Sunday, May 01, 2011

Let Freedom Ring!

The main problem with waiting so long between what I call "real" blog posts is that they don't stop writing themselves in my head. Consequently, while I don't publish them so that you, my Faithful Readers, can actually faithfully read them, the process keeps rolling. And when I finally do have time to sit down and write, I'm so backed up, the idea set has gone from being a forty-minute "lecture" to being a three-day "workshop."

It never occurred to me before, but this might be why some of my posts run WAY longer than you have time to read. None the less, it is what it is and here I am, keyboard (rather than hat) in hand, hopeful there's somebody still out there who will wade through what I'm about to sketch out.

The train of thought began back in February, when I was invited to take a look at this post about a situation on a "Christian" college campus in Kentucky. The blogger was basically asking the Black students on the campus (who had apparently had enough of what I imagine was an on-going racist context) to continue sucking it up until White folks have time and the motivation to change. In other words, business as usual.
This business as usual expectation, of course, is not peculiar to Kentucky (where I was born) or to the deep south (where I live now), but is easily identified from coast to coast in this country even as I'm writing. In fact, even a few White folks (dare we begin to hope?) are increasingly likely to notice and admit it and try to do something about it themselves (what a concept: White Americans taking responsibility for rampant institutionalized racism in their country!)

Now, the reality is that African-Americans have been incredibly patient in their chains. They have, yes, resisted valiantly and sometimes successfully from the beginning of their ordeal, though this resistance hasn't made the history books by and large and since curricula are typically drafted by Those-Who-Have-The-Power-To-Define (White and male) and presented by teachers who, however well meaning, are painfully, painfully clueless, then our tendency is to blame Black Americans for their own victimization or to claim they'll be fine once they face the fact that they'll never be White and just accept their reduced position in the land of their birth.

The problem with this for Black people, though, is that White Supremacy as a system isn't satisfied with just threatening, beating, brutalizing, arresting, incarcerating (and using solitary confinement against), lynching, or executing a few Black folks in certain parts of the country. Most White people want African-Americans in general to be quiet while the nightmare for the Black community goes on. And the effects of this, like chickens, are coming home to roost.

I've written on this blog before about what Black sociologist Calvin Hernton called "the psychology of the damned" back in the 1960's. And Franz Fanon wrote that torture rearranges the mind of the tortured. Duh. But White folks, like the blogger writing to the Black students on the campus in Kentucky in February, either think Fanon was overstating the situation (in which case, I would suggest they go get tortured and see what they think after that) or they just don't see what is happening to Black Americans as "torture" (in which case, I would suggest that they traipse through the links in the paragraph above one more time). And I hasten to add that none of those links are about slavery in the 19th Century. They are all about the current reality in this country related to the socially-constructed, political notion of "race." Further, what happened on the campus in Kentucky can happen only because all the far worse manifestations of racial oppression such as I mention above exist.

The torture White Americans are so good at misidentifying is not something Black folks are confused about. Many believe it's "always been this way and it's always going to be this way," which is, of course, erroneous, since nothing has ever always been any way and everything changes continually, whether we recognize the change or not. However, things can get worse -- one way or the other -- and just now, it appears to me that they're doing so.

The result? More and more Black Americans (and most particularly, the young men) are, just as Calvin Hernton predicted, losing their minds. They are enraged and disheartened. They are just as desirous as anybody else of having a decent life, a decent job, a decent education, and a safe place to be and raise their children for the future. But the way it's been presented to them in substandard schools and poverty-stricken neighborhoods where cops are not their friends and 500 people apply for every job opening doesn't exactly make them believe the American dream is intended to include them and their offspring.

What makes Black rage -- and it's quieter but just as deadly cousin, frustration -- so remarkable is that White Supremacy as a system has had a really good run using brainwashing to convince Black people to ignore White Supremacy as a system and see themselves as the cause of their own problems, to see themselves through the White man's eyes: inferior, incapable, violent, and ugly. It was no mistake when Souljah Boy gave a shout out to the slave masters for rescuing Black folks from Africa. And Tom Burrell, among others, are trying to introduce an antidote. Still, the "double-consciousness" W.E.B. DuBois discussed a hundred years ago, wherein African-Americans are never allowed to be fully (and proudly) Black and fully American at the same time, continues to live on.

White Americans who protest indignantly that they never owned any slaves and they don't owe anybody anything need to recognize that they have benefitted since the day their lilly White rumps hit the doctors' hands. They were born into a society with a culture that privileges White people by seeing to it that they are more likely to get enough nutrition, go to the better schools and get the better jobs, not to mention being raised in families where, more often than not, their grandparents' grandparents were probably benefitted in the same ways. Even when European immigrants were put through changes on their arrival, they were, nevertheless, eventually allowed to become full citizens, something Black people are still waiting for.

White folks horrified by the fact that a Black man could become President of the United States have tried everything from the sublime to the ridiculous in an effort to get rid of him (none of it based on his race, of course) because Black people just can't be equal to White people in this country without the White people being reduced from their position of "superiority." Just as importantly, White Americans are not arrested, brutalized, and discriminated against in the same ways as people of color and that alone would make it easier and better to be White.

In short, as Dr. William R. Jones (my principal intellectual mentor) used to say: White people in America get the "most of the best and the least of the worst." Right now. Today. Are all White people high-rollin'? No. (But even a rich Black American is still "Black" in America, something few Whites would want to be -- not because it's not a good thing to be, but because of the way Black people are treated in this country.) Do lots of White people work hard to claim their benefits? Yes. (But nobody in history has worked harder for less pay back than Black Americans.) The fact is it's better to be White than Black in this country and the reason is because White people have the power.

So, if you're a "White" person in the United States, unless you're working daily to get rid of White Supremacy as a system, you are, in fact, personally responsible for the anguish Black Americans suffer at the hands of that system. We love to hear America called the "land of the free," but I don't see how we can say the entire country is "free" when people of color born in it aren't treated as full citizens. As long as only White folks can enjoy their "rights" and "privileges" as "free" Americans, then America isn't free. Just the White folks are.

In the meantime, Black people who are overcoming the effects of their "Whitewashing" are creating a list of demands. I, for one, suggest listening.


Soma said...

Black or not, I'm disappointed at how indistinguishable the Obama years have been in policy vs. the Bush years. The left/right paradigm is becoming more evident as a U.S. political system of social control-- especially given the recent assassination of the infamous "9/11 mastermind" OBL whose death served a couple of political purposes last night. After all, if your big target is hiding in a mansion in the big city, you're obviously ignoring him to further global goals first.

fwoan said...

Soma, for many years OBL was more useful alive than dead. He was a symbol that justified our many crimes against the Middle-East. Every death campaign we initiated could be excused as an endeavor to finally find OBL. After 10 years of that, it's lost its allure and conviction. He'd served his purpose and now he's served another. What better way for Obama to kick of his WIN THE FUTURE-PALOOZA reelection campaign that to show how good he is at satisfying American blood-lust?

Brotha Wolf said...

This system and reality of white supremacy and white privilege may not last forever, but sadly, it is still strongly hanging on.

Temple said...

I have NO idea (and neither does anyone else, black or not) what the situation was in apprehending/killing OBL. I do know that the US is & has been in the middle of two hot wars in Iraq & Afghanistan & have lost many American lives (black & not). Therefore, taking the time to track down & get definitive intel on the whereabouts of OBL after nearly 10 years of sightings & near misses was what contributed to this successful mission (no American lives lost in taking out OBL).

@Changeseeker: "The result? More and more Black Americans (and most particularly, the young men) are, just as Calvin Hernton predicted, losing their minds."

This article is great. I have just one major concern. It's the default position to focus only/primarily on men in our society (black men in the case of racial oppression), but black women are also oppressed in the institutionalized racism culture. In a race focused, patriarchal society the issues that minority women struggle with are invisibalized--this is especially true for black women in our racist/sexist society.


Changeseeker said...

Soma, fwoan, and Temple (re Osama bin Laden): I'm so cynical that I'm inclined to doubt we killed him the other night. I have MAJOR problems believing we needed to so rapidly dispose of the body. It takes me back to the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9-11 and then vaporized completely before anyone could see any of the pieces. I'm incredulous at the ease with which the populace of this country just casually accepts whatever they're told, however odd it is.

In fact, for all we know bin Laden has been dead for some time. Somewhere along the line, he was reported to be suffering from kidney issues severe enough that he required dialysis. It would be difficult to stay alive on the move or in a bunker under those circumstances. I believe roughly nothing the government says about much of anything.

Another "perq" of the so-called death, which as fwoan says, was SO timely for Barack Obama's purposes: the articles attribute this "triumph" to the use of interrogation "techniques" admitted to be WAY outside the bounds of human decency. This in the face of interrogation experts saying you virtually never get anything of use that way. But suddenly, they do.


And as far as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned, I have never believed we belong either place. We were thrown into these wars behind an agenda that has little if anything to do with Al Quaeda and everything to do with private interests related to the concentration of wealth and power in the world. I lay every dead body (man, woman or child; Iraqi, Afghan or American, soldier or civilian) at the feet of those who have colluded against the U.S. population (politically and economically) to use our tax dollars and the lives of our young for purposes not in the best interest of the human race. The decision-making that has been used in this country to make a few (White males) ridiculously rich at the expense of everybody else (a set of patterns and principles that date back to our foundation as a country) will ultimately destroy us, if we continue to let it.

Changeseeker said...

@ Temple (re the situation of Black women in the United States): I couldn't agree with you more. The double whammy under which Black women must live their daily lives (sexism AND racism) is, like the patriarchy in general, ignored (even in the Black community) behind accolades given "strong" Black women who somehow beat the odds anyway. They have no respite so they have no choice. In fact, White Supremacy uses the decimation of Black men (prison, unemployment, etc.) as another way to attack Black women, who can't win for losing. I will be more cautious in the future to avoid masking the struggle of Black women. Thanks for the comment.

Temple said...

Hello Changeseeker--
I "give" the points you make about OBL (I see how what you say could def be possible) & completely agree with you on how unnecessary these wars are. As for this:
"I'm incredulous at the ease with which the populace of this country just casually accepts whatever they're told, however odd it is."

Successfully assimilating includes never questioning or being reluctant to question your government & other authority figures. Does this make sense? "Rebel" is a slur in contemporary society. In other words we're stringently taught to be sheep from a young age--& many of us are take to the training.

More importantly, I appreciate your taking into consideration my concern about minority/black women & oppression.

Changeseeker said...

Temple: I'm embarrassed I had to be reminded. I know better.

Anonymous said...

it's incredible to me that face that we stay in this forsaken place, yet still we are able to remain so seemingly civil.

i understand all the reasons why this is logically possible, but to have the self awareness that we do, it boggles me how it is spiritually possible for us to live with these realities.

Changeseeker said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Anonymous. I don't understand how it's done, but I have GREAT respect for whatever makes it possible, as well as for those who continue to manifest this level of spiritual development and its emotional and psychological indicators in the face of the continuing onslaught.