Theatre of the Absurd

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Angela Davis & Jean Genet
Angela Davis & Jean Genet


When I was a young Panther, a tiny, bald, blue-eyed Frenchman came to visit the national headquarters in Berkeley, California. David Hilliard, the Chief of Staff of the Black Panther Party, greeted him briefly, and then handed him off to me to escort him around the offices there, so he could meet other Panthers.

The Frenchman’s name was Jean Genet, but I had no idea what that meant. David gave me a slender book, entitled The Blacks, with the name Jean Genet listed as its playwright.
I turned to the back cover to learn more. It described the play, The Blacks, as an example of what was called ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’. I thought of that description again as I watched last week’s clumsy efforts by two white American politicians – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump- to downgrade each other as to who is the bigger racist.

It looks like two school kids shouting at each other over the sandbox: “Racist!” Bigot!” “Am not!” “Are too!” (The only thing missing here is the ultimate insult: “Your Mother!” But maybe that’s coming.) What could be more ridiculous?

The truth is White Americans have sculpted and supported an edifice of utter separation –for centuries.

And today, we still dwell in two very different worlds and head-spaces: one of privilege and another of privation.

But as we witness the decay of capitalism – its utter dog-eat-dog ruthlessness, we see that racism is ultimately a word, a thing, a toy, to toss around at election time – and to forget the day after.

Neither politician has a solution, for it is bigger, and deeper, and realer – than the both of them.

-© ‘16maj

Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of two City Lights books in our Open Media Series, Jailhouse Lawyers and Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings. A third, Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? is forthcoming from City Lights in Summer 2017.

City Lights also recently release an insurgent pamphlet from Mumia called To Protect and Serve Who?: Organizing a Movement to Abolish Police Violence.

Please support Prison Radio, where Mumia’s vital commentaries from prison are posted throughout the year.

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