By Said Shaiye
Nearly every culture in the world today is centered around the premise that white is more valuable than black; that white skin carries with it an inherent infallibility and black skin is merely a foregone conclusion of criminality. Whiteness is universally understood to signify innocence, while blackness is intrinsically associated with guilt. This universal inculpability gives the white gaze an exponentially higher value than the black gaze.
The white gaze can be intoxicating to the average oppressed black person. Especially after having spent an entire lifetime tiptoeing around fragile white egos just to avoid the insufferable heat of white scrutiny. A black person navigating their way through a white supremacist world which encourages and rewards anti-blackness at every turn is intuitively familiar with the consecution of this macabre two-step. We are taught to downplay our own blackness when in the company of whites because our presence alone is offensive. We do all this and more because our survival is dependent upon it.
On the rare occasion a black person manages to escape the clutches of societal-imposed poverty and criminalization, they almost always channel the racist views of their white counterparts at this new level of the social totem pole.
Wealth is a status symbol in a capitalist society that separates the distinct classes by measuring one’s resources alongside an established racial hierarchy. Things such as poverty and blackness became closely linked in the collective white consciousness because both were seen as indicators of low class. Thus, white supremacy and capitalism form a symbiotic and often inextricable relationship. Whiteness places itself above blackness at all times and money helps manifest this separation by acting as the currency used to enforce geographical distance.
Economically disenfranchised black folks, over the course of generations of living in abject poverty, developed novel ways to circumvent the intentional denial of access to resources and capital orchestrated by the intersection of white supremacy and unchecked capitalism. If there aren’t any jobs in your black community, you find a way to generate your own income.
Capitalism forces you to make decisions that might hurt yourself and your own people until you stack enough greenbacks to buy your way out of poverty. But even once a black person “makes it,” it’s expected that you shed the things not traditionally associated with this higher class. You are now almost entirely surrounded by elitist white people who loathe whatever parts of black culture that haven’t yet or can’t be appropriated, and won’t hesitate to express that hatred at every given opportunity.
As beings that crave social connection, we are all greatly influenced by the mindsets of the people in our immediate surroundings. A pacifist quickly becomes violent beyond reason when placed in a maximum security prison, the self-preservation instinct we’re all born possessing necessitating that transformation.
A black person placed in a gated white community quickly becomes so accustomed to being coddled and praised by the white gaze that they completely detach from the collective black reality. They are transported from a life of bearing the full brunt of whiteness to suddenly being lulled into a false sense of security by a constant bombardment of facetious adulation. As long as they play their role, they are placed on pedestals by their white socioeconomic peers, told they are one of the few Good Negroes. Over time, the black person starts to believe in these white lies, one after the other. They get an ego boost from being constantly praised for their ability to work their way out of generational poverty by sheer power of determination alone.
They start to believe in the false notion of meritocracy that (white) society inundates into the poverty-stricken masses. They believe they alone are responsible for their newfound wealth. They start to mimic the talking points of nationally syndicated conservative (read: racist) radio personalities without pausing to analyze the underlying implications.
Oftentimes, they are hand-picked to be the designated black faces who parrot fallacious white supremacist rhetoric to a national audience. A good example of this can be found in Milwaukee’s Sheriff David Clarke, who burst onto the political scene this year as a staunch supporter of Donald Trump with a penchant for antiblack vitriol. He’s well known for his victim blaming mentality, especially when those victims are black. In regards to extrajudicial executions of black men by the police, he once stated in a Fox News interview that “if there are no fathers around … they grow up to be unmanageable misfits that the police then have to deal with aggressively.”
Just like that, you have a sterilized black. A white-washed black, so effectively stripped of its natural essence that it’s indistinguishable from over-boiled chicken. It falls apart at the touch and has no flavor to speak of. It yields to outside pressure and has no discernible beliefs or values.
This black doesn’t see color anymore, especially the color of his own skin. Pretending not to see the melanin that covers every inch of your epidermis must be all-consuming. Hell.
In order to avoid this ghastliest of fates, this living hell on earth, one must take some necessary precautions while embarking down the road to material riches:
You must remain cognizant of the temptation to be pulled into the cold embrace of the white gaze at all times. As the old saying goes, if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.
You must practice radical black love in your household, because loving your own blackness is a radical endeavor in a world that tries to convince you of your worthlessness at every turn.
You must, at all costs, engage in the necessary work of defending your blackness, especially from a constant onslaught of white micro-agressions. Whenever you feel the slightest hint of antiblackness buried within the depths of coded white language, accuse them of being racist. Ask them what they really meant by that statement and why they thought it was so innocuous as to be dropped in casual conversation without incident.
Finally, go to Africa if you can. Take your family to the blackest corners of this world and let that black joy relight your candles. Distance yourself from white toxicity at all costs, in every way imaginable, as often as you can. Educate yourself from unbiased black sources, support black creators. Engage with the black community wherever you may find them and provide a safe space for each other’s blackness to thrive. Love your black self, because because no one else will do it for you.
Said Shaiye is trapped behind a computer screen, trying to write his way out. He is a proponent for decolonization, both in himself and in the collective black consciousness. He doesn’t believe in allies.