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Resistance to the idea of reparations may be simply psychological

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Wade Nobles, PhD – Photo: Jeffrey Chang, Highlander

by Wade Nobles, PhD

The newly wide-ranging discussion of reparations is being stimulated by the recognition of the 400th anniversary of the introduction of kidnapped captive Africans at the birth of the American colonies in 1619 to later, in 1776, become the United States.

This new old discord has been re-enlivened. The call to be “repaired” from the damage caused by white enslavement has been openly and covertly rejected with a resounding “no” by most of the white population and some misguided and mimetically infected Black people.

The reason why may be found within my own dictum in Black psychology that “power is the ability to define reality and to have other people respond to it as if it were their own.” It is also the thinking of the great Black psychologist, Dr. Bobby Wright.

Dr. Wright suggested that the ideology of white supremacy is supported by a pathological fear and hatred of blackness; and, by implication, the rejection of the idea of reparations for Black people may be found in the racist core of the white American psyche.

In utilizing diagnostic categories found in white psychology (mis-labeled as general psychology), Dr. Wright notes that many white people suffer from a “psychopathic personality disorder.” He notes that a psychopath is an individual who is constantly in conflict with other persons or groups; is unable to experience guilt; is completely selfish, callous and has a total disregard for the rights of others; has an inflated sense of self-worth; is manipulative; and refuses to accept responsibility.

He argues that in relationship to Black people, white people have historically reflected most, if not all, of these attributes, ergo a Psychopathic Racial Personality Disorder.

This psychopathic condition was, in fact, created by white people. One must remember that, for most of modern history, the entire known world held Africa in high regard as the place of high civilization.

Yet, strangely enough, with the onset of the age of Enlightenment and Exploration (invasion) came the advent of the American slave trade (racially based commercial human trafficking) and the need to redefine the meaning of Africa and people of African ancestry (think: “power is the ability to define reality”).

The cancerous idea of white superiority and Black inferiority was not accidental, genetically ascribed nor divinely ordained. It was created and socially constructed. Though endemic to American life and living, several sources can be identified as contributing to white psychopathic disorder and mental madness.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC)

The establishment of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in 1894 – less than one generation after the end of the Civil War – signals the beginning of a premeditated attempt to change the narrative and create the indelible story of African savagery and White honor and dignity.

Growing to about 17,000 members at the turn of the century (1900), by World War I, the UDC had over 100,000 white women as members. What is important to note is that the UDC’s mission and purpose was to “Tell of the glorious fight against the greatest odds a nation ever faced, [so] that their hallowed memory should never die.”

They even went so far as to create a commemorative Southern Cross of Honor medallion and distributed almost 80,000 to Confederate veterans. It is important to note that the secession of the Southern states was an act of treason. Power is the ability to define reality and the UDC attempted to “redefine” treachery as honorable and the “Lost Cause” – the right to murder and enslave Black people – was lauded as the genteel South with “happy” slaves; and to identify Confederate soldiers as deserving unquestionable respect.

“Power is the ability to define reality and to have other people respond to it as if it were their own.”

The UDC’s goal to preserve white supremacy was masked (redefined) and strategically supported by the erection of monuments to honor the Confederacy; to publish biographies and history textbooks about major Southern figures (aka traitors); to influence the educational curriculum; and to immortalize the heroism and valor of the KKK and the Southern way of life.

The active period of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (1894-1910) overlapped with the nadir of Black people’s freedom (1890-1940) and development. While Black people were drawing on our own African cultural moorings to establish schools, hospitals, businesses and wholesome families, white consciousness was being continually fed (infected) with the lie of white superiority and Black inhumanity.

While erecting monuments all over the South, the UDC stated that “the most thoughtful and best educated women” should realize that the greatest monument they could build in the South would be an “educated motherhood.” If 100,000 white women taught their children to teach their children who, in turn, taught their children and if only a third of the white women (33,000) belonging to the UDC actively wrote textbooks and lobbied for a particular educational curriculum that reinforced the idea that Black people were less than human and undeserving of respect and equal access to the resources that sustain life and living, then the intellectual atmosphere and consciousness of all of America – not limited only to the South – would be stamped with the unchallenged belief in Black inferiority. Think about the extent of this memetic infection.

The Mohonk Conference on the Negro Question

In 1890 and 1891, the leading white educators, missionaries, philanthropists and politicians, including former United States President Rutherford B. Hayes, participated in the “Mohonk Conference on the Negro Question.” Starting with the premise of African savagery and that slavery was a “step up” on the ladder of civilization, America’s learned white elite adopted an educational platform or strategy which aimed to complete the Negroes’ so-called ascent to civilization by supplying Black teachers and preachers, who would be anointed as “leaders of the Negro race” and whose offspring are probably the Black people who are against reparations, to carry forth the white narrative.

‘The Birth of a Nation’

Continuing the self-inflicted infection of their own sense of humanity was the film, “The Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffith, which premiered in 1915 to an audience of 3,000 white people. In this film, Griffith portrays white women as pure and pristine and the Ku Klux Klan as honorable and courageous saviors of the Southern way of life. Griffith portrays Black people (white actors in blackface) as ignorant, lustful for white women, uncouth, disrespectfully drinking liquor and eating fried chicken and watermelon in the sacred halls of Congress.

It is paradoxical that the protégé of one of the main characters, the Northern congressman, was a vicious psychopathic mulatto named Silas Lynch. The connecting of the word “lynch” with “mulatto” and “psychopath” was probably not accidental. This was the first film ever shown at the White House and it is reported that President Woodrow Wilson said, “It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”

In every case, from mothers to filmmakers to educators, missionaries, philanthropists and politicians, the white narrative demeans and denigrates Black people and affirms that we have no redeeming value or worth and only deserve disregard, domination, exploitation, direction and control. It seems, therefore, worthy of consideration that the white response, “No to Reparations,” and even the rejection of the idea of Black reparations may be the result of an untreated racial psychopathology that even affects some misguided Black people.

Until white people address the truth about their responsibility for their part in the American story, they will continue to claim that they are not responsible for the past. Because of the Psychopathic Racial Personality Disorder, they may be unable to recognize and comprehend that Black reparations is part of their own psychic repair-reparations and healing balm. The support for reparations for Black people alone may help white people to reclaim their lost humanity.

The Association of Black Psychologists, Bay Area Chapter (ABPsi-Bay Area), is committed to providing this readership with monthly discussions about critical issues in Black mental health. The ABPsi-Bay Area is a healing resource. We can be contacted at [email protected], and readers are welcome to join with us at our monthly chapter meeting, every third Saturday at the West Oakland Youth Center from 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Baba Dr. Wade (Ifágbemì Sàngódáre) Nobles, PhD, is co-founder and past president of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) and professor emeritus of Africana Studies and Black Psychology at San Francisco State University. Visit his website at and contact him at [email protected]. This article was previously published by the Post News Group.


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