Those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it.* I see some-black activists proposing ideas that are rethreaded concepts from the past. If you don’t know the origins of racism, how will you understand and address it and not repeat past mistakes? Some are creating phantom citadels that mirror the white supremacist ideology of fantasy worlds where they once were supreme. We are all human beings. No one is above or beneath another. We will only achieve understanding and peace when we see ourselves as equals, and we take the time to take care of this beautiful world.
Others are threading the line that we should not antagonise whites because we need them on our side. Therefore, we must hide information that might make them feel uncomfortable — an example of this being how the British used revenue from slavery to partially finance the industrial revolution.
*George Santayana “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Life of Reason, 1905.
So-called white people are not the only perpetrators of white supremacy. We are all born in a world where white supremacy is the dominant ideology. White supremacy does not refer to skin colour. It references a system of power designed to maintain its privileges. We enable this system to exist by validating it. We are all agents of this ideology. *
Colourism is one of the ways that people of colour support white supremacy. Gender politics is another method used to maintain the system. There are many untouchables because we have accepted the doctrines of some of the intellectual classes’ prominent voices. Black men’s systematic oppression is one of those, the idea that all black men as aggressive, savages, sexual predators, incapable of being faithful, hypersexual, lazy, incapable of excelling academically. If a black man cry in pain, read rage. If he is depressed, read insane.
Very few take the time to research the origins of these ideas. For example, in the Caribbean, black slaves were not allowed to marry. The slave owners saw this as a way of preventing the slaves from creating family units. The family unit they believed was one of the nuclei for creating a community. Once you create a community, you increase the risks of collective action, in this case, an uprising against the system. One could argue that the contemporary mass incarceration of black men achieves the same objectives.
On the idea of a black man experiencing anxiety and depression being equated to him being insane, a past graphic example of this was the slave owners not comprehending why the slaves transported from Africa would throw themselves off cliffs.
It is not only whites who invest in the idea of the hyper-sexualised, intellectually challenged, lazy black man. We are at once victims and perpetrators of white privilege and supremacy.
The dominant ideology emotionally castrates the black man. Men are born into the doctrine of being a provider; this is one of society’s gauge of masculinity. What is the black man supposed to do when this is denied to him? Again, one is faced with a schizophrenic situation, the black man as hypersexual but materially impotent, unable to provide for his family.
Perversely, we have the culturally embedded image of the lazy black man sitting around drinking alcohol and doing nothing. This representation is not unique to the black man. The dominant ideology also uses this representation to portray the white working-class man. The image of the impotent male is one anyone who lived through the miners’ strike will recognise. Also, one could visibly see and feel the trauma that the men were going through. The contrast between this and the black man’s media portrayal is that they are not shown in a sympathetic light. The black man is always deserving of his plight — i.e. they bought it on themselves.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have the white supremacists’ ideology of the white woman’s purity and sanctity, one that they should protect at all cost. The black man should not be allowed to defile the white woman. The black man savagery and destruction is the polar opposite of what she represents.
To paraphrase the great man James Baldwin, “whatever the ‘white man’ projects unto the black man reveal what he does not know about himself or chooses to ignore.”
*Armando Sánchez inspired the ideas in the paragraph above: You Can’t Fight White Supremacy and Keep All Your White Friends by Armando Sánchez.