History unfolds. Generations pass. The present infolds into evergreen ideologies draped in new vocabulary.
I’m thinking of our culture’s obsession with whiteness – what Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and Neely Fuller, Jr. dubbed white supremacy.
I’m observing one of its current ambassadors, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, on his quest for power. He’s brazenly determined to shut down, and shut out, the complexity of life and reduce it to one dimension. Treating, for example, pedagogy for children the same as university students.
DeSantis and his donors, legislative minions, bureaucratic bullies, and sidewalk zombies use Wokeness as a scary synonym for keeping Black folks and their cultural and political history in their place. Invisible. Isolated.
They want to keep us from sullying their malignantly, willfully, innocent place in which white men are Undiluted Heroes, are Untouched Genius in all things, are Brave Singular Genius in every human endeavor, are Source, are Touchstone, are Transcendence, are evidence of Divine Anointment who must, sigh, still carry the burden of conquering, training, deporting lesser people.
DeSantis wears his white wading boots as he cynically traffics the fantasy that only his ilk is chosen to create, ignore, and/or deform documented and living history. Armed with his ‘troubled’ Ivy League imprimatur, he’s selectively ahistorical and patently unbelievable, except to earthlings clinging to their fantasy that there exists some mystical state of being where all the greatness resides in bold white men who simply do what they have to do for god, country and white women.
When I see DeSantis’s pious grimace, when I hear his skin-deep intellectualism and pandering cliches, I trace his DNA in a simple way. I superimpose his face on the photos of white males partying at lynchings, spitting on a teenager walking into a public school, braying at nonviolent marchers, stabbing us with an American flag ….
What shortness of vision, what endorphin dump, could bolster a position that makes actual history scary and untenable for American students and American citizens?
I call it Whitelessness, which is not white supremacy, but the psychological state that allows folks to be activated – as if by a white supremacist spell – into being white over being American, or to define being American as (only) being white.
Whitelessness provides folks with the psychological confidence to ignore facts, to ignore causes of actual social arrangements started and sustained and manipulated by rich men.
Whitelessness frees someone swooning to its allure to willingly and imaginatively create/target human and sociological scapegoats (immigrants, the Woke, self-hating whites, among them), while craving and accepting a social status based on random biology such as skin color.
Whitelessness is a geopolitical state of genuflecting asphyxiation.
In an essay I wrote to accompany my poem Whitelessness, which closes my new book SongAgain, I Xray my reaction to this artificial state of being, which nonetheless is, and has been, a clear and present danger to so many.
“I am wearing my freshly-pressed Griot Clothes,” I write. “I am dedicated to inspirational individuality. I reflect my bent, my set-point, toward joyous, politically charged, uncensored self expression. I seek the worthiness to find change on the sidewalks of improvisation. I seek worthiness to heroically wield the Flashlight we have for generations kept charged to illuminate American B.S., hypocrisy, and violence.”
I also trace the DNA of our resistance to proponents of Whitelessness, including the scathing 1791 letter from Benjamin Banneker that calls out Thomas Jefferson’s double standard on the ‘state of slavery’ – soaring language for colonists revolting against England’s monarchy and medieval consolidation of wealth and power vs. self-serving accommodation justifying bondage of those who labored for Jefferson’s pursuit of happiness.
I even quote George Clinton’s Star Child, who signified succinctly:
‘Let me put on my sunglasses here, so I can see what I’m doing ….’
Since I coined Whitelessness, I’m compelled to hold it up to the light and distill additional definitions to capture the generational hold this malignant exceptionalism has on the American political class and its willing executioners, who are so afraid of e pluribus unum they’d rather ally with a powerful minority of divide-and-conquerors than forge and cultivate common ground with the majority.
So, here’s the current glossary of my Wreaking Happiness Lexicon of Whitelessness:
tribal siren song … cult member’s mantra … malignant self regard …
conceptual atrophy … vigilante’s psychic bassinette …
violence crystallized … misplaced malice … curdled hypertension … unearned exceptionalism …
weaponized innocence … pawn’s lagniappe … poverty’s carpool pass … pimp & circumstances …
desperate camouflage … cosplay over leadership …
press gang’s wet dream … indentured servant PTSD … patty roller’s bedazzlement …
power’s coinage … ruling class IOU … withered currency …
OG AI … neuro apartheid … synaptic fibrosis … prelude to wreaking havoc …
unresolved apathy … empathetic decay … exhausted imagination … depleted resilience …
I make no accommodation with Whitelessness, with this one-note trap sporting the contradictory, schizophrenic, trappings of scientific insight, the inevitability of evolution, and the certainty bestowed by true believers.
I make no accommodation with this power tool, with this tool of powerful interests collaged from generational governing myths.
I make no accommodations to this psychological camouflage for holding onto power, with this historical divisiveness premising itself as an antidote to divisiveness.
I make no accommodation with this congenital enemy of debate and discourse, which seeks to assign and calcify my place in the world, which seeks to establish an official hierarchy, govern by decree, hoard power, replace current and historical rigor with strategic and fanatical zealotry.
I make no accommodation with this imposition on my freedom, a natural state of being long before Jefferson’s resounding language in the US Declaration of Independence.
Count me among the music makers and ‘discontented inspirationalists’ in service of creating the society that integrates the truth, and nurtures citizens who can handle the truth …!
I close today’s sermon with this question I asked to close out my poem:
where are the diaphanous motherfuckers
who bear oxygen into this genuflecting asphyxiation
who bear iridescent witness against this myopic Whitelessness
BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. I’m thinking about the most profound pursuit of happiness, which makes me think of Thomas Jefferson, which makes me think back to August 19, 1791, the date of a letter Mr. Jefferson received from Benjamin Banneker, who “freely and cheerfully acknowledge[d], that I am of the African race, and in that color which is natural to them of the deepest dye.” I smile at just how free Mr. Banneker must have felt to write the dude who crafted the resonant lines that inspired a Euro-American revolution against the British. Mr. Jefferson was a bonafide OG in 1791! … So how bold was Mr. Banneker to speak up at all…, calling out Mr. Jefferson, OG to OG, in that 18th Century diction that still bumps across the centuries like Dr. Dre playing the soundtrack for Jesus in mid-Crunk:
“Sir, suffer me to recal to your mind that time, in which the arms and tyranny of the British crown were exerted, with every powerful effort, in order to reduce you to a state of servitude: … This, Sir, was a time when you clearly saw into the injustice of a state of slavery, and in which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its condition…. but, Sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which he hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.”
That’s why I’m so deep off into this meditation on happiness. Speaking my mind is the prime proverb of happiness. Cannot bite my tongue, no matter who’s in the audience! No matter what the odds. Learning from my personal past, learning from the cultural past … Silence equals death, as the ACT UP folks said .…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/