Fact #11 of 28
In 2008, the whole nation saw firsthand during Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign the African-American community make an issue about whether or not Barack Obama was “Black enough”.
What does that mean exactly?
For a Slave, one of the quickest ways to catch 100 lashes, was to make a White person feel threatened. Now don’t take threatened to mean by violence. By threatened, I simply mean challenging the Master’s identity. See, we all have identities. Identities do not just include expectations of the self but also expectations of others—including the roles each should play out in life. The Slave and the Master are relative to one another on several levels, none more evident than that one benefits at the others expense.
How can someone be “less” Black because they speak grammatically correct English or don’t spell words phonetically? That doesn’t make you less Black. Knowing grammatical rules only improves your ability to be understood by others when speaking and writing.So one of the greatest survival tools a Slave could give to a child was, how to never make the Master feel threatened. Since the Master’s identity is built on the lie that he is superior to you, anything you did that would cast doubt on that, from looking him in the eye to beating him in a contest would be considered threatening to the very core of how he viewed himself and would of course attract his wrath. One of the last things you would ever consider doing is showing him that you were on his level intellectually. And if you did, there were no laws on the books anywhere in the Antebellum South to govern what he could or could not do to you.
I don’t think people know how vital it was to the institution of slavery to keep enslaved Africans at an unconscionable level of ignorance. In several of the Slave Narratives, I have read it was noted that Slaves, mostly young adult men, who chanced an escape to freedom didn’t even know the names of the seven days of the week.
Consider this quote from J.W.C. Pennington
“I now began to see, for the first time, the extent of the mischief slavery had done to me. Twenty-one years of my life were gone, never again to return, and I was as profoundly ignorant, comparatively, as a child five years old. This was painful, annoying and humiliating in the extreme”
Do you think that a fugitive Slave, who risked his own life and left everyone he loved in this world behind on a Plantation would consider for a second that he was somehow less black because he could speak grammatically correct English or took his studies seriously?
How can someone be “less” Black because they speak grammatically correct English or don’t spell words phonetically? That doesn’t make you less Black. Knowing grammatical rules only improves your ability to be understood by others when speaking and writing.
Getting excellent marks in school doesn’t make you “less” Black. It just puts you in a position to qualify for scholarships and grants to prestigious Universities of higher education which then place you to qualify for higher paying positions, earn more and ultimately provide better opportunities for your children that will serve them well in life.
Travelling the world, studying abroad, having friends and colleagues of different backgrounds doesn’t make you “less” Black, it teaches you that you have a shared humanity with all people and that helps you feel comfortable in whatever position or situation that you find yourself in.
And why are any of those things bad? Oh yeah, because Massa will find it threatening.
These things don’t make you less Black, they make you a threat to Massa. There’s a difference.