Monday, October 15, 2007

US Court Allows Suit brought by Apartheid Victims

Last Thursday I spent almost an hour talking to my Introduction to Black Studies class about the nature of reconciliation envisioned by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

I juxtaposed the discussion with the old reparations claim of “forty acres and a mule” that gained popular currency after the end of slavery in the US.

Two guiding question led the discussion in a class of about 50 or more students. The first question asked:"Is it necessary to confront the past in post-racist societies?” The second question had more to do with the purpose of confrontation and posed the following:"What is the nature of repair and rehabilitation in 'post-conflict' societies'?"

Students seemed to agree that the past cannot simply be swept into the pages of history.

But it was the issue of repair and rehabilitation that seemed to irk some. This was especially true for those who wanted strong punishments for perpetrators of racist crimes. One vocal student put the concern this way: ”Why should the perpetrators of abhorrent crimes simply walk away without going to jail or being punished for what they did?

I tried to explain that the notion of justice envisioned by the TRC was one that included extending amnesty to perpetrators. Amnesty was thought to be a good way to get perpetrators to confess and implicate others who were similarly complicit.

This attempt at establishing a larger truth about apartheid was seen as justice. A kind of justice that was non-retributive and perhaps even more holistic than what could of come out of a judicial process.

The students were not buying it.

They wanted to see a kind of justice that pointed fingers and sent perpetrators to jail. “How can it be justice if a victim has to live knowing that the killers get to live their lives as if nothing happened,” one student asked.

This is a good question that has no easy answer.

I said that “the killers don’t escape in this version of justice, they have to live with the knowledge that everyone they know, including their families, are aware of their role in what the TRC defined as “crimes against humanity.”

It was a hard sell. One lone student advanced the TRC assumption that “revenge was not healing.”

I did not tell the students that the TRC also left intact the pensions that the perpetrators of apartheid brutalities. I also did not point out that all of these perpetrators are now receiving benefits from the state.

I will tell them tomorrow and wait for the barrage of sentiment from some that the TRC “was a waste of time” and that a Nuremberg type of justice would have been more fitting.

I will also tell the students that a "US appellate court on Friday allowed claims brought by victims of apartheid against dozens of major companies to go forward, saying a lower court erred in ruling it did not have jurisdiction over the matter."

What this means is that plaintiffs such as the non-profit Khulumani Support Group, and 32 700 victims and survivors of apartheid, can now sue corporations that profited from apartheid.

You can read the court's decision here.

The Khulumani Support Group's website lists the defendants as:
Barclay National Bank Ltd.; British Petroleum, PLC; Chevrontexaco Corporation; Chevrontexaco Global Energy, Inc.; Citigroup, Inc.; Commerzbank; Credit Suisse Group; Daimlerchrysler AG; Deutsche Bank AG; Dresdner Bank AG; Exxonmobil Corporation; Ford Motor Company; Fujitsu, Ltd.; General Motors Corporations; International Business Machines Corp. (IBM); J.P. Morgan Chase; Shell Oil Company; UBS AG; AEG Daimler-Benz Industrie; Fluor Corporation; Rheinmetall Group AG; Rio Tinto Group; and Total-Fina-Elf

I expect that most students will think the appellate court's decision is a good one. It may represent an attempt at a greater measure of justice for the victims.

I wonder what they are going to say when I tell them that the South African government, under the direction of President Thabo Mbeki, opposes the law suit because it deems it interference in the sovereign matters of post-apartheid South Africa.

Moreover, I wonder what they are going to say when I explain that the post-apartheid government opposes any measure that would hold white-owned and foreign corporations responsible for profiting off apartheid. The most salient reason being that this would be counter productive to the ideals of economic development the government wants to foster.

Whatever is said tomorrow, I expect that most will come to appreciate that confronting the past is a complex task that never ends. Issues that relate to confrontation, punishment, reconciliation, and forgiveness, are all subject to the pressure of interests and its ability to wield power.

Still, the past does not merely slip into irrelevance simply because those who have power say so.


nunya said...

Hi Ridwan,

sorry, this is unrelated, but this dude Huntington seems like the type that needs to stick people in cubby holes.

Ridwan said...

You are absolutely right on that. Shame is that he is one of the most influential academics of the past decade or more.

You will be surprised to find how academics, and others, absorbed his nonsense.

Edward Said wrote a piece in response to him entitled (if I recall): "The Clash of Ignorance."

It was classic. And, Tariq Aziz has had a go at his revisionist stuff.

See his latest book "Who Are We?" we he argues that Latinos (Hispanics) will never be totally successful in the US until the dream in English!

The inference being that the Anglo mind is superior and only assimilation to it can bring 'success' ...

However, when balanced against his thesis in the "Clash of Civilizations" dreaming in English for muslims, Africans, Others, etc, is not a step toward Western type 'success'.

One can reasonably infer that he intends to tell Anglos that hispanics/Latinos can't take over America.

Because the idea of America is an Anglo ideal.

And the brown folk are not Anglo.

This is a rehash version of the biological determinism thesis.


nunya said...

"One can reasonably infer that he intends to tell Anglos that hispanics/Latinos can't take over America."

Bwaaa haa haa haaa ha ha ha.

He must never have been to the Southwest, where it was taken over by Anglos, and now is being reversed.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what you think of the continued issues with the Jena six. It seems that this issue finally has gotten the national attention it needed last year when it happened. thanks to bloggers, this issue was written about and the word spread.
So keep on blogging.
see attached article.

thanks, K

Eugene said...

"post-racist," "Post-conflict," "Post-apartheid," What are these things? It would seem to me that racism, apartheid, conflict, colonialism, have all just taken on different forms and continue to do the work that they have always done.

Eugene said...

I just read that huntington bullshit. So he is a genocidal maniac (complicity in genocidal murder of civilian populations in Vietnam via Nobel Peace Prize Winner Henry Kissinger), and a racist who maintains his job in academia via these penis licking views of the status quo of America's elite who rule this government. Hmmmmm! Piece of shit, I would say. Another good reason why I am proud to have never received an alleged higher education.

Ridwan said...

Thanks K. I have written some about the Jena 6 below, that pertains to the attention in the blogosphere.

Our Boycott Australia Petition closes tomorrow.

I will prepare the report and get it to Howard.


Ridwan said...

Hey brother Eugene:

Huntington is no damn friend of mine for sure. As you point out, he is no more than a warmed over revisionist racist.

His crap is sold to liberals who want to believe that the world can be so easily carved into neat pieces of 'civilization'.

So he conveniently forgets how cultures and civilizations interact.

For example, he ignores how Europe turned to the 'middle east' after the dark ages to re-learn and develop what it lost. And, of course, to accumulate too.

What he would want folks to believe is that western civ (like what they teach at Reed College) is and unfettered and seamless development of ideas and products.

So, the 'western mind' is assumed to be the font of modernization, for example.

What he won't see is how the West borrows, appropriates, and steals, to fuel its 'development'.

Instead, he warns the West that Islam and modern westernization are primarily at odds ... the outcome "a clash of civilizations."

So, if you don't want a "clash", keep the Muslims out. While you at it, keep the Mexicans and other unsavoury brown people out too.

And, don't expect too much from the Africans, they lack the western mind, and try as hard as you may, Africans can't duplicate the development of the West.

He is not being racist he would argue, merely reasonable and deductive. Like Hegel was.

At PSU there are many academics who will tell you he is the cream of intellectuals in the Academy.

And in SAfrica I found many who thought so too.

What draws all of these academics together is that they are all white.

As for the post stuff. Edward Said said of post-colonialism that it was merely another and more refined stage of colonialism.

It is not the era or marked period of resolution.

The same, I believe, is true of post-apartheid.

And, I worry about the term
post-racist or post-racial states.

Worry because many would assume that it means after race, or racism.

Meaning that racism has been trounced or solved.

Not true.

What the post-apartheid era has advanced is a modernization of whiteness, the post part refers to an institutional abandonment of legislated apartheid.

I used to use 'neo-apartheid' in some of my writing but that caused too much confusion. Though I still maintain it is quite accurate. But it is absent in my academic work now.

Neo-colonialism refers to a structure of dependance. Post-colonial imputes a level of independence that is said to be about "speaking to the empire" from the 'post-colony'.

Still, in either context, neo or post, racism is kept intact, and the act of "speaking to" tells of the ongoing centrality of the colony and whiteness in various discourses on development or race, for example.

Thanks for pointing to this sh*t.

Ummm ... this was almost a 'post' for me ... in terms of length ;0)

Be well son of the soil.


Mojalefa Murphy said...

Hi Ridwan. Long time no posting on yours. I am now contributing to AfricaFiles here It is a veru useful resource to visit.

If you have not yet come across the following piece, you may want to repost it and comment on it on you blog. My own comments precede the article. I think posting it on yours is appropriate.



The foolishness of African leaders such as those who deny HIV causes AIDS and implement genocidal health policies among unsuspecting populations appears to give credence to racist comments similar to James Watson’s. They are essentially racist because intellectual inferiority cannot be ascribed to Europeans even though among them, foolish policies against the Jews and support for their extermination by the Nazis are on record. However, just like the anti-Semitic population sample is biased, Watson ought to have known better. His thesis is unscientific because it is based on a biased sample of corrupt bullies, heavily armed and well compensated by the Western transnational companies and their legitimizing governments merely to ensure profits for the greedy minority. It is ironic that Genetics, a scientific paradigm that Watson helped to coin, is an important part of the struggle to militate against the environmental destruction that human greed which exacerbates racism has caused the planet over the years of fortune hunting by the greedy.


17 October 2007 06:31
Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners
Celebrated scientist attacked for race comments: "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really"
By Cahal Milmo
Published: 17 October 2007
One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion.
James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America's leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.
The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.
The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson's remarks " in full". Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".
His views are also reflected in a book published next week, in which he writes: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."
The furore echoes the controversy created in the 1990s by The Bell Curve, a book co-authored by the American political scientist Charles Murray, which suggested differences in IQ were genetic and discussed the implications of a racial divide in intelligence. The work was heavily criticised across the world, in particular by leading scientists who described it as a work of " scientific racism".
Dr Watson arrives in Britain today for a speaking tour to publicise his latest book, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science. Among his first engagements is a speech to an audience at the Science Museum organised by the Dana Centre, which held a discussion last night on the history of scientific racism.
Critics of Dr Watson said there should be a robust response to his views across the spheres of politics and science. Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "It is sad to see a scientist of such achievement making such baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments. I am sure the scientific community will roundly reject what appear to be Dr Watson's personal prejudices.
"These comments serve as a reminder of the attitudes which can still exists at the highest professional levels."
The American scientist earned a place in the history of great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century when he worked at the University of Cambridge in the 1950s and 1960s and formed part of the team which discovered the structure of DNA. He shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine with his British colleague Francis Crick and New Zealand-born Maurice Wilkins.
But despite serving for 50 years as a director of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory on Long Island, considered a world leader in research into cancer and genetics, Dr Watson has frequently courted controversy with some of his views on politics, sexuality and race. The respected journal Science wrote in 1990: "To many in the scientific community, Watson has long been something of a wild man, and his colleagues tend to hold their collective breath whenever he veers from the script."
In 1997, he told a British newspaper that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual. He later insisted he was talking about a "hypothetical" choice which could never be applied. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, positing the theory that black people have higher libidos, and argued in favour of genetic screening and engineering on the basis that " stupidity" could one day be cured. He has claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured, saying: "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would great."
The Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory said yesterday that Dr Watson could not be contacted to comment on his remarks.
Steven Rose, a professor of biological sciences at the Open University and a founder member of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, said: " This is Watson at his most scandalous. He has said similar things about women before but I have never heard him get into this racist terrain. If he knew the literature in the subject he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically."
Anti-racism campaigners called for Dr Watson's remarks to be looked at in the context of racial hatred laws. A spokesman for the 1990 Trust, a black human rights group, said: "It is astonishing that a man of such distinction should make comments that seem to perpetuate racism in this way. It amounts to fuelling bigotry and we would like it to be looked at for grounds of legal complaint."

Ridwan said...

Brother Mojalefa it is indeed good to hear from you.

I trust you are well.

I will do a post on this, thanks for the information.

I am struck by the manner in which the biological redutionism of race just goes on and on.

I handed my "Racism" class their midterm yesterday and it asked them to write about the assumptions of race and science.

From weighing brains to show intelligence to IQ tests that employ the same assumptions (and outcomes).

Blackness is forever thought of as inferior in these terms.

The fact that others may not press biology does not mean that they do not 'gather' around the same assumptions when the "underclass" or "culture" of this and that is deployed.

Be well my brother!