin with the notions of ‘self’, ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ that made it possible for him to transform the ‘white man’s burden’ into a rescue operation from the current social, economic and political conditions on the continent of Africa. Bill Maher’s question, its purpose and the way it is framed is a social-economic version of a factitious disorder commonly known as Münchausen by proxy syndrome (MBPS).

In short, blacks of African descent living in the United States and those Africans that missed the boat a few centuries back were (are) made socially, economically and politically ill by the sameness of ‘white men’ who bore the burden of delivering millions of the heathen natives to the bosom of prosperity that suckle ‘American Dreams’. The ‘greatness’ and ‘exceptionalism’ of the United States is the point of Bill Maher’s question.

‘Self, ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ are three dimensions of the ‘greatness’ and ‘exceptionalism’ of the United States of America. Here, the intent is to focus the conversation on how that ‘greatness’ and ‘exceptionalism’ is situated in the ‘American’ psyche such that it allowed Maher, a white moderate, to formulate the question that he put to his panel of black Americans. Sameness is the product of a constant process of pruning and preening the history of social relations to annihilate and or amalgamate difference and conflicts of difference.

Annihilate is a very strong term. It is used here to refer to a sense of ‘sameness’ that is negatively defined and based on the exclusion, abasement or abatement of difference and conflicts of difference. The kernel of this negative definition of ‘sameness’ consist of ideals of the United States of America that are quarantined from certain aspects of experience and history. In other words, slavery, poverty, Jim Crow, disenfranchisement, civil war, civil rights struggles etc. are exceptions to an immutable rule of American ‘greatness’ that can not be violated by the reality of lives colored by differences of sex, race, gender and sexual orientation.

This ‘sameness’ is the eternal shine of an experience of the good life in the United States that is posited as a real possibility for all but is in fact reality and a real possibility for only a few. The reality of the few depends on maintaining the ‘realness’ of the possibility of the good life for all.

Placing himself in this penumbra of ‘sameness’ Bill Maher was asking his guests to measure lives colored by difference and conflicts of difference by the realness of the possibility of a life better than the one they would have had if slavery had not existed. The question to his question is what would have been the reality of white Europeans and settlers if Native Americans and various Natives of Africa stood their ground and held on to their human and natural resources. The question of ‘self’ that Maher’s question does not consider is how American ‘greatness’ and ‘exceptionalism’ relies on the subordination and domination of difference and conflicts of difference.

Walter Rodney (1942-1980), a Guyanese born historian and politician, published in 1972 a book titled: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa – that is an invaluable source of documentation about sub-Saharan African region’ social and economic development; before the encounter with the Europeans; during the lengthy epoch that followed the encounter and leading to the colonization; during the colonial period and afterwards.”

Why We Should Take Heart From the Backlash Against Kony2012

The myth of American exceptionalism
By Richard Cohen The Washington Post May 9


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Curriculum Vitae

Tom L. States PhD Candidate

Fields of Interest: Political Theory, International Relations, Marxist Political Economy

Research Topic: eRacism - Conflicts of Difference

Education History: Williams College, BA Political Science; New York University, MA Politics; York University PhD Candidate

Languages: English, German

Hometown: Greenwood, Mississippi

Words of Wisdom: “IT” is what you are when you are young. Your youth mistakes certainty of the few things that you think you know for knowledge of things that it takes a life time to understand. With time and a few life experiences “IT” becomes the thing you pursue to give your life meaning. Somewhere along the way of having or getting “IT” you ask yourself, ‘Is this “IT”? Panic sets in when you realize that “IT” is your life. Fear and insecurity is that feeling you get when “IT” has not been worth a life time.


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Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press. 1967.

Cancian, Francesca M. Gender Politics: Love and Power in the Private and Public Spheres. Gender and the Life Course. Ed. Alice S. Rossi. New York: Aldine, 1985.

Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Jewish People. New York: Verso, 2009.

Lay, Shawn. The Invisible Empire In The West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920's. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.


Carothers, Thomas. Think Again: Civil Society. Foreign Policy Date, (Winter: 1999-2000).

Ober, Josiah. The original meaning of "democracy": Capacity to do things, not majority rule. Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics. American Political Science Association meetings, Philadelphia, (2006).