SLAV­ERY ALIVE & WELL WITH OUR PER­MIS­SION

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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