November 1, 2007 - Issue 251
Liberals, Racism, And The English Language In 21st Century America 
Keeping It Real
By Larry Pinkney
BC Columnist
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In the late 1960s racism was specifically defined as “the predication of decisions and policies on considerations of race for the purpose of subordinating a racial group and maintaining control over that group.” In the 21st century this definition remains essentially intact and correct. 

White Americans collectively continue to subordinate and maintain control over Black people collectively, in addition to our Red and Brown brothers and sisters. Despite the fact that some white Americans are in fact economically desperately poor, more often than not they remain consciously desperately white; retaining their whiteness as if it and it alone assures their misperceived superiority over the Black, Brown, and Red peoples in America and around the world. Thus, any actions taken by them against us as people of color, be they large or small, have a built in and fake perception of legitimacy. Such is the insidious nature of white racism for both the perpetrators and those being perpetrated upon. 

The maintenance of subordination and control over we Black and other people of color goes far beyond the brutal and sustained physical component. While it is certainly accurate that genocide, lynchings, and bloody invasions of sovereign nation states, etc. by white America is accompanied by enormous and often unspeakable brutality, the fact of the matter is that it is the component of mental colonization by white America of we people of color that assures our continued subordination. One of the most powerful and devastating forms of mental colonization in America is the English language itself—or more to the point the controlling definitions of said language.   

The esteemed activist, actor, director, orator, and artist extraordinaire, the late Ossie Davis, put it this way in his poignant essay titled, ‘The English Language Is My Enemy:’ “I will say that language is the primary medium of communication in the educational process and, in this case, the English language. I will indict the English language as one of the prime carriers of racism from one person to another and discuss how the teacher and the student, especially the Negro student, are affected by this fact. The English language is my enemy.” In elaborating upon the psychological aspects of “racism” Davis further notes: “Racism is a belief that human races have distinctive characteristics, usually involving the idea that one’s own race has a right to rule others. Racism. The English language is my enemy.” Davis goes on to write, “The word ‘blackness’ has 120 synonyms, 60 of which are distinctly unfavorable, and none of them even mildly positive…In addition, and this is what really hurts, 20 of those words [excluding the aforementioned 60] are related directly to race, such as ‘Negro,’ ‘Negress,’ ‘nigger,’ ‘darkey,’ ‘blackamoor,’ etc.” Thus, Ossie Davis correctly and horribly concludes that even “thinking itself is subvocal speech” which generally requires the use of “words” and if those words are the “English language for the purpose of communication,” those using said language are forcing “the Negro child into 60 ways to despise himself [or herself], and the white child, 60 ways to aid and abet” said Black child “in the crime” against her or himself.

To reiterate: One of the most powerful and devastating forms of mental colonization in America is the English language itself—or more to the point the controlling definitions of said language. The so-called conservatives and liberals alike of white America are well aware of this, and often actually count on it. Mental colonization of we Black, Brown, and Red peoples assures the continuance of our physical subordination and control.

Thus, it came as no surprise when earlier this week, I heard the white person hosting a nationally syndicated, so called liberal/progressive radio/television news program from New York City, blithely and whimsically engage in devastating white racist language as she referred to the despicable, bloody, and exploitative “legacy” of a US fruit company in Central and South America, as a “dark one.” A dark legacy indeed! Clearly, as a professional journalist she knows and knew the power of the language of her words; “bananas” or other fruit notwithstanding. This was certainly not the first time she had engaged in such linguistic lynching. Nevertheless, to all the millions upon millions of “dark” people in America and throughout the world, and most especially to our beautiful “dark” youth; let us remind them of their dignity and their worth. Let us remind them--and each other--that our darkness is an asset, not a negative. Any person or people who constantly and consciously use color  [i.e. ’dark,’ ‘black,’ etc.] as an equation of evil or negativity are themselves not worthy of the trust or alliance of our with people of color.

We are, as Curtis Mayfield sang, the “people who are darker than blue.” We are dark but we are not evil or negative, nor will we allow white America’s liberals (masquerading as progressives) or conservatives to cunningly reinforce negative emotional and mental stereotypes under the guise of being our allies.  

It is difficult enough for we Black, Brown, and Red peoples to consistently work at decolonizing our own minds and those of our youth, without the guileful machinations of those white liberals who go about the business of reinforcing mental colonization while pretending to be concerned about our liberation.    

The first and most important step in decolonizing our minds is recognizing that we are, and have quite deliberately been, mentally colonized. This process of mental decolonization can, like a prairie fire, be very rapid once it begins. There is enormous cause for hope, and it is only we ourselves who are best suited to bring about our own liberation, which ultimately will positively affect the liberation of the entire world. Sisters and brothers, let’s hold on to each other’s hopes and dreams as we struggle forward to keep on keeping it real. We can do this because we must…   Columnist Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Click here to contact Mr. Pinkney.


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