Text: Veli Mbele
Nothing best expresses the totalising-all-consuming-debilitating power of whiteness than the psychosis wherein statements by Blacks such as “we want our land back or “we must build Black power”- makes some Black people so nervous that they sometimes slide into self-induced depression (on behalf of the whites they know or love).
This is a nervousness that has nothing to do with a concern for their own well-being as Black people or that of other Black people- but one that arises out of Black people’s fear of what the consequences of statements relating to “land” or “Black power” might mean for those white people they go to school or church with, those they work with or are their political comrades or their business mentors or partners or even those they are in romantic relationships with.
Resulting from this self-induced depression, the Black body mechanically slides into deep pain and suffers vicariously (on behalf of the white body). This usually happens in the physical absence of the white body and without it (the white body) having expressed any such pain, fear or without it having requested anybody to speak on its behalf or to come to its defence.
In this sense, whiteness make it possible for white interests or feelings to be mechanically defended by Black people- without white people having to lift a finger. Therefore, a white body doesn’t have to be present and neither is the legitimacy or validity of white feelings,fears or interests ever questioned. By merely being expressed, white feelings, fears or interests are automatically deemed legitimate and valid.
Over time, anti-Blackness (which refers to the centuries of systematic white violence against the Black body) has trained the Black body (in the presence of the white look-real or imagined) to voluntarily make itself disappear. Something I call the Houdini (esation) of the Black body.
This has made the Black body believe that the only time it can legitimately and meaningfully exist (or come into existence) as a human being – is when such existence is expressed through a template that has been designed and approved by whiteness.
This perhaps explains why there continues to be Black people (even the most certificated or radical-sounding amongst us) who, deep down, still believe that, for anything Black people think or do – be it business, political or science to be legitimate or have quality, it must have white support or endorsement and if it doesn’t, it can’t be regarded as legitimate or as having quality.
Perhaps this psychosis can also help us understand why it is possible for whites in AmeriKKKa to march along side Black people and together with them, hold up placards and shout, “Don’t shoot! Hands Up”, “No justice! No peace” or “Black Lives Matter”. Or in South Afrika, where there is the phenomenon of white “freedom fighters”. Some Blacks believe all of this is normal, if not progressive.
Given the uninterrupted structural trajectory of their lives, whites have nothing that compels them to march alongside Black people or to join Black organisations, but because whiteness places them at the apex of the human pyramid (in historical and contemporary terms), whites are able to say and do anything they want to without having to worry about the consequences of their actions. Do Blacks have the same existential privilege?
For whites, this includes having the exclusive privilege of being able ( in one life time) to, with one side of the mouth speak ill of a system and with the other, eat from the benefits it offers them by virtue of nothing else but their skin colour. Perhaps we Blacks are just too nervous to see these contradictions as contradictions.