Abused Child Syndrome
Effects of Terrorism on African Americans
Lester Allyson Knibbs
Periods of African American History
I divide African American history into three periods:
This is not a joke. The more I learn about the institution called "slavery" the more I become convinced that it is a crime against African Americans merely to use that word. What we experienced was in another universe from slavery.
Slavery has a long history.
Slaves do not have their tongues cut out for being unwilling or unable to speak the masterís language.
Slaves are not transported thousands of miles across an ocean to be worked to death, only to be replaced by others.
Slaves are not denied both the continuity of their own human identity (their culture) or assimilation into the masterís human identity; in the United States, the imported Africans were denied both African humanity and European/American humanity.
Slaves are not defined as a different sub-human species ("race") and prohibited from marrying members of the masterís species. "Race" is a synonym for "species" or "genus" Ė read Darwin, for example. The concept of race is a myth, according to the leading anthropologist of the twentieth century, Ashley Montagu, author of Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy Of Race. Consult also Stephen J. Gouldís The Mismeasure of Man.
(According to The Black Man in the Old Testament and Its World by Alfred G. Dunston, Jr., the King James Version was translated into English (in 1612, just as the English were getting involved in the trans-Atlantic commerce) in language precisely designed to separate the "negroes" miserably torn from their African homes from noble peoples mentioned throughout the Old Testament. This propaganda, designed for the English-speaking public, has come to play a devastating role in African American life.)
What we experienced Ė the deportation, the physical and psychological mutilations, the concentration camps ("plantations"), the lynchings, and more Ė were not mere enslavement, but an extreme form of terrorism.
Please understand: We African Americans are the primary victims of terrorism in this nation. The atrocities committed against Native Americans are comparable, but no other group comes close.
If the reign of terrorism perpetrated against us had come to a complete termination, we would still need generations of healing in a nurturing environment to recover.
We have not had that.
We have had the "lesser terrorism" of KKK night riders, segregation, Jim Crow and lynching.
We have had (and continue to have) the massive imprisonment and disenfranchisement of African American men, unarmed African American men murdered on the streets by uniformed thugs, under-education and mis-education, unemployment and under-employment, and perpetuation of false notions of who and what we are in the media. This is the Lingering Terrorism.
We, the African American people, were carried in the womb of the Great Terrorism, born into the Lesser Terrorism, and raised in the Lingering Terrorism. We are the children of terrorism.
The Nature of the Abused Child Syndrome
In the Abused Child Syndrome, the abused child clings to the abusive parent.
In the old spirituals, composed during the Great and Lesser Terrorisms, constant reference is made to "Massa Jesus". The desperate, pleading tone of these references is amazing.
On the one hand, calling the compassionate son of Mary "master" is a slap in the face to the evil people holding them prisoner.
On the other hand, calling on the compassionate and white "Massa Jesus" is a prayer for love and acceptance by the same white man who has been abusing them. This is the nature of the Abused Child Syndrome.
Almost two generations into the Lingering Terrorism, we want the white man to be nice to us. We want him to educate us, employ us, buy from us, sell to us, smile at us, invite us into his home. This is Heaven, the Promised Land.
Almost two generations into the Lingering Terrorism, we are still praying to Massa Jesus. Give us better schools and jobs, put us in movies and television, give us some money. Everything depends on Massa Jesus. Oh, Massa Jesus, we need your help to survive; empower us, and save us from evil.
So many African Americans cried when President Kennedy was assassinated. He was our good Massa Jesus. Ronald Reagan was the bad massa. Good ole former president Clinton put his office in Harlem. Arenít we thrilled? But the current president, Bush, plays both roles: he beats on us and smiles at us at the same time. But isnít that what Clinton did? (Another million African American men in prison; African American women thrown off public assistance into servitude, and separated from their children.) How else could we love him so much?
The pimp alternately abuses and love-talks his women. This keeps them in line.
The police play the good-cop/bad-cop routine to get cooperation from suspects.
We African Americans fall for this. We get treated alternately bad and good and keep coming back for more. We turn from the bad white man to the good white man without realizing that they represent the same corruption.
The Nature of Evil
In Uncle Tomís Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, there is a "good" and "kind" master (whoís name I forget) and a wicked master (Simon Legree). (This novel is worth reading, if only to get a correct idea of the Uncle Tom character; he was beaten to death by Simon Legree for steadfastly refusing to betray two fugutives.) In my understanding, the wicked master was merely very bad, but the "good" and "kind" master was evil.
Nowadays, most Christians and Jews see evil as represented by violence and killing. Violence and killing are very bad things, but evil is of a different nature entirely. In the third chapter of Genesis (how better to learn about evil than consulting the Bible?), we realize that the serpent in the Garden of Eden is the embodiment of Satan/evil because the serpent lies. The serpent does not kill Adam or Eve; he lies to them.
As the human being has become more perceptive, evil has become more clever. In Second Corinthians 11:14-15, Satan presents himself as an angel of light, and so do Satanís ministers.
The nature of evil is deceit, and the ultimate deceit is for evil to masquerade as virtue.
The Prosperous Virtue of the Good White Man
What was Europe and what were Europeans before the victimization of tens of millions of Africans. Europe was a cesspool and Europeans were poor, weak, ignorant and sickly. This is well-known, standard history. I learned this studying European history at Harvard University; this is not radical stuff.
As an accidental by-product of their continuing war against the Moors (Black African Muslims) in Spain and against other Muslim powers, the Europeans discovered the western continents, which they proceeded to name America. The invasion, conquest, rape and wholesale exterminations of Native American nations by the Spanish is legendary.
By comparison, the English were laggards. After several failed attempts to establish settlements in North America, the English discovered that with the help of captured Africans their colonies would thrive. In Africaís Gift to America, J.A. Rogers (Jamaican-American historian) describes the degraded state of the Jamestown colony (established in 1607) and describes how the fortunes of that colony changed after the arrival of the Africans in 1619. In his two-volume History of the American People, award-winning (why do they give awards?) Samuel Eliot Morison (a "good" white man) describes the multiple failures in the attempt to establish Jamestown, and describes how the colony was thriving by 1625, but fails to mention the arrival of the Africans in 1619.
A brief history of the modern world is this:
The Europeans were brought out of their own Dark Ages into what they call the Renaissance (it wasnít a re-birth, but rather a continuation of civilization which Muslims had been maintaining and advancing for centuries) by Black African Muslims (the Moors in Spain, 711-1492). See R. Montgomery Wattís The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe and Stanley Lane-Pooleís The Moors in Spain. Quite ungratefully, the Spanish expelled the Moors, committing atrocities from 1492 to 1600 which anticipate the horrors of Nazi Germany. To this day, Europeans do not openly acknowledge, in word or deed, their indebtedness to the Moors.
The Europeans were able to invade, settle and conquer the western continents only with the help of Africans. Africans were civilized and educated people from civilized nations, while Europeans were lazy, greedy, violent people from nations still in the throes of medievalism.
In his The African Slave Trade, Basil Davidson documents that Africans were the most advanced element, socially, politically and technologically, in 17th-century Brazil.
African American Muslims in Fayetteville, North Carolina, have named their mosque after Umar ibn Sayyid, a man from Futa Toro (in what is now Senegal). He had the equivalent of a Ph.D. education (including study at the University of Sankore in Timbuktu). He was captured in one of the wars instigated by the Europeans and shipped to Charleston, South Carolina. He wound up with a slave owner near Fayetteville, a man who, fortunately, was not totally illiterate and had some decency. This slave owner, John Owen, later became governor of North Carolina (1828-1830). As governor, he introduced legislation to establish free public education. As documented by Mungo Park, the famous Scottish explorer, the Fulani people had already established free public schools throughout West Africa before 1800.
Another man, Ayyub ibn Solomon from the Bondu (also now a part of Senegal), made the odyssean journey through capture, the Middle Passage, enslavement in Maryland, being ransomed and sent to England where he helped establish the Arabic section of the British Museum, and finally returning home (not merely to Africa, a huge continent, but to his actual home), the only individual in the history of the Middle Passage known to have returned home. To the Europeans, Ayyub (known as Job ben Solomon in England) was a scholar; in his homeland he was merely a merchant.
The "Industrial Revolution" (as it is called) was paid for by the unpaid labor of Africans in the Americas. In Capitalism and Slavery, Eric Williams (former prime minister of Trinidad & Tobago) documents how captive labor in the Caribbean financed the industrial revolution in England. Unpaid labor not only produced raw materials at low cost, but made possible the scientific and inventive endeavors of such men as Isaac Newton, James Watt, and many others; part of what put England ahead of the other European powers was the heavy investment in intellectual development. The wealth produced by unpaid labor was not squandered on opulence but invested in development.
Nevertheless, the transformation wrongly described as an industrial revolution was in fact a sacrifice of human moral and social development for the goals of material accumulation, technological progress and scientific advancement. It is no coincidence that the first municipal police department in human history was established in London in 1832. London was the most advanced European city of the new industrial age, and therefore the most crime-ridden. The masses of people, left behind in the increasing concentration of wealth, were victims not only of exploitation and abuse by the rich and powerful but of their own inadequate social and moral development. It was as common for a London policeman to encounter a baby in the gutter, abandoned and dead, as to encounter a rat.
The Europeans have traded not only African humanity for material progress, but their own humanity, as well. In the increasing concentration of wealth in the United States, the process of continued material progress amidst the continued degradation of humanity (and the environment) continues.
The prosperous virtue of the good white man is a perfect example of evil. He has achieved his comfortable social and economic status at the expense of others and then condescends to be kind to his unwilling benefactors and their disinherited progeny. My forebears had material wealth, culture and civilization for me to inherit, but instead they were degraded and left me nothing. The people, whose inherited comforts are the result of the degradation of my ancestors, smile at me. Arenít they nice?
John Brown, in contrast, did not smile at African Americans; he fought for us and with us. He was a hero. He put himself and his family into the struggle for freedom. He was willing to risk, and ultimately gave, his life for that cause. Who is good? (Or as the son of Mary is quoted as saying, "Why do you call me good?") But John Brown was certainly a hero.
Satan himself knows that he is evil. His slaves think they are good. They are deluded into thinking that they have earned or otherwise deserve their well-being. They may or may not sympathize with the less fortunate, but they never doubt the connection between their well-being and their virtue. The wicked slavemaster is merely bad. The good and kind slavemaster is evil.
In the good-cop/bad-cop routine, the "good cop" is truly evil.
The pimp is at his most evil when he love-talks his women.
In the Abused Child Syndrome, the abused child who is now an adult is constantly hoping that the abusive parent will show love or will somehow change. We want white people to smile at us. We want reparations. Same thing. We want the love-talk. We want the good cop. We gush over an apology. Pay attention to us, please.
Anything but the one thing we must do: Let go of the abuser.
The Europeans (so-called "white people") will never make things right. They do not want to; it requires paying a price. They are not capable of it; otherwise, they would never have needed our forebears in the first place.
We must take on the burden of government. The powers that be will never allow African Americans the dignity of being in control of our own lives. They do not even allow their own people that dignity. Therefore, there is no way for us to have the dignity that is our God-given right and responsibility without actively governing the society in which we live.
The abused child, now an adult, most assume responsibility for the household, in order to put an end to abuse.
In other essays, I plan to put forth strategies for moving from the bottom of the society to leadership. (I avoid saying "top". Leadership is service, not domination.)
It will be far more difficult to convince African Americans of the necessity and of the possibility of this change, than to actually accomplish it.
Nevertheless, it is best to remember, as Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a struggle."
August 16, 2003