By William P. Muhammad
When the United States announced its boycott of the World Conference Against Racism in South Africa this month, it was not a great surprise. Primarily because of two controversial resolutions, one calling for reparations for the institution of slavery, and the other a formal condemnation of apartheid-like conditions suffered by Palestinians, white and other Eurocentric oriented nations pulled out of the conference while trying to convince others to do likewise.
Among the world’s great challenges, however, the chronic suffering of dark skinned people has perplexed and befuddled academicians, political leaders and policy-makers for centuries. From the suffering of those laboring under the unjust yoke of racism, the legacy of slavery cannot be omitted, and for those suffering under oppression, the concept of justice and fair dealing cannot be dismissed.
The plight of Black and indigenous people throughout the world, harkens back to the colonial era mantra of ‘the white man’s burden.’ With politics, culture and religion often skewed by the psychological dimensions of white supremacy, this ideology imposed itself through the military, economic and political domination of dark skinned people. The legacy of chattel enslavement, and prolonged injustice against indigenous cultures, also created in their wake a sense of racial inferiority, a form of self-hatred and various ethnic conflicts that rage to this day.
The imposition of white supremacy, and the subsequent internalization of Black inferiority, has manifested itself as a global phenomenon. Today, in nearly any country one may visit, access to privilege, the standard of beauty and indeed the value of a person’s life are often determined by skin color, hair texture and the shape of one’s nose. An uncomfortable issue to discuss, as it often conjures specters of the past, there can be no meaningful dialogue regarding racism if the discussion fails to consider the psychology of the two mentalities.
To break these mindsets, however, it is important to note that one state of thinking cannot survive without the other and few examples exist on how to go about dismantling them. The ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States, as an example, proves that a Black man who sets his mind toward excellence is capable of accomplishing whatever he will, but as an individual managing the affairs of an essentially Eurocentric nation, the President may not have the political wherewithal to press the issue.
In a world in which the vast majority of humanity is neither white nor English speaking, refusing to hear an aggrieved party’s plea, for whatever the reason, is self-defeating. Snubbing The World Conference Against Racism not only sent the wrong message to the African Diaspora and other people of color, but it also showed a callous disregard toward human suffering in the name of political cover and influence.
Nevertheless, addressing the root causes of racism in and of itself is controversial, and it cannot be done without offending someone’s sensibilities. Whether it’s the ugly shadow of the past cast upon the beneficiaries of injustice or the need for history’s victims to accept the responsibility ‘to see the light and to walk therein,’ both must show the courage to discuss painful realities head-on and without precondition.
Internalized yet false beliefs of Black inferiority, which in turn fuel false assumptions of white supremacy, inflict a damaging self- perception of inherent failure and mediocrity upon its adherents. As the “arrogance of power” feeds upon the ignorance of self-nullification, the resulting product is a society where truth becomes falsehood, vision becomes blindness and strength becomes weakness. At their worse the symbiosis between hubris and nihilism becomes the catalyst of a nation’s undoing and as such, the foundation of society and its institutions are compromised.
As with Barack Obama rising to become leader of the so-called Free World, people of color defeat the stereotype of racial inferiority through the exercise of personal excellence. Through study, growth and application, the myth of white supremacy is shattered as obstacles are overcome, low expectations become high and contributions are made toward the onward march of civilization.
For Black folk in particular, now is the time to start listening to those in our midst who have proven their record of success. Those who have established systematic methods toward the instilling of pride, the “knowledge of self” and self-worth, have truly shown the world another side of the Black man and woman. It’s too late in the game to allow the mind of Black inferiority to undermine our progress. For the sake of our children and our future generations, it is time to rise, shake off the dust and display the excellence that has been locked inside us for far too long.