White Racist Liberal Paternalism–in Blackface

(Part One of Two)

Patriarchy takes for granted that women are inferior and “the weaker sex,” as assholes used to refer to women decades before. The system of patriarchy is smug in its paternalism towards women. Patriarchs love to hold open doors for women and treat them with what they (patriarchs) imagine to be “respect.” “Respect and protect women,” they chant, like a bunch of crows perched on a tree branch. They love to talk of women being “queens” and how “strong” and “lovely” and “noble” and “fair” they are. They say women are romantic and emotional while men are visual and phallic, that women are from Venus while men are from Mars and all that crap. Actually, both are from planet earth but who cares? The language of patriarchy puts women on a pedestal that women themselves did not create.

The paternalistic language of patriarchy is highly indulgent and ever-adaptable. It is a shape-shifting chameleon, and therefore a dangerous language. Actually it has evolved to the point where self-proclaimed feminists can borrow extensively from it without their even realizing it. Feminists speak of their bodies being “sexualized” by “heterosexists,” of the “oppressive male gaze,” and so on. This is a white, Western middle-class concern, voiced in rhetoric that has precise roots in the blue-stocking language of Victorian social reformers, nearly all of whom were White, female (and largely racist) Anglo-Saxon Protestants. But today’s Social Justice Warrior does not do his or her research; in fact they do not read books at all unless they are schlock books by Amanda Hocking or Jonathan Safran Foer. They refuse to realize that when they express shock and horror at the expression of overt sexuality they are walking in the high-laced shoes of Carrie Nation, Anthony Comstock and their ilk.

These modern-day Victorian social reformers will never admit to themselves that their rejection of sexuality (especially heterosexuality) is heavily tinged with racism. It is the exact same racism of their late 19th century American ancestors, who were horrified that newly-freed black male slaves were now free to put their hands on white women. These ancestors had once been Abolitionists and felt relatively safe in protesting the enslavement of Africans–safe, because he was in chains; because he was illiterate, and generally not in any position to challenge the authority of white Americans. But when he was freed he became a threat. Feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton made her position clear in an oft-quoted statement from 1868:  “Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who never read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for Lydia Maria Childs, Lucretia Mott, or Fanny Kemble.”¹

Of course, it probably never occurred to Ms. Stanton that Patrick the Mick, Sambo the Sambo, Hans the Kraut and Ching Chong could ever rise to the high Democratic cultural standard of the superior Anglo-Saxon Race. Today, her ideological descendants, many of whom are black, think that such a feat might still be worthwhile. Many of these black descendants are self-styled “feminists,” “feministas” and “New Black Men,” who are quite young and generally middle-class oriented. A lot of them are self-styled “Afropunks,” and though they are among the most privileged of all African Americans in light of their economic standing (and the willingness of the white Establishment to employ them), they often pretend to be at a social disadvantage vis-a-vis other black people–most especially “heterosexual black men.”

The writer is familiar with these kinds of privileged blacks because he attended high school and college with them. He knew (and still knows) a lot of them personally. So when someone such as Damon Young writes that “Straight Black Men” are the white men of Black America, he just rolls his eyes to the ceiling of his room and says, “here we go again.”

Yep, here we go again. There are no shortage of articles in print or on the internet that deal with this very same subject: the supposed savagery of the Black Male. I compiled such an enormous amount of data researching it that I decided to tackle the subject of Black Male Savagery from an entirely different historical context and in an entirely different nation: French Algeria.

“Beneath the patrilineal pattern of Algerian society,” Frantz Fanon writes, “the (French settler) specialists described a structure of matrilineal essence…The Algerian woman, an intermediary between obscure forces and the group, appeared in this perspective to assume a primordial importance. Behind the visible, manifest patriarchy, the more significant existence of a basic matriarchy was affirmed. The role of the Algerian mother, that of the grandmother, the aunt and the “old woman,” were inventoried and defined.

“This enabled the colonial administration to define a precise political doctrine: ‘if we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight.’ It was the situation of woman that was accordingly taken as the theme of action. The dominant administration solemnly undertook to defend this woman, pictured as humiliated, sequestered, cloistered…The behavior of the Algerian was very firmly denounced and described as medieval and barbaric. With infinite science, a blanket indictment against the ‘sadistic and vampirish’ Algerian attitude towards women was drawn up. Around the family life of the Algerian, the occupier piled up a whole mass of judgments, appraisals, reasons, accumulated anecdotes and edifying examples, thus attempting to confine the Algerian within a circle of guilt.”² (Italics mine)

If Fanon’s words sound eerily (and nauseatingly) familiar to an African American reader, that’s because they are familiar. Since the end of Reconstruction we have heard similar rhetoric not only from our avowed enemies but even from liberal and even left-leaning whites and blacks who call themselves our allies. From Elizabeth Stanton to Joel Chandler Harris to Charles Carroll to Robert Shufeldt to Susan Brownmiller to Alice Walker, Ann DuCille, Sapphire, Mark Anthony Neal, bell hooks, Bill Cosby, Cornel West, Kevin Powell and lately Barack Obama, Robert Lashley, Jemelle Harris and others we have heard variations on this same tiresome theme. It would be a waste of our time to trudge through all of their paternalistic nonsense–I invite the reader to do this independently–but to sum it all up their words toward black men (particularly heterosexual black men) can be summed up with a few words: stop acting like a nigger savage and act like we tell you to.

We are not that stupid. We know that VSB is a subsidiary of The Root, which in itself is a subsidiary of Univision, a white Cuban-American owned TV station. The Root is really rootless. (Univison pretends to be non-white whenever it has to deal with Dolt 45 and the alt-shite. When it deals with African Americans or Afro-Latinos, it puts on blackface and makes monkey noises.)

Although not entirely without merit, The Root has a long history of condescending to rank-and-file African Americans. Nearly ten years ago The Root was roasted by Ta-Nehisi Coates for insinuating that African Americans were an anti-intellectual people. The author of that article was right on many accounts but Mr. Coates was even more correct in calling the author into question. It was the same old black bourgeois condescension towards the unwashed black masses that we have been hearing for God knows how long, and quite frankly we are sick and tired of hearing it.

The “heterosexual black male” as seen by neoliberal society

We, the unwashed negroids, are surfeited with privileged blacks scribbling this stuff on high for Harper’s, or the Huffington Post, or from The Grio or The Root telling us to “clean up our act” and “pull up our pants” or some such shit. And in the case of Mr. Young–well, it isn’t so much what Damon Young said concerning allegedly heterosexual black men vis-a-vis “black people”–one wonders which “black people” he really has in mind–but how he said it, and how he framed his narrative concerning black machismo. He generalized about an entire subset of the American population and not-so-subtly stigmatized them as The Enemy.

It is white paternalism disguised as black brotherly advice. Damon Young talks of black heterosexism³ and “patriarchy,” parroting the language of the white liberal academy, which doesn’t give a shit about blacks one way or the other. The white liberal academy’s job is to make sure that African Americans are sufficiently divided and compartmentalized so that the white political establishment can manage them better. Some have suggested that Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas was being satirical. He isn’t being satirical; he is doing the white liberal’s dirty work, like Robert Lashley before him, and Mark Anthony Neal, Kevin Powell, Randall Kenan and countless others before that.

Mr. Young’s piece is getting accolades from wannabe black establishment writers who foolishly believe that this is actually a subject worth talking about. “I thought Damon did an excellent job tackling a difficult and complicated issue, and I was happy that he used his male privilege to help tell our stories,” a Dr. Kristian H. wrote in the Huffington Post. “Black women have not been allowed to be both Black and female. Historically, we have had to choose our race over our gender, and we have not had the space to express the challenges we face as women. We have not talked about our pain in order to protect our Black men’s dignity. We have not been able to be truly feminist, for fear that it disregards, or contradicts, our shared Blackness. We are so worried about the repercussions of discussing our issues with toxic masculinity that we ignore them.”

Of course, when Kristian H. says “we” she is referring to her own subset of black middle-class women who go through the same trauma and pain she describes. I’m not going to say that the pain is all in her head, but she is pointing to the wrong source of that pain. She can at least gently protest Damon Young’s whitewashing of “heterosexist” black men by saying his basic analogy is “divisive and hurtful,” but in her elite feminist angst she goes on a tear and contradicts herself: “You are not absolved of the responsibility of both acknowledging and uplifting your Black women. Black men have a heavy burden to bear, and you have been taught and conditioned that it is somehow acceptable to dump that burden on Black women. Black men have historically only had power over Black women, so you’ve made us suffer to help ease your pain. You have disrespected us, you have degraded us, you have silenced us. Yes, slavery, oppression, colonization, and dehumanization can take its toll on your psychological well-being. We get that you are in pain, we are too, and we want to support you. But being in pain is not an excuse to cause pain; we must stop the cycle of abuse.”

Kristian H. continues: “Black women are often harassed on the street by Black men who objectify our bodies,* and we are taught to be polite and smile to ensure our safety from a young age.º We are taught victim blaming, we internalize it, and we try to dress a certain way because only “respectable” women deserve respect. I am sorry, Damon’s piece is not dividing Black men and women; Black men are dividing us with their own actions, of their own accord. They are doing that when they refuse to date Black women. They are doing it when they call us aggressive, argumentative, or a feminist (which is apparently a bad word) for talking about these issues.” (Italics mine)

If I were white, I might believe Kristian H’s rant. But I am not. I can only remember my mother decades ago frequently putting my father firmly in his place whenever she felt he had said something she disagreed with. (I owe my razor-sharp tongue to my mother as well as my father, by the way.) I can only recall black women on the streets of Washington D.C. in the eighties, nineties and 2000s wearing skin-tight latex pants and not too worried about the “heterosexist male gaze;” if anything, they appeared to relish it. They made up the majority of black women in that city then and still do now. Kristian H. does not. She is a product of a fake white liberal academia that is so paternalist in outlook that it thinks it can not only manufacture our history and identity but also–absurdly enough–imagines it can dictate the exact terms of our own oppression to us.

*

Fanon himself has been accused of sexism on more than one occasion. Yet in spite of this we should listen carefully to Fanon’s words here, in light of Damon Young and Dr. Kristian H. We have seen all of this before and not just in America, not just in colonial Algeria. “Colonial society blazes up vehemently against this inferior status of the Algerian woman,” Fanon writes, and a French feminist-settler is quoted in the book as saying, “We want to make the Algerian ashamed of the fate that he metes out to his women.”

Today we know that the colonial French were completely full of shit. When Algerian women refused to fall for the bait, the French colonial patriarchs and matriarchs alike declared a “nigger-hunt.” After November 1, 1954 the French liberals and feminists decided that an Algerian was an Algerian, feminist, patriarch, gay, straight, light, dark, rich, poor, or otherwise. The events of that day (and subsequent ones) showed French colonialist liberals that their attempts to forestall Algerian independence had been in vain. Nonetheless, they kept at it:

A strand of hair, a bit of forehead, a segment of an “overwhelmingly beautiful face” glimpsed in a streetcar or on a train, may suffice to keep alive and strengthen the European’s persistence in his irrational conviction that the Algerian woman is the queen of all women. (Fanon, p. 43)

Algerian women were not falling for it. After 1955 Algerian women were allowed to fight in the war for independence. Whatever Djamila Bouhired thought of Algerian patriarchal machismo she was not chipping in her lot with French liberals and certainly not writing sob sister stories to center-left French magazines, detailing her abuse at the hands of macho Algerian men. Nobody is dare suggesting that such men did not exist: they did. But that is not the point.

One million Algerians lost their lives in a fight against the kind of liberal fuckery that Damon Young and Kristian H and Kevin Powell and Robert Lashley childishly spout. Understand that the aforementioned negroes are only concerned about their own personal glory. They want literary prizes, they want book contracts, they want to see their names on the New York Times bestseller list. But they don’t want to look like obsequious alt-right colored bootlicks like that lump of shit, Jesse Lee Petersen, or those two gold-dust twins Diamond and Silk. So they take a route which they imagine is more honorable: calling out black men on their abusive and irresponsible behavior. And not just any group of black men, mind you, but straight black men.

But Black liberals do not understand gay culture, whether black or white. The black liberal image of the black gay male is just as condescending as its image of the straight black male: whereas all straight black men are priapic crotch-grabbing machos, apparently all gay black men are limp-wristed, faggoty snap-queens who look like RuPaul. As a heterosexual black male even I have to call bullshit on this. But you know American liberals–they, like their supposed enemies on the far right, also live in a world of cheap stereotypes.

Most of these violent black machos–and there are many of them–are either heterosexual failures, or actually gay. A few of them have been caught wearing dresses, as this lovely example clearly shows. Many of these ultra-macho black (c)rappers are rumored to be gay, and according to Suge Knight himself at least ninety-five percent of them are. Now American society does not give a shit about black gay men, but they see some of them as useful tools in beating other black men in the head with; they imagine that the black gay man–because he has been ostracized from his community (and let’s face it, he often is)–will be useful in ridiculing and beating down the rest of us.

Anyone who has spent time in Black America knows who the real “white” people are in our communities. They are the pseudo-educated black males and females or they are black male drug dealers, entertainers, politicians, pimps, cops and of course, thugs. The irony of this is that in real time–not in Harvard’s make-believe ballroom time–black women are far more likely to avoid jail, to get employed, to choose whichever mate they wish to be with, and in general they are single out of choice (no matter what some liars may say).

Black American women in general prefer men they perceive to be glamorous, and that perception is unpleasantly skewered towards outlaws, bad-boys, thugs, etc. It is one thing to accuse the black heterosexual male of being a thug and quite another to ask who made him that way. The Harvard liberals won’t go there for a reason. They know that it was that black thug’s mammy who made him the way he is and they also know that black women (generally speaking) prefer black men to be thugs because they—well, many black women think that’s sexy.

Your average straight black man in America is not considered desirable because he is “a broke-ass nigga,” as anyone will tell you on the street. He has no real money and drives a shitty car. He is unemployed or underemployed. He does not own anything. He does not manufacture anything. He does not print the money. He does not head any army or any navy. He has a flag which, at the moment, does not stand for much more than angry ressentiment. Above all he has zero control over black women, who will tell him exactly what they feel about him in no uncertain terms. These same women will insult him, reject him, beat him up, jail him or even kill him. He has no privilege other than that which exists in the heads of Anglo-Saxonized negro feminists, racist Asians, racist Latinos (especially Mexicans), racist white ethnics, and toothless redneck trash who think “niggers” are stealing their jobs and women. In fact he is collectively what white men used to call “the lady of the races,” and for good reason: he is nothing in the eyes of America, nothing in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of his wife, girlfriend, mother, father, children and finally even his own.

Negro-Saxons and their lot are not interested in talking to this man. They have already decided that he is not really a human being. They are too keen on playing leap-frog over this man to get to the top of the Anglo-Saxon’s totem pole. They don’t give a shit if this black macho is systematically dehumanized and depersonalized. They don’t give a shit if his actions have less to do with privilege and more to do with his having been turned into a man-child after four centuries of slavery. And more importantly, they certainly don’t give a shit if millions of black women really do get beaten and killed by these machos–as long as they can’t write a book about it and make millions.

*

Damon Young “clapped back” when thousands of angry writers responded to his ill-thought out article. He now pretends that “moist” is worse than the word “nigger.” Damon is entitled to his opinions, but he needs to stop treating black Americans like children. Not just STRAIGHT black American males–we don’t need anymore of these stupid colonial-style divisions–but African Americans, full stop. Everyone is implicated. Any mother who has raised a straight black male child is also implicated, because that mother largely made him what he is. Mr. Young, Mr. Lashley and Kevin Powell are either too ignorant, too confused or too contemptuous of African Americans as a group to see that when they attack “heterosexual black men,” they are also leveling the gun at themselves.

They are too short-sighted to see that articles and theories such as these are used as alibis by the white public to socially ostracize black men on sight, regardless of their sexual orientation. When a cop, or a white woman or man sees a black man in a predominately non-black social setting, the first impulse will be to have him singled out and then detained. We know that white society makes no distinctions, and when the shit hits the fan in a few years Damon Young just might find himself in the gas chamber before most of us—if only because he is more visible and more prominent than the rest of us. But—like those Jewish collaborators for Adolf Hitler– he might get lucky and join some future Neger-rat that will protect his ass from immediate death.

Sterling Brown once said, “Harvard has ruined more niggers than bad liquor.” He was right. And ditto for white liberalism.

 

FOOTNOTES

¹Written in 1868 for The Revolution, a suffragist paper funded by Irish-American Democrat and arch-racist George Francis Train.

²Fanon, “Algeria Unveiled,” Studies in a Dying Colonialism, p. 35-45

³White people call it a “jock mentality.”

*How quaintly Victorian of her.

ºSpeak for yourself, Kristian H. Most black women we see on an every-day basis are as in-your-face and rude as they see fit. Of course there are exceptions, but we don’t see too many of them.

 

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On Chancellor Williams’s “Destruction of Black Civilization”

The late Chancellor Williams was no slouch when it came to researching African history. As he himself states near the beginning of his book, “(R)esearching African history is more tedious, laborious, and time-consuming than is true in other unsuppressed fields.” He is certainly right about that. Until very recently it was next to impossible to obtain substantial documents and data dealing with the history of sub-Saharan Africa. When “The Destruction of Black Civilization” appeared in 1971 the fabled libraries of Timbuktu were, in the minds of even the most ardent African scholars, largely still a fable. Unfortunately, his decades of thoroughgoing research in Africa, Europe and elsewhere had not amounted to much, if we have just this book to go on. The details in this meager book, generally speaking, and particularly in regards to Egypt and Sudan reveal nothing that one would not just as easily gleamed from other texts. About Ghana, Mali and Songhay he says precious little–in fact, all the information Dr. Williams provides about these three West African states could fill an article in the New Yorker. (There is, to be fair, invaluable, substantial, and much-needed information on the little-known Kingdom of Kuba.) However, in these instances–and much in line with his accounts of Egypt, Meroe, Axum and other kingdoms–the details are all overladen with heavy-handed rhetorical generalizing about “The Blacks” and, most especially, their fateful encounters with Europeans and Asiatics.

The gist of Williams’s generalizations is that a bunch of bloodsucking, homicidal ofays and gooks wrecked the African continent. Which, as nasty as it sounds, is quite true. No doubt about that. The crushing of Songhai at the hands of the Moroccans on March 13, 1591 (mirroring an earlier crushing of Ghana at the hands of the Almoravid Berbers in 1076) is a prime example, as was the Hyksos invasion of Egypt thousands of years earlier. And of course, one need only look at the mad scramble for Africa that took place after the Berlin Conference of 1885 (and let’s not make mention of both slave trades–the European and the Arab–the latter of which lasted far longer and took many more lives). So on one level, Williams is right about Eurasian homicidal mania towards Africa. Where he is wrong–for the most part, that is–is in deducing the intent of Eurasian destruction of Africa, at least before the arrival of the Portuguese.

Williams says (not suggests) that Black Africa was originally one big continent full of Black people who–at one magical, mythical point in its prehistory–all spoke one language and belonged to one tribe: the magical, mythical Black African tribe, who all saw, felt, ate, drank, copulated, lived and died as Blacks. On the one hand, that’s not earth-shattering news: 20,000 years ago, virtually every homo sapien on the planet was more or less still “African” in appearance, if not in language. Williams, on the other hand, was eager to assert that all these mythical Black Africans had “Black Consciousness” in the face of a white enemy waiting with sharpened knives outside the gates of Sinai–and that typical Black moral failings (divisiveness, pettiness, selfishness, greed, self-hatred, disrespect for centralized authority, and naivete in dealing with non-Blacks) led to its destruction.

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Ashanti house in Ghana

Another false assertion that he pushes in his little book is that Eurasia’s ancient rape of Africa was really done solely out of racist envy and spite, rather than desperate plunder by barbarous groups of non-Africans (who may not have been nearly as “white” as he imagined them to be) with meager resources and even less patience for the civilized graces of more established nations. The same fate that befell Egypt and Carthage also befell Mycenae, Elam, Sumeria, Sassanid Persia, Mohenjo-Daro, Ancient China, Ancient Vietnam (at the hands of China), and even Rome itself.  There is also the question of the desire of imperial conquest, which naturally drove China to quash and colonize Vietnam for over 1,000 years beginning in 111 BC; or the destruction of medieval Cambodia at the hands of the Siamese c. 1431. Lest anyone think this is entirely race-motivated, one need only research the destruction of Constantinople at the hands of the Venetians in the latter part of the 13th century: both parties were white Europeans, yet clearly despised each other for reasons that had nothing to do with skin color.

The same held true in Africa, whether North or South, east or west. It sounds cliched, but building an empire is much like making an omelette: one has to break some eggs in the process. Medieval Mali and Songhai, respectively, were about the size of the entire European continent. Yet neither empire was built by the consent of the peoples it subjugated–and no group of people, anywhere in the world, has ever really cottoned to the idea of being subjugated to another, whether in the form of vassalage (as was the case with much of Mali’s empire) or outright conquest (also true of Mali as well as Songhay, which were largely built on the ruins of Ghana and Susu). Indeed the very creation of Mali came about as a result of a crippled Mandinka, Sundiata Keita, who not only felt humiliated to be subject to the Sosso (an upstart kingdom which had encroached upon Mandinka land in its expansionist moves across West Africa)–but who, according to the national epic of Mali, was prophesied to be a great leader by the oppressed Mandinka. Mali’s national epic is essentially the story of a liberation struggle against an imperialist nation that was neither European nor Arab, and in human history prior to 1400 this is no anomaly.

The best I can say about “Destruction” is that it is superbly written. It would have made an excellent historical novel. As for straightforward history, the book is marred by false and romantic assumptions about African history. My point is not to argue whether or not the Ancient Egyptians were Africans, since most of the evidence gathered about them strongly suggests that they were of sub-Saharan origin. (Actually most of the period portraiture, mummies and DNA evidence speaks for itself.) My point is that in no period of pre-colonial African history did Africans have the kind of “black consciousness” that Dr. Williams so vehemently espouses, and with which he so vehemently lambastes Africans for lacking. “Black consciousness” (notwithstanding the revealing name KEMET) was almost entirely a product of an anti-colonial and anti-slavery sentiment that began long after the fall of Songhai in 1591.

Aside from the chapter dealing with the Bushongo of Central Africa, there is very little nuance anywhere to be found in The Destruction of African Civilization. This book, had it purported to deal with the myriad factors and fine details as to what caused the collapse of African civilization–should have been at least four times as long as it is. Of course, even today, it is extremely difficult to write cogently about sub-Saharan African history without filling in the gaps with conjecture and outright solipsism, so maybe one should at least give some credit to Dr. Williams in opening up a discussion on a subject which had been previously ignored. But that is not enough, for there is a more troubling issue at stake here.

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Pharaoh Menkaure, 4th Dynasty (Egypt)

Williams was naive enough to assume that pre-colonial Africans were actually infected with the profound self-loathing and depersonalization–what Dr. Du Bois rather politely called “double consciousness”–that Africans suffer today. He was even more naive in assuming that all black people everywhere were essentially the same in nature and outlook. Indeed, the last thing that Africans anywhere in the world need is yet another piece of work that reduces them down to a common denominator, however positive that denominator may appear to be. This alone should be enough for a half-way intelligent person to put the book down. What Dr. Williams says concerning Africa’s downfall could just as well apply to the Chinese downfall, the Arab downfall, the Roman downfall, the Byzantine downfall, the various downfalls of India, South East Asia, and naturally the total annihilation of Pre-Columbian America. Dr. Williams projects the anxieties of a mid-twentieth century Black American pan-Africanist back into Africa’s pre-colonial past, and as a result, THE DESTRUCTION OF BLACK CIVILIZATION should be taken with a cup of salt.