Within most cultures, there are repeated patterns of behavior and character types that help to perpetuate those cultures. So it is with Black culture, which is at once a living crucible of the Black experience, in all of its finery, genius and foolishness. There is both exquisite beauty and profound ugliness in being Black in America and elsewhere, and that has been the case since our American origins.
There are repeated patterns of migration from one part of the country to the other. There were at least three Great Black Migrations out of the South, for example, and these days that is being reversed.
There have been patterns of protest, of family adjustment and survival, and of cultural inventiveness. There have also been mammies, ministers, Simon Legrees, Toms, Pinkies, Harriets, and Sadies, among others.
During slavery and Jim Crowism, there were even race skunkers–a name given to colored individuals who regularly, rather than by accident, went out of their way to try and harm, hold back, and otherwise nullify attempts by Blacks to move forward. These individuals would sometimes try to advance themselves in one way or the other by spying on, lying on, accusing and causing injury to other Blacks. They would work unceasingly at running around to see what progress Blacks were making and trying to ruin that progress by reporting it to ‘Da Bossman.’
David Walker, the legendary Black abolitionist, in his “David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World,” in 1829-30, described it thusly: “Some of those ignorant and treacherous creatures (colored people) sneaking about in the large cities, endeavoring to find out all strange colored people, where they work and where they reside, asking them questions and trying to ascertain whether they are runaways or not, telling them, at the same time, that they always have been, are, and always will be, friends to their brethren; and perhaps, that they themselves are absconders (too), and a thousand such treacherous lies to get the better information of the more ignorant. There have been and are to this day in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, coloured men, who are in league with tyrants, and who receive a great portion of their daily bread, of the moneys which they acquire from the blood and tears of their more miserable brethren whom they scandalously delivered into the hands of our natural enemies!”
These folk would hear about Harriet Tubman coming to ferry a load of slaves away to freedom, would sometimes even squirrel their way into the group, and then try to turn the fugitives back to the plantation or to point out their escape route to the slave-catchers, hoping to get them all re-captured and beaten. Ms. Tubman, famously, had a pistol waiting for that kind of traitorous coward.
So today, we see the pattern repeated. There are those recent mega-city bus tours paid for by shadowy funders to travel to cities where Black folk reside just to shout down and downgrade a brother who happens to be the president of the United States (POTUS) right now.
Although the stated purpose is to pressure the White House into dealing more directly with the plight of poor people, the Black men who are the designated deniers and destroyers of Black progress and who are the advance men on this traveling minstrel show have as their real purpose to remind Black people in America not to get the idea that the status quo has really changed; that Black folk are still on the bottom, will stay on the bottom, and that they deserve the bottom in spite of one or two at the top.
These messengers of meanness throw a rock and hide their hands. They say they are our friends and brethren who only seek the best way forward for us; that they must exercise their freedom to speak out by negating and tainting the achievement of a Black man in the White House, all for our own collective good. As usual, however, it is another work of smoke and mirrors, lies and deception. These advance men stay true to their character-flaw pattern.
Their real purpose is to keep Black people victimized and down-trodden, to insult, humiliate and pull down the prestige of one of us who stands for all of us. This is classic race skunking.
And it continues. This week, it was announced that one of these designated dissers and deniers had sealed a partnership with a White politician known for his regular attempts at wrecking Democratic Party presidential campaigns–Ralph Nader. The latter, who, at one time, may have actually been a principled political protester, is now recognized as a paid spoiler who only helps the other major party candidates to become president.
It happened in 2000. It was tried in 2004. Now, a leading Black man, Cornel West, Ph.D., who should know better, has partnered with Nader to try and scuttle the incumbency of Barack Obama by running candidates against him in primaries, rather than to accept Mr. Obama as the automatic Democratic Party nominee for re-election.
Tavis Smiley, his other partner, continues to write blogs and media articles attacking the character and policies of Obama. In other words, the race-skunking pattern continues alive and unwell among us. There should be no significant Black progress, says the mantra of people like those as described by David Walker, and any such attempt at achieving it, particularly game-changing attempts, must be undermined and ultimately destroyed.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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