In the poem "Somebody Blew Up America" by the African-American poet Amiri Baraka, he references a few people at the end of the first stanza:

They say it's some terrorist

some barbaric

A Rab

in Afghanistan

it wasn't our American terrorists

it wasn't the Klan

or the Skinheads

or them that blows up nigger churches

or reincarnates us in Death Row

it wasn't Trent Lott

or David Duke, or Giuliani

or Schundler, or Helms retiring

Trent Lott was in favour of segregation and David Duke is seen as a Klansman. So it's easy to see why Amiri Baraka is taking aim at them in his politically charged and polemical poem; but why is he taking aim at Giuliani, Schundler and Helms? I don't see any obvious connection with his politics.


1 Answer 1


Giuliani pushed the "broken windows theory" of policing, intended to punish people for small infractions. The idea was to make people think of New York as a lawful place rather than one of urban decay, but it was often applied in a racially disparate way. It contributed in part to the US having an outsized prison population, and disproportionate racial representation among prisoners.

Helms was famously racist (despite an illegitimate child with a black woman). He opposed civil rights legislation and frequently used race-baiting rhetoric.

A book claims Schundler "increasingly resorted to issues with a strong racial component" while losing a campaign to a Democrat. That book was written in 2002, referring to events in the 90s. While these are not on a par with the more explicit and persistent racism of the national figures in the poem, as a New Jersey figure it would have a more personal meaning. New Jersey is a state with a very strong liberal basis but also some sharp racial divisions, and this insight prefigures the way New Jersey's current Republican governor has supported a party that has increasingly used racist rhetoric.

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