The New Today

Letters

A brief discourse on privilege, belief and race

When a white police officer named Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd for some Eight minutes and 46 seconds until his death over the suspicion that Floyd had attempted to purchase a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill in the state of Minnesota, USA, everyone thought that the subsequent global revulsion would have resulted in an end to racism and police brutality in the United States and elsewhere.

But such was not to be the case. Instead, since Floyd was murdered on that fateful 25th day of May, in excess of twenty Black people have been killed by US marshals and white right-wing vigilantes while participating in BLACK LIVES MATTER protests or just going about their daily business.

The stark reality of the situation might be better comprehended by contrasting the cool, calm and collective manner in which police deputies and national guard personnel responded to the gunning down of two protesters and the wounding of a third by a white vigilante, Kyle Rittenhouse, as he threateningly strolled along a street in the state of Wisconsin with his long rifle slung across his chest during another BLACK LIVES MATTER protest following the murder of another Black man named Jacob Blake by a trigger-happy white police officer named Rusten Shesky.

While such kinds of glaring social decadence are generally attributed to racism, the grand daddy of it all is what psychologists and sociologists refer to as the “Us versus Them” syndrome. The phenomenon could best be characterised as a conscious or unconscious bias against others who are perceived as being different, and is usually manifested by a tendency to want to eliminate anyone categorised as “them”.

Sociologist William Summer might be correct that the “Us versus Them” mindset derives in part from certain neurological wiring in the brain. But there seems to be overwhelming evidence to suggest that the trait is also the result of certain kinds of subtle conditioning of the minds of others by those who have benefitted from the status quo for millenniums; and who connivingly proffer the belief that the present world order represents the best of all possible worlds. And just as neurological traits form certain pathways in the brain, learned behaviour also form their respective pathways; resulting in certain beliefs and accrued habits.

Since Old Testament times and throughout the age of Imperial Rome and Christendom, Caucasians have basked in the belief of their racial superiority, nay; supremacy, and have reserved for themselves certain privileges which they seek to deny other races with a certain cunning too nuanced for the average mortal to discern. The end product, therefore, is a world order which is inextricably premised on a hierarchical structure based on race and skin color; with peoples of a paler complexion at the top of the food chain and peoples of a darker complexion at the bottom.

Accordingly, while the British were busily engaged in enshrining Magna Carta as a guarantee of their individual liberty, they were at the same time enslaving Africans (Black people). And while Europeans were insisting on their national sovereignty, they had absolutely no compunction about partitioning the continent of Africa to serve their colonial and imperialistic interests.

While white nations have enriched themselves over the years by plundering the gold, silver and other resources of other nations, and trading Black people like any other marketable commodity, they now use Interpol, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions to hoodwink poorer nations into towing the line through the draconian enforcement of money laundering policies, human trafficking prohibitions, and so on.

Also, while mostly Black so-called Third World countries are forced to play catch-up with the mostly white advanced economies, the developed countries guardedly refuse to share their technological know-how with non-white developing or underdeveloped nations; as noted by Oxford University.

And while countries with a white majority population print money at leisure to stimulate their respective economies (otherwise known as “quantitative easing”), countries with a Black majority population are schooled into believing that such kinds of monetary policies inevitably lead to hyperinflation; and any country that dare challenge such capitalist theories is rudely awakened to the reality of having their currency drastically devalued.

Those of us who might have believed that everything was prim and proper amongst the races were forced to face the stark existential reality with the emergence of Covid-19. Not surprisingly, the virus has laid bare the “underbelly of the beast” as it came to light that Black people are at the lowest percentile on all of the socio-economic indicators; from employment opportunities to health; from being allowed to live to being left to die.

The need for meaningful and lasting socio-economic reform is indeed great but the situation could only be remedied through the rewiring of the neurological pathways engineering the kinds of fratricidal behaviour perpetuated by the one-percenters and their ilk. Still, the scope of such a herculean task might be better appreciated by a closer scrutiny of the myriad of belief systems strangulating the minds of Black people. For the way things appear at present, Black people seem to be far more averse to change than their white counterparts.

Accordingly, despite the fact that Christian missionaries like David Livingstone were highly instrumental in subjugating the African people, most Black people find it extremely difficult and even impossible to spend some time examining their religious beliefs, and instead prefer to continue having their theological outlook shaped by millionaire televangelists like Gerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, T.D. Jakes, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, and others.

And although the personification of God in the image of a white man, as conceived by the American artist Walner Sallman, could only serve to reinforce an inferiority complex in Black people, a disconcerting number of Black people continue to reverence such kinds of sacrilegious objects with a devotion unlike that of any other race on planet Earth.

Also, despite the fact that the fragmented banana republics bequeathed to Black people by former European colonialists practically ensure that Black people would always be at a disadvantage in the global scheme of things, Black people seem incapable of shedding their parochial beliefs as they proudly wrap themselves in their respective pseudo nationalistic flags; as if bereft of any awareness of the truism: “Unity Is Strength”.

As history records, the privileged classes have never willingly abrogated their status simply out of empathy with the downtrodden. And so, before Black people could justifiably express their impatience with the slow pace at which white people seem open to the idea of ushering in meaningful change, Black people themselves would have to demonstrate that such kinds of transformation are, in fact, possible. In other words, Black people, would have “to pull themselves up by their own bootstrap.”

Meanwhile, the road map for ushering in a more humanitarian world order has already been outlined in the teachings of His Imperial Majesty (HIM) Haile Selassie. For despite the many schemes to vilify his character, anyone taking the time off to peruse his writings, as chronicled in the book: SELECTED SPEECHES OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY HAILE SELASSIE 1, and to objectively analyse his tenure as Emperor of Ethiopia, must conclude that HIM could easily be compared to any of the great non-African thinkers so well-known in history.

What distinguishes HIM, though, from other great leaders was his overall world view and his profound concern about the deplorable state of interracial relations. HIM had also expended much of his country’s resources trying to bring about African unity which he envisioned as the only means through which Black nations would be able to assertively manipulate their own currency and end their dependence on the U.S., China, Britain, and others for financial aid.

If the plethora of obstacles facing modern man are to be successfully confronted, such efforts would have to be couched within the parameters of a new philosophical paradigm. And although it might seem revolting to opine that the fledging Rastafarian Movement, premised as it is on the life and teachings of HIM, is well-poised to becoming the vehicle for transforming the prevailing “Us vs Them” mindset, there is no stopping the tide. For nothing could get in the way of the universe unfolding as it should.

Keith Williams

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