‘A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify, and praise the action through which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence.’ Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
We are not always invisible. Indigenous Americans, once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, are, for the most part, in fixed locations, residing on reservations or working at gambling casino. But Black Americans are central to the narrative of American innocence. Without Black Americans, how would America’s brand of white supremacy make itself visible to the world?
After the “discovery” of gold, silver, and other minerals in Asia and Indonesia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, Europe “civilized” itself through the forced acquisition of free labor, particularly that free labor of kidnapped Africans.
From chaos to order, in other words, this movement from a barbaric to a civilized collection of nation states, can’t be understood only in terms of the buying and selling of Black bodies on the market. How does a people justify the dehumanization and degradation of another people if not through the stories it tells itself—about the Self and that Other? To annul the humanity of Black people, you need culture. Through culture, you need to teach a new way of seeing and understanding whiteness in relation to blackness.
The recent shootings of Black bodies by law enforcement is not about race? Don’t fool yourself! Violence against Black Americans is all about the use of power to try and subjugate blackness—and, in turn, white fear! It is a Sisyphus-like endeavor. You need institutions to speak of a moral imperative to make use of Black bodies; to describe in stories the impenetrable darkness of Africa and, by association, its people; to teach where evil and criminality resides; to depict beauty as whiteness in the valued art in our most valued museums. You need to reinforce, through the films and through the media what it means to be white in America and what it means to be Black. And if this narrative of innocence does not met with resistance, then white America is comfortable. The elaborate security net, albeit disguised in the cultural sphere has done its job—that is, maintaining the subjugation of Black Americans.
Resistance is met with prison or death. And even in death, those “6 million and counting” still haunts America. And white supremacy grows stronger.
Everything we learn, everything we do in America revolves around race and the Iron Heel of white supremacy. You can change laws, remove mayors and police chiefs, elect the already corporate selected politicians, and white supremacy will be there rolling up the “city on a hill.” Black Americans will experience the practice of racism—a practice as American as apple pie. A male Right-Wing-glaring loudmouth or a Liberal-smiling female Hawk will make no difference.
In the presence of Black people, there is nothing invisible about America’s fear! And we are always a presence in that narrative of innocence!
The Black Lives Matter movement is courageous!
But how do you eradicate what is implanted like a chip, generation after generation, in the minds of Americans? How do you change those who refuse to know that reality beyond what they have been taught, what they have absorbed as they would absorb nourishment? How do you change those who have been taught all their lives to fear blackness?
Americans need to think deeper than NPR or CNN or FOX NEWS will allow.
America, look in your mirror!