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 There is no parallel in human history where a people have been subjected

to similar mutilation of body mind and soul.  Even the Christian religion was given

to them in a form only to degrade them.”



The "N-Word" and the Psychology of Black Oppression

By Professor Gershom Williams


One of the main tasks of Black consciousness is to affirm the beauty of our Blackness, to see beauty in Black skin, and thick lips and broad nostrils and kinky hair; to rid our vocabulary of ‘good hair’ and ‘high yeller’ and our medicine cabinets of bleaching creams.  To de-niggerize ourselves is the key task of Black consciousness.” –John O. Killens (1966)

—388 years after the first 20 African indentured servants who were erroneously called “Negars” were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 –We are still using the N-word!

—200 years after Haitian Blacks won their freedom in 1804, becoming the first free Black independent nation in the Western hemisphere – We are still using the N-word!

—142 years after President Lincoln’s proclamation, the Civil war and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which finally abolished chattel slavery in the North America – We are still using the N-word!

—85 years after Marcus Garvey, the Harlem Renaissance and the “New Negro” consciousness movement – We are still using the N-word!

—50 years after the landmark Supreme Court Case, “Brown vs. Board of Education,” Emmitt Till’s lynching, and Rosa Parks’ courageous stand in the deep South – We are still using the N-word!

—40 years after Black leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers were assassinated – We are still using the N-word!

—40 years after the “Black is Beautiful” and the “I’m Black and I’m Proud” movements. We are still using the N-word!

—and finally, 40 years after the other N-word (Negro) was virtually obliterated from Black language and Black life—We are still using the centuries old despicable term Nigger!

With all of the above in mind, why are many of today’s Black psychologists, sociologists, historians, ministers, politicians, community activists, etc., speaking and writing about these same crazy issues facing African-Americans across the nation, such as self-hatred, internalized inferiority, White supremacy (racism), mentacide, the Willie Lynch syndrome and the post-traumatic slavery syndrome?  Why is it that 50 plus years after the experimental research of Dr.’s Kenneth and Mamie Clark and their famous Black doll- White doll studies with Black children, their response still yields the same negative results in 2007?  That being that Black children in New York City still choose or prefer the White doll over the Black one as being smarter, prettier, and more desirable.

From the leaders of early slave revolts on to W.E.B. Dubois, Carter G. Woodson, Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon, we have been passionately informed that the most devastating impact of the White man has been psychological.  In their writings and speeches, they consistently cautioned us that “The key to the White man’s power and the major strategy used by him to remain dominant in the global power struggle of the modern world, has been in his uncanny ability to influence other people’s minds (cultures), and how they live and relate to one another.”

The intellectual assaults or the psychic violence aimed at controlling Black minds has surprisingly been well documented from at least 1829 when David Walker's Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World was first published in Boston.  In their book The Psychology of Blacks:  An African Centered Perspective, authors Parham, White and Ajamu state that “The most daunting challenge that we face as African American people is not White supremacy ideology but a need for collective mental liberation.”

Nigger, Coon, Jigaboo, Buck, Darkie, Pickaninny, Jezebel, Mammy, Aunt Jemima, Sambo, Buckwheat, and Uncle Tom are all powerful examples of negative racial stereotypes imposed on the psyche of African descended people from the outside.  No other American group has suffered as many racial epithets as have American Blacks.  So who or what can honestly heal our deeply inflicted psychological scars?  Who can really pay “reparations” on the Souls of Black Folk?

In his 1903 literary masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois made his case for the idea of a dual or “double consciousness” existing with the collective psyche of Africans in America.  This false consciousness that Dr. Dubois wrote about really speaks to the confusion and ambivalence that Black folks experience every day in America as they search and struggle for their own meaningful sense of historical and cultural identity.  Indeed the latter struggle and the problem of “The Color Line” are still with us more than a century later.

Let us now fast forward to 1933, the year that another Harvard trained Ph.D, Carter G. Woodson wrote his classic text, The Mis-Education of the Negro.  Dr. Woodson’s critical historical analysis of the effects of a Eurocentric/hegemonic education on the minds of Black students informed both Black and White readers that “the Negro’s mind” had been brought under the control of his oppressor, and that when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.”

Dr. Woodson furthermore penned the following statement regarding Black student mis-education, “To handicap a student for life by teaching him that his Black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless, is the worst kind of lynching.  It kills one’s aspirations and dooms him to vagabondage and crime.”

So how do we begin to de-Niggerize and de-program both young and old Black minds?  How do we begin the process of breaking the monopoly the oppressor continues to have on our minds?  Dr. Na’im Akbar’s powerful booklet (Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery) asks and answers precisely the aforementioned questions of how we must begin the self-healing process by recognizing that the starting point for understanding the African-American personality must commence with an in-depth study of the Holocaust of Enslavement (The Maafa).  Without question, this has to be the starting point and not the end point.

In order to liberate the Black mind, we have to change and fundamentally transform the consciousness of the Black individual.  We must inculcate new and positive information in the minds Black people in general but more importantly our Black youth.  This re-orientation or re-education is a mental restoration process that began with the writers and freedom fighters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  What is needed is an African centered or Afro-centric consciousness and not a Euro-centric or false consciousness.

We must always remember the words of our giant social scientist, E. Franklin Frazier who emphatically stated, “There is no parallel in human history where a people have been subjected to similar mutilation of body mind and soul.  Even the Christian religion was given to them in a form only to degrade them.”

The Hip Hop community and the present Hip Hop generation may continue to revere and embrace Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls as young, super bad Niggas!  But can we as wise, intelligent and critical thinking African elders view the following ancestors:  Marcus Garvey, Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McLoud Bethune, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Paul Robeson, Fredrick Douglas, Martin Delany, Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, Paul Cuffe, Denmark Vesey, and James Baldwin as Negars, Niggers or Niggas? [Check Ebony's Fifty Influential Figures in African-American History .]

I can certainly think of, and I am sure that we all could create other terms of endearment that we as an ancient and proud race of people could use to refer to one another in humble veneration and love.  The concepts of Black inferiority and the ugly, racist N-word have both been exported overseas.  People in various foreign nations, just like Whites in America, are using the N-word in both the public and private sectors.

As I heard it so profoundly stated by Dr. Maulana Karenga of Los Angeles, “We may not be responsible for our enslavement and colonial oppression, but we are most certainly responsible for our freedom and liberation.”

In closing, I would humbly but sincerely submit to all who read this article that a few of us African-centered thinkers have learned that a major key to de-Niggerizing ourselves and shattering the invisible chains of mental slavery is to know and respect one’s own history and cultural heritage.  With this being said, let our positive journey begin!  May the ancestors be pleased!

Professor Gershom Williams teaches African-American History at Mesa Community College.

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How William Faulkner Tackled Race—and Freed the South from Itself—John Jeremiah Sullivan on Absalom, Absalom!—You are my brother. — No I’m not. I’m the nigger that’s going to sleep with your sister. Unless you stop me, Henry.

This is a novel [Absalom, Absalom!] that uses the word “nigger” many times. An unfortunate subject, but to talk about it in 2012 and not mention the fact hints at some kind of repression. Especially when you consider that the particular example I’ve quoted is atypically soft: Bon, the person saying it, is part black, and being mordantly ironic. Most of the time, it’s a white character using the word—or, most conspicuously, the novel itself, in its voice—with an uglier edge. The third page features the phrase “wild niggers”; elsewhere it’s “monkey nigger.”

Faulkner wasn’t unique or even uncommon in using the word this way. Hemingway, Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein—all did so unapologetically. They were reflecting their country’s speech. They were also, if we are being frank, exploiting the word’s particular taboo charge, one only intensified when the writer is a white Southerner. Faulkner says “Negroes” in plenty of places here, also “blacks,” but when he wants a stronger effect, he says “niggers.” It isn’t a case, in short, of That’s just how they talked back then. The term was understood by the mid-’30s (well before, in fact) to be nasty. A white person wouldn’t use it around a black person unless meaning to offend or assert superiority—except perhaps now and then in the context of an especially close humor.

Even if we were to justify Faulkner’s overindulgence of the word on the grounds of historical context, I would find it unfortunate purely as a matter of style. It may be crass for a white reader to claim that as significant, but a writer with Faulkner’s sensitivity to verbal shading might have been better tuned to the ugliness of the word, and not a truth-revealing ugliness, but something more like gratuitousness, with an attending queasy sense of rhetorical power misused. I count it a weakness, to be placed alongside Faulkner’s occasional showiness and his incessant “not” constructions, which come often several to a page: “and not this, nor that, nor even the other thing, but a fourth thing — adjective adjective adjective — made him lift the hoe” (where half the time those things would not have occurred to you in your natural life, but old Pappy takes his time chopping them down anyway).

The defense to be mounted is not of Faulkner’s use of the word but of the novel in spite of it, or rather, in the face of it. Absalom, Absalom! has been well described as the most serious attempt by any white writer to confront the problem of race in America. There is bravery in Faulkner’s decision to dig into this wound. He knew that the effort would involve the exposure of his own mind, dark as it often was. You could make a case that to have written this book and left out that most awful of Southernisms would have constituted an act of falsity.

Certainly we would not want to take the word away from Bon, in that scene in the woods, one of the most extraordinary moments in Southern literature. A white man and a black man look at each other and call each other brother. One does, anyway. Suddenly, thrillingly, the whole social edifice on which the novel is erected starts to teeter. All Henry has to do is repeat himself. Say it again, the reader thinks. Say, “No, you are my brother.” And all would be well, or could be well, the gothic farce of Sutpen’s dream redeemed with those words, remade into a hopeful or at least not-hope-denying human story. Charles Bon would live, and Judith would be his wife, and Sutpen would have descendants, and together they might begin rebuilding the South along new lines.—nytimes

Psychology of Black Oppression   The N-Word Poem at Lakeside  H. Rap Brown's Die Nigger Die!   The Niggerization of Palestine  

Juneteenth and Emancipation   The Origin of Violence in Virginia   Just Another Dead Nigger  Nigguh Please

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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

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#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

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#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007

By Matthew Wasniewski

Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007 beautifully prepared volume—is a comprehensive history of the more than 120 African Americans who have served in the United States Congress. Written for a general audience, this book contains a profile of each African-American Member, including notables such as Hiram Revels, Joseph Rainey, Oscar De Priest, Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm, Gus Hawkins, and Barbara Jordan. Individual profiles are introduced by contextual essays that explain major events in congressional and U.S. history. Part I provides four chronologically organized chapters under the heading "Former Black Members of Congress." Each chapter provides a lengthy biographical sketch of the members who served during the period addressed, along with a narrative historical account of the era and tables of information about the Congress during that time. Part II provides similar information about current African-American members. There are 10 appendixes providing tabular information of a variety of sorts about the service of Black members, including such things as a summary list, service on committees and in party leadership posts, familial connections, and so forth.

The entire volume is 803 large folio pages in length and there are many illustrations. The book should be part of every library and research collection, and congressional scholars may well wish to obtain it for their personal libraries.—Pictures—including rarely seen historical images—of each African American who has served in Congress—Bibliographies and references to manuscript collections for each Member—Statistical graphs and charts

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.Publishers Weekly

 Derrick Bell Law Rights Advocate  Dies at 80

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Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

By Randall Kennedy

The word is paradigmatically ugly, racist and inflammatory. But is it different when Ice Cube uses it in a song than when, during the O.J. Simpson trial, Mark Fuhrman was accused of saying it? What about when Lenny Bruce uses it to "defang" it by sheer repetition? Or when Mark Twain uses it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to make an antiracist statement? Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and noted legal scholar, has produced an insightful and highly provocative book that raises vital questions about the relationship between language, politics, social norms and how society and culture confront racism. Drawing on a wide range of historical, legal and cultural instances Harry S. Truman calling Adam Clayton Powell "that damned nigger preacher"; Title VII court cases in which the use of the word was proof of condoning a "racially hostile work environment"; Quentin Tarantino's liberal use of the word in his films Kennedy repeatedly shows not only the complicated cultural history of the word, but how its meaning, intent and even substance change in context.

Smart, well argued and never afraid of facing serious, difficult and painful questions in an unflinching and unsentimental manner, this is an important work of cultural and political criticism. As Kennedy notes in closing: "For bad or for good, nigger is... destined to remain with us for the foreseeable future a reminder of the ironies and dilemmas, the tragedies and glories, of the American experience." (Jan. 22)Forecast: This may be the book that reignites larger debates over race eclipsed by September 11. Look for a bestselling run and huge talk show and magazine coverage as the Afghanistan news cycle continues to slow; the book had already been the subject of two New York Times stories by early January.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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update 7 April 2012




Home Special Topics    Education & History    Amin Sharif

Related files:  Psychology of Black Oppression   The N-Word Poem at Lakeside   Retrospective on Die Nigger Die    The Niggerization of Palestine  Nigguh Please

Juneteenth and Emancipation   The Origin of Violence in Virginia   Just Another Dead Nigger   A Hip Hop Clothing Store Called Nigger