Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Makes Me Wanna Holla...The Language of White Supremacy

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Okay, here we go....

Now I know you've heard about Al Sharpton's familial ancestors being "owned" by Strom Thurmond's. And about Barack Obama's (white)mother's family "owning" "slaves."

Now tell me what is wrong with this picture...or are you so used to this language that it seems "normal" and "right"?

Well, two things are for sure: in this society, this kind of language IS both "normal" and "white (supremacist)."

But it ain't right, okay, and we must stop believing that it is.

Words matter and all "mainstream" (and you know I mean white-owned) media who use terms like "owned" and "slave" to describe the circumstance of those HUMAN BEINGS (hello!!) who were ENSLAVED are standing in symbolic solidarity of racial oppression by using the language of Amerikkkan enslavers, who spoke of "owning" "slaves" in a successful multi-generational, systemic, and institutional dehumanization campaign against Afrikans and their descendants.

And when we -- African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved -- join white Amerikkka in using this kind of language, we are colluding in our own oppression by willingly using the terms used to describe the oppression of our Ancestors.

We are also validating white Amerikkka's view of enslavement and the worth of our Ancestors when we accept their chosen language in describing as "normal" what our Ancestors had to endure in one of the largest scale and longest running crimes against humanity ever perpetrated upon a people.

Okay, I hear you saying "it was long ago. Why does it matter now?"

These words matter because to speak of "owning" other human beings is to employ a gentler euphemism that does not convey either the horror or the accuracy of the word "enslaved."

These words matter because to speak of "slaves" is to deny that those who were enslaved were human beings with lives, families, and aspirations, all of which were taken away or aborted from birth by their enslavement in this "...land of the free."

These words matter because the enslavement and apartheid of countless millions of Afrikans and multiple generations of their descendants remain a permanent stain on the soul of this country.

These words matter because they constantly appear in all media and we are going to be hearing them even more with Barack Obama's run for the presidency and with more individuals pursuing DNA analysis and genealogical research which will end up identifying a whole bunch of enslaver families!

And -- from a social justice perspective -- to continue to use language which in any form negates the horror of enslavement and consigns the enslaved as being no more than their enslaved status ("slave") just rubs salt in the wound and reveals that this country is still not ready to come to full and accurate terms regarding its crime against humanity.

And -- from a common sense and "respect for your family" perspective -- for African Americans to continue to use these terms shows how far we have gone in turning our backs on those upon whose shoulders we stand -- our Ancestors -- and how we have assimilated white supremacist thought to the point that we will allow any and every disrespect to their struggles and to their memories as we engage in a mad rush to be the first to fully embrace as "normal" both their oppression and our validation of the demeaning and dismissive language still used to describe their bondage.

And, again, to those of you who say "it is in the past, let it go, it doesn't matter," I'll leave you with this: if you believe that, be consistent. Stop acknowledging / celebrating Fourth of July, which commemorates "Amerikkkan Independence."

Stop acknowledging / celebrating Veteran's Day, which focuses on those who served in past and current wars.

Stop acknowledging / celebrating Thanksgiving, President's Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Stop acknowledging 9/11 -- at six years out, that is in the past, too -- and bring our troops home.

And in addition, start reflecting on why you choose to acknowledge and validate aspects of Amerikkkan history important to and celebrated by "mainstream" society while denying, denigrating, and dismissing those aspects of Amerikkkan history in which your Ancestors were the main players...

Truth hurts sometimes, doesn't it? But believe me, it's all about the love...and about the knowledge we need to fight, grow, and thrive with hearts and minds free of chains...with strong spirits...because we must be the shoulders upon which future generations can stand.

Next entry: The Black Man's (and Woman's) Burden...Making White People Comfortable in Discussions on Race...

Until then...

Moving Forward,


1 comment:

  1. Adar, congratulations on your new blog! That's great that you're sharing your writing with a wider audience.

    As a friend and mentor over the years, you've pointed out many different elements of this issue about calling people "slaves" and saying other people "owned" them. A point that left a lasting impression on me when you raised it awhile back is that if I say someone owned someone else I am agreeing that really was the relationship between them.

    Because I believe the institution of slavery was illegitimate (and remains so), I don't think anyone ever did own anyone else. Now that I've thought it through, I don't say they did.