Monday, September 5, 2011

Comedian Katt Williams vs. The Aztec "Nation"

Comedian Katt Williams recently insulted a Latino man in a Phoenix audience by parading an "America, Love It or Leave It" mentality and telling Mexicans who object to their treatment in the U.S. to "go back to Mexico" if they love it so much. Williams ended his rant by singing the American national anthem and chanting "USA, USA, USA."

The corporate media is characterizing Williams' remarks as racist, though they are actually nationalist. And the Mexican reaction has been largely nationalist as well. It's a conflict of nationalisms, not race.

Although such commentary becomes more predictable now that the U.S. has its first African American president, it's simply absurd for a black man in the U.S. to end up singing the national anthem and chanting "USA, USA" in the country that enslaved his ancestors, especially on land that was forcibly taken from the people he is singing to. Basically, he's endorsing the superpatriotism of the American Legion. And what for? Blacks are 55% of the two million plus prisoners in the U.S., nearly five times their proportion of the general population. Does that sound like they are fully credentialed members of the "land of liberty?"

Williams started off his rant saying that "it appears to me" that Latinos enjoy living in the U.S. Of course, the same was said of slaves in the old South, always singing and dancing, and ever ready to laugh at a good "darkie" joke. That means they were happy, right?

The reason Mexicans are in the U.S. to begin with is because President Polk sent troops to invade Mexico in 1846, and the U.S. later annexed almost half the country in a successful effort to take California (especially) and the Southwest. Mexican nationals living in the newly colonized lands were forced to choose between expulsion and re-nationalizing themselves as American citizens. As the saying goes, they never crossed the border; the border crossed them.

In more recent years "free trade" destroyed communal agriculture south of the border, forcing millions of displaced farmers to choose between starvation and illegal immigration. If you're faced with that choice, you're not going to swim for Fiji: you're going to enter the U.S. That has nothing to do with loving the U.S., and it is hardly contradictory to resent the U.S. while seeking to better oneself economically working within it. So Williams' attempt to portray this as hypocritical is off base.

Williams said that Mexicans "should have fought for" California if they loved their land so much. The fact of the matter is that they DID fight for it, but lost to vastly superior force. This does not imply any lack of love for their land or culture. Furthermore, by similar logic we could blame blacks for slavery. Why didn't they fight the slave traders and successfully resist enslavement in the first place? I guess they didn't love Africa enough. And by Williams' logic, we should have deported African Americans in the 1960s who grew Afros, donned dashikis, and shouted "I'm black, and I'm proud," while studying Swahili instead of correcting their non-standard "black English." How ungrateful could they be?

Yes, Williams is just a comedian, but his ideas enjoy broad currency and do a lot of damage. What's funny about that?


Anonymous said...

Since long before WW II, successive US administrations have worked tirelessly to destroy every chance of economic advancement for millions upon millions of people in Latin America.     
US policy in Latin America has for decades formally designated the nations to the south as being nothing more than "resource areas", where North American corporate criminals exploit cheap labor, loot timber, minerals, agricultural and animal and seafood products, and anything else that isn't nailed down. All with the enthusiastic collaboration of bought-off local oligarchs who make up and/or control the national police and military forces, which in turn have been used to harass, persecute, kidnap, incarcerate, torture and execute trade unionists, priests, nuns, environmentalists, independent nationalists, student activists, social workers, moderate reformers, miners, peasant farmers, teachers, journalists, and anyone else who gets in the way or gets out of line.
For the last fifty years in particular, every revolutionary baby in Latin America has been strangled in its crib by Uncle Sam himself. Every regional social justice movement that has attempted to forge a path of independent nationalist economic development, with the goal of using local resources for the indigenous population instead of acting to preserve the interests of local elites and foreign investors, has been mercilessly attacked and crushed with the full force of North American economic and military power. 
Of course these people come north. Where the fuck else can they go?

Michael Smith said...

Exactly right. Americans complaining about illegal immigrants are like arsonists complaining about charred ground. Of course, it is not us but our leaders who are the architects of the brutally exploitative policies you describe. But there is no point in blaming the immigrants themselves, who never asked to come here, and who would be delighted to stop doing so. But this could only happen if the U.S. government changed its policy and started supporting democratic development in Latin America and around the world.