Manifest. A word and practice that has attained significant traction in the last few years or so.
Whether it is “manifesting” your true love, dream career, or any other ideal status, the concept suggests a spirituality that, if tapped into, yields life-changing results.
Despite its frequent presence in everyday dialogue, manifest, as a word and practice, is, of course, anything but a new approach. Manifest destiny was a historicized term used to vindicate colonial expansion. In laymen’s terms, to “manifest” anything as a person of African descent is to play into the logic that whiteness or white supremacist compliance, is necessary for our dreams to become a reality.
Thus, the resurrection and re-use of the term perform a collective amnesia, consistent with the racist ideology of a racist country. Specifically, “manifest” as a prevalent colloquialism socially reproduces the historical concept, given that attempts to manifest life improvement perform the vindication that aligns with its conception.
This social reproduction performs what has happened for centuries: a misrepresentation of power. This misrepresentation of power, a possibility most commonly illustrated by the n-word, illuminates re-use as an improper substitute for revolution. The n-word does not alleviate its pejorative origins as a colloquialism: it reinforces it. “N*gga” has, for decades, been how some black people refer to themselves “endearingly,” behavior that underscores colonial influence on intra-cultural relationships and elucidates the unwavering strength that centuries of indoctrination holds on an anti-black culture.
Similar to the panopticon prison structure that imprisoned the sentenced in its oppressive gaze, racism’s wrath systemizes the oppressed into a stupor mirrored in an indoctrinated perception that conceptualizes the “n-word” as what the African in American has made it. In contrast, the word reflects what we become when we keep the flames of a racist language ablaze.
Similarly, Stan Lee’s vision of blackness became a staple in black culture and, for many, a sign of black advancement while upholding views of the white male savior. Moreover, the CIA agent was not just a character, he was in the film’s locus, its veiled caption.
The same goes for Love Craft County on anti-black hyper-site, HBO. The series, pegged a “black” show, like Black Panther, also brings to life a white male conceptualization of the antebellum south.
Furthermore, the staples of black culture past and present, be in the “n-word,” or Black Panther, delineate the stealth ways hegemony continues to manifest its destiny at the expense of the black collective and black culture. Nevertheless, with a closer gaze, the hallmarks of black culture, deemed socially acceptable by an anti-black culture, are merely diverse ways that anti-blackness “manifests the man” time and time again.
In closing, I will leave you with this no-so rhetorical question: If black is beautiful, and “black lives matter,” does this continue to be the case only when aligned with whiteness? The answer is, of course, that beneath the performative blackness socially engineered by our anti-black adversaries, many do not believe that is black is beautiful or that we matter unless or until the African adjacent deem us worthy of such. So they “manifest the man” believing that only in his image can the hopes and dreams of the once enslaved be anything more than a thought.