Thursday, October 05, 2006

The phobic antiblack body

African American philosophers such as Lewis Gordon have spent a long time theorising anti-black racism, looking specifically at the phobia against the black body. In the UK recently, I realised that I carry a sub-conscious fear of the black (young) (male) body - especially when that black body is big and strong. Three late adolescents got onto a crowded train and were boasting about a forthcoming gang fight. In the end, they jumped off the train when they thought a ticket inspector was coming. With all the stories of gun and knife attacks in London, it is easy to project fears onto specific body types, without fully realising one is doing this.

No matter how consciously one tries to be antiracist, I suspect many white people carry round with them a pre-conscious fear of the young black male body image, as I do. Certainly, white teachers often unconsciously cultivate a fear of young black boys, even when they are very young and starting school. This is something that black boys can grow up to take advantage of, developing a swagger and a strut in school, spooking teachers etc, creating a vicious circle of physical boasting and anticipation of physical boasting. Definitely, more black teachers are needed in the UK who will refuse to fear young black boys and provide appropriate corrective discipline.

The odd thing is is that living in Nigeria, surrounded by black people, I have no such fear of the black male body. In certain situations, being surrounded by Area Boys, I feel closer to laughing at the comedy of existence more than anything else. It goes to show that context is almost all, even when it comes to the preconscious perception of body images.

Racism and white supremacy runs deeper than conscious thought and explicit action. It is much harder to control than most white people accept - especially those of a do-goody liberal mindset. Contesting one's perceptions of the body image of the black male other is contesting a sub/unconscious process that lies at a relatively deep layer of the pysche. We should be able to look to art and film to bring these pyschic wounds to the surface and contest them..


Nomad 10:44 am  

I commend your honesty. This post has provided me with a much needed insight into the psyche that might have the upper hand as my two little boys go through the system, here in the UK. I notice that their teachers in very subtle ways, stereotype them and I have to gently and diplomatically steer them (the teachers), aright. It all works well when they realise that the boys are hardworking, and intelligent and are being raised to be polite and givers to society.

Omo Naija 10:56 am  

Interesting post. I stand 6ft 4", 220. Growing up in Nigeria the derogatory chant was dongo! Some might claim its a term of endearment. Growing up, there were times I wished I was shorter!

The irony is that since moving to the US, my height offers a distinct advantage. Its appreciated, in some sense feared. I am not in any sense a violent person, but you find yourself in situations where you those around tread very carefully.

Its called the big black man syndrome

Chxta 11:18 am  

Now I understand...

Opium,  4:22 pm  

I'm black and do suffer from a fear of the young "obnoxious looking" black male. I have on many occasions crossed the street, sat downstairs on a london bus or not entered a train carriage because of my insecurity.

I'm not sure it's entirely a question of race but one of perception/stereotype because I also suffer from a fear of the young white male in a hoddie and chavish clothing. Maybe it's just that I'm a wuss.

tobs 5:37 pm  

Spot on Jeremy, very insightful. I also am not afraid in Nigeria but will be sceptical at times in Europe. Funny that.

eshuneutics 1:22 am  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeremy 10:06 am  

Your comment is not fully coherent Eshunetics. I've read quite a bit on race theory, written very close readings of aspects of Fanon's Black Skin White Masks etc. However, there remains the brute reality of the teaching system in the UK which your penchant for theory misses: young black boys are often feared by white (not black) teachers. If you talk to both white and black teachers you will find confirmation of this. It is a point about racist body images being perpetuated at a sub-conscious level. Black teachers are less likely to perpetuate this construction and repetition of fear. Its a simple point based on many discussions with teachers. I'm not sure where the research you mention is headed if it cannot pick up simple things like this. Your point seems to be that the question of whether teachers are white or black is irrelevant. This is an example of when theorising becomes worse than useless..

Dami 11:21 am  

so you are scared of the black male "body",what about the black female body?
these "peckham boys" are like area boys to me i just ignore them,i am more afriad of the nigerian police than some youth that still lives with his mummy

eshuneutics 12:27 pm  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sokari 2:03 pm  

Have to give you respect for your honesty on this one. Regarding young black males and white school teachers. As someone who has personal experience of raising black kids in London I can fully attest to the fear of black boys by white teachers and the whole institutional racism in schools and colleges - in many cases there is a conscious effort to demean and crush the black male child.

St Antonym 3:16 pm  

Is it becos I is black?

Jeremy 6:01 pm  

I agree with many of your points Eshunetics - and bow down to your experience. My blog can be a bit of a repository for flip comments - but then that's the medium innit?

But I'd still like you to address this point: children become unruly oftentimes when they are not disciplined adequately. Yes of course there should not just be discipline - there should be fun, positive role models, love etc. But are you suggesting that black boys should somehow be exempt from discipline, simply because they are growing up in a white privileged world? Surely its a matter of needing both - love and nurture and positive stuff, plus corrective discipline.

Quite a few teachers I've spoken to think that modern education is far too touchy-feely lovey dovey these days. It lies in tandem with the prevailing neurotic middle class model of parenting which involves allowing little Jemima her exact specifications into which cereal and yoghurt she eats for breakfast. In other words, it bespeaks a world where there are no disciplinary boundaries between parent and child - as if 'discipline' is inherently coercive. In fact it is not.

I suspect that this is where a lot of current educational debate has gone wildly wrong - assuming that children should be given more autonomy and their feelings should be 'respected'. Its a society built for grooming monsters.

kemi,  7:18 pm  

Too much nonsense is being spouted by this eshuneutics character.
Had you said that more attention should be given to liberating black males from stereotypes subconsciously imposed upon them (Fanon enters here) by a white supremacist patriarchal culture, then I would have applauded your views.
Jeremy he's basically saying unless you admit that the fault is that of your culture and not mine, and that we blacks are merely victims I will not accept anything you say.

What a load of horseshit.

Anybody who says
Why divorce "Racism" and "white supremacy" as if they are different? They are the same:
Must have a couple of screws loose.
That sentence immediately implies that the only kind of racism that exists is that perpertrated by whites on blacks, as if blacks aren't racists to whites, or asians aren't racists to blacks also. There is a lot more to racism than white supremacy.

If after 25 years of teaching he hasn't grasped that simple concept, i shudder at what he must be teaching those poor kids (in a state school no doubt).

Eshuneutics should know that Littering your comments with pseudo-intellectual piffle won't fool everybody.

nosa101 7:37 pm  

Just bitch slap the racist. When you enter a bus and they clutch their handbags, bitch slap them. I did it when I was 6 in Holland and it still feels good.

My mom had to apologise sha.

eshuneutics 9:27 pm  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous,  4:51 pm  


You are spot on about context being the real issue here. Witness: the stream of UK/US based Africans sending teenage boys "home" for secondary school, in order to "save" them from the system.

I am not competent to analyse the theoretical underpinning of the "black male body" thing. I do know that young black males are the probably the highest victims/perpetrators (the two usually go together) of certain classes of violent crime in the UK. By extension they are also more likely to be out of school, having brushes with the law and eventually in prison.

One other relevant factor, I believe, is social class. In UK blacks are of a lower social order (almost regardless of income). The young black male is of the lowest amongst the low (a. because of their blackness and b. because of the stereotyping and statistics working against them). It seems sending them to Nija not only puts them in a nore "disciplined" environment, but also one in which they feel valued, important - where they are permitted (indeed expected) to be ambitious.

Self-image and self-esteem are as important as the value/image placed on black boys by non-black boys.

I think.


Moss Side naija,  6:07 pm  

Yes. Let's send all the problem black youths to Nigeria.Then they can learn corruption first hand: a fantastic educational idea. Commandant Naijablog could set up a black boy correction programme based on vocational learning: robbery, gun-crime and murder.

Toni Payne 9:20 pm  

Interesting blog. :)

Anonymous,  2:47 pm  

once you send the problem african kids to africa for discipline. where do you send the caribbean ones or those who have no other country to call "home"??

Anonymous,  2:59 pm  

On a lighter note, there is an endearing attribute of the "black male body" that has not been mentioned here. The BMB is not always feared or hated. It could be craved and coveted and is the greatest love machine there is. And if, like the love of my life the BMB has a good heart and head thrown in, my oh my...!!

Chxta 9:38 pm  

Why did Eshuneutics delete his posts?

eshuneutics 12:46 pm  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Styl Council 1:02 pm  

Jeremy..What happened to my comment on this post?? Why was it not published?


Anonymous,  2:02 pm  


"The teaching profession assumes that black boys have natural tendencies to wildness--the media tells it so. (And it does not distinguish between Nigerian and African-Caribbean, it just does black"

See, you hit the nail right on the head there but most times you bury valid arguments under "pseudo-intellectual piffle" to quote Kemi.

Are you a professor or something? or maybe there is a contest between you and Jez to see who is the most learned.

Your posts are sometimes read by mere mortals guys! so when you are discussing real issues keep it real OK. Overly flowery jargon does not make your point any more valid.

eshuneutics 5:41 pm  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous,  9:54 am  

Hey Einstein! Can't take critisism can you? Typical and predictable!. "Black intellectual" pah!
Suddenly anyone who begs to differ ... is intellectually challenged.
At least Jeremy connects with his readers.
"shit-hole for crap comments"
We don't say that in the ghettoes anymore professor! Too last decade. But I bet you've been buried under your dusty old books for too long to know that!

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