Emancipation Day & T-Shirts
It was extremely disappointing, when flicking through the Bernews photos of Cup Match, to see that some individuals have created t-shirts to mock the ‘White Mental Illness is Killing African Bermudians (Racism)’; what is more they decided to flaunt this on Emancipation Day of all days.
I’m overseas right now, and Scotland doesn’t celebrate Emancipation Day unfortunately; or ‘Somers Day’ either.
A curious juxtaposition those two holidays – celebrating emancipation from slavery (and a holiday that was made by the people, not gifted from above), followed by the start of colonialism in Bermuda…
To compensate for not being able to celebrate Cup Match in the traditional way, I thought re-reading Frantz Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism would cover both Emancipation and colonialism…
Black Skin, White Masks
Which brought to mind the first book by Frantz Fanon I ever read, Black Skin, White Masks, especially after the whole business with the sign and the subsequent t-shirts at Cup Match.
Here’s an extract which I think is worth quoting in its entirety:
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalist, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
It seems to me that this quote, some sixty odd years old, is still quite relevant.
It speaks to the central, provocative, argument of the sign, that racism is, or at least could be, understood as a mental illness.
It’s important to note here that this ‘racism as a mental illness’ is not necessarily the overt racism of the past, explicitly anti-Black ideology, explicit hate.
Nor is it restricted to Whites; it is a pathology based on Whiteness, and that helps maintain White privilege, but it affects both those that benefit and those that are the victims of it.
Or to quote again from Black Skin, White Masks:
“The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”
Whether you like the individual who raised the sign or not, to focus on her and not the point she raised is to deflect and engage in personal attacks.
It is also to fundamentally miss the point.
Far too many have only taken a superficial and limited reading of the sign, and reacted unthinkingly.
Whether this is due to ignorance or insecurities, I cannot say.
What I will say is that there is a distinct trend amongst significant segments of our people to adopt what I can only describe as a superficial, a-historical and delusional approach to race in the Bermuda context.
Essentially, this approach sees our island as post-racial, as in our race issues ended with the end of segregation.
In this world view the inequalities we see today are not due to historical consequences of slavery, and subsequently segregation; rather, it is due to personal responsibility.
Any attempt to point out the reality of racial inequality in Bermuda, and how this manifests itself in a number of forms (health inequalities, racial differences in life expectancy, imbalances in both the prison and the boardroom, etc), or to even discuss race itself, is branded as racist.
White Washed Racism
More than that, it’s answered by an avalanche of pictures of blacks and whites holding hands, or inspirational quotes from Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela, which betray both a superficial understanding of race and a selective understanding of the complex arguments of MLK or Mandiba.
To understand racism solely in terms of individual animosity is to misunderstand the complexity of racism, and to deflect from the issue of structural racism – which is the primary problem in Bermuda today (although we do have a significant reserve of explicit racism, more than I had initially thought).
On the sanitised ‘white-washed’ versions of MLK, for example, they ignore his arguments that his ‘I had a dream’ vision is only achievable through a full confrontation with racism in all its forms, especially in terms of inequalities that have been created by slavery, segregation and discrimination – a form of reparations and affirmative action.
Our racial inequalities exist. To deny that is delusional.
To react to anyone pointing out these inequalities and theorising on how racism is multi-faceted as ‘racists’ is irrational.
To think of racism solely in terms of explicit racism is delusional.
To have (a) conceived of these shirts; and (b) to actually create and wear them, on Emancipation Day itself, just underlines the racial deformation of our society.
Some final (short) points:
- The younger generations are more susceptible to adopting, initially, an ahistorical and post-racial delusion. This is primarily due to a steady diet of post-racial propaganda from US media, but also due to a loss of the collective memory of our segregated past.
- Expatriates, from largely White majority countries, also are susceptible to this ahistorical and post-racial delusion.
- This racial mystification affects primarily Whites, but also Blacks.
- Analysis of statistics and a critical reading of history (but also sociology and psychology) help to expose the reality.
- The reactions to this sign, including these shirts, is an example of cognitive dissonance, primarily from Whites.
One final quote from Black Skin, White Masks:
“The colonised is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.”
Change ‘colonised’ to ‘Black’ and ‘mother country’s’ with ‘Whites, and you have Bermuda.
Alternatively, one could read it as ‘PLP’ and ‘OBA’… PLPers (or, rather, non-OBAers) are regarded as ‘sheeple’, but once they accept OBA mantras, they’re ‘enlightened’.