BY H. LEWIS SMITH
Kwanzaa celebrations seem to be an enigma to many Blacks, and some feel that they have a legitimate cause or concern for disregarding the event. For instance, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, is quoted as saying the “celebration of Kwanzaa is racist; Blacks should see themselves as Americans not African Americans, thus no separate holiday. Get rid of it; reject it completely; just as we would do if a White racist came up with a false holiday to celebrate Whiteness”.
Indeed, many in the Black community share this sentiment of not referring to themselves as African Americans but simply as Americans or Black Americans in efforts to clarify the fact that they are natural-born American citizens and/or to detach themselves from the African culture. However, a dilemma of sorts exists in this context considering White Americans do not refer to themselves as White Americans or Euro-Americans but then again, do they need to?
Is it being racist to refer to ourselves as African Americans or to celebrate Kwanzaa as Rev. Peterson suggests?
To find answers to these questions, we need to go back and analyze a few centuries because something took place back then which still greatly affects all of us and our understanding/perception of matters to this very day.
Slave plantation owners, overseers, merchants, bankers, all of those who were the benefactors of the American enslavement of Black people, had a huge stake in (eliminating) the identity of the newly-arrived Africans. Because the Africans were not slaves when initially brought to the West, benefactors knew that in order for the free labour system to work, the independent-minded Africans had to be conquered both physically and mentally.
The severance from cultural identity set the African up to, over time, voluntarily accept (European) values, traditions and habits. The European beliefs were the only ideals slaves were allowed to embrace. That was (all) they were allowed to embrace while, at the same time, contributing to a (total) disintegration of African culture. This total African culture disorientation aided in keeping Africans alienated and congenial towards being the consummate slaves.
The slave and their descendants have been taught that Blacks have no worthwhile past and that the Black race has done nothing significant since the (beginning) of time. Blacks have been programmed to accept that anything Black is inferior or evil and anything White…superior or pure. What has been said of Blacks during the past four centuries has been mainly for the purpose of cultivating a particular inferior mind state to keep Blacks in this substandard place of living (psychologically and socially). It has been so effective that many Blacks reside in that place to this very day, always saying: this is just the way it is, has always been and will always be. And they have continued to pass along this falsehood – along with many others – from generation to generation.
The entire institutionalized American system is based on Euro-centric values, principles and philosophies. The city school systems, colleges, universities and the media are not going to provide the kind of information that will help build the self-esteem of a Black student. No traditional system in America is going to allow an information stream that is going to free and release one’s mind away from prevailing Euro-American intellectual mentalities to the unabridged truth.
As a consequence, Blacks such as a Rev. Peterson become a ventriloquist for White supremacy. They view any efforts to restore Black culture as being racist. They are in a state of denial which is symptomatic of being mentally enslaved. Such mentality is an illness that is generally defined as being abnormal.
The abnormalities in these instances are based on two variables:
1) Acceptance and behaviour patterns that reflect a belief that a European value system is superior;
2) A negative outlook and shame on anything Black.
These ventriloquists/sycophants also view the efforts to restore Black culture as a way to promote separatism and/or oppress White America. However, this is not the case. The point is to bring Black Americans up to par on their culture/history so that they have a true foundation to cling to and build self-awareness. The reason so many Blacks feel alienated or a non-fit for America is because they are attempting to attach their Black roots to a White foundation. This will never work; it is a recipe to be utilized as a manipulative tool by another race, or remain a lost, drifting, spirit seeking…something.
I suppose I could understand Peterson’s point of a unified America if all were treated equally and given fair opportunity, but we have to first reach that leveled field. In order for one to reach that leveled field, which is built upon total and complete self-esteem, self-awareness, he/she must become cocooned, immersed, saturated, in his/her ethnic and cultural heritage/history; which is not European.
Only then can one understand their true plight or purpose in this life and take flight in that positive direction to productively contribute to a truly unified society. As well, by understanding one’s heritage and history, one is better able to sympathize with the unfortunates of their race and devise ways to help enlighten these people to become empowered, self-sufficient citizens.
White America has never, ever lost touch with their European values and principles. They know who they are and do not discount where their heritage lies, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. Blacks, on the other hand, have a very rich and cultivated heritage but refuse to acknowledge, in many cases, that our roots are African. By denouncing African roots and proclaiming American roots, one is only continuing the once-force-fed acceptance of European traditions, slavery and disorientation of the Black American. And because of this, many Blacks remain non-self-aware, lost souls or ventriloquists for another’s plight.
Kwanzaa is the right step in trying to re-establish who we are unless, of course, you are ashamed of being Black as you have been indoctrinated to be.
Thriving Black civilizations go back a long way, even before the Aztecs, Mayans and Egyptians, up to and including the Moors and the Songhai Empire. It’s time we take back what was stolen from us – our identity – and stop allowing ourselves to be victimized by an on-going 400-year-old mind game.
H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc., a writer for the New England Informer Online, and author of “Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word”.