‘The Psychological Legacy of Slavery’ is the title of Chapter 1. The chapter discusses a type of slavery that is invisible but very powerful. The author Dr. Na’im Akbar explains that slavery lasted three centuries and still affects contemporary African Americans. I agree that for the psychology of people something as traumatic as slavery must leave psychological scars on the group of people who were slaves, even several generations after the legal end of slavery. After the Civil War nothing was done to help the former slaves adjust to their new lives as free men and women. Nothing was done for the whites in the North or the South to help them assimilate former slaves into society.
The change in society from accepting slavery to making slavery illegal was a huge change but no educational forums or workshops were held to make the change move along smoothly. Dr. Akbar suggests that for African Americans work can still have the feeling of slavery especially if the conditions seem like slavery in some way. When an authoritarian manager or boss is in charge it can cause dissatisfaction with the job and even resentment. This has been something I observed but the reaction was not due to skin color but because the people who did not like authority were from the poor class.
The white masters were the people who were never held as chattel slaves. The white mentality also developed a certain psychology that is still present. This is obvious because African Americans are the majority of prisoners held in American jails even though they do not commit the most crime. Society stays segregated when so many black people are in jail. Color discrimination is another aspect that is very clearly part of modern life. Some white people will cross the street to avoid walking on the same sidewalk as a black person. Many white people are afraid of young men with dark colored skin. Also there is a problem with discrimination based on the darkness of the skin of a person in the African American part of society. Some light-skinned black people chose to pass as whites so they will have better opportunities and better acceptance into society. Within the black community shades of color are important to some people. Some black parents do not want their sons to marry very dark skinned women.
I do not agree with Akbar’s ideas on property. They do not seem realistic. For example he suggests that property was something given to slaves by the property owner so today contemporary African-Americans still feel a resentment towards property. And then Dr. Akbar notes that because property like material objects were linked in the slaves mind to the master, today blacks feel a resentment towards property even though it may be unconscious. The author says that is the reason for “vandalism and abuse of property” (6). I do not agree that is the case because vandalism is carried out by a lot of different types of people. Vandalism is not due to the resentment of the property but due to anger at the system.
Chapter two is an essay about the Liberation from Mental Slavery. Akar (1996) describes the process as causing “the mind of a people (to be) gradually brought under the control of their captors and they become imprisoned by the loss of themselves” (31). He makes some very disturbing points about the way slave owners worked to break the chains of slavery. For example “slave owners frequently snatched suckling infants from their mother’s breast for fear that the natural empathy of the birth mother might communicate a message of resistance” (32). African Americans do need to change their state of mind to a liberation mind set instead of a slavery mind set because they are still surrounded by images and ideas that are similar to the time of slavery. I don’t agree with the author that European Americans cannot be part of the solution. Stopping white racism is as necessary in the white community as liberating the mind is important in the black community. The two processes could ideally work together to make a change happen more quickly. On the other hand so many European Americans are sure that the white supremacy is part of God’s plan that they have become dangerous obstacles to changes in mind sets of both blacks and whites. The idea that slaves were inferior was important to control slaves because it ruined African American feelings of self-worth and self esteem. On Dr. Akbar’s website he has a quote “the ultimate power is our metal power, our consciousness, our awareness.” (Naim 2008) The idea is very powerful and is a good message for everyone.
Any attempts to gain self-knowledge were brutally punished during slavery. Some of the people who were slaves brought from Africa tried to remind the other slaves of the rituals and religions from home. They would have to do this secretly at night. Unfortunately Akbar states that “they cut the tongues from the girots who tried in the quiet of the night to remind the people there was a continuity that reached beyond the fields” (31). A girot was a slave who had come from the hereditary caste in western Africa. Their job was to make sure that the oral history of their people continued but when they tried to do their job in the South they were physically hurt by the slave owners.
In chapter three the author discusses racial religious inquiry and psychological confusion. The image of Jesus Christ as a man with white skin and blue eyes has a negative effect on African Americans which is subconscious or unconscious. Paintings and statues that are on the walls of churches and in homes typically present Jesus as a white man. I agree that the effect of a constant bombardment of the same image could negatively impact the self-esteem on worshippers with non-white skin. If images of a person who looks like a worshiper are not available in the church then the worshipper will have lowered self-esteem. The worshiper might even reach the point where they feel invisible to society.
Some people may treat others badly unconsciously but that does not make the behavior correct. Disrespectful actions by anyone towards people with skin a different color from the master class is wrong. On the other side of the coin, some of the people who are part of the master class (whites) are also affected by being surrounded by Caucasian images. They begin to think of themselves as superior to people of color. The disrespectful attitude of whites to people of color can look and sound a lot like slavery several generations ago. In the Appendix of the book a resolution submitted by the Association of Black Psychologists in 1980 makes that statement very clearly. The resolution points out that when God and Jesus Christ are only depicted as white skinned the message is positive towards white supremacy and negative towards Blacks. The resolution points out that white supremacy leads to the reaction of accepting African Americans as inferior. I agree with the author that the point of white supremacy is to force African Americans into lower positions.
Akbar, Na’im. Breaking the Chains of Chains of Psychological Slavery. 2nd ed. Tallahassee, FL: Mind Productions & Associates, Inc. 1999. Print.
Dr. Na’im Akbar. Mind Productions, 2008. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. Available from www.naimakbar.com
Girot. Dictionary.com, 2013. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. Available from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/griot