by KenRay SunYaru
Prior to European colonial intervention in Africa indigenous African 'rites of passage' process was customary to transform boys into men. Once our African forefathers became economic prisoners of colonialism and forcibly brought to slave plantations in America.
The enslavement process was designed for our forefathers never to be men in the fullest sense, but dependent “child-like” men; permanently under the control of racist, white male paternalism – the “godfathers.”
In 1712, Willie Lynch, a slave-owner, produced a handbook, “How to Make a Slave,” based on “horse-breaking,” that explained the process used to break the minds, bodies, and spirits of Black people during slavery.
In his handbook Lynch described how to use “fear, distrust, envy,” and extreme brutality to debase our forefathers (the word lynching derived from his name):
“When it comes to breaking the uncivilized nigger, use the same process, but vary the degree and step up the pressure so as to do a complete reversal of the mind. Take the meanest and most restless nigger, strip him of his clothes in front of the remaining male niggers, the female, and the nigger infant, tar and feather him, tie each leg to a different horse faced in opposite directions, set him afire and beat both horses to pull him apart in front of the remaining niggers. The next step is to take a bullwhip and beat both the remaining nigger male to the point of death in front of the female and the infant. Don't kill him. But put the fear of God in him, for he can be useful for future breeding.”
Lynch’s book was a manual on slave-breaking 'seasoning', a list of instructions to reduce our African forefathers into ‘dehumanized niggers’; As Malcolm X said: “We were chained like animals and then we were reduced to horses, cows, and chickens.”
Our forefathers were stripped of their African names and clothing. They were denied cultural and spiritual expressions. They were stripped of their manhood; their ability to provide and protect. They could not communicate in their native languages. Lynch understood the importance of language control:
“So you have to be careful in setting up the new language for the slave would soon be in your house, talking to you as 'man to man' and that is death to our economic system. In addition, the definition of words or terms are only a minute part of the process. Values are created and transported by communication through the body of the language. A total society has many interconnected value system. All these values in the society have bridges of language to connect them for orderly working in the society. But for these bridges, these many value systems would sharply clash and cause internal strife or civil war, the degree of the conflict being determined by the magnitude of the issues or relative opposing strength in whatever form. For example, if you put a slave in a hog pen and train him to live there and incorporate in him to value it as a way of life completely, the biggest problem you would have out of him is that he would worry you about provisions to keep the hog pen clean, or partially clean, or he might not worry you at all. On the other hand, if you put this same slave in the same hog pen and make a slip and incorporate something in his language whereby he comes to value a house more than he does his hog pen you got a problem. He will soon be in your house.”
Indeed, freedom language was outlawed, any enslaved Black men who were caught talking or writing about freedom and equality would be killed. Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey, and Gabriel Prosser were executed for expressing their freedom to rebel.
Only white men had the right to fully express their manhood. Only white men had the right to be fully sovereign and free. Only white men had the right to defend themselves and their interests by arms.
From slavery until today, Black men’s freedom, both civil and human rights, have been subordinate to the political and economic interests of white men! White men continue to design Black men’s sense of freedom, especially when it comes to negative freedom; as Sanyika Shakur remarked on this social engineering by design:
”A Black thug, rogue, hoodlum, gangster or criminal is a product of circumstances prevailing in a usually controlled environment.”
Most Black men are forced to live in circumstances of high unemployment and poverty; domestic colonial conditions created by the decisions of white political and economic policy-makers. Most Black men have known nothing but negative freedom: racial oppression, economic exploitation, and social degradation.
Most Black men experience discrimination, deprivation, and frustration daily. This sense of being slighted, denied, and thwarted is misdirected into jealousy petty rivalry, and violence; George Jackson highlighted this self-defeating behavior:
“To the Black male the losses were most tragic of all. It will do us no good to linger over the fatalities, they’re numberless and beyond our reach. But we who have survived must eventually look at ourselves and wonder why. The competition at the bottom of the social spectrum is for symbols, honors, and objects; Black against itself.”
Yes, it is critical for most Black men today to question why after 308 years that we are still affected by the Willie Lynch Syndrome (WLS). From my perspective there are 2 reasons: first we are still controlled externally in a neo-slavery fashion by Willie Lynch – the white male power structure; secondly, as Black men, we internally, though unconsciously self-perpetuate it through self-hating, self-limiting, self-containing, and self-destructive behaviors.
Thus the Willie Lynch Syndrome (WLS) based on “Fear, Distrust, and Envy” remains because it is reinforced by exterior and interior forces. Willie Lynch predicted that his slave-making method would last for 300 years.
As Black men until we become conscious of the Willie Lynch Syndrome (WLS) and break ourselves from the grip of its psychological design we will never become free and self-determining men.