Last week I talked about NFL wide receiver Riley Cooper’s use of a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert and touched on some of the layers behind why he might’ve felt so comfortable saying it. Here’s the link to last week’s post. After a few conversations with friends and associates, I’d like to share a few other things about this, the institutional denigration of Black culture in America.
It starts with, of course, the African Slave Trade.
Slavery was not an American/British invention; it’s been a part of human history since the dawn of time- even in Africa. Which shouldn’t ever come as a shock to anyone: if humanity and civilization first developed in Africa, it only stands to reason every concept/ideal humans ever conceived of also have their origins there- including murder, racism, rape, homosexuality, philosophy, religion and art. Slavery is interesting here, because even in Rome- considered the greatest example of Western Civilization and the pillar on which our society is built upon- slaves were still able to retain something profoundly simple and inherent.
Their cultural identity.
No matter what, you were still you. Slaves from Germania remained German. Hebrews remained Hebrew. They could marry and raise families strong in the traditions of their people, even while adapting to a Roman way of life. Even if sold to another household, a Roman slave still retained their cultural/racial identity and could still easily integrate with their people in the new environment. That was one of the strengths of Rome; so long as you proved yourself loyal to the Empire, it was all good. In fact, that largely seemed to the de rigeur for most ancient slave-owning cultures; again, Hebrews remained so even in Egypt.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade changed that. To crush the spirits of their new acquisitions, families were broken apart and tribesmen were segregated from each other. Nigerians were placed with Senegalese, Congolose were side by side with Gambians, etc. The only way they could function was through the only commonality they had- the language and ways of their masters- which as planned, over time served to undermine and destroy their own identities. When you can’t even think or form ideas in your own language, you lose a vital portion of your psyche and begin to drown in the culture you’ve been forced to accept. Traditions and customs ingrained into you are stripped away, replaced with the need to adapt to your circumstances merely to survive. And it still goes on even today; anyone migrating from any North African country to America is considered to be “white”. Can’t have those pyramids falling into the wrong hands, can we?
|Mostafa Hefny- the Great White Hope|
This is also borne out in the shameful treatment of Native Americans, here and in Canada, who have the distinction of being the only other (surviving) ethnic group in the Americas to have experienced this. History is filled with horror stories of the abuse Native peoples suffered at the hands of priests and nuns (sound familiar?) in boarding schools in order to “kill the Indian to save the man”.
No other groups have undergone such wholescale psychological conditioning. Gotta give props: there’s never been few social engineering projects on such a massive scale- crossing nations and governments while spanning centuries (Columbus, Cortes, Plymouth Rock). Even when the Chinese were recruited en masse to work on the railroads, they arrived with their families, recipes, customs and language. Irish, Jews and Italians descended in a similar fashion; even when looked down upon by others they were still themselves, and were able to build upon it. And the question remains- why do this? What’s so… frightening… or intimidating… about us that we had to be first destroyed and then ridiculed for having next to nothing to call our own? Even when having to rebuild a culture practically from scratch it’s misappropriated and belittled all in one shot. Yet the notion of us establishing our own strikes fear in the hearts of our fellow Americans. Notice how twisted up people get over the idea of Kwanzaa?
Seriously- what’d we ever do to you? Are you crazy?
Which brings me back to my original point. When I hear about non-black people going on about Black America- what we do and don’t do- I only have one reaction.
Shut the fuck up, already. You still owe me forty acres and a mule, motherfucker.