“What is supremacism about generally? It’s about a fragile sense of superiority (covering a sense of insecurity) that must be actively promoted to be maintained. It reflects a system that is inflexible, rigid, and socially autistic (awkward social relations). These are signs of a brain misdeveloped, of unresolved early life trauma.”
Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D.
A favorite argument for the legitimacy of American white supremacy – that it tossed around by so-called evangelicals, conservatives, and members of the alt-right as thoughtlessly as their rape apologetics or political endorsements – is that white people are morally superior to the minorities that populate the nation, and so they deserve to dominate the culture.
Of course, we “woke” black people claim to know better than this. We claim to be 100% hip to the myth of white moral superiority. We claim to have outgrown the puerile need for white approval and validation.
Yet, we remain mired in a complex web of respectability politics woven by our subconscious desire to be viewed as “good” by whites. Yes, we do. I don’t care how adamantly we deny it.
The only way to explain the inanity of our puritanical attitudes about homosexuality, transsexuality, female sexuality, mental health, drug use, abortion, feminism, atheism – I can go on – is to admit that the majority of us are still indoctrinated enough by white hegemony to care what white people think of us.
Middle and upper class blacks in particular are the figurative mortified parents in the supermarket, admonishing or even whipping our working and lower class “kids” loudly enough so that everyone that is watching can know that we do not approve of their behavior one bit.
We are continually performing a rigid, impractical sort of “goodness” that keeps us psychologically dependent on validation from whites and stuck on the short end of a stick that is carved out of white hegemony and hypocrisy.
Think about it.
There is a critical mass of black Christians that are adamantly homophobic. They block black members of the LGBTQIA+ community from their institutions and circles of influence, and they stigmatize and ridicule them in public discourse and on public stages. They say this is what Biblical doctrine mandates, but that is not true. The Bible says that Christians should try to be like Jesus, and he loved and accepted everyone.
So what are these Christians doing if they’re not trying to separate themselves from the “freaks” in a demonstration that they are “normal” or “moral”? For whom are they demonstrating this so-called “normality” or “morality” if not whites?
Black atheists and agnostics aren’t impressed. Neither are blacks that embrace the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Certainly, the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not see the acts of hostility and hatred committed against them by members of the black religious community as proof of anything other than the pervasiveness of negative indoctrination, religious hypocrisy, and assimilationist values in that community. Not to mention a sort of social stupidity when it comes to dealing with White America.
Why do I call it that? Well, let’s see . . .
Historically, black evangelicals have held themselves apart from white evangelicals while simultaneously attempting to “one-up” them in terms of theological acuity. As Mary Beth Mathews explains in her “The History of Black Evangelicals and American Politics,” black evangelicals “held on to that ‘old time religion’ even as their white counterparts had not . . . [they] remained spiritually rooted in the Protestant tradition, and they eschewed modern amusements, like motion pictures and dance halls.” They tried to position themselves, rhetorically and gesturally, at the high end of the moral totem pole, most certainly thinking this would increase their cultural or societal standing.
So many black evangelicals in the twentieth century fought to “prove” to America that they were “good enough” to be considered equal to whites, and the most fundamentalist of today’s black evangelicals seem to be engaging in a similar exercise – trying to “out-moralize” their white counterparts. But for what?
Has ostracizing lesbian blacks or gay blacks or bisexual blacks or trans blacks or queer blacks translated into greater social acceptance for the blacks that publicly and adamantly do this?
What actual material – polemical, economic – gains has the black religious right made by ostracizing black members of the LGBTQIA+ community?
Somebody tell me, please.
As far as I can tell, every black person in America is subject to racist mistreatment, and the only social designations that might protect a black person from certain forms of it are “celebrity,” “millionaire,” or “billionaire.”
However, I can also name a dozen famous and/or rich blacks this second – without even straining myself – that have gotten what we term their “nigger wake-up calls” right as they were arriving at the apex of their accomplishments or achievements. So, again, what actual material gains has any discrete strata or segment of the black community made by ostracizing another or isolating itself from another?
Or, better yet, has ostracizing one group of blacks allowed another group of blacks to “get in” any better with whites?
Have the “respectables” gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from the “ratchets”?
Have black men gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from black women?
Have rich blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from working class and poor blacks?
Have cishetero blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from LGBTQIA+ blacks?
No? Then why do we keep doing it?
Because we have been indoctrinated.
We have to face it. We locate our ideas about our intrinsic worth as human beings in the minds and imaginations of whites. Whether we want to admit it or not.
And it is time for us to relocate our ideas about our worth in our own minds and imaginations, finally and for the first time in 398 years (that’s how long ago the first Africans – from Angola – arrived in America to settle in Jamestown, Virginia).
Black America has been just as vocal as everyone else in the nation in lamenting the disaster that is the Trump presidency, but, if there is one upside to it, it is this.
Never before has the falseness of the myth of white moral or intellectual superiority been more obvious or apparent than it is right now.
And this is especially true as it pertains the political sphere of our national culture.
I will not waste time listing all of the absurd and amoral things that Trump, his sycophants, the RNC, alt-right movement, Tea Party, or white religious right have said and done over the past nine months to prove that the “morality” that they pawn off in their rhetoric and propaganda is nothing but a discursive machination – a way of talking up anything they want to happen or do – exaggerating its “goodness” – in order to disguise its unsavory motives and objectives or camouflage its true, detrimental intent.
What I will list, though, is all the things that black people should have learned from witnessing all of these absurd and amoral things play out.
Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to tell you what is happening in our community – because you believe that they are smarter than us, more honest than us, less flawed than us, better educated than us, and hence more capable of leading than us – is something we should not do anymore.
Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to interpret for us what they are doing to us – because we believe that they are more decent than us, more honest than us, more compassionate than us, and hence telling us the truth about themselves – is something we should not anymore.
Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – is not going to make these people love us. It will only allow them to use us, as they have used working class and poor whites to gain power by galvanizing their fear of scarcity and directing it at Democrats, liberals, progressives, minorities, immigrants, foreigners, and, yes, women.
Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – does not make us “good.” It makes us gullible and culpable whenever Trump does something to politically victimize another undeserving segment of American society.
There is no material reward for being the sort of black person that a white person like Trump would regard as “decent” or “safe” or “good” or “moral.”
Just look at what’s happening in DC right now.
Trump is trying to pass a tax law that will only benefit the richest citizens of this country.
He is still trying to figure out a way to gut the ACA.
He has not secured DACA.
He has not prevented state and local politicians from passing laws that inhibit women’s reproductive rights or the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.
He has fought consistently since January to pass laws that are undeniable Islamophobic and propagated Islamophobic ideas about terrorism on his Twitter and in his talking points.
Despite the fact that working class people, poor people, minorities, immigrants, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Muslims – a swath of Americans that cut across just about every demographic – voted for him in last year’s election.
Right now, Trump is urging the people of Alabama to elect Roy Moore to the US Senate – a man that has had dozens of credible accusations of sexual assault made against him in just the last month.
He is hiding behind the inept defense of a passel of high-paid, high-profile lawyers from credible accusations that he worked with Russia to fix the presidential election.
He is the poster child – yes, child – for the sort of meta-ethical moral relativism that truly pervades and sets the “official” tone in American culture and politics.
He stands for what America stands for, whether America wants to admit it or not.
And that is why we – black Americans – cannot let the mainstream beat us up anymore about our alleged “badness.” Because it is definitely not running through the moral high ground, nor has it ever run through the moral high ground.
This is why we have to relocate a sense of ourselves that is self-defined.
We have to relocate the confidence in our collective worth that we have rooted in mainstream acceptance in acceptance of ourselves and each other.
We have to relocate our psychological and spiritual sources. We have to stop using exclusivity and elitism – tearing ourselves down – to build ourselves up. We have to start being inclusive and egalitarian.
We have to be open with each other. And loving of each other.
And above everything else, we have to stop believing that white people, and particularly those in power, know all the “right” things to do. Because it’s simply not true.
America is a country built by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, dominated by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, that still can’t get itself straight.
So what in the world can it credibly tell us about ourselves?