The State of Black America
Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
In order to determine the state of Black America, we must examine our start in this country. We must put things into perspective. To do that, you must have a basic understanding of the damage caused by the enslavement of our people – the Black Holocaust.
Here you go again Rahim with all of this slavery stuff! Can’t we just get past it? The short answer is an unequivocal NO!!!!
I don’t bring up the black holocaust to make anyone feel guilty or to lay blame on anyone today, but you cannot speak to the current state of black America without a basic understanding of what has happened to our ancestors and, therefore, us.
In 1712, William (Willie) Lynch, a slave-owner from the West Indies, came to America to show American slave owners why their approach to slavery wasn’t working. He urged them to adopt his approach, which, if done correctly, would not only help them to get more out of their slaves, but would also make many of the problems they had with the slaves go away. In fact, Willie Lynch believed that if his approach were acted upon with fidelity, it would make Blacks psychologically dependent to whites for the next 1,000 years.
This is why I separate the estimated 300 years of the American institution of slavery into two distinct periods: pre- and post- Willie Lynch. Both periods lasted about 150 years, which negatively impacted millions of Black people representing approximately 20–30 generations. This was a travesty of the worse kind.
In this speech, Willie Lynch tells them he has discovered the “secret” to controlling Black slaves by setting them against one another. Lynch, who identified himself as the master of a “modest plantation” in the British West Indies came to advise them on the problems they were having with their slaves, specifically with how they dealt with slaves that didn’t comply to the torture and basic day-to-day life of being a slave (rebel rousers). Instead of the extreme violence and loss of inventory (slaves were inventory), he suggested they adopt a psychological and mental approach to controlling the slave by exploiting their differences and destroying the family unit.
During the pre-Willie Lynch period (1575 – 1712), the primary approach by the slave owners was to control their slaves through fear, intimidation and brutality and this was classified as the “breaking the slave” period. The primary purpose of the slave-owners was to break those slaves physically that didn’t perform and completely submit to these inhumane circumstances. Imagine that – Black people didn’t want to conform to being enslaved. Why should they? They had not done anything deserving of this punishment. They were not prisoners of war; they were not criminals; they were victims. During this period, white supremacists resorted to a variety of torturous methods (i.e. whippings, killings, lynchings, brutal acts of violence, etc.) to break the slave and to make him submit.
Breaking the slave was akin to breaking a wild animal (i.e. bull, horse, dog, etc.). The slave owners did everything imaginable to break the “human” spirit of those enslaved and to get them to accept the brutality of slavery and to accept that their fate as slaves would last forever. Accept this because there was no escaping it. To achieve this level of submission, our ancestors were forced to witness some of the most despicable and cruel acts imaginable. Fear, terrorism, and intimidation were the driving forces behind breaking the slave. Fear was achieved in a number of ways, including the fear our ancestors acquired when they didn’t please their slave owners. This was the ultimate act of human submission and dependency. So many horrific acts that have been committed against our people that we must unpack them to get a clear and healthy picture of why there was so much venom and hate that existed in white people for Black people.
During the post-Willie Lynch period (1712 – 1865), with the gradual adoption of the Willie Lynch doctrine, the slave owners went from “breaking” a slave to the even more sinister approach of “making a slave.” The physical torture didn’t end, but the slave owners mastered more intense mental and psychological forms of torture. The approach basically utilized the mother and father to institutionalize the children to believe and to wholeheartedly accept slavery as their fate – “making” the children to believe in slavery. Both periods of slavery represented different but extremely lethal tactics that attacked the validity of the Black man as a leader and the Black woman as a vessel of love.
The “making of a slave” represented by attitudes, values, beliefs, and traditions are interwoven into the fabric of American culture and significantly influences both Black and white people. The belief was that neither horses nor Black slaves were any good to the economy in the wild or natural state. Both must be broken and tied together for orderly production with special and particular attention directed towards the Black female and the offspring. The “making of a slave” involved breaking the female mother who would then “make” the child during its early years of development totally submissive to being a slave and at the appropriate time when the child was old enough to work, the mother will deliver the child over completely to the slave owner.
To break the mother, the father and those young slaves that dreamed of being in defiance, the slave owners would take the meanest and most resistant male slave, strip him of his clothes in front of everyone, tar and feather him, tie each leg to a different horse, set him on fire and then have the horses pull him apart.
Another example used by the slave owners was to beat the male slave/ father to the point of death (without intentionally killing him) in front of the mother and her child. This tactic would put the fear of God in those that would witness this. Most mothers would do anything they could to save their children from this type of harm and level of violence, specifically their boys who were the primary victims.
She would teach her young son to be mentally weak and submissive, yet physically strong.
In addition, these tactics would severely test the mother’s capacity to be submit to the slave owners’ will where nothing was off limits, including sexual relations at will with the slave owners. Rape was replaced with acceptance of the sexual advances of the slave owners without resistance. The Black woman was completely unprotected by the Black man and as a result the Black male image was completely destroyed in the mind of the Black woman. By using this approach, the slave-owner would guarantee the mother would teach her young daughters to be psychologically dependent of the slave owners and psychologically independent of the Black male/ father. The natural roles of mother, father, and family were completely shattered by this process.
Our ancestors were bred like animals and the men and the male image were intentionally separated and completely removed from the family unit and the child’s life, especially during the early development years. Complicating the trauma of Black family life were the children born from the sexual abuses of the slave owners creating a new and mixed race. These children were given preferences, including a “light skin” advantage, which created the highest level of distrust upon an already psychologically damaged and fragile family unit. Slave owners used these differences to separate the Black slaves by skin color (light versus dark).
These and other incidents created unimaginable fears. These fears were not just of physical suffering and death but also the loss of motherhood.
To increase her mental torture, the Black woman wasn’t guaranteed the choice of who would be the father of her child.
The slave owner would choose who would mate with whom and the choice was purely for economic reasons only.
Our mothers were treated like they didn’t have any emotions or feelings and endured one trauma after another.
Imagine carrying a baby for nine months and nursing that baby for two years only to have the baby taken away with the slave owner selling the baby.
The Black woman was valued only for her ability to reproduce and her motherly feelings were suppressed.
These tactics, in addition to removing the man and the male image from the family unit, reversed the entire family process with the mother having more power than the father because of her reproductive capacity.
In addition, during this tragedy, very rarely did the lynchings involve Black women who were exempt because she was critical to reproduction and she was critical in the “making of the slave” process.
In the slave family, the female offspring were taught to be like the independent mother and the male offspring were taught to be submissive yet physically strong.
EVERY ISSUE THAT BLACK PEOPLE FACE TODAY CAN BE TRACED DIRECTLY BACK TO THE HORRIFIC CASUALTIES OF THE BLACK HOLOCAUST OF SLAVERY.
In Part 5, I will continue to break down the trauma, consequences and damage caused by the American Holocaust of Slavery. Your brother in the struggle – Rahim