A Telling Exchange between a Free and Enslaved African

I read an interesting exchange in my blog this weekend. The exchange was beneath a post authored earlier this year regarding interracial dating. The comments painted members of the black collective somewhat predictably—those who understand interracial relationships as a strategy of our oppressors and those who individualize the subject and become intractably defensive. However, in reading the exchange it became obvious that the two most spirited participants occupied vastly familiar roles—the runaway and enslaved African.

In examining many contemporary interactions such as this one, it becomes obvious that we as a people have done little to deviate from the plots of land we toiled as abducted Africans. For privacy purposes lets call one “Kwame” and the other “John.” Kwame gave a delineated explanation of how exactly interracial relationships appeases western power systems. He wrote the following:

A non white person having sex with a white person, is like an inmate having sex with the prison warden or a slave having sex with the slave master, or a college professor having sex with their student, a Army general having sex with a private, these situations are frowned upon in white society but white people are ok with bedroom integration. Lets save the bedroom integration until last and solve the problem of racism white supremacy first. A white person engaging in sex with a non white person is an act of maximum racist aggression.

This comment articulates a number of examples that discount relationships from polarized ends of hierarchy as establishing equality. Instead, they exploit power dynamics to heighten sexual gratification for the oppressor. In short, these relationships personalize a collective disenfranchisement by expanding general oppression into bedroom politics.  The comment portrays Kwame as possessing a heightened consciousness, like a former slave freed from the physical and psychological abuse of his master due to unlocking the hidden truth of black culture.

John’s response, which I refuse to quote, was one of a slave blissfully oblivious to the chains encompassing his mind. It was hard to read, because it reflected an ideology consistent with many “new” blacks who disconnect from perils they believe  solely align with their ancestors.

Ancestor Harriet Tubman would make nineteen trips to gift enslaved africans with physical freedom, and Kwame took on a similar battle. By writing back to his lost brethren, the freed African journeyed backwards, only to see that his brother was currently beyond reproach. I can only hope that this is but a stage in John’s journey. But ultimately, John will most likely become like James Weldon Johnson at the end of The Diary of an Ex-Colored Man, envious of the pride and valor of black nationalism after trading in his pride years prior to live in the comfort of post-emancipation slavery.  As Tubman famously said:

I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed. thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

The plantations of our past manifest in current white collar positions and professional jobs, that often convince the enslvaed African that “things are no so bad.” These jobs may place the white man’s money in a black palm, but it also places a noose around a black neck and his chains around black limbs. As a professional lacking a collective consciousness, the black body is but a slave on a much more polished plantation with elevators and a glass ceiling, bound to combat the free African with claims of delusion or envy. I could only imagine that this very dynamic occurred countless times on the plantation. It seems almost a guarantee that runaway slaves met adversity from their enslaved counterparts who safely suckled the breast of white supremacy, misconstruing a headlock as a loving embrace, and force feeding as a suggested serving.

The late Dr. Derrick Bell illustrates a similar exchange between two black male characters in his short story “ Racial Symbols: A Limited Legacy.” The short story follows an esteemed black male professor who encounters a true, but unanticipated intellect—a taxi cab driver ironically named Jesse Semple. Despite being a decorated scholar, the college professor—entangled in white supremacy—downplayed racism, an ideology illustrated in his reference of symbolism as a tangible feat for blacks. Consider the following:

Things are tough for blacks folks. Mr. Semple, but they don’t get any better by ignoring the few positive spots on an otherwise bleak horizon. As the old folks used to say,” I added expansively, “black folks use to not have show, but we sho go show now.”

To many, interracial relationships are a positive symbol of progress. The ability to outwardly marry and fornicate with whites is a pseudo privilege that many enslaved blacks mistake for power. However, this behavior is simply another instance that unveils the white man’s power over the black psyche. As Bell states “… but they were symbols, not of ships and guns, but of white mendacity, white deceit, white chicanery.” Too often the conventionally successfully black acquiesces to the very system that disenfranchised his ancestors and continues to disenfranchise the current black collective, simply because it has seemingly rewarded him. The conventionally successful black is nothing but a contemporary “good slave.” He’s broken by the system and therefore functions with the necessary predictability to ease the white man’s mind.

John is a “good” slave, predictably fighting for his “right” to an integrated bedroom. A “good” slave typically makes significant money, seeing these pieces of paper as a gateway to the “finer” things. Money, of course, is a symbol. Many falsely align money with power, whereas the white man invented this system of commerce to grand tangibility to his wealth. Thus, the money that commonly accompanies conventionality is yet another symbol used to control the black mind.

This green seduces many with black skin to downplay white evil, and overlook the reality that most blacks do not grow their own food, own their own banks, or have communities flourishing with their own businesses. This deficit illustrates black disenfranchisement, yet escapes the many who feel they are free because they can seemingly shop where the white man shops. Realistically blacks will possess white access because upon perceived as overstepping any boundary, blacks are followed, arrested or killed, because blacks do not make the laws. So what good is the whites man’s money if the black body remains a fugitive of the state? How can a group truly be equitable to another, if dependent on another to survive? Or lynched for even seeking independence?

There is no equity without black ownership, without black community and without black controlled economics. So regardless of how financially comfortable blacks feel making six figures, the black body is only separated from the physical plantation by years. There is a reason why whites burned down Black Wall Street, murdered leaders like Medgar Evans,  Malcolm X, Dr. King and Fred Hampton —because these were not symbols they were a means to actual progress. If interracial dating were actually a means to progress, it would not dominate the images that encompass contemporary western culture. The white world has not and will never encourage blacks to do anything that will free them.

Futhermore, blacks like Kwame serve as the darkness at the end of the underground railroad, signaling a stealth transition and the sustenance to bear mental fruit. Kwame, in his brilliance and intellectual generosity mirrors the African ancestors that left breadcrumbs to all those seeking an elevated consciousness years after their earthly departure.

Melanated folk like John, alternatively,  serve as the light at the end of the tunnel, informing those wishing to escape slavery that they have been found out. For this reason, the enslaved black is the most poisonous being to those seeking an elevated consciousness for the enslaved African reserves  his resentment for his own misplacing his love, dedication, and respect  as sentiments solely reserved for his or her oppressors.

So while presently confined to the comment section beneath a lightly visited blog, these enslaved Africans populate our neighborhoods, workplace, families and maybe even our friendships. Tread carefully my friends, for he or she who falls for white supremacy, inevitably covets the white man’s power and is naturally bound to thwart black advancement.