Oppression without visible oppressors leads to self blame and destruction

Chapter 27




No whites can fully comprehend the enormous psychological pressure of constantly being told that you are worth less than us. The consequences of systematically banishing the black family to a permanent existence in the shadow of white society are inexpressible.



The worst damage we inflict is when our victims begin to believe and internalize our low expectations of them. Everywhere in the world effective oppression will make the oppressed collude with their oppressor, but nowhere have I seen it so crushing as in the US.



Cruel invalidations such as "You ain't shit, nigger" I constantly hear reverberate in underclass families. They instill in each other our deep racist feelings for them and the gloomy prospects of being banished to a permanent existence in the shadow of white society.



The hope, I found among blacks in the 70's, has everywhere today been replaced by self-blame. Wilma, with whom I often discuss such issues all night in her little shack between my campus lectures, expresses in black words what my white audiences today think, but dare not say:



- They are holding me down, I know that. My own kind are holding me back. I am afraid of them. My life is endangered by my own people.
- Have you lost faith in black people?
- Yes, I have, because of the way they have treated my family, yes I have.



- Have whites never caused you any harm?
- Never, In Alabama and New York, I have never had trouble from the whites. Allways my own kind of people..
- Do you blame them for this, hold it against them?
- Yes I do.



- But I told you before you must never forget the real...
- Yes, you call it internalized oppression, right? But I don't see it that way. I think its just the nature of them to be that way..
- No, no, no!
- I don't think it is internalized oppression.



- But you must never lose faith in human beings.
- I have lost faith in them, yes i have.
- But it comes from up here, it comes from racism. When people are so hurt, and you know that black people are hurt, they take it out on each other.



- Yes, but what you are talking about happened back in the eighteen hundreds, it a 100 years ago, I know what you are saying and what you are saying is true, but we have come a long way since then, doors have opened for us since then.



But we are holding one another back with hatred, selfishness and what not. It is not the whites holding us back now, we are holding each other back. The whites are not holding us back now, maybe they did hundred years ago. So many doors have been opened.



- Wilma, you are talking the crap of the whites now, that is what they are saying, who are the employers in this country, they are white, and whom do they not give work?
- I know, I know, but I can only speak of what I am going through, they are holding me down, my own kind are holding me back.



- That's how all blacks feel these days, and that's why they end up causing each other more harm. When people hate themselves they take out all this stuff on each other...
- I know, all I just want to is get away from them.



- Where will you go?
- I don't know yet, but I am working on it...



In the hope and optimism of the 70's, I would never have believed that racism could worsen so much that I would one day sit and defend the victims against themselves.



People can survive oppression if they are able to clearly identify their oppressor and thus avoid self-blame. This understanding let blacks see light at the end of the tunnel in the past.



A hundred years ago we lived in close physical integration with blacks. But today we have become so isolated from each other that blacks - whom we now ruthlessly bombard with Bill Cosby fantasies about how they are free - for the first time in history have difficulties identifying their oppressor and therefore without hesitation look for the cause of their growing pain within themselves.



And once we succeed in convincing oppressed people that they are their own worst oppressors, everything falls apart.



Neither their earnings nor sense of self worth are great enough to recreate the nuclear family we constantly hold up as the only model, and the sense of hopelessness and failure drives families apart.



Even where love has been killed poor white couples must often stay together because the woman alone can seldom earn enough to support her children. But for blacks this dependency pattern of keeping the greatest earning ability in the hands of men is broken by the white desire to keep blacks out of good jobs.



So, while black women might still find work, mainly in the old non-threatening service roles where they earn far less than employed black men, "men's work" is scarce, and often seasonal at low pay.



Therefore the black man's earnings may never be great enough to recreate the type of dependent family constantly held up as the only respectable model.



A sense of hopelessness and failure is then added to the force of pure economic desperation to drive families apart.