This post was originally published on Defender Network
By Aswad Walker
Attempts to block, discredit, distort, colonize and criminalize Black (African, Pan-African) history have been going on since the early 1470s. That’s roughly 550 years worth of eurocentric whitewashing; or as folk in the halls of academia call it, “epistemic violence.”
Epistemic violence is not physical violence, like busting somebody upside the head. Rather, it’s purposefully removing, distorting or erasing the contributions to society and humanity of a specific group of people, be they Blacks, Latinx, women, etc., from books, school curriculums, movies and TV shows, etc.
The result? Psychological and emotional violence is perpetrated upon those who don’t see people who look like them in history books, or read great literature written by folk who could be their relatives. Thus, a powerful lesson is taught by NOT teaching about or celebrating on the big and small screens (TV & movies) the achievements and striving of the group whose achievements and strivings have been whited out. The lesson is “Your people haven’t done anything in the history of humanity worth studying, worth celebrating, worth taking any time out of the day to spotlight.”
But it’s not just Blackfolk or Latinx folk or women who are damaged psychologically and otherwise when their contributions are erased from the social discourse. All people are lesser for it. Whitefolk grow up believing the lie of the supposed superiority, and then spend the rest of their days trying to live up to something that they see on the daily that is absolutely not true. Especially when they have to go to everyone else’s culture to appropriate (steal) stuff and claim it as their own just to maintain that illusion of supposed superiority.
Imagine growing up being told (consciously and subconsciously) by every institution in the country (schools, media, the church, criminal justice system, healthcare system, etc.) that “white is right and if you’re Black, stay back,” but going out into the world and seeing Blackfolk, who had and still have darn near every roadblock and disadvantage known to humanity thrown our way, yet still we rise—in every arena, every field imaginable. Seeing Black brilliance in every corner of the globe, every day, all the time, would literally drive your distorted, “believing in the myth of white superiority” mind crazy (FYI, check out Dr. Carol Anderson’s book “White Rage.” It deals directly with this topic).
Hence, this modern-day attack on “critical race theory” and the demonizing of the term “woke.” All that madness is, is the predictable, understandable responses of a people who have been raised to believe they’re at the top of God’s “Great Chain of Beings,” being dogged every day by their conscious and/or subconscious feelings of their own inferiority.
Think about it. Johnny Whiteboy or Becky O. Fay see Beyonce, Michael Jackson or Prince as the pin-ultimate entertainer; Jordan, Lebron, Kobe or Kareem as the greatest hooper; President Barack Obama and the gold standard for elected officials. Plus, Johnny and Becky have grown up, like the rest of us, knowing as fact that Blacks are the best cooks and the most spiritual/religious of people. Then Johnny and Becky go off to college, and come to find out, those Blackfolk who they were always told couldn’t match their intellect, are matching and/or surpassing them in grades and GPA and test scores on the regular.
It’s enough to drive Johnny and Becky to either confront the inherent bias that was drilled into them from birth and wake up to the humanity of Blackfolk and the centuries of crimes against them/us…or to double-down by any means necessary on things that will allow them to hold onto their false illusion of their “superiority.”
And when the Summer of George Floyd hit, a whole lotta whitefolk saw their children choose to confront the systemic biases against Blackfolk; a move that could possibly overturn everything in this country—since it’s all built upon the fallacy of white supremacy. So, the parents and grandparents of those white youngfolk who were awakened to the reality of systemic racism and who started demanding change, went to work on protecting the lie.
As a result, the term “woke” was successfully redefined from what it had been (becoming awakened or conscious to racial realities and new or hidden truths) to how it’s used today (a derogatory term to describe folk who foolishly attack good ole fashioned American values). Also, as a result, came the war on CRT, or rather the war on Black history and Black thought and Black literature (an attack that had zero to do with what CRT actually is). These folk are literally burning books and refuse to see that they are the villains from “Fahrenheit 451.”
But the first thing to come under attack after the Summer of George Floyd was the work of award-winning journalist and scholar Nikole Hannah-Jones — “the 1619 Project.” That New York Times series and later the book were attacked by “scholars” and trashed by conservative media talking heads because the “1619 Project” had the audacity to center Blackfolk in the American story.
And in a world where movie executives were actually thinking about casting Julia Roberts as Harriet Tubman (I kid you not), centering Blackfolk (giving our voice, our views, our thoughts, our opinions and our experiences primacy) is the ultimate crime.
And now, Hannah-Jones’ work has been made into a documentary series available right now on Hulu. I would strongly suggest reading the book and checking out the essays that were part of the original New York Times series. But for the time being, don’t miss the docu-series.