Born Black: The Pride and the Pain
Author: H.D. Armstrong

Chapter 1
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     It was arrogance. It was a shameful display of hypocrisy. It was the crime of the ages. It was a colossal sin. It was the most abominable event in the legacy of humankind. Yes, I am of course, referring to slavery. Allow me to take this time to say that this text is not meant to rehash the painful institution of slavery. Slavery will only be used as a point of reference, in order to clarify various aspects of the text. With this in mind, we must understand that it was that horrible reality of the past, which laid the foundation for a long, painful struggle for the black race in America. It was a quest for freedom.

     In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the seceded states. It would lead to the Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, which abolished slavery in America. More than a century later, does freedom really exist for the black race, or is Black America caught-up in the illusion of freedom? Consider the way in which a mirror reflects the image of the human body. On one side, there is a living, breathing entity, consisting of:  blood, bone, emotions and consciousness. On the other side, there is a reflection. It looks the same, but it has no mentality, feelings or physical substance. It is only an image of the human body, trapped in light, shadow and glass. There was a horrible flaw in the Emancipation Proclamation. Ultimately, it created a much bigger problem than the problem it was designed to resolve. According to the Bible, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, the land in which they had served as slaves. It was “true” freedom. Not only, were they no longer slaves, but they no longer lived in an environment where they were considered inferior, lower-class people, because of the mentality of ethnic supremacy. The end of the civil war marked a new beginning for millions of blacks, who found themselves “free at last.”  However, was it “true” freedom, or was it simply, a new kind of slavery? Consider the following words of abolitionist, Frederick Douglass:

 “The Negro was free from the individual master, but a slave of society. He had neither money, property, nor friends.”

 

The civil war devastated homes, farms, warehouses, even entire cities. Because some four million slaves had been freed, there was a tremendous shortage of laborers. So, what had become of the so-called “free” Negroes? There was no ship waiting to take them back to Africa. Moses was not available to lead them out of a society of racial prejudice. Instead, they were turned loose in a hostile country to fend for themselves. They had no education, no money and no idea of where they were supposed to go. Although a handful managed to afford a way back to Africa, most blacks regarded their ancestral homeland as little more than a myth. The little knowledge they did have was from the skills they acquired as slaves. Their only recourse was to use those skills, and find a place to live in the same society that had enslaved them. At that point, the black race began to undergo a process of absorption and digestion by the white, American society, leading to a new kind of slavery, best known by a more popular euphemism-- integration. In Chapter 3, we will explore the subject of integration in detail. Before we get to that, it is important that we examine the mentality involved in the old kind of slavery. Before there was slavery, there was the concept of supremacy. It would be illogical to assume that the undertaking of enslavement preceded the philosophy of ethnic and/or racial superiority. It was a philosophy perpetuated over the years by Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory. According to this theory, Africans and other people of color rank lowest on the evolutionary scale. That became the essence of racial prejudice. Furthermore, it became a justification to exploit other cultures. White colonists believed that they were culturally superior to people of color, and that it was their duty to provide them with education, religion and “civilization”. As southern leaders fought to protect slavery from abolitionists, they defended slavery as a way to improve the lives of the Negroes. They insisted that society should have an upper class that was supported by the work of the lower class. In 1854, George Fitzhugh wrote the following in defense of slavery:

It relieves the Negro from a far more cruel slavery in Africa, or from idolatry and cannibalism, and every brutal crime that can disgrace humanity; and that it Christianizes, protects, supports and civilizes them.

 

In conjunction with this philosophy and practice of racial superiority, it was necessary to develop a doctrine of enslavement. Basically, it was a slave master’s guide to enslaving the underclass. Shackles and whips were not sufficient. It was equally necessary to enslave the mind. In 1712, a British slave owner named, William Lynch came to the United States to tell American slave owners how to keep their slaves under control. The term lynching is derived from the man who made the following speech:

"Gentlemen, I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve.

 

First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here.

I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods of control of slaves.

Ancient Rome would envy us if my program were implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King, whose version of the Bible we cherish, I saw enough to know that your problem is not unique.

 

While Rome used cords of woods as crosses for standing human bodies along its highways in great numbers you are here using the tree and the rope on occasion. I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree a couple of miles back.

You are not only losing a valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away, your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for maximum profit, you suffer occasional fires, your animals are killed.

Gentlemen, you know what your problems are: I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them.

In my bag here, I have a fool proof method for controlling your Black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you that if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least three hundred years. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it.

I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves: and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and it will work throughout the South.

Take this simple little list of differences, and think about them. On top of my list is "Age", but it is there only because it starts with an "A": the second is "Color" or shade, there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, status on plantation, attitude of owners, whether the slave live in the valley, on hill, East, West, North, South, have fine hair, coarse hair, or is tall or short.

 

Now that you have a list of differences. I shall give you an outline of action-but before that I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.

 

The Black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self re-fueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe even thousands.

Don't forget you must pitch the old Black male vs. the young Black male, and the young Black male against the old Black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male, and the male vs. the female.

 

You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust only us.

Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. If used intensely for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful.

 

Thank you, gentlemen”

 

 

Before we condemn this letter for its purpose and the philosophy contained therein, I think it is important that we acknowledge the simplicity and cleverness involved in this methodology. He begins by pointing out basic human differences:  age, size, gender, complexion, position, intelligence. Then, he exacerbates these differences by instituting fear, distrust and envy. For example, the slaves that worked inside the master’s house dressed better and were generally treated better than those that worked in the fields. Therefore, those with a lesser status envied the slaves with a higher position. The slaves with finer hair and a lighter complexion were considered more attractive than those with coarse hair and a darker complexion. It was your basic “divide and conquer” strategy at work. This division between opposite groups of slaves intensified and reached a point where it became a perpetual psychological distinction. In other words, with every generation of slaves, it became standard policy for the slaves with light skin to despise the slaves with dark skin. It was normal for the females to distrust the males. It was normal for the elderly to fear the young. It was normal for the slaves of lesser status to envy and ridicule the slaves in a higher position. Thus, the mind had been enslaved. How prophetic was it, to suggest that this indoctrination would cause the black slave to become self-refueling for hundreds of years? Almost 300 years since this letter was written, there is still a hostile division between opposite groups of African Americans. There is still animosity between those with light and dark skin. There is still distrust between black males and black females. There is still fear between the old and the young. There is still envy and ridicule between the lower class and the upper class. The plantations are gone, as are the whips, chains and slave auctions; however, in order for “true” freedom to exist in any culture, the mind must also, be free. The mind must be free of fear, distrust, envy, guilt, self-loathing, stereotypes and false hatred. Notice I use the phrase, false hatred, because we don’t truly hate each other, it’s just that we’ve been conditioned and brainwashed to think that we’re supposed to hate each other. Take a closer look at what America considers a free society. Do not be fooled by the illusions stemming from false images and fancy rhetoric. Listen, analyze and observe the Black American culture. Then, ask yourself, is it “true” freedom, or is Black America still struggling to break the chains of a self-generating, psychological form of slavery?

 

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