"Send Her Back!" Chant, "Starman", "Walking On The Moon", 45, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Apollo 11, Ayanna Pressley, David Bowie, First Contact, Greenville North Carolina, Ilhan Omar, Islamophobia, Misogynoir, Narcissism, Race Riots, Racism, Rashida Tlaib, Red Summer, The Police, Trump, White Terrorism, Xenophobia
This week of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing has been yet another reminder that humanity’s evolution has not kept up with its aspirations for exploring and colonizing the universe. A week that is supposed to be one of celebrating NASA’s work and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon has become a week about the immutability of racism and misogyny (really, misogynoir) in the US and beyond. Telling four Black and Brown congresswomen “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” 45 once again showed his xenophobia and misogynoiristic racism and exposed the -isms of millions of Americans. 45’s campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina on Wednesday specifically targeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and descended into a Ku Klux Klan gathering, as the presidents fanboys and foot soldiers chanted “Send her back! Send her back!” for thirteen seconds.
A century before 45’s latest racist, Islamophobic, and misogynoiristic spewings, and a half-century before the Apollo 11 landing, Whites across the US engaged in Red Summer. It was part of a World War I and post-World War I response to the first wave of Black migration out of the Jim Crow South and Black prosperity across the US. A violently racist response made worse because the US plunged into recession in the two years after the end of World War I. The Fourth Estate trafficked in racist stereotypes around “Negro Man Rapes White Girl,” further fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia in the years around and after the Great War. Whites marched into Black communities to beat up, main, rape, kill, burn down Black businesses, and otherwise terrorize Black men, Black women, and Black families. To call these “race riots” implies that Blacks did the same toward Whites, a lie about as close to the truth as 45 has been in the past 50 years.
East St. Louis, Illinois really set the pace for these “race riots” in 1917. But in the Red Summer of 1919, it was Washington, DC, Chicago, Elaine, Arkansas, Omaha, Nebraska, and dozens of other cities and towns in which Whites went off to show Blacks the true nature of racism. Whites exerted their power and violence on Black populations out of an out-of-this-world narcissism, in that everything belonged to them. They were angry because Blacks had taken “their jobs” and moved into “their neighborhoods.” They also wanted laws changed so that White ethnics couldn’t come to the US and take jobs and depress wages, ultimately pitting White immigrants against Black migrants in these White terrorism efforts.
Sound familiar at all? It should. White terrorist attacks on Blacks in Tulsa (Greenwood, a.k.a., Black Wall Street) in 1921 and Rosewood, Florida in 1923 were the culmination of White supremacist violence stemming from the narcissistic need for dominance and economic distress. The Immigration Act of 1924 effectively shut off immigration from most of Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean in an effort to preserve “White Anglo-Saxon stock” and as a way to appease White men angry about not finding work post-World War I. It was the third anti-immigration bill Congress had passed in the previous seven years.
The parallels between 45 and this week in American racism and the Red Summer of 1919 are enough to prove that humanity is most definitely not ready to meet extraterrestrials from elsewhere in the multiverse. We humans are ill-prepared to make contact with beings with technologies that help them traverse a radiation-filled void in a fraction of the seven years it took the Cassini probe to reach Saturn. We humans lack the emotional, psychological, moral, and spiritual capacity to cope with such a history-altering event. We Homo sapiens are devoid of the humility necessary to meet the challenges that will come after finding out that first contact with an advanced civilization is both an end and a beginning.
Here’s a short list beyond 45 of leading people and recent events that prove humans are as ready for first contact as a newborn baby is for a seven-course meal. Jeffrey Epstein. R. Kelly. Marine Le Pen. Kim Kardashian. Vladimir Putin. Boris Johnson. Xi Jinping. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Nigel Farage. Richard Spencer. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Rodrigo Duterte. Theresa May. Bashar al-Assad and Syria. Kim Jong Un and North Korea. Jair Bolsonaro and his anti-LGBTQIA work in Brazil. Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. Capitalism. Neoliberalism. Misogyny and misogynoir. Islamophobia and anti-Black and Brown xenophobia. Patriarchy’s foot soldiers. The very need for Black Lives Matter. The limited response thus far to man-made global climate change. Hollywood. Las Vegas. The endless fighting over resources and enslavement of peoples for a narcissist’s dream of independence, freedom, power, and wealth. That’s already enough for me to never want to meet humanity!
Can anyone who possesses a reasonable amount of empathy and knowledge imagine what the most powerful and learned members of an advanced alien civilization would think of humanity’s stewardship of Earth? They’ve heard and seen us in action for at least a century, since humans started broadcasting on wireless radio. In that time, there have been been two World Wars, ethnic cleansing and mass murder (e.g., Stalin’s Five-Year Plans, the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot and Cambodia, and Rwanda), the Cold War, and the nuclear arms buildup. Powerful nations and corporations have repeatedly exploited indigenous peoples, the most poverty-stricken in Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere, and the planet’s biosphere. I am sure sentient aliens have seen us and feel just as welcome to visit Earth as migrants from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East feel in the US and Europe right now.
Is it possible that sentient extraterrestrials might find some exceptional humans potentially worthy? Sure. Science folk like Michelle Thaller, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Hakeem Oluseyi, and the late Claudia Alexander come to mind. One might be able to make the case for humanitarians and social justice activists, for the best writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, vocalists, and actors out there. But from a sentient alien’s perspective, why should any of these humans be exceptions? These beings are likely able to use dark matter or dark energy to power faster-than-light spacecraft. They may possess the ability to convert matter to energy and back again at a whim, to make food and weapons out of thin air and bio-waste. They may even be able to fold space and create wormholes and black holes. There’s no way they could see any humans as deserving of first contact.
There is also the real issue of what it would take for an alien civilization to become advanced without blowing itself up in the first place. These advanced beings would be collaborative and cooperative to a fault, would’ve long ago assured equity and inclusion as their reason for existence and exploration. They would likely avoid war-loving civilizations like the ones on Earth, while looking to break bread (or the alien equivalent) with more stable, peaceful, and advanced civilizations out in the galaxy.
They may make exceptions, though, for the most vulnerable of sentient beings and other species trapped in warring worlds like our own. These aliens may decide someday to “rapture up” indigenous peoples, vulnerable minority groups, the poverty-stricken, certain women and children, to save them from the leading Western nations and other developed countries on this planet, who seek to oppress and exploit them. It’s something writers like Octavia Butler and Derrick Bell contemplated for Black and Brown folk. It would be the humane thing— maybe even, the godly thing — to do.
Humans should continue to explore space and its endless scientific revelations and mysteries. But humanity should refrain from colonizing the Moon and Mars, much less anything interstellar. All humanity will end up doing is spreading its Whiteness-driven elitism, racism, patriarchy and misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and life-destroying narcissism. The species remains too primitive to be worthy of prime time on a galactic stage. We’ll have to wait for a more just, verdant, and glorious age before first contact will work out well for us. We’re not ready.