Charting Success In This Racist Matrix
Black History Month Musings, Part III
By N Oji Mzilikazi
Originally appeared in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 24, Number 06 March 20, 2014
Don’t be fooled or tempted to confuse fortuity, sacrifice and hard work that have Blacks in positions of authority with racial progress/racial advance, or buy into the same. Racism is more virulent than ever, just more subtle — brandishing smiles and with an abundance of changing code words that require the conscious to be forever on their P’s and Q’s.
The ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States six years ago resulted in racists and so-called “progressives’ alike declaring America has moved beyond race and into a post racial society. But as Obama’s term unfurled, his “racial breakthrough” was met with a racist backlash that continues — unabated, and with increased obstacles in the handicapped races African Americans already run.
P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens is the reigning Norris Trophy winner, despite sitting out several games in the beginning of the season due to stalled contract negotiations. Yet, Subban was never a shoo-in for the Canadian Olympic hockey team. In fact, he was one of the last persons to make the team.
PK is too Black, too skilful and too strong for hockey gatekeepers — and too much a fan and media favourite. And in spite of him winning gold with Team Canada, he was never given the deserved opportunity.
Blacks are rarely given chances to fail, much more to redeem themselves upon failure.
Adding to racism resurgence are the economic downturn, scarcity of jobs, a shrinking middle class, and the politics of ethnicity/nationalism that obscures failed policies or absence of same, and which capitalises on “feel good” rhetoric and ignorance of the masses.
The question then is how can one successfully navigate the minefield that is racism when even education, qualifications, and seniority can still leave a person out in the cold? The answer is in acquiring/having a multitude of tools and most importantly, the right knowledge.
The adage: “Knowledge is power,” is frequently bandied about, but truth be told, power truly rests on the kind of knowledge one possesses.
The fact that we live in an overwhelmingly white society whose economic, cultural, social policies and institutional practices are geared towards sustaining racism and white supremacy, many of us end up thinking white, subscribing to racist beliefs, and becoming gatekeepers for whites, and by extension oppressors of people of African descent.
My twin sons travel so much they have elite status [among elite status]. One of the perks elite status allows is priority check-in. January past, I was returning to Montreal from Antigua, via New York with one of them. We were a party of five, with one a person of Pakistani descent.
While in the priority check-in aisle, the lone Air Canada agent, an African American, looked at us, the only persons in the line and asked if we are sure we are in the right line. In her eyes, Blacks lacked the power of affordability and its intrinsic privileges…
Years ago, that same son bought a Lexus. Since the police subscribed to owners of those vehicles as drug dealers/criminals (Jacques Lelievre, the assistant director of Montreal police stated so in the January 29, 2005, Montreal Gazette.), he, his twin brother and mother were followed by Black cops when driving the vehicle.
When we know or understand how people think — even our enemies — we are better positioned to deal with them, as well as to boldly and confidently confront the oppression; the economic, social, and political consequences of racism, including self-sabotage and self-hate, as well as cultural racism.
As expounded in Part 1, the economy of the New World needed a huge, as well as a free labour force. Hence, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the enslavement of Africans, the ideology of white supremacy and Black inferiority, with racism as the mechanism to guarantee perpetual white rule — white hegemony.
As a result, whites, including those considered “white trash,” were weaned on the milk of Black dehumanization, and raised on educational curricula of falsification of Africa and Africans, depreciation and stereotypes of Blacks, pseudoscience, to justify Black inferiority, and the oppression and exclusion of Blacks.
Consider this: In, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Philosopher John Locke said that the Negro could never be the mental equal of the white man.
Karl Vogt (1817-1895), the German professor/scientist/zoologist/biologist wrote that the white race was a separate species to Negroes, and that the Negro was related to the ape. So engrained is that belief, people still use simian references at people of African descent, delver monkey/gorilla invectives, monkey chants, and taunt Black players with bananas and/or throw it at them.
Irina Rodnina is one of Russia’s most decorated Olympians. Rodnina was the Russian torchbearer and lit the Olympic flame at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Rodnina is also a Russian MP.
In September 2013, Rodnina tweeted a doctored photo of U.S. President Barack Obama chewing, while a hand in the foreground waves a banana at him.
Hegel, in his Philosophy of History, declared that Africa had nothing to offer the world. Kant, in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime, stated: “The Negroes of Africa have received from nature no intelligence that rises above the foolish.”
Thomas Jefferson penmanship is all over the American Declaration of Independence, a document that lauds human equality. Yet, in Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson stated: “I advance it, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”
Voltaire, Kant, the list goes on… And so the cannon of works by prominent historical voices — anthropologists, scientists and their ilk that framed ideology, condemned, as well as shaped and entrenched stereotypes and negativities about people of African descent.
Is it any wonder Harvard’s Project Implicit racism/bias tests revealed that 80 plus per cent of the population harbour feelings that Blacks are lacking in positive qualities, are less nice than whites, and aren’t a good fit for workplaces?
Stereotypes are primarily prejudicial. Stereotypes feed generalisations that in turn oppress, sustain racism and discrimination. Add to that, the dysfunction and poverty brought on by slavery, structural racism, discrimination, peonage/sharecropping and the like, and clearly the lives of Blacks would seem to fulfill racial stereotypes.
It is rather interesting that in every religion, group or organization, everyone is equal until a person of African descent becomes a member.
In Islam, a Hadith is a documented narration of what Prophet Mohammed (Sallallaahu A Layhi Wasallam) said, did, or approved. In one Hadith, Prophet Muhammad stated: “Obey a Negro even though his head is shaped like a raisin.”
Since the crucible outlined above shaped perceptions about people of African descent, it would be delusional of Blacks to expect others to change, feel shame or be willing to repudiate racism. We have to change, stop being so damn timid and take action to benefit the race as well as ourselves. We need to be — and stay revolutionaries, and committed to financial empowerment. Power only respects power.
To be continued