From the long history of US-Haitian relations to Japan’s Indian connection, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
Attackers killed Haitian President Jovenel Moïse at his home early Wednesday, leaving the country poised for more violence and discord. This moment comes amid ongoing turmoil and suffering, poverty and hunger. Many had called for Moïse’s removal from power after he refused to leave office when his term ended in early 2021, putting the Haitian constitutional order at risk. When Haitians protested, they faced threats and arrests.
But as American readers assess this news, it is critical to understand the history of Haiti. Too often, the Caribbean nation tends to exist at a distance for many White Americans: a tropical tapestry for tales of dictators and political dysfunction, of poverty and adversity, of stories and tropes that exist in an ever-present now, ready to be deployed in fundraising materials and political campaigns. These stereotypes are steeped in anti-Black racism and mask an important truth: The histories of Haiti and the United States are intertwined and reach back centuries. [continue reading]
‘I work with the dead. But this can help the living’: the anthropologist investigating the Tulsa race massacre
hoebe Stubblefield’s parents were born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She spent summers there as a child. Yet she did not hear about the Tulsa race massacre until she was nearly 30. The event in 1921, which was shrouded in secrecy for decades, was one of the worst episodes of racist violence in US history; hundreds of people were killed in the racially motivated attack on a peaceful, prosperous Black community.
Neither the Black community who bore the brunt of it nor their white neighbours who perpetrated it spoke publicly of the massacre. Indeed, for the next 75 years, there was no official recognition that it had even occurred. Like many of those connected to the incident, Stubblefield’s family barely mentioned it. She remembers her mother’s response when she first brought it up: “She said: ‘Oh yeah, your Aunt Anna lost her house.’ That was the complete family history regarding the Tulsa race massacre. And I was like: ‘Who’s Aunt Anna?’” [continue reading]
Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry
The unexpected four years of the Donald Trump presidency took U.S. foreign and domestic policies in troubling directions. Frontally rejecting all the pillars of what he took to be the bipartisan establishment’s foreign policy, Trump set the United States on a boldly different path. He rejected long-standing alliance commitments, calling into question NATO and the security pacts with Japan and South Korea. He attacked international institutions and withdrew the United States from numerous arms control and free trade agreements, even going so far as pulling out of the World Health Organization in the middle of a pandemic. He embraced climate denialism and withdrew from the Paris climate accord. He was hostile to the promotion of democracy and human rights. Trump aggressively alienated allies while cozying up to a rogues’ gallery of despots, autocrats, and populists, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump’s foreign policy was purely transactional. It was fundamentally hostile to multilateralism and institutionalized cooperation.
At home, Trump aggressively assaulted the modern liberal state and its commitment to progressive social inclusion. Trump doubled down on the Reagan-era program of tax cuts, deregulation, and dismantling of the social safety net. He sought to reject a multicultural United States, cultivating white nationalism and anti-immigrant nativism instead. For Washington’s long-standing friends in other liberal democracies and elsewhere, the Trump turn was met with surprise, shock, and dismay. Many wondered whether America was still America. [continue reading]
“A revolution is unfurling—America’s unfinished revolution.” These words of A. Philip Randolph are the first you read in Nat Hentoff’s liner notes to the legendary 1960 jazz album We Insist!: The Freedom Now Suite featuring drummer Max Roach and singer Abbey Lincoln with lyrics by Oscar Brown, Jr. The Black revolution, Randolph’s epigraph went on, was “unfurling in lunch counters, buses, libraries and schools—wherever the dignity and position of men are denied. Youth and idealism are unfurling. Masses of Negroes are marching onto the stage of history and demanding their freedom now!” The album, a seminal work in what has been called “civil rights jazz,” typified this moment: bold, militant, insisting on new directions—both musically and politically.
Randolph, a union leader and towering figure in the mid-century Black freedom struggle, emphasized the political content of the album, but he just as easily could have been talking about the music. Roach and his collaborators—including several others besides Lincoln and Brown, among them saxophonist Coleman Hawkins—pushed the boundaries of “straight-ahead” jazz into the “new thing,” developing an early use of modes in place of familiar tonal centers, compositions without harmonic structure, and an emphasis on rhythm and African drumming. Released the same year seventeen countries in Africa gained their independence, the work also expressed the increasing radicalization and internationalization of the Black freedom struggle. The cover of the album featured three Black men at a lunch counter, a reference to the explosion of lunch counter sit-ins from earlier that year, where thousands of young Black civil rights activists occupied segregated public facilities and demanded to be treated as equals. Freedom now, their actions called; we insist, the album echoed. [continue reading]
I’m sitting in the Nakamuraya restaurant in Shinjuku, wolfing down a substantial portion of chicken curry. In the alcove behind me hangs the painting of a young girl staring out at the world with a seriousness beyond her years. The menu bears an unusual slogan: “The taste of love and revolution.” The backstory is that the young lady was the eldest daughter of the couple who owned and ran Nakamuraya in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1923, she married the man who invented the curry I’m eating. He was an Indian revolutionary called Rash Behari Bose.
A few hours earlier, I had been listening to an interesting online discussion about relations between Japan and India featuring Jagannath Panda of the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Satoru Nagao, non-resident fellow of the Hudson Institute. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” brainchild is fast becoming an important geopolitical reality. India, traditionally suspicious of the United States, is now part of the Quad, a China-containment configuration that also includes Japan, the U.S., and Australia. But, as the two speakers pointed out, the developing relationship between Japan and India is driven almost entirely by security issues. [continue reading]