Black Epistemology Versus The Placebo Syndrome
One thing I’ve learned (again) in the last 48 hours is how white people can use words, use knowledge, as a noose, as a pine box, as an electric chair to dispose of ideas that don’t agree with their precious, right-eous views!
We supposedly agree on the ‘what’ of racism, but not the ‘why’? My man Asa made the point that who feels it knows it; we know that racism certainly quacks like a mentally ill duck. OUR experience makes it plain. But white knowledge, in spite of its blindspots and limitations, always trumps black. In white minds anyway.
I was thinking of the difference between classical and improvisational musicians. Classical musicians play what’s on the page, the notes that someone else wrote; the jazz musician, while working from musical notation (usually, but not always), prides him or herself on their ability to create ‘off’ the page. Jazz heads create using the available tools within and without. Through the interaction of what is written and what is within, these artists create a third thing, a new thing.
Their creations don’t always work, of course; but if they laid down their horn because of some tin-eared detractor, what kind of artists would they be?
White culture is not improvisational culture. Its more like impulse culture; the culture knows, regardless of political persuasion, how to band together to exploit or snuff out that which threatens their core values. White culture loves definitions and defining you; they are obsessed, slavishly with ‘Expertism,’ and they venerate all kind of degenerate white men just cuz.
White culture doesn’t appreciate improvisation – unless it can be boxed and shrink wrapped. Controlled. That goes double for intellectual concepts. White culture is a corpse and brooks no creativity that does not support the status quo and the ways in which they’ve agreed meaning can be made.
Repurposing and composting words, ideas, concepts – which black especially do masterfully – is verboten; its like asking Herman Munster to freestyle. Mentally. It happens – about as often as Haley’s comet. (But, there ARE exceptions!)
None of the participants in the ‘Racism As Mental Illness’ conversation could allow the concept to germinate for a moment. The agenda’s were varied, but there was an agenda/obstruction that they put ahead of seeing it my way. ‘Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong.’ (Actually being mentally ill, not wishing to ‘harm’ the mentally ill, were some of the excuses used to not give any time to the idea.) Examining an idea that several of my (real) friends laughed off because of its ludicrousness, its utter obvious-ness. As way over-stood!
One of my inquisitors said, ‘white’s would use the Racism as Mental Illness idea as an excuse to NOT take responsibility’ for their behavior. (‘First there was the ‘twinkie defense – now THIS!?‘ ) Uh huh, as if there’s a line of white folks taking personal responsibility for racism right now!
So, maybe there’s more creativity in white folks than I thought. But still, its creativity designed to limit the discussion, terminate the consideration. They are responsible for producing knowledge/definitions, policing the use of words and enforcing transgressions against Merriam Webster. I have stepped out of the gutter and back onto the sidewalk, how dare I?!
My friend, LA, who happens to be white, in response to the brouhaha noted that: ‘White people have to keep things orderly and safe, which is very Euro; everything in a box and every word with its Latin-root. They are throwing their building blocks at you. These are the building blocks of white culture.’
LA went on to quote Robert Jensen:
"Break through the willed ignorance, the purposeful not-knowing about the racialized consequences of our social, political and economic structures—the not knowing that makes possible the comfortable lives we of that race and class lead. The task is to give people who otherwise need not care about justice a reason to care."
And if it takes using metaphors that "offend" the sensibilities of white people so be it.