The Cost of Self-Hatred

One of the most tragic consequences in America of racism and sexism is that they have resulted in a huge swath of people – women of all colors and black and to a lesser extent, brown people – who hate themselves.

There is an obsession with Eurocentrism in this world; anything white or Nordic-looking is deemed to be better and superior, and the world bought into it generations ago. Hitler, in his racist craziness, was looking to create a “master race,” but the concept of that master race being white, blue-eyed and blonde didn’t originate with Hitler. It came right from these United States.

Racism was written into the Constitution with black people being relegated to being on 3/5 of a person. The framers of the United States Constitution made it clear that this nation’s foundational document meant fully to exclude slaves, women, Indians and even white indentured servants. White men were written up and held up as “the fittest,” and in later years, the Eugenics movement in this country sought to wipe away individuals who were designated as being “inferior.” The only people the Eugenics movement sought to perverse, according to Edwin Black, author of War Against the Weak, were those who confirmed to Nordic stereotypes.

That belief undergirded national policies, including segregation and forced sterilization. Black says that upwards of 60,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized. Major corporations, including the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation, funded the work of the “scientists” who did work to “prove” the superiority of Nordic-looking Caucasians, and some of this country’s most elite universities, including Yale, Harvard and Princeton, produced scientists who offered their intellect and time to prove that the Nordic race was, in fact, superior.

The history of all of that is too much to go into here, but the result of the spreading of the lie that Europeans, specifically Nordic whites, were superior, has had a devastating effect on black and brown people, and on women, too. Black people have been so demoralized by being designated as ugly and intellectually inferior that many have tried to get as far away from their heritage as possible. White people as well, who did not fit the Nordic prototype, have struggled with feeling inferior; when I was in high school and college, I saw many white women ironing their hair and dyeing it blonde, in order to fit into the accepted definition of beauty.

The disregard of anything and anyone which does not fit the Nordic model is part of the pathology which undergirds the treatment of black people by whites, and specifically the treatment of blacks by white police officers and by other blacks. We tend to see ourselves through the lenses of other people; the lens of white America sees or portrays black people as being brutish and and criminal. That lens despises black skin, black hair and black body types. A black person, then, is a thing, the personification of the 3/5 designation given by the United States Constitution, and is to be feared rather than protected.

Both white and black people look through the same lens. White people hate black people, but too many black people hate themselves and therefore each other. White people objectify black people, but black people objectify each other as well. In spite of great gains made that have made the African American population accept itself more than it has historically, there is still a great gulf between self-love and self-acceptance and the bigoted image and prejudiced view which has been the American reality.

White people are still hyper-critical of how black people look. Consider the horrid things which whites have said about Michelle Obama, who is a beauty in her own right. It is a tribute to her inner strength that she has endured the racist criticisms and put-downs that have come her way, but many African Americans, especially young girls, do not have that strength and they struggle with who they are and how they look – still, in this, the 21st century – wanting desperately to be anything other than black.

Black people still talk about “good” and “bad” hair, bad being, of course, their hair. Relaxers made to straighten out the kinky locks of black women have in fact done so much damage to black hair that it will take years to reverse. What is sad is that there are still too many black mothers who put these toxic and dangerous relaxers on their hair of their little girls, whose hair is way too delicate to handle the chemicals. Too many black people are still concerned with the fullness of their lips, even as white women get injections to make their lips bigger. In essence, what this means is that while many young African American women have a much more healthy self-image than did even their mothers, there are still too many little black girls and young black women wanting to be white.

There are a lot of consequences of not liking oneself, but one of the biggest is that when one is consumed with self hatred, he or she cannot bloom in his or her own fullness. The refusal of legislators to allocate money for schools in urban areas, themselves filled with contempt for black people,  is depriving this nation of incredible intellect and talent sitting in those schools, cultural and societal barriers to the same notwithstanding. It would help if advertisers could get away from their own biases, still holding up the Nordic look as the standard of beauty. Little black girls see white women with long, blonde flowing hair, and they want to be like that. The media does the most damage to the possibility for the image of beauty to move away from being lily white, but the media also helps keep little black girls captive to a standard of beauty which keeps them bound and incapable of realizing their highest potential, a fact which ultimately weakens this nation.

It’s not just the way the media portrays the standard of beauty which is problematic; it is its refusal to correct the misconceptions about how black people function in this world. The media still portrays “the bad people” as being primarily black. Black on black crime is held up as proof that black people are not viable, valuable American citizens. We hear little about the very real phenomenon of white on white crime – which doesexist. According to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites. In an article which appeared in the Huffington Post, the author pointed out that in 2011, “there were more cases of whites killed whites than there were of blacks killing blacks.” That same article said that from 1980 to 2008, “a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by white people. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kerry-coddett/white-on-white-crime-an-u_b_6771878.html)

The tragedy is that the media doesn’t pick up and carry those stories but stays instead in the place of myth, pushing the myth that only black people kill black people, not whites, and that that “fact” again proves that black people are not good people, good citizens. White people get a pass while black people struggle to love and respect themselves even as the society goads whites here and all over the world, to hate and despise them.

Black people have climbed over the lies and deliberate attempts to vilify and denigrate them, their looks and their intellectual capacity, for generations. That climbing reveals an inner strength that blacks too seldom celebrate. The curse of racism is a perpetual cloud which hangs over everything in this country, and that cloud, which contains the condensation of racial hatred that is bred and cultivated on American soil, has traveled all over the world.

We, as black people in this nation, have got to look at phenomenon of self-hatred square the face and renounce it, and the white people in this nation who rest arrogantly in the false image of white supremacy need to understand that the supremacy is a myth.As the myth is continuously revealed, with all of its holes and weaknesses, those who have hidden under it will be sorely affected, but that affectation must come.

It is time for the foolishness, wrongness and  amorality of white supremacy to end, and it is past time for African Americans and people of African descent all over the world to stop living in a desire to be something they will never be. It is time for African Americans to walk forward and proudly, no matter their hair or body type.

In fact, it is past time.

A candid observation …

 

The President, Racism, and Trayvon Martin

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The president finally said something about the outcome of the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial.

He spoke honestly about what it is to be African-American, specifically an African-American male, in this country.  He said that, 35 years ago, he could have been Trayvon Martin. And he was and is right.

Many whites really do not understand, nor do they believe, that African-Americans have the struggles we have had since …forever. Whites complain about us complaining; they say we “whine,” and perhaps some of us do; perhaps all of us do at certain times.

But we also live lives on the edge.  I as a mother had “the conversation” with my son about how to act if stopped by police. I worried about him when he got to be a teen, more so than any parent of a teen worries. I had to warn him to be careful. I had “the conversation” about how it isn’t all that safe to be black in America, in spite of his protestations that perhaps I was being too dramatic. Times have changed, Ma, he said.

Well, maybe not so much. Or at least not enough. George Zimmerman remarked that Trayvon moved, walked, too slowly. A few years ago, a black youth, tabbed by police as “suspicious,” ran, was shot, and was killed.  The criticism levied was that he had brought his death on himself; he shouldn’t have run.

So, Sybrina Fulton’s observation, her question and the questions of many African-American mothers, was spot on. What do we tell our sons? Should we tell them to run? Walk quickly? Stop? Walk slowly? What?

President Obama’s question, “If Trayvon Martin had had a gun, would he have been able to stand his ground?” struck an immediate note of painful doubt, borne by experience where black youth have been arrested for things that white youth have gotten away with. Surely he would not have been able to “stand his ground,” shoot and kill George Zimmerman, and gone home.  He would have been accused and probably convicted of murder.  Mark O’Mara‘s comment that if Zimmerman had been black, he wouldn’t have been arrested, was pure poppycock.

The comments heard this week after the Zimmerman verdict show how deep the divide is between black and white people in this country. Juror B-37 was completely infuriating as she talked about how “they” live and talk as she referred to Rachel Jeantel. There was absolutely no awareness of cultural differences and how they are different. In her comments could be heard patronization, scorn, and worse.

All of those comments, and more, have been the polarizing statements, not what the president said. They have been polarizing and maddening, and yet, in spite of the preparation for “riots,” there has been quiet grace, people practicing “hush-mouth grace,” trying to get over yet another wound caused by America‘s disease called racism.

Perhaps some people are calling the president’s words polarizing because they will not believe that what he said he has experienced as a black man is true. Americans live in denial when it comes to racism…When someone says something about which we are in denial, on whatever subject that may be, we instinctively get angry and defensive.  Our denial is the only way we can survive in too many cases.

So I understand why people are angry, but isn’t it time that America get out of denial and start the work of healing? President Obama put the ugliness of what it means to be black in America on Front Street. He aired the ugly truth, out loud.  People don’t want to hear that stuff.

But that stuff is our stuff, America’s stuff. The sooner we move it from the “stuff” bin in the back of our cultural and historical closets, the sooner we can clean that closet out, air out our differences …and be the nation we are supposed to be.

A candid observation …