"The Other Foot", a Guest Post

"Young Himba Girl"
by the gifted Michael Gibson
Some of you might remember M. Gibson's comment about a short story by Ray Bradbury.

After much begging and prodding, I finally got phenomenal artist, gamer, and insightful social observer Michael Gibson to expand on the infamous tale of "The Other Foot."  He claims he is no writer, but I've been reading his comments since the days of SWPD and I've been a fan of his since day one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don't you just hate it when whites presume to speak our heart?

I remember reading this story almost 40 years ago. The Illustrated Man was a book of 18 short stories by Ray Bradbury, published in 1951 by Doubleday & Company. The third story in the series, 'The Other Foot' is the one I most remember. It’s strange the things we hold onto through the years. I remember being drawn into the narrative back then, but as a child the precepts of race and redemption were way over my head. Ostensibly I found myself drawn by the idea of black people living on another planet. Left to their own devices, Whites had devastated their planet through warmongering and now they need our help. From the ruins they build a rocket, arriving without as much as an invitation. Foisting white shadows upon a culture the way they always do. Guess they figured the black Martians had short memories and wouldn’t mind company. Funny those people have been on Mars for over 20 years and yet the author still describes them as ‘Negro’ rather than Martian, or some other off-world ethnicity, as it seems to me that on Mars the term Negro no longer applies.

This book was written before the The Voting Rights Act of 1965, when white dominance and subjugation was still integral to the southern narrative, moreover, the American way of life in general. Thus, a story like this could only come from a fevered white mind. Willie Johnson (the protagonist) was 16 when he left earth. He had every right to be angry; he has every right to hold the whites of his former Terra in contempt.

Willie remembers: “After all them years of doing what they did to our folks—my mom and dad, and your mom and dad—— You remember? You remember how they hung my father on Knockwood Hill and shot my mother? You remember? Or you got a memory that’s short like the others?””

"I remember...," Hattie responded.

Willie continues: “You remember Dr. Phillips and Mr. Burton and their big houses, and my mother’s washing shack, and Dad working when he was old, and the thanks he got was being hung by Dr. Phillips and Mr. Button.

Well,” said Willie, “the shoe’s on the other foot now."

Hattie (his loving, supportive wife) is like many ex-slaves during Reconstruction. She’s more willing to make peace with her oppressor. To let bygones be bygones. She believes, as white people believe, that if we (blacks/whites) are to truly get along, we POC must discard apparitions of the past that keep us from accepting the present. “You have to let go,” whites demand. “We’re post-racial now.” It’s we who must wipe the slate, while whites come away smelling like roses. In the account, Willie is committed to remembering the past, while whites everywhere seem obliged to ‘rewrite our past’.

So some white people arrive on Mars, penitent and humble. Their rocket lands on a planet settled exclusively by blacks. Sustained and cultivated successfully by blacks; with black ingenuity and black wherewithal (and no help from whitey, thank you very much). Willie states: “We’ve had peace here, the first time we ever drew a solid breath…."

In Bradbury’s eyes Willie’s hatred of whites threatens to engulf his humanity, turning him into the very thing he’s despised. But what Bradbury can’t possibly know is what Jim Crow does to the spirit of a man; therefore, how can he truly fathom Willie’s heart?

No wars, no self-defeatist infighting. It was a virtual utopia until the white man shows up. He comes as friend - and as a servant - but the blacks think it's not for long.  They reason once he figures there’s profit to be made from the planet’s resources his greed kicks in. He and others like him will tire of their docile positions. He/she might make suggestions as to how the planet might be managed better. They’ll be murmurs, yes… resentment will run through the ranks like a pandemic, challenging the nature of things. Soon demands will be made for the black majority to observe the rule of law; then they’ll be calls for free elections. Minorities have rights you know; whereupon “Liberty!” will be the cry of this new minority. Because there’s really no reason to think the white man is through conquering. No…a white man takes what he wants.

A white man says, “So we destroyed everything and ruined everything, like the fools that we were and the fools that we are. We killed millions. I don’t think there are more than five hundred thousand people left in the world, all kinds and types."

But just because the articles of oppression and hatred were destroyed in war, it doesn't mean racism was eradicated from the hearts of the people. Just because the landmarks of bigotry were laid to waste doesn't mean its precepts and beliefs weren't written in the hearts of whites for safe keeping. You don’t just forgive that easily - and you don't come to trust so soon. Willie of all people would know that.

And yet....

“Yes,” said Willie at last. “The Lord’s let us come through, a few here and a few there. And what happens next is up to all of us. The time for being fools is over. We got to be something else except fools. I knew that when he talked. I knew then that now the white man’s as lonely as we’ve always been. He’s got no home now, just like we didn’t have one for so long. Now everything’s even. We can start all over again, on the same level.”

No, everything is not even; not by a long shot. We’re made to feel sorry for the white man; to feel empathy for him in the wake of so great a sin. The white man hasn't had to taste the bitter fruit of oppression so he can never truly know how those people felt. If you call things square, he learns nothing and eventually he’ll rise again. Whites need to know what subjugation feels like. It may be the only way “empathy is truly learned,” by walking in the footsteps of those you suppressed. Slavery and racism wasn't the only problem these black Martians would have to deal with. It is the inbred tendencies of the white man to spoil everything he touches.
These Nubian Martians are not so resigned to their surroundings that they’ve forgotten where they came from.

Willie sought to remind the visitors of their past in a way they wouldn’t soon forget. He reasoned the articles of oppression would be employed once again, but this time the “whites only" insignia would be brandished to keep these earthen whites “in their place.” A reminder of their second-class status. Bold black fonts spelling out, “for colored only” were daily reminders of white supremacy. Willie wanted to invite the visitors to walk a mile in his shoes. To make them feel the same fear and degradation he and his family felt under white rule. To experience first-hand the callousness by which the lives of his loved ones where snuffed out. Vengeance would be sweet. And I can’t think of any black person would feel otherwise. It's why the ending rings so hollow, because holding onto hatred for that long changes a man. Moreover, he won’t be so eager to give it up upon listening to the regrets of a defeated, tired, old racist.
“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

~ George Santayana
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Moi: Here's what reviewers on Amazon had to say.  They're similar to comments I found in forums across the nets.
Reviewer #1: Basicly this book was really good because it showed that revenge isn't always the solution. The black people from mars were going to revenge and enslave the white earthlings, but Willie realized that they had lost so much already they didn't want to make it worse.

Reviewer #2: I really enjoyed this story by Ray Bradbury because anyone can interpret it in many different ways. I mean they can get many different lessons from it. Every differet person gets a different lesson from it.

Reviewer #3: There is a publishing company my school has been reading lately. It is the Tale Blazer publishing company. This story is just one of many by them. I love this book. It is an easy read, and it teaches you a lot.
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the very definition of "vomitacious."

Comments

  1. First of all, M. Gibson, thanks for doing this.

    Secondly, here's what throws Moi: "Left to their own devices, Whites had devastated their planet through warmongering and now they need our help. From the ruins they build a rocket, arriving without as much as an invitation."

    So...old Ray-Ray wants us to believe the Nubian Martians (loving that) didn't just blow that rocket out of the sky the moment they saw it coming? I'm not even touching the ending, because the story shouldn't have even gotten to that point. That rocket getting blown back into the stars should've been the ending.

    ReplyDelete
  2. yeah given the knowledge of what happened to the Indigenous/Aboriginals/Africans on Earth when Europeans arrived in their ships the logically thing to do would be to not let them land

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ankhesen Mié said...
    "That rocket getting blown back into the stars should've been the ending."

    Oh my.... I'm flattered.
    And Nicely put!
    Just think of the possibilities. Because we've seen it in Science Fiction a million times. From Star Trek... to Stargate SG-1. The furthest reaches of the cosmos has been populated by whites and no one bats an eye. But take that rocket out and you've a universe with no more white shadows. Shoe would definitely be on the other foot wouldn't it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ankhesen Mié said...
    "First of all, M. Gibson, thanks for doing this."

    Please.. it is I who should 'Thank You' for lending a hand in this matter.
    Michael....

    ReplyDelete
  5. yeah given the knowledge of what happened to the Indigenous/Aboriginals/Africans on Earth when Europeans arrived in their ships the logically thing to do would be to not let them land

    For real!!!! If it was whites who up and abandoned Earth to live on Mars, no rocket from Earth would be allowed within a 100,000-mile radius. As soon as that rocket start to pass by the moon the moon, it would get one warning, and one warning only.

    Please.. it is I who should 'Thank You' for lending a hand in this matter.

    You know you drink free at the bar.

    ReplyDelete
  6. In reality the negro folk would have been like "Sorry nope, fool us once shame on you, fool us twice...I'll be damned if you try and fool us. Try Venus."

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was about to say, why even let these people land on the planet. I wouldn't even let them into Mar's atmosphere.

    If they're so superior why don't they colonize their own damn planet? Nubian Martians did not work 20 years just to give handouts to their oppressors.

    This sounds like an abolishionist piece of shit narrative like Uncle Tom's Cabin. Sure, whites can be as bad as they want to be but the negroes gots to forgive and prostrate themselves before their old oppressors.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can't come up with a clever enough comment to back yours up.

    Here's MY plot for the sequel:

    The white invaders will start shit on Mars, and the Nubian Martians(like it too) with their advance technology and weaponry would overpower them immensely, destroy millions of them, and dehumanize, oppress, and make slaves out of the survivors for the next thousand years.

    I wish the Nubians had different names to describe their new culture. That way, they can beat and whip the whites forcing them to take their names.

    (I should make a comic book on this)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't like Ray Bradbury's racist ass to begin with. in farenheit 451 he blamed everything that happened on black people not wanting to be treated like crap. Fuck that guy.

    Please excuse my swearing the guy just makes me mad.

    ReplyDelete
  10. When whites envision cities built off-world they depict awe-inspiring edifications. Grand metropolises contrived from the minds of an advanced culture. But here on planet Mars or Planet Kush-Nubia, there are no looming towers or transcendent skyscrapers. There’s mention of a streetcar yes, houses and nondescript buildings of course; but there’s no mention of advanced technology or weaponry of any sort. Just guns and bullets. As a matter of fact these dark keepers of the Red Planet don’t seem to be that highly advanced at all. If the author didn’t specifically mention Mars, you would think the narrative took place in some quiet town. It’s almost as if they arrived on Mars by happenstance and not by the cunning of their own hands.

    If you follow the account the characters speak in a broken southern dialect as if still on earth. They haven’t evolved in over 20 years. It’s as if Bradbury couldn’t bring himself to portray these Negronauts as smarter, wiser and higher on the evolutionary scale than their white counterparts. They’ve had peace for over 20 years. That alone speaks volumes as to the greatness of this Martian civilization be it advanced or no.

    Ankhesen Mié said...
    "You know you drink free at the bar."

    Well heck in that case, I'll have a sarsaparilla; with a straw.

    ReplyDelete
  11. If you follow the account the characters speak in a broken southern dialect as if still on earth. They haven’t evolved in over 20 years. It’s as if Bradbury couldn’t bring himself to portray these Negronauts as smarter, wiser and higher on the evolutionary scale than their white counterparts. They’ve had peace for over 20 years. That alone speaks volumes as to the greatness of this Martian civilization be it advanced or no.

    This doesn't surprise me at all. It's like Bradbury skipped over all these other details (advancement, blowing the rocket outta the sky, etc.) to hurry to the big finish where the white man is forgiven.

    Which, in way, is very telling in that even when white supremacy was still going very strong, there was "worry" about its ramifications. Fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ankhesen Mié said...
    Which, in way, is very telling in that even when white supremacy was still going very strong, there was "worry" about its ramifications. Fascinating.

    “Makes you wonder if Bradbury thought about the "rocket outta the sky thing" as both a reasonable and logical conclusion; considering the storyline.”

    When whites are victimized they build memorials, they lays flowers/wreaths under the admonition to never forget. They revisit the tragedy annually, marking the occasion as a day of national mourning. They sing songs- they immortalize loved ones both in film - movies and books.

    The loss of one white person is viewed as a loss to the world. No… whites never forget when something tragic happens to them. That’s why they make the worst victims. They can oppress a people for nearly 400 years and as soon as they land seeking sanctuary it is the black folk who must forget. Typical...

    Even now whites are rewriting history in Texas; dropping reference to the Middle Passages- obscuring mention of our subsequent enslavement. Soon, generations coming after us may have a hard time recalling if there ever was a thing called slavery. That’s how you make a race of people forget; you start with their young. Course... they never counted on the Oral Tradition. We're strong like that you know.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Even now whites are rewriting history in Texas; dropping reference to the Middle Passages- obscuring mention of our subsequent enslavement.

    I don't know why they even bothered. It's not going to work. WP may forget, but POC don't and never will.

    ReplyDelete
  14. M. Gibson, first and foremost, thank you for this post.

    Secondly CO-SIGNED!!!!!

    Third, this reminds me of Black Panther (the Marvel comic book DVD and series) during Reginald Hudlin's run.

    Wakanda is an African nation that was never colonized or conquered and because of that, it's one of the most powerful nations on the planet and a virtual utopia.

    So of course the U.S. is constantly trying to attack and take over and Hudlin pulls no punches in calling out the same themes Gibson discusses in this piece.

    ReplyDelete
  15. @ Everyone

    It's like there's a two-part plan: oppress and repress.

    Oppress a group or groups of people, but all the while plant seeds in the minds to repress not just inevitable rebellion, but retribution.

    Re: "Negronauts" - *dead*

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ankhesen Mié said...
    Oppress a group or groups of people, but all the while plant seeds in the minds to repress not just inevitable rebellion, but retribution.

    But that’s the fear isn’t it? Revenge.
    Because whites know if the Shoe was on the Other Foot and they were the oppressed; once liberty was gained they’d make sure to wipe us all out- lest history repeat itself. I can see a white leader now… “No- there’ll be no forgetting and no forgiving for what they did to us. Wipe them all out.”

    We’ve seen it in films like, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes when MacDonald, (a black sympathizer no less) talks Caesar out of taking revenge on his human masters. I didn’t like the similarities implied by comparing the struggles of black people to the plight of apes, but there it was. Presumably, in a play on white fear, Caesar is asked to forgive the white man’ attempt at genocide and demonstrate compassion. Forgive… and forget.

    From Caesar:
    “Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of Man's downfall. The day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we will build our own cities, in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you NOW!”

    Again from Wikipedia:
    As the apes raise their rifles to beat Breck to death, Lisa (Natalie Trundy), Caesar's love interest, voices her objection, "NO!" She is the first ape to speak other than Caesar. Caesar reconsiders and orders the apes to lower their weapons, saying:

    “But now... now we will put away our hatred. Now we will put down our weapons. We have passed through the night of the fires, and those who were our masters are now our servants. And we, who are not human, can afford to be humane.”

    Over and over in white fantasy after white fantasy, the oppressed are promptly asked to be merciful (when no mercy has been shown). Moreover, they're asked to forgive (when there is little remorse from their oppressor). For such is the warped sense of privilege. Fear... that the same thing will be done to them.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Over and over in white fantasy after white fantasy, the oppressed are promptly asked to be merciful (when no mercy has been shown). Moreover, they're asked to forgive (when there is little remorse from their oppressor). For such is the warped sense of privilege. Fear... that the same thing will be done to them.

    And yet their fear is conveniently too weak to make them stop doing whatever they're doing.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

This blog is strictly moderated. Everyone is now able to comment again, however, all Anonymous posts will be immediately deleted. Comments on posts more than 30 days old are generally dismissed, so try to stay current with the conversations.