Lovecraft as useful instruction in the ways of evil

Dinesh D’Souza consistently proves himself to be one of the dumbest political commentators on the planet. He’s gone on the attack against Kamala Harris. His weapon of choice is racism.

A shocking claim was made by American conservative author and commentator Dinesh D’Souza some days ago when he claimed, or, in his words, ‘revealed,’ that Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the post of Vice President, is a descendant of one of Jamaica’s slave owners. This has, as expected, caused a storm, especially on social media.

I do have to wonder if the marriage of the white slaveowner to the black woman who was his slave was the social event of the season on Jamaica that year? Or if his black descendants are proud to trace their lineage back to a rapist? As the article points out, though, the relationship is a bit ambiguous, because tracing ancestry through the tangled lines of unacknowledged children of rape is no doubt tricky. Not to D’Souza, though!

Has anyone been watching Lovecraft Country? Phenomenal story, great acting, horrifying monsters, all the stuff we want from Prestige TV on HBO. It’s also centered on the relationship of a black family to a deeply racist community, HP Lovecraft and Lovecraft fans — oh wait, no, I accidentally slipped into the meta dimension there for a minute. The first episode has ended with three black characters, bold people who travel about writing travel guides for other black people, ending up at the door of a mysterious grand mansion deep in a small rural town after harrowing experiences a sundown town, a sadistic sheriff, and a swarm of many-eyed monsters. They are greeted by the whitest, most Aryan-looking dude at the door.

I’ve read the book, so I know what’s next, so I’m about to spill the most minor of spoilers.

The black family are descendants of an evil cultist who settled in America to practice his religion, their grandmother having successfully escaped many years before, and now the cultists need the magical power of his last direct descendant. It’s a bit similar in some ways to Get Out in that way, with major differences, and also a story line that continues on in some strange ways (it’s just going to get weirder, everyone).

There’s an opportunity for a tie-in to current events here, I’m hoping HBO will take advantage of it. They seem to be doing a good job of finally educating the American public about our racist history. They shocked people with the revelation that the Tulsa massacre was a real thing in Watchmen. Now I’m seeing people surprised at the term “sundown town”, so HBO once again is teaching history.

Now we just have to get everyone to learn that being descended from a slave owner doesn’t necessarily mean that one was part of the oppressive power structure. Not D’Souza, though: he’s hopeless.


  1. phlo says

    Statistically speaking, is there anyone in North America who doesn’t have at least one slave owner among their ancestry (recent immigrants excluded)?

  2. says

    I’m curious what point D’Souza thinks he, and the countless Twitter bots I’ve seen take this up, is making.

    I also wonder if they think that someone with Black heritage in the Americas having a slave owning ancestor is a rare thing.

  3. Snarki, child of Loki says

    “I’m curious what point D’Souza thinks he, and the countless Twitter bots I’ve seen take this up, is making.”

    Poo-flinging is the point, everything else is an excuse.

    Why, it’s as if D’Souza had primates in his evolutionary past!

  4. raven says

    … that Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the post of Vice President, is a descendant of one of Jamaica’s slave owners.

    As a European American, my ancestors drove the previous inhabitants of Europe to extinction, the Neanderthals. Of course, some of those Neanderthals are also my ancestors.
    More recently, my Viking ancestors raided and pillaged much of Europe for a few centuries.
    Then the Catholic ancestors fought a bloody war to exterminate the Protestants. Some of those Protestants were the other half of my ancestors.

    If you go back far enough, we all have ancestors who did things that we would condemn today.
    It’s all irrelevant anyway.
    We aren’t our ancestors, and raiding England or France isn’t hereditary.

  5. raven says

    Statistically speaking, is there anyone in North America who doesn’t have at least one slave owner among their ancestry (recent immigrants excluded)?

    Quite of few Americans do not.
    A lot of European Americans are descended from recent immigrants to the USA, Scandinavians, Eastern Europeans, Italians, Irish, Germans, Jews, etc..
    A lot of my older relatives didn’t speak a whole lot of English.

    I also wonder if they think that someone with Black heritage in the Americas having a slave owning ancestor is a rare thing.

    Good point.
    Almost all US Blacks are European mixes.
    The estimate is that 22% of the US Black genome is white.

  6. Saad says

    We brown people from the subcontinent already have a sickening level of anti-black mentality. When you throw in internalized racism and love for white supremacy into the mix, you get a bizarre specimen like brown-skinned D’Souza, wagging his tail and doing tricks to impress the white elites he so wishes he could be a part of.

  7. rgmani says

    I’m sure most of you have seen this op-Ed in the New York Times. If not, I highly recommend it. Lots of slave owners raped (that’s the only word I can use for this act) their slaves and the kids born of such unions became slaves themselves. Chances are that a majority of African-Americans have both slaves and slave owners in their ancestry. Most famously, Jefferson’s mistress Sally Hemings was a half-sister of Jefferson’s wife and was a slave all her life. Even though Jefferson freed the children he had with Hemings, it isn’t as if he gave them some kind of inheritance. Even if Kamala Harris has slave owning ancestors, chances are pretty slim that they benefited from that relationship in any way.

  8. mailliw says

    @6 raven

    As a European American, my ancestors drove the previous inhabitants of Europe to extinction, the Neanderthals

    My understanding is that recent research has revealed the possible causes the “extinction” of the Neanderthals to be a rather more complex issue than previously believed and that homo sapiens may not be responsible.

    More recently, my Viking ancestors raided and pillaged much of Europe for a few centuries.

    Apart from those Vikings who traded as far south as Istanbul and Sicily and ended up well integrated with the existing inhabitants speaking Italian in Sicily and French in Normandy. There is one school of thought nowadays that sees the bold Viking warrior as a myth dreamt up by a few drunken Icelanders during their long winter nights. Most Vikings were farmers or merchants.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    D’Souza, SO WHAT? How does that make her an awful person?
    An ancestor of her was awful, does not make her an awful person.
    That ancestor did not raise her, instilling their awfulness by osmosis.
    Flip D’Souza’s argument. and claim all of the descendants of Jefferson from his nights with his slaves are all genius politicians who can rewrite a new DOI for us.
    I think D’Souza is trying to use genetics as a weapon, that being awful is genetically inherited by every descendant generation.

  10. unclefrogy says

    the obvious reason for this “a——” to write this is to insert his name into the public discourse
    that is his main reason for all he does. If any of it were true or not has no baring on why he is saying it. It is him saying that is his primary intent and thus irrelevant and forgettable. Though maybe a good thing to be watched in case it leads to inciting the mindless violence prone to act out.
    uncle frogy

  11. fossboxer says

    @9 – Sure, but raven’s point stands. No matter what ignominious or esteemed things our ancestors did, we ain’t them.

  12. iiandyiiii says

    “The most minor of spoilers”… damn it! :)

    I should have remembered that PZ’s idea of a “minor spoiler” is telling a first-time Star Wars watcher that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.

  13. brucegee1962 says

    Sure, pretty much any Black person with ancestors in the antebellum South almost certainly has slaveowner ancestors. But since any escaped slave who was able to pass for white almost certainly did so, with the exponential effect of branching ancestral trees, the opposite is also true: any modern white person with ancestors in the antebellum South probably has slave ancestors as well. We’re all just a big stew.

  14. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Hey, remember how conservatives would say that we have no duty to do reparations or deal with the ongoing effects of whiteness because we are not responsible for what our ancestors did? For some reason that seems really relevant right now…

  15. says

    @#13, fossboxer

    Sure, but raven’s point stands. No matter what ignominious or esteemed things our ancestors did, we ain’t them.

    Well, that depends. If you want to claim your ancestors’ legacy, then you have to take up responsibility for their crimes. (To take an extreme example, the English Royal Family should certainly be required to pay reparations to the various nations which were plundered or exploited for their benefit, because their massive fortunes are built on the wealth they extracted from that process. And yes, that even includes the US, thanks to the English legislating a coerced monopoly for manufactured goods on their colonies and then taxing the trade. But places like India and China have a much stronger case and deserve more reparations.)

    American black people have historically been excluded from economic opportunity, often deliberately and explicitly — black familial wealth is statistically much lower than white familial wealth, even when comparing (say) the poorest third of those two populations, and that can be traced semi-directly to the fact that blacks were ineligible to claim land under the Homestead Act for the first six years (passed in 1862, black people were ineligible until 1868), and discrimination often prevented them from making claims after that. The relative prosperity of white people in the US came from being able to just grab some land and build a house for about a century, and that process was easy for whites and difficult for blacks; even if the family no longer owns the house, they got a financial boost from selling it at some point along the way. So if you’re white and you’re inheriting stuff from your family, or even if you aren’t but you got a good start in life because of general prosperity, chances are that you got that because black people didn’t.

    It is, admittedly, really difficult — in the practical sense, impossible — to calculate exactly who owes how much and for what, because of generations of inheritance between then and now, which is a very good argument for a blanket government-driven reparations scheme to discharge the majority of the ethical obligation.

  16. says

    On the subject of vikings, I’d like to point out that in the old stories viking is referred to as an activity, not an identity. You go out to viking and then you come home to do other stuff, like tending your farm. It’s not something you are; it’s something you do.

  17. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Even in the collapsed dimensions where Dinesh D’Souza’s cosmic strings take up volumes proportional to the Planck Length, he is a waste of space.

  18. IX-103, the ■■■■ing idiot says

    Are we treating slaves on the Antebellum South specially? Historically there has been a lot of slavery, so I would expect almost everyone to have at least one slave-owning ancestor (and at least one slave ancestor). It’s kind of hypocritical to judge people like that. I’m much more interested in what Kamala Harris thinks and does. After all she is the one asking for the position of power (not her supposed slave-owning ancestor).

    While slavery plays a key role in the development of racial inequality in America, it does not define it, and I’m not sure the focus on that other than as one more terrible thing the strong did to the weak has anymore role in improving equality other than as a diversion. Particularly with the amount of pride many take in their family, it may be counter productive. Instead the focus should be on the fundamental assumptions of our country – that all are created equal and should have the same rights.

    This is related to my problem with the slogan “Black lives matter”. People who don’t already understand the problem won’t get it, and it has no call to action. So you get the brain-dead response that “All lives matter”. I think “Black lives should matter” would be much better because it at least makes people question the its premise, which puts the focus on whether Blacks are treated as if they matter by society (which is exactly where we want the conversation to go). It also describes the change we want in unobjectionable terms. Anyone that would have responded with “All lives matter” should also support this statement and then we’re just arguing how far we need to go.

  19. unclefrogy says

    IX-103, the ■■■■ing idiot
    I have no problem with Black Lives Matter at all because it is the exact opposite of the de facto behavior of the police and the establishment power structure as a whole, that black lives do not matter and are not considered as the same way as any others.
    the form of the expression is short and direct like I can’t breath it is not an ideological statement of purpose
    so I do not care one bit how it is said only that it is heard clearly and repeatedly black lives matter!
    uncle frogy

  20. flange says

    I don’t know anything about the “International Business Times.” But David Brooks must be an editor there. The article is equivocating and weaselly, especially the last part: “The left, on the other hand, sees this as a cheap tactic by a rare man of color in the conservative camp to attack Harris. Whether this issue plays a part in the upcoming election’s results remains to be seen.”
    They’re giving D’Souza, a moron, an equal place at the table, which he doesn’t deserve. And giving “this issue” credibility it doesn’t have.

  21. says

    Most Vikings were raiders looters and pillagers originally as the term Viking was used as a verb in a kind of “to go viking” = to go overseas. And history of England and english language is quite fascinating example how vikings influenced the world.
    But that’s splitting hairs anyway.

    I am not american so my first assumptions are already in completely different context, and I also have like IX-103 the issue with phrase “Black Lives Matter” – not with the meaning of it, but with the wording itself.
    Among my countrymen, where understanding of the issue is low, the prevailing reaction is “all lives matter is anti-racist, black lives matter is racist” . They seem not too understand it’s “black lives matter too” not “only black lives matter”. I lost few of “how the hell I was friends with them anyway” over that (so maybe it’s good).
    Most left leaning americans I talked to claim that in US context is clear. And when I saw some videos of people opposing BLM on the streets, they seem to believe ALM is ok while BLM is racist too. Not the youtube pundits video, that are polished, the videos of people shouting at the protesters.
    US is huge and city mouse/country mouse divide is going as well as ever, so it is possible, that there are many people who willfully or not get the same reaction and where the BLM wording is a bit unfortunate.
    It is not my place to tell protesters how they should protest and I am not planing to, but sometimes different perspective can be helpful maybe…

    I wonder what is the proportion of black ancestors that were slaves before civil war and those who came after civil war.
    You are right about slavery not being the sole defining reason of racism.
    As MLK said, after civil war slaves were freed to famine while government handed out millions of acres of land to european immigrants.
    After World War II there was a huge wealth creation among white families while black families were omitted.
    Today there is even no need to create racist laws, all you need is to keep poor people poor and let rich people get rich.
    Some white folk will be a collateral damage, but as the history shows, downtrodden white people are happy to oppose policies that would help them if they are seen as policies that would help black people.

  22. says

    One thing to remember is that economic exploitation of the former slaves did not end in 1865. Look up the black codes. A black man had to be able to prove he was employed or he could be sentenced for vagrancy to hard labor.

  23. raven says

    I wonder what is the proportion of black ancestors that were slaves before civil war and those who came after civil war.

    The number of Blacks who came to the USA after the Civil War up until very recently was around…Zero!!!

    Virtually all Blacks were imported as slaves.
    When slavery was outlawed, that was the end of Africans coming to the USA.

    For much of US history, nonwhites immigrating to the USA were flat out illegal. For one example:

    The Chinese Exclusion Act was a United States federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers.

    Chinese Exclusion Act – Wikipedia

    Chinese immigration was restricted to near zero from 1875 to 1952.

    wikipedia African Immigration
    Quotas enacted between 1921 and 1924
    Several laws enforcing national origins quotas on U.S. immigration were enacted between 1921 and 1924 and were in effect until they were repealed in 1965. While the laws were aimed at restricting the immigration of Jews and Catholics from Southern and Eastern Europe and immigration from Asia, they also impacted African immigrants.

    The legislation effectively excluded Africans from entering the country.

    The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 restricted immigration from a given country to 3% of the number of people from that country living in the U.S. according to the census of 1910. The Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, reduced that to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the U.S. in 1890. Under the system, the quota for immigrants from Africa (excluding Egypt) totaled 1,100 (the number was increased to 1,400 under the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act.) [4] That contrasted to immigrants from Germany, which had a limit of 51,227.[5]

  24. raven says

    You can believe Gorzki when he says he isn’t an American.

    For much of US history, immigration of various subhuman untermenshen was strongly discouraged or flat out illegal.
    The first targets of US immigration law were Catholics, particularly Irish and German.
    There were anti-immigration riots and the occasional massacre directed against Irish, Germans and Catholics all through the 1800’s.
    Anti-Catholic bigotry was still a thing when I was growing up and still exists here and there.

    In May and July 1844, Philadelphia suffered some of the bloodiest rioting of the antebellum period, as anti-immigrant mobs attacked Irish-American homes and Roman Catholic churches before being suppressed by the militia. The violence was part of a wave of riots that convulsed American cities starting in the 1830s.

    Nativist Riots of 1844 – Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

    Eventually we moved on to restricting Asians, Chinese and Japanese.
    Then it was the Southern European Italians, the Eastern European Slavs, and the Jews, widely regarded as inferior undesirables and heavily discriminated against.
    Now we’ve moved on to Mexicans, Central Americans, and Muslims.

    Black Africans were so far down on the immigration list, that they weren’t even on the list.

  25. PaulBC says

    phlo@1 Late to the game, but…

    I am descended exclusively from Irish immigrants, pre and post famine. They lived in Brooklyn and some other parts of New York city (except for one Gold Rush excursion and return), though my father moved to the Philadelphia area before I was born. So FWIW (not much), I can convincingly document a lack of slaveowners in my family (assuming you’re not going back to pre-medieval Ireland and then who knows). I imagine there are many people in the Northeast who could say the same. Independent of their precise ancestry, they don’t have any from the South.

    On the other hand, it is extremely common for African Americans to have some white ancestry, and that probably includes slave owners. There’s certainly nothing even noteworthy about Harris’s situation compared to any Black person in the Western Hemisphere. D’Souza must know this and just thinks he can get away with lying.

  26. PaulBC says

    And as in any discussion of D’Souza, let know one forget that he is a convicted felon who pleaded guilty. A presidential pardon has legal significance, but does not wipe history or change facts. What happens after Trump is out of office and rightfully convicted of numerous cases of fraud before even entering office? (My optimism is showing, but It could happen.) Pardoned by a known felon is a pretty serious asterisk.