Racist White “scientists” elaborated theories to prove Afrikan inferiority. They provided a “logical, reasonable, and objective” foundation for why our ancestors had to be enslaved.
Their pseudo-science started to feed off of itself with absurd eugenic and social Darwinian theories based on natural features, such as the shape of one’s head or the length of one’s arm. Our whole body became a somatic expression and representation of mental and spiritual inferiority and degeneration. Thick lips meant we ate raw meat because we didn’t discover or master the use of fire and fine culinary art. Oblong genitalia meant promiscuity (think of Saartjie Baartman) and so on.
So many centuries have passed since these racist doctrines were formulated, but they still continue to be internalized by Black people, White people, and other non-Black peoples (think the recent Yale researchers who found anti-Black racial bias in particular against Black boys by White and Black pre-school teachers). So we start believing what we’ve been (mis)taught and perpetuate those beliefs.
We were made to believe that as Afrikans, as Black people, we are naturally and inevitably mentally inferior to anyone else. So, our libraries were burned down to show we didn’t have any history, science, or culture. The oral tradition became second place to the written tradition. White people set up racist ways to measure human intelligence (IQ and SATs) and created institutions such as universities to corroborate that.
If, from a very young age, you are told in clear and subtle ways that you’re not bright, and you can’t find historical or even fictional representations of intelligent people who look like you, you will believe the lie. Treat me like a criminal, and I will start acting like one. Tell me I’m dumb, and eventually, I will be.
Conversely, we’re also taught that we’re naturally musically inclined, and that because of our physique we will excel at sport (just as our bodies were perfect to work in sugar and cotton plantations). There’s nothing innate in that. The system only allows us to thrive in the capitalist corporate plantation fields of music, acting, and sports, that is to say, entertainment.
Why? Because entertainment isn’t threatening and doesn’t scare the power structure. So long as you shuck and jive (think coon) and make the audience feel good, you are allowed to become the best singer or athlete in history (although the industries must stay White-owned, and you need to occasionally let non-Black people appropriate and make huge profits from your art). Entertainment has one great function: to make the entertained feel good.
The entertained with the most spending power and influence in the mainstream is the White audience. If they see Beyoncé happy on stage singing “Single Ladies” while the audience goes “oh oh oh,” or Lebron James shooting a ball and scoring the winning point, we’re all happy.
Singers and athletes do what they love. They earn millions. What is there to complain about? They certainly are not oppressed, right? If those Black people aren’t oppressed because they’re happy and wealthy, then oppression against Black people is non-existent and White people don’t need to feel guilty about slavery, colonialism, and how they still benefit from them (maybe contributing to their greater spending power). Entertainment and happy Black people ease White people’s conscience.
When Knowles sang “Freedom” with Kendrick Lamar, that was a different story. If your art speaks about the ills societies throw at Black people, be prepared to be censored and called ungrateful (think Diversity BLM performance and complaints to Ofcom) for the great opportunity you were allowed to have. Forget talent, “they” made you.
If you speak up like Muhammad Ali, expect to be sent overseas to get yourself killed in an imperial war or your titles taken and white-listed. It’s no coincidence that the White establishment only rehabilitated Ali after he retired and became sick with Parkinson’s.
They want Black artists, who may be economically emancipated but still Black, to distract from the horrible realities that Black people face. They want them to ignore racism and never talk about it. Athletes should stick to sports and not become politicized (isn’t that what Zlatan said?). And they need to keep themselves busy entertaining the world.
Distract. Ignore. Entertain.