By Wendell P. Simpson
Willie Lynch has risen from his cold, dead grave to revisit upon us his vile referendum on turning Black against Black.
For those of you who do not know who Willie Lynch was or the significance of his contribution to the history of race and slavery in the Americas, it may be enough to know that the term ‘lynching’ was derived from his name. But it isn’t the entire story.
Willie Lynch was an 18th century slave owner in the West Indies who became renowned for his effective methods of slave making and slave breaking. So impressive were his results that, in 1712, he was invited by Virginia slave owners to be an industry consultant, teaching slave owners how to get the most effective and efficient use out of their ‘property‘.
Lynch advocated a policy of strict control. The salient –and most popular–feature of Lynch’s methodology, however, involved only a modicum of direct activity by slave owners. Instead, Lynch proposed, slaves could be controlled by exploiting the differences between them and employing the psychology of divide and conquer.
Wrote Lynch in his infamous introductory letter to American slave owners:
“I have a fool-proof method for controlling your Black slaves. I guarantee every one 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…Take this simple little list of differences and think about them.
“On top of my list is ‘age’…the second is ’color’ or shade. There is intelligence, size, sex, sizes of plantations, status on plantations, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine hair, coarse hair…
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 stronger that adulation, respect or admiration. The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe 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…it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, trust and depend on 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. Let’s make a slave.”
Indeed, American slave owners rushed headlong to employ the Lynchian methodology, and it has been a strategy whose legacy and effectiveness continues to this day. We continue to be divided by skin shade, by status, by class, by acquisition, and by community. Our economic power has been diluted by spending our precious cash resources in communities where we do not live, and our political power has been mollified compromised by narrow and sectarian ideological allegiances that do not express our collective aspirations.
And now outsiders, such as Sen. Harry Reid and the ridiculous and incendiary Rush Limbaugh, have attempted to re-insinuate the principles of Willie Lynch into the public discourse.
If you recall, about a week or so ago, Reid attributed President Obama’s success to his ability to ‘talk white’. This writer would not argue with Reid’s premise; however, the Senators statement happens outside of context. It is laughable that white folk have spent 400 years with us, and they still aren’t on to one of our best tricks–code switching.
Code-switching is a way of speaking and acting for the benefit of white people. It’s simple, really: give white folks what they want and never express your true self. It’s really an amazingly adaptive survival mechanism we’ve been using for forever. You see, we come from a griot tradition. Manipulating language is one of the things we do best, and most Black folk can talk their way in and/or out of the most challenging situations. It has allowed us to mollify the most draconian provisions of Willie Lynchism.
Now ya’ll can say Obama’s from Hawaii and his mama is white, which probably gives him a distinct advantage in the technical aspects of ’white-ese’, but it doesn’t take much time for even the most alien Black person to learn the rules. Obama’s been amongst us for a long, long time, and best believe he and Reverend Wright weren’t sitting around doing their best white talkin’.
Golly gee, it’s comforting to know that a Black man with linguistic skills can still shock, still dazzle white people. I’d have thought ya’ll would have caught on by now.
As for Rush Limbaugh’s inane and weak attempt to employ his best Lynchian skills–you remember he said Obama was talking only to light-skinned Black folk, implying that dark skinned Black folk don’t count in the political and social discourse—well think again, fat man.
We see through your obvious and malevolent attempts to distract and divide us, and no Black person takes your blustery, racist verbal garbage seriously. Your status as a professional cracker who makes his living exploiting the angst of white people renders everything you say moot and irrelevant.
Nonetheless, Black folk, the spirit of Willie Lynch lives in the media and in the political debate, and we continue to have to be diligently vigilant against the efforts to neutralize us and pit us against each other on the flimsiest of basis. Remember, being Black in America is to still reside on the slipperiest slope of all.