• Dr. Obari Adéye Cartman

3 Ways We Should Be More Like White People

They winning right now. Even though it’s only been for a relatively short period of time. There are few places in the world you can go without feeling the impact of their power. You gotta go to the past, imaginary future, or fiction to avoid it. This ain’t self hate, I don’t want to be white, I don’t think they’re better, smarter or more beautiful. No doubt there are a thousand ways we should not be like them. Their winning is happening despite its detriment to themselves and ecosystems. And the amount of bloodshed it took them, the sheer amount of blood. I don’t want to replace white supremacy with Black supremacy, white capitalism with Black capitalism. I do however think there are some things we can learn from their ascendance to and maintenance of power. We may have done all of this first and better, but now we need to remember how to use these 3 things to our benefit again:

1) Teaching our children ancestor veneration

My 5 year old broke a stretch of silence earlier this week riding in the car with “ancestors don’t like it when you ignore them.” That’s very true son, where’d you get that from? Coco. The Disney movie?! It reminded me of the time I lowkey shed a tear when the grandma told Moana “there’s nowhere you could go that I won’t be with you.” We should be ashamed when Disney teaches indigenous wisdom better than us. My son’s been with me to African ancestral ceremonies, he’s drummed with me while we sang and danced with Orisha, he’s been in the room during rituals that would make the average African adult cringe. None of that was as appealing or engaging as Coco. Most Black kids can rattle off the names of European gods, Zeus, Hercules, Thor, etc. because their movies are so entertaining. We don’t have the power to stop them from making Imhotep look white on the big screen. We also won’t be able to stop them when they realize how many incredible stories they could make from the tales of Shango, Oshun, Oya and Ogun.

They been good at ancestor worship. They so good at it, we good at it. We have ritualized the worship of European ancestors so thoroughly that we’re barely aware of it. If you’re lucky, you have tiny shrines of them folded in your pocket right now. It’s all about the Benjamins. Our definitions of space, place and time are living monuments to them. The days of the week pay homage to their deities. I can’t say my address without whispering a prayer to Jefferson’s drive. My greatest regret as a parent is not thinking seriously about infecting my sons with the burden of our last name. I try to escape it all, sometimes lay on the hood of my car and stare deep into the night’s sky, only to find white worship embedded in my view of the constellations and planets – Aquarius, Orion, Mars, Jupiter. We wonder why they have so much power. We cannot think there is no spiritual consequence of white people yielding daily deposits of our collective Asé towards the cosmic beings that support their prominence.

2) Meetings

It never fails, at every panel discussion or community forum there’s the inevitable comment from the audience “I’m tired of talking, what’s the solution? We need action!” Admittedly, I don’t go to a lot of meetings with white people so my data is skewed, but I ain’t never heard one white person say that. I get it, we in a lot of pain and want urgent relief, but it didn’t get this bad overnight. The problems are dynamic, complex, multifaceted and prolonged. So the solutions have to be at least that. Any response that starts with ‘The solutions is..’ will be short sighted. The panels I’m on are usually full of folk that are actively engaged in a variety of daily solutions, so the response to that audience member could be just follow us around. There is no shortage of work to do. There is a possibility of doing the wrong work, or working inefficiently, or not collaborating with the right entities, or reinventing wheels – all of that needs to be figured out in meetings. Without good analysis and plans you can get direct action orders from a passionate idiot and be marching swiftly in the wrong direction.

White people meet ALL THE TIME. They be having think tanks, conferences, board meetings. That’s the only way they can keep a complex infrastructure in place to maintain their power. They got local, state and national congresses. They meet so good they plan projects years in advance to secure land, purchase leins or whatever, arrange contractors to build new structures, like a conference center that we have to pay them for to hold our meetings. But we want immediate action so we march downtown yelling at them. But they can barely hear us, the plate glass too thick on the 49th floor. Our action barely interrupts their meeting.

3) Myth making

Make America great again. The very name America is a myth. A map maker thought it was discovered by Amerigo, but it was actually Christopher, another myth. A million Black children pledge allegiance to a myth everyday. They have the power to call it history because they print the books. And created a reward and punishment system based on how well our children learn the narrative. They then create industries out of their myths. My two year old son was singing jingle bells yesterday, he probably learned it at his all Black daycare. He’s gonna want Christmas presents soon. The Christmas myth is so compelling and music so good it doesn’t have much do with Jesus anymore. But let me bring up Kwanzaa. I get all the intellectual pushback about it not being a real African holiday and the creator being a traitor. If we can manage to have Christmas without Christ then surely we can do Kwanzaa without Karenga.

Myths are developmentally appropriate. We teach children life lessons through stories. I know as well as you that everybody in Africa wasn’t kings and queens. That may be what someone needs to correct the years of associating Africa with disease, war and poverty. The myth is just the first step. Then later, after internalizing a more healthy sense of self, we can then add on conversations about the problems of monarchies. It would serve us to let it settle first that Africa was the birthplace of civilization, instead of following so soon with ‘but we sold ourselves into slavery’. White people won’t dare teach the whole truth to their children about their history. Religions don’t recruit new members by exposing all the blood on their hands. Parents don’t tell their children their flaws. Your social media profile picture isn’t how you look in the morning. Fortunately, we African, and it don’t take a lot of lying to brand it as beautiful and powerful, for thousands of years already. It will take a little bit of intention and strategy to reposition ourselves to make sure we are powerful for thousands more years to come.