As a person who admittedly does not have the once and for all solution to the system of racism/white supremacy (none of us do, or have been able to successfully implement such a thing), and is dedicated to finding the solution, I believe that a very large part of finding the solution involves speaking and listening to others who are on a similar path, whether they are people in our own social circles, or other commentators, activists, writers, kwk who are also dedicated to justice for Black people. Considering the extremely high stakes of the war that has been waged against Black people and our seemingly inadequate response to that war, it goes without saying that there is a high level of frustration among those who fall under the informal and loose label of Black consciousness. One word that I often hear used to describe the masses of Black people who by design have not responded to our oppression to the liking of the few who are dedicated to liberation is the word “cowardly”. Although the word coward is a very harsh word to use as an adjective, on the surface one might agree with that word being used as an accurate descriptor of our response to our oppression. Even I, in one of my less codified private rants with others have probably used the word in anger and frustration. But in my assessment another huge part of eliminating the system of racism/white supremacy lies in being able to understand words by accurately defining them, and analyzing the impact of the use of such words. This is especially important when thinking about words that Black people use to describe ourselves and each other, which often times reveals more about how one feels about their fellow victims than they intended.
With all of this considered, the question remains; is “coward” or “cowardly” an accurate descriptor for Black people under the brutally oppressive system of racism/white supremacy? Of course it would be wise to first define the word coward officially in order to get a clear picture of the concept that I am writing on. The definition that I will be using in this article was provided by Dictionary.com:
Coward [kou-erd] noun 1. a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person. Adjective 2. lacking courage; very fearful or timid. 3. proceeding from or expressive of fear or timidity:
Now when assessing whether the word coward as defined here is applicable to Black people under the system of racism/white supremacy, I believe that a very important addition to the question must first be added; Are Black people cowardly, and if so, compared to whom? In other words, when asking if Black people are cowardly, what other race, nationality or ethnicity are we comparing ourselves to? The point of this question is to acknowledge that the situation that Black people find ourselves in, or better stated, have been forced into under the system of racism/white supremacy is quite unlike anything that any other racial or ethnic group has ever faced, despite other ethnic groups propagandistic efforts to portray otherwise.
I challenge anyone to find me another instance of a people who have been consistently, over a period of centuries, had the most powerful social system of that time weaponized into a set of institutions dedicated to enslave, oppress, terrorize, and disenfranchise them specifically, and still survived to the degree that there is still a group of people who are dedicated to producing justice for the oppressed group (however fragmented we are). And in this case, the social system that I am referring to that is aimed at and weaponized against Black people (racism/white supremacy) isn’t just merely the most powerful social system of its time; it is in my view the most powerful social system of all time. So even if one were to somehow find a comparable situation, it would still not measure up to what non-white, Black people most specifically, have had to endure under the system of racism/white supremacy in the modern era of white aggression, which is what I call the era from Cristobal Colon’s (Christopher Columbus) foray into the Americas, through slavery and the subsequent reign of terror that still continues. We find ourselves outgunned, outmanned, and due to the many instances in which positive, potentially powerful and progressive movements have been systematically destroyed, very discouraged and disillusioned.
In fact, Black people are so disillusioned as a collective, that it is not uncommon to hear the sentiment uttered by Black people that racism/white supremacy will never be eliminated. This is said even though a simple, cursory glance at history will reveal that the system of racism/white supremacy has not always been the dominant social system in existence. The rise, cultivation, implementation and enforcement of racism/white supremacy was something that was put into place by humans, and of course anything that was built by humans can also be destroyed by humans with enough focused effort. But such is the brain trashing that has been suffered by Black people under the system of racism/white supremacy, to where this simple concept seems so distant and impossible to conceive. This considered, the term that I think would be most accurate to describe the racial personality of Black people under the system of racism/white supremacy would not be “cowardly”, but badly, and deliberately confused to the point of paralysis. As another point, when we call Black people cowardly for our status of still being under the brutal reign of racism/white supremacy, it is a perhaps inadvertent, but still unmistakably anti-Black sentiment, which in a way blames Black people for being abused or “taking” the abuse, when the fact that the abuse is being dished out is the big crime. It is also extremely disrespectful to the grandcestors of the past, as well as the Black Firsters/Black Nationalists/Pan Afrikanists/Counter Racists/revolutionaries, who whether we know their names or not, are or were on their cosmic assignment, and who made it their life’s work to eliminate the system of racism/white supremacy, when they could and probably would have had a much “easier” life “going along to get along”.
And one last point; before a victim of racism/white supremacy levies such a vitriolic insult toward another victim who is in the same situation as them such as charging them with cowardice, they better be in a situation to where one would be able to look at them and see a shining example of a Black person who is on their cosmic assignment at all times, practicing everything that they preach, and doing everything that they chastise other Black people for not doing. Because, to my knowledge, no one, either the ones who are quick to call Black people cowards, or anyone else has come with the ultimate, once and for all solution to end this madness, and put justice and true sovereignty for Black people into place as a practical system to be practiced and maintained by Black people. If not, then all it amounts to is a victim insulting another victim for being a victim, which in my view is the height of non-constructive squabbling, and which will certainly not accomplish anything whatsoever. The point of this is to say that before we go and kick other Black people’s back in about being cowardly, we need to make sure that we ourselves are in the trenches doing the work, whatever “the work” consists of according to your personal specialties, interests and abilities. And if we are really doing the work, then we should and would be too engaged in our work to be able to look around at other victims and wag our fingers at what they are not doing. I understand that these comments are generally made by frustrated Black people who sincerely want to see a change in our condition, and that is understandable. But we must ask before we make such charges; is this accurate? And most importantly, is it constructive?
Osei, 21st Century Race Man