Memories Dont Live Like People Do/Understanding the Supremacist Mindset
For the longest time, we have tried to make sense out of “racist thought.” Although many people use the term to accuse, and perhaps attack others, very rarely is the term defined in any meaningful manner. We are reminded of Orwell’s facetious description of fascism in which it was essentially defined as something less than desirable. Likewise, we might also think back to Russell’s contentious remarks on the power of “labels” in which he noted that when the same substance is remodelled through the use of labels, people alter in their interpretations of its contents. It is this latter analysis, that we are concerned with when trying to make sense out of “racist thought”. In the first place, we do not simply use the word “racist”, as we feel that is a pitiful pursuit. We are trying to make sense out of this mindset – and note, we do not say “attitude” or “mentality”, as these seem marginalising; much rather, we use the word “mindset” as it implies an entirety, a system of thought, a world-view that encompasses and informs various layers, and multiple dimensions of a person’s being, including their orientation to the world.
There have been, and still are, many attempts to define, interpret, codify and ultimately make sense out of racist thought, trying to locate its origin, scope and implications. At other times, people have simply tried to examine the way in which it functions, manifests and operates to shape and structure peoples lives, often distorting their reality, and misrepresenting their image. Jan Pieterse, for instance, discusses the evolving face of this system of denigration, and hierarchy of domination, whilst James Mellon attempted to trace the thinking that underlay the eventual institutionalising of racist thought, as it developed through white supremacy, manifest destiny. Meanwhile, the older scholars and writers revealed a lot in their works, with particularly elitist undertones to be found in the words of Herbert Wells, Aldous Huxley, George Santayana, Carl Jung, David Hume, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Toynbee, Rudolph Steiner, Samuel Cartwright, Margaret Sanger etc. These people were not Southern phenomenon, or mere Confederate apologists. Even the 1958 Minstrel Show of George Mitchell, which managed to find its way to European screens, indicates something more was going on here.
Pieterse, for instance, distinguished between European Domination and White Supremacy, claiming that systems of racial exploitation had to be suited to specific places, even if operating, using the same themes. Mellon’s work, however, linked the Separatists (Pilgrims) with England, and other parts of Europe, from which they came. James Loewen goes further to examine the thinkng of the European travellers/explorers, missionaries etc, that exported peculiar notions which eventually, were systematised as mechanisms facilitating domination over nonwhite people. Meanwhile, in Begrimed and Black, Hood examines the historical views towards blackness (non-whiteness) to be found in European thought. Our point is, however, that this cannot be reduced to mere mishaps, and slips of tongue which sees someone compared to “animals”. It cannot be marginalised as the handywork of a few bad apples; or the “high spirits” of a “hand” of people, as if this were the case, the ongoing eruptions or insensitive racial epitaphs hurled at various nonwhite footballers would indicate that we have some extra large hands. Much rather, we would follow Marimba Ani who advanced that these particular icons, symbols, typecasts, categorisations, etc, were the product of the incorrigible, racist mind.
According to Sistah Souljah, we cannot allow ourselves to endorse chaos/confusion by tolerating the notion that racist thought was simply reflected in “rude”, or “upsetting” literature, artwork and images, as these forms and mediums of communication, whether Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, Georges Remi, etc. Nor can we pretend, it is a matter of “White Privilege”, which implies it is something which “just happensS rather than something that people participate in, that people do. It is not JUST when we see the word “savage”, “primitive”, “tribal,” but much rather, it is modern, contemporary, and “first world.” Rather than focus on the binary, the racist thought is that which creates the binary and then disguises it so as to suggest it were normal; so as to imply it were the “natural order”, so as to IMPOSE the notion that its just how things evolved, over time, sometimes for the worst, and possibly, at times, the better. These “deceptions”, however, tend to conceal the complicity, collaboration and even identification with, apologising for, and ownership under the system. It is not a “word”; it is a “system.” – the thinking behind the thinking.
It cannot become a game of find the bogeyman, or a matter which involves embarrassment and blushes when language reveals semblances and nuances of the “old” colonial thinking; the classical empire mentality. These attempts to push “racist thought” into antiquity, pretending it were something vintage, outdated, and even childish conceal the realities of adult performers endorsing these notions; intelligent people developing and devising elaborately evolving systems ot disguise these ongoing horrors, using language to hide violence, deny reality and masquerade politely.
We are urged to acknowledge that “…racism is a system that based on race, denies people access to life, to liberty; to the pursuit of happiness; to proper education; to control over their own resources; racism is a system that denies people access, based on race, to those particular things…a system that is predicated on the notion of power. if you as a race, do not have the power to systematically deny people access – to life, to liberty, to proper education, to industry; to money making; to controlling your environment – you cannot be considered a racist…these are the systems that control your life…will decide for you whether or not your people will survive…the systems that rob groups of people of their land, their heritage, their culture and their language … ”
There are key ways in which this system is ignored, and primarily, this involved denying people like ourselves, who can see through this disguises, and instead, promoting people who will not injure, dent or harm the system; that is the Time Wise, Jessica Petit, Peggy McIntosh, Jane Elliott gang, etc, who have been “playing along” since the days of Steve Biko. We can say this as, in his text, Steve Biko acknowledges the first stage racist practice which involves the [suspected] “oppressors” setting-themselves up at the “opposition” to the oppression which also shares its face. This confusion and chaos is not constructive. Rather than work behind the scene – although without the directing of a Stanley Levison – like those who adopt those little darkie, wog children – with their silly, reckless, oversexualised, irresponsible , absentee parents – they are perpetuating the racist system. Eve n if they are not intending to do this, it makes little sense to brood over the deliberateness especially if this subtracts from interrogating the efficacy of these practices in maintaining domination. If only these “good souls” moved with as much fervour as
those who rushed to lynch males who “check-on” snowflake, we might just get something accomplished around here.