SLAVERY ALIVE & WELL WITH OUR PERMISSION
Maybe Emancipation Day was to blame. The fact is that almost every time one stopped to say hello over the weekend the conversation soon turned to politics. More precisely, to politics and the black man. Indisputably on this Rock of Sages politics is everything and everything is politics, not just “deals and property,” as Norman Mailer defined it in Some Honorable Men. This time around names for years unspoken were recalled into service. (Ours being the original dead heroes society you may be certain much praise was heaped on the departed, dearly and undearly, irrespective of lifetime party affiliation!) Our leaders of more recent vintage also were mentioned en
passant— not nearly with the same reverence to which only the dead and buried are here entitled.
Of course Donald Trump continued during the week of Emancipation to dominate local discourse, especially after he announced his adjustments to American immigration policy. To hear our more proficient readers of political Tarot cards, the Donald’s new attitude spelled the end for Allen, meaning our nation’s prime minister, for it would surely put an end to our overseas farming program, swell the ranks of the unemployed and with some luck create more crime. You formed the impression the sorry prospect held for the happy dispensers of doomsday scenarios as much promise as a lap dance by a naked Beyonce!
I had absolutely no impact on their irrevocably programmed attitude when I suggested Trump was targeting particular immigrants seeking permanent residence in the U.S. To no avail I also reminded them that praying for more blows to the local economy was equal to Saint Lucia being hit by a tsunami—whether or not Allen Chastanet survived!
And then, quite by accident, I happened upon the following: “When Frantz Fanon’s revolutionary tract The Wretched of the Earth appeared in the United States it quickly became a bestseller. The book’s publisher called it the handbook for the black revolution, and African-American militants and other young American leftists took its message to heart: a widely quoted statement attributed to two different leaders of the radical Black Panther group, Eldridge Cleaver and Stokeley Carmichael, held that ‘every brother on a rooftop can quote Fanon.’ The Wretched of the Earth advocated the violent overthrow of the European and American presence in the Third World countries. ‘Violence,’ Fanon wrote, ‘is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self respect.’ ’’
Way back in the Sixties I had read The Wretched of the Earth, along with Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul On Ice— and his follow-up Soul On Fire that had seemed to me an apology for all his first book espoused. I had also studied the teachings of Malcolm X when he was a student of Elijah Muhammad and his attitudinal changes upon his return from Mecca. So having read the cited reference to The Wretched of the Earth, I tracked down my well-thumbed copy of the Fanon bible, as well as Black Skin, White Masks by the same author.
I soon came across this from the last mentioned: “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that core belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
There was also this: “The oppressed will always believe the worst of themselves!” And from The Wretched of the Earth this is what leapt at me: “The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”
From the same book, the following reached out and grabbed me by the throat: “To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and if we go forward it is because of them too; that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
I mentally revisited my earlier discourses with fellow dwellers on The Rock of Sages. One had expressed the view that the President of the United States is mad, not mad as in angry but as in “lunatic.” That, he was self-convinced, would explain Trump’s “weird behavior.”
Another pilgrim listed a litany of native woes that could only be rectified by the swift removal of the recently elected prime minister by any means necessary [a line borrowed from the pre-converted Malcolm X). Which led to a lengthy—too lengthy to reproduce here at this time— discussion about “our disrupted history,” for which slavery was to blame.
My partial response was that we remain enslaved (if only in our minds) because we have never been taught well enough who we are: that we were never born to be targets for unending abuse, that we are much more than the descendants of the victims of the Middle Passage—that if indeed we feel enslaved in our modern circumstances we should remember the indisputable truth in “none but ourselves can free our minds.” We can be slaves only with our own permission!
Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique in July 1925. He died in Washington D.C in 1961. He is best known for his efforts against colonization. He is particularly revered by fans for his The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks.
The legendary Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska on 19 May 1925 and originally named Malcolm Little. He was shot to death on 21 February 1965, allegedly by individuals loyal to the Nation of Islam’s Elijah Muhammad, while delivering a public lecture in New York.