Here is the Urtext; some keys to the puzzle.
IN 1799, IF MY MEMORY SERVES me correctly, a soldier dude helping Napoleon annoy the Egyptians as much as he would soon annoy Beethoven—
—in five years’ time Ludwig van B, in an excess of brotherly enthusiasm brought about by the Aufklärung (Enlightenment), will dedicate his ground-breaking Symphony #3 to Napoleon, but when Napoleon declares himself Emperor in 1804, Beethoven, never Mister Half-Way when it comes to dramatic gestures, scrubs out the dedication with such violence that to this day there is a hole in the title page of the manuscript—
—this soldier of 1799
Napoléon avec cinq cents soldats
Marchant du même pas…
stubs his toe on a big chunk of rock with writing on it. Just picture how dashing he is, how comme il faut, how mignon, marching in perfect formation with all the other soldiers and then he stubs his toe on this chunk of rock, at which point he shouts
« TABERNAK! Crisse de chunk of rock! Esti d’épais à MARDE !! »
which, roughly translated, goes:
Holy fucking chunk of rock! By the body of Christ, this is some dumb-ass shit!”
and he and all of the soldiers fall down like French bowling pins.*
[The soldier was one of the first in line when they were calling for volunteers to relocate to the newly-founded City of Québec, where for the remainder of his life he hung out at Le boeuf sur le toit, a local strip club, holding forth about Muslims and about how nobody understood him and how he once gave Napoleon a piece of his goddamn mind, at which point his drinking companions would say,
[« Sure you did, Patapan! Now, finish your poutine, the whores are waiting and there’s at least one area on your dick without a syphilitic sore!! »
[Then they would all go, « Flânflânflân Flânflânflân !! » , which is French for uproarious laughing. Be sure to get the circonflex accent and the stupid, just-so-they-can-be-different angle brackets right or the French will throw a hissy-fit all over you and jail another Muslim school-teacher for wearing a hijab. Anyway, getting back to 1799— ]
Quel désastre !
The chunk of rock was actually a stele made of granodiorite—which, you will recall, is a phaneritic-textured intrusive igneous rock similar to granite, but containing more plagioclase feldspar that orthoclase feldspar, sorry for over-emphasizing the obvious—and on this stele—which is basically a slab serving as a monument—were three inscriptions: in hieroglyphics, in demotic, and in Ancient Greek.
The soldier, after checking that the stele was too big for his man cave back in Paris, told Napoleon, who told the archeologists, and here’s the thing. No one had been able to figure out Egyptian hieroglyphics, not even medical secretaries or pharmacies tearing out their powdered wig hairs trying to read doctors’ handwriting. Egyptian hieroglyphics were another deal al-to-gether.
But then the archeologists realized that the texts were saying the same thing. Right? It was the same text in three different languages, and they knew Ancient Greek. So they realized they could use the Greek version as a kind of cryptography key to figure out hieroglyphics for the first time.
And that was when the chunk of rock became the Rosetta Stone.
Many white people are in the same relationship to racism as the French archeologists were to Egyptian hieroglyphics. We lack the key, the way in to understanding racism, because it’s all Greek, or, I guess, Egyptian hieroglyphics, to us.
That’s why I’m providing this randomly-continuously updated Rosetta Stone of Racism. These are articles and videos which have vastly improved my understanding of the problem, and above all of the experience, of racism in America.
I hope they will help you, too, you well-meaning, self-absolving, head-in-the-sand-burying, privileged, racist white person.
I say that first to me, then to you, with so much love for both of us, despite our bad-faith good faith, and with so much hope for our improved humility leading to a better world.
A Rosetta Stone of Racism
kihana miraya ross on anti-blackness: https://nytimes.com/2020/06/04/opinion/george-floyd-anti-blackness.html?searchResultPosition=2…
Ta Nehisi Coates on “The First White President”:
Disinformation campaign starting, with racial targeting of Kamala Harris:
A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics
Justice for George Floyd
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide
to be continued.