Bridges and conflicts

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« I’m afraid you lost something
By not stopping to talk to me
I would have told you the past
By explaining the present »
Saul Williams, Sha Clack Clack

As I write, New York City is wondering whether or not to rebuild the Twin Towers right now, using powerful light beams to create the illusion of their presence at night.
It’s a derisory illusion. But wasn’t that what also transpired from Black Americans’ reaction to the 11 September? Their affirmations of patriotism were as heartfelt as those of the rest of America, as showed the reports by our correspondents in New York, despite the fact that they are still subjected to a segregation officially abolished in 1964. In a recent article published in Le Monde Diplomatique (Sept. 2001), Dalton Conley, a lecturer at the University of New York, demonstrated how this segregation is insidiously perpetuated. In a « winner-take-all » society, equal pay is not all it takes to reduce inequality. Social mobility is determined by accumulated, often inherited wealth. The real estate example is striking, considering that owning your own home remains the best way of disposing of capital. If black people move into a white area, the whole neighbourhood loses value. People will try to get them to move out!
Instead of encouraging poor people to save, the Bush administration has decided to cut inheritance taxes, so things are hardly likely to change! Yet, Black American patriotism is at its height and violent, racist attacks on their immigrant black « brothers » from Africa are as virulent as ever. « African-Americans » thus toe the famous Nimby (« not in my back yard ») line too, in an expression of systematic rejection of anything likely to devalue one’s environment, and therefore one’s capital.
In « Little Senegal », African migrants are reconstructing their village social networks, as they do in all places where Africans regroup. This poses a real challenge to the ambient social climbing norms. Ancestral links are now too tenuous to generate a real sense of solidarity. On the contrary, the unavowed shame of having been made slaves reinforces the emotional reactions that are sparked by economic interest. The emotive engenders violence. Black Americans’ rejection of their African cousins has its root in an accumulation of segregations.
Cultural bridges definitely exist, however. Artists do not fail to explore their richness, once again affirming the prophetic role of artistic creation. This dossier testifies to these bridges and conflicts. Devastated, drained of its tourists and shaken in its certitude, New York is cutting back on cultural funding. The movement is general. There is no doubt about it, Mr Ben Laden’s efforts to destructure have been far-reaching. We will all need great maturity to get over this. We will probably also need to resuscitate a truly hackneyed value – generosity.

///Article N° : 5421

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