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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/7/20

Cobalt Children and the Romancing of Whiteness

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

Previously published at BLACKCOMMENTATOR.COM

CBS News finds children mining cobalt in Democratic Republic of Congo A CBS News investigation found that children are mining cobalt, an expensive metal used in batteries that power smartphones and electric cars. Foreign affairs ...
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It is the same final judgment made on Kurtz in Heart of Darkness : his trading methods were unsound and had to be abandoned.

Sven Lindqvist, "Exterminate All the Brutes:" One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide

The presence of Africans, Black people, laboring in fields to pick cotton and cut tobacco leaves, or the presence of a Black butler, manservant, maid, nanny at the door or in the kitchen or nursery supplied 18 th and 19 th Century American writers with imagery of the romantic dream. It was, as the late Toni Morrison explains in Playing in the Dark , a romance with whiteness, teased out with pen and paper and, above all, a composed mindset. Here, writes Morrison, was the initiation of a journey of exploration of identity , that is, whiteness. The violence of slavery already underway, history needs an explanation, a justification for what may seem to some a wrong, even a legal and a moral horror.

Early American writers busied themselves replicating journeys (narratives) that ended, Morrison notes, with whiteness materializing as if a mist, either a "closed and unknowable" whiteness or a "white curtain" and a "shrouded human figure" with skin as white as snow. "Both images occur after the narrative has encountered blackness." In the former, "the expiration and erasure of the serviceable and serving black figure" conjures a whiteness "closed and unknowable."

The images of whiteness is a commentary on that peculiar institution of slavery.

When all is well, or perceived to be well, all are encompassed within the master plan. For above all, happy, singing, cheerful Africans and African Americans produce enough bales of cotton to transport ultimately to ports in New York and onto ships bound for the European markets. Traffickers in human beings, merchants, ship makers, auctioneers, slaveholders are building an empire of fortune, but, nonetheless, resistance, too, is present, at the origins of any grand scheme to dehumanize and demoralize. The "closed and unknowable," that is, nothing more than "imported" images of "shadows" from European culture, writes Morrison.

This romance with whiteness allows for "an exploration of anxiety" caused by the presence of these "shadows" within the images of whiteness. In plain language, these "shadows" represent fear, for, as the Europe came to discover, few want to submit to a system of cruelty and indifference. The "shadows" are then an exploration of white fear of those Black bodies. As whiteness as a narrative advances to justify white violence, a response to fear of the "closed and unknowable," it also serves to stabilize the public's acceptable of the permanence of a slavocracy.

While the chains have fallen, on some days it's hard to say how free we as Black Americans are to go about out business, shopping, driving, walking, sleep while Black. What was legalizes decades ago that insidious "one-drop" of "black blood" rule and pogroms to recapture plantation escapees appears as our national nightmare, a shadow too hard to shake from the American consciousness.

After the Civil War, in the eras of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, many Americans believed in continuing the narrative romancing of whiteness. Many, apparently, still do. What's within this mythical idea of whiteness isn't democratic, and no one within its sphere of influence is free.

There is the ghoulish question asked with every capitalist's marketing venture from a real estate deal for downtown Chicago to the labeling of a new product guaranteed to make winkles disappear: What people would reject whiteness and wish to escape?

If ever there were a rigged system"

It's more than a matter of trading methods.

In Africa, children understand the value of an education. They want to learn, and children on the continent are well aware of how an education can lift them from poverty and help them, in turn, become contributing citizens within their communities. African children want to go to school but for the cost of school fees.

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Dr. Lenore Daniels Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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