The Cowardly Black Identity

Dig underneath the activisit buzzwords, "The Movement For Black Lives" is essentially just another black begging bowl
Dig underneath the activisit buzzwords, “The Movement For Black Lives” is essentially just another black begging bowl

The mainstream black identity in the US and UK focuses its attention on the idea that the moral deficiency of white people is causing black people to suffer. It builds on this by calling on white people to change their ways in order to allow black people to flourish. This identity refuses to make black people responsible for their own predicament, because this would require facing up to some harsh truths about the African experience in human history. For this reason, the mainstream black identity can be termed the Cowardly Black Identity.

Black Begging Bowls
Take a look, for example, at the Movement for Black Lives – the umbrella entity that Black Lives Matter is affiliated to. Look at their “Demands”. Who are they demanding this stuff from? They’re demanding this stuff, ultimately, from white people! They are calling for radical re distributive policies which will direct funds from the economically productive to the economically unproductive. Once you strip away all the empowered-sounding activist buzzwords, this is begging bowl messaging. It is based on white people seeing the error of their ways and having a change of heart about this whole oppression of black people thing.

The idea is that White Supremacy is this all-encompassing cultural, political, economic, ideological, psychological, genetic, environmental, oppression machine. But quite why this edifice of White Supremacy (or White Privilege or Racism or whatever it might be called) would decide to suddenly be nice to black people is beyond me. If this entity is indeed such a crushing and deep-seated and ancient system of oppression, there’s absolutely no reason to expect it to have a road to Damascus epiphany and stop with the badness.

Instead of pleading to this near-mythical edifice of white supremacy to treat us better, black people need to start asking ourselves some tough questions about our experience in recent and current human history. The basic power imbalance between Europeans and Africans goes back to those very early years of contact several hundred years ago. The fact is that the most advanced European peoples and states were able to out-compete the Africans, first economically and then militarily. One thing we should be asking ourselves is why did this happen? It’s not a disgrace to be at a lower level of development to another group.

Learning the lessons of Black History
Then we need to study history since the early contact to pinpoint how the imbalance between Europeans and Africans continued and deepened. We need to look at the strategies that Europeans used to dominate Africans? I feel like this side of the work is being done by academics. But the other side of the work is not being done because it’s a taboo. Basically, we need to ask ourselves why have we collectively not been able to close the gap? We should be looking at all aspects of human existence – from philosophy, economics, political science and law, to the STEM fields and all points in between. We need to understand where we are deficient and how we can improve.

Most black people seem to think that it’s enough to say “the reason we are doing badly is because White Supremacy has been oppressing us for 500 years.” But they don’t want to go past that and ask the logical next question: why is White Supremacy able to oppress us? Asking that question does something very powerful. It shifts the locus of control to black people. And as soon as that happens, we are no longer able to comfort ourselves by taking some kind of moral high ground. Instead, we need to start thinking critically about ourselves and most importantly, focusing on what we need to do for ourselves to sort ourselves out. On an individual level, this self-driven mindset is essential for any kind of success in life. All the more on a collective level.

Toward a New Black Identity
This is the paradigm I use when it comes to discussions around race. Unfortunately, this is not a popular perspective among black people. Black people really, really like the idea of pleading with white people (basically) to be nice to us. You can see this in our voting habits. In the US, black folks routinely vote for the Democrats, and in the UK, for the Labour Party. These parties portray themselves as being the friends of black folks. The key thing about these parties is that they think of themselves as custodians of the Welfare State. Black people see themselves primarily as victims, and they vote for parties who they see as their defenders against White Supremacy. But all this will do is keep us holding a begging bowl, because generational dependence on welfare is not a route to empowerment. It never has been, and it never will be.

The average black person in the UK and US who hears this will respond by saying that black people are not able to rise up because White Supremacy always pushes us back down. This is a cowardly mentality, because it refuses to face up to cold harsh truths. Again, it’s not a disgrace to lose. Throughout human history, people groups have been competing with each other. For some periods you’re up, some periods you’re down. It’s not a disgrace to lose. But for me, it is a disgrace to give up your sense of responsibility and accountability by believing that only other groups can save you.

Understanding how black people became underdeveloped requires investigation into every field of study
Understanding how black people became underdeveloped requires investigation into every field of study

My job with the videos that I put out is to counteract the cowardly black identity, and to promote a new black identity that’s based on honest, critical thinking about where we are going wrong as a collective, and how we can put things right.

I’d like to give a shout out to a YouTuber called Black Men Taking Our Community Back. I’ve been watching a bunch of his videos recently and he has been strongly putting out this kind of mindset. Seeing his channel output has re-assured me that not all black people have the victim mentality. I recommend you check out his channel.

Stormzy Talks Personal Responsibility and His Struggle with Depression

UK Grime artist Stormzy has just released an album which has shot straight to number 1 in the UK charts.

While grime isn’t really my cup of tea, I was very impressed to hear an interview that Stormzy recently did on Channel 4. In the interview, the South London emcee consistently pushed a gospel of personal responsibility and aspiration. At several stages, the interviewer tried to get him to talk about how the system is stacked against black men, and every time, Stormzy gave the exact kind of message that I give in my videos.

The System Can’t Save You
For decades, the black community in the UK as a while has been completely dominated by a paradigm that focuses on racism and injustice as the sole explanation for our relative underdevelopment. But Stormzy focuses on our personal ability to respond, aka responsibility. I know that many people hate to hear this because it puts the onus on us to do everything we can to shape our lives.

Stormzy is right on top of his game right now, and he’s quite a deep thinking young man too!

During the interview, the interviewer asked Stormzy about the system and tries to get him to talk about how it is failing different parts of society. He gave a very interesting answer and basically said that the system isn’t really set up to serve everybody. I think he probably meant that in the sense that not everyone can succeed in this system. But again, he says the key is not to look to the system for your redemption, but rather to look into yourself, to develop your skills and abilities and aim to be excellent in whatever you can do.

He doesn’t elaborate on this, but the logical conclusion of this approach is quite radical. We all have unique gifts and talents, it’s up to us to do the best that we can do. This is a very motivational speaker type thing say. Motivational speakers often give the impression that every one can achieve whatever they want to achieve, but this is not the case. We can only achieve what we are capable of achieving. Not everyone can be a number selling musician like Stormzy, or Premier League baller like Sergio Aguero, or even a Prime Minister like Theresa May. Again, people don’t like to hear this because they think everyone should have the same. But this is not possible and never can be possible unless you level everybody down to a bare minimum and prevent anyone from rising above the others.

Struggle With Depression
The other standout thing in this interview for me was where Stormzy talks about his struggles with depression. He explains that during the making of the album, a whole bunch of events combined to push him into a depressive state. I find it refreshing that more and more black men with a high profile are opening up and talking about their experiences with depression and other forms of mental illness. Another example was the recent BBC documentary Being Black, Going Crazy?, hosted by Three Shots of Tequila‘s Keith Dube who himself struggles with depression.

The Song in question is called Lay Me Bare. A couple things standout for me in relation to mental illness. In a couple of lines he talks about how he smoked weed to try and take away the pain of the depression. I’ve made another video talking the connection between mental illness and weed smoking. I think this is a critical area that black men in particular need to discuss openly. For me, black men need to stay away from weed because it most likely exacerbates rather than reduces the impact of depression and other mental illnesses.

Another Fatherless Youth
The thing that jumps out of the song Lay Me Bare is where Stormzy opens up about his broken relationship with his father:

“Like bro I can’t believe I saw my dad
Still up in the ends, still driving cabs
He said “Yo son, I need a car”
I kissed my teeth and turned my back
Like “Nigga, you ain’t seen my face for years
Nigga, you ain’t seen my face for time
And the first thing you’re asking me for, is that?
F*ck you! That’s where I draw the line”
Should’ve dashed through a rack like “Keep the change”
And f*ck letting go, I’ll keep the pain
23 years I’m still the same
When you hear this I hope you feel ashamed
Cah’ we were broke like what the f*ck
Mum did well to hold us up
But yet she still forgave your arse
But mumsy’s cool, I’m cold as f*ck
F*ck that! I’m still not over this
F*ck that! No, I’m still not over this”

I bang on and on about how the majority of black children are being raised by single mothers. In this song, Stormzy is basically telling us how not having his father around has damaged him severely, even though he is full of respect for his mother. For every Stormzy whose talent has allowed him to overcome the hindrance of fatherlessness, there are thousands of other black boys who were not so lucky.

In summary, I’m so pleased to see Stormzy publicly discussing these tough subjects. I’m overjoyed to hear a young black man refusing to blame the system for the problems black people face and this will encourage more and more black folks to do likewise