Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
As Kopa Kunjam languishes in jail, the tribals of Lingagiri have nobody to fight for their cause, finds ANIL MISHRA"
Monday, December 13, 2010
The Allahabad High Court, India’s oldest and biggest, is awash with families practising in the same court, casting doubts over the impartiality of justice. BRIJESH PANDEY and KUNAL MAJUMDER investigate"
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
» Seditious speech? | Home: Latest news, Breaking news, Pakistan News, World news, business, sport and multimedia | DAWN.COM
This photo taken on September 8, 2009 shows Indian booker prize-winning author and anti-globalisation activist Arundhati Roy ahead of the "International Literature Festival Berlin 2009" in Berlin. -AFP Photo
Here is a transcript of Arundhati Roy’s speech at a seminar called “Azadi – the only way” in Delhi on October 21, 2010. On the basis of this text a Delhi magistrate’s court has ordered the police to file an FIR against her and several others for sedition and waging war against the state. The magistrate’s order came after the police statement to the court said that no case could be made out on the basis of the speeches made on the occasion.
S.A.R GEELANI: Now I request Arundhati Roy to come and speak.
Arundhati Roy: If anybody has any shoes to throw, please throw them now ..
Some people in the audience: we’re cultured…etc..etc
Arundhati Roy: Good, I’m glad. I’m glad to hear that. Though being cultured is not necessarily a good thing. But anyway..
[interruption from some people in the audience (inaudible in the video)]
S.A.R GEELANI: Please, will you talk afterwards. Now prove that you are cultured.
Arundhati Roy: About a week or 10 days ago, I was in Ranchi where there was a Peoples’ Tribunal against Operation Green Hunt— which is the Indian state’s war against the poorest people in this country—and at that tribunal, just as I was leaving, a TV journalist stuck a mic in my face and very aggressively said “Madam, is Kashmir an integral part of India or not? Is Kashmir an integral part of India or not?” about five times. So I said, look Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. However aggressively and however often you want to ask me that. Even the Indian government has accepted, in the UN that it’s not an integral part of India. So why are we trying to change that narrative now. See in 1947, we were told that India became a sovereign nation and a sovereign democracy, but if you look at what the Indian state did from midnight of 1947 onwards, that colonised country, that country that became a country because of the imagination of its coloniser— the British drew the map of India in 1899— so that country became a colonising power the moment it became independent, and the Indian state has militarily intervened in Manipur, in Nagaland, in Mizoram.. (Someone’s phone rings here).. in Mizoram, in Kashmir, in Telangana, during the Naxalbari uprising, in Punjab, in Hyderabad, in Goa, in Junagarh. So often the Indian government, the Indian state, the Indian elite, they accuse the Naxalites of believing in protracted war, but actually you see a State—the Indian State—that has waged protracted war against its own people or what it calls its own people relentlessly since 1947, and when you look at who are those people that it has waged war against— the Nagas, the Mizos, the Manipuris, people in Assam, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Punjab—it’s always a minority, the Muslims, the Tribals, the Christians, the Dalits, the Adivasis, endless war by an upper caste Hindu state, this is what is the modern history of our country. Now, in 2007, at the time of the uprising in Kashmir against that whole acquisition of land for the Amarnath Yatra, I was in Srinagar and I was walking down the road and I met a young journalist, I think he was from Times of India, and he said to me—he couldn’t believe that he saw some Indian person—walking alone on the road— and he said, “can I have a quote?”, so I said, “Yes, do you have a pen? Because I don’t want to be misquoted” and I said, “write down—India needs azaadi from Kashmir just as much as Kashmir needs azaadi from India”, and when I said India, I did not mean the Indian state, I meant the Indian people because I think that the occupation of Kashmir. Today there are 700,000 security personnel manning that valley of 12 million people— it is the most militarised zone in the world— and for us, the people of India, to tolerate that occupation is like allowing a kind of moral corrosion to drip into our blood stream. So for me it’s an intolerable situation to try and pretend that it isn’t happening even if the media blanks it out, all of us know…..or maybe all of us don’t know….but any of us who’ve visited Kashmir know— that Kashmiris cannot inhale and exhale without their breath going through the barrel of an AK-47. So, so many things have been done there, every time there’s an election and people come out to vote, the Indian government goes and says—“Why do you want a referendum? There was a vote and the people have voted for India.” Now, I actually think that we need to deepen our thinking a little bit because I too am very proud of this meeting today, I think it’s a historic meeting in some ways, it’s a historic meeting taking place in the capital of this very hollow superpower, a superpower where 830 million people live on less than 20 rupees a day. Now, sometimes it’s very difficult to know from what place one stands on as formally a citizen of India, what can one say, what is one allowed to say, because when India was fighting for independence from British colonisation— every argument that people now use to problematize the problems of azaadi in Kashmir were certainly used against Indians. Crudely put, “the natives are not ready for freedom, the natives are not ready for democracy”, but every kind of complication was also true, I mean the great debates between Ambedkar and Gandhi and Nehru – they were also real debates and over these last 60 years whatever the Indian State has done, people in this country have argued and debated and deepened the meaning of freedom. We have also lost a lot of ground because we’ve come to a stage today where India a country that once called itself Non-Aligned , that once held its head up in pride has today totally lain down prostrate on the floor at the feet of the USA. So we are a slave nation today, our economy is completely—however much the Sensex may be growing, the fact is the reason that the Indian police, the paramilitary and soon perhaps the army will be deployed in the whole of central India is because it’s an extractive colonial economy that’s being foisted on us. But the reason that I said what we need to do is to deepen this conversation is because it’s also very easy for us to continue to pat ourselves on the backs as great fighters for resistance for anything whether it’s the Maoists in the forests or whether it’s the stone pelters on the streets— but actually we must understand that we are up against something very serious and I’m afraid that the bows and arrows of the Adivasis and the stones in the hands of the young people are absolutely essential but they are not the only thing that’s going to win us freedom, and for that we need to be tactical, we need to question ourselves, we need to make alliances, serious alliances…. Because… I often say that in 1986 when capitalism won its jihad against soviet communism in the mountains of Afghanistan, the whole world changed and India realigned itself in the unipolar world and in that realignment it did two things, it opened two locks , one was the lock of the Babri Masjid and one was the lock of the Indian markets and it ushered in two kinds of totalitarianism- Hindu fascism, Hindutva fascism and economic totalitarianism and both these manufactured their own kinds of terrorism. So you have Islamist “terrorists” and the Maoist “terrorists”— and this process has made 80 per cent of this country live on 20 rupees a day but it has divided us all up and we spend all our time fighting with each other when in fact there should be deep solidarity. There should be deep solidarity between the struggles in Manipur, the struggles in Nagaland, the struggle in Kashmir, the struggle in central India and in all the poor, squatters, the vendors , all the slum dwellers and so on. But what is it that should link these struggles? It’s the idea of Justice because there can be struggles which are not struggles for justice, there are peoples movements like the VHP is a peoples movement—but it’s a struggle for fascism, it’s a struggle for injustice, we don’t align ourselves with that. So every movement, every person on the street, every slogan is not a slogan for justice. So when I was in Kashmir on the streets during the Amarnath Yatra time, and even today— I haven’t been to Kashmir recently— but I’ve seen and my heart is filled with appreciation for the struggle that people are waging, the fight that young people are fighting and I don’t want them to be let down. I don’t want them to be let down even by their own leaders because I want to believe that this fight is a fight for justice. Not a fight in which you pick and choose your justices—“we want justice but it’s ok if the other chap is squashed”. That’s not right. So I remember when I wrote in 2007, I said the one thing that broke my heart on the streets of Srinagar, was when I heard people say “Nanga Bhooka Hindustan, jaan se pyaara Pakistan”. I said “No. Because the Nanga Bhooka Hindustan is with you. And if you’re fighting for a just society then you must align yourselves with the powerless”, the Indian people here today are people who have spent their lives opposing the Indian state. I have, as many of you may know, been associated for a long time with the struggle in the Narmada valley against big dams and I always say that I think so much about these two valleys – the Kashmir valley and the Narmada valley. In the Narmada valley, they speak of repression, but perhaps the people don’t really know what repression is because they’ve not experienced the kind of repression that there is in the Kashmir valley. But they have a very, very, very sophisticated understanding of the economic structures of the world of imperialism and of the earth and what it does and how those big dams create an inequality that you cannot get away from. And in the Kashmir valley you have such a sophisticated understanding of repression, 60 years of repression of secret operations, of spying, of intelligence operations, of death, of killing. But have you insulated yourself from that other understanding, of what the world is today? What these economic structures are? What kind of Kashmir are you going to fight for? Because we are with you in that fight, we are with you. But we want, we hope that it’ll be a fight for justice. We know today that this word ‘secularism’ that the Indian state flings at us is a hollow word because you can’t kill 68,000 Kashmiri Muslims and then call yourself a secular state. You cannot allow the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and call yourself a secular state and yet you can’t then turn around and say that “we are allowed to treat our minorities badly “—so what kind of justice are you fighting for? I hope that the young people will deepen their idea of Azaadi, it is something that the State and your enemies that you’re fighting uses to divide you. That’s true.
[Some people in the audience: “Do you know what happened to the pundits?(not very audible)..etc ..etc..]
Arundhati Roy: I know the story of the Kashmiri pundits. I also know that the story that these Panun Kashmir pundits put out is false. However, this does not mean that injustice was not done.
[People in audience: interrupting and inaudible, all taking at the same time… “do you know how many Hindus were killed?”… commotion.. no one can hear anyone].
Arundhati Roy: I think…ok let me continue.. [part of the crowd arguing loudly]..
S.A.R GEELANI: I request everyone to please sit.
Arundhati Roy: Alright, I want to say that, I think this disturbance is based on a misunderstanding, because I was beginning to talk about justice and in that conversation about justice, I was just about to say that what happened with the Kashmiri pundits is a tragedy, so I don’t know why you all started shouting. I think it’s a tragedy because when we stand here and talk about justice, it is justice for everybody, and those of us who stand here and talk about their being a place for everybody whether there’s a minority whether it’s an ethnic minority or a religious minority or minority in terms of caste, we don’t believe in majoritarianism so that’s why I was talking about the fact that everybody in Kashmir should have a very deep discussion about what kind of society you’re fighting for because Kashmir is a very diverse community and that discussion does not have to come from critics or people who are against azaadi trying to divide this struggle , it has to come from within you so it is not the place of people outside to say “they don’t know what they mean by azaadi, do they mean Gilgit and Baltistan, what about Jammu? What about Laddakh?” These are debates that people within the state of J&K are quite capable of having by themselves and I think they understand that. So, to just try and derail things by shouting at people is completely pointless because I think that people, the pundits in Kashmir, all the time I’ve spent in Kashmir, have only heard people say they are welcome back and I know people who live there, who believe that too, so all I want to say is that when we are having these political debates, I feel I have watched and have been listening to and following the recent uprising in Kashmir, the fact that unarmed people, young people armed with stones, women, even children are out on the streets facing down this massive army with guns is something that nobody in the world cannot help but salute. However it is up to the people who are leading this struggle, it is up to the people who are thinking to take it further, because you cannot just leave it there— because the Indian state, you know what its greatest art is— it’s not killing people – that’s its second greatest art, the first greatest art is to wait, to wait and wait and wait and hope that everybody’s energies will just go down. Crisis management, sometimes it’s an election, sometimes it’s something else, but the point is that people have to look at more than a direct confrontation on the streets. You have to ask yourselves why—the people of Nagaland must ask themselves why there’s a Naga battalion committing the most unbelievable atrocities in Chhatisgarh. After spending so much time in Kashmir watching the CRPF and the BSF and the Rashtriya Rifles lock down that valley, the firat time I went to Chhattisgarh, on the way I saw Kashmiri BSF, Kashmiri CRPF on the way to kill people in Chhatisgarh. You’ve got to ask yourself— there’s more to resistance than throwing stones— these things can’t be allowed to happen— “how is the state using people?” The colonial state whether it was the British State in India or whether it’s the Indian State in Kashmir or Nagaland or in Chattisgarh, they are in the business of creating elites to manage their occupations, so you have to know your enemy and you have to be able to respond in ways where you’re tactical, where you’re intelligent, where you’re political— internationally, locally and in every other way— you have to make your alliances, because otherwise you’ll be like fish swimming furiously around a fish tank bombing the walls and getting tired in the end because those walls are very very strong. So I’ll just leave with this: Think about justice and don’t pick and choose your injustices, don’t say that “I want justice but it’s ok if the next guy doesn’t have it, or the next woman doesn’t have it”. Because justice is the keystone to integrity and integrity is the key stone to real resistance.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The Indian Express
Tags : indian express, editorial
Posted: Wed Dec 01 2010, 04:47 hrs
What kind of state are we, anyway? Prickly and immature, submitting to our worst, controlling impulses? Or tolerant, stable, modern? Here’s a worrying story: On October 21 a few people made a few speeches in New Delhi; some may have said that Kashmir should not be a part of India. The foundations of the Indian state, you will notice, did not shake. Kashmir’s status was not markedly different on October 22 than on October 20. And yet, a colonial-era law that’s associated in most Indians’ minds with Mahatma Gandhi’s open defiance of it has been unleashed. An FIR was lodged against the writer-activist Arundhati Roy, the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and some others — for sedition, “the promotion of enmity between classes”, “assertions prejudicial to national integration”, and “rumours circulated with intent to cause mutiny”.Merely reading that list of “offences” is a wake-up call. Does merely saying that Kashmir should not be part of India require this sort of legal action? Yes, shortly after the speeches, even as the BJP called for prosecution, the home ministry saw sense. “The state must show tolerance and forbearance,” said Home Minister Chidambaram, “the Delhi police is acting in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law.” The police registered no case, which, as these columns argued at the time, was only sensible. But then a man named Sushil Pandit filed a complaint; and a Delhi magistrate named Navita Bagha demanded the police act. And did the Delhi police, and by extension the home ministry, make the argument that the Indian state has moved beyond prosecutions of this sort? No; India’s government was instead browbeaten by one magistrate into registering a non-bailable case, with a maximum possible sentence of life, against six people who spoke at a seminar.This is more than merely embarrassing. Statist, knee-jerk prohibitions do not work, and nor would liberal states employ them anyway. This is of a piece with the exaggerated demands for respect for our symbols — you can land in hot water for making the national anthem available as a ringtone! National pride should not be constructed of such fragile stuff. Secure states do not respond to every questioning speech. In the end, we need to ask ourselves one simple question: does India appear more stable and admirable if Geelani argues in Delhi for Kashmiri separatism, and convinces few — or if the state responds to the most retrograde, statist members of its public and arranges for his prosecution? We want to be proud of India. That needs the government to withdraw these cases immediately.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
rediff.com US edition: Death of Sridevi's mother is recalled, as America gets tough on medical errors
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Another Unnecessary Name Change: Orissa is now Odisha
Oct. 26 – In the latest politically correct movement of stupidity, the State of Orissa is now legally to be known as Odisha following a ruling by the Indian Union Cabinet. The regional language, previously known as Oriya, will now be called Odia.
The move follows prolonged lobbying by the BJP Party, long bent on correcting misnamed cities and states. The confusion arises partly due to the phonetic and dialect differences in pronouncing the English version and the local language version with the BJP determined to revert all names to the ones used locally. Hence Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai and Calcutta became Kolkata.
The BJP have a tendency only to look back to certain periods of history suiting their own views. Orissa, in the east of India, was adopted as state name when it entered the Indian Union in 1950. However, in the local language, the name was pronounced slightly differently, as “Udisa.” There are also some phonetic issues with certain clarity of English letters, and rather similar to Japanese pronunciations of the letters r and l with the use of English becoming awkward for some.
The BJP have based their name change on 15th century records which refers to the “land of the Oriya people as being named Udisa or Odisa.” However, in Tantric literature it is referred to as Udisantha, while the ancient poet Sarala Das mentions the land as being called “Odra Rastra.”
Gajapati Kapileswaradeva, who lived between 1435 and 1467, referred to it as “Odisa Rajya” in his carvings on the temple walls at Jagannath. The renaming of Orissa, or Udisa as “Odisha” itself is inaccurate – it still doesn’t adequately capture the actual pronunciation of the ancient name. It’s political meddling in etymology for the sake of it.
Much of the renaming of Indian cities has taken place to do away with names associated with the British Raj, with many names of streets, buildings or markets being reinvented as “pure Indian.” While one can see the sense in renaming the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay to an ethnically acceptable Indian one, it is now officially known as the “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Sastu Sangrahalaya.”
While there’s a certain splendid length to the new title, it however totally unpronounceable to anyone not Indian, and bears no relation in any event to what it actually is. So although impressive signage outside displays the new name, it still is “formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum” written in large letters underneath for the benefit of everyone else. Indeed, most native Indians still refer to it as the Prince of Wales Museum.
The museum’s website address, which is currently under construction is named www.bombaymuseum.org despite the fact Bombay was renamed Mumbai in 1995.
The same is true of Calcutta and Madras. Most Indians still refer to them by these titles, and will often use both new and old names. There are other, recent silly changes. The well known city of Bangalore, the country’s IT capital, was renamed officially as Bengaluru two years ago, again to “politically correct” a mispronunciation. Yet everyone still refers to the city as Bangalore. What was the point?
Other changes in cities have included renaming Trivandrum as Thiruvananthapuram and the old French colonial outpost of Pondicherry as Puducherry. While the political and cultural reasons for doing so may be ethnically sound, the actual common sense aspect in renaming areas already well-known internationally in one form does not seem to be taken into account.
Neither Hindi or Devanagari are under threat as aspects of spoken or written Indian culture. As India moves more prominently onto an international stage, this meddling in domestic culture over names that are used and recognized globally ought to come to an end. It’s unnecessary, wasteful, increasingly politicized, and hinders potential regional development by creating global linguistic confusion.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the managing partner for Dezan Shira & Associates in Mumbai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Gujarat Police fudged probe into Akshardham. Police letter survives to tell the tale BY RANA AYYUB
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
t is possible that the most stunning story of the past week is not the brutal midterm loss suffered by the Democrats but the release of former President George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, and his attendant book-promoting public appearances.
About the Author
Ginni Thomas's insistence that Anita Hill apologize is an apt metaphor for the long history of blaming black women for social ills.
Predictable Democratic losses in November aren't what we should fear. The real danger is in a political environment unable to build even the most tenuous bridges across partisan divides.
Sitting with NBC's Matt Lauer, President Bush breezily defended his use of waterboarding torture, explaining that he relied on the judgment government attorneys who advised him the practice was legal. He also told Oprah he was "sick" about not discovering weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but he went onto confidently assert that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. But for me the jaw-dropping, headline-making revelation of this week is President Bush's assertion that the low point of his presidency came when 33-year-old hip-hop artist Kanye West went off-script during a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert, looked into the camera and asserted, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
Of this moment the president writes:
I faced a lot of criticism as president. I didn't like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low.
Public outrage about the president's assessment of this moment as a definitive low is both predictable and understandable. After all, one might expect that thousands of American deaths and the brutal entrance of the United States in the terrorist age on September 11, 2001, would be a reasonable moment to recall as the worst of his presidency. The economic devastation of 2008 is also a good candidate, as are the disgusting disclosures about American troops dehumanizing and torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib. Even if Hurricane Katrina were the defining event, many might expect the president to view the terrible loss of life, breathtaking destruction of property, and massive displacement of American citizens in the aftermath of the levee breach as worse than with the singular assessment of a young, if vocal, critic.
Still, I think there is a lesson in the President's anxiety about having been labeled racist. It is a lesson about America's relationship to race and racism and one that might help us better understand our own history, motivations, anxieties and political choices.
President Bush describes Kanye West's statement as his presidential low, a personal nadir. Recall that the nadir of American history is the time between 1877 and World War I. These are the decades immediately following the end of Reconstruction. After fighting a brutal and bloody war to preserve the Union and to end intergenerational chattel slavery, American Reconstruction lasted for an astonishing decade from 1866–1876. These were some of America's greatest years in terms of the nation's willingness to pursue the vision of the founding documents. In these years black men ran for and held office, black families gained a toe hold as property owners, black and white laborers experimented with cooperative organizations and former Confederates were expected to accept that black people were full citizens.
But the 1876 presidential election provoked a crisis in the transition of national leadership (not unlike that of Bush v. Gore 2000). In response, America's political parties chose backroom bargaining and partisan power-sharing over American ideals. Together they cut a deal that allowed Rutherford B. Hayes to ascend to the American presidency in exchange for an immediate end to Reconstruction. The parties were hastened and supported in this choice by the vocal and angry organizing of white Americans in the North and South. The visible evidence of black citizenship embodied in black male office-holders, black voters and black property ownership disgusted, angered and terrified white Americans who felt their grip on power slipping away under the policies of a strong, empowered, national government. They argued for states' rights, organized into klans, created racist cultural images, spread rumors of black criminality and decried economic competition by new laborers. These white Americans called themselves patriots and pressured both parties to abandon strong central government by ending Reconstruction.
With this 1877 compromise America plunged in the nadir. The decades of the nadir are marked by unthinkable racial terror, the destruction of black civil and political rights, the erosion of black economic capacity, the imposition of segregation, and the violent assertion of white supremacy as a governing norm. This is America's most shameful chapter. Her nadir. Her low point. Perhaps because the tentacles of the nadir reach so deeply into the twentieth century, it is a period that retains an unmatched ability to shame contemporary Americans. Even a causal encounter with the fully documented, indisputable and indescribable racial horrors of those decades annihilates American triumphalism that asserts the United States as a unique and consistently free and equal nation. As late as 1944, Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal described racism as the American Dilemma. Racism and its material effects on the lives of black Americans have always stood in direct contrast to an American creed that emphasizes liberty, equality and fairness.
Empirically, racism may be as American as apple pie, but morally, ethically and philosophically, racism is a betrayal of America. In this sense, when Kanye West pointed to the Bush administration's non-response as an act of racism, he called Bush a traitor.
West was not the only one who felt this way. More than 80 percent of black Americans reported in a November 2005 national survey that they believed America's responses to Hurricane Katrina would have been faster if the storm's victims were mostly white. Black Americans were not alone in this assessment of the racial lessons of Katrina. On September 8, 2005, The Economist described the aftermath of Katrina as "The Shaming of America." Americans take great pride in understanding themselves as a prosperous, just and fair nation steeped in relative equality and uncompromised liberty. The televised dehydration deaths of elderly, black people in a major urban center did not fit this triumphant narrative.
The disconnect between American identity and racial suffering was clear in the images of Katrina survivors who called on their government as citizens but were rhetorically relegated to the status of refugees. Parnell Herbert, a New Orleanian and Katrina survivor whose story is recorded in the oral history text, Overcoming Katrina: African American Voices from the Crescent City and Beyond, explains that even the visual images of Katrina told the story of black Americans laying claim to their rights as citizens. He says: "Something that really surprised me was the number of African-Americans in New Orleans who had large American flags in their homes. Were they flags that once draped a loved one's casket?"
This is the shame that leads President Bush to assess West's comments as his personal nadir.
And President Bush is technically accurate. In the weeks following Katrina the Pew Research Center conducted a national survey and found that 67 percent of Americans believed that President Bush could have done more in his handling of the relief effort and nearly 60 percent rated the response of the federal government as only fair or poor. The Katrina disaster also caused many Americans to reconsider the nation's security, with 42 percent reporting that the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina made them feel less confident that the government can handle a major terror attack. In the aftermath of the hurricane, job approval ratings for President Bush plummeted and never fully rebounded. In 2006 the Democratic Party won a majority in the House of Representative and the Senate. In 2008 Democrats won the White House. These 2006 and 2008 Democratic wins were, in part, about a repudiation of President Bush as incompetent in the face of domestic disaster and foreign war, but they were also fueled by an American desire to rewrite the narrative of racial inequality to which Katrina so forcefully reintroduced them.
In a previous article for The Nation, my husband, James Perry, and I argued that the racial angst caused by the visible, televised, disproportionate suffering of black Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was one motivating cause for Americans' embrace of Senator Obama in 2008. We wrote:
Not only did the Bush administration's bureaucratic failures in response to Katrina give Democrats a way to effectively critique Iraq but the racial politics of Katrina temporarily and jarringly reawakened America to the painful realities of racial inequality. A yearning to soothe this national shame and heal the gaping racial wound that was reopened by Katrina is partly responsible for America's enthusiastic embrace of Barack Obama. American willingness to confront racial injustice dissipated as quickly as Bush's promises to rebuild the city, but Katrina had awakened a deep desire to prove that America is not a nation marred by racism.
And so it was that the televised suffering of black New Orleanians was part of the extraordinary path walked by the first black person to be elected president of the United States. But the American racial story did not end on January 20, 2009. We did not enter into a post-racial America. We carried with us into this new moment all the shame, anxiety and inequality of our nation's long history.
As an observer, I find the 2010 midterms uncomfortably familiar to the era of Redemption that followed Reconstruction. Current calls for small government and states rights during the administration of a black president sound suspiciously like nineteenth-century efforts to weaken the state so that racial terror could be enacted with impudence against the black men who were then governing. After the aggressively anti-immigrant and more subterranean anti-black sentiments of the healthcare debate and the midterm election, I have wondered if we lost our ability to be shamed by open displays of cultural bigotry and political action motivated by white anxiety.
In this sense I welcome President Bush's comments. At my most optimistic, I can read his comments as an assertion that nothing is more harmful than racism, nothing more embarrassing, nothing more un-American, nothing we must more fully and completely renounce. I know that is not exactly what he said, but I take a glimmer of hope from the idea that President Bush has reminded us that to be called a racist is not a badge of honor.
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