In Your Face
issue 260 - October 1994
MARK McEVOY / PANOS PICTURES
Racism is often perpetrated and maintained by institutions that are an accepted
part of everyday life - such as governments, police forces or religions
The Government The Jumma tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh have been under attack for years. The Government is moving settlers into their hills and using the army to exterminate the local people altogether. What follows is the harrowing testimony of a refugee from the area. His identity cannot be revealed as he fears what is left of his family could be harmed as a result.
They rounded up everyone - including all the men working for us for the harvest - except my mother and me. They shot my uncle through the chest. He screamed out for his mother as he died. Then they lined us all up against the well. There was my father, uncle, grandmother, mother and me. Then they shot my father. They shot him through the neck. I was pushed into a bush. I was there in a bush with my aunt and her new-born baby. I can just remember how she held her hand over the baby's mouth to stop it crying because of the mosquitoes in the bush. Then they wanted to kill my other uncle. The women lay on top of him to try and save him. They butted him with their rifles. He did survive. Then they raped my cousin who was 16.
I will never forget these things. I was only a little boy, but they will always be with me. I didn't cry when they killed my father. I thought: 'If I cry he won't come alive again'.
We had to flee. We ran silently and terrified into the woods. We had to stay in the woods for weeks. We had no food so we dug for roots. Some people were so weak they fell into holes and never got out again, they were so emotionally drained. They gave all the food they had to the children. We were trained not to speak. We used a pinch as a warning sign if we heard someone coming. We had leeches all over us, we were barefoot, bleeding. I just remember running and running all the time. The killers were still about. Sometimes they didn't use guns to kill people as the noise would warn the next village. So they would lie their victims down in a row and cut off their heads. Their knives became blunt. Someone I know was saved by a blunt blade.
The Government is famous for its stance on the Jumma people - 'We want the land, not the people'. They are giving people the choice of conversion to Islam, exile or death. Some of my primary teachers did convert - on the surface, but they stayed Buddhist inside. They also wanted all tribal women to bear only Bengali children. They would load up trucks with women and take them to military camps until they became pregnant by the soldiers. We used to listen to the BBC Bengali service although this regrettably broadcast a lot of rubbish in favour of the Bengali Government. All local news was compiled by the army. I cannot tell you how many people were killed during this time, the late 1970s and up to now. Most bodies were never returned to their relatives.
Source: Survival International, UK.
On 14 January 1991 Malkjit Singh Natt was arrested at his workplace, a factory in east London. Travelling to Plaistow police station in a police car Mr Natt recognized two male officers who had previously arrested and assaulted him on a number of occasions. Fearing a repeat performance he turned on a tape recorder which he had been carrying in his pocket.
Mr Natt: Why am I being arrested?
Police Constable: Yer just a pain in the arse, ain't yer?
Mr Natt: Oh God.
PC: Why don't you go and set fire to yourself, or something?
Mr Natt: You carry on arresting me - you carry on arresting me with no reason. Why carry on? I don't know why.
Mr Natt: Why? Why do you [unintelligible] to me like that?
PC: 'Cos you're a shit.
Mr Natt: Eh?
PC: Behave yourself.
Mr Natt: Last time you arrest me without any reason. You try and arrest me again and again - why?
PC: It often happens in your country don't it?
Mr Natt: Eh?
PC: It happens at home where your lot come from.
Mr Natt: Yes - what happens over there it would never happen like that.
PC: Yes it does. Worse than that.
Mr Natt: What?
PC: They'd go out and shoot yer, or something.
Mr Natt: What?
PC: That's what we should do - fucking shoot yer.
Mr Natt: You shoot me?
PC: Yes I would.
Mr Natt: What for?
PC: Well... wanker.
Mr Natt: What? That's no good for police officer doing that thing, you know. You know that? Eh?
PC: Why don't you go home?
Mr Natt: What's go home?
PC: Go home - you know - to India or Pakistan, or wherever you fucking come from.
The verbal abuse continued during the seven minute journey and the sound of Mr Natt being assaulted was recorded on the tape. But it was Mr Natt who was convicted for assault, despite the evidence of the tape. An internal police enquiry 'disciplined' the officers by cutting their pay for a day.
Source: Racism: the destruction of civil and political liberties by the Anti-Racist Alliance and Liberty (NCCL), UK.
Floyd Cochran was the fifth-ranking member of Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nations - a white supremacist group in the US combining Nazi thinking with a racist form of biblical fundamentalism. He is now an ardent anti-racist. The turning point for him was when a fellow member called his son a 'genetic defect' who'd 'have to be euthanized'.
WE used to send people into the cities to pick up homeless kids and bring them back to the compound. You give a homeless kid some food and a place to stay and tell him that you love him - you can do a lot of things with that kid.
The number one thing is that nobody gets blamed for anything. My marriage didn't work? It's not my fault, it's because I was a racial activist and my wife couldn't stand it. I didn't graduate from high school? It's because my Jewish English teacher didn't like me. If you couldn't find a job - hey it's not your fault, it's the Jews'. Or it's because of affirmative action... even though northern Idaho is 98 percent white!
One night I was doing guard duty. It was one o'clock, and a taxicab pulls up to the gate. A man gets out and says he wants to see Pastor Butler. I say: 'Hold on! We need to see some identification'. He unbuttons his shirt and pulls out his stomach and on it is tattooed 'ARYAN WARRIOR'.
I tell him to stand there, and I call up to Frank, the sergeant. Frank comes running down carrying a shotgun. So I've got this cab driver sitting there, it's midnight, and this guy with his gut hanging out and Frank with a shotgun and a pair of underpants on. And I'm thinking to myself: 'I'm saving the white race?'
When Cochran left Aryan Nations a local sheriff linked him up with the Center for Democratic Renewal, an Atlanta-based organization that monitors the hard Right.
Leonard Zeskind was the first person to contact me from there. Leonard is Jewish. I mean, here's a person who a month earlier I was advocating killing. And he's the first person to call me up. And not to ask for anything, other than, 'Do you want someone to talk to?'
In the racist movement one of the things I would teach people was that white people had positive electrons. But the Jewish people, the children of Satan, had negative electrons. And if you walked into a room with them, those electrons would go off. The first time I was around Leonard, I kept walking around both sides of him. I didn't say a word. Finally Leonard said, 'I shut 'em off!'
Source: Mother Jones (Foundation for National Progress, Copyright 1994), US.