Bell died last year but his ideas are still fresh, especially during this election campaign season. One of his most popular books, Faces at the Bottom of the Well, contains a provocative essay in which he writes about aliens visiting Earth with a load of gold (to offset the U.S. debt), an unlimited supply of nuclear energy and special chemicals to clean up the toxic environment. And that was in 1992.
The aliens — space traders — demanded only one thing in return: that all African Americans in the USA leave with them.
Really, what would America be like if, overnight, there were no more black people (to kick around anymore)? For one thing, the economic impact on consumerism will be tremendous. We buy.
The aliens’ reasons and motives for selecting blacks for exchange are never revealed; it is beside the point. The departure point for Bell is to remind us, again, that African Americans in this country are, have been and will remain a commodity for trade and barter and that we have a sliding value (intrinsic and/or monetized).
He calls his theory the permanence of racism, a subject that has been debated for centuries and in which I will not engage now. Accept it or not, his theory is played out in our daily lives and, for some, all the time.
Then there is Margaret Atwood, a prolific Canadian who writes, among other genres, “speculative” fiction, whose novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, was written in 1985. It was adapted for the large screen, but, alas, was not a commercial success.
In The Handmaids Tale, a cohort of white women, specially selected because of their fertility, is assigned to households headed by white men (they are in charge of the affairs of the country), whose wives have all become infertile due to some cataclysmic event. These Handmaids are held to a high standard of living — free of any vices, disease or anything that would prevent them from being fertile — and their sole purpose to procreate for the family to whom they have been assigned, to make babies in a semi-religious, emotionless ritual that includes the presence of the wife.
Once successful — banishment takes place if not — the baby is taken by the wife and the Handmaid is reassigned to another white couple, and so on.
So what do Bell and Atwood have in common?
They both describe what could ultimately happen to these two demographics, blacks and women, if we continue on the path of monetizing them for the benefit of the few power-brokers. One simply disappears and the other is subjugated for a “greater good.”
Have you been listening to the four remaining Republican candidates offering themselves for nomination for president of the U.S.A.?
Have you heard what Rush Limbaugh had to say to about a co-ed petitioning for birth control medication to be included in healthcare coverage?
To remind you: The national discussion has turned toward new conditions under which a first-trimester abortion can be legal. Those conditions would require a vaginal ultrasound, a procedure likened to rape in many quarters. This procedure is already approved in several dozen states and there is an outcry from women to preserve the sanctity of individual control and choice that is being legislated away.
Blacks and females, Bell and Atwood, both divining the future that is almost here.
“Welfare president,” “Take our country back,” “slut,” “prostitute,” “snob.” These are just a few of the slogans, epithets and code words that are being used on the Republican presidential campaign trail.
And they are dangerous symbols that are growing in resonance with the description by the conservatives — the Republican party — of the economic condition of the country, problems supposedly fueled by the poor, the underclass, those “other” people — in many instances blacks — always considered to be the problem — and, once again, women would dare to want to control their own reproductive choices.
Since we are constantly being considered for trade and barter, anyway, why not trade ourselves up?
Oh, I nearly forgot. That’s exactly what the civil rights and women’s rights advocates have been doing for centuries, isn’t it?
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org