Janice Jackson, another team member who is also working on a Ph.D. in communication disorders, conducted an experiment using pictures of Sesame Street characters to test children’s comprehension of the “habitual be” construction. She showed the kids a picture in which Cookie Monster is sick in bed with no cookies while Elmo stands nearby eating cookies. When she asked, “Who be eating cookies?” white kids tended to point to Elmo while black kids chose Cookie Monster. “But,” Jackson relates, “when I asked, ‘Who is eating cookies?’ the black kids understood that it was Elmo and that it was not the same. That was an important piece of information.” Because those children had grown up with a language whose verb forms differentiate habitual action from currently occuring action (Gaelic also features such a distinction, in addition to a number of West African languages), they were able even at the age of five or six to distinguish between the two.
Colonialism began with conquest and is today maintained by a settler administration created out of the doctrine of cultural hierarchy, a hierarchy in which European Americans and whiteness dominate non-European Americans and darkness. As a result, we live in a country where race prejudice, in the words of Fanon, obeys a flawless logic. For, after all, if inferior peoples must be exterminated, their cultures and habits of life, their languages and customs, their economies, indeed, every difference about them must be assaulted, confined, and obliterated. There must be a dominant culture and therefore a dominant people, a dominant religion, a dominant language, a dominant legal system, a dominant educational system, and so on, and so on. In other words, there must be dominance and subordination.
In a colonialist country such as the United States, white hegemony delineates this hierarchy. Thus, white people are the dominant group. Christianity is the dominant religion, capitalism is the dominant economy, militarism is the dominant form of diplomacy and the force underlying international relations. Violence is thus normal, and race prejudice, like race violence, is as American as apple pie.
The outrage about the “ground zero mosque” has turned very ugly, as this video of this recent protest shows. People are calling Mohammed a pig. A New York City cab driver was stabbed today after his passenger asked him if he was Muslim. But I find the righteous outrage of those contending the former World Trade Center site is “hallowed ground” amusing, because they have no idea just how right they are. Before the World Trade Center was even designed (with Islamic architectural elements, incidentally), the ground was indeed sacrosanct: The bones of some 20,000 African slaves are buried 25 feet below Lower Manhattan. As at least 10 percent of West African slaves in America were Muslims, it’s not out of bounds to extrapolate that ground zero itself was built on the bones of at least a few Muslim slaves. That is to say, hallowed Muslim ground.