- Black History & Heritage

Racism & Racial Pride

Racism and Racial Pride

The effects of racism on mental well being has been well documented both in Britain and also in the U.S.A.

The effects of racism on the mental well being of Black people is not a modern phenomenum. It has its roots in slavery and colonialism. The racial myths and stereotypes of today are based on the mis-education of all peoples when it comes to the history and civilization of Black people.

Racism gives the oppressor a false sense of racial superiority. It also gives rise to feelings of inferiority among those whose culture and colour is non-European. The European system of racism has its roots in the enslavement of Black African peoples in the Americas. European states embarked upon a campaign of kidnapping Africans into slavery. In forcing Africans, many of whom came from advanced cultures, to become chattled slaves on ‘New World’ plantations, the Europeans began to sow the seeds of a very complex system of Euro-centric racism, kept alive through ignorance and barbarity.

The ideology behind racism came into being as a means of justifying European dehumanisation of Black Africans. The European concept of civilization had the white man believing he was the most intelligent and most civilized man on earth.

During the slavery era Africans were banned from speaking their own languages, wearing traditional African garments, preparing and using their own medicines and practising their traditional religion – in other words all attempts were made to remove their African identity to make them more compliant and less likely to rebel against their enslavement.

“The policies the missionaries advocated were those that legitimised colonial rule. The British colonial ruling class was well aware that to dominate successfully it needed to strengthen its position with associates recruited from among the ranks of Africans. The mission schools were assigned the task of manufacturing that class, of bringing a spirit of harmony and co-operation between the exploiters and exploited. The Christian missionaries who taught the Africans to accept their miserable lot on earth in return for post mortem rewards in heaven supplied the ideology that goes with absolute submission to conquest and colonial status."

[ Political Economy of Race and Class in South Africa, p56] Author Bernard Makhosewe Magubane. Monthly Review Press London 1979.

The conversion of Africans to Christianity became a widespread trend towards the end of slavery and particularly in the early years of emancipation. The European and American missionaries taught Africans that:

They belonged to a cursed race

All African religions are manifestations of witchcraft and therefore evil

Black is evil, white is good

Jesus is a long blonde haired European

Europeans set out to systematically dismantle the African way of life and in particular their belief systems. Sierra Leone was founded as a Christian colony. In essence it was a bridgehead on the continent from where missionaries would venture into the interior to ‘civilise’ the ‘barbaric’ and ‘pagan’ Africans. From the 1790s onwards European missionaries set out to achieve this aim. The Church Missionary Society set up its base of operations in 1804. They were soon followed in 1811 by the Wesleyan Missionary Society.

The Church Missionary Society set up its base of operations in 1804. They were soon followed in 1811 by the Wesleyan Missionary Society. European way of life were vastly superior to the religions and ways of life of the native African. Despite the efforts of the missionaries the Europeans could not eliminate religious practices and beliefs that had lasted a millennia before their arrival in West Africa. The African’s response to Christianization was to bring some of their rituals underground and tie in Africanist religious belief with Euro-Christian teachings. One example is the United Methodist Church which was founded in Lagos in 1917, in response to the Methodist missionaries’ war against polygamy. [Religions of the Oppressed, p. 50]


Personality is connected in some way with culture and social organisation. An individual’s life experiences attributes to a personality unique to her/ him. Environmental influences are attributed to a personality that is modal (average) within a group in some societies. Modal personalities may constitute particular experiences shared in common, which as a result of group interaction, develop traits characteristic of it. Personality deposits types of signals sent out. Personality is how one views oneself, life and situations around him or her. Although we are an extension of our parents’ personality, an exact definition of an individual’s personality is not possible.

“The worst trick of all is when he names us Negro and calls us Negro. And when we call ourselves that, we end up tricking ourselves...”

“We were scientifically produced by the white man. Whenever you see somebody who calls himself a Negro, he’s a product of Western civilization – not only Western civilization, but Western crime...”

“One of the main reasons why we are called Negro is so we won’t know who we really are. And when you call yourself that, you don’t know who you really are. You don’t know what you are, you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know what is yours. As long as you call yourself a Negro, nothing is yours. No languages – you can’t lay claim to any language, not even English; you mess it up. You can’t lay claim to any name, any type of name that will identify you as something that you should be. You can’t lay claim to any culture as long as you use the word Negro to identify yourself. It attaches you to nothing. it doesn’t even identify your color."2

[Malcom X – on Afro American History, p.16]

Personality Disorders

A prominent African-American psychologist, Dr Na’im Akbar describes three manifestations of the Black Identity Crisis. One or more of these manifestations may affect an individual’s personality. Let us explore Dr. Akbar’s theories a little with examples from across the Black African Diaspora. The alien self disorder is where one perceives oneself to be other than oneself on a race, sex or class level. In some cases the denial is so great that when subjected to incidents of racial abuse, they will refuse to acknowledge they were victimised in any way. They will grow up and tell others that they never experienced racism when they were children. They will even develop a dislike for anything that is Black – unless it is accepted by their white peers. In extreme cases they will deny that they are Black.

The above quote from Malcolm X is a significant case in point. From post slavery to today African Caribbean people have, in the main, refused to class themselves as African, and many Black Africans refused to accept the fact that both groups are of Black African descent. In Britain today a large proportion of African Caribbean people regard Black Africans as inferior to them and ‘backward’. Embracing one’s ‘Africaness’ has proved an almost impossible task for many African Caribbean people in Britain today. The refusal to accept the common connection is evidence of the alien self disorder in practice. This also implies a marked reluctance to define oneself outside of the definitions imposed through years of racist exploitation, slavery and colonialism.

Example from the 1980's

In the mid-1980s there was a debate amongst Black students at the Polytechnic, Wolverhampton about changing the name of the Afro Caribbean Society (ACS) to African Caribbean Society. There was a significant proportion of the African Caribbean dominated Society who felt that the change of name would mean that the ACS became a club for Black Africans only. To closely scrutinise these terms, identify their actual meanings and either accept or reject the Euro-centric tag or use a definition by Black people that is free of any negative connotations. During the talk I asserted that the term ‘Caribbean’ is the English derivative of the Spanish word ‘Caribe’.

The meaning of both words had not changed, yet residents of the islands in the Caribbean Sea proudly cling to the term without looking into its meaning. As the word Caribe was used to describe the Black inhabitants of the islands as cannibalistic, the English who came into the region adopted the term and kept its meaning intact. I argued that when people from the American Islands refer to themselves as Caribbean, they are actually calling themselves cannibals. The response from a proportion of the African Caribbean students was one of extreme hostility and denial. It also shows that, in the main, we are still very much ignorant of our socio-historical achievements as a people. stand our position in the world we have to understand our history. When we use negative word concepts we not only maintain self-division amongst ourselves, but continue to ‘traditionalise’ racism throughout the world.” David Bennett – Presentation to Afro Caribbean Societ

I may still use the term today, but only because the African Caribbean community has yet to debate the issue properly and come up with an alternative supported by consensus. “The mere fact that we come together to debate whether or not we are Africans or why we should or should not refer to ourselves as such only testifies to us being a people who are desperately willing to affirm our position in the world within the context of our acquired colonial mentality. It also shows that, in the main, we are still very much ignorant of our socio-historical achievements as a people. stand our position in the world we have to “If you don’t love yourself nobody else will; and if you don’t love your colour you can’t love yourself.

Personality Disorders

A person suffering from the anti self disorder will express: “overt and covert hostility towards the groups of one’s origin and thus one’s self”. Anti self is a common disorder afflicting a growing number of Black youth in Britain today. The phenomenon of so called ‘Black on Black’ violence and murders is the most visible manifestation of the anti self disorder. Another manifestation is the unwillingness of many Black people to speak about the evils of the slavery holocaust, believing it does no good to remember. Contrast this with the Jewish nation taking pride in remembering their holocaust and they won’t make the world forget.

During the 1980s and 1990s, I observed the behaviour of Black people in Wolverhampton and Birmingham towards supporting disaster relief in non- industrialised countries. I noticed that when Black people organise fund raising events for disaster relief in African countries they received a poor response from the Black Community. Even though the organisers would charge relatively cheap entrance fees for fundraising dances and get Black performers to sing for free, many of these events would be half empty and in most cases the organisers would struggle to cover their costs.

On the other hand when Black people organised fundraising events for mainstream charities they set high entrance fee charges. These events were always well attended and successful. This tendency to support white instead of Black prompted the question: why are Black people against supporting their own? In Martinique, Frantz Fanon observed: “The school system encouraged children to look down on Creole. Some families completely forbid the use of Creole, and mothers ridicule their children for speaking it”. [Fanon, Frantz () The Wretched of the Earth, p.19] [Khan, Saifullah (1979) Minority Families in Britain: Support and Stress, London, Macmillan]

Self Destructive Disorder

Victims of the self destructive disorder will embark upon the heavy use of drugs to pursue an often destructive retreat from reality.

Environment, Society and Identity

Environment also affects an individual’s personality. Living in a predominantly white society places non-white peoples in an environment where they are bombarded with racial stereotypes and where they see success as the white man’s preserve. The more they are exposed to Euro-centric cultural norms the more their identity struggles to come to terms with their position in society. Saifullah Khan (1979) noted the creation of identity problems among West African children who have been with white foster parents for long periods.

Other studies have confirmed this for Black and Asian children of mixed heritage, who have become part of a white family through fostering or adoption. This is primarily because the children have little Other studies have confirmed this for Black and Asian children of mixed heritage, who have become part of a white family through fostering or adoption. This is primarily because the children have little. Black girls fare worse than their male peers. They face pressures from two evils – racism and sexism. Not only are they experiencing the same identity conflicts brought about by racism, they also face the added pressure of being encouraged to conform to a patriarchal (male biased) view of women. This latter pressure also reinforces the European stereotypes and myths about beauty and negative selfimages that hold back both Black young men and women.

Role Models and Identity

A Health Education Authority study found that: “Parents, and particularly mothers, were an important source of self-esteem for all children, but their differing views of what life would hold for boys and girls influenced their children’s expectation.” (Boseley, 1995) The Black community has actively invested in the racial stereotypes that portray Black as evil, ugly and in particular as failures. It has led to a situation where in Britain today over 51% of Black males shy away from forming relationships with Black women, and are involved in a mixed race relationship.

This was not always the case. During the 1970s racial tensions in the inner city was an effective deterrent to cross cultural relationships. A small but growing dual heritage (mixed race) young people found that they were rejected by whites and either admired or despised by some Black people. Indeed the Euro-centric standard for Black beauty was also being reinforced by dual heritage young people and women in particular. The Black media added to it with publications like Black Hair & Beauty, Ebony and Roots which portrayed beauty in terms of light skin, thin lips, small nose and straight hair.

Economic Exploitation and Black Mental Health

The historical imposition of poverty on Black people through the removal of their properties, disruption and even destruction of their economy and the removal of people into slavery; has a negative impact on Black mental health. Poverty produces stress which, when coupled with racial stereotyping becomes a key factor in the cause of mental ill health amongst Black people. Many Black people despair at the situation in which the Black community finds itself. They have witnessed the rise in the use of dangerous narcotics such as crack cocaine, and with it the rapid rise of the Black-on-Black gun culture. This gun culture is fed by the negative lifestyles of AfricanAmerican Rap artists and the ‘shoot that niggah, slap that bitch’ lyrics that make up their songs.

Violence by young Black men on young Black women is on the increase.However the trans-Atlantic lifestyles and music of the African Americans are not the cause of today’s crisis among Black British youths. The crisis, as explained above, has its roots in the racial oppression of Black people worldwide. The failure of second generation African-Caribbean parents to provide adequate guidance and support left the door open for negative influences to enter more quickly and direct the lives of Black youngsters unopposed.

Parents have failed to teach their children about the history of Black people and Britain, from the ancient civilizations of Africa to the era of Roman Britain to the present day. Parents have failed to teach themselves about the historical contributions of Black people. The need for Black people to debate racism and mental wellbeing is long overdue. The need for everyone to embrace Black history; learn where the roots of modern day discrimination first began to grow; learn how this impacts on Black and White alike – and society can begin to move forward to ensure that the prejudices of future generations is influenced by non-racist application of history in the school curriculum.

Tackling institutional racism within society requires an appreciation of the historical contributions of Black people to British society, industry, wealth and standing in the world. It also requires legislation that works. Racism in all institutions and in the neighbourhoods only strives because its perpetrators retain an ignorant yet inherent sense of racial superiority, and its victims, in the main, retain a sense of racial inferiority fuelled by ignorance of their history and its impact on the society in which they live. Article by David Bennett (Black History Month Group Chair)