Bernard Narokobi – leader, legislator, poet
The Melanesian

Black lives & stupid white supremacists


TUMBY BAY - As an old white man who has worked with and enjoyed long standing friendships with people of colour I’ve been following the development of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon for a while now and wondering what has brought it to what appears to be a crucial point in history.

It cannot be avoided acknowledging that the issue of race is incredibly complicated. Or at least appears to be so.

Neither is it avoidable that many people of colour might resent interference in a debate that they hold to be highly personal and which they feel has to be experienced and felt to be understood.

I cannot, of course, begin to understand how this lived experience feels but I think it is important for old white men like me and especially others in positions of power to at least think about the issue.

As someone who was educated in the early 1970s I naturally bring a certain bias to the way I think about such issues. And being what some have described as an old leftie I also bring a Marxist bent to my thinking.

This makes me biased enough to think of the issue in terms of capitalism and class. For what it’s worth, here is my confused and inadequate take on what has got us to this point in time with regards to race relations.

The first point relates to the relationship between workers and labour and the fact that capitalism has always required a compliant, disposable and expendable work force.

People who can be employed or sacked as the need arises.

To achieve those three elements it is important that workers are kept in a state somewhere between financial insecurity and near poverty or brainwashed into some form of psychological and/or inescapable dependence to keep them pliant and malleable.

In these terms the idea of slavery initially provided a perfect means to achieve this end. When that became unacceptable other means had to be employed. Chief among these was the concept of predestined and immutable class.

If you were born into a lower classes you were expected to remain there. To hammer home this message the ruling capitalistic class made sure that denigration was a key part of their strategy.

If you were a person of colour, perhaps the descendant of slaves or a conquered people, genetics was a handy thing to use against you to make sure you stayed where you were conveniently meant to be.

To this end a great deal of attention was dedicated to proving by all sorts of quasi scientific means that because of your colour you were inherently inferior and, to all intents and purposes, sub-human.

To my mind this is where racism and economics came together. And despite the passing of history capitalism still needs and is dependent upon racism, just as much as it needs and is dependent upon a class system.

Those stupid white supremacists and the like we see on television cheering people like Donald Trump have, as the ruling class intended, now absorbed and commandeered racism completely and act to ensure it remains entrenched in civil society.

As people like the arch-capitalist Trump knows, everyone needs someone to hate and people of colour are the perfect fit for the type of supporters he attracts

The fact that these supporters have more in common with the people they vilify rather than the capitalists they serve is lost on them. In their aspirational dreams they little realise that they are just as much the tools of capitalism as people of colour.

Now, if this makes any sense, the obvious solution and means of banishing racism must surely lie in the eradication of capitalism. It is only through universal equity that racism will end.

It is only when society is prepared to accept that all lives matter, whether they are black or white or any shade in between that racism will finally fade away.

The current crisis in capitalism, which began before but has been accelerated since the advent of Covid-19, seems to be offering a window of opportunity to re-shape the world in many ways, not least in the conditions of black lives.

As a catalyst for change Covid-19 is a perfect storm. Whether it might inadvertently change capitalism for something less rapacious and divisive will be interesting to see.

If it can go the mile and help overrun the increasingly obscene and desperate bastions of capitalism it might, in all its terror, actually have a silver lining.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

The 'looney left' is a pejorative term used to describe people with progressive or perceived 'far left' views.

Attacking the player rather than the ball is a tactic favoured by conservatives and is currently epitomised in the extreme by Donald Trump.

For people on the left being attacked by name calling is singular evidence that they've got the other side rattled.

Watching the spitting, vicious and vindictive Trump over the next couple of months is going to be a salutory lesson.

Ed Brumby

Well before the Arabs and the Brits engaged in the practice, as Peter Frankopan points out in his brilliant "The Silk Roads'', 'slavery was a vital part of Viking society and an important part of its economy' - and the island of Britain and the lands of the Rus were important sources of their supply.

It's all too easy, as others have pointed out to talk of slavery and slaves in terms of black and white when, historically, perpetuators and victims came in all shades and from all races.

And it's just as easy (and convenient) to forget that the cities of Prague and Venice were once vital centres of the trade in slaves. Indeed, the common modern Italian expression 'ciao' is derived from the Venetian ''schiavo' meaning, 'I am your slave.'

As Dr Dom would say, Just sayin'

Chris Overland

David, it is not evidence of a person being part of the "loony left" to actually make reference to the facts.

The facts surrounding Cecil Rhodes are plain enough. As far as I can ascertain he did not own slaves nor advocate for slavery, hence he cannot be accurately described as a "slave trader".

Was he an opportunistic, exploitative and ruthless racist and imperialist who had scant regard for black Africans? You bet he was.

So call him that.

It thus is a strange and ironic quirk of history that the scholarship named after him is now an important means by which the brightest and the best black Africans have a chance to further their studies in Britain's great universities.

And in relation to Michael's comments on slavery, I agree with him entirely. Any reasonable examination of the history of slavery presents a very different and much more complex picture than is commonly understood.

Dave Ekins

Take that, Andy! Don't ever disparage the looney left on this forum again!

Michael Dom

"A person's colour is significant in this capitalist process because racism is a mechanism by which a defined group can be regarded as essentially "non human", thereby providing a philosophical or moral justification for their enslavement or some other form of exploitation."

The crux of this argument can be called into question when the history of African tribal slavery reports that "Blacks enslaved Blacks" and sold them to Arabs (how horribly capitalistic!).

European, or in modern parlance "White" , slave traders provided a more lucrative deal.

Wait, Muslims and Black heathens were slave trading before White man Adam invented capitalism?

That's unspeakably evil and worse not proper procedure because the White conquerors had not written the laws down yet. Quite uncouth.

No more.

Racism was simply a convenient excuse for the ageold practice of conquest (ie what to do with victims) and the idea of trade (ie how to deal with equals and betters), which is the foundation of 'capitalism' was a not invented by anyone of any skin tone.

We were all apes when this business started and we're still monkeying around with it.

Chris Overland

With respect to Cecil Rhodes, so far as I can tell there is no evidence that he ever owned slaves. He was born in 1853, long after slavery had been abolished.

However, he was an unabashed imperialist and convinced that British, white Caucasians were "the first race in the world", with an historic mission to bring civilisation to Africa. In thinking this way he was very much within the mainstream of the British imperialist tradition.

He was indisputably an important figure in the creation of modern Africa and disproportionate numbers of people awarded a Rhodes Scholarship have gone on to occupy positions of great eminence in their professional lives.

These have included Australian Prime Ministers Hawke, Abbott and Turnbull, US President Bill Clinton, US Ambassador to the UN, Dr Susan Rice, President of Pakistan, Mr Wasim Sajjad and feminist author Naomi Wolf.

While once restricted to British white men, the scholarships are now awarded to people of all colours and genders.

Rhodes was a divisive figure in his lifetime and remains so today. Like many eminent figures in history his legacy is mixed.

If interpreted through the prism of today's values systems, he is likely to be judged harshly for his racist and imperialist ambitions.

But by the standards of the time he was judged to be an important figure in British colonial history who held unexceptional views about the supposed civilising mission of the British Empire.

Andy McNabb

Prime Minister Bob Hawke was awarded a Rhodes scholarship. Rhodes was of course a slave trader. Bob benefited from the slave trade, and therefore his prime ministership should be removed from history, and any images, writings, books should also be removed.

And while we're at it we should do likewise for former prime ministers Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull who were also Rhodes Scholars - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

PNG people today might have a view of Chris's phrase "population should be brought under the rule of law".

Effectively invasive and perhaps its methodology has evolved but an exogenous impost nonetheless.

Missionaries may have had a moderating effect, bringing some consistency at localised human interaction while proselytizing.

Yet was not the intruding Administration inclined to 'stick it' to the locals, as uninvited as the seekers of gold and other precious metals.

While the Brits along with Australian colonials seem to have ameliorated the labour 'trade', they did enable the exploitation of PNG by colonisers.

Chris Overland

Phil is right to equate racism with economic oppression, as they clearly go hand in hand.

You do not need to be a Marxist to understand that neo-liberal capitalism relies upon the ability to exploit labour in order to flourish.

The basic theory underpinning capitalism (as outlined by Adam Smith) is that if each person is free to pursue his or her own economic best interests so the total economy must inevitably grow. This is so because every economic exchange generates a profit which means that, over time, the total size of the economy will grow.

Smith was wise enough to understand that the role of government is to moderate the worst excesses of capitalism by, for example, preventing the emergence of gigantic monopolies or oligopolies and generally ensuring that economic activity was conducted fairly.

Marx's contribution was to point out that capitalism is inherently exploitative. It largely relies upon capitalists being able to convert the labour of their workforce into products and services which are sold at a profit, with profit being maximised by, amongst other things, labour costs being minimised.

Capitalists allow their workers to share in the wealth they create only to the minimum extent necessary to secure their cooperation in the production of goods and services for sale.

A person's colour is significant in this capitalist process because racism is a mechanism by which a defined group can be regarded as essentially "non human", thereby providing a philosophical or moral justification for their enslavement or some other form of exploitation.

This is why the founding fathers of the USA could proclaim that "all men are created equal" whilst at the same time acknowledging that this supposedly universal statement did not apply to black people because, as Phil has mentioned, they were regarded as an inferior sort of human or even non human.

Even at the time, the fundamental hypocrisy of this position was well understood and there was already a vociferous anti-slavery movement, especially in the northern states. It set the scene for the American Civil War because it created moral and economic tensions within the new republic that could not be resolved politically.

PNG was spared the very worst form of European imperial capitalism and the associated racism. This is so because by the time it was being drawn into the modern world the routine racism of the past was regarded as unacceptable by most people.

This is not to say that the exploration and pacification of PNG was without blemish as this is clearly not the case, but the administration's basic position was that the population should be brought under the rule of law as humanely and non-violently as possible.

Thus while the administration was, at some level at least, informed by a racist outlook, this was hugely modified by an insistence upon procedural fairness in applying the rule of law and a determination that the people should not be dispossessed of their land and so avoid the fate of many Africans who became refugees in their own country.

Thus, while what might be called petty racism was an underlying issue in PNG, the grotesquely systemic racism found in the pre Civil War USA and many European colonies in Africa was not allowed to develop.

Also, the worst excesses of capitalism were not visited upon Papua New Guineans, with significant restrictions imposed upon colonists to ensure that the wholesale depredations of Africa were not repeated.

Thus was PNG spared the worst of either racism or capitalism and able to smoothly and peacefully transition from colonial dependency to full independence.

All that said, a problem for PNG now is to avoid becoming ensnared in a new form of economic colonialism which may turn out to be every bit as pernicious and destructive as overt racism.

Lindsay F Bond

Actually it was 'stupid' and then 'perfect' that dampened my delve into this dreadful topic. No fault of writer, only as felt by reader. Am I against contention on life and belief? Well, no, it must be said.

We have some lovely lizards around where I live. Not the frilled Chlamydosaurus kingii, but charming nonetheless. A lizard image appears without definition, at

Chief among defense strategies for our lizard, is the holding of position, no matter what, until absolutely that proves not risk, not hazard, but threat and impact on it's own self. This ability may well, actually, be an inability.

Seems stupid that the perfect of 'still' is maintained rigidly, relentlessly, till some hole beckons as survival alternative. Expect that lizard will do the same on the morrow.

This note is also to flag another aspect of the mishmash of laws that either aid or axe, depending on wealth as an influence of conditions for control.

So what chance is there for 'equity' among humans?

Michael Dom

USA, UK, Europe and Australia, notably the whitest nations on earth, are currently the places where black lives matter most.

My Precious.

Previously they mattered most in South Africa, which, after Mandela's release from prison, subsequently transformed into the "rainbow nation".

Gollum, Gollum.

Similarly Black slavery, apparently the only shade that matters, was perpetrated by all those White Supremacist nations except Australia.

Slavery elsewhere was colored differently and so was supremacy.

My Precious.

There are tones of racism and shades of slavery and supremacy in almost every known civilization. It's a world of Rainbow Racism.

Gollum, Gollum.

It may be best that the wealth taken from black nations, along with the unhappy descendants of black slaves, are returned from whence they were extracted.

Gollum, Gollum.

That would be more equitable distribution of wealth and in line with Marxcist ideology.

What has it gots in its pocketsess, My Precious?

It may be like an Exodus only with more capital involved because it will require much more money and stuff to establish and run the new Black Rainbow nations due to the anti-capitalist, Marxcist-bent, racism-free, non-supremacist and equitable havens they will be.

Is it My Precious?

But that's probably too complicated for Black people to handle so just give them all that stuff back where they are in white supremacist USA, UK, Europe and Australia.

Damn you Baggins!

We hates you forever!

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