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June 28, 2001
Terminator with a Cause

Late Saturday night -- or for the hopelessly precise, the early morning hours of Sunday, June 24, 2001. The metro train is racing westward, carrying a rather homogenous crowd back home from a night on the town. Into this whiteness eager to hook back up with lawnmovers, flowerbeds, freshly painted gates, and other assorted proud accomplishments, he steps in, without warning or preamble, in mid-sentence when the doors open and in full steam by the time the train starts pulling away from the platform to leave Washington behind.

It becomes apparent right away that he's not selling anything, which robs the crowd of the one scenario in which they can comfortably imagine a man yelling in their faces. No, this is not about used cars, and this is not a morning call-in show.

"...been taking a while," he's saying, "but this is finally where it ends."

People shift, trying to make themselves invisible.

"Do you know what I did when I was young? I killed people. The government told me to. I went to Vietnam and killed Vietnamese. Then I came back and nobody wanted to have anything to do with me. Make me disappear, if they could. Try to exteminate me. I'm not afraid of the motherfuckers trying to exterminate me. You think I don't know how to stand up, you're wrong.

"Killing Vietnamese, and then working like a dog in my own country. I have the same dream, you know, and I make fifteen thousand dollars a year. How's that, while you're going to your expensive cars and houses and whatever else you sick motherfuckers have. I suppose I could be grateful I'm not in jail, but I'm not afraid of jail, you know? There comes a point where you're no longer afraid. I'm not the one who needs to feel the fear. Your people raped my people, brought them here on ships, stacked like sardines, killing, raping, you sick motherfuckers, you make me sick I want to throw up. I'm gonna exterminate all you motherfuckers. Black men in jail, being pulled over, strip-searched, shot, shot fifty-seven times, my mother cleaning your homes, on her knees, on her knees with your scum, on her knees like her grandmothers being raped, working till the day she died, you sick dirty coward motherfuckers, I'm not afraid of you."

At this point people realize there could be a gun in one of those pockets, the situation a replay of the infamous Long Island commuter train massacre. They try, without making eye contact, to spot bulges in the bike courier outfit. Doors open, doors close, the cheerful automated voice announcing stations as more and more people get on. He doesn't seem to notice.

"Black man, lower than dirt, hanging from a tree, burned, roasted on coals, your people did all this, why should I not exterminate all you motherfuckers. I killed Vietnamese, many many Vietnamese, easy after the first hundred, you know?"

At some point, he steps away from Toni Morrison territory...

...because they were thieves... because they had not the dignity of wild animals who did not eat where they defecated but they could defecate over a whole people and come there to live and defecate some more by tearing up the land and that is why they loved property so, because they had killed it soiled it defecated on it and they loved more than anything the places where they shit. Would fight and kill to own the cesspools they made, and although they called it architecture it was in fact elaborately built toilets, decorated toilets, toilets surrounded with and by business and enterprise in order to have something to do in between defecations since waste was the order of the day and the ordering principle of the universe. And especially the Americans who were the worst because they were new at the business of defecation spent their whole lives bathing bathing bathing washing away the stench of the cesspools as though pure soap had anything to do with purity.

That was the sole lesson of their world: how to make waste, how to make machines that made more waste, how to make wasteful products, how to talk waste, how to study waste, how to design waste, how to cure people who were sickened by waste so they could be well enough to endure it, how to mobilize waste, legalize waste and how to despise the culture that lived in cloth houses and shit on the ground far away from where they ate. And it would drown them one day, they would all sink into their own waste and the waste they had made of the world and then, finally they would know true peace and the happiness they had been looking for all along.... [excerpt from Tar Baby]

...and descends deeper into Farrakhan's realm, into madness and paranoia as inevitably, "the Jews" make their debut in the monologue. The train keeps going, spitting out relieved passengers with every lurching stop and he keeps at it without stopping, his words like bullets hitting people as they get off.

"You sick, sick shameless motherfuckers," he's saying. "I'm going to exterminate every single one of you..."


Postcard showing lynching in a Texas courtyard, early 1900sspace Digging up the background behind the bile: Detail from a photograph showing lynching in a Texas courtyard, early 1900s. Some lynching-related photographs were sold as postcards and treasured as souvenirs for decades. The links section spotlights the Journal E exhibit "Without Sanctionary," with in-depth information about these images. The one below is marked by the sender: "X [marks] where they hung the coon."

Postcard showing location of lynching in Illinois, 1909


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