Truth, Fiction And Lies, — The Aftermath Of Slavery:
H.D. ANDERSON OMARDE:
FIELD RESEARCH OFFICER
MINISTRY OF CREATIVE INDUSTRIES AND INNOVATIONS
DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE
Unfortunately, we as a people, have developed some strange behaviours and practices that are detrimental to our survival; hindrances to our progress, and barriers to our development. Most of these conducts are based on distrust, fear and envy. It has become common for us, as a people, to do our best to try and drag each other down. Some theorists have likened our comportment as similar to “crabs in a barrel”, whereby, those who attempt to climb out of their confinements and bondage, are dragged back and are prevented from making any progress.
It has become an ingrained aspect of our culture for us to practice malevolence and ill-will towards each other. Instead of making the effort to uplift ourselves to the level of those who we see as worthy of our envy, we do our best to try and decimate them and pull them down to our subordinate levels, “by any means necessary”. One of the major weapons in that type of endeavor is the routine of ‘bad talking” one another. Spreading false rumors and creating discord and dissension are two of the more prevalent practices.
But, where did this type of behaviour originate, and why has it become so predominant and wide-spread?
There is a popular theory that points towards the “Willie Lynch Syndrome”. It offers a possible explanation for expressions that begin with “The problem with black people” or end with “That’s why black people can’t get ahead”.
There is a claim made that there was a white slave owner named Willie Lynch, who had a plantation in Jamaica, West Indies. It is alleged that Willie Lynch was invited to Virginia in 1712, and delivered an elucidation as to his methods of successfully controlling his enslaved Africans back in the West Indies. As the tale goes, Willie Lynch supposedly delivered his infamous speech, during which, he emphasized the need for slave owners to create discord and conflicts between different groups of our people. It is purported that Willie Lynch introduced a list of categories to differentiate our people. The list included age, skin colour, intelligence, size, and sex. As, according to the reported document, Willie Lynch claimed that it was essential to put enslaved blacks into these categories, paying strict attention to their differences and pitching blacks against each other; making sure they had nothing in common. Old blacks were to be pitched against young blacks; a light skinned one against a darker skinned; a male was to be pitched against a female, and so on. According to what has been printed in a document which became known as “The Willie Lynch Letter”, such a practice would instill distrust and envy among the enslaved blacks. It is further alleged that Willie Lynch predicted that such an approach would remain efficient and effective for at least three hundred (300) years, or even thousands of years. Apparently, there is a supporting document entitled, “How to make a slave”. The allegations are that all this transpired during the eighteenth (18th.) century.
If any detail in these infamous documents appears to hit the nail on the head, one has to be cautious regarding the alleged documents. Most researchers have deemed the entire “Willie Lynch Letter” as fake.
It must be agreed that slavery was an unbelievably complex of issues that included a mental component, and which was supported and enforced by physical brutality. So, although the authenticity of Willie Lynch, and subsequent alleged documents are not proven; existing today, (almost three hundred (300) years after the abolition of slavery), we can see the result of the mental manipulation which was inflicted upon enslaved Africans.
It is without doubt that some degree of influence had to have been used against our people. Without manipulative schemes, there is no possibility that our people could have been controlled so effectively by whites, who were outnumbered five (5), ten (10) and sometimes twenty (20) to one.
It is not important whether Willie Lynch existed or not. What is more important is understanding what forces black minds to behave in such cannibalistic manners. Whether or not it be a myth, the “Willie Lynch Letter” actually serves a particular purpose, not because it is true, but it actually illustrates truth regarding slavery and its aftermath. The blatant and obvious truth is that we, as descendants of enslaved Africans, still carry the mental legacy of enslavement and continue to employ rancorous and spiteful tactics against our own people. We, as a people, have been divided and splintered with malevolent intention, which has apparent long-lasting consequences.
Regardless of who started the initial march for our people’s journey towards our destructive behaviours, we must confess that such actions have their genesis in the institution of slavery.
From the very onset, an air of division permeated the lives of enslaved Africans. “Bad talking” and “back stabbing” percolated among our people. There were inducements for the enslaved Africans to engage in carrying news and speaking ill of their fellow-men; to spy on each other and to do their best to curry favours from their white slave owners. The rewards were deemed to be worth any stab in the back that was necessary to achieve such goals.
In a dramatic example of that infamous “Willie Lynch Letter”, our people were taught and encouraged to sacrifice each other. Acrimonious actions would be rewarded with a possible elevation from a position of a mere “field nigger” to a preeminence of “house nigger”. That in itself, came with benefits. Not only did such a raised position excuse the recipient from the back-breaking labour performed under the burning sun, and the crack of the whip against their backs; but it also afforded them with a chance to enjoy an easier and higher standard of living. Their food was of a better quality and the enslaved Africans who lived in the house were granted privileges that were exclusive and reserved for them and them alone. They acquired an aloof attitude and concluded that they were better than the others who were relegated to field work. They were able to dress better, attired in the cast-off hand-me-downs of their slave masters.
And, all of these valuable advantages could be easily obtained by simply carrying some fictitious and fabricated news on their fellow enslaved Africans; through the engaging in acts of obsequiousness; and by the dragging down of their own people, – a relatively small price to pay for the comparatively large rewards that could be gleaned.
Evidence of this separation between field hands and house servants was ardently emphasized in a writing by C.W. Harper entitled “House Servants and Field Hands: Fragmentation in the Antebellum Slave Community”. In that piece, Dr. Harper, an associate professor at the School of Education in North Carolina State University, noted that “there were two (2) distinct classes among workers on plantations – ‘aristocratic’ house servants and ‘lowly’ field hands. Fundamentally, these classes had their origins in occupational differences between slaves on the plantation. For purposes of labour, each plantation owner divided his enslaved Africans into either house or field servants. Sensitive, perhaps to social distinctions among whites, enslaved Africans came to be aware of distinctions in their own world”.
It is easy to see how this would facilitate division amongst our people and create envy and spite, in order to elevate one’s own status.
Of special note is the fact that most of the house servant positions were primarily for females and thus, the competitive and abhorrent attitude of “back-biting” would have been primarily executed and cultivated among them. However, the males did jostle for the few available house servant positions. These included body servants, butlers, coachmen, gardeners, and those who lived in close contact with the white slave owners.
The truth about our people’s penchant for dragging down each other is without question, an ingrained practice that was cultivated for the benefit of the white plantation owners. Through the institution of slavery, a psychic damage was completed on enslaved Africans and their descendants; and this still persists among our people.
Many times, lies about fellow enslaved Africans were created and presented as truth by those who aspired for coveted positions. The white plantation owners encouraged this practice as the resultant division and splintering of our people served to promote social fragmentations, and therefore, create dis-unity among the enslaved Africans. This is the truth! It continues to be entrenched as an essence of many of our people. Today, it remains visible as an obvious aftermath of slavery.
The questions that we must answer are numerous. How do we unravel what is the truth, what is the fiction and what are the lies, emanating as the aftermath of slavery? How do we as descendants of enslaved Africans break the shackles and become less self-destructive? How do we become a cohesive unit, bonded for the common good of all descendants of enslaved Africans? How do we move from acting like “crabs in a barrel” to demonstrating an attitude of caring, nurturing and assisting of each other; while encouraging and promoting the efforts of those who show a propensity to progress? How do we move from a state of fragmentation to one of fusion? When will we eschew envy and jealousy; back- stabbing and back- biting and show concern for our own people? How much longer will we continue to suffer what is certainly a concerted effort to instill a division among descendants of enslaved Africans?
The disconcerting aspect of this phenomenon is that it seemingly affects descendants of enslaved Africans all over the globe. The devastating practices are not reserved for our local population, but engulf all who have fore parents that were exposed to the ignominy of the methodical suppression brought on by slavery. We have been taught and encouraged to strangle each other for the few scraps that may fall from the tables of whom-so-ever may be our “masters”. Yesterday, it was the remains and dregs from the plantation owners; today, it has been transferred to be at the behest of some who hold political leverage, and those who may also be in positions of authority. Jobs and livelihoods may be dependent on the “news” that one brings to the gentry in order for them to wield and exercise full authority and control over the proletariat. Minute and miniscule rewards are granted to those who chose to betray their fellow descendants of enslaved Africans.
The mental component of slavery still persists today, a full one hundred and eighty-eight years after it was abolished here on August 01st 1834. The descendants of enslaved Africans still bear the mental scars of the manipulations that were inflicted upon us; and these continue unabated, to include our choices of attempting to seem like our former oppressors. Blond wigs, and unfamiliar coloured hair-pieces; bleaching creams and other such elements have become normal common statements that indicate that we still wish to be like, and to appear similar to our former white slave owners. We still exhibit inferior complexes and show a definite affinity to the very same oppressors who have caused so much damage to us as a people. This is not an attack on the descendants of those who had inflicted the damages and wreaked havoc, destruction, mayhem and devastation on our people, but rather, it is a condemnation of the attitudes that keep some of us in the grips of subjugation, buried under an avalanche of suppression. We continue to drag down each other in fits of envy and jealousy; in attempts to get the “scraps” from others’ tables.
This is an absolute truth; a clarification of the fiction and lies that have been perpetrated on our people to cover-up the aftermath and repercussions of the disgraceful infliction of the enslavement of Africans.
William Lynch Speech
“The William Lynch speech, also known as the Willie Lynch Letter, is an address purportedly delivered by a William Lynch (or Willie Lynch) to an audience on the bank of the James River in Virginia in 1712 regarding control of slaves within the colony. In recent years, it has been widely exposed as a hoax.
The letter purports to be a verbatim account of a short speech given by a slave owner, in which he tells other slave masters that he has discovered the “secret” to controlling black slaves by setting them against one another. The document has been in print since at least 1970, but first gained widespread notice in the 1990s, when it appeared on the Internet. Since then, it has often been promoted as an authentic account of slavery during the 18th century, though its inaccuracies and anachronisms have led historians to conclude that it is a hoax.”
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