I have been thinking about how to conceptualise an idea that I think most of you will be aware of, either consciously or subconsciously, but which I sense that a large proportion of the younger generations have not grasped. Now, I should make it clear that I think this lack of awareness is not the fault of the under 30s but is attributable to my generation’s failure to adequately teach them about how racism works, as well as the very skilled way in which Europeans continuously adapt and refine the way they express and operationalise the ideology of white supremacy.
I have previously written about why the idea of ‘Black Firsts’ seems to be so important to Afrikan people and long ago came to conclusion that it is because of the heartfelt, deepseated, aching desire of so many Afrikans to be/feel accepted by Europeans as their ‘equals’. The underlying thinking is that each ‘Black First’ proves to Europeans that we are capable of performing some task; or performing in some arena of life, as competently as Europeans and hence they should abandon their ideology of racial superiority. Of course this theory has been tested to destruction and proven to be utterly without merit, as the ultimate Black First, the election (twice) of Barack Obama proved.
The reason that Black Firsts don’t change they way Afrikans are viewed, no matter how talented the ‘Firstee’ is; or how conspicous their achievement, is because it is an idea that runs completely counter to the fundamental nature of racism. Racism is an irrational philosophy/ideology/religion, hence its operation is not impacted by evidence or rational arguments. Paradoxically, as well as being irrational racism is also rational in the sense that it is instrumental, which is to say that it helps Europeans to achieve their primary group goal; which is to exercise power and domination over groups they classify as nonwhite. Put these two things together and you can understand why Black Firsts never stood a chance as a tactic or strategy to defeat racism.
The above image, from an infamous Benetton advert, almost perfectly depicts the idea I am seeking to convey.
The easiest way to conceptualise halos and horns is to understand that viewed through the lens of the religion/philosophy/ideology called white supremacy; every Afrikan child is metaphorically born with a pair of horns and every European child is born with a halo above their head. In other words all Afrikans are born guilty until proven innocent and all Europeans are born innocent until proven guilty. The practical ramifications of this are that an Afrikan can make one slip in an otherwise blameless life and be condemned to unforgiveable, irredeemable guilt, whereas as European can live a life of exploitative abuse, and except in the most extreme cases, always have the possibility of redemption.
What this means is that the positive things you do can only help yourself whilst the negative things you do will damage other Afrikans. That is to say that your positive deeds and achievements are never generalised to the wider group by Europeans – except in areas of stereotypical Afrikan achievement such as sport and music – however your negative deeds or failures can be; and are, attributed to being part of a group that is designated as inferior.
I will illustrate the above with a real life story. I have changed some of the details to protect people’s identities.
Once upon a time there was an intelligent young Afrikan woman named Adeola who wanted to be a solicitor. She grew up in humble financial circumstances and went to a very poor school, however she overcame these barriers as well as the ubiquitous racism and graduated well from University. She then had the task of securing a contract with a firm of solicitors to undertake her articles and after a relatively short period she was successful in this task. As was her wont she worked hard and qualified as a solicitor. She had been made aware by her boss that she was the first Afrikan trainee solicitor that the firm had ever recruited and thus felt a bit of added pressure in the sense that she did not want to ‘let the side down’. Anyway her boss was very pleased with her performance and two years after she was recruited, and just as she was qualifying, the firm recruited Femi, another hard working young Afrikan. Adeola gave Femi the ‘don’t let the side down’ pep talk and sure enough Femi prospered and qualified without any hiccups. Adeola’s line manager was pleased with both her and Femi and the following year recruited Tunde, who was not quite so focused and methodical as his predecessors. Tunde was not terrible but he was definitely not good and one day, after he had made a bit of a cock up, Adeola’s line manager turned to her in exasperation and said “If I had recruited Tunde first I would never have recruited another black trainee solicitor”. She thought it was a compliment to Adeola, however Adeola had an epiphany; and started to understand the subtleties of how racism works. She saw that whilst the halo is not transferable the horns definitely are!
The above story took place some years ago and of course in 2017 no white manager would be as honest as the manager in the above scenario. However just because someone does not say something does not mean they are not thinking it or acting upon it.
The moral of this story; and this article, is that our achievements should be motivated by the desire to help ourselves, our families and our community. Trying to get Europeans, as a collective, to respect our humanity, intelligence etc. is a waste of time and psychological energy. The first respect is self-respect as an Afrikan and the ironic thing is that even those people who don’t like you will respect you if you have commitment and integrity. Remember, people can like you without respecting you whilst they can respect you without liking you and the latter is always preferable to the former, although in an ideal world most of us would choose to be both liked and respected. These are the things we need to teach our young people to prepare them for an anti-Afrikan world.
Article by Paul Ifayomi Grant