At the top of the White racist, sexist social structure, says Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice, is the White man (the “Omnipotent Administrator”). Next comes the White woman (the “Ultra-feminine doll”). Then the Black woman (an “Amazon”); and last and least, like a fired worker on an employment line, comes the Black man (a “Supermasculine Menial”).
Opinion: What will it take for Black men to heal?
To deal with the lower classes, especially with the Black Supermasculine Menial, the Omnipotent Administrator has infected himself with a strange, complex and psychotic idea. Being a thinker, he appreciates his own intellect, which he views as superior to the Ultra-feminines’ as well as others on the social structure.
However, he associates his own body with weakness or alienation. On the other hand, he is a worshipper of the physical prowess of the Black Supermasculine Menial.
“Fearing impotence, impotence being implicit in his negation and abdication of his Body, his profoundest need is for evidence of his virility. His opposite, the Body, the Supermasculine Menial, is a threat to his self concept (and to compound it all, this perceived threat and resultant fear is reinforced decisively by the fact that the men beneath him are a threat to him in reality, because their life goal is to destroy his Omnipotence over them). He views them as his enemies and inferiors, men of a lesser breed than himself and his kind.”(Soul on Ice, 211-212).
So the Omnipotent Administrator may enjoy watching basketball great LeBron James racing down the court and soaring above the crowd to slam a basketball through a net, but he doesn’t want him working in his office or living in his neighborhood. Cleaver is clear: For us to heal, for us to be liberated, we must join with other groups, including progressive Whites, and destroy a greedy, capitalistic economy and build a more humane society on its ruins.
Preeminent novelist Ralph Ellison was even more specific about the Omnipotent Administrator’s intentions. He was not content simply to keep Black men in a lower position. No, the Omnipotent Administrator wants to keep him out of sight as well.
In Invisible Man (Vintage International, second edition, 1995), Ellison suggested that we are discriminated against, ignored, humiliated — kept “in our place” — because Whites wish to keep us “socially invisible,” that is, out of their workplaces, out of their neighborhoods, out of their families, and away from their daughters.
“I am an invisible man,” says Ellison’s narrator. “No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as if I have been surrounded by hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.” (Invisible Man, page 3)
This brief review of the pertinent literature tells us is that we do have real problems, problems that reach as far back as slavery. But to heal, we need healing from many of the same institutions that now say they want to help us: law enforcement, corporations, and various federal, state and local agencies.
Many of these institutions giveth with one hand (e.g., grant funding) and taketh away with the other (think prisons).
We can always use support. At the same time, we have matured as professionals, and we seem to be ready now to help ourselves. Perhaps the best way “people of good will” can help us is by funding (and monitoring) our progress but otherwise leaving us alone to design and implement programs to help ourselves.
Next week: Recommendations for a program to heal Black men as “What will it take for Black men to heal?” continue in MSR’s Metro section.
Mac Walton welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.