Analysis of Somebody blew up America by Amiri Baraka

Disclaimer Notice: The purpose of this analysis is simply to find out the meaning from the literary point of view. The views within the analysis are not a reflection of the views of the article’s author or website, and there is no intention to disparage any nations, ethnicities, or individuals.

It was 1956 when Allen Ginsberg was arrested on the charge of obscenity in poetry for his famous poem "Howl". The poem became a landmark not only in the history of America, but to the rest of the world that finally dared to defy the prevalent morality of a society. In the same way, Amiri Baraka – a celebrated and controversial writer from America – stirred the world when he read his poem "Somebody blew up America". The poem went viral and was received by people with mixed reactions. Some saluted the protest towards the country of his citizenship, while others condemned the poem as an expression of racism, homophobia and violence.We have tried to provide an Analysis of Somebody blew up America by Amiri Baraka.

This is a free verse poem. It has no set structure, but maintains its rhythmic elements for oral sharing. This is in the form of traditional Beat poetry, which is the forefather of rap/hip-hop music. It is meant to be shared orally, with the story teller able to emphasize and share lines specifically for an audience. It was originally shared by the author in the manner.

Poem Analysis
The author starts out by indicting that no one is blaming "terrorists" that are usually attributed with his country. He indicates groups that are racist or exploitive, and actually lists names of prominent figures who have been blamed for racist movements or actions, as well as likely referencing the Klu Klux Klan multiple times.

They say (who say?)
Who do the saying
Who is them paying
Who tell the lies
Who in disguise
Who had the slaves
Who got the bux out the Bucks

Who got fat from plantations
Who genocided Indians
Tried to waste the Black nation

Throughout the first section of this poem, Baraka is looking at who is responsible for the problems in his country today. He references many atrocities of humanity, but focuses specifically on those levelled against the African-American community. He goes on to point at the historical upper class of early America – Christian slave owners. This is meant for a community in America who hurl a bad name and slap fines and punitive measures on the toilers and workers, who destroy creations with ammunitions and weapons of mass destruction. He goes on to move also blame this group for international atrocities:

Who stole Puerto Rico
Who stole the Indies, the Philipines, Manhattan
Australia & The Hebrides
Who forced opium on the Chinese

Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers

In these lines, the author is again referencing historical events he feels are atrocities against ethnicities. He is also pointing out that the reason these atrocities are seldom talked about or viewed as such is because this traditional class has control of the media, giving them the power to limit or modify public perspective.

Baraka has a different definition of who is the terrorist. It is the exploiter who lives on the blood and sweat of producers, who gets "fat" from plantation surplus, who kills and decides the law, who pushes down the values and virtues of others.The terrorists are those who make the law, who make the distinction, who lives on others’ toil and who legislates. Terrorists are those who do not break the structure, but create the structures, the laws, the conventions, the cities, the rules and who creates the jails and sermons. Terrorists are those who use their power to terrorise the people and more, they kill people when they do want to push their values.

These are the same terrorists who rule the world and rape nations like Puerto Rico, Philippines, and Australia. They introduced opium to Chinese and made them inactive. These are the ones who spread venereal diseases on to the slave population so that their collective backbone becomes weak. This mixture of philosophical and physical terrorism is vast, but Baraka ensures that it is clearly pointed at a small group of specific people.

Who own what ain’t even known to be owned
Who own the owners that ain’t the real owners

Who own the suburbs
Who suck the cities
Who make the laws

Who made Bush president
Who believe the confederate flag need to be flying
Who talk about democracy and be lying

Who the Beast in Revelations
Who 666
Who know who decide
Jesus get crucified

Who the Devil on the real side
Who got rich from Armenian genocide

Baraka shifts his focus from tearing on the white traditional upper class of America to a group that "owns" them, or is paying them for influence within their realm. He insists that this influential group is behind Bush’s rise to presidency and is anti-democratic. He then makes references to biblical events who he also blames on this specific group, as well as referencing the Armenian genocide.

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?

Theories regarding who authored the attacks on 9/11 abound. Baraka pointed at Israel, indicating that they knew the incident would take place. However, he also points to the countries civilization that had already created everything used to destroy their country. The physical reality was simply waiting to occur.

Theme and Conclusion
Throughout this poem, Baraka is placing blame for current and historical atrocities. The evil of exploitation is consistently repeated throughout the poem. However, as the poem ends with a perception that justified violent response will emanate from exploitation, Baraka’s communist leanings become clear. He mixes these themes of exploitation and justice throughout the poem. Baraka lists all the misdeeds and destructions in the name of development; he then connects all the exploiters he thinks are and putting them in one category against everyone who produce. Terrorists are those who rule and exploit, and he claims they had destroyed America well before 9/11 took place.

Poem recitation by Amiri Baraka