Verwoerd’s echo from a dead man talking

Hendrik Verwoerd
Hendrik Verwoerd

by Joseph Secrève

What do Hendrik Verwoerd and Ray Jasper have in common?

At first glance this question may seem a bit peculiar, with Verwoerd being the well-known and much maligned ‘father of apartheid’ and Ray Jasper being the black rap musician who was executed by lethal injection in the state of Texas a week ago.

One could start by saying that both were born in the Netherlands and both were killed in their adopted countries. Verwoerd was assassinated because of his firm belief in ethnically homogeneous nations, and Jasper was put to death because of, well, what appears to be the same belief. Jasper was convicted for slashing the throat of a record producer in 1998, but due to a technicality in Texas law, he maintained throughout his stay that he was not deserving of death but of life imprisonment. Instead, he blamed an all-white judge and jury for being racist at his trial, which according to him helped overturn the possibility of a life sentence into a death sentence.

In Texas, a murder alone carries a life sentence. However, a murder along with another related felony, such as theft of the victim’s property leads to a death sentence. This catch in the legal system is why Jasper had pleaded for life instead of death.

But there’s more: In an exchange of letters to blogger Hamilton Nolan, Jasper revealed a more profound side of himself, one that would not typically be associated with the stereotype of a homicidal rap musician. The content of the letter, albeit slightly incoherent at places, does reveal some poignant insights, and perhaps unwittingly touches on an important topic regarding race relations.

These following excerpts are quoted from Jasper’s letter:

“When I walked into prison at 19 years old, I said to myself ‘Damn, I have never seen so many black dudes in my life’. I mean, it looked like I went to Africa. I couldn’t believe it. The lyrics of 2Pac echoed in my head, ‘The penitentiary is packed/ and its filled with blacks’.

It’s really an epidemic, the number of blacks locked up in this country. That’s why I look, not only at my own situation, but why all of us young blacks are in prison. I’ve come to see, it’s largely due to an identity crisis. We don’t know our history. We don’t know how to really indentify with white people. We are really of a different culture, but by being slaves, we lost ourselves.

You take the identity crisis, mix it with capitalism, where money comes before empathy, and you’ll have a lot of young blacks trying to get money by any means because they’re trying to get out of poverty or stay out of poverty. Now, money is what they try to find an identity in. They feel like if they get rich, legal or illegal, they’ve become somebody. Which in America is partly true because superficially we hail the rich and despise the poor.

A French woman who moved to America asked me one day, ‘Why don’t black kids want to learn?’ Her husband was a high school teacher. She said the white and Asian kids excel in school, but the black and Hispanic kids don’t. I said that all kids want to learn, it’s just a matter of what you’re trying to teach them. Cutting a frog open is not helping a black kid in the ghetto who has to listen to police sirens all night and worry about getting shot. Those kids need life lessons. They need direction. When you have black kids learning more about the Boston Tea Party than the Black Panther Party, I guarantee you won’t keep their attention. But it was the Black Panther Party that got them free lunch.”

Interestingly enough, this dilemma was one of the most important motives behind the Verwoerdian system of racial segregation. Because of the stark differences in culture, Verwoerd foresaw the dangers of having people from a different kith and kin enter an urbanised world that was not a reflection of their lifestyle. With this alienation comes frustration, as age-old customs have to compete with modern laws. The social breakdown and violence in South-Africa’s east coast cities in the early fifties could attest to this. The old customs are not valid anymore and the modern urban laws are too distant and incongruent to properly solidify into their character. The cost of reconciling these contradictory systems could easily lead to personal distress, apathy and hatred.

This might help explain the pathos mentioned by Jasper, and he raises an important issue in this piece. Slavery has been abolished in the West for over 150 years, yet it appears as if certain population groups still haven’t been able to unshackle the leg irons of history. Something is depriving them of their sense of freedom. Racial discrimination is often cited as the culprit, but in reality this discrimination is only a palpable manifestation of a deeper rift. This conflict is best described by historian Oswald Spengler, a phenomenon he named historical pseudomorphosis.

“By the term ‘historical pseudomorphosis’ I propose to designate those cases in which an older alien Culture lies so massively over the land that a young Culture cannot get its breath and fails not only to achieve pure and specific expression-forms, but even to develop fully its own self-consciousness. All that wells up from the depths of the young soul is cast in the old moulds, young feelings stiffen in senile practices, and instead of expanding its own creative power, it can only hate the distant power with a hate that grows to be monstrous.”

Hence the importance to develop a stable identity that ties in with a people’s history. As Verwoerd once stated, no nation can achieve greater heights for itself by treading on the corpse of a fellow nation. He recognised a fundamental truism that all major cultural achievements arise from within.

Should African Americans be taught the finer details of their history though, similar thoughts as expressed by Jasper would undoubtedly come to the fore. Not many people today realise that the most important black consciousness and civil rights leaders were not in favour of integrating with whites either. Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and others resented the idea of mixing races. Malcolm X’s mentor Elijah Muhammad even stated that he “would take his hat off for any white man who wants to stay white”, emphasising his sense for maintaining one’s own culture, black and white. The fact that Garvey and Muhammad were also fervent admirers of Hitler and the Nazi’s has been kept out of modern-day historical teaching, as well as Malcolm X’s attempt to garner support from the Ku Klux Klan to help resist racial integration.

The status of ethnic integration being hailed as a noble and universal virtue has thus far had a very short shelf life, and doesn’t appear to strike a chord with most people dealing with its full complexities. In fact, it has rather led to situations where one group wants to rule over another, and as the self-esteem of an upwardly mobile minority group improves, so does its will to inflict harm upon the shrinking majority group. The news coverage of Trayvon Martin versus Antonio West serves as a case in point. Not to mention many leading Ivy League scholars who would stop at nothing short of an all-out witch hunt against the white population. Harvard professors Noel Ignatiev, Randall Kennedy and president Obama’s friends Charles Ogletree and Derrick Bell can’t spew enough anti-white hatred, regardless of the fact that they hold positions that would not have been possible without the founders of Puritain America.

Interestingly enough, Jasper also offers a tentative way out of this:

“How many black kids would change their outlook if they knew that they were only considered 3/5’s of a human being according to the U.S Constitution? That black people were considered part animal in this country. They don’t know that. When you learn that, you carry yourself with a different level of dignity for all we’ve overcome.”

Quite ironic that a rap musician on death row calls upon the dignity of people, whereas the nouveau academic elite embrace malevolent principles that would have made Stalin blush.

Just as Verwoerd mentioned, once Mandela became president, the entire West would fall victim to the pernicious ideology of Communism.

Either way, this does not portend well for the future.