The Red and the Black

by Michael Ryerson

October, 1971

Standing in line at five am outside the Oakland California office of Manpower with a friend of mine who happens to be black. We’ve known each other a very long time. I say something about the confrontational approach of men like H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael toward the white power structure being unlikely to produce much in the way of the results the black community is presumptively seeking. He looks at me a long moment and smiles and says, ‘They’ve had a hundred years to talk to the ‘Toms’ and the stepanfetchets, now they can talk to the Brothers.’


The radicalization of a population doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it is a tightly scripted dance between two unequal partners. And being tightly scripted, the outcome or the few possible outcomes are¬†easily predicted. We enjoy the benefit of a couple of centuries of well documented history. We’re not guessing here. This is Foreign Policy 101. We should be better at this. In fact, because it is such a transparent process, one becomes suspicious when poor outcomes occur over and over again. Is our foreign policy apparatus really this incompetent? Anyone with average intelligence and a little curiosity, and maybe a sense of self preservation, can see how these things work.

Ahmadinejad came forth as a logical consequence of our ham-handed foreign policy. We don’t have the right to feign shock at his ascendence. The seeds that produced Chavez were sown by the rapacious capital relationship between Venezuela’s monied classes and their American corporatist patrones. Chavez doesn’t have to cheat at the polls to roll up one victory after another. This is all so predictable as to be laughable, if it weren’t also so tragic and so likely to end badly.

Michael Ryerson