Sunday, April 17, 2011

inherent inhumanity?

i can recall a number of times reading about and seeing in documentaries and television specials, about the ways in which lynchings were preserved through photographs and newspaper articles. oftentimes, the photographs would be turned into postcards and shipped to far-away family members and loved ones, inscribed with a sentence or two of love and good intentions.
the history of lynchings as preserved through postcards is the basis for the website Without Sanctuary, which has over 70 postcards, almost all with dates, names, and background stories of either the victim and/or the criminals. one postcard is in three parts of a black man being beaten by a mob, and then burned alive, all strung together with a ribbon, meant to unfold like a home-made book.

a week or so ago, i was watching a video with Ivan Van Sertima being interviewed by someone about his books. the interviewer begins to ask him about what all of his books, concepts, and facts he's uncovered say about the "humanity" of whites/Europeans. the question was, in essence, asking how is it that of all the empires and diversity the world over, we only see barbarism like the kind seen in these postcards (amongst other things) from one group of people (or only exhibited in others in times of distress/war)? Van Sertima insists that he doesn't believe in any theories involving humanity because they aren't rooted in anything concrete.
is there something inherently wrong or different in Europeans/whites that could explain these types of actions, wars, genocides, and mutilation of individuals? it is only recently that i have learned that aside from lynching an individual, lynching victims were often tortured prior to the hanging. during and/or after the death of the victim, fingers, toes, the ears and nose were often cut off and sold as souvenirs, along with the penis, as castration seemed to be almost mandated. one of the photos on the website i linked above is a photo framed, with a lock of the victim's hair in between the frame and the glass (!?).

the question is often raised in western philosophy (and possibly psychology and psychoanalysis) whether we are all completely mad and chaotic beings, being held together by society, religion, survival, what ever....or are we "rational", reasonable, logical, people at our core whose only barbarism surfaces within repressive and oppressive societies? (theres a really good documentary that addresses these questions in part here).
i believe most people who have done any research on the subject of race, have concluded that the idea is nothing more than a social construct. besides physical appearances, there are no fundamental or inherent concepts or beliefs that arise outside (or before) social upbringing. we are all the same. then again...that's scientific.

if we accepted the idea that there is nothing inherent in this idea of "race", then where is the basis of almost any black American intellectual with a Pan-African, Black Nationalist, or Afrocentric agenda? is there not an idea that suggests we are connected to cultures and traditions of Africa? Dr. Clarke illustrates this point in this video, where he says the heart of every black person is in Africa, irrespective of our geographic birthplace.
maybe it isn't a coincidence that many people making these arguments also ascribe flawed and inhumane attributes to white/Europeans. ??

so what is it? do we enter into this world as a "tabula rasa" or do we have cores rooted in our places of origin (isn't everyone's Africa anyway?)? if there are inherent characteristics in each of us, along racial, national, or cultural lines, what are they? are some rooted in negative attributes while other are not?

comment. think. criticize.

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