History is a tale of many ‘Accidents.’
Today I’m thinking of something one can call ‘Accidental Political Blackness.’ Accidental Political Blackness is a part of my history. And a part of brown people’s history.
Tomorrow is Juneteenth. On June 19th, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger came to Galveston, TX to inform slave-owners that President Lincoln had actually freed all slaves TWO YEARS before that. The slave-owners were incensed, horrified, terrified, mortified, but compelled to obey.
Still, they got those two extra years of political whiteness. ‘Accident’ of history, one might say, at least of History as written by the Ruling Race.
Because how, in 1865, had white people in Galveston, TX not heard about the Emancipation Proclamation? Ahhh, maybe their slaves had rigorously kept them from learning to read and write!!
Well, in this second reflection on my Political Blackness I realize with irony and delight that also ACCIDENTALLY, tomorrow, JUNETEENTH, I read from my novel Love’s Garden — set during the toppling of British Rule in India — for the Great Indoors Series of New York City organized by my friends Treena Thibodeau and Ridge Cresswell.
And I am reminded that one artery of my Political Blackness is my identity as a Postcolonial Indian. The British in India treated many Indians like slaves, though I WOULD NOT equate Colonialism and Plantation Slavery. A play titled NEEL DARPAN (A Mirror held up to Indigo) performed and banned in 1876 in Calcutta earned its Indian playwright jail time for depicting with raw clarity the rampage of British Indigo planters on the bodies and souls of captive Indian cultivators.
Plantation Slavery and Colonialism were both invented by the West and built on the bones and blood of black and brown folks.
And who worked in plantations in the Caribbean in the mid-to-late nineteenth century so their white masters could live well and prosper? Africans from Africa and Indians from India. Arriving centuries apart but pulling the same plow and raking the same white and Creole masters’ fields.
Sometimes an accident is not even an accident though it may look like one. Brown and Black people have interwoven histories, and that’s an accident only if you choose to forget histories of Colonialism and Slavery as close-knit systems of believing Black and Brown Lives Don’t Matter.
DON’T CHOOSE THAT. YOU DON’T HAVE TO. EVEN IF YOU ARE ‘ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE’ ENCOURAGED TO.