By Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D.
Minister Malcolm X Shabazz said, "The worst thing the white man ever did was to teach us to hate ourselves." This hatred can be manifested in various ways. It was not until Minister Malcolm's teachings, in the 1960s, that we realized that 'Black was Beautiful,' evolving to being beautiful is black. Too many of us moved along in our daily lives thinking that our blackness was divinely cursed, and that we would forever be relegated to an inferior status in the human family. We almost convinced ourselves that the propaganda that went out about Afrikan people was true. I was almost convinced, as a young boy, that I would eventually grow horns and a tail. Cartoon pictures of this were very prevalent during my childhood. As a young impressionable boy, I was really frightened that this was going to happen.
Today, this self-hatred is being perpetuated by a number of American Afrikan individuals whom Dr. John Henrik Clarke called, "the new slave traders." For instance, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas takes every opportunity he can to vote down decisions that may be beneficial to American Afrikans. Ward Connerly headed the fight to eliminate affirmative action in the state of California and the University of California. Larry Elder, talk radio host on KABC, seems to promote the principles of white supremacy against black people every chance he gets, including a host of editorial writers and commentators.
There are American Afrikans in companies, corporations and institutions whose unwritten philosophy is to hold back black people, commonly known as gatekeepers. There are some who despise being black so strenuously that they have openly and consciously embraced European values, concepts, life-style and a shared hatred for black people. Some do everything humanly possible to act white, live around whites exclusively, and would change their color if they could.
These are not just isolated incidents or aberrations, as some would argue, but a direct and deliberate assault that began during slavery. The proponents of this most wicked institution did everything they could to delete the Afrikan out of the Afrikan, to shape and mold them into an imitation European. Many of us assimilated into this cultural and psychological degradation in order to survive during vicious times. The problem, some of us are continuing this same tradition, even though some know better. There are reasons for this.
Here, we have to turn to one of our most esteemed ancestors, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the creator of Negro History Week, that later became Black (and Afrikan) History Month, and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, as well as the Journal of Negro History. In his most famous book, The Mis-Education of The Negro, written in 1933, he offers us one explanation of the mental illness of the Eurocentric Negro, and why seeing reality is difficult for these individuals. (The term Negro is used here, in this day and age, only to imply a self-denying, unconscious black individual. Dr. Carter uses it because it was the terminology of his time).
"No systematic effort toward change has been possible, for, taught the same economics, history, philosophy, literature and religion which have established the present code of morals, the Negro's mind has been brought under the control of his oppressor...The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worth while, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples. The Negro thus educated is a hopeless liability of the race."
One of the most insidious crimes parents/guardians can commit is denying their children of anything related to their history and culture. Not knowing the rich heritage of one's own people can eventually cause emotional deficiencies. Not having black books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, art or taking them to Afrikan cultural events or making them aware of specific days that are important to people of Afrikan descent can put the child in a very precarious situation. The child or children will grow up not knowing who they are, feeling at a lost of their importance, leading to low self-esteem, particularly around their white friends. They will become so comfortable and complacent around Europeans, that when they do come in contact with other blacks, they suddenly become uncomfortable, uneasy, accompanied with negative thoughts perpetuated in the media about these "criminal, welfare loving, unintelligent savages." Worst yet, they will sooner or later run into that invisible brick wall, no matter how successful they think they are. It says, without saying it, "You are black, and you are not welcomed or acceptable here."
That person could be devastated. Not knowing how to act, react, or where to go. The realization that they have just become another victim to white supremacy would not even enter their minds, not allowing them to even analyze what the problem is, or what has happened to them.
All of this can be avoided if the parent/guardian and child become aware of their deep and powerful history and culture, and realize that they came from the parents of the human race, and that the accomplishments of their people, ancient and modern, are what has allowed world civilizations to grow. Of course, the final goal of all of this is that we, as Afrikan people, love all people, but primary to that, we first must love ourselves.
Dr. Kwaku will be conducting his Black History 4 Young People class this summer. For details, visit www.drkwaku.com.