I have become restless in my quest of belonging, and the craving to wrestle with my identity on British soil has created a consistent hunger pain since my teens. The feeling of being “too foreign for home too foreign for here” (Ijeoma Umebinyuo) has dehydrated my connection to Africa, and I arrived here at this point thirsty. This superficial adaptation of culture is not enough to quench my thirst or sustain my identity. Under this system “we are culture-less” (Kanye West) and remain Africa’s orphans merely trying to adopt rituals that remind us of, or reconnect us to home. As a result of the system, our ideas and customs, that we guard in cultural sensitivity are somewhat birthed out of colonised minds. Perhaps what we are embracing as black culture is a concoction of fragments of African traditions diluted by western values and religious theology. To examine this term black culture, one will need to understand the effects of black pathology wrongly diagnosed by whiteness and the power of controlling images through evaluative conditioning. One will also have to look at the term black as an identity to explore the limitations of adhering to a label that amalgamates descendants of Africa into one identity – without regarding the complexity of its different social groups.
That being said, I do want to acknowledge this need to cling onto culture-less practices on western terrain is anchored in the need to be recognised by whiteness. By seeking shelter under the epidermis of any form of identity is to denounce the overwhelming burden of being inadequate within whiteness. When you’ve been an object since conception, the need to be recognised is deeply inscribed to your existence, without recognition is not to exist at all. In whiteness, we do not even possess the privilege of privacy in our imagination, confining us to a permanent alliance to slavery. In these continual attempts to decolonise our minds, we find ourselves confounded in who we are outside of colonised eyes. I want to use this piece to explore the tip of the iceberg of black identity through a complex mixture of philosophical and psychological lenses. I want to advocate a dialogue which abrades the guarded dichotomy of black identity because, on the one hand, we seek an identity that separates us from whiteness. On the other hand, the colonised self unintentionally imitates an identity of the coloniser.
The adaptation of identity is not the primary issue, for we know the complexity of identity is forever evolving. However, the problematic difference in cultural values is what denies us from being content in the coloniser’s identity. The axiology of the black diaspora is a “one-on-one relationship” (Dr Edwin Nichols). It’s not collective, simply because we have been removed from our culture and spirituality connections which we would have inherited if we remained in our social groups within Africa. All things considered; we know as Africans, there is great emphasis on relationship. We thrive on relations based on nominal variables; (kinship, spiritual or religious customs etc.) however, after colonialism our social groups (tribes) became dispersed, and so we modified the communal relations to a one-to-one relationship. One not necessarily built on race affiliation alone, but rather out of visibility to affirm existence.
In contrast, the Euregion’s axiology is rooted in objectification. Their values do not mirror Africa, and the psychosis of whiteness is a testament to that. Their individual needs to survive enforces their need always to be the subject and never the object. Due to the art of survival, their axiological references are founded on quantitative values (counting and measuring). The need to use dichotomous logic to decipher what requires investment as a matter of survival has led to the binary constructs we witness in our current society today. You see the Euregion systemic methodology is comfortable sacrificing the importance of quality (relation-to-relation) for quantity (relation-to-object). It’s nothing personal, and makes sense knowing how the youngest ethnic group was formed – that is until you interject hegemony. Simply because the dichotomous binary they possess (either/or, right/wrong, good/evil) sets the stage for exercising their privilege. This ethnocentrism characteristic has caused the coloniser to force-feed us their culture because ours is less than theirs. As Africans, we have become addicted to and nourished by this processed culture.
Embracing black culture designed through oppressed hands is paradoxical in the sense that we know it’s an empty culture of comfort and denial. It has become our campaign to prove equality through the desire of whiteness. This struggle for equality is really about being recognised in whiteness; because to be equal to another would require one group to come down or the other to rise. We know from historical human experiments that nobody will choose to give up privilege, so the job is left for the group without to catch up. Therefore, we can safely conclude equality in this context is a synonym for assimilation. This notion would be successful if our axiology were changeable; however, it is constant (Edwin Nichols), and therefore our first conflicting speed bump in our journey to be like the oppressors is the need for relationships. The need to be seen and to see others, but sadly whiteness as it stands will never see us; it’s a system that only reads objects – and hardly considers qualitative human relations.
For the formula, of turning humans into objects to work and remain irreversible, the system created a mental tight lock illusion that would erase our core beliefs. They unpicked the core make-up that weaves the threads of our identity – for merely controlling purposes. Whiteness has always known that “without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle” (Paulo Freire). To colonise the mind was to transform us into objects and to keep us on a continual loop as the wretches of the earth. This psychological war on the brain was and still is a constant manipulation of the oppressed to doubt their sanity, after all, “the more you can make your organisation invisible the more influence it will have” (Doug Coe). The maintenance of such an intricate fortress of oppression has come in the form of controlling images and stereotypes; delivered via the mandatory banking system (education), the legacy of slavery, religious theology and evaluating conditioning (media).
They unplugged our black bodies from our land; they turned us from a “drop of sun under the earth” (Frantz Fanon) into a nomadic motherless nation with no understanding of self. They feared us and made us fear ourselves through the binary of good and evil. They handed us a guide book that teaches us to “obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward’ (Bible, Ephesians 6:5-9). This Euregion counterfeit spiritual system detaches us from our version of God. It confined our God to white masculinity – again dichotomous binary in play, God has to be either male or female and not the divine transformative energy Africans once believed it to be. This original banking system of reward versus punishment has designated us to a lifelong commitment of servitude without challenging. The use of the words obey and fear is to reminds us that they are repercussions for engaging in pedagogy. After the fear set in, they injected internal trust issues within our communal hub (colourism, black criminality, etc.) – because one of the founding pillars of relationship-building is trust. If we don’t trust each other, then the power remains scattered and less concentrated. The pathology of blackness is riddled with criminal barbarism, I mean, isn’t that what sent the missionaries our way in the first place? The mythology of black criminality is defined by whiteness (with their blinkers on), to make us the public enemy is the cognitive dissonance used to justify fear. The system is now compelled to control the demonised black image. One only needs to look at the over-representation of blackness within the prison industrial complex and bear witness to the racial disparity to know this is true.
The pungent aroma of systemic institutional racism, cooked by whiteness has become normalised in blackness. Some of us perceive our circumstance through afro-pessimistic spectacles, never removing them to circumvent a world outside of anti-blackness. We have become comfortable in the funk, the economic inequality used as a weapon to criminalise us and the sad need to dawn a culture that whiteness can comprehend. Although our life imitates the art of whiteness, the staying power of epigenetics – means that some of us are not full. Some of our, taste buds are still in tune with our lineage; the salty preservative cloaking black culture will never match the flavoursome homeland. However, not all of us can trace our roots; and for those who remain orphans with no real connection, it becomes problematic as to what the decolonised mind will look like and here is where the importance of dialogue plays out.
You see dialogical framework is for transformation, feminist theory, prison abolition etc., is there to assist us in building the infrastructure that will house blackness when and if the system should fall. Therefore, the dismissal of generational work done by the predecessors is counterproductive. Frantz Fanon captured the power of intergenerationality when he said: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.” The organisational grind to decolonise identity has been long in the making; it’s an engaging process. It needs to run parallel with the peoples awakening to the fact that this black culture is just a coping mechanism to breathe in our black skin under these white masks. It is not independence.
Author: Krystle Amoo
Date: 10 August 2020