Exhibition "Pray for America" in Gallery V1

Photos by Jacob Holdt

While I was seeing Liddy Mathon, her sister Debbie – who was married to a white man, John Parris – out of curiosity invited me to spend the night at their place. Liddy and Debbie were Haitian immigrants and thus felt miles above native-born blacks. Like whites, they had a deeply racist view of them. As black immigrants, they had not been forced to internalize the white negative view of them for centuries, and so their sense of self-worth had not been crushed in childhood. Consequently, they do just as well in school and work as whites, even though they come from one of the poorest countries on earth. Like all winners, they have a hard time understanding losers and the crime many ghettoized people get into. John and his hardworking wife lived in one of those well-kept, expensive brownstone townhouses in Brooklyn that black immigrants favor. On the other hand, almost half of native-born blacks are on welfare, living in projects or in jail, and their neighborhoods are characterized by the trash of despair all over the place. For the same reason, I often heard these “black Jews,” as native-born blacks call the immigrants, refer to native-born blacks in the ghetto as “lazy niggers.” And I saw how they armed themselves against them out of fear, like John and his wife in this picture. For 30 years in my workshops, I have tried to build up a sense of solidarity between these two groups of blacks, but it’s hard, considering that black immigrants constitute up to 85 percent of all black students in many elite colleges, though they make up just 5 percent of the entire black American population. - - - 494 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn, NY - December 26th 1973