the state


The State of the Onion

© 2016 Issa Ibrahim

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New York City based real estate developer Dummy J. Dump has become King of America. He always rubbed me the wrong way. I have memories from the 1970s, when I was a child growing up in Jamaica, Queens, Dummy’s hometown, and befriending other Black families like mine, embracing suburban serenity and middle class aspirations. I’d be privy to some of these families complaining to my folks about stopping methods to their being shown available homes for sale in certain White neighborhoods. Others would encounter discrimination and terrible conditions at their apartment complexes that only occurred because they were Black. Most of these properties in Brooklyn and Queens had legendary scumbag developer Dead Fred Dump and sons as landlords. Besides being a miserly slumlord, Dead Dump was famously immortalized in the song “This Place Is A Dump” by legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie. Though world renown as the composer of “This Land Is Your Land,” and most certainly bound for glory, Woody was still a poor starving artist who resided uncomfortably in one of Dump’s flea-bitten Brooklyn fire hazards, shivering in two overcoats as the bitter wind stabbed him through drafty cracks and broken windows, his repeated rolling and smoking of tobacco and marijuana was the only warmth he could look forward to in the flat with dubious heat, while engaged in periodic battle with armies of cockroaches and rodent scouts looking to nest.

I became reacquainted with Dummy Judas Dump, the smug one, understanding the essence of who and what he really was, in the 1980s when I started venturing out of Jamaica. Though Dummy hailed from Jamaica Estates, perhaps the cream of the Queens neighborhoods, the rest of Jamaica was by now a tarnished and crumbling abandoned kingdom of squandered cool founded and surrendered by the very best of African American genius. All that was left was a haunted castle converted to a crack house full of gangsters, zombies, and ghosts.

Grate Again, 24"x36", oil and acrylic on canvas, 2016

The other Queens neighborhoods, though scenic and quaint, achieving a collective “meh,” usually had posses of xenophobic baseball bat-wielding White American Youth, which form in my mind a collective weapon. A brutal fist made up of big meaty fingers of English, German, Italian, and Irish-American racists and finally a thick and considerable thumb, which was a confounding catch all of Greeks, Jews, European immigrants and White-identifying mutts of all varieties. There’s even the odd social-climbing, White-appearing Hispanic, who sometimes in the throes of passing have to kick a nigger or two. When not dodging the clumsy but forceful deathblows of this Racist Fist of Fury in various Queens neighborhoods, I had to step around the toxic shit thrown at me out of nowhere by the occasional Asian in Flushing. It’s even worse when I am betrayed by the brown, lowering my guard only to be spat at by a Hindu snake in Richmond Hill. Receiving obvious and unnecessary disses or unwarranted fuck-you vibe from the Latino Nation in Corona or Jackson Heights hurts just as much.

“To the Guidomobile!” Joey screams, and a gaggle of greasy, pimply goons scramble like circus clowns into a multicolored racing-striped muscle car that stinks of blood, Brut, Juicy Fruit and pussy in the back seat. I’m sure Michael Stewart and innumerable other unfortunate Black boys may have heard that rallying cry with dread and ran for their lives. It was no better in Brooklyn, now crack-infested and crazy in the Black neighborhoods, and in the adjacent White communities where the vigilante posses, like the Ku Klux Klan in the south, actually gain legitimacy.

Overzealous Canarsie narcissist Curly Slimey even donned his father’s old, dented high school football helmet spray painted red and became crime-fighting vigilante The Cardinal. He prowled the subways and the slums at night, more interested in cameras than the crime he pledged to curtail. The city put up with Slimey’s shenanigans for years until he was beat into a 10-day coma while attempting a citizen’s arrest on a female motorcycle club. Though he reawakened he came back retarded. Slimey was never the same, but manages to do something stupid enough to still get media attention, always photographed wearing that dented, red paint-chipped football helmet, kibbutzing and canoodling with Page Six addicted star fuckers while eating for free. His Paisan Super Hero Club becomes a porch light for all lost, misguided thrill-seekers and opportunists.

Americanism, 84"x96", oil and carylic on vinyl screen, 2016,

Dummy J. Dump was cut, tailored, pressed, marketed and mass produced from the same blood and shit-stained cloth as those other baseball bat-wielding White American assholes from Queens, different only in that he was born with lots of money. This only seemed to make Dummy the jewel-crowned King of the Assholes, squatting over his golden throne, puckered and poised to blow his rancid farts all over Manhattan.

Dump emerged within the tarnished charm and cobwebbed sophistication of the mid-80s New York City social scene as a Queens mook bon vivant and it only got worse from there. He became a local anti-hero, like the pompous, doofy bad-guy wrestler you loved to hate. A kooky contemporary of show tune singing Mayor Dead Krotch, store front preacher, Professional Agitator and personal trainer Weird Al Sharptung, and District Attorney Rudy Ghouliani with his Medusa-like comb over of maggots and spaghetti, known to attack without warning, often winding up in your food. These and other Tri-State area fruits, nuts, bitches, hos, dons and divas score high in the Fuck Me Factor and keep the sheep interested, buying newspapers and watching the screen.

The poverty rate was high and the crime rate was even higher. After trigger-happy subway gunslinger Bernie Gutz shoots three Black teenage panhandlers and paralyzes another, in a scene right out of Charles Bronson’s 70s urban vigilante classic Death Wish, White New Yorkers were polarized. Many were concerned about a growing phenomenon of roving bands of Black teenagers running into mostly White areas to cause mischief. Perhaps, as an unconscious protest and rebellion against the institutional racism and compound injustice exemplified by verdicts like those against Gutz, cleared of attempted murder charges and pinched with only a gun possession rap, more and more kids took to the streets inevitably becoming rambunctious, unruly and often criminal packs. It was typical teenage angst coupled with urban decay, but with color it soon becomes outrage, making it a big city and national sensation. I remember having to wrestle armloads of batteries and blank tapes from many a young brother who rushed in to rip off the mid-town Manhattan record store where I worked as an assistant manager. Some boys were heard to sing along to the rap song “Wild Thing” by West Coast Hip Hop one-hitter Tone-Loc on boom boxes as they rampaged. In the usual game of media classification-by-way-of-Telephone these boyhood rites of passage became known as “Wilding”.


This worried Dummy Dump. Sure, he too was a rambunctious teen. And he, like his other unruly White teens, ultimately attracted the attention of the authorities when their behavior warranted. Unfortunately, where Dummy and his pals will get the reefer extinguished, the beer dumped out, a swift kick in the butt, and maybe even a ride home to Mom and Dad and the whipping of their lives, the brothers will always do hard time, endure interrupted lives, and may never attain a stable and prosperous foundation in the cradle of their community, their country, within any society and, ultimately, civilization.

Dummy Dump believed these “wilding” Black boys were tarnishing the city he was trying to renovate and remake in his own image- a bloated, overbearing, decrepit, gaudy waste of time, effort and money. He took every opportunity when in front of a microphone or camera to decry these “thugs” “punks” and “animals”. He had such palpable racist fervor and hatred for Black male youth that he took out a full page ads in The New York Times to crucify five young men who were arrested but not yet tried for the brutal rape and attempted murder of a female jogger in Central Park. It’s safe to say Dump beat the drum for the march of injustice those five young Black men took in their wrongful 15-year convictions. When asked to comment on whether he’d changed his mind upon the men’s exoneration and release, Dummy dumped on them one final time, casting aspersions on their “true nature,” saying, “Hey, some of these guys got involved in some bad stuff while they were locked up. Bad stuff. No, these guys are no angels. They are bad dudes. Bad, bad dudes.”

Racist. Sexist. Narcissist. Xenophobe. And, in 2016, President. We saw how Dump’s rhetoric awakened, embraced and emboldened White America’s ugly underneath till it buoyed him into the oval office. And it is no surprise that he brought the Ku Klux Klan with him into the White House. The KKK had gone underground after the Republican defeat in 1992 and thrived on the Internet, reemerging as “The Alternative Right.” With evil media genius Steel Bannem’s hand up Dummy’s back while taking over the ultimate seat in US government, the new Klan quickly set about changing the racial and economic landscape of the United States, now merged with all the White hot hate that could be found in the country, rechristened and branded The New Whited States of AmeriKKKa.

America the Beautiful, 24x36 inches, oil on canvas, 2017