Quoted: History Proves Why Katt Williams is Wrong

Now, I don’t mean to fuel any animosity between African Americans and Mexicans, whites and anyone else. God knows there are enough attacks against one another for superficial and ridiculous reasons (and attacking anyone for their so-called race or ethnicity is silly). What we often forget is that idiots come in all colors–if I have any prejudice it’s against people who don’t know what they’re talking about, who don’t know their own history, let alone that of others.

So instead of going off myself, I’m going to make this a “teaching moment” (I know, this is dumb cliché, but you get the point). Why react in kind to Mr. Williams in an already negative environment; this issue is bigger than one bad night at the comedy club (a small message to Mr. Williams: There is always going to be bad nights at the club, get over it).

Mexicans did fight for California. In fact, the one major battle they had with Anglo forces invading California they won, with horses and lances, just outside of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the decision to turn the state over to the United States was made in Washington D.C. without the input of the people involved.

In fact, there was a whole war that Mexicans fought to stop the illegal invasion, which, lest Mr. Williams forget, was being pushed by the slave-owning interests in the United States. It was Southern slaveholders who ignited the war to rip Texas away from Mexico when Anglos refused to accept Mexico’s laws against slavery.

Mexico had abolished slavery in the early 1800s, way before the Emancipation Proclamation; Mexico even had at least two African-Mexicans as presidents some two hundreds years before Barack Obama was elected president in this country.

The main catalyst for the Mexican war was the refusal of Mexico to return black slaves–believed to be more than 10,000–who had taken the southern-route of the “underground railroad,” crossing the border to a free Mexico. In Mexico’s governing assembly heavy debates on the issue ended up with the majority supporting these slaves, allowing them to own land, to farm, to become part of the Mexican social fabric.

Mexicans were willing to die so blacks could be free.

–Luis J. Rodriguez, “Why We Need a Deeper Dialogue on Black-and-Brown Relations

Image credit: VOYAJ

  • C W

    It’s a shame when good pieces get posted to HuffPo, their usual content is far too trashy and harmful for me to want to visit :(

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4VYV63HXV4BHXY3O4XTGFSLU24 Anonymous

    What is missing from this thesis is TWO components:
    1. KAT WILLIAMS is a comedian – he says things for LAUGHS…and HE was HECKLED.

    2.The Mexican gentleman repeatedly calls Kat Williams a “nigg*r” – and you can clearly hear and see this if you watch him closely – especially at the last third of the clip.

  • Northsiderasta

    Read J.A.Rogers Sex&Race Vol.2,Worlds Great Men Of Color vol.2, for info  on Vicente Guerrero first Africano-Mexicano President who worked to end slavery in Mexico.Ever notice how “Liberal Hollywood”emphasised freedom for Americans to do what they wanted and not that Mexico was phasing out slavery?Also some African Americans were mad Mexico was ending slavery in Texas because they didnt want to give up being slaveholders their white Texas pals.

  • Anonymous

    Your first comment referring to LGBT, I’m saying this b/c it refers to specific identities and ideologies which did not come around until somewhat recently. That’s what I mean when I say gay or queer people haven’t always existed. Because there was no concept of gay/queer identity.  That’s why it is historically inaccurate to state so. You can say people performed gay or lesbian acts, but you can’t say they were gay or lesbian unless those identities were acknowledged back then and people self-identified as such. But I wasn’t pointing out a specific year, so I don’t know where 1970 comes from.

    It’s like saying we’ve always had black or African American people, which also wouldn’t be true because that idea is somewhat recent and black persons have not always been present in North America.

    It’s like if we time traveled and encountered what would be our physical equivalents in the past, we would come across very distinct persons who do not relate to the world or identify as we do.

    I try to address the falsehood in why the north fought in the Civil War. It was to keep the union together, not to end slavery. For the Confederate states, they were reacting to policies which jeopardized their economy which depended highly upon slave labor. So if Lincoln became president many wanted to secede from the Union b/c he was viewed as an abolitionist who could outlaw slavery. For the south it was most certainly about slavery, not “state rights.” Lincoln also tends to become this canonized champion for the slaves, but he’s really no different from someone who promotes slavery. He believed slaves/blacks and whites to be incompatible and that whites are inherently superior to blacks. He was all for shipping people back to Africa. But not to diminish the effects of passing the 13th Amendment which freed the slaves, you have to separate personal feelings from political obligation. Another thing, most abolitionists were pretty weak in their stance. Many were more likely to believe that slaves ought to be free b/c they were harmless, infantile and wouldn’t even hurt a fly. Most also believed whites were superior. Standard abolitionist work like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” does not paint black people or slaves in a very flattering light. Among abolitionists John Brown is an anomaly.

  • Anonymous

    Your first comment referring to LGBT, I’m saying this b/c it refers to specific identities and ideologies which did not come around until somewhat recently. That’s what I mean when I say gay or queer people haven’t always existed. Because there was no concept of gay/queer identity.  That’s why it is historically inaccurate to state so. You can say people performed gay or lesbian acts, but you can’t say they were gay or lesbian unless those identities were acknowledged back then and people self-identified as such. But I wasn’t pointing out a specific year, so I don’t know where 1970 comes from.

    It’s like saying we’ve always had black or African American people, which also wouldn’t be true because that idea is somewhat recent and black persons have not always been present in North America.

    It’s like if we time traveled and encountered what would be our physical equivalents in the past, we would come across very distinct persons who do not relate to the world or identify as we do.

    I try to address the falsehood in why the north fought in the Civil War. It was to keep the union together, not to end slavery. For the Confederate states, they were reacting to policies which jeopardized their economy which depended highly upon slave labor. So if Lincoln became president many wanted to secede from the Union b/c he was viewed as an abolitionist who could outlaw slavery. For the south it was most certainly about slavery, not “state rights.” Lincoln also tends to become this canonized champion for the slaves, but he’s really no different from someone who promotes slavery. He believed slaves/blacks and whites to be incompatible and that whites are inherently superior to blacks. He was all for shipping people back to Africa. But not to diminish the effects of passing the 13th Amendment which freed the slaves, you have to separate personal feelings from political obligation. Another thing, most abolitionists were pretty weak in their stance. Many were more likely to believe that slaves ought to be free b/c they were harmless, infantile and wouldn’t even hurt a fly. Most also believed whites were superior. Standard abolitionist work like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” does not paint black people or slaves in a very flattering light. Among abolitionists John Brown is an anomaly.

    • The Blue Dream

      You’re correct about queer identities not existing until modern times, and I actually thought of the comparison to specific ethnic groups. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong to say, for example, that Ramses II was black, even if “black” was not a terminology known to Egyptians or how he would have identified. “Gay” and “bi” are terms that describe people with same-sex attractions; “queer” is a little broader. It’s ridiculous to say that these people haven’t always existed just because their existence was normalized and not Othered in most human cultures, and I didn’t find your use of “self-serving agendas” to be something I should take in good faith.

      Yes, the Confederate States’ economy was threatened by the abolition of slavery. They were seceding TO protect their “state right” to hold slaves. As for the North, no one’s claiming Union soldiers rode unicorns into battle and held hands every night singing about the equality of man. It’s certainly feel-good history (for whites) to say that Lincoln was non-racist, but there is one major difference between him and the proslavery wing–he wanted to end slavery, even at the cost of breaking apart the Union. And I’m not really a fan of attributing social change to the top–the North certainly elected him in the first place because of his antislavery stance.

      Apologies if that was meandering at all. I don’t think history needs to be anymore whitewashed than it already is, but I think “they were all (equally) racist” is just another tool to excuse 19th-century racism and obscure the ideologies of the time, especially as after the Civil War many of them were more progressive than they would be for (arguably) a century after.

      • Anonymous

        I apologize for the use of “self-serving agendas.” I wanted to emphasize good intentions more than anything and that detracted from my point.

        But I’d also be careful about describing other cultures with the terms, even in modern times. There isn’t always an equivalent, and some societies take issue with being labeled with Western terms.

        And I understand there’s a difference between Lincoln and someone who was proslavery. I know he was antislavery. That’s why when he was elected the  Southern states seceded. I’m just opposed to this idea that he was some kind of saint. As far as his regard of blacks/slaves I wouldn’t put him on the level of someone like MLK Jr., but sometimes that’s how he seems to be regarded in history. Standard abolition sentiment wasn’t like that across the board.

        And I wasn’t trying to say they were all equally racist. Actually, I’m not trying to draw those similarities between the North and South. All I’m saying is that North fought for the Union. To keep the Union together. And clearly this was the right thing to do. The South was fighting to preserve slavery. I really don’t care which side was “more” racist and whatnot. This isn’t a contest. I’m just trying to show some complexity on the issue.

        I’m sorry that what I’ve said has been an attack against you or any other readers. Like with the “self-serving agendas” statement. What I meant was to highlight good intentions, such as in the case of solidifying protection for queer persons in the nature/nurture debate. Given our country’s history with eugenics, it’s understandable that if queer identity is viewed exclusively as a natural thing, it can both provide protection b/c people cannot be what they are not (for the most part), but it could also mean peril if the medical community uses this to try and “cure” queerness.

        • The Blue Dream

          I agree with you about Lincoln not being a saint, but from my exposure to the Southern education system “sainthood” is not the problem with how Lincoln and the Civil War is taught. As Patrick said above, a lot of your points are straight from the mouths of Southern revisionists. I understand where you said you got them, and I’m obviously not attributing racist intent to an African-American Studies course, but when some of those points are the same as what the revisionists are saying I think it’s worth taking a closer look and figuring out if this is really true or it’s something tainted by the educational system Americans, and especially Southerners, are exposed to.

          I would much rather see a balanced view of Lincoln taught (to say nothing of the slaveowner Founding Fathers) but dismissing him and other flawed abolitionists as simply being racist, I think, paints the institution of racism as natural and normal, which is why the revisionists are all for erasing those distinctions.

          Thank you for clarifying about the “self-serving agendas” point. It did bother me and impact my initial response, but I understand what you’re saying. If we’re talking about a homosexual identity, no, those didn’t exist till recently, but generally people are talking about the behavior or attraction when they talk about homosexuality in a historical context, which is what certain groups try to erase.

    • PatrickInBeijing

      “As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free” (Battle Hymn of the Republic)

      “John Brown’s body lies a mouldering in the grave, but his soul keeps marching on” (John Brown’s Body).

      The first was of course sung by union troops marching into battle.  They also sung the second one, which some officers tried to stop for political reasons.  The second song was especially hated by confederates.

      Pellinore is quoting all of the southern revisionist statements about the Civil War.  For good source material, look up the headlines in Southern newspapers at the time, you will see that they were raving about the assault on slavery, and about their fears of slave rebellions inspired by Brown, abolitionists, and folks like Harriet Tubman.

      While certainly the racism in the North should not be ignored, it is disingenuous to distort history to weaken the fight against slavery, and ultimately against racism as Pellinore does.

      The confederate cause was racist at its core (and we can see this in the aftermath of the war, with the establishment of Jim Crow laws, and in the racist pro-confederate groups that exist today).  (Can anyone point to a pro-confederate group that is NOT racist). 

      The argument that Lincoln was not perfect is meaningless.  Look at what he did.  The use of selective quotations as opposed to looking at the historical record as a whole, is a typical right wing habit, but misleads. 

      (I would hate to have my whole life judged only on the basis of what I did that one night in 1974.  Or on the basis of the single most stupid thing I said, but that is what is done by southern revisionists to Lincoln.)

      (Southern revisionists frequently anoint Robert E. Lee and his generals as saintly beings, ignoring the fact that they were fighting to preserve slavery, which apparently does keep them from being saints in certain minds.)

      As for LGBT folks, just because their history has been suppressed, doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist, or self-identify. 

      Ironically, it is the role of Mexico in the era leading up to the Civil War and during the war that is forgotten.  After all, Cinqo De Mayo is about a battle fought against the Emperor of France who was trying to conquer Mexico partially so he could use it as a base to support the confederacy.  The victory of the Mexican Army is one we should all celebrate and be proud of.  But look closely, the right really really hates Cinqo De Mayo.  Hmmm, wonder why.

      • Anonymous

        It’s funny that you say I’m using Southern revisionist quotes. All that I’m saying I learned from Jabari Asim’s book “The N-Word” and my first African American Studies course. So unless some black people in academia, and a very rare ethnic studies program, are actively pushing for a Southern revisionist agenda then it’s news to me.

        Also, what I said about the South is true. I know for a fact that we had slavery for economic reasons. That goes for the entire nation, not just the South. Why else did we have female slaves? One, to define slaves by virtue of a negro mother and two to create more slaves. Maybe I didn’t use the words you were most accustomed to hearing, but I know what I’m saying.

        Do I need to include the word “racist” just to describe the South? It kind of goes without saying that they were some racist motherfuckers.

        And I’m not rescinding my remarks about the Union. That’s what I learned, in a college African American Studies course mind you, about what the Union was fighting for. That’s where I learned about Lincoln’s imperfect views. I tried to acknowledge that he separated personal feelings from political obligation when the 13th Amendment was passed. I did a poor job of it. But still, there is misinformation regarding what exactly freed the slaves and for what reasons.

        And you misinterpreted what I was saying about LGBT. I didn’t say they never ever self-identified or didn’t exist in the sense that there weren’t living people who practiced gay and lesbian acts and seemed to otherwise fit outside of the binary. I’m saying we can’t identify them using our modern terms b/c that isn’t accurate and it ignores the history of these identities. The times and circumstances that allowed them to be born.

        It’s like going back in time and saying “screw all you people who didn’t self-identify as black, we’re just going to call you black anyway regardless of the history of the term and how you identified yourselves.” And I think Racialicious linked something similar about this regarding Henry Louis Gate Jr. (?). You can’t just do with people what you want just b/c they’re dead. You have to respect their history and their self-autonomy, too.

        But then again, regarding identity, and documenting other people, we normally do use modern terms to describe people from the past. Because either other terms are obsolete or what we’re working on doesn’t acknowledge an evolution of racial/sexual terminology. And understandably some terminology just simply shouldn’t be used to describe people. But we need terms for identification b/c otherwise we have no language to explain and understand things to the general public, our peers and even ourselves.

        I think what I’m against it just willfully ignoring how other people self-identified. But I see how my position as expressed is not very realistic when it comes to describing these people, academic work and so on.

        I was trying to think of an example for what I meant before, but the best I can come up with is Victorian England . . . Pure manhood and womanhood versus the . . . I think the term was “deviant” which included men who showed attraction to other men.

  • Morenaclara

    I’m a Mexican citizen and if you go Mexico and talk to the older generation( my grandparent’s age) they have resentment towards  over the Mexican-American war( and the Invasion of Veracruz).   Oh, we fought and many of  us still remember.

  • http://afro-chan.blogspot.com/ Lachiflera

    Preach!  I lived in Mexico a small bit and I met some descendants of slavery.  They identified as negros.

  • Jmdza

    “Mexicans did fight for California. In fact, the one major battle they had with Anglo forces invading California they won, with horses and lances, just outside of Los Angeles.”–here he is talking about the Battle of Rancho Dominguez, a rather small encounter that did not necessarily carry much significance in the war as a whole. It was not a “major battle”, it certainly was not the largest or most important battle of the Mexican-American War in what is now California.”Today Mexico has one of the world’s highest poverty rate (with 60 percent unemployment and underemployment), the city with the highest murder rate in the world (Ciudad Juarez, due to the recent anti-drug lord campaign of President Felipe Calderon, instigated by the Bush Administration), and vast losses of agricultural as well as manufacturing income from the so-called North American Free Trade Agreement.”–Mexico is a G20 nation, an economic powerhouse in Latin America and one of the largest economies in the world. It does not have “one of the world’s highest poverty rate[s]” at all, not even close. Of course lack of opportunity and social mobility drive a lot of people to immigrate into the US, and NAFTA was very problematic for both the US and Mexico, but his characterization of the state of the Mexican economy is an exaggeration.”In fact, there was a whole war that Mexicans fought to stop the illegal invasion, which, lest Mr. Williams forget, was being pushed by the slave-owning interests in the United States…The invasion, led by a more powerful U.S. army against a mostly poor and subjugated Indian population (including lots of African-Mexicans, who make up the great third of Mexico’s racial heritage) killed upwards of 25,000, mostly civilians, when there was less than eight million people. This invasion was soon denounced around the world. The national and international outcry forced the U.S. to back off from taking over all of Mexico and to pay $15 million for more than half of Mexico’s territory (this amounted to less than .002 cents per acre).”–At first I don’t even know if this man is talking about the Texas Rev or the Mex-Am war, since he didn’t seem to call either by name. He did seem to imply that the Mexican-American War began over the return of escaped slaves, which is just false. It began over the US’ expansionist designs on Mexican territory. Slavery played a bigger part in the Texas Revolution, but it was the end of the Mexican-American War that came with a 15 mil paycheck to Mexico in exchange for ceding large parts of its territory. In 1848 dollars. Honestly, the way that he tells this story is too convoluted to make much sense. I’m trying really hard to try to unpack it in my mind. I don’t even know what to say about his article. It’s a disaster.  And I’m not even going to get into the manifold implications unearthed by the use of the phrase “illegal invasion” vis-a-vis the issue of illegal immigration in the US. Additionally, although Blacks are often addressed as the “third race” in Mexican history, afrodescendientes are not actually a third of the population as it can be implied by his phrasing if one is not familiar with the term. 

    When Mexico gained independence, it inherited the political borders of the territory once occupied by the Viceroyalty of New Spain–territory which went from the US southwest and west coast down to present-day Costa Rica. The central american nations gained autonomy shortly thereafter. The northernmost part of the country was populated primarily by native americans whose land that was originally and who had always been there, and who were largely independent of Mexican (and earlier, Spanish colonial) life and culture. Is an indigenous person who does not take part in Spanish colonial or Mexican culture a “Mexican” solely because he or she lives within the political borders of what was once Mexico? This is an important question here, one that he and a  lot of people fail to address head on, the native americans get lost in his whole narrative. It was only after this area came under US rule that most of the native tribes inhabiting the territory were truly “subjugated”, Spain (and eventually Mexico’s) claim to the territory was not a true marker of political and social control, and the Catholic missions which dotted the area only affected a section of the native population. Although a large percentage of the Mexican population was and is of indigenous descent, most of the indigenous people living in the territories ceded to the US after the Mexican-American War were relatively independent of Mexican culture and lived according to their traditional ways. In addition, all the figures he cites seem rather suspect, and the US did not “back off from taking over all of Mexico” due to an “international outcry”. I don’t even know what to say anymore. 

    I mean, I have no problem with saying that Katt Williams’ rant was very offensive, which it was, nor am I going against the call of solidarity between different POC groups. My issue is with Luis J. Rodriguez’ poorly written, logically incoherent, historically inaccurate piece. It’s a mess. His mischaracterizations are  such that trying to correct his inaccuracies winds up making the US look good, I can see that’s happening here, but trust me, his story is a mess. I am just going to stop right here. It’s unfortunate that this article, written by someone who does not seem to have a clear grasp on the subject he is trying to discuss, is what gets highlighted to disprove Williams’ rant. HuffPo Latino is a huge mess too. 

  • Jmdza

    I do take issue with Katt Williams’ clearly anti-Mexican rant, however this article is raising a lot of red flags for me, specially in its troubled assessment of early Mexican history. You do not have to butcher history in order to provide some rationale for inter-POC solidarity! Invoking the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War (if that’s what he’s talking about, he isn’t very explicit) and making it about Black slavery is a huge mischaracterization of those events.  Mexico outlawed black slavery very early on in its history because it really wasn’t a big part of the economy–other places where it was, like in Brazil, emancipation came much later–not because of some enlightened racial politics. After all, Mexicans of black ancestry, whose population was mostly centered in the Southern parts of the Mexico’s present borders, were a very small minority then, in the 19th century,  and are an even smaller minority now. Despite the existence of early Mexican historical figures of partial Black ancestry, like Vicente Guerrero and Jose Maria Morelos, Black culture has been commonly excluded from Mexican history, and the stories the nation of Mexico tells about itself tend to privilege its indigenous heritage and its Aztec/Mexica past, which itself erases many other indigenous ethnic groups within the country. Mexico wasn’t fighting the Americans over “slavery”,  it was fighting to keep control of its national territory and maintain sovereignty over its own borders. Of course we know now that it didn’t work out, that Mexico lost both Texas and most of its other northern territories over wars with the US, but we have to understand that both Luis J. Rodriguez’ article AND Katt Williams rant are both based on huge mischaracterizations and misrepresentations of early Mexican history. What is now California had a rather small “Mexican” population at the time of the Mexican-American War–most people living there were essentially native americans who lived outside the Catholic, Spanish speaking world of Spain’s former colonial settlements there–and virtually all of California’s present-day major cities didn’t became highly populated, significant economic centers until after they came under US control, although they were founded during the colonial period. California wasn’t then what it is now, there wasn’t much going on there at the time. At the time of the Mexican-American War, the larger, more important cities of the area that eventually became par of the United States were all in the Southwest, like Santa Fe, etc (although the city of Phoenix, proper, where Williams staged his rant, wasn’t even founded as a modern city until after the US Civil War, decades after the establishment of US rule). The US had its designs on what is now California and its environs partly because it knew what a flimsy hold the Mexican government had over the area, which was very much geographically and culturally isolated from Mexico’s major cities and its center of power. 
    The image included with the article is a well-known photograph of a soldadera from the Mexican Revolution, an event which took place over half a century over the wars Rodriguez discusses in his article. And it isn’t really clear whether she is of African ancestry or not. What a mess.

    • Anonymous

      Kind of how La made the comparison with people claiming the Civil War was to free the slaves, I could easily see the comparisons with the mischaracterization of Mexican history and the Civil War. Actually, the reasons for the wars seem similar. In the case of the Union fighting in the Civil War, it was simply to keep the Union together, to prevent Confederate states from seceding. And another common fallacy regarding the Emancipation Proclamation, it did not free the slaves. It allowed blacks to fight at the very last part of the war. Blacks are free thanks to the 13th Amendment.

      And not to deviate from all that you’ve said, many things that I was not aware of. I’m glad you corrected the historical solecism found throughout the excerpt.

      Also reminds me of how some LGBT groups say that queer or gay people have always existed for the same self-serving agendas. I mean, I respect the good intentions, but obviously these things are not true for various reasons.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, Jmdza, the person in the image is identified as Afro-Mexicana. I included the image precisely because she is that. 

      Thank you for your response.

    • their_child

      I did my college senior thesis on Afro-Mexican racial identity. I cosign Jmdza’s statements. Vincente Guerrero was conscious and proud of his African heritage. From what I remember from my research he did fight for more rights for African descendents and native Mexicans. Unfortunately for him and Mexico, the rest of the Mexican elite were more interested in gaining money and power. They repetedly used Guerrero’s African descent against him in political attacks (sounds familiar doesnt it?). Then he was removed from office and executed.

  • http://www.tributetoblackwomen.com La

    “Mexicans were willing to die so blacks could be free.”  Well, I have an issue with this statement.  It’s also akin to racist whites who claim the “Civil War” was originated to free black slaves, and their white ancestors died so that black people could be free etc. Many people have a way of twisting history for self-serving agendas. Furthermore, that war cited above was not about protecting black slaves from the US, far from it. And I can’t say that blacks were fully welcomed and were “fully” free in Mexico either. Mexico also had a hand in the African Slave Trade. Now, I don’t have any issues with non-black Mexicans, non-black Latino/Hispanics, but I felt the need to share my thoughts. 

    • dersk

      Well, it would be correct to say that the Civil War was kicked off to perpetuate slavery – South Carolina’s articles of segregation specifically talked about fears of emancipation. And it’s equally correct to say that *some* northerners did die so that slaves would be freed.

    • dersk

      Well, it would be correct to say that the Civil War was kicked off to perpetuate slavery – South Carolina’s articles of segregation specifically talked about fears of emancipation. And it’s equally correct to say that *some* northerners did die so that slaves would be freed.