Black History Month Musings
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally appeared in Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 03 February 06, 2014
The exploitation of people and resources are intrinsic to capitalism.
Capitalists do not care about the human condition, morals, the environment, or corporate responsibility. Theirs is fixation on maximum profitability. Thus labour for the least possible benefits hired accordingly, low wages, poor and dangerous working conditions — and unions birthed to prevent workers from being overly exploited.
Capitalism/Economics and forced enslavement have a long history of intimacy; being lovers.
The enslavement of Africans to be units of exploitable labour resulted in institutional/structural inequalities, polices that ensure the enslaved and progeny remain economically, educationally, and intellectually poor to uphold their two-legged beasts of burden status, and the ideology of white supremacy, white privilege and Black inferiority — racism as the bedrock of white North American culture.
Race is a social construct. There is no biology to race despite it being commonly believed to be true. As informed by genomics; the science of identifying genes and how they work; their biological and physiological functions, there are no genetic markers that define race.
There are no genetic markers in every member of a particular race that is not in someone — others of a different race. Simply put, external differences do not translate into internal biological differences. Nonetheless, race — and racism is real.
Centuries of legal oppression, legalize terrorism and brutality, political and economic exclusion, economic disenfranchisement, social policies and institutional practices that advantage whites at the expense of others left us with race ideology, race constructs — Blackness and whiteness as categories of identity — a racialized society, and loads of ethnic caricatures and stereotypes to match the racist narrative.
Under slavery, it was illegal for the enslaved to look into a book, much more learn to read and write. The inability to acquire basic literacy skills, much more an education cannot but psychologically distress, affect mental development, thought processes, erode self-esteem, self-confidence and the sense of self, bring on insecurity, anger, the inability to resolve conflicts peacefully, and coarseness in interactions — as well as limit employability.
Language is a tool of communication. Since educating the enslaved was abhorrent; all that was needed from them was labour and their reproductive capability to produce more units of labour, no efforts were made to correct mispronounced words and grammatically incorrect speech/language. Thus the birth of patois; the bringing into a dominant language words and phrases of another, as well as the bastardization of said language, and the inheritance as well as perpetuation of “Black English”/“ghettospeak;” Blacks mangling language, speaking badly, given to green verbs and malapropism — language the misguided position as Black culture.
The dysfunction brought on by racism and poverty feed stereotypes about Blacks, and serve as confirmation of the innate racial inferiority of Blacks and things to make fun of — to entertain whites.
Exaggeration and comedy goes hand in hand. The blackness, poverty, wretchedness, and perceived primitivism and childishness of Blacks, along with racist Black stereotypes spawned literary works, and a highly profitable and racist entertainment industry.
The lampooning of blackness, blackface, minstrelsy; appropriation of Black music, the aping how Blacks walk, sing, dance, dress, speak, lived, and act became staples on radio, stage, television and film.
Not only did the dehumanization, depreciation, and disparaging routines launch the careers of many whites; turning some of them into household names, and their material into classics (for whites), but on account of the power of the medium, those persons and routines were instrumental in the reinforcement and spread of racist beliefs and execution of racism.
Economic and social inequalities, exclusion, marginalization, discrimination, and poverty in all its manifestations cripples physically, mentally and spiritually. Contribute to the normalization of dysfunction and its recreation/recycling in generations not yet born, and enable the flourishing of self-sabotage, failures, underachievement, anti-social behaviour and attitudes, rage, anger, abuse, violence, criminal intent, criminal pursuit, and crime. Yet, when it comes to ethnic minorities, it is fashionable to link the culture shaped by those forces to racial traits.
In a society marked by rigid and enforceable lines of racial demarcation, mulattos were proof that the white male couldn’t keep his hands off Black females. And in spite of the perceived exoticness; beauty, attractiveness and sex appeal of female mulattos, their financial worth as property; demand as sexual objects, the fat/plump, asexual, wide-eyed, teeth-showing, always smiling, and servile Black woman was the one paraded on stage, television, and film. Ostensibly, to maintain the stereotype of the Black female as wet nurse/mammy/maid, and to make the white female feel emotionally and sexual secure.
Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for said role in Gone With The Wind.
Halle Berry is stunningly beautiful. Halle Berry oozes sex appeal. Halle Berry is of mixed race; a mulatto.
Halle Berry is the only woman of African-American descent to win an Oscar/Academy Award for the Best Female Actress. Berry’s winning role necessitated a long rough and graphic sex scene with a white man, whose character was also that of an avowed racist.
In spite of Berry being the antithesis of asexual Black femininity; the Beulah/Aunt Jemima stereotype, she was reduced to the hypersexual whorish one.
The main female characters on television Desperate Housewives were young, sexually attractive, white females (Yes, Eva Longoria has Latino roots). When the producers decided to allow a Black female to be a season regular/main character, they made sure she wasn’t a pretty young thing to upstage any of their starlets. They went with the much older Alfre Woodard.
Woodard’s character is that of a single mother who keeps her son locked in the basement. Her son is also a murderer.
Of all the strong roles Denzel Washington delivered in his career, when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, it was for portraying a rogue and evil Los Angeles police officer.
Like with everything in the society, the owners of film and television made it a point to control the amount of Blacks they allow on the screen as well as their image and quality of their output. When actor Bud Harris quit the sitcom Beaulah, he stated: “The show’s writers were forcing him to play the character as an Uncle Tom and engage in comic activity degrading to his race.”
To be continued