Mwatabu S Okantah
"America Is What It Has Always Been"
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
Race has been an American obsession
since the first Europeans sighted "savages"
on these shores. In time, those original
inhabitants would be subdued or slaughtered,
and finally sequestered out of view. But race in
America took on a deeper and more disturbing
meaning with the importation of Africans as slaves.
America is, now, what it has always been: a nation that is desperately trapped in the repercussions of its own lies, distortions, deceits and deceptions. American leaders, in particular, and,"mainstream" American citizens, in general, are loathe to admit the real history of just how the United States of America came into being. Martin Luther King, Jr. once challenged this nation to be/to become the America it claims to be "on paper." A crucial element of the American false narrative is dependent on the assumption that America is, in fact, the society that is described in its hallowed documents. Europeans hijacked this continent employing the weapons of mass destruction of that time and then sanitized their brutal settler occupation in heroic, civilization building terms. The decimation of the indigenous peoples and the enslavement of the Africans are the troublesome footnotes in the white-washed story of the English Founding Fathers' "Manifest Destiny."
In his book, TWO NATIONS: BLACK AND WHITE, SEPARATE, HOSTILE, UNEQUAL, Andrew Hacker provides a simplified version of white supremacy that is easy to comprehend. He states, "Europeans who colonized the western hemisphere sought to recreate it in their image, and to transform North and South America into 'white' continents. With conquest comes the power to impose your ways on territories you have subdued. The treatment of the Native Americans simply ratified that view.... something can be learned by looking at how 'white' was originally conceived, and the changes it has undergone." The sinister bombastic spectacle of 45's Presidency, is not so much about Donald Trump, as it reflects the reality that this nation is caught up in a life and death struggle to maintain the grand illusions that sustain and nurture the American mythology of whiteness--what many scholars call, "American Exceptionalism."
Returning to Hacker, "Most white Americans believe that for at least the last generation blacks have been given more than a fair chance and at least equal opportunity, if not outright advantages. Moreover, few white Americans feel obliged to ponder how membership in the major race gives them powers and privileges." Put another way, this is a country that refuses to see itself and its past for what it really is; what it has always been. When Donald Trumps says, he will "make America great again," the message resonates with his gullible base because it speaks to an idyllic time when the hegemony of white people was unquestioned and triumphant. It speaks to "the good old days," when even within the larger White American community, class, ethnic and religious lines were clearly drawn and everyone accepted their assigned places. It goes without saying that peoples of color had, and have, no genuine place inside this segregated vision beyond a marginalized existence as the alien "other."
In this regard, how White America sees black people, as well as other peoples of color, reveals more about the way white people prefer to see themselves than it can ever disclose what they think they see when they consider the people they define as "non-white." It is not my intent to "hate on" white people or to label all white people as racist. If we are to understand the ravages of our own post-traumatic slavery syndrome, which is a consequence of living in a white supremacy-based system, it is necessary to develop a critical understanding of the psychology of whiteness that so thoroughly informs this society. It should come as no surprise, nor is it an accident that so many American intellectuals are frequently at a loss to explain why the larger White American society thinks and acts the way it does. The ongoing national gun debate is a classic example. No one ever speaks to why so many Americans feel the pathological need to arm themselves or to the naked truth that there would be no United States without guns. It begs the question, "What do these Americans really fear?"
In "Black Matters," the first chapter of her book, PLAYING IN THE DARK: WHITENESS AND THE LITERARY IMAGINATION, Toni Morrison contends, "Just as the formation of the nation necessitated coded language and purposeful restriction to deal with the racial disingenuousness and moral frailty at its heart ... one can see that a real or fabricated Africanist presence was crucial to their sense of Americanness." To clarify her use of the term "Africanist," she adds, "... I use it as a term for the denotative and connotative blackness that African peoples have come to signify, as well as the entire range of views, assumptions, readings, and misreadings that accompany Eurocentric learning about these people." Again, this is not about debasing white people. It is, however, an acknowledgement that exploring the Psychology of Whiteness and White Privilege are legitimate fields of study. From a black writer's perspective, I am also arguing that no one can know the descendants of the slave master class, like the descendants of the enslaved.
The real White America reveals its collective self, in words and in deeds, every day. Morrison points out, "The United States ... is not unique in the construction of Africanism. South America, England, France, Germany, Spain--the cultures of all these countries have participated in and contributed to some aspect of an invented Africa." White supremacy is, indeed, a global phenomenon. Throughout Europe, resentment and hostility in response to continuing waves of immigrants from former colonies, mirrors the same reaction to Mexican, Central American, African and Caribbean immigration patterns here in the United States. The demographics of the world are not changing, so much as they are simply reasserting themselves. Geo-political power relationships have shifted and are shifting. So called white people have always been the true racial minority population on this planet. It can be argued that much of the conflict in the world today, can be traced directly to the legacy of parasitic European colonial policies.
I subscribe to the notion, there is only one human race. We live in a time and in a country, where all of the world's racial groups are now present. We all have individual as well as group stories to tell. The United States is fast moving into an era when the people who define themselves as white will no longer be the majority population. Soon, Spanish will become the most widely spoken language--although English will remain the official language--in this country. This is a nation in need of true spiritual healing and authentic reconciliation. It remains to be seen if either can be achieved. Will we learn to listen to and to learn from each other's story, or, we will perish in our foolishness?