Aspirational Negritude, or, What Non-Whites Have Taught Me about AmericaShawn Bell
The following essay originally appeared in Antelope Hill’s anthology Why We Fight, which presents the work of the winners of their first annual writing contest, and is being republished here at the request of the author.
C was one of those elementary school friends with whom I’d always expected to reconnect at some point in the future. We’d diverged in adolescence, as is so often the case, but as boys we had been so close. I had always been sure that, someday, we would get around to being close again. Certainly, it never crossed my mind that one day I’d be seated in his living room, sipping coffee with his street-wise cousins and making small-talk with his parents, the cordiality of the occasion an immaculate facade to mask the grief that loomed over us all on the morning after his death.
C and I had spent our elementary school years together running around as part of a multi-colored band of American boys — hyphenated-Americans with nothing but America to bridge the oceans between Honduras, Nigeria, and the Philippines. I’d been the only one of our little group who’d lost his hyphen, an American with no further explanation needed. I imagine that, to C’s parents, seeing their youngest son with such a friend had felt like their dream’s realization. They deeply desired for their son — or barring that, for his son — to partake in the same unhyphenated Americanness as me. As such, they had always been particularly kind to me, and keen to be on good terms with my family. Our fathers had coached our sixth grade basketball team together, our mothers had taken turns taking care of each other’s children when one or them had an errand to run, and we’d made a tradition of getting together for Labor Day barbecues. They truly wanted to assimilate, bless their hearts, and they embraced whatever was American in their son, foreign though it often was to their working class, Catholic, Central American sensibilities.
The Slipknot t-shirts C wore over hip-hop jeans; his wild, unkempt curls; and the way he’d said “nigga” with such confidence that the blacks didn’t mind it (though he was the kind of kid who’d throw a hard “r” on the end, just to rile them up, confident that his winning smile would get him out of any difficulties): All this was America, and thus, in his parents’ minds, to be celebrated. In their ignorance, they had believed in the propaganda, believed in the American Dream, and as a result, their boy had found his way into that most quintessentially American situation: two cars full of mystery-meat brown-skin ethnics hollering back and forth about drugs or a girl or God knows what, all harmless macho posturing until a gun was drawn and cut him down. All hail the rainbow nation.
Regardless of the racially-conscious dissident I’ve become, there is still an ache I feel when I think back on that sweet, wild, charismatic Honduran kid I used to know who was gunned down like a dog at 19 on the streets of my city.
I remember marveling at his parents’ composure that afternoon. They had received the call only a few hours before I arrived to pay my respects. It was with great dignity that they had poured out coffee and made small talk about the rock band I’d been playing in and the various majors I was considering at the community college. It was as though they were well-accustomed to burying their sons. Perhaps it was a cultural norm they’d brought with them from the old country. Perhaps it was the constant flow of guests which held them together, simply because the injunction to exchange pleasantries and pour coffee acted as a sort of distraction. I can’t imagine my parents reacting in this fashion, had it been me.
I sat there for about 15 painful minutes before making my exit. I walked across the bridge, back to the east side of the river, where the neighborhood was white and growing more so with every passing year. When I was a boy, it had been a cusp of sorts. At that moment, C’s body was cooling on a slab somewhere — the first of the gang to die (a song he’d liked, for the record; he had a bit of a penchant for emotional white boy music).
The more time passes, the more solidly ensconced I become in my own identity, and the more evident it seems to me that C was a walking identity crisis, an emo-punk-skater-hippie-gangster whose menagerie of subcultural identifications had swooped in to fill the gap that was left in him by his parents’ choice to sacrifice Honduras in favor of the anti-culture of America.
C and I had gone to different high schools, and his crowd during those years was rougher and browner. Thus, we didn’t see too much of each other. I’ll never know what happened in the years between our divergence and his death. Had he loved? Had he dreamed? Had there been anything on his mind but the next ruckus, the next party, the next blunt? For such questions, there are no answers. All I have are memories to piece together. The Boy Scout troop. The baseball field. The gymnasium where the parish events were held. The alleys we ran down in packs. One memory I dwell on quite a bit is the last time I saw him alive, which was about three years before he died, in the vacant lot across the street from my childhood home. A team of my schoolmates and I had faced off with some public school kids from the neighborhood in a brutal game of tackle football that had gone badly awry, devolving into a brawl between adolescent boys old enough to do serious damage to each other.
My last memory of C, who’d always been a gentle, goofy, class-clown type, is of his uncharacteristically rage-constricted face spewing spittle as he squared off with E, one of the neighborhood Arabs, their faces inches apart, snarling, speaking like hood blacks: “Da fuck you lookin’ at, nigga,” “Yo, fuck you, punk-ass mothafuckin’ nigga.” It has taken me some 15 years to realize it, but there was a much deeper significance to this yapping than one might initially suppose. What they called each other, and what they called themselves, was what they were: niggers. These two sons of immigrants, despite their disparate backgrounds, had been thoroughly assimilated, brought down into the mire of equality. Whatever they had originally been, they had become aspirational niggers who listened to nigger music, dressed in nigger garb, and dreamed nigger dreams.
I’d known the Arabs since I was quite young as well; they lived down the street, and we had often found ourselves in the vacant lot together, playing pickup football, baseball, or just engaging in the sort of recreational violence that is so important for male development. Though I have no distinct memory of meeting them, it would have been one of those chance meetings between strangers that occur so naturally among children. More than likely, they’d simply seen my brothers and me tossing a ball around and casually walked over to see if they could play, too.
It was clear from the first that they weren’t what anyone would call “nice” kids. The older brother, Y, was short, stout, and cruel, a powerful force at running back, and willing to throw fists at the slightest provocation. The younger one, the aforementioned E, was friendlier, but in a sneaky and backhanded way; I quickly found that he would steal anything I didn’t keep a careful eye on, which was a constant concern, as my brothers and I became known as the kid with “stuff,” which meant that baseball would be played with my bat, street hockey with my family’s sticks, and basketball on my family’s hoop. Not only did I have “stuff,” but I was also soft and sheltered. I was athletic, but having been raised in a household where the mildest profanity was forbidden, let alone fistfights, I found myself at a distinct disadvantage in conflict situations. Thus, they saw me as an easy mark, and the vacant lot became a place to be tested. Only once I’d proven that I wasn’t the type to run home crying and that when hit I’d hit back. I was no slouch on the football field, either. So I did win a measure of respect, first from the Arab brothers and their various relatives and co-ethnics, and later from the various other kids who hung around that lot: Mexicans, Filipinos, a few blacks, and a certain number of lower-class whites from broken homes.
Looking back, it’s not clear if my parents ever explicitly forbade or discouraged me from inviting the neighborhood kids into our house. They would have been justified in doing so, of course, but it also seems unlike something my progressive, yuppie parents would have done. Perhaps I had my own sense that, fun as they were to rough-house with, they were not the sort of people I wished to hang around with. For whatever reason, the neighborhood kids always remained at arm’s length –acquaintances who might knock on my door on a summer afternoon when they had an odd number of players for whatever game was ongoing, but who were never truly friends. The only one who ever entered my house was E, the youngest of the Arabs, who, despite his negative qualities, was by far the nicest of the neighborhood band, as well as the closest to me in age. I’d invited him in one day for a closely-supervised glass of water after a long afternoon spent playing an improvised game he’d dubbed “jack-ass hockey,” which was essentially a game of keep-away played on roller blades, with a tennis ball and hockey sticks (though the real fun of it had been occasionally slamming each other into parked cars). Somehow or other we’d ended up sitting on the couch for a while, shooting the breeze and waiting for the streetlights to come on and summon him home.
That’s when he told me about Palestine. With a wistful tone, he told me about Ain ash-Shams, the village where his grandfather still lived. How he and the pack of village kids, most of them relatives in one way or another, would spend their days pelting through the rocky hills at a mad dash, freer by far than we were in the prison of concrete that was our neighborhood. How they ate what they grew on his granddad’s farm. How Y, his older brother, had been judged old enough to slaughter his first goat — and how, despite the seemingly boundless cruelty he demonstrated in the vacant lot, he had been too soft for it, hurting but not killing the animal. How E had had a girlfriend there, a first cousin, whom it was more or less understood he would marry someday. When he told me that the fruit was sweeter, the water purer, and the landscape more heavenly in Palestine than anywhere else in the world, the statement was devoid of the usual pugnacious supremacism of the Arab Muslim. His love of home seemed pure to me, and his narrative carried me away with him to a land of olive oil and date palms which, as he told me, had been ripped away from him by the Jews.
C never, as I can recall, spoke to me about Honduras, but I remember that he used to visit in the summers when we were growing up. I imagine that his voice would take on a similarly rapturous quality were he alive to tell me about it today.
It would be another years until I walked the rocky hills of Palestine myself. On my first trip there, still enthralled by the normative progressivism of my upbringing, I was scarcely able to see the country itself, so dwarfed it was by the shadow of my towering, self-stroked virtue. By the time of my second trip, however, I had come to my senses, and was therefore capable of a much more unflinching and non-judgmental appraisal of an alien manner of being. My awakening to racial consciousness afforded me the ability to accept human difference, and thus to see Palestine and its people for what they are, in a manner which is relatively undistorted by the hegemonic liberalism of our day and age.
I freely admit to a visceral distaste for various aspects of their nature. From the dogmatic religiosity, to the tendency to remorselessly and Semitically scheme and cheat, to the penchant for animal cruelty, to the utterly unabashed lust for rape which proliferates even at relatively sophisticated levels of their society, I have no wish to live among Arabs, even though I’ve enjoyed my visits to their world. However, the particular appreciation of diversity which is the exclusive purview of the Dissident Rightist has also made me capable of appreciating their openhandedness; their unbreakable bonds of family, clan, and tribe; their uncompromising self-confidence in their culture and religion, and the glorious and impractical romanticism that spurs them to lash out at their Jewish oppressor in futile gestures that are all the more beautiful for their futility. They’re brave and cruel, generous and untrustworthy, the descendants of camel-back conquerors and merchant schemers, Bedouin and Fellahin.
My appreciation for humanity’s diversity is the reason I find it tragic that the fire of Palestine will one day be extinguished, suffocated by the relentlessly metastasizing cancer of Zionism.
Only after you’ve seen the hills of Palestine through awakened eyes will you truly understand the tragedy of what became of those Arab boys I played with, the degeneration that led to E’s descent into negritude, the selfsame negritude that consumed C. How authentic, in comparison to the aspirational negritude of Brown America, is the organically developed Weltanschauung of the Arab in his habitat, the holistic and all-encompassing expression of his being, foreign and indeed repulsive as it is to me in many regards! For the promise of material welfare, these boys’ parents sacrificed their children’s cultural patrimony and consigned their offspring to membership in an undifferentiated Brown Sludge which barks in unreasoning aggression, whines for the cameras in the hopes of extracting payouts from the white man, and spends its weekends in a THC-haze watching Netflix as hip-hop blares in the background.
I think about what this means for me, an American so long unhyphenated that the Something that my ancestors once were has been lost to living memory. This is what the non-whites taught me: that I have lost something, and not just my country, but indeed my very Somethingness, for to be an American is to belong to the same entity as Alan Dershowitz, Ilhan Omar, Tariq Nasheed, and Desmond is Amazing. It is to be nothing at all.
Being a white American is of course a more meaningful identification than the creedless, colorless anti-culture which is now signified by the unmodified term “American.” But whiteness, too, is a mark of degeneracy. My people were neither Yankees nor Southrons, though they had long since settled the lands of the Northwest Territory by the time of the Civil War. Their story was even less reminiscent of those “poor and huddled masses” who arrived in the nation’s cities with nothing, imported to inflate the numbers (and lower the wages) of the industrial proletariat. My people were Germans, humble Hunsrücker farmers who arrived with their pockets full of the modest proceeds of generations of hardscrabble tightwaddery. They came neither out of desperation, as the “poor and huddled masses” did, nor out of the Puritans’ ideological fanaticism. My people came to own land, and to be left alone to work it. They came as Germans, and Germans they remained for generations in the foothills of Appalachia. Only after the first of the two great Brother Wars did the Great Satan come for them, grinding them down and producing “whites,” a group of which I cannot help but be a proud and self-identifying member, but a group whose very existence is a symbol of the losses my people incurred when we took the Devil’s bargain and arrived upon these accursed shores. I too — like C, like E — am part of degenerate sludge. I, like the tragically negrified non-white friends and acquaintances of my youth, am an American.
Yes, to be an American, to be a “white,” is tantamount to being a degenerate. The fact that this statement may rustle certain jimmies is an effect of imprecise language. Whereas the modern Dissident Rightist tends to come up synonyms for degeneracy and decadence, the German term for degeneracy, Entartung, better preserves the sense of the term. Art is the German word for type, and the prefix Ent- is a negation, roughly similar to the English “un-” or “de-.” Thus, Entartung can be very literally translated as de-type-ing, or detypifying. The loss of one’s type, nature, or genus (degeneration) is the definition of degeneracy (as opposed to moral degradation, which is better termed decadence), and this is the very essence of the American melting pot. Perhaps before my time, the myth was true: that the newly-arrived European agreed to undergo a process of degeneration in order to be regenerated into a new sort of American man. Whether or not this was once the case is beside the point, for it is certainly no longer true. For as long as I have walked the Earth, the only definition of “Americanness” has been that it has no definition.
To answer the question of why we fight, I will paraphrase the famous words of the French revolutionary, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès:
What is the white man to America? Everything.
What has he been hitherto in the political order? Nothing.
What does he desire to become? Something.
Our task is as vague as it is enormous: to regenerate what remains of our people, to enact a new ethnogenesis, and to do so before occupied America has dragged the entirety of European civilization into a state of irreparable decay. Make no mistake: The substitution of tacos, hip-hop, and sodomy for culture has created a void, and this affords us an opportunity to form ourselves into something magnificent. Should we fail in this task, it is certain that we shall vanish from the Earth. What we shall become is, of course, in part determined by our underlying biological nature. To reference an old meme, we are bound to become what we are — but what we are, what any race is, is a range of possibilities. Thus, our task is to delineate an identity for ourselves from within the range that nature has allotted us. We must do this with stories, art, philosophy, and history before we are able to effect durable, radical political change; as greater men than I have repeatedly emphasized, our labor must be metapolitical. Only once we become Something with a coherent sense of ourselves and our place in the world will we have the strength to resist the corruption which is endemic in this age of protracted decline. Without thorough and compelling metapolitical work, all our efforts will be coopted and warped by the house of mirrors that is our enemies’ ideology.
This is why I fight: for the honor of playing a minuscule part in defining the nature of the American nation, in carving out Something for us to become, an identity for us to inhabit. The risks are great and the odds are not in our favor, but by God, I am grateful for the enormity of our task, and for the momentous and righteous nature of our struggle. There is no more worthwhile labor that I can conceive of participating in.
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 I was born in an era where the type of white kid I was — the children of intact professional families — were thoroughly domesticated. Kids like me didn’t usually play unsupervised.