“Do you see me?”
Do they see us?
A better question should be: do these people even want to see us?
Senator Corey Booker seemed on the verge of tears as he pleaded on the Senate floor for white America* to actually recognize him as a human being. It was deeply impassioned, highly moving–I have to admit that I almost shed a tear–yet in the long run utterly unnecessary and even pointless.
“America,” Senator Booker cried, “I love you. Do you see me? Do you see me? Do you know my experiences? Do you know the failings of our ideals?”
“Being Black in America is to know that a misunderstanding, that an implicit racial bias that an interaction that should be everyday and routine can become a moment that your life is turned upside down, your body becomes broken or you are killed. It’s why so many Black Americans scream out: ‘Do you see me? I do not have your equal justice under law. Do you see me? I do not have justice for all. Do you see me? I matter. I matter. Black lives matter. Black bodies matter. America, I love you, do you see me?”
Senator Booker, the answer to the above question is, quite simply, no. White America does not see us, sir. They never did, and never wanted to. For them to truly “see” us would be bad both for their business interests, and for the stability of this so-called “Great Experiment” of theirs–this massive historical fraud they call the United States of America.
But what you have wrong is your insistence that this white blindness is a failure on the part of white people to live up to the ideals of this American “Experiment.” Nope. Totally wrong. This white blindness (and our subsequent invisibility) is an integral part of the American Experiment. It is entirely by design.
In actual fact, the historical erasure of the African from Western Civilization (and from humanity) laid the very basis upon which American “Democracy” became a possibility. Who the hell else was going to pay for this White Man’s democratic paradise, but our own black bodies?
Senator, this is not hyperbolic bullshit. This is a stone, hard fact. It is precisely what it is, and nothing more or less. Otherwise, Ralph Ellison would never have had to write Invisible Man.
Sir, we are visible to this bloody country only so far as white assholes (and their colored flunkies) see us (benignly) as window-dressing or (more dangerously) as threats. In their sick, depraved minds, we are worse than escaped monkeys from a zoo. This is precisely how the white American views a so-called “African American” who turns up in some fucking white space. This is not hyperbole; this is fact. The death of James Scurlock in Omaha, Nebraska, at the hands of Jake Gardner, a fascist who owns a nightclub/bar called The Hive, is proof positive of that. (Gardner was not arrested, of course.)
We are not permitted to function in their spaces, sir. Period. The laws of the land don’t mean shit as far as we’re concerned. That is how the fucking country is set up. That is why your white countrymen keep on fucking it up. They don’t want real democracy in the United States. They definitely don’t want Socialism, unless it’s National Socialism (of course).
White America will embrace every single thing under the rainbow before they even think about looking an African directly in the face. If they had the option of actually nuking their own shit (or, God forbid, even the world) they would do that without even thinking about it. America has already gone fascist; it has been fascist since its inception, and long before the first bullet was fired at the Boston Massacre in 1770. All this insanity, all this blatant stupidity, spinelessness, cowardice and brutality has been implemented simply to avoid dealing with the reality of New African humanity.
There’s a reason why these whites and coconuts are so hopelessly blind. For white people to deal with the implications of George Floyd’s death, they would have to deal with his humanity. They can’t. Which largely explains why Mr. Floyd (along with Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Terrence Crutcher, Tamir Rice, and countless others) is dead. It also explains why it was so easy for a monster like Officer Chauvin to so casually choke the life out of this man. Officer Chauvin, like untold millions and millions of white Westerners, simply did not see George Floyd as a human being. PERIOD.
The minds of men and women like Officer Chauvin have not evolved since the end of the 17th century. The European settlers in North America at that time saw Africans as no more than beasts of burden. Their descendants have not changed. Let’s not kid ourselves, though: these whites know good and goddamn well that George Floyd was not a cockroach. These whites simply have to lie to themselves repeatedly concerning the truth of what a Black person is. Too cowardly, too close-minded and spineless to deal with the bare, blunt realities of human life–the main reality being that a Black person’s life has precisely the same value of a white person’s life–these white bigots have had to retreat into a fantasy world. (Call it Disneyland, if you want, because Disney is bigger than fucking Epcot Center.) The sad part of all this is that the rest of the world is being forced to share in this white man’s political, social, sexual, cultural and moral fantasies.
One of the white man’s most infamous fantasies is something called The Negro. The white man concocted this Negro to justify enslaving, dehumanizing and killing Africans. Enter most of your fucking “philosophers” and “thinkers,” among them Voltaire, who judged “Negroes” to be not much better than apes. (The Negro Ape trope was actually stolen from the Persians and Arabs, long-time white skin fetishists and brutal slavers in their own right.)
The more “humane” European “thinkers” (like Arthur Schopenhauer or Jean-Jacques Rousseau) found this reasoning to be too extreme and decided that the African was not an animal, but a harmless child of nature. Simple, child-like, rhythmic, emotional, sexual and above all, primitive, a noble savage. (The same logic was used on the Indigenous American, which naturally did not prevent his genocide–and at the hands of the very same people who called him “Noble.”)
In America, the Founding Fathers made a moral compromise in their beloved Constitution and decided that the African actually was not an ape–but was not entirely a man, either. So Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Company decided that the African was merely 3/5th of a man. (No question as to what they thought of African women: we already know.)
Because the whole business of reducing Africans to mere commodities had severe moral repercussions, the African gradually had to be ignored or silenced altogether. On the plantations, the African was silenced with a whip or with his tongue being cut out. In the world of letters the African was marginalized altogether and bigoted white men spoke in his place. The image of the African began to shape up along the same dumb tropes, time and again–the image of the savage cannibal, the buffoon, the gorilla, while talk on streets of London, Paris, Dresden, Leipzig, Philadelphia, Charleston, Amsterdam, Madrid and other Western cities complimented the world of letters.
The African, thus shorn of his humanity, became a Negro. And not just one kind of Negro but several kinds, both benign and deadly.
The benign negro (comparatively speaking) was a simple, primitive being devoid of intellect,¹ only good for laughter, music, sex, and some groovy good times. You know, the funky, down-home darkie, a creature never to be taken seriously by anyone and only to be seen in his properly designated social space–on the vaudeville stage (preferably in blackface) and in a nightclub or bar, sax in hand, wailing out earthy, primitive music for whitey to get drunk or high to. Or in a whorehouse.
The deadly negro was but the flip-side of the benign, comical negro. This was the negro whom whites labeled bete noire in French and a black buck in English. The mean, brutal, bloodthirsty, coked-out nigger (according to white fantasies) looked and acted like an ape. He wanted to rape and kill white women and destroy white property. In the real world this so-called “black brute” generally did not resemble the fantasy image that white perverts had of him, but he was a “brute” just the same: not because he committed crimes (he generally did not), not because he “raped white women” (he usually was not interested) but because at bottom, he was impatient with his inferior status in Western society and wished to function as a human being.
Here we have it, Senator: two flip sides of the same coin, the coin of a white, Apartheid Western world. The last bit of currency left over from the Civil War and indeed the oldest coin in circulation. It was minted in 1619.
White America will not see African Americans, but it will see the Negro. The Black person must not only present himself as an inferior being; he or she must also function inwardly as an inferior being. The African must hold his true feelings in check, eliminate any sort of behavior or appearances that will trigger white (read: anti-African) outrage. This Black person must stay out of white spaces, out of white institutions, out of white textbooks, out of white neighborhoods, out of white pictures, out of the halls of white culture save for those rare exceptions where an individual or group of Africans functions precisely in those ways that Westerners find “acceptable.”
“After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian,” W. E. Burghardt DuBois writes, “the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, — a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa; he does not wish to bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he believes—foolishly, perhaps, but fervently—that Negro blood has yet a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without losing the opportunity of self-development.”²
As a person, the Negro does not exist at all. We never had anything in common, really, with this “Negro,” this ridiculous social pantomime we’ve been forced to play out on the stage of Western history; we’ve only acted as monkeys, coons, Uncle Toms, Aunt Jemimas, bucks, jezebels, niggers, nig-nogs, minstrels, Sambos and other such foolishness to keep from ending up with knees on our necks, like George Floyd. The real tragedy is that far, far too many of us have taken this Negro pantomime for our true selves.
Education and learning (for Africans) had to be discouraged for a reason. Anti-intellectualism, religious quackery, the jock mentality and blatant stupidity (brilliantly manifested in contemporary “hip-hop”) was actively encouraged by the dominant white society as a way of keeping the old myths of The Negro alive in the African mind. I call it policing the black mind–for unless the black person actually sees himself like his white cohorts see him, the Negro cannot be said to actually exist.
“In the colonial context,” writes Frantz Fanon, “the settler only ends his work of breaking in the native when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man’s values. In the period of decolonization, the colonized masses mock at these very values, insult them and throw them up.”
Meaning what? Meaning that–in order for the African American to learn to truly love himself again, he has to jettison the Negro in himself. And by rejecting The Negro, by default, he is automatically rejecting America. He must reject America. That is how it is, Senator Booker. You just can’t love America. Not only does it NOT love you, at bottom you CAN’T love America any more than an abused child can love a gaslighting, narcissistic parent.
Our white “parent” demands that we keep on laughing, singing, dancing, crying and being stupid little monkeys no matter what the parent does to us. The white “parent” (aka Uncle Sam) does not want you to grow up. We are forced to placate this “parent” by playing the roll of “good boy”–The Negro.³ It is a profoundly unhealthy relationship. It is making us mentally and physically sick. Nothing else can explain our high homicide rates, the chaos of our neighborhoods, the flagrant domestic abuse, the alcoholism, drug abuse and the obscene “hip-hop” culture that has grown up around all this dysfunction. Nothing else can explain the utter fucking stupidity that is “mumble rap” culture. These are all the expressions of a sick, lost, confused people–lost, because we are still tethered to a society that literally FORBIDS us to be human beings.
All of the above is not “Africa” in the least. It is certainly not “America.” It is European Colonialism on steroids.
Sir, it is not possible to function in a society that is hot-wired to think that our mere existence is a crime, and whose entire foundations are built upon our Black selves being perpetually nothing. By any moral standard, this is completely unacceptable.
It is impossible to function even in a so-called “liberal” and “multiracial” society that is so thoroughly anti-African American that an entire dictionary (running to hundreds of pages) can be compiled from all the various slurs used to denigrate us, or even the color black. (Even the word “denigrate” is problematic: what the fuck does it mean to “de-nigrate” somebody? Or “blackball” or “blackmail”? What the fuck is a “blackguard”?)
As for the “conservative” element in this so-called “society,” no comment: their willingness to commit treason to “make america great again” speaks volumes.
Today (after a lull following World War Two, the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall) all the old horrors of the old, reactionary Europe are returning in full force. Those Europeans who are snickering over the demise of America barely realize that they are also snickering over the death of Europe. They have forgotten precisely where “America,” Europe’s concept of the Other Hemisphere (aka Turtle Island) actually originated. Whites worldwide are “pissed off” not because of “mass immigration” of “niggers” from Africa and the Middle East, but because the Negro they created in desperation has ceased to exist.
Is it any wonder that your average white Western Joe and Jane seem to be stumbling through the wreckage of their own ugly cities like doped-out zombies, incapable of emotions, devoid of humanity? Or that nearly everything they try to produce in terms of art, architecture, academia, fashion, music, etc., is so appallingly mediocre? Or why their socio-sexual relations are so deeply contaminated with flat-out narcissism? To destroy us, the Westerner had to destroy himself.
Why in the hell are we demanding love and acceptance from people who have no love in them?
Cory Booker, like W.E.B. DuBois before him, speaks of hope. “(It) is essential,” he says, “but it is not enough.” No shit: it was the most right thing he ever said in that speech.
“This is the end of (the African American’s) striving,” DuBois continues: “To be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, and to husband and use his best powers.” The only problem being of course is that the “kingdom of culture” in America today is actually Disneyland. I can talk for days about the sheer vulgarity, triviality and mediocrity of Disneyland. Disneyland is Kitsch-on-wheels. We don’t need to work with fucking Disneyland. Disneyland and The Hood are part and parcel of the same benighted space. There is utterly no hope whatever in finding our collective selves–let alone connecting with other people–in such a space. We need one of our own. “Black people live their whole lives in a fantasy world,” Michael Chabon once wrote, “it’s just not their fantasy.”
On second thought, maybe everything that I have said so far in this article is unnecessary. White Americans do see us, Cory Booker–as bulls-eyes for their fucking arrows.
And they don’t love us, either: they love the Negro.
Unfortunately–for them, anyway–the Negro is dead.
POSTSCRIPT: FOR DUMMIES
- Senator Cory Booker pleads before the Senate to pass the fucking Anti-Lynching Bill, which should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately Rand Paul, the libertarian Repug, jams the passage of the bill on bullshit pretexts.
- Senator Booker then tells The Senate, “America, I love you. Do you see me?”
- America refuses to see New Africans except as they wish to see them–as clowns or murderers.
- Not only does America refuse to see New Africans as they are, they demand that New Africans see themselves precisely as white Americans see New Africans–as Negroes.
- The Negro is a racist, dehumanized concept of the African which justifies his captivity.
- The Negro is the only type of Black person the American white wants to deal with 90% of the time.
- The only way Black people can function in American society is to function as “Negroes.”
- The only way to function as a Negro is to act stupid, repulsive, clownish, unintelligent, inferior, infantile. White America prefers this because this is how they see Black people.
- White America prefers a black “thug” with no brains to a Black professor who is “woke” and knows his own worth. Why? Because the “thug” doesn’t know his own worth, generally speaking. That is why he is so proud of being a “thug.”
- Therefore, those Blacks who are not self-hating are forced to pretend as if they are Negroes. Re: Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and “We Wear the Mask.”
- The conflict of having to pretend to be a Negro and being oneself often leads to severe mental disorders, even making some blacks homicidal, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.
- A Black person cannot live in American society without being appallingly unhealthy, either in mind or in body. Witness the deterioration of mainstream African American culture and the high levels of obesity among African Americans.
- In order for Black people in America to live like human beings without fear of dying from walking through a park, eating their lunch, entering a bar, breathing, selling water, drinking water, trying to buy cigarettes (like GEORGE FLOYD), or just being in your own bedroom (like Breonna Taylor) or sitting on a bench in your own neighborhood, they have to get rid of this current joke of an American system and construct a viable system of their own. American Democracy works, all right–JUST NOT FOR US.
- The only way to get rid of this rotten society is to take to the streets. Right here, right now.
*note: this includes all non-whites who think of themselves as being white, or who suffer from that dreaded mental illness called “double consciousness.”
¹David Walker’s Appeal: See the inconsistency of the assertions of those wretches–they beat us inhumanely, sometimes almost to death, for attempting to inform ourselves, by reading the Word of our Maker, and at the same time tell us, that we are beings void of intellect!!!! How admirably their practices agree with their professions in this case. (Boston: 1829.)
²W.E.B. DuBois, “Strivings of the Negro People,” The Atlantic, August 1897.
³Hilton Als: “For black people, being around white people is sometimes like taking care of babies you don’t like, babies who throw up on you again and again, but whom you cannot punish, because they’re babies. Eventually, you direct that anger at yourself–it has nowhere to go.” “A Pryor Love,” White Girls, McSweenys, 2014.